If you’re looking for the best Christmas things to do in NYC, then why not stay at the best Christmas hotels? NYC’s elaborate Christmas window displays may get all of the attention in December, but hotels in Manhattan go all out in their holiday decor too. Whether you want to take in 30-foot Christmas trees or visit a pop-up winter wonderland (complete with bookable yurts), the city’s hotels deck their halls to get everyone, from the Grinch to Buddy the Elf, in the holiday spirit.
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Best Christmas hotels in NYC
The Palace is known for its 30-foot Christmas tree that glows behind the iron gates of the hotel’s historic Madison Avenue courtyard—once the carriage entrance for the Villard Mansion. With 3,000 lights, red and gold ribbons and ornaments, and a shining star up top, the courtyard tree makes a fine stop on a tour of New York’s best window displays (Saks Fifth Avenue’s light show is just one block away). Inside the lobby, there two smaller trees at the top of the mansion’s grand staircase and a gingerbread house created by Tracy Sori, executive chef Jacques Sorci’s wife. 2016’s rendition is a replica of the original mansion and courtyard in winter—tree and all.
The team at the Plaza works overnight on Thanksgiving to dress up the entire iconic hotel, so guests wake up surprised the next morning. Wreaths and garland covered in ornaments are strung outside and on every window, and greeting guests at the Fifth Avenue entrance, is an 18-foot tree with 5,000 lights and 500 ornaments.
The Meatpacking District hotel’s lobby gets a total holiday makeover every year to become NYC’s most eccentric winter scene. Over the past few years, the Dream has created woodsy wonderlands, complete with a taxidermied polar bear and snow leopard, and last year it turned the lobby into an alpine ski lodge. The 2016 theme is an “Outdoor Ice Bar,” depicting life-sized moving penguins dressed in suits at an igloo bar. There’s even custom-made acrylic “ice” furniture and “icicle” chandeliers.
During the holidays, the highlight of the Four Seasons’ Art Deco-inspired lobby, with its 33-foot ceilings and limestone walls, is a 25-foot artificial tree. Wrapped in 100 feet of custom-made garland and accented with 12,000 lights, red bows and large red, gold and silver ornaments, it takes 10 sets of hands and nine hours to assemble. The tree goes up every year on the day after Thanksgiving. The rest of the lobby gets subtly adorned with poinsettias and a gingerbread village created by executive pastry chef Jasmina Bojic. A team of six pastry chefs and carpenters spend three weeks baking, icing and building the village. Find it in the Garden restaurant.
Le Parker Meridien’s ornate marble lobby has always delighted—need we mention the secret, divey burger joint behind a burgundy curtain or the Damien Hirst spin painting to the right of the front desk. It’s no surprise then that the hotel’s holiday programming goes beyond trees and garland. In the past, Le Parker Meridien has hosted an annual “Gingerbread Extravaganza” showcasing cookie structures made by local bakeries and pastry chefs. But this year, the hotel’s 56th Street Atrium becomes a small Christmas market, with three food trucks outside (La Sonrisa empanadas, Glazed and Confused mini-donuts, La Belle Crepe) and eight other vendors inside selling everything from chocolate to jewelry. Market-goers shop under cascades of lights and garland hanging from the ceiling, and there is, of course, a tree decked in snowflake ornaments to admire.
The Peninsula’s holiday decor is perfect for taking in from the street. The hotel goes all out on its exteriors, incorporating hundreds of feet of garland, ornaments and lights, small trees, poinsettias and winter flowers, and two reindeer statues. Inside the doors, the Peninsula lights a tree on its East Terrace at Salon de Ning overlooking Fifth Avenue. Carollers regularly sing in the bedecked lobby (think: lots of red and green garland and more reindeer and trees).
Like other New York hotels, the Waldorf adds a huge tree to its main Park Avenue lobby. The 16-foot tree is made of gold Magnolia leaves with 3,000 lights. The same gilded leaves are used in garland on banisters and wreaths, and the hotel’s signature bronze World’s Fair Clock gets trimmed with hand-blown glass ornaments. Outside, the Park Avenue facade features 6,000 lights spread across six, six-foot wreaths.
For the first time, The Standard, East Village will transform its year-round garden, on the corner of Bowery and East Fifth Street, into a winter playground, with heated yurts for dining on gruyere fondues and mulled wine. The Standard will also host a Christmas tree market with Fraser firs provided by Williamsburg’s Crest Hardware. Don’t miss The Standard, High Line’s annual skating rink—look for the big red snowflake on the ice—in its plaza, which, like the East Village location, also serves hot spiked drinks (hot chocolate with rum, toddies, mulled wine) and food in a rinkside lounge.
Like the hotel itself, the St. Regis New York’s holiday decor is best described as timeless. Nutcrackers flank each side of the 55th Street entrance, and inside, garland and ornaments are wrapped along banisters and walls. Trees in the lobby this year are trimmed with a mix of ribbons and ornaments in silver, gold, black and white, then topped with white turtle doves and bird cages. For the holidays, the hotel also turns its Cognac Room into a pop-up shop. This year, the St. Regis partnered with The Great Republic, a Colorado-based shop that sells rare books, vintage maps, and sculptures, as well as American-made leather goods.
Another hotel with a simple, classic take on its holiday design is the Gramercy Park Hotel. The lobby and Rose Bar, which both feel festive already thanks to the red rugs and velvet furniture used in both spaces, get trees with gold paper-wrapped presents underneath.