Years ago, listening to Rob Thomas’s “A New York City Christmas” was enough to convince me that New York was a magical place to be during the holiday season. Now that I live here, my expectations have been surpassed. Seeing the amount of work that the people of New York put into transforming their city is in and of itself magnificent. It takes weeks to set up lights, holiday shops, windows and, of course, trees!
There is an immense amount of work that goes into the preparation of the Rockefeller Christmas tree. It takes over a year of searching and planning to decide on the perfect tree. This year’s tree is an 80-year-old, 10-ton Norway spruce from Gardiner, New York. There are over 45,000 lights on a wire that stretches five miles long. The tree is decorated so meticulously, that every angle offers a good view.
The Rockefeller Center ice rink is also a popular destination. Whether you want to skate there, or simply observe the delightful mix of amateurs and pros, it will not be a disappointment. If you want an even better observation platform, head to the top of the Rockefeller Center for a new perspective of New York at Christmas, and of course, your best view of the Empire State Building.
Another fantastic indoor activity is the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. It is an unforgettable experience. I went for the first time this year and was amazed at how each song topped the one before it. Not only will you see plenty of high kicks from the Rockettes, but “The Living Nativity” and “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” are also unmissable features.
There are also two spots to ice-skate in Central Park, the Wollman Rink, near the Central Park Zoo and the Lasker Rink, located in the middle of the park. I have never ice-skated in Central Park, but whenever I walk by the rink, it looks simply enchanting. The Wollman Rink is closer to a lot of the other Christmas activities, although the Lasker Rink will most likely be less crowded. Looking for a romantic date night or something fun for the kids? Ice-skating is the answer!
Not only should the Met be at the top of the list all year round, but during the holidays, it is especially worth checking out. They display a Christmas tree decorated with 50 eighteenth-century Neapolitan angels and surrounded by Nativity figures.
If at this point you still want to see more Christmas trees, head to Washington Square Park which has a beautiful tree underneath the arch!
Holiday shops can be found all around the city! One of your priorities should be Columbus Circle – located near the southwest entrance to Central Park. Not only are there more amazing gift options from artisans and designers, but also some great food too! Union Square also has a great holiday market that is open from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve. Grand Central Station even has a holiday market with over 75 vendors!
I have not forgotten about the holiday window displays, with Macy’s, of course, being the most famous. They choose an exquisite theme each year, this year being no exception. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” Macy’s designed an interactive, unmissable “Peanut’s” gallery!
The inside of Macy’s is also beautifully decorated, although I always have a hard time leaving once I step inside the ten-story wonderland of things that I want for Christmas. While I would rank Macy’s at the top of the list, Lord and Taylor and Tiffany and Co. also have captivating window displays that are worth checking out.
The New York City Ballet will be presenting The Nutcracker at the Lincoln Center. I haven’t seen it yet, but I am dying to. Experiencing The Nutcracker in some shape or form is a great way to celebrate Christmas! Even if you only have time to stop by and see the tree and lights in the Lincoln Square, it will be worth your while.
If you want to be able to see as many of these things as possible without navigating through the throngs of people, I would suggest the Holiday Lights Tour.
This is for those of you who, like me, want to know what exactly you’re looking at. Not only will you have a great view of New York at the holidays, but you’ll be able to hear the legends and stories of how all of these traditions began.
Now I know that this is an extensive list, but do the things that jump out at you the most and, in the words of Rob Thomas, have a “Merry New York Christmas