New York City is a place of discovery and history, industry and entertainment. As the single most populated and popular city in the entire nation, New York gets a lot of attention throughout the year. However, the city utterly transforms during the holiday season into a veritable wonderland of Christmas cheer. Below are the top five things to see, and multiple places to see them, in New York City during Christmastime!
What could be more a more obvious herald to Christmastime than Santa Claus? Whether or not you started off your holiday season by seeing Santa in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, you're bound to see him around NYC. Macy's continues its holiday fun with its magnificent Santaland, a 13,000 square foot wonderland of holiday cheer complete with talking reindeer and an animatronic living tree. Running from November 27 through Christmas Eve, Santaland is a fantastically popular destination for all ages though if you don't want to wait in line for hours, you might want to come on a weekday morning.
New York City is known for its theater, both on Broadway and off. During the holidays, however, it steps it up a notch with all of the holiday classics, some revamped favorites, and shows that people grow up seeing over generations. Some of the most popular classics include the Rockettes Radio City Christmas Spectacular which has been a staple in the city since 1933, as well as George Balanchine's The Nutcracker, playing at Lincoln Center until January 3. Catch a theater production of A Christmas Carol, see a screening of Elf or A Christmas Story at Madison Square Garden or another venue around the city. If you enjoy opera, symphonies, and classical music in general, get tickets to the performances at Carnegie Hall and see Handel's Messiah and others. What's for certain, though, is that shows are not few and far between so you're bound to find something everyone in your group wants to see.
Regardless if you've already bought all of your Christmas presents, shopping in New York is magical. You can, of course, go down the expensive and sophisticated shops of Fifth Avenue but you're bound to love the shops of Bryant Park's Winter Village or the Union Square Holiday Market. Bryant Park goes all out with encased glass booths, surrounded by the scenic fallen snow, cheerful twinkling lights and full of happy shoppers. Here you can find everything from high end apparel to Bavarian sweet treats, eco-friendly accessories, and much more. Union Square, on the other hand, is an outdoor extravaganza of artisan crafted goods, festive booths lined with holly and garland, and shops selling a plethora of gifts. You can always hit the department stores and malls but holiday shopping in NYC is best done in the markets full of holiday spirit.
There's nothing like walking down Sixth Avenue and seeing the gigantic decorations or seeing the absolutely massive tree at Rockefeller Center. This isn't the end of decor and spirit, though. New York's Empire State Building lights up with Christmas colors during the season and Fifth Avenue shows off its creativity with brilliant window displays, drawing in even more tourists than usual. If you're in New York for Christmas, you should definitely visit Rockefeller Center which doesn't hold back in the least. See everything you can but if you want to ice skate, there are cheaper places than Rockefeller Center. Try Wollman Rink or even Bryant Park which is free except for ice skate rentals. Finally, see the spirited display of the Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden as it twists and turns around favorite New York landmarks in full holiday decor.
One thing is for certain, everyone loves to eat during the holidays. New York is wonderfully equipped with a massive number of restaurants, bakeries, bistros, and bars with every kind of food imaginable. But during the holidays, sometimes you just want to let loose and eat unhealthy but scrumptious foods. When you're out in the cold, head for some of the best hot chocolate in the city at spots like Serendipity 3, Eataly, the City Bakery, or Francois Payard Bakery where the velvety beverage is housemade and topped with freshly whipped cream. Explore the city's bakeries for holiday cookies and cakes like those at Amy's Bread (try the gingerbread!) or grab a candy cane ice cream cone at Ample Hills Creamery.