One thing that NYC definitely gets right is Christmas. Okay, okay there are a few other things, but Christmas is definitely one of them. The towering tree in Rockefeller Center, the sparkling lights, and shop windows decked top to bottom. What’s really worth doing when you come to visit though? Well, this is my 4th holiday season here and while I’m not technically a real New Yorker I’ve had quite a bit of experience playing tour guide throughout the years! So, here’s my advice on what I think is worth doing and what you’re better off skipping.
Oh Christmas tree, Oh Christmas tree!: Rockefeller Center. Let’s talk about it. The one thing that everyone always wants to see when they’re in the city during the holidays is the tree. GO! It’s iconic, it’s massive, and there is something a little magical about being in the center of Rockefeller center surrounded by lit up angels, ice skating, and snowflake projections on the near-by buildings.
What I would suggest could be considered obvious advice, but if you can avoid the area on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, by all means avoid it. Go a few days after when some of the crowds start to die down. It’s up through the first week of January and if you’re in town it’s worth going when it’s a little less crowded. A little less — Still plan on a lot of people, but it will be a little more manageable. Trust me, I’ve been on Christmas Day and that warm fuzzy feeling you get when you arrive, dies in about 2.5 seconds when you find yourself crammed between wall-to-wall people and you’re just trying to keep all of your party semi-together. If you can plan your trip accordingly, do.
Twirling on the ice: What’s more festive than ice skating in NYC? You see it in just about every movie, right?! My advice – Skip Rockefeller Center and try Wollman Rink in Central Park instead. I know, I just told you to go to Rockefeller Center, and do, go for the tree, but skip ice skating there. The Rockefeller Center ice skating rink is TINY (They totally have you fooled on film) and not only that but it’s pretty pricy and the ice isn’t as well maintained.
There is much more room to skate in Central Park and you will still be surrounded by a serene backdrop in the park. The prices are much better too. There are also several other ice skating rinks throughout the city but my favorite is Central Park.
Sipping on frozen hot chocolates: Don’t get me wrong, I love the frozen hot chocolates at Serendipity 3, but I’m going to say skip it during the holidays. That is, if you have the opportunity to go at another time of the year. They’re wonderful and the decor is cute, but the waits can get a little horrendous and it’s not worth waiting hours for.
Strolling up 5th Avenue: It’s going to get a little crowded, but it’s free, cheerful and worth seeing. Go! Some of these windows are planned years in advance and they are pretty remarkable. Some of my personal favorites to see on the avenue are Henri Bendel, Bergdorf Goodman, Harry Winston, The Peninsula Hotel, and inside the Plaza Hotel. Tiffany & Co has some cool decals up this year too!
Joining the Crowds at Macys: The Macys! You’ve seen it during the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade and in just about every Christmas movie. And it’s a cool place! It’s not cool enough to make it onto my Christmas must-see list though. Skip it! If you have a chance, it’s definitely fun to see the outside and maybe pop inside for a few, but I don’t personally think it’s worth a stop. Especially if you’re going to the 8th floor in hopes of seeing a winter wonderland similar to Gimbels in the movie Elf. Hate to be the bearer of bad news.. but unless you’re standing in line to see Santa (which is a VERY long line), the winter wonderland is blocked off. And considering if you don’t want to wait for a crowded elevator and decide to take the escalators instead.. it’s a long trip up.
Oh and, another tip. Bundle up. It’s cold here and while I’m sure you’ve been in the cold before, when you’re in the cold here, you’re really out in it, not jumping in and out of your car. You will be a much warmer and happier person with a warm scarf, hat and gloves. You’re going to be outside a lot and the wind will get you!
Now get out there and enjoy the holidays in the city!