Well it’s official! The Rockefeller Christmas Tree has been lit, holiday tunes are playing on loop and the air is a little extra crisp. Christmas in New York City is a magical time of year for me. When I moved down to Philly I told Scube that every year he has to come up to NYC with me and be at my whim. Fortunately, he’s been very obliging, but can you blame him? Millions of people (over 5 million!) flock to the Big Apple this time of year and while there are the typical “must do’s”, I’d like to offer a list with some of the usual suspects and some not so usual.
The obvious (but no less lovely)
- The Tree!! Millions of tourists swarm Rockefeller Plaza during the day time to catch a glimpse of this iconic tree, but I prefer stealing a glance at night. With Saks Fifth Avenue across the way lit up as well, avoid the larger crowds with very little wiggle room, and take a stroll by the tree after dinner time, you won’t regret it.
- The windows! Saks, Bloomingdales, Barneys, Lord and Taylor, Bergdorf Goodman and Macy’s all are known for their windows. I personally, like to hit Saks, Bloomies, and Barneys, again in the night time. Fifth Avenue is a disaster during the holidays and you’ll spend more time trying to dodge people or waiting in line than you will enjoying the view.
- Take in a show, be it the Rockette’s at Radio City Music Hall (who can resist those legs?), the Nutcracker at Lincoln Center, or one of Broadway or Off Broadway’s finest, you’ll shell out some cash but you will always leave with a smile on your face.
- Holiday Markets are all over the city, from Columbus Circle, to Bryant Park, to Union Square and Grand Central Station, you’re apt to stumble upon one of these while you roam through the city. Every year I make Bryant Park a must, but that’s not to say the others aren’t great either. Pick one, especially since they’re all in great areas for exploration.
- Go Ice Skating, but not in Rockefeller Center. Skating on the iconic rink might be on your bucket list, but it’s expensive. After you pay for a rental, the privilege to skate, and a lock for your stuff, you’re looking at almost a $50/pp investment. Skip Rockefeller and either skate at Central Park’s Wollman Rink – the views are INCREDIBLE, or skate at Bryant Park where it’s free to skate with cheaper rentals and lock costs.
The Not So Obvious
To me, December and Christmas mean warm gooey cookies and hot chocolate. If you’re looking to escape the cold, here are a few spots that will warm your hands, feet, and nose.
- City Bakery. Holy hot cocoa. It’s so rich and decadent, get a small, you won’t be able to finish a large (I can’t and I can down A LOT of chocolate with zero digestive consequences). Once finished head over to the holiday markets in Union Square.
- Jaques Torres is a chocolate God amongst men. And you can warm up in various locations around NYC with a rich hot chocolate and a warmed up chocolate chip cookie.
- Levain Bakery. Nestled in a small shop on the Upper West Side is the bakery with the greatest cookies you will ever eat. In fact, they won Throw Down with Bobby Flay and for damn good reason. Afterwards stroll downtown to Columbus Circle for some holiday shopping.
- If you’re looking for something more sophisticated, try high tea at one of these spots. You can usually pay a little extra if you’d like to add some champagne in the mix as well, and who doesn’t want a little champagne?
Now, if you’re feeling adventurous and want to escape Manhattan, I offer a few suggestions that will make you ooh and ahh.
- The New York Botanical Gardens (located in the Bronx, but easily accessible via public transportation) holiday train show is stuff of legend, but now they’ve added an adult (think 21+…there will be booze) with their Bar Car Nights. Included in the price of admission ($35 for non-members), is a complimentary cocktail, a view of the train show, ice sculpting, live music, fire shows, etc. So basically the kitchen sink of holiday awesome.
- Brooklyn’s Dyker Heights section goes all out for Christmas, and I mean all out. While it’s an hour from the center of Manhattan via public transportation, free walking tours (or paid bus tours) are available to see this stunning display of all things Christmas lights.
What is your favorite thing to do in New York at Christmas?