By: Mary Fran Bontempo

Silver Bells, Silver Bells. It’s Christmas time in the city….And no city in the world does Christmas like New York.

From the tree at Rockefeller Center to the elaborate window displays of the department stores to the Christmas Market at Bryant Park and on and on, the city simply glows with the wonders of the season. The best part? Aside from transportation and the cost of a nibble or two, many of NYC’s holiday attractions are free to be enjoyed by one and all. The only thing you really need is a pair of good walking shoes and a desire to be amazed.

Of course, the best place to start a tour of NYC’s wonders is the tree at Rockefeller Center, located in the middle of the Rockefeller Center Plaza complex between 47th and 50th Streets and 5th and 6th Avenues. This year’s tree is approximately 75 feet tall and adorned with multicolored and flashing white lights. As always, the tree is flanked by angels and wooden soldiers and stands guard over an ice rink where skaters can take a twirl throughout the day.

Just down the block at 611 5th Avenue lies Saks, the legendary department store with a bubble theme for its windows and light display this year. Bubbles galore glisten and float in the store’s exterior holiday windows, while The Snowflake and the Bubble, this year’s fantastic light extravaganza, shown on the store’s facade every fifteen minutes for five hours nightly, delights street-side audiences. (Check out the video below then keep reading for more!)

While just about every store provides a visual feast for the eyes with designer windows and displays (jeweler Cartier’s store boasts a large red ribbon and bow lighting the shop’s exterior while accessories designer Fendi’s store is adorned with a sparkling crystal-like belt and shimmering icicles dripping down the storefront), this year, Bergdorf Goodman, at 5th & 58th Streets, proves expecially elaborate.

The theme is Carnival of the Animals, and glamorously dressed mannequins join with exotic animal species in stunning window displays surrounding the store’s exterior. Words don’t do these windows justice. See the slideshow at the end of this post or click on the link for photos.

While you’re in the neighborhood, be sure to stop in at The Plaza, the elegant, hotel-home of the ever popular storybook character Eloise. A grand space, The Plaza is the perfect place to stop for a spot of afternoon tea in The Palm Court, after taking a few moments to gaze upon Eloise’s special pink, feather-boa festooned Christmas tree, designed by Betsey Johnson, in the hotel lobby.

And finally, if you haven’t spent your Christmas allowance, stop in at Bryant Park (between 40th and 42nd Streets and 5th and 6th Avenues), home of the Fashion Week shows, to visit the Holiday Market. Pop-up shops throughout the park surround yet another ice rink where skaters skim the surface along with holiday tunes. The shops boast treasures of all kinds, from hand-crafted items to home baked specialties, with something for every taste and budget.

Of course, a day in New York barely scratches the surface, but at Christmas time, whatever you can manage in the city will be time well spent to get you and yours in the holiday spirit. A glimmering, glistening wonderland, Christmas in New York is a must see. If, however, a visit just isn’t possible, let us give you a taste of the experience through the video and slide show in this post. A little New York at Christmas is certainly better than none at all! Merry Christmas!