Last Thursday, we gave thanks for many things, like family and friends, and New York City’s mass transit system. But it’s really the latter that we’re most grateful for as we enter December and a month packed with snowy frivolity and the coolest holiday events throughout the East Coast—all easily accessible by bus and train from Manhattan.
In addition to yours truly, 12 other NYC bloggers have put together some terrific ideas to bring you the ultimate holiday guide for New Yorkers. Keep reading to find out why this is one season you won’t soon forget.
New York City
Prospect Park Zoo | 450 Flatbush Avenue, Brooklyn | 718.399.7339 | prospectparkzoo.com
The Wild Holiday Party: Presents to the Animals won’t be your typical zoo experience. The Prospect Park Zoo staff has prepared specially wrapped packages for their furry lodgers, and Christmas will come to different animals on different dates. Watch Saki monkeys and Geoffrey tamarins tear into their gifts Dec 5-6; Baboons and Meerkats, Dec 12-13 and 26-27; and Otters and Pallas cats, Dec 19-20.
Dates: December weekends beginning the 5th and lasting through the 27th.
Nearest subway: B/Q train to Prospect Park Station, exit at Flatbush Ave/Ocean Ave.
Nearest bus: B41 local to Flatbush Ave entrance; B47, B48 to intersection of Flatbush Ave and Empire Blvd
Bronx Zoo | 2300 Southern Blvd., Brooklyn | 718.220.5100 | bronxzoo.com
In the spirit of the season, consider bringing more than your holiday cheer to the Bronx Zoo this winter. On your way to visit their resident reindeer, stop by the Zoo Center with your gently worn winter coats to donate to the New York Cares Coat Drive. The zoo is also collecting new and unwrapped toys for the Bronx Borough President’s Annual Holiday Toy Drive. As a thank you for your compassion, the zoo is gifting free admission tickets when you participate in either drive.
Dates: The New York Cares Coat Drive and the Bronx Borough President’s Annual Holiday Toy Drive run December 1-31.
Nearest subway: 2/5 train to East Tremont Avenue/West Farms Square
Nearest bus: BxM11 express to Zoo’s Bronx River Entrance
Queens County Farm | 73-50 Little Neck Pkwy, Queens | 718.347.3276 | queenscountyfarm.org
Between last minute shopping and partying, it can be difficult to take the time to enjoy the holiday happenings all around New York City. Revel in the post-Christmas lull and bring the family to the Queens County Farm Museum decorated in its festive finest, free of charge. There will be arts-and-crafts activities for the children, and apple cider for all.
Dates: December 26-28, 2009, 12:00–4:00pm on
Nearest subway: E/F train to Kew Gardens/Union Turnpike Station
Nearest bus: Q46 to Little Neck Parkway Stop
Mystic Aquarium | 55 Coogan Blvd | 860.572.5955 | mysticaquarium.org
Think Christmas with coral. Nestled against Olde Mistick Village 10 miles from the ocean, the Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration is adding a few more things to the list of reasons to visit—though giving belly rubs to beluga whales (the only ones in New England, mind you) seems enough right there. While visiting the festive town of Mystic over the holidays, set aside time for a weekend breakfast with Santa and stroll past the sea of trees. There will also be a special one-night charity event, the Festival of Lights, on December 11, to benefit food banks and sea research.
Dates: Breakfast with Santa will be held December 5-6 and 19-20; The Holiday Sea of Trees will be on display through January 4, 2010. The Festival of Lights is December 11, from 5:30-8:00pm.
How to get there: Amtrak trains running Washington-Boston serve Mystic and New London; Peter Pan Bus Lines offers daily round-trip service from New York Port Authority.
Christkindlmarkt Bethlehem | Bethlehem, PA | 610.332.1300 | christmascity.org
In addition to Main Street’s bustling art and nightlife scene, this quaint Lehigh Valley town boasts one of the best holiday bazaars in the world, featuring handcrafted goods by 75 countrywide artisans. Bethlehem also has two unique New Years Eve events if you are looking to escape the city crowds: fireworks for First Night Bethlehem and the first annual PEEPS fest. The festival will be family-oriented, with a PEEPS Olympics for kids and PEEPS mascot for photos. And if you have a craving for the yellow, sugar-dusted marshmallow treats, during Christmas week local restaurants will be fashioning special dishes made with PEEPS.
Dates: The Christkindlmarkt Bethlehem is open December weekends through the 20th. The PEEPS Fest will be held December 30-31, 2009.
How to get there: Take the Transbridge bus line from Port Authority. Ride is approximately an hour and a half. A new program called the Loop, provides a shuttle for people to get around town for a $2.50 all day pass.
Philadelphia’s Washington Crossing the Delaware River Reenactment | 215.493.4076 | gophila.com
Celebrate the city’s rich colonial history with several holiday events, like the dress rehearsal for the reenactment of Washington Crossing the Delaware River. An iconic symbol of the Revolutionary War, the actual “crossing” will be held true to date on December 25. If that has whetted your appetite for all things olde American, the Please Touch Museum has recreated a regal Christmas in their Enchanted Colonial Village. Stop by the Please Taste Café for a homemade pizza hot out of the stone hearth oven.
Dates: The Washington Crossing the Delaware River dress rehearsal will be held on December 13. The Please Touch Museum’s Enchanted Colonial Village runs through January 1, 2010.
How to get there: Consult our Bus and Transportation Guide for multiple travel options to Philadelphia.
Newport’s Holiday Harbor Lights | Newport, R.I. | 401.845.5815 | christmasinnewport.com
The 12th Annual Holiday Harbor Lights Parade of Boats will kick off the 39th Annual Christmas in Newport. As boats of all kinds sail by in their holiday best, there will be a special visit with Santa Claus at Bowmen’s Wharf. While in Newport, relive the glitz and glamour of the roaring twenties with Christmas at the famed Newport Mansions, the Breakers, the Elms, and the Marble House. Bring your pajama-clad kids aboard the Newport Dinner Train-turned- Polar Express. In addition to the beautiful views of the Narragansett Bay, holiday cookies, caroling, and of course, story-time will be served.
Dates: Holiday Harbor Lights will begin at 6:30pm on December 5. Christmas at the Newport Mansions can be viewed through January 3, 2010.
How to get there: Take the PeterPan bus to Providence – Kennedy Plaza (see our Providence Bus and Transportation Guide for more information). It is important to be aware that the Peter Pan Bus line makes TWO stops in Providence, but the connecting bus to Newport is only accessible from Kennedy Plaza. RPTA (Rhode Island Public Transportation) travels from Providence to Newport.
Providence’s Trinity Repertory | trinityrep.com
Bah, humbug! Though many of us are well familiar with the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge, the Christmas miser, the Trinity Repertory Company’s production of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is a Providence Christmas tradition. Although this is an annual production, locals continue to attend every year to see it performed with a different twist. After the play, wander through downtown Providence to see the festive lights or to visit the Craftland Annual Holiday Sale, showcasing works by local Rhode Island artists.
Dates: A Christmas Carol runs through December 20, show times vary. Visit the Trinity Repertory online for tickets; adult prices range from $40-65, while admission for children under 14 is only $10. The Craftland Annual Holiday Sale is open December 4-December 31, and hours are 10am-6pm daily.
How to get there: Both Greyhound and Peter Pan bus lines offer service to Providence from the New York Port Authority. Consult our Providence Public Transportation Guide for more travel options.
Boston Performances | mayorsholidayspecial.com
As part of Boston’s Mayor’s Holiday Specials, visitors can enjoy discounts on a host of Boston activities. In collaboration with ArtsBoston, the city is offering holiday show tickets at half-price on favorites such as the Boston Ballet’s production of the Nutcracker (through December 27), Handel’s Messiah (December 11-12), and A Christmas Carol (at the Hanover Theater December 17-22), and new shows like an urban performance of the Nutcracker and Reckless, a winter-time retelling of Alice and Wonderland.
Dates: For specific show dates, visit the Mayor’s Holiday Special on the site above.
How to get there: If you find your wallet a little lighter than usual after Christmas shopping, the Fung Wah Chinatown bus offers daily departures from the city during the holiday season at $15/one way. Consult our Boston Public Transportation Guide for more travel options.
Nantucket | nantucketchamber.org
The Nantucket Noel is a special season-long calendar of holiday happenings in the city. In addition to the annual Christmas Stroll Weekend (Dec 4-6), the Winter Solstice celebration (December 23) is not to be missed. And Bartlett’s Farm, Nantucket’s oldest and largest family-owned farm, is offering discounts, tastings, and family activities in honor of the oncoming winter season. The Early Skating and New Years Celebration for Children & Families will open at the Nantucket Ice community rink on December 31.
Dates: Nantucket Noel runs all holiday-season long, festivities conclude on January 1, 2010. Visit the calendar for an exhaustive list of daily events.
How to get there: Nantucket is a short ferry-ride from Hyannis. Hyannis can be reached by bus with Peter Pan from New York Port Authority.
Extra: As part of a special countdown to the new year, the Carlisle House Inn is offering a 20% discount off holiday rates if you make your reservation by December 10. 508.228.0720 for reservations.
Map of Featured Getaways
View Holiday Getaways Near NYC in a larger map
|NYC Bloggers Do the Holidays|
Brooklyn Based – Home for the Holidays
Give and Get NYC – Tis The Season to Volunteer
the improvised life – unwrapping the holidays
Manhattan User’s Guide – The Gift Guide
Mommy Poppins – Offbeat and Multicultural Family Holiday Events
NY Barfly – It’s the Holidays, Time to Drink
NewYorkology – Big-ticket holiday shows: Nutcracker, Rockettes, Wintuk
offManhattan – Ten Holiday Getaways Near NYC
Patell & Waterman’s History of New York – A little history with your holidays
The Strong Buzz – Holiday Eats Old and New
WFMU’s Beware of the Blog – Happy Freakin’ Holidays Playlist
Walking Off the Big Apple – The Thin Man Walk: A New York Holiday Adventure with Nick and Nora Charles
(If you have a NYC blog or website and would like to participate in a future group post, please contact Manhattan User’s Guide at firstname.lastname@example.org)