Photo by Ruslan Shugusher / Shutterstock
There is a special magic in the air in New York, as the city transitions from the brisk chill of fall into the full, snow-filled holiday season. Hotels, restaurants and bars all over the city are suddenly decorated with tinsel, garland, stunning Christmas trees, ornaments hanging from ceilings and an array of holiday decor. There are so many different ways to celebrate and experience the holiday magic, from ice skating in Rockefeller center to strolling down Fifth Avenue and taking in the hotel holiday decor. We rounded up a list of our favorite things to do during the Christmas holiday season in New York City!
One of the most ICONIC symbols of the holiday season is the Rockefeller Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center.
Photo by Andrew F. Kazmierski / Shutterstock
ROCK AROUND THE ROCKEFELLER TREE
One of the most ICONIC symbols of the holiday season is the Rockefeller Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center. The sidewalks are crowded with onlookers gazing up to take in the massive tree and its many lights. The tree lighting ceremony, which happened on Dec. 4, 2019, attracts thousands of visitors swarming the surrounding streets. If you plan to attend we highly recommend purchasing the VIP tickets, or tickets to Top of the Rock for a more intimate experience. Without a ticket you may find yourself a fair distance from the full-experience standing for a long period time with no access to food, drinks or restrooms; or, find a great bar or restaurant with a television and join the millions who watch the live broadcast.
Some might say it is the official launch of the Christmas Season, with live performances by top singers and bands, as well as The Rockettes. Don’t worry if you’ve missed the ceremony, the tree is just as magical throughout the entire season, in fact it shines for a full 24 hours on December 25th and can be viewed until the first week of January with the lights lit from 5:30 pm until 11:30 pm each night.
Photo by Taylor Grewe
LACE UP YOUR SKATES
There are a ton of places to ice skate in the city but the most ICONIC is The Rink at Rockefeller Center. The holiday crowds make the wait time a bit longer, but get there about 40 minutes early, grab a coffee from the Ralph’s Coffee stand in line while soaking up the ultimate view of the famous Rockefeller Christmas Tree. Trust us, it will be worth the wait! For the people in your group who don’t want to skate, have them grab a bite to eat or a cocktail at The Sea Grill and watch the action through the large viewing windows. We also recommend checking out the Bryant Park Rink which is larger than Rockefeller Center. Be sure to grab a spiked hot chocolate at The Rinkside Lodge, trust us, you won’t regret it. Other great rinks include Wollman Rink in Central Park and Sky Rink at Chelsea Piers.
WINTER VILLAGE AT BRYANT PARK
Looking for the perfect place to snag a unique holiday gift, or maybe you’re just in the mood to peruse? Head over to The Winter Village in Bryant Park. There are tons of vendors from all over the world and city who have curated unique items that you just can’t get anywhere else. The market opens Oct. 31, 2019 and runs through Jan. 5, 2020.
Photo by Manu Padilla / Shutterstock
SHOPPING ON FIFTH AVENUE
Whether you take out your wallet or not, taking a stroll down Fifth Avenue is a sight to see! Every window and store front is elaborately decorated as if there is a secret holiday decor competition happening amongst the stores. A few of our favorites include the Saks Fifth Avenue stunning light show, Cartier wrapped in a big red bow, and of course, the famous Bergdorf Goodman holiday windows.
HOLIDAY HOTEL TOUR
No matter where you are staying, don’t miss the iconic hotels with must-see holiday decor. Why not map out your very own Holiday Hotel Tour? Be sure to hit our favorites: The Plaza Hotel, The Essex House, The Lotte Palace and of course, The St. Regis New York. Why not go a step further and enjoy a magical experience that is only magnified by the holiday decor, afternoon tea at Palm Court at The Plaza Hotel.
Palm Court at The Plaza Hotel
The Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular is absolutely ICONIC.
Radio City Music Hall
You can’t make a list of holiday activities in the city without including The Rockettes! The Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular is absolutely ICONIC. The show runs from Nov. 8, 2019 through Jan. 5, 2020 so there are plenty of dates to choose from.
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Photo by S. Borisov / Shutterstock
Whether you’re visiting the city or are a New York City local, we highly recommend taking a Classic Harbor Line cruise. Cruise around New York Harbor and fall in love with the city views while you fill your belly with delicious food and cocktails on an old-world-style yacht. There are a number of holiday-themed cruises including Cocoa and Carols, Holiday Brunch, Holiday Jazz and Holiday Wine Tasting. We are a big fan of the Holiday Brunch, the perfect activity while visiting with your family or a festive get-together with friends.
Rolf's - Photo by Taylor Grewe
Escape the cold and cozy up with a cocktail at one of the many holiday-decorated bars! At the top of every list is Rolf’s in Gramercy Park—it’s truly a magical experience transporting you to what we imagine a bar might look like up at the North Pole. Cross your fingers that you get lucky and arrive as soon as a table opens up, otherwise it could be a bit of a wait. Snap some pictures and hang tight, the experience is worth the wait. For the more impatient people in your group, send them across the street to the Gramercy Ale House, which is much less crowded. A few other must-see spots include Miracle on 9th Street in the East Village, where you can sip cocktails with a seasonal twist out of vintage Santa mugs, and 230 Fifth Rooftop, which attracts a crowd all year long, but is especially magical during the holidays with its heated igloos, where you can sip on a boozy almond joy hot chocolate while enjoying sweeping views of the city.