NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Winter markets have become a popular destination for people looking to get into the holiday spirit, but which offers the best experience?
CBSN New York’s holiday market series will tour some of the top spots in the city. This week, John Dias visits the Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park.
“I think it’s awesome. I think it really gets the people going,” one visitor said.
For four months, the six-acre park transforms into a holiday oasis, attracting locals and tourists from all over.
“It’s just the atmosphere, all the variety of shops. It’s just become a tradition really,” said Judy Williams, of Charlotte, North Carolina.
From jewelry to greeting cards, even puppets – there are more than 170 merchants selling gifts for everyone on your holiday shopping list.
“It is beautiful and there is many things to do and see,” one woman said.
“I like all the shops, they’re so cute. And the lights are really pretty,” said another.
The village adds new shops every year. Papersalt is one of the latest.
The Seattle-based company sells inspirational books and educational gifts for kids. Locally, you can only find it at Bryant Park.
“I think this is a really great opportunity for Papersalt to branch out and open its market to a wider audience instead of just on the Pacific Northwest,” team member Brad Bong said.
But often, customers return for classic booths, like 5th & Madison.
Owner Shane Nassar sells premiere home fragrances. When he showed up for his first season 10 years ago, he planned on it being his last.
“It turned out to be the first season where everything blossomed, and every year we have just grown more and more. Bryant Park and this shop allowed me to spin off two other brands,” he told Dias.
“Winter village is the best winter and holiday experience in New York City,” said Irene Vagianos, Bryant Park Corp. Vice President of Partnership and Events.
Vagianos estimates three million people visit the village every season. But it wasn’t always this elaborate.
“It started out as a little holiday market and it grew and grew, and then we added the skating rink and then we added the restaurant,” she said.
The rink is 17,000 square feet and it’s the only one in the city that’s free to the public. You just have to bring or rent skates.
“You can skate somewhere else or shop somewhere else, but the combination of the two things is hard to find,” said Vagianos.
The rink is what makes the holiday market so special. That and, of course, the hot chocolate.
“At this point, it has become somewhat of a landmark for Christmas,” one vendor said. “People absolutely love coming just for the hot chocolate even, after ice skating.”
Even after the holidays end, the winter village is still full of excitement hosting things like winter fitness classes and story time for the kids. Even the food lodge is open until March, which features breakfast, lunch and dinner, complete with an indoor cocktail bar.
“There’s a lot more food now than there was before,” said one woman.
But it still has the same amount of holiday spirit and cheer that makes this winter village a holiday staple.