Happy Holidays From The Big Apple

New York City is always in season, but it’s showing its best right now.

New York City is always in season, but it’s showing its best right now.

New York City, with more than 13 million visitors in 2017, is the most popular city in America with international visitors. I’ve been a New York local now for 13 years and it’s still my favorite city in the world. Even when you live here, the city offers an exciting staycation and is a pleasure to show off to visitors. And if you don’t live here, it’s everything you dreamed of and saw in the movies, and more—especially in fall and winter.

Right now, the Rink at Rockefeller Center is open for ice skating, and very soon—on November 29—the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree will be lit for the first time, with live performances at Rockefeller Plaza. The Bryant Park Winter Village holiday shops—all 150 of them—are open for business, just in case you want to get an early start on your Christmas shopping.

One hundred festive red-and-white booths will fill Union Square Park for its annual Holiday Market on November 16, open until Christmas Eve, and the Columbus Circle Holiday Market on the romantic south end of Central Park opens on November 28. And we can’t possibly forget the miracle that is the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on November 23.

Where to stay

Scouting for a hotel room in the city that never sleeps is now easy and feels like home with Hyatt House New York/Chelsea. It’s more than just a hotel: it’s a residential-like tower offering your choice of upscale designer suite or spacious studio hotel room, equally suited to the business and recreation traveler. Hyatt House rates and amenities are designed to favor extended stays so that you can get to feel like a local and come “home” after a dynamic day of enjoying the city.

Plus, you’re right in the middle of the action: just blocks from Madison Square Park, the Chelsea Garment District, the Empire State Building, Koreatown, and even Times Square, The High Line or Bryant Park are a manageable walk away. The folks at Hyatt House tell us that this is the first extended stay hotel of its kind in NYC and we were delighted by the sleek design, the comforts of home such as designated sleep, work, and eating or entertaining spaces—some suites even have full kitchens and laundry areas, but all of them have a mini fridge and microwave should you ever tire of eating out at NYC’s 20,000 restaurants. And if you end up eating out a lot, take advantage of the 24-hour fitness center.

Other inclusions to note at Hyatt House New York/Chelsea are free hotel-wide Wi-Fi, free breakfast, an on-site bar and 24-hour food market, guest laundry facility, and same-day dry-cleaning service. Don’t forget to go up to the eleventh-floor Outdoor Terrace, which offers unobstructed views of the skyline and straight down 6th Avenue to the magnificent Freedom Tower. Most rooms have quintessential Manhattan street views, too. If you’re in from out of town ask about the free valet parking, and if you’re bringing your pet with you, ask about the pet-friendly accommodations.


For the budget conscious traveler

You can still be budget conscious when experiencing the best that Manhattan has to offer. Because Hyatt House includes a hot and continental breakfast in your stay, it’s easy to skip lunch and save your money for dinner—and take advantage of city-wide specials such as New York Restaurant Week or early bird dining with prix fixe specials.

Restaurant Week has been running since 1992 and originated in New York City. It offers great value at about 380 top-flight restaurants, with three-course lunches and dinners from $29.95 to $42, with the Winter Restaurant Week on January 22 – February 9, 2018.

Be on the lookout for specials offered by some of the leading museums and galleries, including free public tours at certain days and times in the city, and if that’s too complicated to keep track of, avail yourself of the official New York CityPASS, which offers discounts and priority access for nine top attractions. Learn how to use the subway (it’s actually quite easy to navigate once you get your bearings) but since MTA is doing substantial track work of late, also consider using your favorite ride-sharing app to get from A to B for little expense. Otherwise, be sure to walk. In New York, there is something unique to see on every block.

With your CityPASS in your hot little hands, you must absolutely visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art, consistently rated by TripAdvisor as the world’s number 1 museum. Stroll through the splendor of Ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, Oceania, the Renaissance, European masters and more—and allow a couple of hours to wander through this massive structure and appreciate the eye-popping bounty of world civilizations, all brilliantly curated.

Everybody, but especially kids, will appreciate the Museum of Natural History, and the Empire State Building experience, also included in CityPASS. Then you can choose either the Statue of Liberty or a Circle Line sightseeing cruise; and the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum or 9/11 Memorial and Museum. Be sure to check the back of the booklet for extra value savings coupons on other attractions and shopping, including the iconic flagship department stores Macy’s and Bloomingdales.


A Night at the Theater

When in New York City, take in a show on Broadway, and one of the best shows to see is Kinky Boots. This feel-good musical has a message that is near and dear to our hearts: follow your dreams, be yourself, and triumph over all odds. The original leads to Kinky Boots—Tony Award winner Billy Porter and Tony Award nominee Stark Sands—are back and brilliant as ever; together they are a treat not-to-be-missed!

This original musical (loosely based on the 2005 British movie) boasts a toe-tapping score, loads of laughs, delightful drag stars, many high kicks and a little high camp, too. The score is by LGBTQ ally, the amazing queen of ’80s pop and beyond, Cyndi Lauper. The heartwarming storyline by Harvey Fierstein promises a plea for tolerance and diversity that will delight everyone, even Dad and Grandma.

If you think you’re just in for a drag show, or that you’ve seen it all before, prepare to exit this show with a smile on your face and hope in your heart.


Date night dinner

Our pick for a superb and romantic date night dining experience is the female-owned and operated Rotisserie Georgette. Owned by the dynamic and delightful Georgette Farkas and with a kitchen helmed by Chefs Stephanie Abrams and Francisco Blanco, this is a uniquely French and feminine gourmet treat. The restaurant is decorated in tasteful and elegant French provincial style and the kitchen specializes in rustic and gourmet French cuisine—think freshly-baked savory madeleines with Provencal herbs, silken Faroe Island salmon rillettes and hearty Prince Edward Island moules Basquaise with pommes frites (the fries with tarragon are unique).

But specifically, you must try one of the delectable roasted dishes including a luxurious whole and roasted chicken, whole roasted duck à L’orange, roasted octopus with a Middle Eastern flair, and whole roasted branzino. Don’t forget to finish with a classic: tarte tatin! We were lucky enough to have Georgette stop by our table and offer her recommendations for the evening, and to reveal some of the recipes and personal touches that she has implemented to make this a special night out for everyone, including her loyal local clientele who consider it a neighborhood gem.


It’s always Pride in NYC

New York City is one of America’s gayest cities with a Pride Parade in June attracting around 40,000 marching and around 2 million folks in attendance. To find your LGBT community at any time of year, especially in winter, head to the Stonewall Inn—now a National Historic Landmark and the site of the 1969 Stonewall Uprising, which launched the modern LGBT civil rights movement. CubbyHole Bar in the West Village is a favorite watering hole for lesbians and describes itself as “Lesbian, gay, and straight friendly since 1994” and has unbeatable happy hour specials.

Henrietta Hudson is NYC’s longest-running lesbian neighborhood bar for drinks, shooting pool and dancing, especially on weekends. It attracts a diverse and friendly crowd and is lesbian-owned and operated. For the hottest roving girls’ night, follow Hot Rabbit NYC (@hotrabbit) and also check out the new themed girls’ parties presented by ELLIS. And don’t forget to save the date in June for WorldPride NYC 2019, when the most diverse city in the world plays host to the largest and most diverse festival ever—and commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising.


Coming up

Many events and innovations are in store for 2018, but we like the look of Georgia O’Keeffe: Visions of Hawaii at the New York Botanical Garden. Debuting May 19, 2018, this legendary American artist’s connection to the Hawaiian Islands in 1939 will be on show, along with a lush flower show evoking the tropical landscape that inspired O’Keeffe. And fans of Disney’s Frozen will be delighted to learn that Frozen: The Musical opens in Spring 2018. For shopaholics, New York’s first Nordstrom department store is set to open in 2018, occupying the first seven floors of a luxury high rise on West 57th Street.