There is truly like nothing like Christmas in New York City. Growing up, my favorite thing to do at Christmastime was to walk down 5th avenue with my mom and look at the window displays, and at night we would all go see New York City Ballet’s The Nutcracker at Lincoln Center. Throughout the years, I’ve added more traditions to my list and I’m sharing them with you here. Since there is so much to see, I’m treating this as a 3 day itinerary and breaking things up by location.
Day 1- Classic 5th Avenue
- The Plaza Hotel on 59th street always has beautiful decorations, inside and outside
- right next door to the Plaza is Bergdorf’s, which has REALLY cool window displays and the inside is all decked out as well.
- continue down 5th avenue until 51st street, then turn left and walk one block east towards Madison. Lotte Palace always has a Christmas tree in its courtyard and is a great photo opp. [Update: I’ve heard that they aren’t having the tree in 2021, hopefully next year!]
- walk one block south, head back towards 5th and you’ll hit Saks 5th Avenue and Rockefeller Center. These days, in addition to their famous window displays Saks does a light show (really cool at night) and of course, THE Rockefeller tree is right there.
- continuing walking down 5th until you get to Bryant Park. You can go ice skating or stroll around the Christmas Market (must see!), and have some delicious hot chocolate
- After all that walking (and skating) you’ll be hungry! Here are some good restaurants in the area: Koi New York, Boqueria, L’Adresse American Bistro, La Pecora Bianca.
Day 2- The Bronx and/or Brooklyn
- if you know NYC geography, you know The Bronx and Brooklyn are far apart- you can totally do both of these activities in one day but it will be a good amount of time on traveling the subway, just a heads up! For reference it’s 40 min to get to the Bronx Botanical Garden from midtown and about 50 min to Dyker Heights from midtown. If you want to do both, I advise taking the train to the Bronx in the morning, and heading to Brooklyn in the evening or you can pick just one!
- My #1 favorite Christmas activity is the Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden. Please note you NEED advanced tickets for this but I highly recommend it, it’s one of the most amazing things!
- The Botanical Garden is right near the Bronx Zoo, so if you wanted to head there after that would work. The zoo puts on a fun display of holiday lights that is exciting for kids to see! Note you need advanced tickets for this as well.
- later in the day, bundle up, grab a spiked hot chocolate and head down to Brooklyn to see the Dyker Heights Christmas lights. I noticed there are a bunch of “tours” that are trying to sell tickets for this. DO NOT DO THIS. Dyker Heights is just a neighborhood in Brooklyn where people go all out decorating their homes and is really fun to see. You just walk around and look at them, paying for a tour is excessive.
- I am not familiar with the area, but here is a list of restaurants in Dyker Heights if you want to grab dinner afterwards
Day 3- Central Park & Caroling Under the City Skyline
- Start your morning at The Met! It has favorite Christmas tree in the city and is always a good place to visit
- If you’re looking for a sweet treat, head to the Neue Gallerie after. It’s another museum right across the street, and they have a gorgeous restaurant inside called Cafe Sabarsky, with the most delicious Viennese pastries. You cannot skip it!
- Next head into Central Park and walk south until you hit Wollman Rink, Even if you don’t want to ice skate, the view is great.
- If you’re hungry afterwards, Sarabeth’s is a great restaurant nearby.
- Later in the day (you need advanced tickets for this) take a Cocoa and Carols Holiday Sail, or any other of their Holiday Cruises. Whether you go in the day or night, this is such a magical way to see the city. Don’t worry, the boats are covered so you won’t get cold!
- NYCB’s The Nutcracker
- The Rockettes
- Christmas Market at Union Square
- Holiday Fair at Grand Central Station
If you’re looking for a place to stay be sure to read my blogpost on the most recommended airbnbs and hotels in the city! For more NYC ideas, check out these other blogposts as well: a non-holiday 3 day itinerary and my guide to my favorite museums.