In the weeks leading up to Christmas, New York transforms into a magical wonderland. Christmas trees are lit, department stores deck their windows with lights, and visitors and locals alike strap on their skates and hit the ice. Temperatures may be low, but a cozy feeling called holiday cheer blankets the entire city. If you’re spending time in New York around Christmas, here are our favorite places to stay.

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The Ritz-Carlton New York, Central Park

Midtown West, New York City, New York, United States

A classy lobby lounge complete with a resplendent Christmas tree helps make a December stay at the Ritz-Carlton, one of New York's top luxury hotels, feel inviting and warm. The property dazzles with old-world ambience and doting service, and its location on the southern edge of Central Park means park views from many rooms and an easy stroll over to Wollman Rink, the ice skating rink in Central Park. Guests can also walk a couple blocks east for the decked-out department stores of 5th Avenue, and a couple blocks west for the high-end shops and restaurants, and the outdoor crafts-and-gifts fair, in and around Columbus Circle's Time Warner Center. The hotel's on-site BLT Market restaurant offers a fixed price Christmas menu that includes options like ginger butter poached lobster, orange glazed maple leaf duck, and lemon-tangerine baked Alaska.


Renaissance New York Hotel 57

Midtown East, New York City, New York, United States

Hotels in New York can be astronomically expensive -- especially at Christmas -- but you get good bang for your buck at Hotel 57: Guests will find a sleek lobby; friendly, knowledgeable staff; great skyline views from the rooftop terrace; and cozy, wood-paneled rooms with voluptuous feather comforters atop Marriott Revive beds. Plus, its quiet location between Midtown East and the Upper East Side make it a great jumping-off point for Christmastime shopping and exploring: Central Park, Bloomingdale's flagship store, 5th Avenue shopping and window displays, and Rockefeller Center are all a short walk away. All for significantly less than most properties in the area.


Lotte New York Palace

Midtown East, New York City, New York, United States

A stately stone facade gives way to interiors of marble, crystal chandeliers, and gold flourishes at the lavish New York Palace. Arriving guests pass through the Madison Avenue courtyard, decorated with a twinkling lights and a gorgeous Christmas tree, and enter the grand lobby that's also decked for the season. If they choose to emerge again, the Palace is just one block from Rockefeller Center, where in 2009 guests will find a 76-foot Norway spruce draped in colored lights, skaters twirling on the ice rink below, and wire-sculpted angels that date back to 1954. Also nearby are Radio City Music Hall, site of the popular Christmas Spectacular, glorious St. Patrick's Cathedral, the elaborately decorated windows of Saks Fifth Avenue, and Central Park.


The Bryant Park Hotel

Midtown West, New York City, New York, United States

The black and gold Art Deco facade of this hotel sits along the southern edge of Bryant Park, steps from the charming winter wonderland that materializes behind the stately New York Public Library each year. The park's green expanse transforms for the holidays, with the city's only free ice-skating rink (rentals available for a fee), a festive Christmas tree, and The Holiday Shops at Bryant Park -- more than 100 booths selling everything from scarves and jewelry to artwork and handmade crafts. The 138-room Bryant Park Hotel is a hip, sexy property; the lobby has red leather walls, red laquer counters, and soft techno music; guest rooms are spacious and modern with sleek leather furniture (not to mention a menu of sex toys -- families be warned). Stay-ins will appreciate the hotel's cavernous cocktail bar and on-site high-end sushi restaurant; guests looking to venture further afield are just a short walk from many of the city's top holiday attractions.


The Plaza

New York City, New York, United States

The Plaza may be ritzy, but it's a premier choice for families, particularly around Christmas. The posh hotel offer childcare services, a kids' menu, superb concierges equipped to help plan family activities, and a themed Eloise Suite named for the fictional children's story character who lived in The Plaza. Plus, the hotel is near Central Park's skating rink, 5th Avenue shopping (where visitors will find toy heaven FAO Schwartz), and the tree and ice rink at Rockefeller Center.