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New York City at Christmas: Pack your trip with holiday cheer

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My husband, David, and I just returned from a two-night, three-day stay in the Big Apple. We had never fully experienced New York City around the holidays and fully recommend the seasonal getaway.

We started with accommodations at the historic Roosevelt Hotel. The hotel is conveniently located in Midtown West.

It was a short, but fulfilling stay. We hadn't made reservations for dinner, but we definitely recommend doing so. The first few restaurants we checked out didn't have availability until after 8 p.m. We wound up finding a bite to eat at Via Italia. A meal of black linguini with shrimp, wilted spinach and mushrooms, veal, baked clams, a Ceasar salad, and several beers on David's part cost about $85 before the tip.

We later saw Wicked at the Gershwin Theater, which doesn't have a bad seat. Lindsay Mendez, who played Elphaba, had a strong, glorious voice that brought every ear in the house to full attention and appreciation. She was as funny in the speaking parts as she was astounding in the singing ones.

Equally entertaining was Alli Mauzey who played ditzy, glitzy, and perky Glinda. The "good," yet extremely superficial and self-absorbed witch, was hysterical. She was also a magnificent singer and the orchestra was phenomenal.

The music, combined with the exceptional rapport between this wickedly talented pair, delighted beyond all expectations.

On Sunday, we had breakfast at the nearby Lexington Brass. My salmon and vegetable fritatta was to die for. David wasn't as excited about his omelette, but he isn't much of a morning or breakfast person.

Breakfast was followed by the long-running Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall. The aptly-named show was indeed spectacular, with some scenes in 3D. The Rockettes, orchestra and other talents impressed. Best of all, the show highlighted the true story of Christmas and featured my favorite Christmas tunes, including "Hark the Herald Angels Sing."

The best culinary experience was by far the dinner we shared with my sister and her husband. They took us to the Spice Market on 13th Street in the Beef Packing district. The restaurant's menu is inspired by Asian "street food." Appetizers ranged from Peekytoe crab dip to sea bass buns and spicy Thai fried chicken wings with pear and mint. Our favorite entrees were the steamed red snapper and Vietnamese chicken curry. The short wings were the only item that fell short for us.

Walking around the city, however, is the part of the experience that costs the least, yet yields the greatest travel rewards. People-watching, for one thing, is always interesting, but be careful around Times Square. You may be swallowed up by the massive crowds if you're not careful. Make sure to see the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center. You can't fully appreciate the sight until you see it yourself, up close and personal, with its sparkling lights brightening up the night sky.

Have yourself a merry Christmas in New York. If you don't have holiday cheer when you arrive, chances are good you will pack plenty for the return flight.

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