Holidays in New York are the stuff of songs, movies, musicals and magic. From Central Park skating and Union Square holiday-market going to a Macy's Santaland visit and Rockefeller Center tree gaping, the city is all a-jingle with the season ... and people. So, so, so many people, all shopping, window gazing and merrymaking at the same dauntingly crowded places.
Even the jolliest elf needs to take a break from the celebration every once in a while, so we've crafted a list of our favorite escapes from the holiday action. There's something special and soothing about each one (tea, cocktails, a splendid view, a little bit of hush), and, most importantly, they're all open in the middle of the shopping day, so you can duck away from the fray, then resume, refueled.
Shhhh! Enjoy sweeping Central Park views away from the madding crowd while you take in lunch, dinner, cocktails or pinky-up afternoon tea at this chic little restaurant tucked away on the seventh floor of Bergdorf Goodman. Though walk-ins are welcome, consider making a reservation to avoid lines and secure a signature, plush "whisper chair" in which to augment your calm.
Yes, Virginia, miracles do occur on 34th Street—sometimes in the form of a trattoria in the heart of the Macy's mayhem. Give yourself the gift of clarity with a reservation (make one on the fly if need be) and bypass the shopping chaos with the dedicated sixth-floor elevators at the Broadway and 35th Street entrance. Request a window seat and gaze serenely at the Empire State Building while sipping a restorative elderflower mimosa.
The crowds around the Radio City Christmas Spectacular can kick up even the Zen-est reveler's need to flee. Nearby NIOS at The Muse Hotel offers respite in the form of a chilled-out restaurant and lounge with a thoughtfully crafted and surprisingly affordable wine, beer and liquor list to get you back in the holiday spirit.
Brasserie 8 1/2
A friend recently referred to Brasserie 8 1/2 as his "favorite Midtown bolt-hole," and we knew exactly what he meant. A spiral staircase separates this massive below-street-level space from the Fifth Avenue buying brouhaha, and it feels like a world away. Duck in for the calm and stay for classic French salads, soups, eggs and a flute of something sparkling.
Armani / Ristorante
Even if you can't quite swing the price of a purse downstairs, perhaps your wallet might accommodate a light bite and a glass of wine at the glam cafe up on three. It's especially sparkly this time of year, when window views showcase lighted projections onto nearby buildings. Buon Natale! Now get back to shopping.
Caffé Storico at the New-York Historical Society
Need a break from holiday hysteria? The New-York Historical Society's restaurant peeps into the gallery, but doesn't require an admission fee. Spend the morning digging into the American Museum of Natural History, Hayden Planetarium and NYHS, then warm up with Italian-accented soups, salads, pastas and crostini before skating on over to Central Park.
Burp Castle prides itself on its monastery theme and follows it through with a shhhhh policy. Employees will literally shush you if you speak too loudly, and there's no music (a welcome escape from nonstop holiday tunes). Order a seasonal brew, such as Gouden Carolus Noël, and sip a very silent pint in the midst of the bustling East Village. (Note: The bar doesn't open until 4 p.m. on weekends, but is too chill not to share.)
Rigatoni from Caffé Storico | Photo: LWYang
This East Village teahouse is a floor up and a world away from the NYU housing/shopping/drinking nexus, offering respite in the form of darling desserts (black sesame crème brûlée and Earl Grey mochi) and reverently presented matcha. If you cannot find inner peace here, consider asking Santa to include some in your holiday haul.
Hark, the Herald Square's so stressful! Hang an eastward turn to this Korean café and slip into a civilized cup of green, white, fruit, flavored or herbal tea and a creative selection of vegan tapas and sushi, desserts or gluten-free dishes. And there's plenty of wine, soju and sake as well, should the angels happen to guide you that way.
It's a Christmas miracle—a massive pizza place that's never all that full and is a solid purveyor of excellent pies. Do your holiday gift hauling at the pop-up shops at Union Square, then step into this light, white room for a Neapolitan pizza topped with French fries and a Peroni. You've earned it.
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