One of the brightest times to visit New York is during the holiday season. Not only is the city dressed in its best, and at its brightest, but you'll also find some great buys in lodging. From mid-December through January, most hotels have deals that are hard to resist.
The second Sunday in December traditionally is the day to discover Fifth Avenue. On that day, traffic is banned and shoppers have the avenue to themselves. From 34th to 57th streets, the avenue will have lots of sales, as well as entertainment from singers to jugglers. Always a highlight are the decorative windows, such as those at Lord & Taylor's, of scenes from New York's past.
Other holiday ideas include a visit to the Metropolitan Museum, where its creche is on display beginning Dec. 1, with candles, angels, the three kings, shepherds and townspeople bearing gifts. Or take in the candlelight tour Dec. 14 at Richmondtown Restoration, a historic village on Staten Island (certainly a good excuse to take the bargain-priced Staten Island Ferry for a view of the city from the water), patterned after the 1800s. The Hayden Planetarium's Star of Wonder Show is featured throughout December. Here you can see biblical images of the stars.
The tradition of traditions is the return of the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall, which opens later this month with "We need a Little Christmas" from the Broadway show "Mame." Another tradition is the Ice Capades at Madison Square Garden with its up-to-date star Bart Simpson.
For strollers, head for 57th Street and Fifth Avenue, "the most heavily lighted corner" in Manhattan, where a giant snowflake powered by 75,000 watts of electricity commands attention. Of course, Rockefeller Center -- with its great Christmas tree flanked by glistening angels and large brass trumpets -- and the ice skating rink are not to be missed.
Also not to be missed on a stroll about the city are those famed stone lions, Patience and Fortitude, decked out in holiday wreaths outside the New York Public Library.
Other holiday happenings include the Big Apple Circus, at Lincoln Center through January; the chorus Christmas tree at South Street Seaport; and the origami Christmas tree at the American Museum of Natural History. There's a giant Hanukkah menorah at Grand Army Plaza, and in December the Empire State Building gets dressed in red and green holiday lights.
Don't forget that Macy's Thanksgiving Parade is Nov. 28. And the Three Kings Parade along Fifth Avenue is Jan. 6.
The time to be in Times Square is Dec. 31, when the lighted ball drops to mark the start of a new year.
A complete listing of events is available from the New York Convention & Visitors Bureau at 2 Columbus Circle, New York, N.Y. 10019; telephone (212) 397-8222.