New York City transforms into a spectacular winter wonderland during the holiday season. There are so many things to see and do to turn an ordinary day into one filled with Yule tide spirit in the city that never sleeps.

Start your day visiting the Bryant Park Holiday Shops which runs from November 17th-Jan 1st 2008. These temporary shops transform Bryant Park into an old-fashioned holiday market with a very European feel which will surely make you forget you are in New York City. This holiday fair is free and features more than 100 artisans and merchants as well as the city’s only free ice skating rink. While you walk around and enjoy the shops, grab an apple cider or my favorite, a delicious hot chocolate at wichcraft creamery, located on the edge of the park at 42nd St. and 6th Ave. This holiday market is a wonderful way to find unique gifts for friends and family.

When you are ready to move on, head to Celsius for lunch: a Canadian lounge located next to the skating rink in Bryant Park. They offer a selection of soups, sandwiches and salads along with a cheese and chocolate fondue selection. Try the grilled canadian cheddar and tomato sandwich with the chocolate fondue for desert. This café is elevated above the end of the ice rink and provides outdoor seating with excellent heating lamps as well as a glass enclosed interior dining room, both provide you views of the ice rink and Christmas tree.

After lunch head to Grand Central Station’s beautiful main concourse to see their free holiday light show, Kaleidoscope that runs from December 1st through January 1st 2008. Radiant images of fairytale landscapes and iconic New York scenes are projected onto the walls during the seven-minute show, performed daily at the top and bottom of the hour from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Next, walk down famed 5th Ave. for some great window shopping. As you stroll past the shops, enjoy the holiday window displays in stores such as Sax Fifth Ave., Barney’s, Tiffany’s and Cartier. Even if you don’t buy anything, the spectacular window displays are well worth the walk.

No holiday trip to NYC is complete without seeing New York City’s most famous Christmas tree, in Rockefeller Center. The center is a favorite holiday destination for locals and tourists alike. For an extra special view of the Christmas tree, go up to recently re-opened Top of the Rock. This observatory will give you views of the whole island of Manhattan including the Empire State Building.

Still in the mood for some shopping? Make sure to check out the holiday market set up in Union Square Park which also features over 100 artisans and vendors. The market is located in the south section of the park near 14th St., and offers deals on goodies like jewelry, candles, pottery, and more.

By this time you will surely be ready for dinner. If you want a fine dining experience try the exceedingly romantic One if by Land Two if By Sea in Greenwich Village. This restored carriage house, that was Aaron’s Burr’s on Barrow Street over 200 years ago, has been named the most romantic restaurant in NYC year after year. The ambiance alone is worth the costly bill, but the food is superb as well. They offer a prix fix menu which changes seasonally and provides you with an appetizer, entrée and desert. If you love seafood, try the sautéed gulf shrimp appetizer and for your entrée try the exceptional Black Sea bass. If you are not a seafood fan try the wild mushroom and parmesan crumble, a delectable appetizer paired with the American loin of lamb entrée. You will not be disappointed in these or any other choices you make at One If By Land. For desert try my favorite, the dark chocolate soufflé; however they also have many other outstanding choices including the crisp macadamia baklava.

After dinner take a relaxing carriage ride through Central Park. Sure it’s a bit cheesy and touristy but a great way to end the perfect winter day celebrating the holidays in NYC.

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What & Where:
Bryant Park Holiday (between 40th St and 42nd St; 212-382-2953)
Wichcraft Creamery (42nd St and 6th Ave; 212-780-0577)
Celsius (40th St; 212-382-2953)
Grand Central Station (42nd St and Park Ave; 212-340-2345)
Rockefeller Center (between 48th and 51st St; 212-632-3975)
Union Square Park (between 14th ST and 17th St)
One if by Land Two if By Sea (17 Barrow St; 212-255-8649)
Central Park Carriage Ride (The best place to find a carriage ride is on 59th ST and 5th Ave)