Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year in New York, so I’m still kinda not over it. This year was the first year that I’ve made a special trip and amazed at all of the amazing Christmas displays the windows and storefronts. Since I’m still relishing in the holiday spirit even though it’s nearly mid-January (how did that happen?!), here are some snapshots of the beautiful window displays snapped by myself and my friends as we wandered along the iconic stretch of Fifth Avenue and Rockefeller Center.
Christmas in New York is one of my favorite times of the year. Everyone is nicer, the decor is so festive and the joy of the season just works its way into everything in the best way possible. The one downfall, however, are the huge crowds that some of the city’s best attracts draw during this busy time of the year. Instead of hitting up the big draws that have the big crowds, try these off-the-beaten-path attractions that will still get you in the Christmas spirit without all of the hassle. Without further ado, here is the Naturalized New Yorker’s Christmas guide to New York.
The Union Square Christmas Market is on my hit-list every year. Though it can be crowded on weekends, take a trip on a weeknight and you’ll get to see all of the vendors without as much of the stress. This market is one of my favorites for a few reasons: they’ve got amazing, one-of-a-kind gifts from local vendors for a range of prices. You can find cute little trinkets next to expensive artwork next to mini donuts. They’ve got something for everyone and the festive atmosphere reminds me a lot of European Christmas markets, right in the heart of NYC.
There’s a reason the Rockefeller tree is such an attraction – it’s beautiful and nothing says Christmas quite like a million-foot tree in the middle of the city. But, the major crowds within the few blocks around the tree make it hard to have an enjoyable experience. Instead, hit the Palace Hotel. This dazzling tree (of Gossip Girl fame) is beautiful and makes for a perfect photo opp without the same overwhelming crowd. Though there will probably still be some onlookers, it’s nothing like what you’ve got at 30 Rock.
After you’ve seen all the sights, head to City Bakery in Flatiron for their world-famous hot chocolate. The homemade marshmallows and the thick, rich hot chocolate is the perfect way to warm up and take a break from the cold before heading out once again.
Finish up the night with a cozy cocktail at the Campbell Apartment or Lobby Bar at the Bowery Hotel. Both spots are usually a bit crowded, but it’s worth the wait for the ambiance and killer craft cocktails. What better way to end the day than by sipping a great drink next to a crackling fireplace? Answer: there isn’t one.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Now that Thanksgiving is officially over and done with, we can move on to Christmas for real. The holidays in New York is one of my favorite times – the festive lights, elaborate decor and all around happy vibe fills the city with that Christmas magic. In honor of this festive feeling, check out these things to do in December to get into the holiday spirit.
Bryant Park Winter Village, November 1 – January 2
This year, head to Bryant Park to instantly feel the Christmas spirit. The winter village features ice skating, local vendors for easy Christmas shopping and great festive decor. Browse the shops or just wander around and take in the holiday cheer at this magical spot that is open through January 2 of next year.
Holiday Train Show, November 19 – January 16
Discover the New York Botanic Gardens stunning show featuring familiar, but miniature, sights like the Brooklyn Bridge, Statue of Liberty and Coney Island. Almost a half-mile of train tracks make up this exhibit that brings the magic of the holidays to life.
Union Square Holiday Market, December 1 – 24
The Union Square Holiday Market is my go-to spot each year for unique holiday gifts. Made by local New York artists and some visiting vendors, the kitschy stalls are a great place to wander around and take in all of the sights. Pro tip: it’s also a bit of a foodie haven with offerings from beloved food vendors like Arancini Brothers and Sigmund’s.
Ice Skating at Wollman Rink, October 23 – April 2
Located at Central Park Lake, the Wollman Rink has been a New York Staple since 1858 when it opened to the public. I’ve never skated there, but it’s been on my to-do list since I moved to the city and I think this year is the year. The weekday hours are a little wonky, so head to the rink over the weekend but be prepared for a bit of a wait, as it’s a popular attraction. Or, head there after the holidays for a less crowded experience.
Santacon, December 10
This is one of New York’s most infamous annual events. But, love it or hate it, Santacon takes over the city one day each year, with crazy (often drunk) people running around decked out in full Santa garb. The event itself is free with a suggested donation, and many bars around the city run specials for that day. Check out the official site for more info.
Latke Festival, December 19
Latke’s are amazing, so it’s no wonder that they’ve got a whole festival in their honor. This annual event, in its 8th year, comes at a bit of a steep price but includes both unlimited latkes and unlimited beer, wine and nonalcoholic drinks at its home in the Brooklyn Museum. Early bird tickets are sold out, but the general admission price is still available, plus all profits are donated to charity. Check this out to support great cause and nom on some great food.
Grand Army Plaza New Year’s Eve Fireworks, December 31
New Year’s Eve in New York can be hard. This year, forgo any thoughts of Times Square or an overpriced ticketed party and head to Prospect Park for some warm drinks and fireworks. Live music begins at 11pm and you can snag a free cup of hot cocoa at Grand Army Plaza before the fireworks go off at midnight. Happy New Year!