If you haven’t been to New York City during the holidays, I have to say, you are majorly missing out. Outside of visiting the European Christmas Markets, New York City is one of my favorite places to visit during the holidays. The regular hustle and bustle that the city thrives on is taken to an entirely different level during the holiday season and it is sure to boost you into holiday spirit overdrive.
I have been lucky enough to visit NYC during the holidays many, many times and I always try and drag people I love with along with me. I have been multiple times with friends and twice with Trey. This last time I went with Trey was to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade which you can read about here. It was truly an unforgettable experience.
If you have been wanting to visit NYC during the holidays, I hope you will go ahead and plan for a trip this year or maybe the following year. If you are a little on the fence, I am going to give you 5 reasons to visit NYC during the holidays and hopefully I will push you to plan the trip!
If you watch any holiday movie filmed in NYC, you will most definitely see Rockefeller Center and the magnificent tree and ice skating rink lit up in all of its glory. The word “magical” is often used to describe NYC during the holidays and this spot is full proof that it is definitely a magical place to visit. The tree is so fantastic that they even have a massive tree lighting ceremony for you and the rest of the country to see. The tree usually arrives in early November, but the tree lighting does not usually happen until after Thanksgiving. This year the tree lighting ceremony took place on December 4th and thousands of people came to the area and it was watched by millions on televisions across the country. The tree lighting is free and open to the public every year, but it is a first come, first serve basis and people camp out very early to get a spot! IF you want to go to the tree lighting, make sure to get there early in the day and reserve your place. After the holidays, the tree is removed and turned into lumber and it is donated to Habitat for Humanity to build homes. So great, right?
If you have time, you must go ice skating at Rockefeller Center. I have ice skated here about 7 times and not one time did I regret taking the time to do so. It is a NYC staple item to check off your list if you are visiting during the holidays. If you’re thinking it will be too crowded, please do not let that scare you away. They are very strict about the amount of people they allow onto the rink – only 150 at a time, so you won’t feel cramped. To get tickets, you can walk right up and enter through general admission or you can reserve your spot online before you go. I have done both of these options and while I did not have problems with general admission, I would highly suggest making a reservation in advance if you are able to in order to make it a smooth visit. I have heard some people waiting for over an hour to skate with general admission. There are several types of reservations they offer as well as other options paired with food, skating lessons, the Rockettes, and Santa, and you can find them here. If you do plan on ice skating, it may be a good option to pair it with tickets to the Rockettes. This show is a classic NYC thing to do during the holidays as well and I highly recommend it. Make sure to grab your tickets in advance as they tend to sell out!
If you are going to be in this area for a few hours, you can take a trip up 70 floors to the Top of the Rock for incredible 360 degree views of the city and Central Park. One thing I like about visiting this observation deck is you get a view of the city with the Empire State Building in the background as well. As much as I love the top of the Empire State Building, I like this view, too! They also have indoor viewing for those who get too cold this time of year! Tickets are $38 for adults and $32 for children.
If you are not with kids and you want to wrap this visit up with a romantic meal and drinks with a view, you can visit Bar SixtyFive at the Rainbow Room. These views will blow you away and it is definitely a romantic place to take in with your loved one. However, one thing to warn you about… if you want to sit outside, they have a $85 minimum per person requirement due to the limited space outdoors. The demand is high, so be sure to make a reservation if you want to go!
Lastly, make sure to tag your photos with #rockcenter for chances to be featured.
The Bryant Park Winter Village is actually one of my favorite spots during the holidays. It has everything you need to get you in the holiday spirit. Make sure to check out these three areas!
Bryant Park has a massive ice skating rink (17,000 sq. ft.) right in front of the Library on the back side. The best part – it is FREE!!! Now, if you are not a NYC resident, then you likely did not travel with skates so it is not going to be free for you. But, have no fear, they have skate rentals for you as well. The rental pricing varies depending on when you go, but they range anywhere from $18 to $33. They also just recently introduced bumper cars on the ice too which can be so much fun especially if you do not want to ice skate! Lastly, they also have an option to propose to someone on the rink (for a cost, of course). Trey and I witnessed one while we were there. I had no idea what was going on, but I was wondering how they got on the rink by themselves! But, it was super cute and they got a very loud roar of applause when she said yes.
The Lodge and Overlook
The Lodge and Overlook – right next to the rink is The Lodge, which is a cool space to have drinks and eat. There are usually several eateries to choose from, so you are sure to find something you like. It also looks like a giant modern igloo, in my opinion. Up on the 2nd floor is a cool observation deck where you can go sit, play games, or just observe for free. During our first trip together, Trey and I took a picture before heading into the Lodge and this last time we tried to recreate it. See below! I needed a hat!
The Holiday Shops
This is probably my favorite part about the Winter Village. The entire area of Bryant Park is surrounded by these boutique-type shops and eateries as well. These shops are open air and are inspired by the European markets, which you know I love. This is a great place to purchase gifts and ornaments or just take time to browse around. Two of my favorite ornaments that are currently hanging on my Christmas tree were purchased in this Holiday Village! I also have several t-shirts, scarves, hats, and gloves purchased in these shops over the years.
Department Stores and Windows
During the holidays, the bigger (and yes some smaller) stores go all out in the holiday decorations. The most talked about holiday decor are the holiday windows, especially the ones on 5th Avenue! I know what some of you are thinking, “ok, what is so special about the windows?” and I can promise you I had the same thoughts years ago. Well, these big department stores do not just decorate the windows with trees and lights, they are filled with beautiful themed decorations and even fully automated, electronic, and animated displays. Years ago Macy’s had a massive globe spinning with a Santa and his sleigh flying around it in one of their windows. It was incredible and I will always remember that one. Saks recently had an entire theme based around Snow White and it was incredibly impressive. Bergdorf Goodman usually blows my mind with the way they decorate around the most lavish gowns and accessories I have ever seen. You could spend hours on 5th avenue alone. A quick google search will let you know the best ones to see and when to see them every single year. My suggestion is to start at 5th Avenue and Central Park and work your way south on 5th Avenue. This will take you right past all the big ones and right past Rockefeller Center.
City Holiday Spirit
In addition to the beautifully decorated windows and the main attraction spots previously mentioned, the entire city seems to have an extra buzz, extra energy, and extra sparkle. So many stores, restaurants, bars, and hotels are fully decked out in holiday decor. If you know me, you know I love NYC no matter the time of year, but the holidays are pure magic in NYC. If you are looking to get away even for a quick weekend trip, NYC is the place!
If you do decide to take the trip, let me know how it goes and tag me in your pictures and stories so I can see all your adventures!
Happy Holiday Travels!