By Gwen Wunderlich-Smith

There’s a chill in the air, the fires are roaring, the cider is warming and the holiday season is upon us, making this one of our favorite times of the year. Whether this season brings you holiday cheer or you’re looking to escape the norm, let Culture Vulture be your guide to winter fabulosity. From meditation retreats during Winter Solstice to late fall wine tours and the classic Nutcracker Ballet, there’s sure to be something for everyone on the list. Don’t miss out on these spectacular winter rendezvous … we’ll be sure to see you there!

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RELISH

Get into the holiday spirit under the magical glow of twinkling lights. Bar Car Nights are back at the New York Botanical GardenGrab some friends or family, sip on some Prosecco and stroll through the Holiday Train show on a sparkling winter night filled with festive art for the season. And make sure to be photo-ready from December 5-20, 2014, since an in-house photographer will be snapping away to capture special holiday memories and magical winter landscapes. New this year are expert ice carvers from Okamoto Studios, who will be transforming ice into trains, garden landmarks and more. This is one artsy affair not to be missed! NYBG.org/Exhibitions/2013/Holiday-Train-Show/Bar-Car-Nights.php

Spirit house in the mist 

MEDITATE

On the darkest day of the year, Hope Springs Institute anticipates bringing an inner light to your life. Take a break this winter solstice and head up to the Appalachian foothills where you can catch up on much needed rest, relaxation and peace at The Sacred Darkness: Winter Solstice Retreat. Check into the retreat and check out of your everyday routine as you prepare yourself for a few days of everything healthy and positive. Numerous activities such as meditation, crafty projects and yoga will let you ease your mind. When you are ready to naturally cleanse your body and life of any unnecessary pessimism or negativity, join the warm community of Hope Springs Institute.  

HopeSpringsInstitute.org/WinterSolstice.html

 

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TASTE 

When the thoughts of crisp winter air, cozy wool sweaters, wood burning fireplaces and an afternoon of flowing wine and conversation at an intimate bed and breakfasts sound like the perfect winter weekend to you, we suggest heading out to the East End. Whether you are seeking a romantic getaway or a fun weekend with friends, North Fork Wine Tasting Tours cater to couples or even groups up to 200 people. This excursion is an all-day in-depth wine tour and a delicious lunch at one of the wineries (transportation is included). If you’d like to extend your trip, allow us to suggest the Arbor View house, which will give you the opportunity to enjoy a relaxing late night under the stars. To top off this unforgettable experience, the shops along the North Fork are decorated in holiday garb while will leave you in awe. NorthForkWineTours.com

STORY HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS

SHOP

STORY is a retail space that has the point of view of a magazine, changes like a gallery and sells things like a store. Every four to eight weeks, STORY changes out all its merchandise, design and fixtures, and reinvents the store around a different story-based theme. This winter it’s all about shopping local. STORY’s “Home for the Holidays” celebrates local artisans, designers and craftsmen. Throughout the month of December you can stop by and stoke out your friends and family with heaps of fun, unique items you cannot find anywhere else. ThisIsStory.com

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DANCE

Every holiday season, countless dancers, musicians and cast members collectively produce a captivating holiday performance. Executed by the New York City Ballet since 1854, George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker has become an annual tradition of many families. The carefully arranged stage set-up leaves the audience in complete amazement and awe. As the jaw-dropping performance begins, viewers are swept off their feet with the overwhelmed feeling of spirit and excitement. Whether you want to see this magnificent show for the first time, or continue a holiday tradition, make sure you leave an date open on your calendar between November 29-January 4, 2014, to experience this fun-filled holiday staple at Lincoln Center that the entire family will enjoy. NYCBallet.com

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