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Holiday Tour: Midtown Edition

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by Joann Jovinelly (subscribe)
I'm a freelance writer/photographer living in the East Village neighborhood of New York City.
Suddenly the holidays are here and you haven't yet had a chance to take part in the festivities. Fear not. There is still plenty of time to grab your gifts, snap some pics, and see some of New York City's most traditional and celebrated holiday spots.

To keep things simple, see as many or as few sites as you can from one central location, such as Grand Central Terminal. You can meet friends and family, have a bite to eat, enjoy the annual holiday light show, and scope out the holiday craft fair inside Vanderbilt Hall. Look for luxurious pillows by Aviva Stanoff, inspirational jewelry in recycled gold and Sterling silver by The Barber's Daughters, and cute, handmade leather animals by Sandy Vohr.

In between shopping jaunts, stop by the Manhattan branch of the New York City Transit Museum, located right inside the terminal. Both kids and adults will love seeing electric trains make their way past tiny versions of famous city landmarks (pictured) like the Brooklyn Bridge and the Empire State Building. Next, head to the lower dining concourse for a tasty treat from Magnolia Bakery, purportedly New York's favorite cupcake confection (though we prefer its heavenly banana pudding!).

Several sites of interest are within a moment's walking distance from the terminal. First is the Morgan Library and Museum, which is currently exhibiting Charles Dickens' original manuscript of The Christmas Carol. Written in 1843 and greeted with universal acclaim from critics, it's bound in red Moroccan leather and chock full of Dickens's revision notes and edits. A visit to the gift shop will inspire gifts for the most avid book worms on your list. (Tip: The Morgan Museum and Library admission fees are waved on Fridays between 7-9PM.)

Next, take a self-guided tour of the New York Public Library's Steven A. Schwarzman Building on Fifth Avenue (at 42nd Street). Besides the huge Christmas tree that adorns the main library, kids will enjoy seeing the real Winnie the Pooh and friends toys (pictured) given to Christopher Robin in 1920 that inspired the classic children's tale by his father, A.A. Milne. Walk the quiet halls, take a break inside the Rose Reading Room, and stop by the gift shop.

Just beyond the gorgeous Beaux Arts NYPL building sits Bryant Park all decked out in holiday splendor. Stroll through more than 125 holiday shops, each enclosed in glass and heated, so there's no excuses to avoid getting your shop on. While there, check out the skaters at CitiPond free skating rink and sit and enjoy some hot coffee and pastries at the outdoor kiosk, 'wichcraft.
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Why? To enjoy a Christmas quickie.
When: Through December 25
Where: Various locations near Grand Central Terminal in Midtown Manhattan
Cost: Free; Admission to Morgan Library, $15 Adults; $12 Children
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