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  • Writer's pictureAmy Leggett

Plan a Great Visit to New York City During the Holidays

I am lucky enough to live a short distance from New York City so I like to plan a visit every Christmas to take in the sights and sounds of the City during the holidays. Even if you don't live close enough to make an annual trip, you should make plans to visit NYC at least once during the holiday season. If you come, be sure to bring a large dose of patience, warm clothes and comfortable walking shoes because there will be lots of people, probably cold weather and you will be logging a lot of steps as you make your way around the City. BUT you will also have an experience you will never forget and you will leave with the perfect gifts from the holiday markets. You will also be full of holiday cheer to carry you through the season!

Best Places to Check Out Decorations Around New York City

  • Rockefeller Center: Of course the decorations at Rockefeller Center are the most iconic image of Christmas in New York City. The Rockefeller Christmas Tree stays lit 24 hours a day and towers over the ice skating rink in Rockefeller Center. Ice skating at the Rockefeller rink is a quintessential NYC winter experience. You need to buy a ticket to reserve a time for your ice skating. You can buy tickets here. The Channel Gardens, lined with 12 iconic Clarebout angels, are also located in the Rockefeller Plaza and lead directly to the Tree or directly to the Saks Fifth Avenue light display if you look the other way.

  • Department Store Windows and Interior Decorations: Be sure to check out the holiday displays of the many retailers around the City, particularly along 5th Avenue and around Herald Square. The big retailers like Saks Fifth Avenue (which is on Fifth Avenue right across the street from Rockefeller Center), Bloomingdales and Macys at Herald Square are particularlly known for their extravagant decorations and window displays. The window displays are usually centered around a particular story or theme. The pictures I have included in this blog are from a 2019 visit. Every year the window displays are different so it is fun to visit every year and see what designs they have come up with for the season. Here is a link to a Time Out article highlighting the best window displays of 2023. In addition to the window display at Saks Fifth Avenue, they have a classic exterior light show that starts at sundown and lasts for about 5 minutes. It replays every 10-15 minutes after dark.

  • Larger Than Life Decorations Around the City: Placed all around the City are larger than life decorations perfect for that holiday Instagram pic. The large string of Christmas lights shown in the picture at the start of this blog are located at Rockefeller Center. There are also the iconic large red Christmas ornaments that are one of the most photographed holiday decorations in NYC. They are located on Sixth Avenue right across from the Radio City Music Hall. The fountain outside of the Plaza Hotel also has some beautiful decorations for that perfect holiday photo. There are so many places with amazing decorations for taking that Instaworthy photo around the City. Just keep your eyes open and you will find them around every corner.

  • Hudson Yards Mall: The Shops and Restaurants at Hudson Yards is an indoor mall that is stunningly decorated for the holidays in thousands of white lights. It is breathtaking when you enter through the doors. It is the perfect place to go when the weather isn't great because it is an indoor mall with lots of great shopping and dining choices. You can also find several other things to do besides shopping and dining like going to the Edge and taking in a 360 degree panoramic view of the City by standing on a clear glass platform that is 100 floors up. The Vessel, an iconic NY art installation is also located in Hudson Yards right next to the mall so you can see that as well.

Best Holiday Experiences to Have in New York City

  • The Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes. The Christmas Show at Radio City Music Hall is a Christmas tradition that has stood the test of time. We took our daughters when they were younger and it was quite the spectacle. It lived up to all of the hype and I highly recommend going at least once if you find yourself in NYC at Christmastime. You can grab some pre-show photos at the Red Ball Ornament display mentioned above or a Large Candy Cane display that is right across the street from Radio City Music Hall.

  • Christmas Markets at Union Square and Bryant Park. If you are looking for a unique gift for that hard to buy for person on your list, I recommend going to the holiday markets in NYC. The two biggest markets are the Urbanspace Union Square Holiday Market and the Bryant Park Winter Village. Each market has hundreds of vendors in outdoor booths selling crafts, art, home accessories, clothing and other unique items. Each market also has a number of vendors selling food and snacks to give you energy to keep shopping. We went to both markets and there are a lot of the same vendors at both. The Bryant Park Winter Village is a little bigger and also has ice skating and a bar. Either one provides a great venue for finding unique gifts, grabbing a bite to eat and getting in the holiday spirit!

  • Oscar Wilde NYC. If you are not feeling the Christmas spirit, the first place you need to stop is Oscar Wilde NYC on West 27th Street in the NoMad District of New York. If you can't get in a festive mood after visiting the extensively decorated Christmas bar, we will just call you Scrooge! This bar is so unique it is a great spot to stop even when its not decked out with Christmas decor. Interestingly, the Victorian styled space was home to the Prohibition Enforcement Headquarters in 1919 and it was subsequently discovered that the phone lines of the Headquarters had been tapped for months (allegedly by the Mob!). After Prohibiton ended the space was inhabited by a number of different businesses until it was finally turned into the unique Oscar Wilde NYC. The bar has a large art and object collection that is displayed all around the space. It also boasts the longest bar in NYC at 118.5 feet. When Christmas comes around, this already unique space is transformed into a Christmas wonderland. They have a food menu, a specialty cocktail menu, and a selection of reserve whiskey/mezcal/tequila. There is also a live DJ spinning Christmas music and throwback dance tunes to keep the festive energy high. It is a must see if you are in the City over Christmas. Apparently they also go all out with their Halloween decor so keep them in mind if you are visiting the City in October! It is a popular spot, so make a reservation to be sure you can get in.

  • Craft and Carry (Several Locations). After a full day of holiday activities, you may be looking for something a little more low-key. Craft and Carry has several locations throughout New York City. They are a tap room with the best local, hyperlocal and independent craft beers, hard seltzers and ciders on tap. They also offer bottles and cans so you can "carry" the craft beers and ciders out to your home or function. Between the taps and the bottles there are over 300+ options! In addition to the selection of beverages and the comfy, cozy atmosphere, each Craft and Carry location offers free skee ball for your entertainment. Check out their website here to see what's on tap and find the location closest to you!

Obviously there are hundreds of things to do in New York City over the holidays. The suggestions in this blog are just a few to get you started. If you find something new on your holiday visit, please let me know in the comments so I can add it to my to-do list for next Christmas! Happy Holidays!


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