Christmas in New York is a magical time. There’s snow all around you, gorgeous Christmas lights at every block, you’re bundled up in your furry down jacket, with your earmuffs and scarves on, and your woolen gloves are hugging a Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate from Starbucks, in a festive red cup. Ahhhh! I’m feeling super nostalgic for my years in the city, especially during the holiday season, which makes the subzero temperatures worth it. A reader recently wrote to me asking for NYC Christmas recommendations, so I thought I’d write a blog post about my favorite things to do in New York during the holiday season – here’s a rundown:
1. Get lost in the winter wonderland of holiday markets
These are the best!!! Hundreds of stalls selling everything from Christmas ornaments, to scarves and gloves, to waffles and hot chocolate. My personal favorite is the Winter Village market at Bryant Park, just because of how stunning the park is even outside of Christmas – during the holiday season, the park has beautiful light displays, water fountains and a skating rink, and is much less cramped than the other markets.
There are many other holiday markets scattered across the city: Union Square, Columbus Circle and Grand Central. Most of the markets sell pretty much the same stuff (except the one in Grand Central, which in my opinion, is really quite pathetic).
2. Have some hot chocolate…everyday
It’s freezing outside, and your hands (and tummy) will thank you for that warm cup of hot chocolate. Lots of places in the city serve great hot chocolate but my personal favorites are LA Burdick (#1), Max Brenner, and City Bakery.
- LA Burdick is an adorable European café and pastry shop that serves up some of the richest hot chocolate you’ve ever had – a really small and quiet spot with just 4 tables.
- Max Brenner is just the opposite – loud, noisy, crowded with a never-ending wait; but it’s the chocolate mecca for a reason! They serve delicious hot chocolate in “hug mugs” – mugs without a handle, so your hands are forced to hug the mug while drinking – great way to warm your hands up right? If you’re looking for a Secret Santa gift, they have adorable hot chocolate gift baskets with cocoa powder, hug mugs and other wintery goodies 🙂
- City Bakery does a really cool hot chocolate festival during the winter (usually February), serving a different flavor each day (like Vietnamese cinnamon, Peanut Butter, and “Love Potion” hot chocolate for Valentine’s day), but even their regular hot chocolate is top notch!
Hanging out at any café in New York during the holidays is a magical experience – so cozy and warm! Check out my other post on New York cafés featuring some cute, little hidden gems where you’d love to spend a winter evening 🙂
3. Walk along 5th Avenue and take in the brilliant Christmas window displays
All the big department stores put up extravagant Christmas window displays with snowflakes, wreaths, reindeers and all kinds of holiday season decorations! Walk along 5th Avenue, from 45th street uptown and check them out! It’s a great way to spend a winter evening 🙂
4. Hang around by the Rockefeller Christmas tree
Rockefeller is right around 50th Street and 5th Avenue, so you’ll pass by it while checking out window displays. Even if you are averse to touristy spots, you can’t miss out on the scene that is Rockefeller Center during Christmas. That tree is a famous New York holiday season icon, and the lights around the area are gorgeous – it’s a postcard perfect moment!
5. Go ice skating
Sometimes you just have to do those touristy things. How can you experience Christmas in the city without going ice skating? Sure, the rinks are packed, but the ambiance is just so winter-wonderland, you can’t miss it! I recommend the Bryant Park rink because they also set up an amazing holiday market there, so it just adds to the holiday vibes. There’s also a couple in Central Park, that have a totally different charm:
6. Watch The Nutcracker ballet
You don’t have to be a ballet fan to enjoy this – I don’t know ANYTHING about ballet, but it was still such a delight to watch the Nutcracker at the Lincoln Center. They have shows running through the entire holiday season, so make sure to catch one! The costumes, the sets, the aesthetic of it all – it encompasses everything we love about Christmas 🙂
7. Knock yourself out at Starbucks
I love Starbucks during the holiday season! All their festive décor, the red cups, and the Christmas-themed drinks. My favorite holiday season flavor is salted caramel, so I just add that to everything! Peppermint is also pretty great! Just go all out, and add some holiday feel to your coffee every morning 🙂
What are some of your favorite things to do during the holiday season in New York? Let me know in the comments!