There is nothing like spending Christmas in New York City! From vibrant light displays to ice-skating in world-famous rinks, New York offers a magical winter wonderland like no other during the month of December. In this blog post, you’ll be guided through the must-see attractions and activities, in addition to where to stay at the best hotels in New York during the holidays, ensuring you make the most of your Christmas in New York City!
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Rockefeller Christmas Tree
No visit to New York during the holiday season is complete without seeing the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree! Standing tall in the heart of Manhattan, this iconic tree is adorned with thousands of sparkling lights and ornaments. The lighting ceremony happens annually at the end of November, which is an exciting way to kick off the holiday season. If you can’t make it for the tree lighting, do not worry, as the tree and decor stays up through mid January! If you’re looking to have a true festive experience, you can reserve a spot at the Rockefeller rink to ice skate up close to the tree and capture some special moments. If you’re looking to get pictures without crowds, the tree is the least crowded at night after 9pm, and stays lit until midnight!
Rolf’s German Restaurant
Rolf’s is another icon of Christmas in New York, a restaurant decked from head to toe in ornaments and lights! Rolf’s serves dinner, however, reservations must be made many months in advance, so most opt to have a drink at the bar. The drinks at Rolf’s are delicious holiday inspired cocktails, but keep in mind that the cocktails are over $20 each. Rolf’s is an incredibly popular place during the holidays, and for a great reason! It is so festive and fun to have a drink with friends or meet new people. The line tends to get quite long, so it’s best to go during a weekday before 5pm!
Ice Skating at Central Park
Ice skating in Central Park at Wollman Rink with picturesque views of the city skyline is a magical way to spend a winter day in the city! During peak season, tickets are $25 and skate rentals are $30, a more affordable option than skating at the Rockefeller rink.
Lotte New York Palace Tree
While the Rockefeller Tree is an icon across the city, another favorite is the Lotte Palace tree, which is a perfectly decorated tree among the courtyard of the magnificent Lotte Palace hotel. This is a perfect tree for getting holiday pictures, as you can get up close and personal to the tree and the other lovely holiday decorations among the courtyard. This stunning display is featured in Gossip Girl, in addition to Lotte Palace’s Gold Room bar, a stunning bar covered in ornate gold from the walls to the ceiling. I highly recommend staying at the luxurious Lotte Palace around the holiday’s as it is the most festive hotel in the city, however, if you are not able to then having a cocktail and admiring the decor inside and outside of the property is a must!
The Nutcracker Ballet
Tchaikovsky’s timeless masterpiece, “The Nutcracker,” performed by the famous New York City Ballet company, is a quintessential holiday tradition of many. This famous performance offers an unforgettable experience for those of all ages! The Nutcracker premiers on November 24th and runs through December 31st, and tickets typically start around $90.
Eataly, located in Flatiron, is an Italian market with several restaurants and bars. Eataly is always bustling, but tends to be extra popular around the holidays where you can secure fresh pasta and imported Italian goods for gifts or to cook around the holidays. The rooftop Italian restaurant, Serra Alpina by Birreria, is essential to dine during the holidays! This heated rooftop is decorated seasonally, and during the winter season, the restaurant transforms into a magical alpine oasis, with twinkling lights, trees, pine, and frost! The restaurant transports you to a luxury alpine cabin. Not to mention, their food is delicious!
Be sure to explore the charming holiday markets that pop up across the city during Christmas time! The Union Square Holiday Market, Columbus Circle Holiday Market, and Bryant Park Winter Village are among the most popular, and offer a variety of artisanal gifts, delectable treats, and unique souvenirs, making them ideal spots to find the perfect holiday presents. My personal favorite is the Bryant Park Winter Village, also another popular ice skating spot! This holiday market is packed with over 100 unique vendors in cute glass storefronts. Bryant Park is also home to The Lodge, which is a holiday inspired cocktail and food bar you can warm up in after spending the day shopping, while also watching the ice skaters!
You will find some of the best hot chocolate across the country in New York City! A cup of hot chocolate to cozy up after a chilly day in the city is a lovely way to spend the holiday in the city. Some of the most famous cafes for hot chocolate in New York City include Angelina Paris located on Lexington Ave., and in Bryant Park, MarieBelle, and my very favorite, Bar Pisellino in West Village. Bar Pisellino is such a unique Italian cafe with both coffee and pastries as well as cocktails and aperitifs. Their hot chocolate is delicious and the vibe in the cafe itself is amazing. It is the perfect place to warm up in the city!
Fifth Avenue Holiday Window Displays
Take a stroll down Fifth Avenue to admire the elaborate holiday window displays of renowned department stores. From Macy’s to Saks Fifth Avenue, these artistic showcases tell captivating stories through intricate decorations and holiday themes. Not only is this activity free for all, but it is a staple of Christmas in New York and the festive spirit!
New York Botanical Garden
Visit New York Botanical Garden November 17th through January 17th to catch their annual Holiday Train Show! You will find handcrafted model train displays among models of famous New York City landmarks, with tickets for $35. This is such a timeless holiday tradition in the city, and must not be missed!
A new property opened in 2023, Barrier Fouquets brings an element of Paris to New York City. This classy Parisian hotel is located in SoHo, equipped with a beautiful indoor pool and spa to warm up after a day gallivanting around the NYC holiday lights.
As mentioned previously, Lotte Palace is an iconic luxury hotel in New York all year round, however, shines even brighter during the holiday season. The hotel is decorated from head to toe in Christmas trees, lights, and ornaments, making for a perfect stay during the holidays!
Dream Midtown is a fun and hip hotel in Midtown New York, right in the center of it all. The coolest features of this hotel include the game room bar, Fishbowl, which includes a bowling alley, and the bar, The Rickey, which is an upscale swanky cocktail lounge. This hotel has so many fun features, great food, and perfectly crafted cocktails.
Moxy, part of the Marriott brand, is located in several locations throughout the city, and provides a modern and stylish, yet more affordable hotel option. The hotel in Times Square is super trendy, and features the popular rooftop bar, Magic Hour Rooftop Bar and Lounge, among other bars and restaurants in the hotel. This rooftop is really fun around the holidays, and is transformed into a pink and white winter wonderland!
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