7 of Europe's Best Winter Celebrations and Festivals
Europe is one of the most enchanting places to visit during the winter and holiday season. With its winding streets filled with glimmering lights and decorations, friendly locals and endless tables of holiday treats and gifts for sale, who can resist?
If you’re planning a festive break, here are some of the best Christmas markets, celebrations and festivals to look for across the pond. Just don’t forget to leave space in your suitcase for all the souvenirs and gifts you’re going to buy!
Running for more than a decade, London’s Winter Wonderland exudes Christmas spirit through the city during the winter. The attraction hosts Christmas-themed fun and activities, including an enormous ice skating rink, rollercoaster rides, street food stalls, a Ferris wheel, a Bavarian-themed beer hall with live music and a huge Christmas market.
Looking for a hotel near the Winter Wonderland? The Crowne Plaza London is a 20-minute walk from the festivities and a five-minute taxi ride to the shops and restaurants in Mayfair and Knightsbridge.
The Amsterdam Light Festival is known near and far as one of the best winter events in Europe. In December and January, around 250 light installations of all shapes and sizes are on display illuminating the town. This all happens in the city center along the waters of Amsterdam’s canals during the dark winter months.
Preparations for the exhibit go on the entire year, so you can imagine how magnificent the displays are. Lights adorn everything from the bridges to the trees and beyond. Take a canal boat for a magical look at all of the light art in the evening. It will be a highlight of the season.
Opening at the end of November, the festive Strasbourg market is a favorite for Christmas lovers with its four Advent converts and Living Nativity, along with authentic live music. Having first launched back in 1570, travelers come from around the world to visit this magical place!
Experience all that it has to offer, from its famous Christmas tree and scenic wooden chalets to the delicious mulled wine. If you’re looking for lodging, consider the Holiday Inn Express Strasbourg, an adorable hotel in the city center and only a short stroll away from the Christmas market.
San Sebastian, Spain
Move over Christmas markets. San Sebastian’s Tamborrada de Donostia, aka festival of drums begins on January 19th at midnight when the flag of San Sebastian is raised and signifies the start of the celebration. Thousands of locals and tourists gather in the city center to sing, dance, play drums and march for the next 24 hours.
The festival is free and open to anyone to attend, but as with any festival the area is extremely busy. Many locals go out for a seafood dinner to celebrate the city, so make your reservations for dining and lodging ahead of time.
Head down the cobblestone streets of Munich to witness the Christmas spirit at the famous holiday markets. Various markets pop up throughout the city, but Marienplatz is the legendary one everyone visits, right in the heart of the city. You can expect a massive Christmas tree decked out in holiday garb; stalls galore filled with handmade trinkets and you may even catch carolers singing. Well, let’s be honest – you’ll definitely see carolers in this jolly town.
There’s a gingerbread town in Norway, tell all of your friends. But seriously, the world’s largest gingerbread town is constructed every year in Bergen. Students and volunteers put together a full town composed of houses, boats and cars. There’s even a Ferris wheel made of cookies and icing. When do we get to eat it?
Visit the mini version of Bergen from mid-November through December for around $10. Plus, there are a variety of Christmas markets throughout the town, so you can combine your tour with a visit to shop until you drop.
The post-card perfect market within Warsaw’s Old Town walls is home to more than 60 traditional wooden huts. They’re nestled among the snow and sell traditional mulled wine, adorable figurines and basically everything you could ever want to remember this fascinating city by. And if you’re looking for a white Christmas, it’s almost guaranteed in Warsaw.
There are a variety of markets throughout the city that are either traditional or modern, but you’re guaranteed to find what you’re looking for during the month of December. So, grab a few pierogies and maybe some vodka and get in the holiday spirit Polish style.
6 Things to Do in NYC During the Winter Holidays
Come the merry season, New York City is a hive of holiday activity. And whether you’re planning your own personal adventures or thrive on bulleted itineraries, there’s no right way to enjoy this festive time of year. We know the city never sleeps, but we’re fairly certain you do. So, before you pull out your planner and lace up your walking shoes, here are our picks for six things you just can’t miss in NYC this December. Hit Rockefeller Center Come for the tree, stay for the ice skating, shopping, restaurants, sightseeing, and entertainment – it's hard to think of the holidays in New York without Christmas at Rockerfeller Center. The iconic Tree Lighting Ceremony will take place on December 4 this year, but you can see it beautifully lit and decorated any time of the day or night until early 2020. And once you’ve gawked at your leisure, you may want to strap on ice skates and join the legions of revelers overlooked by a watchful Prometheus on The Rink or purchase tickets, preferably beforehand, to head to the Top of the Rock for stunning views of the five boroughs. Of course, if you’d rather relax on terra firma, there is a diverse shopping concourse, including restaurants and cafes—many rinkside—for meals and snacks, as well as the 12 sparkling angels lining the serene Channel Gardens. Kids will appreciate a quick (or not so quick) visit to the Lego Store and Nintendo NY, and the whole family will enjoy the NBC Studios and Behind-the Scenes tours at 30 Rock. Looking for a special adult-only moment? Consider reserving time for hand-crafted cocktails at the Rainbow Room’s elevated Bar SixtyFive. Chinese Food on Christmas Eve If you’re in the city without a home base, finding the right place for a special holiday dinner can seem daunting. Though many restaurants are closed on Christmas eve, allowing owners and staff spend time with their own families, you can follow the footsteps of throngs of Jewish New Yorkers and make a reservation at one of the city’s many Chinese restaurants. Chinatown is the most obvious choice to dine, and you can choose from favorites like the more contemporary Chinese Tuxedo, the group-friendly, dim sum palace Golden Unicorn, or the BYOB cult darling Peking Duck House. If, however, you’re feeling a little more adventurous, hop on the subway or grab a carshare to Flushing, Queens, where you’ll find a plentitude of street food, three indoor centers full of hawker stands and of course, many full-service restaurants. Dumpling Galaxy, housed in a shiny mall on Main St., is a must for dumpling lovers, with 100 different varieties sharing space on the long form menu, while Canton Gourmet serves up golden friend rice and specializes in beautifully served fresh seafood. Visit a Themed Pop Up Bar Nothing says holiday like a festive cocktail, and many bars in the city take advantage of this mirth by setting up a fun and fanciful winter-themed pop-up. Miracle and Sippin Santa, which started six years ago in the East Village and has ballooned to over 100 locations worldwide, will start on November 25 and last until December 31st, letting visitors enjoy signature cocktails like the Snowball Old-Fashioned and Ginger Bread Flip at the three Miracle locations, and tiki cocktails like Kris Kringle Colada and Jingle Bowl at the Sippin Santa downtown pop-up at Boilermaker. Vintage holiday decorations, classic, themed barware and an eclectic soundtrack of holiday tunes will be on hand, along with Ugly Sweater contests and, of course, an abundance of yuletide cheer. If you’re looking for something a little less kitschy, the Snow Globe in the Sky at Ophelia NYC, teetering on the top of the Beekman Tower, will be enclosed in glass and decorated with sparkling crystals and snowflakes. Along with a stunning view and plush, decadent setting, you can gorge on desserts and sip cocktail like the Rising Star and Fireside. Visit Miracle at (649 East) 9th St. and (505 East) 12th St.; Sippin Santa at 13 First Ave.; and Ophelia NYC at 49th and 1st Ave. Don’t Forget the Window Dressing Don’t feel like joining all those shoppers inside the stores? Why not do a circuit of NYC’s famous holiday windows to while away the hours. From fantastical adventures to fashionable follies, nothing compares to these spectacularly creative displays. We suggest you start uptown and swing by Bergdorf Goodman to see a dazzling array of otherworldly colors and patterns, Barneys for a more modern display, and the renowned eight, elegant windows at Bloomingdales—then swing by luxury jewelers Tiffany and Cartier just a few blocks down to eyeball the jaw-dropping bling draped in lights, bows and ribbons. On to Saks Fifth Avenue, where though we don’t yet know the 2019 theme, the centrally located, 5th Avenue department store will be revealing its displays on November 25 with a starry performance by Frozen’s own Idina Menzel and a ten-story tall light show. Next, make your way to Macy’s Herald Square for the six family friendly Broadway windows which open November 21 and are titled Believe in Wonder starring the magical Santa Girl. Get Tickets to Peter & the Wolf The Rockettes surely have their charm and Broadway is always a boon, but if you want to catch something special this season, grab your tickets now to Isaac Mizrahi’s reimagined classic Peter & the Wolf. Along with narrating and directing the show, the famed designer was also in charge of costumes for the sprawling cast. Performed at the Peter B. Lewis Theater inside the renowned Guggenheim Museum, this special, 30-minute performance is perfect for kids of all ages. Hit a Holiday Market Filled with fun, food, kids’ activities and, of course, shopping, the holiday market experience is a much nicer way to fulfill your shopping needs in a city full of crowded stores. The Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park, opening October 31, features a skating rink, and pop-up restaurant and bar, as well as over 175 boutiques to peruse. The tree lighting happens December 5 and Santa’s Corner is open for the kids from December 14 to the 22nd. Other markets to visit include the European-style Urban Space Union Square Holiday Market and food vendors, and Deck the Stalls at the Fulton Market in the Seaport District—which also provides access to ice rink and warming hut at The Rooftop at Pier 17.
8 Best Cycling Routes in North America
Whether you’re looking to take a cycling-centric vacation or just include some skinny-tire time while you’re out exploring, the best routes are those that combine moderate climbs (and the blissful descents that follow) with natural beauty and an ineffable sense of wonder. With that criteria in mind, we’ve assembled some of our favorite rides—including a range of geographical regions in North America from eastern Canada down to Mexico City. These are intended for road bikes (a.k.a. the bikes with thin tires), and for cyclists with some experience—though each of these cool routes can be managed by newbies who are traveling with relatively experienced cyclists.Going-to-the-Sun Road Montana When it comes to pinch-me vistas and wildlife encounters, it’s difficult to beat the Going-to-the-Sun Road, in Montana’s Glacier National Park. Start your trek at Apgar visitor center, not far from the park’s West Glacier entrance. You’ll cover 32 miles from Apgar to the continental divide at Logan Pass, climbing around 3,000 feet over the course of the ride. Plan on several hours to reach Logan, because you’ll encounter many fine reasons to stop along the way: Avalanche Creek, the Trail of the Cedars, and many scenic overlooks where you’ll see the valley below growing smaller and smaller, snowy peaks (often even in July), and chance sightings of black bears, grizzlies, and moose. If you still have the legs for it, there’s a great hike at Logan Pass up to Hidden Lake Overlook, where you’ll almost certainly spot mountain goats. And, of course, the ride down from Logan back to Apgar is all downhill. When you arrive back at Apgar Village, celebrate with a feast at Eddie’s restaurant, and save room for a huckleberry ice cream or pie. Green Mountains Loop Vermont, New Hampshire, New York The Green Mountains, with their gentle slopes and namesake hue (which transforms into blazing reds, yellows, and oranges in autumn), define much of Vermont’s landscape. Even folks who have yet to visit will recognize the mountains as the backdrop of many of Grandma Moses’s most famous paintings. The Green Mountains Loop goes well beyond the mountains, allowing cyclists to begin in Burlington and, if they choose, end there as well, having explored not only Vermont but also portions of New Hampshire and the Lake Champlain shoreline in New York. The loop comprises more than 370 miles, and there are also alternates and offshoots worth seeing if you have time. The East Alternate, for instance, passes through the charming small town of Peacham, the kind of Platonic ideal of a New England town you might expect to see in a Norman Rockwell. Natchez Trace Parkway Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee This may be the most ancient cycling route you’ll ever attempt. The Natchez Trace Parkway essentially existed centuries before the notion of a “parkway,” as a trail through the forest used by Native Americans. These days, you’ll share the road with relatively moderate or sparse auto traffic, and you’ll savor the forestland, waterways, and waterfalls along the way. Rest your head at an array of B&Bs along the way, grab ample Southern cuisine, and choose campsites that will be populated by fellow cyclists—and some campgrounds are actually bicyclists-only. If you make the entire trip, which connects Natchez, MS, to Nashville, TN, you’ll cover 444 miles of gentle grades. Katy Trail Missouri A great route for outdoor enthusiasts and historians alike, the Katy Trail runs more than 230 miles across the state of Missouri, about half of it following the route that Lewis and Clark tpokl up the Missouri River on their exploration of the Louisiana Purchase. Keep an eye out for eagles as you cycle this relatively flat trail that takes you past farms and fields and small towns. It’s the longest rails-to-trails project in the U.S., having converted the former Missouri-Kansas-Texas (MKT) railroad line into prime space for hikers, runners, and cyclists. (If you’re keen on traversing the entire continential U.S. on two skinny wheels, the Katy Trail is often included in cross-country treks along the Lewis & Clark route and the American Discovery Trail. Mount Lemmon Arizona Tucson, AZ, is something of a cyclists’ mecca, with a great climate for outdoor activities snd some spectacular scenery and mountain trails. You’ll ascend the Catalina Highway to the top of Mount Lemmon—wear layers, because you’ll likely pass through a range of temperatures and weather conditions, including the possibility of snow at the Summerhaven resort at the top. You’ll enjoy coasting on the ride back down as well, but avoid the temptation to take the hairpins at top speed—you’ll want to arrive back in Tucson in one piece for dinner. Camino Cielo California For anyone who has ever visited Santa Barbara, on the southern end of California’s central coast, the Pacific Ocean vistas and the Santa Ynez Mountains behind the city can be unforgettable. But there’s at least one cool secret up those mountains: Camino Cielo (“skyway”) is a ridge road with sweeping views. Of all the routes recommended in this story, Camino Cielo is the one that will demand the most energy and attentiveness: Expect steep climbs, switchbacks, and some rough terrain on your way to the top of Gibraltor Mountain. You’ll almost certainly agree it was worth the climb. (And on your way back to SB, you can reward yourself with a visit to one of the region’s excellent wineries.) Route Verte Québec Canada’s finest cycling can be found in Québec Province, and the crown jewel is Route Verte (“greenway”), covering more than 3,000 miles (yes, you read that correctly) that includes mixed-use trails and cycling paths, and roads from the coast all the way to Montréal. As you might expect, the route offers many reasons to stop along the way, including Québec’s historic cities with their array of French food, wine, and friendly locals, and the extraordinary Parc National du Bic along the St. Lawrence Estuary, with its mountains and islands and capes. Desierto de los Leones Mexico City How many national parks can you name that are located entirely within a major city? Desierto de los Leones is all within the Federal District of Mexico City, and the park supplies everything a cyclist might crave: the Sierra de las Cruces Mountains, scenic waterways, forests, and ample trails for cyclists. If cycling in a big city seems less adventurous than you might wish, bear in mind that hitting the open road in Mexico is often not as safe for inexperienced cyclists as it might be in the U.S. or Canada. Desierto de los Leones provides natural beauty in a setting where visitors can relax and enjoy the sights. And, contrary to what the park’s name might suggest, it is neither a desert nor a haven for mountain lions.)
The United States is renowned for its plethora of jaw-droppingly beautiful stretches of highway. In fact, for many travelers, the very word "America" conjures images not of bustling cities or world-class museums (though the US offers no shortage of them) but of iconic roads such as California’s Highway 1, the Southeast’s Blue Ridge Parkway, and Montana’s Going-to-the-Sun Road. But what about the lesser-known American drives? The ones that aren’t necessarily jam-packed with road trip enthusiasts but nevertheless offer gorgeous scenery, family-friendly fun, education, and even cultural enlightenment? Here, six outstanding “secret” drives that travelers will love to boast about “discovering.” Big Bend, Texas Big Bend National Park, along the Texas border with Mexico, is often overshadowed by its more famous fellow parks like Yosemite and Grand Canyon. But a road trip through this gorgeous environment, with its limestone cliffs, scenic overlooks, and Rio Grande River, is a unique way to experience the American landscape. As with many US national parks, Big Bend includes small “villages” that can serve as handy milestones in planning a drive. One option is the Panther Junction-to-Rio Grande Village drive, about 21 miles (34km) passing ancient limestone, scenic overlooks, and opportunities for stopping for a short hike at Boquillas Canyon or the Rio Grande Village Nature Trail. Cherokee Hills, Oklahoma This is a lesser-known road trip that provides a healthy dose of cultural education as well. The Cherokee Hills Scenic Byway, in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains in eastern Oklahoma, runs about 84 miles (135km), so set aside at least two hours for the drive. But the best approach is to make many stops along the way. You’ll see some of the oldest buildings west of the Mississippi River, many predating the state of Oklahoma itself; five small towns; the Cherokee Heritage Center, where visitors learn about the painful history of the Trail of Tears but also about the modern-day initiatives of the Cherokee Nation; and natural wonders including Lake Tenkiller and Natural Falls State Park. Door County, Wisconsin The Door County peninsula, sometimes called the “Cape Cod of the Midwest,” is a narrow, beautiful stretch of land between Lake Michigan and Green Bay. Its Coastal Byway (Highway 42/57) is a Wisconsin Scenic Byway, covering more than 60 miles (97km) passing through the towns of Sturgeon Bay and Northport. Here, visitors discover the natural beauty and relaxing pace of this prized corner of Wisconsin – including farms known for their fresh cherries, a summer theater festival, and charming communities that hug the lakeshore, offering great food (including house-made ice cream), unique shopping, and forests perfect for easy hikes. Brandywine Valley Scenic Byway Sure, Delaware is one of the smallest states in the US, but it packs plenty of history and natural beauty. The Brandywine Valley Scenic Byway, in northern Delaware, takes visitors past sights as diverse as the city of Wilmington and the beautiful countryside. Officially only 12 miles (19km) along the Kennett Pike and Montchanin Road, the byway focuses on the 300-year history of the Brandywine Valley and its role in the industrial revolution and the growth of transportation across the early United States. Consider the byway as your introduction to the larger Brandywine Valley region, which stretches into Pennsylvania and includes an array of important historical homes with great art collections, such as the Winterthur Museum, Garden, and Library; the Nemours Mansion and Garden; the Brandywine River Museum; and the Delaware Museum of Art. Beartooth Highway, Wyoming & Montana Warning: once you’ve driven the Beartooth Highway, which adjoins Yellowstone National Park and is surrounded by national forests and the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, you may be spoiled forever. The highway, a National Scenic Byways All-American Road, is a winding route up into the Absaroka and Beartooth Mountains – achieving an elevation over 10,000ft (3,000 meters) at its zenith, it’s the highest highway in the northern Rocky Mountains – with peerless scenic overlooks, glacial lakes, waterfalls, and, before you ascend back down, a high alpine plateau above the treeline. Set aside a few hours to truly enjoy the 67 miles (108km) of highway, and get to know one of the gateway communities such as Cooke City and Red Lodge, Montana, or Cody, Wyoming. Mississippi Blues Trail, Mississippi For an immersion in one of America’s original art forms, the blues, head to Clarksdale, Mississippi, gateway to the Mississippi Blues Trail. Although you’ll see the beautiful sights of the legendary Mississippi Delta along the way, the Blues Trail is not primarily a scenic drive but rather a set of interpretive markers and cultural institutions that visitors can navigate to create their own personalized road trip devoted to Mississippi’s incredible musical legacy. The trip’s mileage and time frame are entirely up to you. Highlights include Clarksdale’s Delta Blues Museum (where you’ll learn about local luminaries Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson) and Ground Zero Blues Cafe; Indianola’s B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center and Club Ebony (for blues music and soul food); and Greenwood’s Blues Heritage Gallery and excellent restaurants in the historic downtown district.
7 Things We’re Most Excited About at The New York City Wine & Food Festival 2019
Food, music, wine, cocktails and celebrities – all plunked in the city that never sleeps. If that sounds too good to be true, you’re in luck. Beginning October 10, the city will host the Food Network & Cooking Channel New York City Wine & Food Festival for a whopping four days of star-studded, and delicious, events. Presented by Capital One (cardholders receive benefits like early admission, discounts, priority seating and admission to exclusive events) this culinary powerhouse is not only New York’s largest food and wine festival, it also donates 100 percent of its net proceeds to benefit the Food Bank for New York City and the No Kid Hungry campaign. This year NYCWFF will offer entry into 80 events spread across the city, presenting a diverse mix of dinners, tastings and late-night parties – all while mingling with well-known chefs and culinary personalities. Looking to join the party? Here’s what we’re most excited about. Elvis Duran’s Taste of New York This massive tasting of over 25 of the Z100 radio show host’s favorite NYC spots is also a celebration of his new book, Where Do I Begin?: Stories from a Life Lived Out Loud. The entire crew of the syndicated Morning Zoo show will be on hand as co-hosts and in addition to a sampling of goodies from restaurants like Parm, Freeman’s, American Cut, Carmine’s and Shake Shack, you can enjoy unlimited wine, beer and cocktails. Another perk? Also expect to rub elbows with celebs like Grammy winner Alessia Cara and NBC 4 Big Apple culinary explorer Lauren Scala. October 10, 7pm Oktoberfest Nothing says fall like a giant stein of beer. So, join host of Bizarre Foods and three-time James Beard winner Andrew Zimmern, for NYC’s very own Oktoberfest celebration. Indulge in hearty plates and snacks like soft baked pretzels and wursts of all sorts from haunts like Blue Oak BBQ, Schaller’s Stube Sausage Bar, The Leroy House and The Standard Grill. Unlimited pours of frosty brews are a given, but you can also enjoy infinite wine and spirits. October 12, 4pm Fit & Feast This Sunday morning workout slash brunch event is bound to assuage all food festival-related guilt. Join restauranteur and fitness guru Michael Chernov and SoulCycle instructor Roxie Jones for a high energy circuit training class, then feast from eateries like Seamore’s, Broken Coconut and Blank Slate Coffee + Kitchen. Though this is one of a series of four events highlighting wellness and healthy eating, you’ll be happy to know mimosas will be flowing next to the coffee. Don’t worry, you earned it. October 13, 10am Barilla’s Drag Brunch This simply fabulous event is hosted by actress and host of Cooking Channel’s Extra Virgin, Debi Mazar. Though it’s a walk-around affair featuring flamboyant dishes from restaurants like Egghead, Levante, The Meatball Shop and Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’ Florida Kitchen, you’ll also have a chance to sidle up to famed costume designer of Sex and the City, Patricia Field. Cabaret singer and drag artist Joey Arias will be performing live and you’ll be sharing your brunch bounty and Absolut Juice cocktails with NYC’s best drag queen superstars while they strut their stuff. October 12, 12pm Master Sushi Rolling Class Learn to roll with the best at this super-popular masterclass with Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto. Not only will you work with premium filling ingredients, you’ll learn what items need to be in your pantry to create sushi-bar grade rolls in your own home. The small class takes place at Morimoto, the chef’s flagship restaurant, and you’ll be plied with wine and a sushi tasting when you’re done learning from the master. Oct 13, 1:30pm Broadway Tastes Nothing says New York like Broadway, and this brunch features TONY-nominated actor Alex Brightman as host to a line-up of delicious grub and performances straight from the Great White Way. In addition to unlimited drinks and bites from Big Daddy’s, Breads Bakery, Sylvia’s Restaurant and Park & Quinn, you’ll be treated to live tunes from Broadway favorites Beetlejuice, Come From Away, Dear Evan Hansen and Mean Girls. YouTube personality and comedian Randy Rainbow will also be on hand for some laughs. October 13, 11:30am Grand Tasting The Grand Tasting is a NYCFWW tradition in its 12th year and this six-hour extravaganza gives you access to the city’s best restaurants and some of the brightest culinary stars of our time. Your ticket allows you to sample hundreds of different wine and spirits – including the new almond-flavored liqueur L’Orgeat, brewed in Red Hook, Brooklyn, which will be making its debut at this event – as well as tastings from restaurants like the Atlantic Grill, Dos Caminos, Jams at 1 Central Park and Ani Ramen House. But it’s the culinary demonstrations that make this a truly special event, all taking place in the IKEA Kitchen and featuring over 20 superchefs from the Food Network and Cooking Channel. Get up close and personal with personalities like Geoffrey Zakarian, Rachael Ray, Aron Sanchez, Marcus Samuelsson, Alex Guarnaschelli, Rocco DiSpirito and Anne Burrell. There will also be cookbook signings, interactive experiences and a swag bag with free giveaways. October 13, 12pm