According to the hit Broadway production Hamilton, “There’s nothing like summer in the city.” Yet, if we’re being honest, the most magical time to visit the city is the winter. Between the sparkling lights, the massive Christmas trees and the festive pop-ups, you won’t find Christmas like this anywhere else. Here’s a list of must-do’s for those willing to brave the cold temperatures and massive crowds.
When you think of Christmas in New York City the first thing that probably comes to mind is the tree at Rockefeller Center. It’s a worldwide symbol that reminds us that Christmas is just around the corner. The tree stands 72 feet tall, and travels 75 miles to get to it’s home at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. Lit up with over 50,000 lights, and the iconic Swarovski crystal star (which weighs around 900 pounds by the way), the beloved tree is displayed until January 7th. If you only have time for one Christmas based activity in the city, this should be it. The crowds are insane, but it’s well worth it for the photos that will make all your ‘gram followers swoon.
You might not think visiting St. Patrick’s would be a winter activity, but the beautiful cathedral has a specific charm during the Christmas season. A must-see is the huge nativity scene to the left of the altar, decked out with real greenery and hay. Simple, yet elegant wreaths line the pews and chapel alcoves adding to the festive feel. They even have a stunning Christmas tree lit up with red and gold. It’s within walking distance to Rockefeller Center, so if you’re in the area it is definitely worth checking out.
Put Your Ice Skating Skills To The Test
Skating is a quintessential winter activity, and NYC does it well. With multiple different locations to break out your skates, there’s something here for everyone. The most popular skating destination would be Rockefeller Center. You get the full NYC experience here, with views of the massive tree and beautiful skyline, Christmas music blasting, and tourists taking pictures left and right. The crowds can get crazy, and it’s never as much fun skating around a packed rink, but you have to do it at least once. If you want a less hectic experience, check out the rink at the Bryant Park Winter Village, or even the rinks in Central Park. Any of these options are the perfect family friendly activity, or work as a romantic date.
Starting at the end of October, the Winter Village at Bryant Park opens its doors to the thousands of people looking for that perfect Christmas gift. With over 150 vendors selling all manner of items, from chopstick based decor to festive doggie sweaters, you won’t have trouble finding the perfect gift for that special someone. Grab a hot chocolate or hot apple cider and watch the skaters glide around the rink (or partake yourself), or indulge in one of the many food options, like huge mozzarella sticks or truffle cheesesteak. It’s open until 10pm, so you can even get your shopping and eating on well into the night.
Peruse The Department Store Windows
Every year as Christmas rolls around the major department stores go all out with their holiday themed window displays. We’re talking Bloomingdale’s, Barney’s, Saks, and more. This tradition dates way back to 1870’s, with Macy’s being the first to partake in it. If you want less of a crowd so you can truly admire the handiwork that goes into them, go during the weekdays when most people are busy at work. Yet sacrificing the smaller crowds and going at night when they are all lit up is really the best way to experience them. The displays will enchant everyone, from young children to adults.
Get Tickets To The Radio City Christmas Spectacular Or New York City Ballet’s The Nutcracker
No matter how old you are, the Radio City Christmas Spectacular is just that, spectacular. Between the whimsical sets, festive music, a flying Santa, and of course the insanely awesome, synchronized Rockettes, you’ll leave feeling merry and bright. For those who want something a little bit more posh, the New York City Ballet puts on a beautiful production of The Nutcracker. With the enchanting melodies and flawless ballerinas dancing across the stage, it will surely captivate your imagination and leave you with visions of sugar-plums dancing in your head.
Bonus: Grab A Drink At A Festive Bar Or Restaurant
With all the walking around in the cold, you’re sure to get hungry and want a warm drink in your belly. What better way to do so then at one of the many bars and restaurants that get completely decked out for the holidays. Our top two are Gramercy Tavern and Rolf’s. When we say Rolf’s goes all out, we mean it. They have massively elaborate, and some might even say outrageous, holiday decorations, almost as if the North Pole came and dumped their Christmas supply on the restaurant. Be warned however, the wait can get pretty grueling, yet you have until May to visit. A little bit more subdued, Gramercy Tavern’s decor is just plain elegant, with a full on bartop tree decorated to the nines. Drinks do get pricey and the wait can be long, but it’s worth it to just grab a quick drink at the bar.