After spending a week in New York this December, I can happily say New York City is the place to be at Christmas. The festive cheer is so infectious in the Big Apple, that even the biggest Scrooge couldn’t fail to get in the Christmas spirit. Ice rinks and fairy lights spring up all over the city, and the department store windows are transformed into festive works of art. Children’s’ faces beam as they stare up at the Rockerfeller Christmas Tree, and everywhere you go, New Yorkers wish you “Happy Holidays!”
New York at Christmas is absolutely magical, so if you’re heading there at winter time, here are the top 10 festive things to do in New York City:
1. Gaze at the Rockerfeller Christmas Tree
The Rockerfeller Christmas Tree is probably the best known Christmas tree in the world. This massive Norway Spruce, decorated in 30,000 fairy lights, can be found at the Rockerfeller Center in Midtown Manhattan, and has been put there every year since 1931. The first time I ever became aware of this magical tree was when I watched Kevin make a wish in the movie Home Alone 2: Lost in New York and ever since then, I had wanted to visit it. The area around the Christmas tree and the ice rink gets very crowded after dark, but it’s definitely worth a visit to watch the ice skaters and have your photo taken. The Christmas tree lighting ceremony usually takes place around the week of Thanksgiving, and the tree remains up until the first week of January.
2. Get your skates on at NYC’s Ice Rinks
Ice skating in New York City is a popular Christmas tradition. Every year ice rinks spring up all over the city, and the most famous one of all is the rink at the Rockerfeller Plaza. People have been skating on the ice rink beneath the Rockerfeller Christmas tree since 1936, but there are also a number of other, cheaper options around the city. There’s Citi Pond at Bryant Park, Wollman and Lasker Rinks in Central Park, The Ice Rink at Riverbank State Park, Sky Rink at Chelsea Piers and the Standard Hotel Rink in the Meatpacking District.
3. Drink hot apple cider at the Christmas Markets
There are Christmas markets all over New York City, but my favourite ones were in Bryant Park and Union Square. There are food stalls selling delicious things like hot apple cider, dumplings, waffles and chocolate, as well as stalls selling unique gifts and handicrafts. It’s a great way to get into the holiday spirit and pick up presents at the same time!
4. Sit on Santas Lap at Macy’s Santaland
You don’t have to go as far as the North Pole to visit Santa Claus- you can find him on 34th street, Manhattan. Santa appears at the end of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, marking the beginning of the Christmas season. Thousands of people flock to Santaland at Macy’s to tell Santa what they’d like for Christmas and have a photo taken with him just like in the film Miracle on 34th Street. Every year, the well known store features two sets of window displays- one is based on Miracle on 34th Street, and one with a changing theme.
5. Dance on the Big Piano at F.A.O Schwarz
This famous toy store is packed with all the latest toys, and even though I’m a little too grown up for them, I felt like a big kid in here! Have your photo taken with the F.A.O Schwarz Toy Soldiers at the entrance, then play a tune on the Big Piano, which featured in the Tom Hanks movie Big.
6. Take a Guided Tour of Brooklyn’s Christmas Lights
Every year at Christmas, the residents of Dyker Heights, an Italian-American section of Brooklyn, decorate their homes in crazy holiday light displays. The Slice of Brooklyn Christmas Lights and Cannoli Tour takes you on a 3 1/2 hour tour to see these festive homes, and you also stop off at Mona Lisa Pastry Shop & Cafe for a cannoli and cappuccino!
7. Don your Santa costume for Santacon
I hadn’t heard of Santacon until @kelleyferro invited me along, but I’m glad she did because it was one of the best things I did during my week in New York City. The organisers would kill me for calling it a “pub crawl”- instead they prefer to use the term “Santa Claus convention”- but whatever it is, it was a LOT of fun. Basically everyone dresses up in Santa costume and bar hops all day around Manhattan having as much fun as humanly possible. It was really weird to wake up in the morning and see every street in Manhattan overrun by Santas!
8. See the tree at Trump Tower
The Rockerfeller Center isn’t the only place in New York City to have a fabulous Christmas tree. Trump Tower also boasts a fabulous tree in front of the waterfall and the lobby is decked out in Christmas decorations.
9. NYC Holiday Window Displays
All of the stores around Fifth Avenue take Christmas very seriously, transforming their windows into festive works of art. My favourite holiday window displays in New York were those at Tiffany & Co., Bergdorf Goodman, Barney’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy’s, Lord & Taylor and Bloomingdale’s. The front of Cartier’s flagship store is dressed in a big red ribbon and bow too!
10. Get tickets to Radio City’s Christmas Spectacular
The Radio City Christmas Spectacular is an annual musical stage show starring world famous dance troupe, The Rockettes. This all-singing-all-dancing holiday extravaganza has been entertaining audiences since 1933 and takes place at Radio City Music Hall.