Christmas in New York really is the most wonderful time of the year as this US metropolis turns into a giant winter wonderland.
The festive season also sees the best New York City attractions turn into Christmas spectaculars that don’t just gobsmack holidaymakers but local New Yorkers as well.
With so much to do in the Big Apple over the Christmas period it can be difficult to choose what you want to do, so with this in mind we have compiled a list of the top things you can do in New York over the festive season.
Visit the Rockefeller Center
The Rockefeller Center Plaza is known as the Capital of NYC Christmas as it boasts some of the best shopping, food and festive fun you can find in the city.
Visitors can go to the Top of the Rock and experience Christmas in New York 70 storeys above the street, can skate on The Rink, which is one of the most well-known attractions in the city in Christmas, and marvel at the famous Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.
This year’s Christmas tree is 78-feet tall and 47-feet wide, has 45,000 multi-coloured Christmas lights on 5 miles worth of wire, and will be the 12th year the Swarovski Star will adorn the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. Visitors can view the lit tree every day from 5.30am-11.30pm or all day on Christmas Day. The tree will be taken down on January 7th.
A New York Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without visiting the Rockefeller Center - you can buy Top of the Rock tickets here.
Check out the stunning Christmas lights
A Slice of Brooklyn's Christmas Lights Tour is a three and a half hour tour that departs from Manhattan and features the festive homes of Dyker Heights (the Italian-American section of Brooklyn), which has been a festive Christmas hotspot for New Yorkers for over 30 years.
Over 100,000 people are estimated to flock to this part of Brooklyn every year to see the dazzling lights, giant nutcrackers, wooden soldiers, animatronic figures, glowing nativity scenes and much more. Some of the homes featured on the tour are so over-the-top that they’ve even been featured on The Learning Channel’s ‘Crazy Christmas Lights’.
As well as travelling to Dyker Heights, the bus tour also takes visitors to nearby areas with magnificent lights, such as Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst, and guests can see these stunning lights either from the bus or off of it by being escorted on foot through the neighbourhoods by tour guides.
Throughout the tour festive music is played to get you feeling even more Christmassy, and on the ride back to Manhattan there are nostalgic Christmas television specials shown on the TV screens of the bus.
Tours are conducted by licensed NYC tour guides who are born and bred Brooklynites who know the areas and the homeowners personally. Many times the homeowners will even come out and speak to the tour groups as well!
Christmas shopping in New York
No matter whether you are in the Big Apple in the run-up to Christmas or are visiting the city over Christmas, one of the things you have to do is to go shopping in New York. Here we guide you through some of the best shops in the city. Even if there is nothing in particular that you want to buy you will be wowed by some of the unbelievable Christmas window displays.
There is only one place to start and that is Macy's, the Great American Department store that is arguably the US’s most iconic retailing brand.
Macy’s Herald Square store in New York not only offers shoppers a range of fashion brands such as Calvin Klein and Clinique but also boasts one of the best Christmas window displays in the world.
This year is no different, as Macy’s Herald Square store has gone all out to impress with its Snoopy and the Peanuts gang recreating scenes from A Charlie Brown Christmas.
Lord & Taylor
Headquartered in New York, Lord & Taylor is one of the oldest luxury department stores in North America. Whilst shopping at this beautiful shop you will be gobsmacked by the store’s incredible window displays.
This year, shoppers on Fifth Avenue will embark on a state-of-the-art journey of “A Few of Our Favorite Things” and this will represent four animated scenes:
- A gingerbread kingdom – this scene features a handmade Victorian gingerbread house being held aloft by dozens of dancing gingerbread men.
- The holiday countdown – a mansion boasting 24 windows that count down to Christmas and reveal iconic New York holiday images.
- Cuckoo clock – The third scene is a cuckoo clock that captures the midnight hour and when the hours spin by a celebration awaits every time the clock strikes midnight.
- Sweets shop - the fourth scene gives visitors a sneak peek into Lord & Taylor’s sweet shop and is filled with a number of holiday treats.
The Lord & Taylor’s holiday window displays have been wowing New Yorkers and holidaymakers alike since 1937 and an estimated 500,000 people pass by the windows daily. More than eight million customers visit the store over the Thanksgiving and Christmas periods. So you won’t be alone!
Upscale department store Bloomingdale’s should certainly be high on your list of shops to visit in New York as it sells designer clothes, handbags, jewellery, shoes and many other products that are perfect Christmas presents for someone special.
Recently Bloomingdale’s joined forces with world-renowned florist Jeff Leatham to create five holiday window displays and they have been centred on the interpretation of the holidays through the senses.
Each window illustrates five senses that shape the holiday experience; sound, sight, touch, smell, and taste. Shoppers will see action features, chic florals and faceted sculptures throughout the story.
Visitors can see these incredible window displays on 59th Street in New York and the display will be running throughout the holiday season.
If you are looking for a deal then Nordstrom Rack, the off-price division of Nordstrom, sells a variety of shoes, clothing and accessories for the entire family at great prices.
Nordstrom Rack offers many brand names that are stocked in Nordstrom stores with savings of 30 to 70 per cent off and has been doing so since opening back in 1983.
There are a number of stores in and around the New York area that you can visit such as Nordstrom Rack Union Square, Nordstrom Rack Gateway Center, Nordstrom Rack Manhasset Center and Nordstrom Rack Skyview Center.
Visit New York Botanical Garden
The weather in New York can be changeable during this part of the year, but no matter what the weather is doing a visit to the New York Botanical Garden is a must. Visitors will be heading to a museum of plants that is most definitely a national treasure for all ages.
This Christmas, the New York Botanical Garden’s enchanting Holiday Train Show returns and the exhibition will run through to January 18th 2016.
The new Holiday Train Show is a miniature wonderland that has delighted young children and the young at heart for decades. This year, visitors will be able to watch a short film screening of the behind-the-scenes magic that takes place in order to bring the show to life. On top of this an extra 3,000 square feet of space has been installed for visitors to get 360° viewing. A multisensory finale will also take place and will feature sound and light in the Reflecting Pool under the glass dome of the 90-ft-high Palms of the World Gallery.
So if you want to watch G-scale locomotives like Thomas the Tank Engine hum along almost a half-mile of track alongside replicas of New York landmarks such as Grand Central Terminal, Radio City Music Hall, historic Hudson River Valley houses, Brooklyn Bridge, and the Rockefeller Center, then head to the New York Botanical Garden.
The New York Botanical Garden is open Tuesday–Sunday, 10am–6pm and All-Garden Pass tickets start at $20 for adults and $10 for children (ages 2–12) and differ during certain peak times and weekends.
Check out Union Square Holiday Market
If you love markets then you will love the Union Square Holiday Market in New York. Over 150 small businesses sell a range of gifts, food and drink and now in its twenty-second season, the market attracts over two million visitors from the United States and abroad.
This year’s market will boast a number of new features such as new custom lighting displays in all common spaces, along with a new warming station being located around the iconic statue of George Washington.
The market will also feature two new performance stages: one near 14th Street and Union
Square West, in the heart of the holiday market, and the other near 17th Street, adjacent to the Union Square Greenmarket and Pavilion.
The Union Square Holiday Market will be open until December 24th andmarket hours are from 11am–8pm, Monday through to Friday. The market is open from 10am–8pm on Saturdays and 11am–7pm on Sundays.
The IFC Center
The IFC Center is a cinema in New York that will bring you a load of Christmas cheer during your break in the city.
This year, the IFC Center celebrates the 10th anniversary of its annual holiday presentation of Frank Capra’s American classic It’s a wonderful life, which is being played daily until December 25th.
The theatre’s year-end programming is supplemented with ‘Rated Xmas: Holiday Classics, Naughty and Nice’, a series of Christmas-set movies, from established classics like the heart-warming White Christmas to chillier productions such as Eyes Wide Shut.
Other classic films that will be shown over the festive period include Home Alone and Die Hard.
The Radio City Christmas Spectacular
The Radio City Christmas Spectacular is certainly a must for any visitor to New York over the festive period.
The Christmas spectacular at Radio City is a 90-minutre show of ice skaters, ballet dancers, music, dancing Santas, fireworks, Christmas window displays that come to life and even fireworks.
The show is performed up to six times a day until January 3rd and is a popular attraction for local New Yorkers as well. To find out more about the magical line-up, click here.
Just seeing the Christmas decorations outside of Radio City is worth the visit in itself, let alone the amazing show.
Ice skating in Central Park
The Wollman Rink in Central Park allows visitors to ice skate in one of New York’s most famous attractions.
The ice rink is popular so you will need to get tickets for the Wollman Rink, but once you have bought your tickets you can then experience a real New York winter treat.
The picturesque setting of the rink is beautifully distracting as it is surrounded by the Manhattan skyline, but if you haven’t skated in a while then it is advised to concentrate on your footing!
Image Credits: Diane Bondareff Invision for Tishman Speyer AP Images,A Slice of Brooklyn Bus Tours, Diane Bondareff/AP Images for Macy's Inc, Lord & Taylor, Bloomingdale's, Nordstrom Rack,Ben Hider, Erin Kestenbaum, IFC Center, Boss Tweed, Charley Lhasa (flickr.com)