Best Countries for Travel in 2016

Few things can be as exhilarating as traveling to a new country. Need some ideas on where to go and why? Read on for LonelyPlanet.com’s list of the top 10 countries to travel to in 2016.

Begin your journey

Africa’s unsung success
Botswana can be described as democratic, progressive, enlightened and invigoratingly wild. Botswana’s journey from poverty to become one of Africa’s most stable, thriving societies is inspirational. The country celebrates 50 years of independence in 2016 and there’s a lot for it to shout about, not least the way it has balanced economic growth with protecting its natural riches. Prepare for a severe case of slack-jawed-with-awe syndrome when you visit.

Japan’s new horizons
Japan might be number two in this year’s rankings, but it’s always number one for travelers in search of an otherworldly experience. Nowhere else on earth exemplifies that dog-eared ‘modern yet ancient’ cliché like the land of the rising sun. Tokyo’s successful bid to host the Olympics in 2020 has raised the temperature of a feverish city amid a blur of new development, but beyond the suburbs Japan remains as elegant and enticing as its graceful wooden temples.

Celebrate our national parks
The National Park Service—the “best idea America ever had”—turns 100 next year, so lace on your hiking boots and finally make time to see some of the country’s 59 national parks and hundreds of historic landmarks. You’ll marvel at the miraculously well-managed surreal and spectacular landscapes, from earth-rending canyons to alligator-infested swamplands to belching geysers.

Palau—the Pacific’s greenest secret
Palau is unquestionably one of the most magical diving and snorkeling destinations in the world—and it’s fighting to stay that way. This far-flung Pacific archipelago has turned 100 percent of its marine territory into a sanctuary in a bid to protect what has been dubbed a ‘Serengeti’ of the sea. Excessive face mask-wearing might leave you with a temporary red mark, but the fish, coral and other critters in these nutrient-rich waters will leave you truly goggle-eyed.

Latvia is shining for its silver anniversary
It’s taken Latvia 25 years to shrug off the fetters of Communism, but this Baltic treasure looks ready to shine for its silver anniversary. The country is resuscitating ancient traditions, restoring crumbling castles and manor houses hidden in its pine forests, and transforming its once stodgy cuisine into cutting-edge New Nordic fare. Seductive Riga, meanwhile, has built on its reign as a European Capital of Culture with improved infrastructure and a round of renovations as its population continues to grow.

Australia—‘nuf said
The strength of the Aussie dollar over recent years has made a trip down under a tough proposition for travelers on a budget. But with the currency faltering and petrol prices also on the slide, 2016 could be the perfect time for a road trip. You’ll want to gawp at the mega sights, naturally, including the Great Barrier Reef and Tasmania’s pristine wilderness, both of which face growing environmental threats. See them now before compromises are made.

Cultural capital crowns Poland’s rise to the top
Recession-defying Poland has superpowers – while the rest of Europe descended into the doldrums, visitor numbers here climbed and there’s no end to the boom in sight as Wrocław prepares for a stint as European Capital of Culture 2016. Kraków will have a turn in the limelight too when the Pope arrives to celebrate World Youth Day, and new air routes to Kraków, Szczecin, Katowice, and Gdańsk means this is a destination on the rise.

Uruguay: more than a buffer state
An estimated three million foreign visitors will arrive in Uruguay next year—but it’s a wonder it isn’t more when you grasp what the “Switzerland of America” has to offer. Sandwiched between Brazil and Argentina, Uruguay has become a progressive society that boasts a small but perfectly formed capital in Montevideo, pampas where you can act out a gaucho (cowboy) fantasy, and nightlife on sea amid the glamour of Punta del Este. Expect that three million to rise.

Chill out in the Arctic
Greenland has the world’s lowest population density, but those that brave this chilly chunk of the planet are not short of diversions: see the midnight sun glimmer on glaciers, sail among breaching whales, dogsled the tundra, and watch the Northern Lights dance across the ice sheet. In March 2016, Greenland will host the Arctic Winter Games, the largest event of its kind ever, along with a festival of song, food and dance. What better time to visit this Arctic wonderland?

Fiji got its groove back
Listen up: the route to paradise just became a little easier. Pleasure-loving Fiji has recovered its equilibrium at last after a coup and constitutional crisis, and travelers will soon benefit from an upgrade to the country’s Nadi International Airport. So what will it be, then? Idle at an upscale resort, try the latest extreme sport, or focus on the classic pursuits of diving, sailing and angling as you soak up what this tropical archipelago has to offer.

Source: The LonelyPlanet.com’s “Top 10 regions

Useful Travel Etiquette Tips

Even if you’re a savvy traveler with hundreds of miles under your shoes, it doesn’t hurt to review some tried and true travel etiquette tips. Because no matter how smart, accomplished, or attractive you are, if you make a major faux pas in front of a decision maker, the deal’s probably not getting done.

Here’s a review of business etiquette for the traveling executive. If you travel often, especially out of the country, be sure to take a few minutes and research the business etiquette and customs of that country or region—it may mean the difference between a successful or disastrous business trip.

Better overdressed than underdressed. Assuming you know the basics of professional dress, just some reminders are in order. Stick with timeless styles and darker colors—they visually demand more respect. Dress one over your paygrade, or for the position you want for your next promotion. When traveling, be sure to check the weather and dress appropriately for the temperature. You don’t want to be the only guy in the room with a sweater on. Make sure your clothes are neatly pressed. Most hotels have irons in them. In a pinch, hang up your clothes in the bathroom and run a hot shower to steam them. And if you haven’t gone shopping in a while, commit to doing so to freshen up your wardrobe.

The art of the handshake. A good handshake is an art full of variables, such as the right timing and pressure. Done correctly, it can show your confidence and create rapport with associates. Don’t extend your hand too early to seem overly eager, and don’t squeeze too hard as to intimidate or cause pain. Also, remember to smile and make good eye contact. When traveling abroad, research the customs and etiquette of that country or region. When in Asian countries, for example, refrain from shaking too hard or too long, and don’t make direct eye contact. A good rule of thumb is to follow the lead of the person you are looking to impress.

Napkin on the lap. As mentioned in the opening, no matter how smart, accomplished or attractive you are, a major faux pas at a meal can ruin the deal. Even if your coworkers or guests are less than formal, stay true to the rules of mealtime etiquette — you never know who’s watching, and it can only benefit your career. Some things to remember: Never talk with your mouth full, take small bites, and be nice to the wait staff. You won’t impress your guest by being overly particular. Also, come to the meal with a few topics to discuss besides business. When in doubt, ask your guest about something you know he or she is interested in, such as golf or wine tasting.

Don’t be a stingy tipper. The old adages, “Money talks” and “Don’t be stingy,” strongly apply when you’re on the road. Tip well at airports, restaurants, hotels—and anywhere a harried business traveler needs a little extra help to get what’s needed. Don’t forget to tip housekeepers, too. Be generous and the staff will take care of you. And in most cases, you can get reimbursed as a travel expense.

Snail mail can go far. Business people are bombarded with emails. In our technological age, you can really stand out by doing a simple thing: handwrite a request, reminder or thank you card. Pick a simple, classy card, and keep it short and tasteful, with phrases such as, “I just wanted to remind you,” and “I’m looking forward to our meeting.” Of course, make sure the recipient’s name and title are spelled correctly.

The Best Free Travel Apps in 2016

Whether you travel occasionally or live out of a suitcase, the right travel app can make your life a lot easier. But with all that’s available, which ones will you really use? Here’s a list of some of the best free travel apps, courtesy of  theguardian.com.

App in the Air
App in the Air is a smart, straightforward, flight tracking app that has the best coverage of airlines and airports. It will keep you updated about flight status—even if you don’t have internet coverage—and helps you manage your time at the airport, breaking down each flight into four stages: check in, boarding, takeoff and landing time. It also integrates with Tripit allowing you to import all your flights.
Free, iOS and Android, appintheair.mobi

Citymapper
Comprehensive, easy to use and also playful, Citymapper offers more detailed journey planner information than Google, including real-time departures and disruption alerts, as well as Uber integration and cycle routes. It is available in around 30 cities worldwide, with all the obvious city-break destinations covered.
Free, iOS and Android, citymapper.com

Duolingo
Over 70 million people have registered with Duolingo, a free and incredibly well-designed language learning app. Although not a replacement for proper language instruction, the app is a fun way to get the basics, or to keep your grammar and vocabulary fresh before a trip abroad. 
Free, iOS and Android, duolingo.com

Google Translate
This translator can be a useful tool to support your own, more serious language learning, but realistically, it’s most useful on a practical level quickly translating day-to-day words you come across on your travels. For example, you can hold your camera up to text, such as a sign, or a menu, and Google will translate it for you instantly.
Free, iOS and Android, https://play.google.com

LiveTrekker
LiveTrekker creates a digital journal of your travels so you can look back on your trips on an interactive map. The app tracks you as you go, marking a red line along a map on the exact route you take. The app also monitors your speed and altitude, making it great for adventure travelers, though it’s just as fun to look back at your route around a city. You can add pictures, video, audio and text along the way, creating a multimedia travel diary you can share.
Free, iOS and Android, livetrekker.com

Time Out
The Time Out app is a great directory of ideas of things to do in cities around the world. With coverage from Accra to Amsterdam, Edinburgh to Singapore, the app covers everything from bars, restaurants, attractions and events. The event finder is a particularly useful tool, meaning you’ll never struggle to find the most popular concerts, festivals or one-off happenings going on around you. You can also book restaurants and concert tickets through the app and create a customized travel guide for your holiday.
Free, iOS  and Android

Tripit
A bit like a pocket travel agent, Tripit pulls together travel information from your confirmation emails for flights, hotels, rental cars, and events bookings and converts it into a single itinerary. Just forward your emails to the app and it will do the rest. If you’re traveling with others you can easily share the plans, making this a useful app for coordinating a group trip.
Free, iOS and Android, tripit.com

XE Currency
XE is the go-to site for currency conversions on the web, so it’s no surprise that its app is so popular. With over 20 million downloads since launch, it has lots of business-oriented features, such as rates for precious metals and historic currency charts, but for the traveler it is most useful for the simple fact that it’s able to convert every world currency. It also functions offline by saving the last updated rates, which is great if you’re in a place with limited connectivity or are trying to save on data.
Free, iOS and Android, xe.com

Android users, download Hoyt’s new free mobile app!

Android users, reserving your Hoyt car just got easier with Hoyt Livery’s free mobile app for Android!

Quickly book a new trip, check on your reservation, keep track of your frequent destinations and update your information, all from your phone or tablet.

Free at the Google Play Store. Download here.

For Apple users, click here.

If you have any questions about our apps, feel free to contact us.

Source: 10 of the best travel apps … that you’ll actually use

Winter Vehicle Safety Checklist

Winter had a late start in the Northeast, but is in full swing. If you procrastinated, here’s a review on what to do to make sure your vehicle can handle the cold temperatures and icy and slushy roads and help keep you and your family safe during the winter months.

Check the tire pressure and consider snow tires.
Tire pressure is especially important during the winter, as a properly inflated tire will help guarantee better traction in wet, snowy conditions. Make sure to read your owner’s manual to find the correct tire pressures. In addition, you may want to consider buying a set of snow tires. Especially if you live in an area that sees a lot of snow, they’ll do a much better job than the all-weather tires fitted to most cars.

Did you add cold-weather oil?
When the outside temperature changes, it will influence the internal temperature of your engine, so make sure you’re using the proper oil for the conditions. Since we live where temperatures get below freezing, you will want to switch over to thinner, less viscous oil. For instance, if you run 10W-40 grade oil in the summer, you may want to move to 5W-30 when changing your oil for the winter. Make sure to refer to your owner’s manual for vehicle-specific information.

Have your battery tested again.
A car battery can die without any notice. The late-season extreme cold temperatures can reduce a car’s battery life by up to 50 percent. Even if you had your battery tested earlier this winter, have your battery tested again by your local mechanic — especially if you have an older car. Also, make sure your battery connections are free of corrosion.

Inspect your windshield wiper blades and fluid.
Visibility while driving during winter months can be a great frustration. Precipitation and salt buildup on the windshield can play havoc while driving in winter weather. So make sure that you not only check the condition of your windshield wiper blades, but also consider changing your existing blades to versions that are made for the harsh winter weather. Also check and fill your wiper fluid reservoir. A harsh winter storm is the worst possible time to run out of wiper fluid.

Make sure the engine coolant has a cold-weather mixture.
A car’s coolant system is not only designed to keep your engine from overheating, but it’s also responsible for protecting it against corrosion. Before the weather gets too cold, make sure you are using coolant that has the proper mix of antifreeze and water. You can do this by purchasing a tester at your local auto parts store.

Keep an emergency kit in your car.
If you don’t already have an emergency kit in your car, consider putting together a few basics and stowing them in the trunk. Naturally, you’ll want to be sure your spare tire is in good shape with all the tools to change it out. But you might also want a few other emergency items in case you slide off the road and get stuck in a snow bank:

  • A flashlight, flares and first aid kit
  • A blanket, warm clothes and gloves
  • A radio
  • A bag of abrasive material like sand or kitty litter for when you get stuck
  • Extra windshield washer fluid
  • A brush or ice scraper
  • Extra coolant

When you take the time to plan ahead, you can make winterizing your vehicle an easy, annual ritual that will help keep you and your family safe on the road.

A warning about warming up your car!

Next time it snows and you have to shovel your vehicle out from the snow, make sure you clear snow from the back and the tail pipe is clear — especially before starting the car with people in it! Every year, tragedy strikes in the form of an odorless, colorless gas called carbon monoxide. People can pass out within minutes causing brain damage, or even die from CO inhalation.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include confused with shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness, light headedness or headaches. So again, make sure the exhaust pipe of a running vehicle is not covered with snow.

Also, a recent Good Morning America segment revealed an increase in vehicle thefts across the country of unlocked cars warming up without their owners in it. Police call these vehicles “puffers,” and car thieves call them easy pickings. So think twice before you leave your vehicle unlocked, unattended and running — it might not be there when you go back outside!

Sources: DMV.org, About.com, Edmunds.com

Why Renting a Limo is Better

While the use of app-based transportation companies has surged in popularity, there have also been a growing number of assaults and other crimes that have taken place between drivers and users. Buyer beware — you don’t know who you’re getting into a car with, and cheaper isn’t better especially when you’re putting yourself at risk.

Here are five reasons why renting a limo from a reputable company like Hoyt Livery is the smarter move.

You’re safer with Hoyt.
Some limousine services are merely “transportation brokers” who take reservations, then hire freelance drivers, without any regard for experience, insurance status or vehicle condition. Not so, with Hoyt Livery! When you hire Hoyt, only an insured and licensed employee of Hoyt will pick you up and drive you. Our chauffeurs are courteous, reliable and well-dressed, and are eager to open doors and help with your bags. So, feel free to relax and have a nip or two. We’ll get you home safely.

More affordable than you think.
With the rising cost of public transportation, tolls and gas, renting a limo can be comparable to taking your family to New York City by train, or driving and parking in a garage. When you hire Hoyt Livery, the rates are competitively priced with other car services, because we understand that people are price conscious in these tough economic times. Another benefit: time is money, as they say. When you ride with Hoyt, you can check email or return phone calls, so you’re not out of the loop at work while you’re riding.

Limits your liability.
Hiring Hoyt also limits your company’s liability before or after a company-sponsored event if an employee is injured or harms another person while driving himself or herself to and from the event. Organizations throughout the tri-state area turn to Hoyt Livery as a responsible measure to keep employees safe from the dangers of drinking and driving.

Pick your luxury vehicle.
Hoyt Livery owns and maintains a luxurious fleet of more than 50 impeccable vehicles, including corporate limousines, executive town cars, and of course, luxury stretch limousines. For larger groups, ask about our vans and Chevy Suburbans. All are on-site, well-maintained and available in as little as three hours’ notice.

Reservations are easy with the app.
With Hoyt’s On–the–Go apps, you can quickly book a new trip, check on your reservation, keep track of your frequent destinations and update your travel information — all from your phone or tablet. Hoyt Livery’s mobile apps are compatible with Apple and Android devices. Download today.

It’s a lot of fun!
Admit it, having a limousine door opened for you and your guest, and being driven to and from Manhattan or other destination is just cool. Have a romantic date in mind, or special day out with the kids? Take it to the next level with a limo and imagine the fun you and your partner, friends and family will have, and the memories you’ll create for a lifetime.

Before you hire a limo.
Thinking about hiring a limousine service for your next outing, or simply to drive you to the airport? Like any other industry, all limo companies are not alike, and choosing the right one could mean the difference between an enjoyable experience, and a nightmare on wheels. Read What to Know Before Hiring a Limo Service.

Making the Most of Your Hotel Stay

When sleeping overnight in a hotel, location and a good rate are just two aspects of an enjoyable stay. Here are some inside tips to help ensure you have a safe, healthy, and happy hotel visit.

Be nice to the staff.
It goes without saying, but basic manners go a long way in hotels and restaurants. Be kind and appreciative to the staff, especially the front desk agent who checks you in. He or she, more than anyone else, can make your stay either a pleasure or disaster.

Keep an eye on CO.
You’re probably aware of the dangers of carbon monoxide (CO), and may even have a CO detector in your home. CO is an odorless, colorless and toxic gas. Because it is impossible to see, taste or smell the toxic fumes, CO — often called “the silent killer”” — can kill before a person is aware of it. The effects of CO vary from person to person, but symptoms generally include headaches, dizziness, disorientation, nausea and fatigue.

When booking a room in a hotel room, ask if they have CO alarms installed in the rooms. If not, don’t book or accept a room equipped with a fuel-burning device, such as a wood-burning stove or gas fireplace. If you stay there anyway, definitely do not let the unit run through the night.

Also, do not book a room that opens onto an enclosed parking area, or next to an indoor garage. There could be CO gas in the air. You may also want to invest in a portable carbon monoxide detector. If symptoms such as headache, dizziness, nausea, weakness, and/or confusion occur, get to fresh air quickly.

Think twice about valet parking.
Remember that scene in the movie, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off when the garage parking attendants took Cameron’s father’s prized 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California convertible for a joyride? “Borrowing” parked cars goes on more than you may realize. Granted, it usually happens with really nice cars, so if you’re just tooling around in a rental, you probably don’t have to worry.

Beware of bedbugs.
It’s not pleasant to think about, but bedbugs are a problem in many hotels across the nation. If you’re worried about bedbugs in a hotel, you can check for them yourself in the bed, sofa, and chairs. Here’s what you need and some telltale signs to look for:

  • Pack a few useful items for identifying bedbug infestations, including a flashlight and a magnifying glass. You can also use an old credit card to scrape and dig for signs of bedbugs.
  • Adult bedbugs are flat, brown, oval, and wingless, about 1/4 to 3/8 inches long. They change from brown to purplish-red after they eat, becoming larger and more cigar-shaped. Young bedbugs look like adults, but smaller.
  • Check the bed’s mattress, box spring, and sheets for any signs, such as rusty or reddish stains on bed linens, pillows and mattresses.
  • Look at carpeting or flooring around and under beds. Bedbug excrement leaves dark spots, about the size of a period on a printed page. Bedbug waste “bleeds” on fabrics like a pen or marker would.
  • Inspect the furniture for bedbug eggs and eggshells, which are white and about 1 mm in size. Open and inspect zippered coverings on furniture and pillows, and at frames and feet of sofas and chairs.
  • Check walls, wall hangings, paintings, clocks, baseboards, floorboards, and electrical outlets. Use an old playing card or credit card to probe and scrape out any live bedbugs, remains, or waste.

BYOG: Bring your own glass.
It’s a little known fact, but hotel housekeepers sometimes use furniture polish to ensure the hotel room glasses sparkle, and don’t have any spots. So, it’s probably a wise idea to pack your own drinking glass, or ask the hotel bartender if you can borrow a clean glass during your stay.

Don’t sleep with the duvet.
Most hotels wash the sheets and blankets on a regular basis, but few, if any, ever wash the duvet covers. So, do yourself a favor and strip that bad boy right off the bed when you get there. If you think you might get cold at night, call the front desk and (nicely) request a clean extra blanket.

Don’t be cheap — tip well.
Tip well, especially a bellman if he brings your luggage up or down from your room in a timely manner. Don’t forget the housekeeper who has to clean your room after you leave, and again, the all-powerful front desk agent — give this person a $10 bill when you check in, and it will help ensure you’re stay is a pleasant one.

Double check incidentals and mini bar bill.
If you’re billed for incidentals and/or the mini bar, be sure to review the bill and make sure charges are legitimate. Hotel staff has been known to steal from a room’s minibar, sticking the guest with an unwarranted bill. If the charges aren’t yours, dispute it. To avoid room extras, bring your own supplies.

2015 Reader’s Choice Travel Awards

Ever wonder what your fellow travelers’ favorite airlines, hotels and cities are? If so, read on as we present some of the winners of Condé Nast Traveler’s 28th Annual Readers’ Choice Awards.

According to the website, this was the largest travel survey in their history with more 128,000 travelers submitting millions of ratings and tens of thousands of comments to help Condé Nast compile a list of travel favorites.

Here are some of the results, including the best U.S. airlines, hotels and big cities:

Best U.S. Airlines

1. Virgin America
Overall Rating: 81.726

2. JetBlue
Overall Rating: 75.433

3. Hawaiian Airlines
Overall Rating: 72.583

4. Southwest Airlines
Overall Rating: 70.086

5. Alaska Airlines
Overall Rating: 69.453

Best U.S. Airports (for waiting out a winter storm)

1. Portland International Airport, Oregon

2. Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport

3. San Francisco International Airport

4. Palm Beach International Airport

5. Philadelphia International Airport

6. Austin-Bergstrom International Airport

7. Orlando International Airport

8. Tampa International Airport

9. Raleigh-Durham International Airport

10. Logan International Airport

Best Big Cities in the U.S.

1. New York, NY
Overall Rating: 85.944

2. San Francisco, CA
Overall Rating: 84.298

3. Chicago, IL
Overall Rating: 83.875

4. Boston, MA
Overall Rating: 83.513

5. New Orleans, LA
Overall Rating: 82.870

6. Washington, D.C.
Overall Rating: 81.722

7. Honolulu, HI
Overall Rating: 80.874

8. Austin, TX
Overall Rating: 80.584

9. Seattle, WA
Overall Rating: 80.33

10. Portland, OR
Overall Rating: 79.892

11. San Diego, CA
Overall Rating: 79.564

12. San Antonio, TX
Overall Rating: 79.440

13. Nashville, TN
Overall Rating: 78.782

14. Denver, CO
Overall Rating: 75.535

15. Philadelphia, PA
Overall Rating: 75.210

Top 25 Hotels in the U.S.

1. Waldorf Astoria Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
Score: 96.25

2. The Restoration on King, Charleston, South Carolina
Score: 95.47

3. XV Beacon, Boston, Massachusetts
Score: 95.455

4. The Willcox, Aiken, South Carolina
Score: 94.933

5. The Inn & Club at Harbour Town, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Score: 94.668

6. The Surrey, New York, New York
Score: 94.62

7. The Alfond Inn, Winter Park, Florida
Score: 94.537

8. West Street Hotel, Bar Harbor, Maine
Score: 94.375

9. The Inn Above Tide, Sausalito, California
Score: 94.178

10. Hotel Vermont, Burlington, Vermont
Score: 94.168

11. Watch Hill Inn, Westerly, Rhode Island
Score: 94.042

12. Montage Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, California
Score: 93.921

13. Wentworth Mansion, Charleston, South Carolina
Score: 93.878

14. 21c Museum Hotel, Cincinnati, Ohio
Score: 93.479

15. Four Seasons Hotel, Westlake Village, California
Score: 93.46

16. Old Edwards Inn and Spa, Highlands, North Carolina
Score: 93.356

17. Gage Hotel, Marathon, Texas
Score: 93.193

18. The Chanler at Cliff Walk, Newport, Rhode Island
Score: 93.122

19. The Pitcher Inn, Warren, Vermont
Score: 93.119

20. Lumiére Telluride, Telluride, Colorado
Score: 93.092

21. Hotel Valencia Riverwalk, San Antonio, Texas, United States
Score: 92.907

22. Mokara Hotel & Spa, San Antonio, Texas
Score: 92.868

23. 21c Museum Hotel, Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky
Score: 92.778

24. North Block Hotel, Yountville, California
Score: 92.778

25. Trump International Hotel & Tower New York, New York, New York
Score: 92.711

Source: Condé Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice Awards 2015

2015 New York City Holiday Events Calendar

The holiday season is rapidly approaching, and for those of us living in the New York Tri-State area, we are lucky to be just a short car ride away from one of the most festive and exciting cities in the world. To help you plan your upcoming activities, here’s our annual New York City holiday events calendar.

89th Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

The lineup for the 89th annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was recently announced, and this year’s event promises to be as fun and festive as ever.

Considered the official kickoff to the holiday season, this year’s parade will feature appearances and performances from Mariah Carey, Trey Songz, Cirque du Soleil, Andy Grammer, Miss America Betty Cantrel, the cast of Sesame Street and many others.

Four new giant characters will join the parade procession including Angry Birds’ Red, DINO the mascot for Sinclair Oil, Ice Age’s Scrat and his Acorn, and a new version of Ronald McDonald. There will also be 12 marching bands performing along the parade route and performances from casts of Broadway shows such as “Fiddler on the Roof,” and “The King & I.”

The 2015 parade starts at 9:00 am sharp at West 77th Street and Central Park West, then proceeding to Central Park South to 6th Avenue (Avenue of the Americas), and ending at 12:00 noon at 34th Street in front of Macy’s Herald Square

There are three recommended areas on the route for watching the parade: the first leg along Central Park West, Time Warner Center and, finally, along Sixth Avenue between Central Park South and 38th Street. Note the section from 38th Street to Herald Square and Macy’s department store is the telecast area and closed to the public.

When: Thursday, Nov. 26, 2014, 9:00 am — 12:00 pm
Where: 77th Street and Central Park West to 34th Street/Herald Square, Manhattan
Info: www.macys.com/parade For more information, call the parade hotline at (212) 494-4495.

Holiday windows in NYC

One of the most cherished Manhattan holiday traditions is also a free one — enjoying the department store window displays of some of New York City’s finest and most iconic department stores, such as Macy’s, Barneys and others.

Here are some stores and addresses to put on your holiday look list:

  • Barneys New York, 660 Madison Avenue between 60th and 61st Streets
  • Bergdorf Goodman, 754 Fifth Avenue at 58th Streets
  • Bloomingdale’s, 59th Street and Lexington Avenue
  • Cartier, 653 Fifth Avenue at 52nd Street
  • Henri Bendel, 712 Fifth Avenue at 56th Street
  • Lord & Taylor, 424 Fifth Avenue at 39th Street
  • Macys, 34th Street and Sixth Avenue
  • Saks Fifth Avenue, 611 Fifth Avenue between 49th and 50th Streets
  • Tiffany & Co., 727 Fifth Avenue between 56th and 57th Streets
  • Van Cleef & Arpels, 744 5th Ave, between 7th and 8th Avenue

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting

‘Tis the season for the 83rd annual Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting! The 2015 tree has been chosen and will be lit for the first time on Wednesday, Dec. 3 with live music performances from 7:00 – 9:00 pm.

The giant tree is traditionally a Norway Spruce, and is lit with 30,000 environmentally-friendly LED lights on five miles of wire. And to top it off: a Swarovski crystal star.

When: Tree lighting is Dec. 3. The tree stays lit and can be viewed until 8:00 pm on Jan. 6, 2015.
Where: Rockefeller Plaza, between West 48th & West 51st Streets and 5th and 6th Avenues, Manhattan.
Info: rockefellercenter.com http://www.rockefellercenter.com/

Radio City Christmas Spectacular

Since 1933, people of all ages have been enjoying the Radio City Christmas Spectacular show. This New York City holiday tradition features 140 performers, spectacular sets and costumes, the world famous Rockettes, and an appearance by Santa Claus!

From a unique take on “The Nutcracker” to the original “Here Comes Santa Claus,” the show features ice skaters, dancing teddy bears, dozens of Santa Clauses, and thanks to state-of-the-art technology, a 3D ride with Santa through the skies of New York City.

When: Nov. 13 through Jan. 3
Where: 1260 Avenue of the Americas, New York City
Info: radiocitychristmas.com

New York Botanical Garden Holiday Train show

One of the lesser known, but equally festive and family friendly New York City holiday events is the New York Botanical Garden Holiday Train show. Enter the Botanical Garden’s Enid A. Haupt Conservatory — a stunning Victorian-style glasshouse and a landmark itself — and watch the Garden-gauge trains loop a quarter-mile of track past 150 New York landmarks, including the original Yankee Stadium, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the Trans World Airline Flight Center at John F. Kennedy Airport, and several bridges that remind us that Manhattan is, indeed, an island.

This year’s exhibition features 3,000 square feet of additional exhibition space, making room for dozens of new trains, bridges, and tracks; a captivating short film of the show’s behind-the-scenes magic; and a stunning multisensory finale of light and sound.

When: Nov. 21 – Jan. 18
Where: 2900 Southern Blvd, Bronx, NY 10458
Info: www.nybg.org/hts

George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker™

Another timeless New York City holiday classic, George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker™ is the holiday ballet of all ballets. From the moment the lights go down, you will be transported to a magical place inhabited by marching toy soldiers, a glowing one-ton Christmas tree, adorable children, mischievous mice, crystalline waltzing snowflakes, the Land of Sweets and some of the most glorious dancing on earth. As in years past, 90 dancers, 62 musicians, 32 stagehands and about 100 students from the School of American Ballet team up to make The Nutcracker a magical performance for all ages.

When: Nov. 27 and runs through Jan. 3
Where: West 62nd and 65th Streets and Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues, New York City
Info: nycballet.com