Tips for Visiting NYC During Christmas Season

It’s almost the most wonderful time of the year! Anyone who knows me, knows that I’m obsessed with Christmas! And Christmas in New York City is almost as fabulous as Christmas in Disney World. I realize that the crowds that go along with Christmas in NYC may scare some people but no one does Christmas better than New York–no one! The Giant Tree at Rockefeller plaza, chestnuts roasting on every street corner, fancy holiday windows, and of course the New York City Rockettes.

When planning your trip to New York you should be aware that most museums and many attractions are closed on Christmas Day and some remain closed the day after as well so be sure to plan accordingly. Many local, non-celebrating New Yorkers find themselves at the Movies and Chinese dinners—there’s nothing more New York than that!  

Before you come to NYC for the Christmas season there are a few things you’ll want to know to make your experience a more pleasant one. Here are my top tips for visiting NYC during the Christmas Season. And lucky you, here’s an article I wrote for Forbes about some extra luxe ways to celebrate Christmas in NYC in style!

Freezing New York City

Dress Warmly

First, dress warmly. New York City requires a lot of walking. Even if you’re taking the subway or taxis, you’ll inevitably end up doing a fair bit of walking and New York gets bitterly cold around the holidays. I recommend bringing lots of layers because while you may be cold when you’re outside, your destinations will be warm and you may need to peel off your heavy coats and sweaters.

Crowd Control

Next, brace yourself for crowds. No matter what time of day you visit NYC’s main attractions—there will be hoards of people—and that goes double for Christmastime. The sooner you accept this, the happier you’ll be. It’s NYC’s most magical time of year so of course everyone wants to get in on the fun.

Rockefeller Center

First on every Christmas lover’s list is the breathtaking and enormous tree at Rockefeller Center. It’s well worth the crowds you’ll have to contend with. Get a hot chocolate (try the Wicked Hot Chocolate from Jacques Torres, which has a little spice to it) and enjoy the views of not only the tree but the gorgeous ice rink below. Take your skates somewhere else though, the lines here are enormous and the rates are extremely overpriced. If you have your heart set on ice skating in the city, check out Wollman’s Rink or the rink in Central Park.

FAO Schwartz

FAO Schwartz is another MUST see. You probably remember this store from Home Alone 2 and BIG. Come dance on the keys of the giant piano here. Come when it opens to avoid the largest crowds and if you can pop by on a weekday, that’s even better.

Window Shop

Window Shop. During the holiday season, all the city’s stores offer beautifully decorated windows and over-the-top holiday decorations to celebrate the season. I recommend a stroll down Fifth Avenue to the city’s major department stores like Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman, Barney’s, Henri Bendels. Bloomingdales, Macy’s and Lord and Taylor also offer lovely holiday decorations!

Christmas Markets

I also recommend visiting some of the city’s Christmas markets. My favorites are at Bryant Park, Union Square, and the Holiday Fair in Grand Central. Not only will you find fun souvenirs and presents but the decorations are magical! If you find yourself in Union Square be sure to stop by City Bakery for my favorite cup of hot chocolate EVER!

Sit on Santa’s Lap

And if you’re visiting NYC with kids you can’t leave without visiting Santa! Again, prepare yourself for crowds! Perhaps the most famous place to see Santa is at Macy’s Santaland. Lines can be long but you can actually make reservations via the Macy’s app to skip this hassle! If you didn’t have the foresight to book in advance and dont’ want to be stuck in line all day you can also find Santas at Bloomingdales, Rock Center, ABC Carpet and Home Essentials. While the lines won’t be as long, you will still have to wait.

Best Christmas Bar NYC

When you’re finished seeing all that there is to be seen, warm up in one of my favorite, cozy New York City bars and cuddle by a fire! If you don’t mind crowds, I highly recommend a visit to Rolf’s German eatery. Happy Holidays and have a great trip!

Be sure to check out these stories I wrote for Forbes:

New York City Winter Bucket List

6 Ways to Celebrate the Holiday Season in New York

7 Warm and Cozy Bars to Warm Up in This Winter in New York

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