The period between Christmas and New Year's Eve is one of "the busiest weeks of the year for everything from dining to Broadway," says Amanda Coletta. And she should know: She's a host for the Fifth Avenue Andaz, the luxury boutique hotel that matches guests with local cultural offerings.
Hot spots are especially jammed, but that doesn't mean you have to spend the end of the year languishing at home. Here are her tips on what to do during the last week of 2011:
So what's the last week of the year good for? Taking the family picture for next year's Christmas cards! There are still Christmas trees up all over the city - Rockefeller Center, Bryant Park, Lincoln Center, the South Street Seaport and Madison Square Park. It's quieter, so you can get a Christmassy photo without all these tourists in it - and you'll look 12 months younger! If you opt for the Bryant Park tree, you can also go to the Bryant Park Holiday Market, the only one in the city to run through Jan. 8. There's also a great restaurant called Celsius that's set up only for the holidays, and the skating rink there is open until Feb. 26.
Is this also a great week for after-Christmas sales? You can get amazing designer deals at major department stores. By Dec. 26, you get at least 40% off most things. All the designer stores - Gucci, Prada, Yves St. Laurent - mark down to make room for the spring merchandise.
But we'll be competing with the masses if we want to splurge on a nice meal. You just have to be flexible. The best deal in town is lunch at a four-star restaurant, which you can get at a one-star price. A lot of the four-star restaurants keep their Restaurant Week prices going all year long: You can get a three-course prix-fixe lunch at Del Posto, which is very famous, for $29. Jean-Georges has a two-course $38 lunch. ... If you do go for dinner, make sure to make reservations.
Anything odd or quirky to do that we can't do at any other time? Catch up on the holiday stuff you couldn't do before Dec. 25! "The Nutcracker" put on by the New York City Ballet at Lincoln Center is always sold out, but this year the American Ballet Theater is putting on "The Nutcracker" at BAM. And the New-York Historical Society ... has a wonderful Santa exhibit and a Hanukkah exhibit that will be up until Jan. 8.
Anything else? Broadway is really busy, but you can always support the shows that no one goes to because they don't include Hollywood names. ... There's a great show, "Once," that is at the New York Theater Workshop [before] jumping to Broadway next year.