These Are the Best Things to do on your New York Christmas Itinerary
The Big Apple. A name synonymous with executive, prestige, and Christmas. New York City is a hub for some of the most exciting experiences, breathtaking sites, and food that will totally challenge your grandmother’s age-old recipes. Christmastime in New York is indeed a famous staple. We flock to the populated island of 5 boroughs to celebrate the season in style with some of the most spectacular displays of Christmas joy, spirit, and of course retail dynasty. Now that you have booked your trip, what to do? Tons my friends, but to break down the list of the good from the naughty, here is Santa’s list of 15 amazing things to do on your New York Christmas itinerary.
A New York Christmas Itinerary Done Right
The Rockefeller Christmas Tree
So I proudly demonstrated my utter delight to see the Rockefeller Christmas tree in person for the first time in my whole life. A bucket list must, the Rockefeller Christmas tree is a staple in Christmas symbols and landmarks, and if you are heading to NYC during the season needs to be included in your Christmas itinerary. When Brazilian classes go to Walt Disney World for the first time, they have an iconic and memorable moment of seeing the castle being revealed to them for the first time. This is what happened to me with the tree. You see it in movies, you see it on television, you hear about the majesty of the boughs and how romantic it is to skate beneath it. But until it is in front of you, you have no concept of its incredible features. To see the tree, head down 5th Avenue and take the foot path. Tour buses will not stop in front of it due to regulations and you cannot drive up close. One of the best spots to see it is across the street as you marvel at the Saks 5th Avenue windows.
So, one of my absolute favourite Christmas movies is Miracle on 34th Street. Edmund Gwen plays a misunderstood man named Kris Kringle who must prove he is the real Santa Claus. Add the beautiful lassie Maureen O’Hara, child star Natalie Wood, and the gorgeous John Payne, (and a bonus appearance by the lovable Fred Mertz actor William Frawley,) and you have a timeless classic. The tale centres around the largest department store in New York, if not the entire USA – Macy’s. The department store with almost everything you could want, Macy’s holds the annual Thanksgiving parade that welcomes Santa Claus to the city for the season. And to this day, Macy’s continues to hold this parade and stand tall with its Christmas themed windows, merchandise, Santa Land for children to meet jolly ole St Nicholas, and nostalgic nod to the film that contributed to making them a household name.
So besides shopping at this iconic department store, make sure you head to visit Santa Claus. Even adults should be enchanted by the jolly elf symbol of joy asking for the intangibles (or perhaps a lotto win!) while sitting upon his lap. One of the best things about meeting Santa at Macy’s is the North Pole setting. With a mandate for Macy’s customers to believe, it really is no surprise to be surrounded by whimsical characters, and letters of hope from children around the world. Get your photo taken with Kris Kringle and then head to the gift shop to choose what [expensive] package you would like.
Pro-tip: You MUST make reservations to meet Santa! He schedule is so busy, that he had to request this process.
The Christmas Windows
So, you cannot possibly venture to NYC without taking in the incredible Christmas windows on 5th Avenue and beyond. Each year presenting a new theme, the Christmas windows here set the stage for everywhere else. Nobody does windows like New York. The seasoned Londoner could argue that Selfridges and John Lewis are stiff competition, but after seeing both, I still lean toward NYC for the upper hand. These are photos of last year’s incredible jaw-dropping displays. But every year, they are spectacular.
The Radio City Christmas Spectacular
I have always loved the Rockettes. I could never ever have been a Rockette with my two left feet and inability to look sexy in heels, but the Rockettes to me were the ultimate epitome of talent, dedication, and precision. These women who train day in and day out, rarely show a flaw in their seamless performances, that demonstrate the beauty and difficulty of staying in unison. Every year the Rockettes present their Christmas Spectacular performance to New Yorkers and visitors. It is a musical mix of their dance routines, a touch of the Nutcracker, Santa and Mrs. Claus and their many shenanigans as they prepare for the big day, and a live nativity bringing the adorable and sacred lamb, donkey, and camel onto the stage. The show runs for the duration of the season with pricing ranging depending on where you sit. The gift shop is also a must here – they have so many options including a limited edition Pandora charm just waiting for you.
The hotel of all hotels, the Plaza has been the central spot for many films. In particular, the Plaza Hotel was the setting for one of my favourites – Home Alone 2, Lost in New York. I headed here and shockingly was there for the 25th anniversary. This Christmas classic has been around for 25 YEARS!
Besides being the home of this classic, the Plaza is a beautiful upscale spot across from Central Park that brings a taste of luxury to guests. With only a fraction of the building now open to the public (the rest are residences), you can say that it is a pretty penny to score accommodations. While here, check out the food market on the lower level and enjoy some truly delightful fare. We particularly loved the florist on site. What a nice extra for guests to take some beautiful blooms away for loved ones. The florist struck such a chord with us, that hubby bought me a Christmas corsage for the occasion!
So John Cusack is a fave. I like his delivery on the screen and he is not the typical leading man to nab all the beautiful women….except Kate Beckinsale and Bridget Moynahan it seems… Serendipity is a great film. I love the concept of fate and destiny, as well as the fact that it stemmed from this adorable restaurant right in the heart of NYC. Serendipity is a lovely eatery that is famous not only thanks to the movie, but also for its deliciously large and indulgent frozen hot chocolate. It’s a great treat year-round, but particularly lovely on your New York Christmas itinerary. If you are lucky, perhaps request to sit at the upstairs fireplace. This is the exact spot where John and Kate enjoyed their frozen hot chocolates together.
Feeling like a little extra? Well, Serendipity has a $1000 ice sundae complete with gold leaf and other rare ingredients. If you feel like splurging on such a frozen concoction, you need to order at least 48 hours in advance. Whoa!!
Pro-tip: Be sure to make reservations! This place is so popular thanks to the film and the fact that they sell over 700 frozen hot chocolate ALONE each day….
So Manhattan isn’t the only New York borough that goes all out for the holidays….Brooklyn too has its own spectacle worth the crossing of the bridge. Dyker Heights – a small neighourhood comprised of 3 -ish streets takes the art of outdoor lights to a new level. Clark Griswald MOVE OVER.
Visiting NYC, can be overwhelming with 5 boroughs to explore – Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, and Long Island. The times I have travelled here I have stayed only in Manhattan to enjoy being in the centre of it all. The thought of trying to get to Brooklyn in the dark on my own wasn’t my cuppa tea. To solve this angst and avoid venturing in unfamiliar territory, I decided to book the Dyker Heights Christmas Lights tour so that all these logistics were taken care of. Plus, on top of a safe commute to the hot spot, you get background commentary, meet new people, and enjoy hot chocolate at the end of the experience. We booked this experience here. The price is reasonable and includes time to explore the streets with a convenient drop-off in the Theatre district at the end.
Central Park is the largest natural grounds in the world. Yep, I think it spans further than beloved Hyde Park across the pond. With vast forest, woodland animals, and a variety of landmarks within the grounds, Central Park has become poignant staple in the city. With this preceded reputation, you can only imagine how movie crews have jumped on the opportunity to use the lush backdrop for their blockbuster films and the city has incorporated seasonal offerings. If you roam through the grounds, you will be surrounded by filming locations of such films as Elf, Scrooged, and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. If you wish to walk at your own pace to discover the park’s gems, check out the Alice in Wonderland statue, Strawberry Fields- the tribute to John Lennon, and the boathouse restaurant for a hot toddy.
Synonymous with the holidays is ballet. And story that brings the musical brilliance of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky to the table is the Nutcracker. The timeless score brings families together for an evening of dance, enchantment, and spirit, not to mention, the aspirations of young girls every year to begin a stint learning the prestigious, though physically demanding skill.
Book tickets to the Nutcracker while in the city and witness the Christmas classic from such a memorable venue. Enjoy orchestral music combined with the talents of the dancers bringing the story we all know and love to life.
Christmas movie locations tour
On Location Tours embraced the popularity of Christmas movies filmed in the heart of the Big Apple by creating a special tour for Christmas [nerds] enthusiasts to feed their love of the season as they remember these hot spots through movie clips, photo opportunities, and trivia for candy canes. And, as a bonus, they included stops and photo opportunities at the gorgeous world famous Christmas windows throughout the city.
So my wedding theme was Breakfast at Tiffany’s. My wedding song was Moon River performed by Andy Williams, and I just love this store. Well, if you love Tiffany’s, the prestige of the shop, or just like window shopping through a sea of blue beautifully tied up boxes, than you will want to give their new cafe a try. Now, I was unfortunately unable to nab a reservation when I was there thanks to its crazy popularity during its grand opening and insane reservation process, but the hype has subsided slightly to make it easier to experience and add to your New York Christmas itinerary. Head to the 5th Avenue flagship store and enjoy a coffee, a treat, and a nice browse of the diamonds.
This beloved sculpture that was first on a Christmas card at the Museum of Modern Art, has been embraced by the world in the last few decades. Since then there have been versions created worldwide in various cities and native languages. Nowadays, while in Manhattan, you simply cannot pass it and not take a memorable photograph.
So not only is Time’s Square the centre stage for the New Year’s Eve ball drop and celebration, but it is also a hub of constant happenings in the city. Read the billboards, shop in the flagship store locations of some of your favourite brands, and take a photo just like the soldier returning from war.
Ice skating in Central Park
So not only should you explore the park and all its landmarks and beautiful forestry, but you should also take some time for a romantic and leisurely skate! Skating and Christmas are a great pair. It is the most popular time of the year at the rink. Many flock to Rockefeller Centre and skate beneath the iconic Christmas tree. Don’t get me wrong, the rink at Rockefeller is famous, it is fun, and it is a beautiful setting…but the price point is anything but beautiful. The Central Park rink is a more economical experience and is also famous in the movies. After reading, grab your copy of Serendipity and watch as Kate Beckinsale and John Cusack do laps under the night sky. Don’t have skates? No problem! You can rent them here for a nominal fee. All sizes are available as well as refreshments and sharpening.
Rolf’s German Restaurant
A Christmas staple, Rolf’s German Restaurant goes all out each year with their incredible decorations. Pop in for a meal, a drink, or even just a gaze at the over-the-top, yet gorgeous display of Christmas spirit.
So there you have the 15 top things to do on your New York Christmas itinerary. How many would you do? Having done them all, none is more special than the other. I do admit to the water works streaming down my cheeks at the first sight of the Rockefeller Christmas tree, but all the experiences could have this affect on you.
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