In December, when snow begins to fall, and even the penguins and seals at the Central Park Zoo are wearing their scarves and hats, the Upper East Side is transformed into a glittering winter playground. Most of the year, the neighborhood offers plenty of indoor and outdoor activities for all ages. Around the holidays, the familiar sparkle of toy stores, ballet performances, skating rinks, and hot cocoa beckons. For residents of The Kent condos, local options like festive shops, world-class museums, and cozy cafes are all within walking distance, even on a snowy day.
A typical winter weekend could begin at the Wollman Rink at the southern tip of Central Park (entrance on 59th Street), which offers public skating from 10 am to 11 pm on Fridays and Saturdays. The iconic rink also gives group and private lessons for those interested in ice hockey and figure skating. For anyone with a December birthday, a skating party can also be arranged. And while the tropical critters who live at the nearby Central Park Zoo will be keeping warm inside all winter, the arctic population is ready for action. The zoo has daily penguin and sea lion feeding sessions in December (penguins at 10:30 am and 2:30 pm and sea lions at 11:30 am, 1:30 pm, and 3:30 pm), so that visitors get the chance to see how the animals interact, dive, swim, and vocalize when food is on offer. The penguin population includes gentoos, chinstraps, rockhoppers, and dapper kings, and the curious, playful sea lions eat quite heartily at this time of year.
To take the chill off, the journey back Uptown to The Kent could include a well-timed stop at Alice’s Teacup Chapter II on East 64th Street and Lexington Avenue. Alice’s knows its audience: the Lewis Carroll-themed tea shop is essentially a storybook-party come to life, where guests can enjoy tea (or juice) and scones, tea sandwiches, fruits, and sweets, or the create-your-own-crepe option during breakfast service. For parties, special sections of Alice’s can be reserved for a whimsical afternoon, including the Looking Glass Room and the Fairy Room, for an additional touch of magic (and extra seating).
The Kent is also located near one of the great holiday gift sources on the Upper East Side: E.A.T. Gifts, the irresistible retail wing of the famed Madison Avenue E.A.T. Cafe, is full of holiday gifts and stocking stuffers for kids and adults. Edible treats for both Christmas and Hanukkah, including gingerbread, panettone, old-fashioned fruitcake, challah, babka, and smoked salmon platters can also be ordered here and shipped anywhere.
Cozy, snowy evenings are perfect for avid readers. The Upper East Side’s neighborhood favorite, Corner Bookstore on Madison and East 93rd Street, offers a highly personal, old-fashioned book-browsing experience that Kent residents will relish. This small bookshop is packed with hand-picked titles for all ages, and it hosts regular readings and author events. They will special-order hard-to-find books for holiday shoppers, and they host a Christmas Eve Party, complete with cookies, champagne for the grown-ups, and an appearance by Santa.
And just a few blocks from The Kent, the stretch of Fifth Avenue known as “Museum Mile” is home to a stellar group of museums that provide special concerts and events for the holiday season. One of the most entrancing activities takes place at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where holiday finery from centuries past transports visitors to another time and place. Each year in the museum’s atmospheric Medieval Sculpture Hall, a majestic Christmas tree is put on display with an exquisite Neapolitan crèche (or nativity scene) dating from the 18th century. Behind it stands an ornate 18th-century choir screen from Valladolid Cathedral in Spain. This year’s tree is a 20-foot tall blue spruce decorated with 19 cherubs and 59 angels. As traditional Christmas music plays in the background, and works of art from nearly one thousand years ago glimmer in the holiday lights, a truly magical museum experience unfolds for visitors of all ages. Visions of dancing sugarplums are sure to follow.