5 Great Things to Do in NYC at Christmas

This weekend I checked off a maaaaaaaaajor item off my bucket list: experiencing New York City during the holidays. I say it all the time, but never in my life did I ever imagine the day I’d actually set foot in New York City, let alone during the holidays. Growing up this was something I saw in movies and television, not something I thought I’d ever live out.

So it was my crazy bucket list dream and our need to celebrate (James just graduated his advanced submarine training school and his brother’s birthday is coming up), we took a last minute trip to NYC!

To prepare for our visit, I read a number of blog posts and articles for tips. As true with any season, wear comfortable shoes. You will walk a lot, and unless you plan to take cabs everywhere, you have to sacrifice your style for comfort. Pack a wristlet purse, versus a heavy tote or satchel bag (trust me, your shoulders will thank you later!). Make sure you dress in layers, and be prepared for breezy, cold temperatures outside and hot temperatures inside stores and subway stops.  Extra tip – make sure you have cash for the holiday markets and ice skating rinks.

When it comes to experiencing New York City during the holidays, here are five great ideas:


Visit Rockefeller Center.




This is a no brainer, but you cannot skip it. Visit Rockefeller Center to see the infamous Christmas Tree and ice skating rink. On a Friday night the streets were packed, but we managed to get around just fine. It was raining, so we sadly skipped ice skating. But don’t miss the magical Saks Fifth Avenue light show, and the surrounding window displays. We also poked around inside the brand new FAO Schwarz HQ at 30 Rock. The toy store is massive as it is magical, with multiple levels of experiences for children including designing their own remote-control cars to adopting baby dolls. Crowds line the staircases to get to the very top floor – the crème de la crème – the floor piano from 1988’s Big. The piano is embedded into the floor and the ceiling above it, and open for the public to try it out.


Go to the Rockettes show.


The Radio City Rockettes Christmas Spectacular is a New York City legend. Unfortunately we planned our trip last minute and just couldn’t squeeze this into our schedule. But knowing multiple friends and family who swear by it, I’ll take their word for it! Friday night we saw the line wrap around the block, so plan to arrive early!


Eat at a festive restaurant.


After reading mixed reviews (and crazy waiting lines), we skipped the infamous Rolf’s. I was pleasantly surprised that most bars and restaurants in the city cater to the holiday season (and let’s be honest – our dire need for Instagrammable decorations). Over the weekend we had a great time at Rue 57the Perfect Pint, Coco & CruSan Matteoand Two Little Red Hens.  Each restaurant was decorated in its own way, but perhaps not as elaborate at Rolf’s (pictured above). If you need more restaurant inspiration, check out Eater NYC.


Shop at an outdoor holiday market.


Obviously New York City is known for its holiday shopping. We decided to skip the department stores and explore the outdoor markets. You have two great options: Bryant Park Holiday Shops and the Union Square Holiday Market. Of the two, it was no question we favored Union Square. Bryant Park was definitely the tourist trap, with crowds so big we could hardly take a step without bumping into someone, let alone step out of line and hop into a shop. Union Square was a bit more eclectic with room to breathe. The scene felt like a farmers market turned holiday bazaar, with hundreds of pop-up shops with gifts created by local craftsmen and artists. After you wind the aisles of the shops, you emerge into the traditional year-round farmers market.


Visit some museums.

I say this only because if you visit this time of year, you’ll likely get hit with rain. Since we moved to the East Coast we’ve visited New York City on two occasions. Both trips we visited on stormy, rainy weekends that did not bode well for being outside. Lucky for us, the city is nothing short of stunning museums and galleries.  This trip we ventured to Theodore Roosevelt’s Birthplace (you guessed it – so James could get his National Historic Site stamp), and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  James nerded out over the arms and armor collection, me with the Monet exhibit. Next trip we hope to finally visit the National 9/11 Museum and Memorial. If you ever plan to visit New York City, always have a back-up plan in case the weather turns on you.


Well, that was our weekend in NYC! Have you visited during the holidays? I’d love to know your favorite places and things to do. Comment below!


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