It’s Christmas time in the city! I love New York City any time of year, but absolutely nothing beats Christmas time. There are trees on every corner, twinkling lights all around and the most beautiful Christmas displays in shop windows. It’s such a magical time!
Since my sister lives there, we usually visit New York several times throughout the year. Earlier this year, we decided we needed to schedule a visit right before the holidays so we could experience the magic of the city in a different way than we usually do. There is so much to see and do, so we obviously couldn’t fit it all into one weekend, but I thought I’d share some of the things that we did, in case you plan to visit around the holidays someday soon too!
Arguably my favorite block of the entire city, there is so much to see at Rockefeller Center all year long! But at Christmas, it is just magical. Aside from the ice rink below, the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is absolutely breathtaking in all of its sparkly, twinkling and glowing lights. It is definitely a must see, but be prepared for crowds. My favorite view is looking at it from Fifth Avenue, towards 30 Rock.
Saks Fifth Avenue Light Show
Jody and I accidentally stumbled upon this on our way to Rockefeller Center. We were trying to figure out why police were directing pedestrian traffic across the street and why there was a crowd of people facing Saks with their phones armed and ready when the music suddenly started to play. The display was impressive, especially with it being on the side of the building. I’ve since learned that the light show occurs every fifteen minutes — can you imagine just walking to work next to this massive holiday display?!
Radio City Music Hall’s Christmas Spectacular Starring the Rockettes
If you don’t do anything else, by all means, please buy tickets to see this show! I’ve been dying to see this show for over ten years, and it exceeded all thoughts far beyond my expectations. Even Jody, who wasn’t 100% thrilled about attending the show, could not stop talking about it when it ended! The Christmas Spectacular is roughly 90 minutes and is filled with singing, dancing, and a cute storyline to lead us to the true meaning of Christmas. Concessions and drinks are available to purchase prior to the show. Jody and I made sure we were in line an hour before our show so that we would have plenty of time to explore Radio City Music Hall prior to the show.
Union Square Market
I love a good market, so when my sister suggested that we visit one of the many Christmas Markets in the city during our visit, I was thrilled. She chose the market in Union Square, near the Flatiron and Gramercy neighborhoods. We spent a few hours wandering through each market shop, in awe over the more than 100 booths filled with handcrafted, quality items or treats that all would like. While most of my Christmas shopping was finished, I was able to pick up a few last minute gifts while we were there!
This old-world styled German restaurant is known for its elaborate and almost over-the-top Christmas decor. Located in Gramercy Park, this holiday stop is a must visit for any Christmas lover, especially if you dream of visiting Germany during the holiday season. However, this restaurant is such a hot spot, the line to get in usually is around the block. We overheard a couple saying that they made a reservation three months in advance and still had to wait thirty minutes to get inside. We didn’t make reservations, so we didn’t end up waiting in line, but from what I understand, it is so worth it. I’m definitely making a reservation there the next time we are in the city for the holidays!
Another borderline-tacky holiday display, this vintage bar didn’t hesitate to get in the holiday spirit either. A shorter line than Rolf’s, Pete’s Tavern gives Christmas lovers an opportunity to eat, drink and be merry surrounded by vintage holiday decor and red twinkling lights. While the holiday cocktail list was not super long, I still enjoyed my Hot Toddy that I ordered off of their winter bar menu. This place was super crowded by the time that we got there (around 5pm) so I would suggest stopping in for a mid-afternoon refresher unless you make dinner reservations in their dining room.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
St. Patrick’s Cathedral is a go-to stop for us almost every time we are in New York! We decided to attend Mass while we were there this time as we observed the third Sunday in Advent season. However, if you visit their website, all of their services and events are listed there. We learned there is also a Christmas Cantata that’s held at the cathedral with many choirs across the city. I wish we would still be in the city to attend it later this week!
Window Shopping on Fifth Avenue
Admittedly, we only did this as we passed Macy’s heading to catch our train out of the city. However, the displays that we did see were so festive and I wish we planned better so we would have had more time to look at more window displays and even shop a little. Most of the stores around the city will have holiday displays, but I thought they were best near Fifth Avenue.