Forget New Year’s Eve: This year, we’re all about midtown for that other eve—Christmas Eve. The midtown stretch, with its heart in and around Times Square, can sometimes be forgotten as terra incognita for uptowners and downtowners alike. Inhabitant New Yorkers often think of it as the locus of business meetings, the office, the theater, or the land of tourists. But as the city quiets down to an almost celestial hush over the Christmas holiday, it becomes a time to discover—or rediscover—so many different parts of town, when you seem to have them all to yourself.
If you’re in town for Christmas and looking for something different and fun to do—not to mention a little luxurious and indulgent—why not make a Christmas Eve of it in the heart of it all?
Start out by checking in to the lap of luxury (and history) at The Chatwal New York, once home to the famous Lambs Club. Fusing Art Deco allure with the luxury of today, this landmark Stanford White-designed building is literally a star reborn: a reinterpretation of 1930s New York City for the modern age. As the Great White Way’s newest leading light, The Chatwal is a “baby grand” hotel offering a walk back in time, glamorous in touches as only Old Gotham was.
Before becoming The Chatwal New York, the iconic building at 130 West 44th Street was the epicenter of American theater for the 20th century. It originally opened in 1905 as home to the prestigious Lambs, America’s first professional theatrical club, which took its name from a similar group in London that flourished from 1869-1879 in the name of Charles Lamb, a drama critic and essayist who died in relative obscurity in 1834.
Master architect Thierry Despont has beautifully restored and modernized this iconic midtown Manhattan address, ensuring that no detail has been overlooked and no luxury spared. Guest rooms and suites are themselves works of art. Throughout the property, Despont has made subtle nods to the building’s theatrical and historical origins. A striking floor-to-ceiling 18th-century stone fireplace, which was originally a gift from Stanford White to the Lambs, acts as a centerpiece for the hotel’s restaurant, The Lambs Club, the Deco supper club headed by renowned Manhattan chef Geoffrey Zakarian.
Once you check in, treat yourself for having found the perfect gift for everyone on your list by paying a much-needed visit the on-site Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa. These 2,400 square feet of harmony will make you forget the bustle of the season as you slip away under an enchanted treatment, like the 110-minute Signature Stress Melter Ritual, which integrates an olive oil skin-softening scrub with an aroma-therapeutic body wrap and massage. Round out your worry-free escape with a dip in the pool, followed by a steam.
If you don’t feel like leaving the hotel, The Lambs Club offers either a three- or five-course tasting menu, with everything from Dover sole to Delmonico steaks at the ready. Nothing will put you in the spirit more than starting with the sugar-pumpkin soup with gingerbread, cranberry, walnut, and celery—Christmastime in a bowl.
Feeling revived from the Red Door Spa? Then pay homage to the neighborhood and two leading voices of the Great White Way by hopping in a taxi up to Feinstein’s at The Regency, Michael Feinstein’s famous supper and cabaret club that will be closing its doors at The Regency come New Year’s Eve (Feinstein will relocate in the new year to an as-yet-unannounced location). For this holiday, however, Feinstein is teaming up with leading lady of the stage Christine Ebersole for an 8:00 p.m. show on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Night.
To be sure, Christmas Eve is the greatest night of the year to relish midtown. Where else would you rather be for midnight service? En route back to the hotel, stop off at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Fifth Avenue and 50th Street for one of the world’s most famous midnight masses. Or, for Episcopal services, only three blocks north is Saint Thomas Church, offering a music festival at 10:30 p.m. and the Eucharist at 11 p.m.
Walking the mere six blocks down Fifth Avenue back to The Chatwal, you’ll pass before the famous Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center at an hour and day of the year when it will appear at its most magical. You’ll pause, thank yourself for staying in midtown, and think: “Now this is Christmas.”
Photographs courtesy of The Chatwal, Feinstein’s at The Regency, Patrick McMullan