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New York

New York for Christmas: A Festive Celebration

Program No. 20446RJ
There’s nothing quite like New York City for Christmas, from the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall to the festive decorations of Rockefeller Plaza, come find your holiday spirit.
5 days
Rating (4.78)
Activity Level
Starts at

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DATES & starting prices
Nov 27 - Dec 1, 2023
Starting at
Dec 4 - Dec 8, 2023
Starting at
DATES & starting prices
Nov 27 - Dec 1, 2023
Starting at
Dec 4 - Dec 8, 2023
Starting at

At a Glance

Christmas in New York! It's a magical time, from elaborate department store window displays to the skating rink and Christmas tree at Rockefeller Plaza, from the iconic Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall to an 18th-century nativity at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and bustling Times Square specially lit up for the splendor of the season.
Activity Level
Let's Go!
Walking 2-3 miles per day with lots of stairs. All transfers throughout the program are by public transportation.
Small Group
Small Group
Love to learn and explore in a small-group setting? These adventures offer small, personal experiences with groups of 13 to 24 participants.

Best of all, you’ll…

  • Take your seat for the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, featuring the world-famous Rockettes.
  • Walk through glittering Midtown, the hustle and bustle of Times Square and festive Rockefeller Center.
  • Visit the the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and the famous Christmas tree at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Featured Expert
All Experts
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Karl Baudendistel
A New York City resident for more than 25 years, Karl Baudendistel loves sharing his knowledge of the city with visitors from around the world. Having spent 20 years overseeing ‘the business of show business’ for numerous Broadway and touring productions, chances are he’s been to a city near you. Karl is a member of The Association of Theatrical Press Agents and Managers, is a trained sommelier and was educated at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.

Please note: This expert may not be available for every date of this program.

Profile Image of Karl Baudendistel
Karl Baudendistel View biography
A New York City resident for more than 25 years, Karl Baudendistel loves sharing his knowledge of the city with visitors from around the world. Having spent 20 years overseeing ‘the business of show business’ for numerous Broadway and touring productions, chances are he’s been to a city near you. Karl is a member of The Association of Theatrical Press Agents and Managers, is a trained sommelier and was educated at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.
Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
Great Fortune: The Epic of Rockefeller Center
by Daniel Okrent
The Island at the Center of the World
by Russell Shorto
A New York Christmas
by Sibyl McCormac Groff
722 Miles: The Building of the Subways and How They Transformed New York
by Clifton Hood
Time & Again
by Jack Finney
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5 days
4 nights
8 meals
4 B 1 L 3 D
Check-In, Registration, Welcome Dinner, Orientation
New York, NY
New Yorker Hotel

Activity note: Hotel check-in from 3:00 p.m.

Afternoon: Program Registration: 4:00 p.m. The location of our Road Scholar meeting room will be posted in the lobby on an LED board across from the Security Desk. Come to the meeting room to register with the program staff and get your welcome packet containing your up-to-date schedule that reflects any changes and other important information. If you arrive late, please ask for your envelope when you check in.

Dinner: 5:00 p.m. In the Tick Tock Diner just off the lobby of our historic hotel, we’ll have our first meal together and order from a select menu. This 24-hour diner features American cooking and “comfort food.” Dinner in the diner is included even if you arrive late. You may eat later but please attend Orientation first. Or, get takeout and bring your plate to the meeting room.

Evening: Orientation: 6:15-7:30 p.m. In the hotel meeting room, the Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the program theme, the up-to-date daily schedule, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. Dinners are early in order to have plenty of time available for engaging in evening activities as a group and individually. We will be walking a lot and using the New York City subway system that involves going up and down flights of stairs, long corridors, and often-crowded conditions. It’s what New Yorkers do every day! Periods in the daily schedule designated as “Free time” and “At leisure” offer opportunities to do what you like and make your experience even more meaningful and memorable according to your personal preferences. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding. After orientation, we will walk over to the Empire State Building and pass by the Christmas display windows at Macy’s. From the 86th floor observation deck, we’ll have a bird’s eye view of the Manhattan street grid and all five boroughs with New Jersey in the distance (weather permitting). It’s a great way to orient yourself to New York’s geography and get your first “big picture” look at the city. The Empire State Building is just three blocks away. Our Group Leader will escort you there and you may return on your own when you please.

Christmas History, St. John the Divine, “A Christmas Carol”
New York, NY
New Yorker Hotel

Activity note: Use of New York City subway; extensive stairs. Walking up to 5 miles; city streets.

Breakfast: In the hotel meeting room, we’ll have bagels, muffins, bananas, hard-boiled eggs, cold cereals, cream cheese, jelly, butter, plus milk (regular/low-fat), orange juice, coffee/decaf, tea, water.

Morning: We’ll be joined by a local historian who will give us an illustrated lecture on the history of Christmas and holiday celebrations in New York City. You may be surprised to learn how many traditions originated here in NYC. The best way to soak up the Christmas spirit in our city is by walking. We'll take a short stroll to the main branch of the New York Public Library. The building is one of the great public places in NYC and is stunningly decorated for the holidays and the iconic lions, Patience & Fortitude, usually sport enormous wreaths. We'll have some time on our own to explore the interior of the gorgeous building dating from 1911. Directly behind the library is the largest of the city's wonderful Holiday Markets. You may want to return when you have free time later in the week.

Lunch: One of the most requested luncheon items in New York is pizza. We'll stop for lunch at a popular neighborhood pizza restaurant; soft drinks and water included, other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: Next, we’ll walk across the street to the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine. It vies with Liverpool’s Anglican cathedral for the title of the largest Anglican cathedral and fourth-largest Christian church in the world. The cornerstone was laid in 1892... and it's not even finished! In addition to its purpose as a house of worship, St. John is an arts, cultural, and civic center and a renowned “feat of human engineering.” One of the Cathedral's educators will help us understand the history, features, and symbolism of this unique architectural treasure.

Dinner: At a local restaurant, we’ll have a plated meal with coffee, tea, water included; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: Performance. We’ll take the subway to the charming neighborhood of Greenwich Village and attend a performance of “A Christmas Carol” at the Merchant’s House Museum. Charles Dickens himself was in New York during December 1867 for performances of his beloved holiday classic. Amid authentic 19th-century period furnishings and holiday decorations, we’ll celebrate the season with a captivating performance created from Dickens’ own script.

Metropolitan Museum of Art
New York, NY
New Yorker Hotel

Activity note: Use of New York City subway; extensive stairs. Walking up to 5 miles; city streets; walking at museum.

Breakfast: In the Tick Tock Diner, we’ll order from a select menu.

Morning: We’ll take the subway up the west side of Manhattan and take stroll through Central Park to the Metropolitan Museum of Art where an art historian will give us a Road Scholar exclusive introduction to the museum, ending in front of its beloved Christmas Tree and Neapolitan baroque crèche. This display is an annual NYC tradition and is a work of art in itself. The majestic tree is adorned with beautifully crafted antique angels and cherubs keeping watch over the Nativity, shepherds, the Magi, crowds of townspeople and peasants, scores of animals, and more.

Lunch: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy what you like. At the Metropolitan, there are several choices including a cafeteria and two cafés. There are also a number of other eateries in the vicinity and your badge allows re-entry if you decide you’re in the mood to have a hot dog from a vendor outside on Fifth Avenue.

Afternoon: The afternoon is yours to use as you like. We'll have only scratched the surface at The Met so you may choose to stay on and dive into galleries that speak to your particular interests. A variety of docent-led explorations are available to take you through the Met’s collections. In addition, your admission ticket is valid for three consecutive days at The Met Fifth Avenue, The Met Breuer (contemporary art), and The Met Cloisters (medieval and renaissance). Within a few blocks of The Met, you'll also find The Neue Gallerie, The Guggenheim or The Frick Collection. Wednesday is also Matinee Day on Broadway if you'd like to take in a show. There is no end to the possibilities for a free afternoon in NYC!

Dinner: On your own to enjoy what you like. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Evening: At leisure.

Radio City Christmas Spectacular; 5th Ave Holiday Windows
New York, NY
New Yorker Hotel

Activity note: Use of New York City subway; extensive stairs. Walking up to 3 miles; city streets.

Breakfast: In the Tick Tock Diner.

Morning: Before we head out this morning, we’ll have a presentation by an architectural historian on the history of Rockefeller Center. John D. Rockefeller, Jr.’s “city within a city” went up during the worst days of the Great Depression, providing jobs for more than 40,000 people. Ever since, it has been an iconic site representing what is most distinctive about New York. The numerous artistic symbols signify the spirit and aspirations of human development. Next, we’ll go on a walking field trip to see and learn more with a local expert.

Lunch: On your own. You might like to grab a seat near the skating rink or eat in any of the many local eateries.

Afternoon: Performance. We don’t have far to go! Radio City Music Hall is part of Rockefeller Center, so we’ll stroll over there and see the Radio City Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes from Orchestra seats. Originating in St. Louis in 1925, the Rockettes have been performing in Radio City Music Hall since 1933 and have become part of the fabric of New York City’s entertainment tapestry. This amazing stage show showcases the legendary, high-kicking Rockettes with their precision dancing, more than 100 performers, lively music, vibrant holiday scenes, original choreography, multiple costume changes, cutting edge lighting technology, and even Santa Clause himself! After the performance, we’ll have some “down time” before dinner — an opportunity to check off those last few items on your NYC to-do list.

Dinner: One of New York's unique holiday traditions is having Chinese food on Christmas Day. We'll move up the day and enjoy our Chinese family-style feast at a restaurant near the hotel. Tea and water are included, other beverages available for purchase

Evening: Nothing says New York at Christmas more than Fifth Avenue. We'll spend our last night together strolling the famous thoroughfare. Department store window displays, a marvelous animated video show projected onto a building, and festive lights including an enormous Baccarat crystal snowflake — also known as the UNICEF Snowflake — will be a feast for the senses. Returning to the hotel, prepare for check-out and departure following our final session in the morning.

Wrap-up Session, Program Concludes
New York, NY

Activity note: Hotel check-out 12:00 Noon.

Breakfast: In the meeting room.

Morning: We’ll wrap up our festive celebration of New York at Christmas with an expert led discussion of holiday music, its origins, and meaning for us today. This concludes our program. If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Don’t forget to join our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram. Best wishes for all your journeys!

Important registration tip:
If you want to attend the live lecture, please do not wait until the last minute to enroll.
If you enroll after a lecture is complete, we’ll send you a recording of the event.