By Sarah Phillips
There’s never a bad time to take a vacation, but sometimes, there’s a better time of year to take one. The best example of this: New York City at Christmas. New York’s a great destination anytime of the year (especially now as more and more cruise ships call it home year round), but there’s something special about the Big Apple during the Holiday season; no city wears Christmas quite like New York City.
Whether you’ve experienced this holiday magic or not, we have you covered. We’ve broken down some of the biggest holiday highlights into manageable categories:
Decorations. Nobody decks the halls like New Yorkers. And they don’t just deck their personal halls, they deck the whole city.
- Rockefeller Center: Kevin McAllister knew where the best Christmas tree was in Home Alone 2. This magnificent tree is one of the city’s premiere holiday attractions and is completely free. The towering tree typically features over 40,000 LED colored lights and a 9 ½ foot-wide Swarovski star. They lights are usually on between 5:30 AM and 11:30 PM each day.
- Fifth Avenue. There are some who say it isn’t Christmas until you’ve seen the Bergdorf Goodman windows on Fifth Avenue. While I don’t entirely agree, walking down Fifth Avenue after dark during the holiday season is magical walk through the latest in store windows and extravagant light decorations.
- Central Park. Not only is the park decked out in holiday gear, it’s also home to the Metropolitan Museum of Art where the traditional Angel Tree calls home. A New York tradition since the 1920s, it features a Neapolitan Nativity scene with angels decorating the tree above.
Activities. There are tons of holiday themed activities available in New York ranging from active to sedentary. Some of them are even the stuff dreams (or really good Christmas movies) are made of.
- Ice Skating. In New York, ice skating is what you do in the winter. If you’re lucky, it might even snow while you’re doing it. There are three major locations for Christmas skating, each with their own price point.
- Bryant Park – free skating at this Christmas market, you just need to pay for skate rental
- Wollman Rink in Central Park – moderately priced for skating and skate rentals
- Rockefeller Center – expensive for skating and skate rentals with really long lines most of the holiday season, but it’s right under that famous tree
- Santa at Macy’s. Miracle on 34th Street pretty much established that this is, in fact, the real Santa Claus and you can go see him every Christmas season at Macy’s Santaland. Bonus to this adventure, you get to ride up Macy’s historic wooden escalators at the famous flagship Herald Square location.
- Carriage Ride in Central Park. Want a less active, yet still just as much ambiance option? Try a cozy carriage ride around Central Park and check out the holiday rush at a slightly slower pace.
- Toy Stores
- FAO Schwartz. Made famous in Big with Tom Hanks, this is the ultimate toy store experience.
- Toys ‘R’ Us. Set in Times Square, this flagship store features a giant indoor Ferris wheel and stories of toys and sweets galore.
Christmas Markets. In the tradition of the world-famous European Christmas Markets, New York City offers its own spin on this Christmas tradition. Filled with boutique style booths, sweets and tasty treats, each market offers something special for you and your Christmas list. We’ve listed the locations of the top 5 NYC Christmas markets:
- Columbus Circle
- Bryant Park
- Grand Central
- Union Square
- Brooklyn Winter Flea Market
- Radio City Christmas Spectacular featuring The Rockettes. One of the most famous Christmas shows in all the land, this show features the beloved Rockettes in a memorable and epic Christmas show every year. Audiences return year after year. Get your tickets early as these shows tend to sell out.
- Broadway. Always an option for entertainment in NYC, during the holiday season, the Great White Way adds a festive flair. This year’s offerings included A Christmas Story: The Musical and A Christmas Carol. In the past White Christmas and Elf have found homes on Broadway.
- The Nutcracker. Of course New York puts on the most classic of Christmas Ballets. And of course, it’s both extravagant and elegant done by the New York City Ballet at Lincoln Center every year.
It could take you several days to see and do everything on our list (and it’s just the tip of the iceberg). Start planning for next Christmas and don’t forget your walking shoes. And maybe we’ll see you in New York City next Christmas.
What are your favorite things to see and do in New York City at Christmas time?