A guide to the perfect NYC holiday weekend
As anyone who's seen the classic film “Miracle on 34th Street" knows, no city in the world captures the spirit of the winter holidays quite like New York City. From late November until mid-January, the five boroughs of NYC transform themselves from an exciting and sophisticated urban mecca to a magical and wondrous destination unlike any other. To help make your holiday in New York City extra festive, here are some spectacular sights and attractions that you won't want to miss.
The Rockefeller Christmas tree
A merry tradition that dates back more than eight decades, the Rockefeller Christmas Tree is an iconic symbol of the holidays that draws upwards of 125 million visitors each season. This year's tree is a towering Norway spruce grown in Pennsylvania. Standing 75 feet tall and weighing almost 13 tons, the beautiful behemoth is decorated with five miles worth of energy efficient LED lights, and topped with a crystal-covered star priced at $35,000. The tree remains lit from November 29 until January 7, and is the perfect place to begin an unforgettable weekend trip in NYC.
Bryant Park Winter Village
This open-air market in Midtown Manhattan is often referred to as NYC's official winter wonderland, and for very good reason. Featuring delicious snacks from more than three dozen food vendors, as well as luxury shopping and family-friendly seasonal events, it's a one-stop destination for holiday fun. But it's the 17,000-square-foot outdoor skating rink that's the main attraction. From 8:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. daily, visitors can take to the ice for free under the crisp New York sky. If you forgot your skates at home, don't worry — you can rent a pair for only $20.
Holiday window displays
New York City and shopping are virtually synonymous, which is why the city's biggest and brightest department stores pull out all the stops each year when it comes to their holiday window displays. If you're looking for stunning artistry, make your way to the windows at Bergdorf Goodman. They've partnered with seven humanitarian charities to design their windows this year, and the results are truly incredible. For classic charm, try the colorful windows at Lord & Taylor. This season, visitors can marvel at animated displays with themes like Arctic Adventures, Holiday Circus and Winter Woodlands.
Dinner at Rolf's restaurant
While most restaurants throughout the city add a bit of holiday décor each year, none go as far as Rolf's, a beloved German eatery in Gramercy Park. More than 15,000 Christmas ornaments and 100,000 twinkling lights cover every available inch inside this 50-year-old restaurant, making it a popular attraction that's well worth visiting. As if that wasn't jolly enough, thousands of icicle decorations and hundreds of vintage toy dolls hang from the ceiling, giving the restaurant a surreal quality you'll never forget. The delicious handmade pork sausages and chicken schnitzel are an added bonus!
Tea at the Plaza Hotel
Beautifully decorated with lights and wreaths each year to celebrate the holidays, this landmark destination in the heart of the city personifies the style and elegance of NYC, and is an ideal spot to visit after a walking tour of nearby Central Park. To warm up after a stroll, reserve a table at The Plaza's historic Palm Court, a lovely dining venue with special holiday tea offerings throughout the season. For visitors with children, The Santa Experience at The Plaza is open in the hotel's main concourse from November 24 until December 24.
Dyker Heights Christmas lights
When it comes to dazzling lights and outrageous decorations, this walking tour through the residential Brooklyn neighborhood of Dyker Heights has been drawing huge crowds since the 1980s. Each night in December (excluding Christmas Eve and Day), visitors can enjoy an astonishing guided tour, either on foot or by bus, that will leave them utterly breathless. Though many of the elaborate displays are designed and built by professional staging companies, the majority are crafted by individual homeowners competing with each other to see who can attract the most attention.
Union Square Holiday Market
No matter who is on your gift list this year, you'll have no trouble finding just what you're looking for at this popular outdoor holiday market located in Union Square Park. Open from November 16 until December 24, this European-style shopping destination includes more than 150 vendors selling intricately handcrafted merchandise and artwork in a beautiful outdoor setting. An impressive assortment of local food vendors helps add to the festive ambiance, making the Union Square Holiday Market one of NYC's must-visit winter attractions.
If you go
Right now, around the world, brave members of America's armed forces are on duty, defending our freedom and upholding our values.
When not laser-focused on the mission at hand, they're looking forward to the day when their service to our nation is fulfilled and they can reunite with their families.
They are also imagining how they can use their hard-earned skills to build an exciting, rewarding and important career when they return home.
I want them to look no further than United Airlines.
That's why we are focused on recruiting, developing and championing veterans across our company, demonstrating to our returning women and men in uniform that United is the best possible place for them to put their training, knowledge, discipline and character to the noblest use.
They've developed their knowledge and skills in some of the worst of times. We hope they will use those skills to keep United performing at our best, all of the time.
That's why we are accelerating our efforts to onboard the best and the brightest, and substantially increasing our overall recruitment numbers each year.
We recently launched a new sponsorship program to support onboarding veterans into United and a new care package program to support deployed employees. It's one more reason why United continues to rank high - and rise higher - as a top workplace for veterans. In fact, we jumped 21 spots this year on Indeed.com's list of the top U.S workplaces for veterans. This is a testament to our increased recruiting efforts, as well as our efforts to create a culture where veterans feel valued and supported.
We use the special reach and resources of our global operations to partner with outstanding organizations. This is our way of stepping up and going the extra mile for all those who've stepped forward to answer our nation's call.
We do this year-round, and the month of November is no exception; however, it is exceptional, especially as we mark Veterans Day.
As we pay tribute to all Americans who have served in uniform and carried our flag into battle throughout our history, let's also keep our thoughts with the women and men who are serving around the world, now. They belong to a generation of post-9/11 veterans who've taken part in the longest sustained period of conflict in our history.
Never has so much been asked by so many of so few.... for so long. These heroes represent every color and creed. They are drawn from across the country and many immigrated to our shores.
They then freely choose to serve in the most distant and dangerous regions of the world, to protect democracy in its moments of maximum danger.
Wherever they serve - however they serve - whether they put on a uniform each day, or serve in ways which may never be fully known, these Americans wake up each morning willing to offer the "last full measure of devotion" on our behalf.
Every time they do so, they provide a stunning rebuke to the kinds of voices around the world who doubt freedom and democracy's ability to defend itself.
Unfortunately, we know there are those who seem to not understand – or say they do not - what it is that inspires a free people to step forward, willing to lay down their lives so that their country and fellow citizens might live.
But, we – who are both the wards and stewards of the democracy which has been preserved and handed down to us by veterans throughout our history – do understand.
We know that inciting fear and hatred of others is a source of weakness, not strength. And such divisive rhetoric can never inspire solidarity or sacrifice like love for others and love of country can.
It is this quality of devotion that we most honor in our veterans - those who have served, do serve and will serve.
On behalf of a grateful family of 96,000, thank you for your service.
Each year around Veterans Day, Indeed, one of the world's largest job search engines, rates companies based on actual employee reviews to identify which ones offer the best opportunities and benefits for current and former U.S. military members. Our dramatic improvement in the rankings this year reflects a stronger commitment than ever before to actively recruiting, developing and nurturing veteran talent.
"We've spent a lot of time over the past 12 months looking for ways to better connect with our employees who served and attract new employees from the military ranks," said Global Catering Operations and Logistics Managing Director Ryan Melby, a U.S. Army veteran and the president of our United for Veterans business resource group.
"Our group is launching a mentorship program, for instance, where we'll assign existing employee-veterans to work with new hires who come to us from the armed forces. Having a friend and an ally like that, someone who can help you translate the skills you picked up in the military to what we do as a civilian company, is invaluable. That initiative is still in its infancy, but I'm really optimistic about what it can do for United and for our veteran population here."
Impressively, we were the only one of our industry peers to move up on the list, further evidence that we're on a good track as a company.
The question of where David Ferrari was had haunted retired U.S. Army Sergeant Major Vincent Salceto for the better part of 66 years.
Rarely did a week go by that Salceto didn't think about his old friend. Often, he relived their last moments together in a recurring nightmare. In it, it's once again 1953 and Salceto and Ferrari are patrolling a valley in what is now North Korea. Suddenly, explosions shatter the silence and flares light up the night sky.
Crouching under a barrage of bullets, Salceto, the squad's leader, drags two of his men to safety, then he sees Ferrari lying face down on the ground. He runs out to help him, but he's too late. And that's when he always wakes up.
Italian Americans from opposite coasts – Salceto from Philadelphia, Ferrari from San Francisco – the two became close, almost like brothers, after being assigned to the same unit during the Korean War. When Ferrari died, it hit Salceto hard.
"After that, I never let anyone get close to me like I did with Dave," he says. "I couldn't; I didn't want to go through that again."
When the war ended, Salceto wanted to tell Ferrari's family how brave their son and brother had been in battle. Most of all, he wanted to salute his friend at his gravesite and give him a proper farewell.
For decades, though, Salceto had no luck finding his final resting place or locating any of his relatives. Then, in June of this year, he uncovered a clue that led him to the Italian Cemetary in Colma, California, where Ferrari is buried.
Within days, Salceto, who lives in Franklinville, New Jersey, was packed and sitting aboard United Flight 731 from Philadelphia to San Francisco with his wife, Amy, and daughter, Donna Decker, on his way to Colma. For such a meaningful trip, he even wore his Army dress uniform.
That's how San Francisco-based flight attendant Noreen Baldwin spotted him as he walked down the jet bridge to get on the plane.
"I saw him and said to the other crew members, 'Oh my goodness, look at this guy,'" she says. "I knew there had to be a story."
The two struck up a conversation and Salceto told Baldwin why he was traveling. She got emotional listening to him talk and made a point of fussing over him, making sure he and his family had everything they needed.
About halfway through the flight, Baldwin had an idea. She and her fellow crew members would write messages of encouragement to Salceto and invite his fellow passengers to do the same.
"We did it discreetly," says Baldwin. "I asked the customers if they saw the man in uniform, which most had, and asked them if they wanted to write a few words for him on a cocktail napkin. A lot of people did; families did it together, parents got their kids to write something. After the first few rows, I was so choked up that I could barely talk."
When Baldwin surprised Salceto with dozens of hand-written notes, he, too, was speechless. He laid the stack on his lap and read each one. At the same time, the pilots made an announcement about the veteran over the loud speaker, after which the customers on board burst into applause.
"It seems contrived, and I hate using the word organic, but that's what it was; it just happened," Baldwin says. "Mr. Salceto was so loveable and humble, and what he was doing was so incredible, it felt like the right thing to do. And you could tell he was touched."
On June 27, Salceto finally stood before Ferrari's grave and said that long-awaited goodbye. As a trumpeter played "Taps," he unpinned a medal from his jacket and laid it reverently on the headstone.
"I had gotten a Bronze Star for my actions [the night Ferrari died] with a 'V' for valor, and that was the medal I put on Dave's grave," says Salceto, pausing to fight back tears. "I thought he was more deserving of it than I was."
For the first time in years, Salceto felt at peace. His mission was accomplished.