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December 19, 2016

New York City comes alive with the spirit of the holidays when Christmas comes around. There are the famed attractions like the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, and the brilliant beautiful window displays along 5th Avenue. It's a great chance to see the city decorated with bright lights that can make you feel warm inside.

Every year, millions of visitors come to the city to celebrate the end of another year. There's a lot more to the holiday celebrations outside the lights of Times Square and Midtown. You don’t have to spend your stay fighting through the crowds and dodging tourist traps to get into the spirit.

Here are places across the city to experience the holidays like a local.

Christmas Markets

While the Winter Village at Bryant Park attracts visitors from all walks of life, the crowds can get intense especially with those trying to enjoy some ice-skating available in the park.

The long lines and wait time can be downright annoying and you may find yourself spending more time getting through the crowd than enjoying yourself. Escape the tourist and check out the other Christmas markets across the city like the downtown vibe of the Union Square Holiday Market to the one-of-a-kind vintage treasures at the Brooklyn Flea Holiday Market located in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Rooftop Bars

While many rooftop bars and lounges close up once winter comes around, many turn into winter escapes with retractable ceilings and heated installations to keep guests warm with a chance to catch some of the best views of the city. Many locals still like to get out of their homes to indulge in a drink or two, and there's no better way to party in the city than overlooking the cityscape.

The Empire Hotel offers a swanky ambiance with a fireplace, and a menu of delectable appetizers overlooking Lincoln Center is a beautiful choice for a rooftop escape. You can head further downtown for 230 Fifth Avenue for the best view of Manhattan under heated tables with blankets to keep you warm.

Related: 12 Secrets of New York's Iconic Plaza Hotel

The city has a lot of fun ice-skating rinks from Rockefeller Center to Bryant Park, but those can get pricey with skate rental fees and overcrowding. Instead of the popular Midtown choice, head to downtown to the Rink at Brookfield Place for scenic views of the Hudson River waterfront by the World Trade Center.

Christmas Dinner

There are plenty of options to choose from when it comes to restaurants, but you can make it even more special with establishments that embrace the holidays. You can escape the overbooked restaurants in Midtown and grab a dinner at Rolf's German Restaurant so vibrant Christmas decorations can surround you.

Give Thanks

Many New Yorkers traditionally like to visit a church for gospel celebrations and special sermons in some of the grandest churches across the city. If you're looking something a bit more intimate, you can visit the Cathedral of St. John the Divine for their annual winter solstice celebration for a small admission price.

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