How to Spend the Most Festive Weekend in New York City

Just a one hour plane ride from Toronto, it's a no brainer for weekend getaways in December!
new york city

New York City, the place that Toronto aspires to be? Maybe, but grouped in with some of the biggest and liveliest cities in the world, it’s no wonder why we often flock to our slightly southern neighbour for an even bigger city experience, whether it’s a short road trip or quick flight over.

Christmastime is one of the best times to visit NYC, and whether you’re coming from Vancouver or Halifax, you’re no further than a five hour plane trip from The Big Apple. We recently took to Manhattan with Expedia and to experience some 2024 travel trends and get in the festive spirit in the best way we know how!

From where to stay, what festive attractions to explore, and what to eat, here’s how to experience NYC like we did during the holidays.

Where to stay: Lotte New York Palace Hotel

Travel Trend: Vibe Check-In

Beyond searching for specific amenities or star ratings, a hotel’s overall “vibe” is becoming a strong indicator of travellers’ hotel choices. Did you know even mentioning the word “vibe” in travel searches has increased an average of 1,090%* year over year, and nine out of 10 travellers say the vibe of a hotel is important when booking. 

Over a beautiful December weekend, we stayed at the festive and luxe Lotte New York Palace for a unique ‘holiday vibe’ experience. With visits from Santa and the iconic Rockettes, a gingerbread model of the hotel, letters to the North Pole, a holiday themed bar, iconic courtyard tree and endless decorations, the Lotte is the perfect example of a seasonal vibe that can help influence the overall feel of the trip.

Stepping into the hotel makes you feel like you’re part of a Hallmark Christmas movie, inside and out. When staying, you have to select a Cathedral view room for the most stunning sight from your window. The hotel is both comfortable, elevated, and offers an all-in-one experience with a spa and multiple restaurants and bars on-site.

On weekends, they have a winter bar in the courtyard that serves up THE best hot chocolate, confirmed by the lovely staff there!

What to do: Apotheke Academy Nomad

Travel Trend: Dry-Tripping

While Apotheke Nomad is known for being the best designed bar in America (2023 Award, The Society of British & International Interior Design) and fun group Cocktail Mixology Classes in their Academy, we put a Mocktail spin on things to put the dry in dry-tripping.

From observing Dry January to Sober October, it’s clear that living a low- or alcohol-free lifestyle is becoming more common. Opting for mocktails or avoiding alcohol entirely on nights out doesn’t mean you should skip a beat when it comes to having a good time, and the cities have adapted! In addition to beverage brands and celebrities releasing nonalcoholic products, the travel industry is also catering to sober-curious travellers by stocking minibars with zero-proof options or offering mocktail-making experiences. 

More than 40%* of travellers say they are likely to book a detox trip in the next year, and half of travellers say they would be interested in staying at hotels that offer easily accessible alcohol-free beverage options.

Our first activity after stopping at the hotel was so perfect for a busy travel day. We arrived at the beautiful rooftop venue of Apotheke Nomad for a Mocktail Masterclass to showcase how mocktails can be just as delicious, complex, and aesthetic as their cocktail counterparts. We made an Orange Soda, spin on a Green Juice mocktail with Cilantro Shrub, a refreshing Hibiscus and lime mocktail, and lastly a muddled berry drink that were all hydrating and tasty!

Festive Dinner: Tinseltown at Pekarna NYC

New York City is no stranger to the iconic holiday bar, popping up at over 50 establishments in the city (and that’s just the ones we know about)! Tinseltown can be found completely enveloping the bar room at Pekarna NYC (594 Amsterdam Ave.) and you can even rent out the space for private parties and events, with front row tickets to a mysterious ‘Silly Santa and Naughty Elf’ themed show, and a dedicated bar staff for your group!

This spot served as our group’s night one dinner, sharing a spread of starters that included Wagyu Beef Sliders, Beet Sliders, Mac & Cheese, Pulled Pork Croquettes, Brussel Sprouts, Fries, and more!

Must-See Show: The Rockettes’ Radio City Christmas Spectacular

Some spontaneous planning by the group resulted in a late night viewing of the iconic Radio City Christmas Spectacular at none other than Radio City Music Hall! There’s shows daily at 7pm and 10pm and delivers an unforgettable 90-minute show featuring over 140 performers and an original musical score that combines singing, dancing, and humour.

The Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes is an annual musical holiday stage show that brings so much festive joy to your night, I absolutely recommend seeing it at least once in your life (but you may want to go again and again, bringing and showing loved ones after seeing it).

From the moment you walk into the lobby, to the curtain call, you’ll be immersed in the best vibes and will be cheering on the edge of your seat once you see the iconic Rockettes high-kicks and uniformed movements that are so satisfying to the eye to watch!

Must-Do Tour: NYC TV & Film Tour

Travel Trend: Set-Jetting

For 2023, Expedia predicted travellers would turn to television sets and movie screens for travel inspiration. They did, and the trend shows no signs of stopping in 2024*! With influences by White Lotus for their iconic filming locations, and Barbie giving everyone pink dreamhouse vibes, more than half of travellers say they’ve researched or booked a trip to a destination after seeing it on a TV show or movie.

With New York coming in as the most filmed city in the world, we hopped on the bus for an NYC TV & Film Tour by On Location Tours where we saw the Friends building in the West Village, Ghostbusters HQ which dons a gift shop with merch for fans, the iconic Plaza Hotel from Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, and more! Throughout the tour, they show clips of iconic films and shows that display the sights you’re driving past.

Tying our stay into this trend, the Lotte new York Palace is a famous filming location of the original Gossip Girls series and you can spot the courtyard in multiple scenes!

Daytime Activity: Bryant Park Winter Village

Bryant Park is located between 40th and 42nd Streets and Fifth and Sixth Avenues behind the New York Public Library. During this festive time of year, the Winter Village takes over bringing a European inspired open-air market, 17,000 square foot ice skating rink, Holiday Shops by Urbanspace Markets, food, and so much more!

See everything you can do at Bryant Park Winter Village here.

The Perfect Slice: Previti NYC

While Bryant Park Winter Village has tons of food vendors with unique sweet and savoury bites, the lines can get really long on the weekend and instead of waiting, I opted to head away from the park and seek a top-rated New York City slice.

After a quick search on Reddit (thanks guys!) I concluded that I’d venture to Previti Pizza that was mentioned a few times as being a favourite in the area. They had both Roman-style square slices, as well as typical triangle-cut slices with traditional and modern topping creations and a closed-in patio that I tried both a Slice of the Day and a Pepperoni Cups slice in.

A video speaks a thousand words and if you could see my face when trying these, you’d add this spot to your list (stay tuned)!

Back to Front: Slice of the Day & Pepperoni Cups

Mariah Carey’s Merry Christmas One and All!

Travel Trend: Tour Tourism

 In 2023, the cultural impact of the Eras (Taylor Swift) and Renaissance (Beyoncé) tours was undeniable, driving ticket sales but also travel and tourism. Nearly 70%* of survey respondents say they are more likely to travel to a concert outside their own town, with over 40% saying they’d travel for a concert as an excuse to visit a new place.

Heading to Madison Square Garden on our final night in Manhattan, we sang along with the Christmas Queen herself: Mariah Carey. Proving the Tour Tourism trend is taking off, the couples sitting on either side of us had flown in from Bermuda and Las Vegas just for the concert!

Ending on a High Note: Top of the Rock

If you thought that wasn’t enough for two days, we squeezed in a trip up to the Top of the Rock (Rockefeller Center, that is) to see the views of both the Empire State Building, Central Park, the Hudson River, and even the Statue of Liberty in the distance.

On an overcast day, the views were still beautiful and the new Beam Experience gave visitors a chance to feel like they’re above the skyline just like that iconic photograph taken 91 years ago! The iconic 1932 photo depicting 11 ironworkers lunching precariously on a steel beam, 69 stories high, was taken right there during the construction of 30 Rockefeller Plaza. Now, you can follow in their fearless footsteps by buckling up for an exhilarating ascent above the deck.

Taking the elevator ride down meant we were leaving the city to head back up to our slightly smaller ‘big city’ to the north – but could not have imagined a more festive experience that showed these travel trends aren’t slowing down anytime soon!

Follow along with more datenight travel stories here – we can’t wait to show you date ideas from even more places in the new year!

*Source: Unpack 2024 Travel Trends by Expedia and incl all statistics, trends, and study results. This article was a result of a hosted press trip by Expedia Group. The views expressed are my own.

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