Well everybody, they finally lit up the tree at Rockefeller Center this week here in New York, and I think for many it’s the starting point of Christmas in the city that never sleeps. There is nowhere on earth quite like New York at any normal time, but there is something extra special about the city in the run up to Christmas. Once Thanksgiving ends, you start to see Christmas decorations slowly popping up, winter villages spring to life and a few festive tunes fill the stores and radio stations. But as we enter December, everything starts to kick up a notch as everyone gears up for the holiday season.
It’s a bittersweet one for me really if I’m honest. I’m excited to experience all the city has to offer, but I will also be returning to Ireland at the end of December too, which is not a fun thought. Not to say I’m unhappy to go back to Ireland – I love the thought of going home around Christmas and New Year and seeing friends and family after spending the past year abroad. But it’s the fact that I know I won’t be returning to New York come the new year that’s the hard pill to swallow. Still, I’m a believer that the best things in life don’t come easy, and a Visa to stay in this beautiful city is certainly one of those things. But, I’ll keep trying to make it happen, because there is still so much I want to see, do and experience in this amazing concrete jungle.
But anyway, enough of me rambling on. Back to Christmas in New York! There is so much stuff to do here around Christmas, trying to make a list of what you want to do and see most, and finding the time to squeeze it all in is quite the task. So, I thought I’d share some of the best things on here to do around Christmas time in NYC. I’ve already done a couple of these and the rest are definitely on my list if I can squeeze it all in. So here they are:
The decor, the cocktails the ambiance…if you love Christmas, Rofls is the place for you! I called in early during Thanksgiving with my brother for a drink or two and it was so good. It was busy, but because it was early, not completely wedged, so it was nice. They also do food, but reservations are a must…no walks in here I’m afraid!
Rockefeller Center is a must on any visit to NYC, but even more so at Christmas. They lit the iconic Christmas Tree this week, and if you were following my story on Instagram, you would have seen me trying (and failing) to make it through the huge crowds to get to the annual lighting ceremony after work. Seriously, if you want to experience all that action, you best be prepared to get there early and grab your spot. Other than that though, stop by on any other day for some ice-skating, get your picture with the humongous tree in the background, and maybe take a trip to Top of the Rock and see the amazing views of the city (I did it recently, it has been one of my favourite things I did this past year).
Ice-Skating in Central Park
There are three main places to ice-skate during the season, including Rockefeller Center, and Bryant Park (which also has an amazing Christmas market). But the best place in my opinion that you must do it in is the Wollman Rink at Central Park. I mean, when in New York you can’t leave without seeing Central Park at least once, so you may as well take in the ice-skating there too. I went recently (I almost broke my arm because I started getting cocky and thought I was Tonya Harding after only an hour…we live and learn!) and it was great fun, and perfect for some snaps for your social media. Go earlyish in the morning though, it’s quieter!
Bryant Park Christmas Market
Go for the ice-skating, stay for the beautiful Christmas market which is perfect for a spot of Christmas shopping. Then when you’ve had enough of shopping, you can check out the numerous food stands, which have something for everybody, whether you’re a sweet or savoury fan. And then on for a festive drink in the The Lodge. It’s like a one stop shop for a Christmas day out!
No Christmas is complete without the Rockettes, the famous dance troupe founded almost a century ago. The group is usually paraded out at every big Christmas event, and they have their very own Christmas Spectacular that is always a sellout. They put on an amazing show and it’s something I hope to get to see before I leave. The New York Bucket List page on Instagram currently have discounted tickets available too, so be sure to check that out!
Saks 5th Avenue Christmas Lights
You are going to want to take a trip to the world famous Saks on 5th Avenue regardless. But everybody is always excited for the unveiling of their spectacular Christmas lights display, that is a stones throw from Rockefeller Center too, so you can get them together! The light display runs daily from 5pm to 11pm at 10 minute intervals.
The city is world-renowned for it’s shopping, and in between picking up a few Christmas bits you’ll want to take in the exquisitely creative window displays on some of the biggest stores. Some of the best are: Saks on 5th Avenue, the flagship Macy’s in Herald Square and Bloomingdale’s on 59th and Lexington.
Dyker Heights is a neighbourhood in Brooklyn and it is like a Christmas dream come true. Every year, the residents of this neighbourhood decorate their homes to the absolute 9’s in an attempt to be the best decorated house in the area, with some displays costing as much as $20,000. Hop on the train from Manhattan and spend an evening strolling the streets and soaking up the festive cheer.
Feel all cultured with a trip to the hugely popular ballet show that is synonymous with a New York Christmas. Everybody always flocks to the show at Lincoln Center, but if you can’t get to that one, there is also a free option at Brookfield Place. No tickets necessary, but seats are on a first come first serve basis, so get there early.
Winter Lantern Festival on Staten Island
The Winter Lantern Festival just opened it’s doors this past Wednesday November 28th and boasts over 40 LED light installations, performances and food vendors all at Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden in Livingston on Staten Island. It looks really cool, and would be a great place to get some great Christmas pictures for your Instagram feed. Grab the ferry across from Manhattan too, and you’ll get some stunning views of Manhattan along the way. The festival runs for the next 6 weeks.
Winterfest at Brooklyn Museum
Winterfest is a cute little Christmas market that recently opened its doors next to the Brooklyn Museum. Filled with stalls, food vendors, carol singers, and you can visit Santa too, it’s perfect for everyone, especially families. If you can, make a day of it and take a wander around the museum as well. It’s full of amazing art and sculpture pieces that you’ll want to take your time and see!
Holiday Tea at The Plaza Hotel
For over 100 years, The Palm Court at The Plaza Hotel has been New York City’s iconic destination for Afternoon Tea. It’s located at the end of 5th Avenue and is right on the corner of Central Park too. I’ve been to the Plaza Hotel before to have a look around and browse the options in the food court on the lower level (I also spent the time dreaming of the day that I can afford to stay there). But doing the afternoon tea there has been recommended to me a few times. Sure, it’s a little pricey, but when in New York….
If you’re visiting the city this Christmas I hope you found this helpful as a little guide of some of the best things to do. If you’re not coming yourself, but know someone who is, be sure to share this with them so they can plan some fun stuff while they are here. I’m going to be doing my best to tick these off my NYC bucket list before I get on that flight home at the end of December! Follow me on Instagram if you feel like it, where I’ll be posting anything I get up to. Also feel free to drop me a message on there, or here, and let me know what you’re up to and loving in New York this Christmas.