New York City is enchanting year round, though the city that never sleeps never quite lights up as it does around the holidays. Winter brings to the city a number of purely magical attractions and sights. I encourage you to use this ultimate guide to lead you around the city during the holiday season to help you check all winter-time NYC bucket list boxes. Let’s begin!
A COUNTDOWN TO THE BEST HOLIDAY TREE IN THE CITY
What better way to begin your holiday tour of the city than to make a point to visit some of New York’s most infamous Christmas trees?
All opinions are, as always, my own.
10. Park Avenue Trees – Park Ave from 97th to 48th St.
9. Cathedral of St. John the Divine Peace Tree – 110th St. & Amsterdam Ave
8. The Met Christmas Tree – 1000 5th Ave at 82nd St.
7. Chorus Tree at South Street Seaport – South St. & Fulton
6. American Museum of Natural History Origami Tree – Central Park West at 79th
5. Lincoln Square Christmas Tree – 63rd & Broadway
4. The Plaza Holiday Tree – 5th Ave at Central Park South
3. Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree – Rockefeller Plaza, at 50th St. & 6th Ave
2. NYSE Christmas Tree – Broad St. between Wall St. & Exchange Place, in front of the New York Stock Exchange
1. Bryant Park Holiday Tree – 5th-6th Ave between 40th & 42nd St.
FIND THE PERFECT GIFT THIS HOLIDAY SEASON
You’ve got the tree, now it’s time to get some presents underneath! Use this holiday shopping list as your key to not leaving the city without the perfect gift, uniquely tailored to each of your loved ones.
1. The Holiday Shops at Bryant Park – 5th-6th Ave between 40th & 42nd St.
With a unique combination of pop up vendors from some of the best artisans and shopkeepers around the city, this outdoor shopping experience is guaranteed not to disappoint. But, let this be your warning that depending on which time you choose to visit, you may experience extreme holiday crowds. It’s all part of the experience!
2. Union Square Holiday Market – 14th St & Union Square West
As my favorite place in the city, I always take a particular liking to the holiday market held in Union Square. I never leave without a new prized possession, so try to remember the importance of treating yourself while shopping for the perfect gifts for everyone else.
3. The Grand Central Holiday Fair – 89 E. 42nd Street at Park Avenue
Make Grand Central Terminal your one-stop-shop this holiday season as you enjoy a warm and cozy shopping experience held inside one of New York’s most impressive displays of architecture and design.
4. Holiday Market at Columbus Circle – Columbus Circle & 59th Street
Located at one of the entrances to Central Park, this world-renowned holiday market is sure to dazzle you with glittering aisles filled with trinkets you could only dream of.
5. Strand Bookstore – 828 Broadway
New York’s legendary home of 18 miles of unique reads, Strand (individual post coming soon) is always my top choice to find the perfect gift for even the pickiest of friends and family. It’d be impossible to leave without finding a book tailored to each personality you’re shopping for and maybe a new novel or two for yourself!
THE BEST ACTIVITIES TO DO/THE BEST ATTRACTIONS TO SEE IN NYC DURING THE HOLIDAY SEASON
Specifics aside, there are a number of quintessential New York winter experiences that simply cannot be overlooked.
1. See the Rockefeller Tree – Rockefeller Plaza, at 50th St. & 6th Ave
We’ve all watched Home Alone 2: Lost in New York and Elf enough times to be familiar with the iconic Rockefeller Christmas tree. Step into the shoes of your favorite holiday movie star as you experience the monumental magic of this sparkling giant for yourself.
2. Go Ice Skating in Bryant Park – Between 40th & 42nd St. and 5th & 6th Avenues
With free admission, another obligatory NYC holiday experience is of course the highly romanticized ice skating in Bryant Park (or Rockefeller Center). However, beware of the heavy crowds if you, like me, are not the most sure-footed athlete on the ice and be prepared to pay for skate rentals and locks.
3. Holiday Shop in Bryant Park – Between 40th & 42nd St. and 5th & 6th Avenues
Take a break from the ice to stroll through the aforementioned winter village at Bryant Park, featuring more than 125 shops located throughout the idyllic, tree-lined walking paths.
4. Go Window Shopping on Fifth Avenue – 5th Ave between 39th & 6oth St.
Step into the winter wonderland of your childhood dreams as you pass the luxuriously decorated stores of the likes of Saks, Lord & Taylor, Tiffany, and Bergdorf Goodman.
5. See the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall – 6th Ave & 50th St
Nothing screams holidays quite like 36 synchronized dancers performing those legendary high kicks! A fixture since 1933, attending the annual holiday stage show is an experience that only takes one viewing to be made unforgettable.
6. See the Decorations on Sixth Avenue – 6th Ave between 34th & 59th St.
Treat your eyes to an early Christmas gift by checking out the holiday decor along the infamous Avenue of the Americas. From festive, oversize tree ornaments, to jumbo colored lights, you’ll feel aesthetic pleasure to last all season long.
7. Visit the Empire State Building – 5th Ave at 34th St.
In a city like New York, it is ever so important to just. look. up. Hidden among many other architectural giants, this skyscraper will be decorated in festive holiday colors of red and green, lighting up all the way at the top. And, while you’re here, you may as well walk along 34th to the iconic Macy’s in Herald Square.
8. Shop at Chelsea Market – 75th 9th Ave at 15th St
This 6,000 square foot indoor market has something for absolutely everyone. From a smorgasbord of delicious and diverse food options to a variety of shopping opportunities, this market just might become one of your favorite NYC destinations, especially during the holiday season!
9. See the Ballet at Lincoln Center – 10 Lincoln Center Plaza
If you’re searching for that dazzling moment this holiday season, look no further than George Balanchines’ take on Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker.” You’ll walk out with that sugar plum fairy dancing in your head and maybe even a nutcracker ornament from the gift shop.
10. Experience the Botanical Garden Holiday Train Show – 2900 Southern Blvd. in the Bronx
Watch model trains zip through a miniaturized, enchanting New York City, zooming past landmarks like the Brooklyn Bridge, Statue of Liberty, and Rockefeller Center.
I hope everyone is having a great holiday season thus far and that this ultimate guide to NYC during the holidays is a stepping stone for those wishing to discover the hidden magic sprinkled on every street corner here.
Thank you to the management at Bradford Travel Service for partnering with me on this post.