I'm a freelance writer/photographer living in the East Village neighborhood of New York City.
Published January 17th 2011
With the holiday here, you're likely either filled with bliss or blinded by depression. This year, why not skip watching your cousin open another pair of slipper socks and have your own private date with New York City? There are a surprisingly large number of shops, restaurants, and activities open during Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, even if you avoid tourists by staying below Fourteenth Street.
For starters, we love that Chelsea's Standard Hotel, which rises poetically above the Highline, has installed a temporary skating rink with real ice. Open all day (10AM-Midnight) Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can skate 'til your heart's content. After, warm up with a wonderful selection of hot toddies, spiked egg nogs, rich cocoas, and even a classic cheese fondue, which are served right on site. It's ultra romantic, totally inspirational, and so much better than traveling to grandma's. A walk along the Highline will prove how sleepy Manhattan is on Christmas. Located at 848 Washington Street (at Thirteenth Street) in Chelsea.
If tradition is more your thing, consider the typical anti-holiday celebration: Chinese food and a movie. Many theaters are open during Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and it's rather nice to be among the only people sitting in the dark with a flickering screen overhead. We love that the 92YTribeca is hosting "Chinese and a Movie" where patrons can load up on dumplings and fried rice from their all-you-can-eat buffet, which opens at 2PM. The feast is followed by a double screening of "Airplane!" and "The Naked Gun," both of which feature the late comedian Leslie Nielsen. Located at 200 Hudson Street (at Canal Street) in Tribeca.
Some might even consider doing a movie marathon of sorts. IFC is screening several holiday-related films including the Frank Capra classic, "It's a Wonderful Life," which will be introduced by Mary Owen, daughter of Donna Reed, on Christmas Eve. IFC remains open on Christmas Day and is showing 15 different films for your viewing pleasure, including the soon-to-be cult holiday film, "Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale," a story that is set on an archeological dig in Finland where a band of anti-heroes discovers what they think are the remains of the real Santa Claus. The schedule also includes midnight screenings of Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey." Stay a while: The seats are comfy and the popcorn is fresh. Located at 323 Sixth Avenue (at West Third Street) in the West Village.
Head farther south to the Seaport on Christmas Eve to see some really amazing stunts. Members of the Big Apple Circus plan on arranging themselves like ornaments on the Seaport Chorus Tree. The event begins at 3PM, is completely free, and promises to score you big points with the little ones. As a bonus, Santa might make one final appearance before dashing off into the night and the boutiques are open for last-minute shoppers. Located on Pier 17, Fulton Street (between Front and Water Streets) in the Financial District.