The holiday season is a special time of year. A time to celebrate love and life with family and friends, as well as giving to others and being thankful for what you have. To Josh and I, the Christmas season doesn’t start until we watch Santa come down the parade route into Herald Square in New York City during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. To us, New York at Christmastime is about as quintessential as it gets. Below are the top ways we recommend that you experience Christmas in New York City!
Explore the Holiday Markets at Christmas in New York
The variety of neighborhoods in New York provide plenty to do year round. However, during Christmas in New York there are a number of great markets that pop up around town . You can find one of the biggest markets at Union Square, where more than a hundred stalls are set up with local artisans selling a variety of goods. A smaller market is also located at Grand Central station. We found a number of unique gift ideas and enjoyed strolling the Grand Central market. The ambiance was enhanced by the live musicians who played holiday tunes in the market which echoed throughout the station.
Enjoy the Elaborate Window Displays & Dressed Buildings
New York City is especially beautiful during the holiday season with all of the decorations and sparkling lights. Window displays are taken to a whole different level, with seemingly magical features and even some interactive elements (Macy’s). You could stroll around the city all afternoon enjoying the unique window displays. Taking a walk down 5th Avenue in the evening is a great way to appreciate the colorful holiday light displays, and even some light shows that blanket entire buildings (Saks).
Christmas Shopping at Iconic Stores in New York
If you are up for braving the crowds, NYC has some of the best shopping in the world, especially for those of us who want to do our shopping for Christmas in New York. Of course, Josh and I had to hit up the Macy’s flagship store in Herald Square. With 9 floors to explore, it’s quite the experience. Be sure to stop by their visitor center (yes, there is one inside the store) to grab a printed directory so that you can find your way.
This classic store was a must on our list during our our visit to New York during Christmas, and we had to make our way to “Santa-Land” — a huge display where Santa Claus awaits, ready to find out what all the little kiddos want. Taking a photo with Santa here at Macy’s is a tradition for many, but be sure to get there early. The line is quite long, but you can obtain a VIP pass in advance.
Another classic place that we made a point to visit was the FAO Schwarz toy store. With a huge variety of toys, and wonderfully crafted stuffed animals, it’s a Christmas shopping experience not to be missed. Oh, and if you are a fan of the movie “Big” (as we are), then you can get your fortune read by Zoltar and even play on The BIG Piano! Yeah!!!
UPDATE: Sadly, the original FAO Schwartz store has closed it’s iconic location. What a bummer. However, I believe they are still selling their toys through Toys R Us. Very sad news, but happy we got to see it!
Take a Horse-Drawn Carriage Ride Through Central Park
For all the romantics out there, taking a carriage ride through Central Park is a must, especially during Christmas in New York. Bring some hot chocolate and snuggle up under a blanket while you sit back and enjoy the view of the park with the skyline in the background. Tours can be quite expensive, but it’s a memory that you will never forget, especially when the city has been dusted with snow!
The Tree at Rockefeller Center – an Icon During Christmas in New York
Peeking around the corner into the plaza at Rockefeller Center, your Christmas spirit will come alive with the sight of one of the most beautiful trees that you will ever see! This tree is larger than life with it’s lights, some of which sparkle periodically, and bright star on the top; you can’t help but smile. Sparkling angels line the walkway that leads toward the tree, and larger than life toy soldiers surround the plaza.
Seeing the famous Rockefeller Tree all lit up for Christmas in New York is a must. It’s a great spot to get a holiday photo, but be prepared for some crowds.
Go Ice Skating
There are a number of rinks where you can go ice skating in the city. Battery City Park has a reasonably priced rink in lower Manhattan, near the ferries to the Statue of Liberty. But the most picturesque places to skate may be in Central Park, with the skyline peeking out over the trees, or at Rockefeller Center. With the holiday music, lights, smell of caramel apples and hot chocolate, these are the perfect places (albeit more expensive) for making holiday memories during your visit to New York City.
See a Show – Radio City Rockettes Christmas Spectacular
On our recent visit to New York City during the holidays, we were looking forward to seeing a show. But not just any show. We figured that since we were visiting New York during such a special time of year that we wanted to see a show that we couldn’t see any other time. Our choice was the classic Radio City Music Hall Rockettes Christmas Spectacular!
This is THE show to see if you want to be filled with the spirit of Christmas in New York.
A top notch production, this show combined a live orchestra with phenomenal choreography and storytelling. We thoroughly enjoyed the combination of classic tunes, the magic and wonder of Santa Claus, as well as the traditional nativity and themes around kindness, giving, and love. With some interactive elements and 3-D glasses during parts of the show, both adults and children will be entertained.
There are a number of shows each day and you can purchase tickets in advance. However, depending on the night, you may be able to get tickets right before the show (as we did for a Monday night show).
Holiday Memories to Last a Lifetime!
There are so many ways to experience the holidays in New York City. Regardless of what you choose to do, you are sure to create some wonderful memories and be full of Christmas cheer. And we brought home an ornament of the Rockefeller tree, so each year as we decorate our tree at home, we will remember the magic of our holiday visit to New York City.
Useful Links for Planning Your Visit During Christmas in New York City!