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Plan Your Thanksgiving and Christmas Holiday Travel to NYC Like a Pro

Plan Your Thanksgiving and Christmas Holiday Travel to NYC Like a Pro

With the summer of 2021 and all those fabulous summer vacations in the rearview mirror, that can only mean one thing – it’s time to start firming up your plans for Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday travel! And folks let me assure you – there really is no better time to visit New York City than during the holiday season. Why? Because the city takes on a whole new, exciting, shiny, hopeful persona during the last two months of the year. It’s magical. It’s exhilarating. It’s dazzling. But at the same time, it’s comforting. It’s welcoming. It’s warm and fuzzy. It’s as if Santa decided to produce a present that consists of all those good-feeling vibes and emotions – one that has something for everyone – wrapped it up and topped it was a big shiny bow and left it for each of us to open and pick the parts that make us smile the most – with something for everyone and more than enough to go around.

Phew. Have I overwhelmed you? I may have overwhelmed myself! It’s just that – well, that’s what the holidays in New York City bring out in me – a gushing of emotions – all good of course. And I realize that it can seem quite overwhelming to pick and choose what you want to experience when you do make plans to visit NYC at that particular time of year. So, we here at Beyond Times Square have decided to give you a list of our top ten most requested – as well as some of our personal favorites – holiday events and activities that the Big Apple serves up each year and that we feel are a great starting point. So – grab some cocoa (with mini-marshmallows of course) and perhaps a piece of pumpkin pie – to get yourself in the spirit and check out our must-see selections. And by the end you will be able to plan your NYC Thanksgiving vacation or Christmas vacation – or both – like a pro!


Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Start spreading the news! The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is back with in-person viewing after an abbreviated version last year because of – well – you know. And while all the details have not yet been released – i.e. – where the public can watch from along the route, restrictions and guidelines for entry – the rest – think marching bands and those infamous gigantic balloons – are set to return in their (almost) full glory. But hey – if you don’t want to wait to see where you can catch it – or even if you can – BTSQ has the ultimate 2021 Thanksgiving experience in NYC – our parade viewing brunch and hotel packages. And they are flexible – you pick your experience – whether it’s making a day of it by attending the private indoor parade viewing brunch at the luxurious three story Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House, adding a four-night stay at the magnificent Marriott Marquis or opting for our hosted three-day private Thanksgiving in NYC package. And don’t forget – those beautiful balloons have to get blown up somewhere! And that somewhere is on the Upper West Side along the American Museum of Natural History and Central Park West. Sooo … should the public be allowed to witness this amazing spectacle once again, BTSQ will also be running its Balloon Inflation Tour complete with private transportation and an expert guide!

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting Event

I would be willing to bet that one of the first images that pops into most of your minds when you think of New York City at Christmas is the iconic Rockefeller Center tree. It certainly has become synonymous with Christmas – actually has been for decades now. But I bet you didn’t know that it all started in 1931 – when some of the workers at Rockefeller Center chipped in to purchase a Christmas tree – standing just twenty feet tall and decorated with garlands created by their families. Yup – from one very simple decision 90 years ago has come a long-standing tradition that draws people from around the world each year to ooh and ahh at the now average 69-to-100-foot tall shimmering spruce. Other fun facts you may not be aware of? It’s at least 90 years old and gets its “youthful” glow from about 50,000 LED lights. But something you probably are in-the-know about is the annual Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting Event that celebrates the official lighting of the tree – thanks to the fact that it’s broadcast on television each year and features musical performances by some of the best in the business as well as those wildly popular Radio City Music Hall Rockettes. And on another note…since in person viewing will most likely be capped as with the parade – ask your BTSQ team how you can watch it in style at a private venue nearby!

The Rockettes At Radio City Music Hall

And speaking of the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes – no Christmas-vacation-in-New York City-list would be complete without them! The Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes® – another time honored tradition in the Big Apple that sadly went dark last holiday season is back on for 2021 and you can bet it will not disappoint! This year’s show runs November 5th through January 2nd with multiple performances each day giving you plenty of chances to take it in – even if you are only there for Thanksgiving vacation. The Rockettes themselves have been around for nearly a century – they were founded in 1925 in Missouri – with their appearances in the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular starting not long after they were formed in 1933. Now – if you aren’t familiar – the show is 90 minutes and has a cast of over 140 that entertain with singing, dancing, ice skating (yes – ice skating!) as well as  live animals and some humor and faith thrown in – along with the big man himself – Santa Clause. Two of its most famous scenes are those uber-talented Rockettes performing the Parade of the Wooden Soldiers – gives me chills every time I see it – and the Living Nativity Scene – where those live animals come in. Tickets for this holiday treat for believers of every age are available through Beyond Times Square, so give them a call sooner rather than later so they can hook you up with the date and time that works best for you!

The Nutcracker

Da, dadada, da, da, da, da da! Yes – that is my rendition of The Nutcracker March by Tchaikovsky. And I will now have it stuck in my head all day – as will you. Sorry ‘bout that. But what would the holiday season be without that Nutcracker, Clara, the Sugar Plum Fairy and that evil Mouse King? And who better to see it performed by than the spectacular New York City Ballet at the world’s leading performing arts center, Lincoln Center? As with the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular this ageless holiday tradition makes its return for 2021 after being forced to hang up its ballet flats last year. A bit younger than the Christmas spectacular – George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker® first took the stage in New York City, not at the Lincoln Center (it wasn’t in existence yet) but at the City Center of Music and Drama (which today is known as the New York City Center) back in 1954 – and has been mesmerizing audiences ever since. Of course, there is – in my opinion – the unmatched-to-this-day choreography and musical score. But the set in itself is also one of the stars – with a Christmas tree that magically grows to 41 feet and Mother Ginger’s gigantic hoop skirt – large enough to have eight children dance out of! Performances for the 2021 season start November 26th and continue through January 2nd – and of course BTSQ will have tickets available for purchase!

Holiday Lights Tour

The holiday décor in New York City is a sight to behold and you simply can’t visit during this festive season and not check out the over-the-top holiday decorations. Starting in mid-November, many store windows and occasionally entire buildings along Fifth Avenue – as well as other streets throughout Manhattan – take on a life of their own with magical holiday scenes and sparkling lights. In fact, taking in the holiday window displays is one of the best and most popular things to do in the Big Apple during the holidays – and it’s free! Folks, these are truly some of the best decorations you will ever lay your eyes on. From the fabulous department store window displays at Bergdorf Goodman, Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, Tiffany & Co. (and more!) to the goosebump inducing Saks Fifth Avenue light show to the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree to the World’s Largest Menorah to Brooklyn’s Dyker Heights they are simply spectacular. If you are up to it grab your scarf and gloves and a hot beverage of your choice and view the lights via foot. Not sure you want to hoof it all around town? Afraid you might miss something? Not to worry – you can enjoy them from the comfort of your own luxury private vehicle with a professional driver and expert tour guide to lead the way who will make sure you see everything there is to see – all compliments of yours truly. Choose from the Manhattan Holiday Lights or the Crazy Lights of Brooklyn or both! Now that’s a whole new take on “holiday travel!”

NYC Holiday Markets

New York City is a shopper’s paradise any time of the year – but even more so from November through the end of December when you’ll find the best the city has to offer – unique gifts items including jewelry, clothing, home goods, arts, crafts, antiques, electronics and so much more thanks to the many jovial holiday markets and fairs that pop up this time of year. And you my friends can take advantage of the great deals – and get some items on your Christmas list checked off by joining the BTSQ Private Holiday Markets Shopping Experience with Afternoon Tea. This experience includes the services of a professional driver who will escort you – via a luxury private vehicle – to the most popular venues including Bryant Park Winter Village, Grand Central Holiday Fair, Union Square Holiday Market, Columbus Circle Holiday Market and Artists & Fleas at Chelsea Market. And thanks to your expert local tour guide you’ll receive insider tips and hear interesting facts about the city as you go from place to place. Also included is a stop for afternoon high tea where you will sip on the tea of your choice while snacking on finger sandwiches, scones and pastries. And in addition to all that – you’ll be able to store your purchases in the vehicle as you move from market to market. If that’s not guaranteed to get you in the holiday spirit, I don’t know what is!

Holiday Train Show At New York Botanical Gardens

If you were like me – growing up in the 1970’s – your parents didn’t just put up a Christmas tree each year with a pretty little tree skirt around it like most of us do today. Oh no – they had it set up on a platform with a little village underneath – complete with train tracks and a train. Mine even had an ice skating rink for those lucky miniature plastic residents of “Tree Town.” Even though this tradition has mostly vanished – kind of like those silver aluminum Christmas trees that were also popular back then – people’s love of model trains has not. And for the past thirty years the folks at New York Botanical Gardens in the Bronx have been upholding the tradition and providing the older generation a walk (or ride?) down memory lane while introducing a whole new generation to this 100-year-old-plus tradition. And this year – from November 20th through January 22nd – you can see those model trains – along with the landmarks, attractions and skyscrapers of NYC all shrunk to fit inside the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory. Fun fact – this miniature winter wonderland is created all from natural materials such as bark, leaves and pinecones – except for the over 25 trains, trolleys – and even ferries – of course. And while you are there be sure to take in the NYBG’s fabulous mile and a half outdoor light and color show, Glow! All aboard!

Skating At Iconic Rinks

Ice skating in NYC was on my bucket list for years. And then one day a few years ago I got the chance to take to the ice at the iconic Rockefeller Center Rink. And it was every bit as amazing as I imagined it to be. But not nearly as easy! Funny how being two foot taller and many years older than the last time you were on skates can make you a bit more wary of taking a tumble and possible breaking a hip. But I digress. New York City has plenty of options for those of you who have no fear of gliding across the ice on two blades. Rockefeller Center is just one of many – and no doubt the most popular – especially when the tree is up. But did you know that Central Park has its own rink? Yup – Wollman Rink – and it features some pretty amazing views of the city’s skyline. Central Park is also home to a lesser known – and thus less crowded option – Lasker Rink. Then there is the ice skating rink in Bryant Park that comes alive each year when Bank of America opens its annual Winter Village. Best part about this rink? It’s the only free rink in the city. Should you prefer to skate above the city then check out the rink that sits on The Rooftop at Pier 17 – which gives you splendid views of the East River, the Brooklyn Bridge and more. Bonus – it’s great exercise – which you may need if you participate in our next suggestion…

Private Family Culinary Experience

The holidays and food go hand in hand. New York City and food go hand in hand. And some of the best food in the city can be found in Little Italy. See where I am going with this? Look – you gotta eat while you are on your Thanksgiving or Christmas vacation – so why not make it a hands on experience? The food lovers here at Beyond Times Square have curated an activity that brings all three together with their Private Culinary Experience. Picture this. You are in a charming studio in the heart of Little Italy. Your host is a classically trained chef. And you are learning from this professional how to make some of their most popular recipes. And you don’t just get a demonstration. Oh nooo. It’s all hands on deck – so get ready to roll up your sleeves and learn some tricks of the trade! Whether you fancy yourself a whiz in the kitchen or haven’t even mastered the fine art of toasting bread – or if you fall anywhere in between – everyone is welcome and everyone will come out with much more confidence in their culinary capabilities. And of course – when all is said and done – you and your family and / or friends will have a seat at a beautifully set table and enjoy the three course meal you’ve prepared. Bon Appétit

New Year’s Eve

Another bucket list for myself and I would assume millions of others based on the crowds each year? Seeing the ball drop in New York’s Time Square to ring out the old and in the new. Last year of course the crowds weren’t allowed in to see this 104-year-old event – the first was in 1907! – although the show still went on virtually. And although we are not certain what it will look like this year – rest assured there will be a countdown, the ball will drop and 2022 will be ushered in with fingers crossed that we are even closer to life as we knew it. And if revelers are limited – at this time I don’t think the crowd of one million that normally shows up will be encouraged – or not allowed at all in those pens that go back for blocks and blocks – then you can always catch the televised broadcast. And if they do welcome the public back – instead of hanging out in the cold for hours – or worse – snow or rain, consider one of the many indoor parties that take place throughout the city. And for the most optimal experience – one that ensures you can see the ball drop – choose a venue high above the crowds in a climate controlled setting complete with food, drinks and entertainment. And pssst…check back here for details on just that – as Beyond Times Square is working on their spectacular New Year’s Eve party / ball drop event as I write!


So that is only ten of the things available to you on a Thanksgiving vacation or Christmas vacation in New York City. Imagine all of the other things we couldn’t fit into one blog! And yes – as I said wayyyyy back at the beginning – it can be overwhelming. But do you know who isn’t overwhelmed by holiday travel in NYC? Yes – those amazing travel experts here at BTSQ! the clock is ticking my friends. Book now to ensure your choices are not all sold out. Give them a call today! And Happy Holidays everyone!