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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.

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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.

What You'll Learn

  • 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 trip 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.
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While we make every effort to ensure the accuracy of our published materials, programs are typically advertised more than a year prior to their start date. As a result, some program activities, schedules, accommodations, personnel, and other logistics occasionally change due to local conditions or circumstances. Should a major change occur, we will make every effort to alert you. For less significant changes, we will update you during orientation. Thank you for your understanding.
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5 days
4 nights
9 meals
4 B 2 L 3 D
Check-in, Registration, Welcome Dinner, Orientation
New York, NY
New Yorker Hotel

Activity note: Hotel check-in available from 3:00 p.m. Remember to bring your nametag (sent previously).

Afternoon: Program Registration: 4:00 p.m. The location of our Road Scholar meeting room will be posted in the hotel lobby on an LED board across from the Security Desk. Join us in the meeting room to register with the program staff, get any updated information, and confirm the time and location of the Orientation session. If you arrive after this evening’s scheduled events, please ask the hotel desk for an envelope left for you by our Group Leader when you check in. Orientation: 4:30 p.m. In the same space, the Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. In addition to field trips with our Group Leaders, we will be joined by local experts who will give lectures and lead field trips. 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.

Dinner: In the Tick Tock Diner, just off the lobby of our historic hotel, we’ll have our first meal together. This 24-hour diner features American cooking and “comfort food.” Dinner in the diner is included, even if you arrive late.

Evening: After dinner, our Group Leader will lead us on a short stroll to familiarize us with the neighborhood around the hotel and to see some of the holiday displays. Upon arriving back at the hotel, the rest of the evening is yours to continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars or to rest up for the week.

Christmas History, Met Museum, “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. Museum walking/standing.

Breakfast: In the Tick Tock Diner.

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. Following the talk, we’ll take the subway uptown to Central Park, which we’ll stroll across to arrive at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. We’ll be met by an art historian who will give us an exclusive introduction to the museum, focusing on some works of art that are relevant to the season including the 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. We’ll then have several hours to explore on our own to see what interests you most.

Lunch: On your own.

Afternoon: We'll regroup mid-afternoon and return to the hotel for a short break.

Dinner: At a local restaurant.

Evening: 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.

Cathedral of St. John, NY Public Library, Free Time
New York, NY
New Yorker Hotel

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

Breakfast: In the Tick Tock Diner.

Morning: This morning, we'll head uptown with our Group Leader to The Cathedral Church of St. John The Divine. It vies with Liverpool’s 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 close to being 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.

Lunch: One of New York’s most popular foods is pizza, so after our visit to the cathedral, we’ll walk across the street to one of the city’s best pizza restaurants for a simple lunch of pizza and salad. Here's a tip: New Yorkers pick up their slice and fold it to make it easier to eat.

Afternoon: After lunch, we’ll head back downtown for a visit to the New York Public Library, best known for the lion sculptures proudly sporting enormous holiday wreaths. We’ll head inside to self-explore the wonderful Treasures Exhibit featuring countless items from the library’s collection: a Gutenberg Bible, the original grid plan for Manhattan Island, Christopher Robin Milne’s “Winnie The Pooh” doll, Jefferson’s handwritten copy of the Declaration of Independence, letters from James Baldwin, and much more. Our arrival at the library will be the end of our programmed activities for the day. You’re welcome to spend as much time as you like at the exhibit then maybe visit the Bryant Park Holiday Market adjacent to the library. Beyond that, the city is yours to explore. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions and logistical guidance.

Dinner: On your own to enjoy what you like.

Evening: At leisure. Maybe consider a live performance; the city is alive with performance opportunities at this time of the year. Same-day tickets for many Broadway and off-Broadway performances are available at 20-50% off regular prices at the TKTS Discount Booth. The Group Leader will be happy to give advice on how to use this valuable resource. See for details. The app TODAYTIX is also helpful. One can purchase future performances at a discount. The fee is modest and well below those paid on Ticketmaster or Telecharge. If you're interested in classical performances, the websites for Carnegie Hall, The Met Opera and Lincoln Center are all excellent resources.

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: We’ll head to the heart of the city this morning: Midtown and Rockefeller Center, which we'll explore with our Group Leader. 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. As Christmas neared during the first year of construction, the workers erected a modest sized tree on the site and a tradition was born. As we'll see, today’s tree is anything but modest! Radio City Music Hall – where this afternoon we'll see the Christmas Spectacular featuring the world famous Rockettes – is located in Rockefeller Center. As a pre-show treat, we'll get a personalized look inside the legendary venue from staff.

Lunch: At a restaurant near Rockefeller Center.

Afternoon: Radio City Music Hall is part of Rockefeller Center, so we’ll stroll a short distance 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 Claus 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 feast at a restaurant near the hotel.

Evening: Nothing says New York at Christmas more than Fifth Avenue. Our Group Leader will take us on a stroll down 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 by 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 living in NYC during the holidays and how some authors and writers have interpreted this wonderful time of the year. 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!

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