Rockefeller Center Ice Skating Rink
Rockefeller Center Ice Skating Rink

No survey of holiday traditions in New York City would be complete without two of the most distinctive of all—New York’s outdoor ice skating rinks and its seasonal holiday markets, both of which show the city off to its best advantage.

Rockefeller Center’s famous skating rink (5th Avenue between 47th and 50th Streets) lets you glide under the shadow of the New York’s best-known Christmas tree. Admission prices vary based on season and day of the week, so it’s best to call ahead for current prices (212-332-7654).

The Pond at Bryant Park (42nd Street and 6th Avenue) is a free, state-of-the-art skating rink open from late October through the end of February. Rentals and lessons are both available, and you can twirl away until midnight on weekends (10:00 pm on weeknights). For even more of a “get away from it all” experience, Wollman Rink in Central Park (6th Avenue and Central Park South, Midtown West entrance) offers an especially picturesque backdrop.

Does the prospect of fighting your way through crowded stores full of rude people give you the Christmas blahs? New York’s once-a-year holiday markets offer shoppers an opportunity to see lots of gift options in a festive atmosphere more reminiscent of a mountain village than midtown Manhattan. Holiday shopping actually becomes fun, and you’ll likely find gifts that are more original than anything on sale at your local chain store.

Working from north to south, start with the Holiday Market at Columbus Circle (West 59th Street at Columbus Circle). The Columbus Circle market appeals especially to foodies: here you’ll find French truffles, gift baskets loaded with snacks and sweets, and locally produced cheeses and produce. Chase the cold away with a cup of hot cider while you’re here, too.

Less than 20 blocks downtown, more than 100 vendor booths await at the Holiday Shops at Bryant Park (6th Avenue and 42nd Street), located conveniently close to the skating rink mentioned above. And just a short walk east on 42nd Street, the Grand Central Holiday Fair, located in Midtown East, held right inside the famous train terminal, has the advantage of a roof overhead (helpful in case of wintry conditions) and a spellbinding light show. Meanwhile, the red and white tents at the Holiday Market at Union Square (14th Street and Broadway) offer the usual trees, trinkets, and accessories, along with more unpredictable items, many of them handmade.

New York Habitat’s apartments include vacation rentals all over Manhattan, which will make these and other holiday activities exceptionally convenient for you.

– This furnished 1-bedroom vacation rental in Midtown East (NY-12109) is just minutes away from Grand Central and 42nd Street. On top of that, a full-time doorman and 24-hour-attended front desk mean that you can come and go as you please, in total confidence, at any time of day or night.

– Across town, meanwhile, a 2-bedroom apartment in Midtown West (NY-12496) puts you in a luxury high-rise building just off of Times Square that has an elevator, a full-time doorman, and a gym. Bryant Park is just two blocks to the south, the Theatre District is directly to the west, and virtually every New York City subway line stops within three blocks of your front door.

– Maybe you’ve always dreamed of having a Park Avenue address? This 1-Bedroom Rental in Midtown East (NY-12330), on Park Avenue South and East 25th Street, is equally convenient to the holiday markets at Union Square, to the south, and at Grand Central Terminal, just a few minutes north. A large living room with an abundance of natural light, a piano, and a modern kitchen and bath are just some of the amenities you’ll enjoy during your stay here.

We want to hear your opinions. Do you have a special tip for holiday shopping or skating in New York City? Feel free to share your comments below.