Winter visit to New York City may be best of the year
New York City, with its reputation as America's most magnetic, cosmopolitan and urbane welcoming center, arguably dazzles more in winter than in any other season.
In summer there is heat. In autumn there are crowds catching the fresh Broadway openings. Spring is nice, but winter in New York is magical.
Rockefeller Center and Radio City Music Hall, 212-307-7171, (www.radiocitychristmas.com/) are as popular at Christmas 2008 as in your granny's day, with colored light displays, gargantuan Christmas tree and ice rink, and the high-kicking Rockettes. But this annual Christmas show has gone high-tech with a three-dimensional ride through the city on Santa's sleigh as one of the biggest hits.
The New York City Ballet still offers George Balanchine's Nutcracker at Lincoln Center, 212-870-5500 (www.nycballet.com), and the Apollo Theater in Harlem 212-531-5300 (www.apollotheater.org), still holds its Amateur Nights, the likes of which presented Ella Fitzgerald and other talents to the world.
Visitors expect to pay top dollar for attractions when visiting New York, like from $75 to $240 for a seat to enjoy the final days (ends Jan. 4) of the six-year run of Hairspray at the Neil Simon Theater, 212- 757-8646, www.neilsimontheatre.com, or pay from $94 and up to more than $400 to see the Metropolitan Opera, 212-362-6000, (www.metropolitanopera.com) performance of Tristan und Isolde Dec. 12 at Lincoln Center.
But there are discounts available specifically to those seniors who make it a rule of thumb to ask about them at every box office in the city. Museums throughout the five boroughs of Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx and Staten Island cater to persons aged 62 and older with discounts that can range from 15 percent and higher.
The senior price of just $2 off the regular price of $12 to enter the Jewish Museum on Fifth Avenue, 212-423-3200, (www.jewishmuseum.org) to see some of the Dead Sea Scrolls this month doesn't seem like much of a discount. But added up at museums across town for a long weekend, it can be meaningful, particularly when the price is $15 instead of $20 to get into places like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 212-535-7710, (www.metmuseum.org) on Fifth Avenue. Among the many and varied exhibits available this month at the museum is Art and Love in Renaissance Italy, 150 objects dating from about 1400 to the mid-16th century, ranging from jewelry, marriage portraits and paintings that extol sensual love and fecundity, such as the Metropolitan's Venus and Cupid by the Venetian artist Lorenzo Lotto.
Some operas, orchestral and chamber music groups have sales on what are called "rush" tickets that are sold the day of the concert. Call the ticket office several hours before a performance and ask about them. Group rates for parties of seniors may be available also.
Discounts to Broadway shows are available the same day as the performance at three TKTS ticket stands - Times Square, South Street Seaport and in Brooklyn at Jay Street and Myrtle Street Promenade. Bargains of up to 50 percent off can be had, but lines may be long. An alternative is to plug into this online site, www.nytix.com/Links/Broadway/listofcurrentshows.html, which allows purchases of discounted tickets through a monthly membership: $4 for Broadway shows, $3 for TV show tickets, $3 for comedy clubs, or $7 for all.
For the most complete information about NYC, most out-of-towners search the city's official tourism site at nycvisit.com to plan trips, seek information on hotels, dining, shopping, nightlife, arts and entertainment, sports and special offers.
One of the most enjoyable days that a visitor can spend during the Christmas season costs nothing except shoe leather. It is a stroll along Fifth Avenue and adjacent streets to see the spectacular window displays of famous shops and stores like Macy's, Bloomingdales, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman, Barneys, Lord & Taylor.
If time is of the essence, like a three-day weekend, the best choice for taking in as much as you can brag about back home would be a city bus tour or a river boat tour.
Circle Line's three-hour, full island trip costs seniors 62 and older $23, which is $4 off the standard adult price. Phone 212-563-3200, (www.circleline42.com).
On a five-and-a-half-hour bus trip, OnBoard New York City, 877-886-8769, (www.onboardnewyorktours.com) squeezes in visits for $62.49 with actual stops at Times Square, the World Trade Center site, New York Stock Exchange, Wall Street, St. Paul's Chapel, Trinity Church, World Financial Center, Federal Hall, Madison Square Park, Flatiron building, Fifth Avenue, Rockefeller Center, NBC's Today Show Set, St. Patrick's Cathedral, Central Park, Strawberry Fields, Dakota Building and the Canyon of Heroes.
John Hilferty's column for mature travelers appears monthly. He can be reached at email@example.com.