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!
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.
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.
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 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. 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!
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.
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
This picture of you two is priceless!- November 7, 2014
Merci beaucoup!!!- November 9, 2014
It would be so much fun to go to FAO Schwartz and dance on the keyboard like Tom Hanks did. (I love the movie Big!)- November 18, 2014
Great tips! I’m not far from NYC and haven’t been at Christmastime since I was a kid. This makes me want to go back and take my kids to see the tree.- November 18, 2014
We still have never been to NYC for Christmas but the plan is in the works and you’ve provided some great tips, thank you!- November 19, 2014
It’s my dream to go to NYC for Christmas. This is only fueling that fire!- November 22, 2014
Great tips, going to use them next month! 🙂- November 24, 2014
Oh this so makes me want to move this up on my bucket list! Lovely!!- November 24, 2014
Great tips. I will be going sometime between Jan-Mar going to be cold!- December 18, 2014
Love FAO Schwartz! I really want to go during the holidays one year!- December 19, 2014
I’m so not on board with FAO Schwartz and anything that has to do with crowds, but I do somehow still love Christmas in NYC. Especially the markets 🙂- December 19, 2014
I love all these tips! NYC is gorgeous this time of year. Unfortunately I can’t make a trip up for the holidays, but I’ll be there in January!- December 19, 2014
Great tips! I love NYC at Christmas. I recommend visiting Central Park and Bryant Park and maybe do some ice skating.- December 20, 2014
We went to NYC last summer, it was very hot and humid but we still enjoyed our trip. We’ll definitely consider going to NYC at Christmas. I would like to see the grand Christmas decors and do some ice skating. New York City may be known as the most expensive city in USA, but there’s also no shortage of free things to do. I already visited some museums, Time Square and Statue of Liberty. We also went to a lot of diners and clubs and I watched free concerts at Central Park after checking out the NYC Parks website. By the way, I found a website listing free events in New York which is great because I didn’t have much of a budget. I think FreeEventFinder.com might be useful to people also visiting New York who are looking for free things to do.- May 2, 2016
Thanks so much for sharing that website and for your comments. New York City is certainly fun around the holidays!- May 6, 2016
Hi, I enjoyed this article. My teen sons and I are going up in December before Christmas. I need to make sure we stay somewhere safe and somewhere where we can preferably walk to a lot of the sights. I don’t mind paying more for something safe and convenient, but not outrageous prices. Do you have any ideas for us?- September 23, 2017
So sorry I missed this earlier. Hope you found a great place and enjoyed your trip!- January 19, 2018
Thank you for your words above. Such a fantastic post and article you write up!! This look really great place and amazing pictures. What a excellent idea!- December 11, 2018