Are visions of "Christmas in New York" dancing in your head? My vision used to look like this: I would wander merrily up Fifth Avenue, stop to admire the department store windows, pop into Tiffany for a dose of glitz and glamour, find a cozy cafe for a hot chocolate, and of course soak up the holiday spirit at the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.
HA. I quickly realized that "Christmas in New York" can be atrocious. Midtown in December is INSANE. You're battling hordes of people and walking at a snail's pace because you can't find an opening to get ahead of anyone.
BUT - there are some are great spots that feel very festive without the massive crowds.
Minetta Tavern - Just perfect for a long Christmas brunch with wreaths, garlands, and twinkly lights aglow.
Gotham Bar & Grill - Power lunch spot in the Village that is bedecked beautifully.
Claudette - A new restaurant (same owners as Rosemary's, another favorite) on the corner of 9th Street and 5th Avenue in the Village - feels like you have stepped into a Nancy Meyers movie! Love the Christmas tree.
Via Quadronno - One of the city's best cappuccinos - feels especially cozy at Christmas.
Madison Avenue from 59th St to 93rd St - This is such a lovely walk on the Upper East Side with the best window shopping. End at The Corner Bookstore (the most adorable bookstore in Manhattan) for some non-Amazon shopping.
IFC Center - It's A Wonderful Life - This independent movie theater in the Village, which feels charmingly stuck in the 1980's, shows It's A Wonderful Life on repeat every December. I see it every year on the big screen - and I dare you not to cry when Harry Bailey says - "A toast to my big brother George: The richest man in town."
And worth it despite the crowds...Radio City Christmas Spectacular - I LOVE THE ROCKETTES. And when they start singing Hark the Herald Angels Sing at the end? I am a goner.
Plus - ten cozy NYC spots I wrote about for National Geographic. I especially love Marc Forgione and Tea & Sympathy in Manhattan and Black Mountain Winehouse and Dujour Bakery in Brooklyn.