Christmas in New York City
Christmas in New York such an exciting time. Over the last few years, I’d visited NYC in the Fall and Spring, so I was super excited to visit during December. We started planning for this trip a few years ago, after we returned from a Spring trip (see that post here), but then our travel buddies’ plans changed, so it turned into a baby-moon getaway for my husband and me. Still super fun! And more romantic because it was just the two of us. If you are also planning a winter trip to NYC, I hope the details of our vacation help you make some joyful memories too.
My biggest hope for this trip was to see snow. I grew up with snow from childhood through college, but now we live too far south to ever get snow. Ironically, on this trip New York City there was no snow. Not a drop. But it snowed in Texas! Big, legit snowflakes fell in our hometown, and my Instagram feed was full of Texas snowmen. However, a snow-less NYC does make walking around easier and warmer, even if I didn’t get my horse-drawn carriage ride through a snowy Central park (like I was hoping.) Plus, on the bright side, because the weather was warmer during the day, it felt like late Fall until nighttime rolled around and all the Christmas lights turned on. Leaves falling in Central Park is a gorgeous sight too, so we enjoyed two seasons of weather on the trip.
Rockefeller Center is totally worth the visit. Yes, there are tourists everywhere, but it’s magical just the same. The famous tree looking over the skating rink is ginormous! Every branch is covered in lights, and music rings through the air, thanks to Saks Fifth Avenue across the street. Throughout the entire plaza are nutcrackers, angels, and more decorated trees. Everything glows, and everyone smiles. We went back multiple nights – plus, you’ll find amazing hot chocolate inside Rockefeller Center’s shopping centers. Grab a cup of wicked hot chocolate from Jacques Torres, and enjoy the festivities.
You’ll find beautiful lights up and down the main roads too. Business plazas and banks are decorated. Light poles and intersections glow. Around Times Square you’ll find the iconic Christmas tree ornaments and light strands. If you like viewing Christmas lights, keep walking around the city. Lights are everywhere. We didn’t journey to Brooklyn’s famous Dyker Heights’ light extravaganza, but I hear that is also amazing.
Christmas Markets and Shopping
Our hotel was a five minute walk to Grand Central Station which, like all other famous buildings, is beautifully decorated at Christmastime, and there was a lovely holiday market inside the building. Local vendors and stores display all types of merchandise like jewelry, wood carvings, knitted doll clothes, and artwork. Some vendors had a presence at every market we attended, and luckily there were snacks at each market. Wafels and Dinges has always been one of our favorite NYC treats, and their classic belgian wafle with spekuloos spread was a warm life-saver on a chilly night at Bryant Park’s Holiday Market. There are Christmas markets at Union Square, Bryant Park, Grand Central, and Columbus Circle – all within walking distance from subway lines. Plus, if you visit the Union Square market, you’ll find another delicious cup of hot chocolate at Max Brenner across the street.
What else could you do during Christmas in New York City? So many, many things. Winter brings to mind snowy adventures, like ice skating in Rockefeller Center, Bryant Park, or Central Park. Being pregnant, I couldn’t ice skate, but it was fun to watch other people skate. Central Park actually seemed like the best location due to a larger rink and smaller crowds. You could take a horse-drawn carriage through Central Park or have a mini-snowball fight like in the movie Elf. You could also re-create your own Christmas movie tour and look for locations from the movies Serendipity, Elf, Miracle on 34th Street, or Home Alone. Here’s a link to a free walking tour for movie sites. My husband and I think we found the location of multiple Serendipity movie scenes, and I even purchased some black gloves from Bloomingdale’s! The frozen hot chocolate at the official Serendipity restaurant in also amazing. We tried to visit the famous Santa Claus inside of Macy’s on 34th Street, but you couldn’t even walk into Santaland without a reservation. So that was a bust.
You could join some Christmas carolers at these events. View the amazing Christmas window displays along 5th Avenue. While wandering around Manhattan, step into Tiffany’s jewelry store and see diamond Christmas ornaments and snowflakes.There are also many plays and shows dedicated to Christmas time, such as the famous Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular. Trust me, it was spectacular! Dance is in my blood, and I performed until college, so seeing the Rockettes has always been a dream of mine. My husband was skeptical about surviving the whole performance, and luckily, he loved it just as much as I did. The show is truly entertaining. Definitely a must-see. Take a hot chocolate tour through the city and rank your favorites – mine was Jacques Torres.
My husband and I were happy walking around and seeing the sights. We loved our trip out to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, even though those weren’t Christmas related, but I did purchase a lovely Christmas ornament from the Statue of Liberty gift shop to commemorate the vacation. Since we had visited NYC before, we had already done the huge touristy things, so this trip was more laid back. We bought Christmas gifts at small shops in Greenwich Village, we visited genealogy sites from my ancestors at Castle Clinton, and we visited some of my husband’s business associates for lunch. Because everything is decorated for Christmastime, and every street seems to have trees with lights and festive decorations, those regular excursions were still fun.
It feels like Christmas
The city of New York seems to go all out for Christmastime. Obviously there are the big lighted attractions and window displays that awe the crowds, but even small restaurants and shops seem to do Christmas big. Banks, landscaping, advertising – it just felt like Christmas. (Maybe that’s because so many movies are filmed there!) Two of my favorite romantic restaurants were One if by Land, Two if by Sea and Le Coucou. The glowing candles, roaring fireplace, and towering Christmas tree inside One if by Land, Two if by Sea was inspirational. A pianist played Christmas carols, and the air was magical. Le Coucou had more simple decor, but the personal experience and kindness of the wait staff made it feel like Christmas. All the giant hotels had enormous Christmas trees and glittering decorations. Walking into those famous hotels for warmth and then seeing the shining decor just felt peaceful. Walking arm in arm (for warmth!) with my husband down streets of Christmas trees felt magical.
Truly, Christmas in New York City is a wonderful time.
I hope our Christmas in New York adventures inspire you to visit someday! If you have been to the city that never sleeps during Christmastime, what were your favorite activities? What would you add to my list? Tell me in the comments below.