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’Tis the Season to Visit NYC

Hollywood has long understood the magic of the Holiday Season in New York City.

Classic movie settings are etched in our collective consciousness: Meeting Santa at Macy’s and ice-skating amid the sky-scrapers at Rockefeller Center (“Elf” and “Miracle on 34th St”), Bethesda Fountain in Central Park and the Plaza Hotel, (“Home Alone 2: Lost in New York)”, Bloomingdales and “frozen hot chocolate” (“Serendipity”), and so many more.


Real-life festivities live up to their Hollywood hype as twinkling lights and holiday music fill the streets, stores and parks, and holiday markets come alive with caroling. And that’s not to mention seasonal traditions such as watching George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker by the New York City Ballet.


Best of all, NYC can be tailored to a variety of interests and budgets—from independent travelers who take advantage of the free ice-skating in Bryant Park and light show at Saks Fifth Avenue to a curated VIP experience where your clients won’t wait in line and where, in addition to premium seating for the famed Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular, for example, they can enjoy a backstage tour and meet & greet with the Radio City Rockettes. 


We spoke with Danni Mei, head of marketing for Beyond Times Square (BTSQ), a destination management company that works with many top travel groups and consortiums, about some of the city’s iconic holiday experiences and ways BTSQ can empower travel advisors to personalize and VIP their clients’ holiday stay.”


Big Apple Celebrations

Reveling amid the fireworks, live entertainment and ball drop at the New Year’s Eve in Times Square, enjoying celebrity performances at the annual tree lighting ceremony at Rockefeller Center and cheering on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade floats (and perhaps, watching some of the  two- and three-story come to life as they’re inflated the night before) are all free public events. So are organ recitals, choir concerts and services at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Christmas Eve carols at Grace Church, and special events at other places of worship and public spaces around the city.


VIP options: Clients can be pampered with gourmet cuisine and premium drinks at a private New Year’s Eve, parade, or tree-lighting party with privileged views (often indoors and out), so they can stay stay warm and comfy while taking in the festivities. 


Iconic Musts

A bird’s-eye view of the city bedecked in its holiday lights tops many visitors’ must-see lists. Encourage clients visiting the Empire State Building’s observation decks to stop by the exhibit halls to learn about the building’s history and relive its starring role in heart-warming scenes from “When Harry Met Sally”, “Sleepless in Seattle”, and “King Kong” and, perhaps, to pose for a photo in King Kong’s hand. Two additional sky-high vistas are worthwhile: The Edge at Hudson Yards, with a breathtaking “City Climb” option, and Summit One Vanderbilt, a cross between an art installation and an observation deck. Clients may also want to take a horse-drawn carriage ride through Central Park and score tickets to a top Broadway production. 


VIP options: Tailor a guided itinerary to your client’s specific interests. Keep the whole family engaged with a guide who weaves scenes from the movie “Home Alone 2” into visits to the city’s top sites. Or thrill serious fans and aspiring actors with a dinner or a backstage tour and meeting with a current Broadway cast member along with a premium tickets to the show of their choice and a private tour of the interactive Museum of Broadway.


Holiday Lights, Markets And More

Oohing and ahhing over the Holiday Lights—inside and out—along Fifth Avenue and nearby department stores like Bloomingdales and Macy’s is an annual ritual for locals and visitors alike, while holiday markets brimming with crafts and special gifts can feel like winter wonderlands. Union Square, Columbus Circle, Grand Central Station and the lavish new, entertainment-rich Hudson Yards are among the favorites. Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park, located in midtown behind the N.Y. Public Library, offers a schedule of holiday events and heated outdoor dining (reserve a private glass-domed igloo) plus free ice-skating (reserve a time slot in advance at and plan to rent or bring skates). And for a special treat, view the city from the Hudson River on a holiday cruise with City Cruises ( 


VIP options: Combine a private walking tour of the best holiday displays with priority VIP skating at the Rockefeller Plaza Rink or invite clients to be regaled with local lore on a guided van tour combining a caroling and cocoa cruise with visits to the city’s top holiday markets.


BTSQ can take a travel advisor from initial ideas through execution and follow up to ensure their success, Mei noted. “We vet all our vendors and guides, which include experts in art, food or other fields and we understand that our job is to ensure your clients have a friction-free VIP experience.”


For more information, visit Beyond Times Square at and New York City Tourism’s trade website at

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