New York in December. There’s really no place like it! Every year I fall more and more in love with the city in all its festive glory. I’ve been getting so many messages and requests asking for recommendations and tips for what to do and see when visiting in December so here you have it: The Ultimate New York City Holiday Guide.
When you’re visiting during Christmas in NYC, prepare yourself to be a part of the masses. This place is busy! However, some of the super touristy spots draw a crowd for good reason. The suggestions that follow are prime spots for experiencing Christmas in NYC.
PS if you’re interested in seeing my general New York recommendations make sure you peek at my NYC Guide.
1) Rockefeller Christmas Tree
If you’re a super-fan of Christmas, you’re pretty familiar with the Rockefeller Christmas Tree. It’s a showcase of the NYC Christmas scene. The Rockefeller Christmas Tree is the most iconic vision of an NYC Christmas. Even a Glimpse of the tree is truly magical.
2) Admire the Christmas Windows at the Department Stores in NYC.
Touring the holiday-themed department store windows is a classic, New York City Christmas tradition. Each year the stores decorate their windows in sparkles and glitz around a particular story or festive them. Visitors line up to see the most popular displays, especially in the early evening hours and on the weekend.
To see all the popular store windows without backtracking along 5th Avenue go in this order.
Start at 58th Street with Bergdorf Goodman and continue on to Henri Bendel, Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord & Taylor, and Macy’s.
Reverse the order if it makes more sense for your plans, but remember Macy’s Christmas decorations are the only ones along 6th Avenue in Herald Square. Otherwise, it’s a straight route up or down Fifth Avenue.
3) Radio City Christmas Spectacular
The Radio City Rockettes are an undeniable part of any celebration during Christmas in NYC. The high-kicking chorus line combines with classic numbers like the “Parade of Wooden Soldiers” for a sensational 90-minute show. This iconic Christmas show sells out fast. Get your tickets for the as soon as possible to secure your seat.
4) George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker
The New York City Ballet’s entire cast and crew are immersed in the production of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker during the holiday season. The intricate costumes, lighting, and the music itself transports you into Marie’s magical world of dancing mice battling marching wooden soldiers. As you enter act two through a child’s imagination, the land of lollipops and snowflake waltzes will leave sugar plum fairies dancing in your head for many hours after the final curtain. The Nutcracker is definitely one of the must-see Christmas shows in NYC and a perfect choice for things to do in NYC on Christmas Day when many attractions and stores are closed.
5) Eat at Rolfs
You have to see this place to believe it! Visit Rolf’s to see the most over the top Christmas decorations ever. If you have been looking for Christmas activities in New York City you have run into pictures of a Christmas wonderland. Rolf’s serves German food, and it is really good German food. To be able to enjoy it you will need to get in line by 11 am on a weekday and prepare for a huge line on weekends.
6) Visit Dyker Heights
Dkyer Heights is an area of Brooklyn that puts on the most over the top Christmas light display in the city. Private residents put up Christmas lights that fill every inch of their property and many have different themes.
7) Ice skate in Central Park
The most classic winter activity in New York City is ice skating. While I don’t recommend ice skating at Rockefeller Centre (unless you don’t mind standing in 2h long line and paying 40$ for the entrance to the rink), I suggest Wollman Rink in Central Park. It is bigger, cheaper and more fun!
8) Drink in an Igloo
230 5th Rooftop Bar has just become one of my favorite winter bars. All because of their ultra cool igloos built for cold months. At the entrance, you receive a robe to make you feel warm. Each igloo has around ten chairs and two heaters. The coolest thing about them is that there is very low key inside and people feel obliged to talk to each other. So, not only you can drink a hot apple cider in a cosy igloo with a view of Empire State Building, but also you are making new friends!
9) Union Square Holiday Market
The Union Square Holiday Market (or Christmas Market) was one of my favorite places to visit on my trip to New York City during the holidays! Located in Union Square, this market includes over 100 vendors. There is a wide variety of items being sold, including: jewelry, arts and crafts, chocolates, beanies, toys and a lot more! It’s a great place to shop unique gifts for your family and friends…or for yourself!
10) Sixth Avenue Christmas decorations
On Sixth Avenue, you can find all sorts of fun, oversized Christmas decorations, including giant Christmas ornaments, Christmas lights, and toy nutcrackers.
11) Have a frozen hot chocolate at Serendipity
Serendipity has all sorts of delicious foods and desserts, but they are especially famous for their giant frozen hot chocolate! Just make sure to bring someone with you to help you finish this tasty treat because you probably won’t be able to have it all on your own
12) Visit Lotte Palace
This hotel probably has the tree you have seen the most on instagram, and it’s with good reason! Set amidst a beautiful courtyard, get there early to beat the crowds. Also be sure to step inside, to see the cute Santa Mail station, as well as garland lined railings.
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