Top Tips for visiting New York City at Christmas

No other city does Christmas quite like New York City.  With dazzling light shows, whimsical window displays and the city dress up in her holiday finest Christmas in New York City is simply magical.  A trip to New York City during the holidays will spark a sense a childhood wonder in any scrooge but trying to navigate the holiday crowds without a little research and planning will leave anyone feeling like a Grinch. To earn myself a place on Santa’s nice list I’m sharing these tips for visiting New York City at Christmas because after all, ’tis the season for spreading good tidings and cheer.

Christmas Lights at Saks Fifth Avenue-Top Tips for visiting New York City at Christmas www.casualtravelist.comThis post contains affiliate links, when you make a purchase or book a hotel through these links the Casual Travelist receives a small commission that helps support this site at no additional cost to you.

The department stores in New York City pull no stops when it comes to decorating for the holidays. Stop by Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy’s, Bergdorf Goodman and Lord & Taylor to gaze at lavish window displays and be delighted by the dazzling light shows.

Decorated with over 50,000 lights and topped with a 550 pound Swarovski crystal star, the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is quite possible the most famous Christmas tree in the world. Be sure to see it during the day and later at night when it’s beautifully lit up.

The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree-Top Tips for visiting New York City at Christmas www.casualtravelist.comThe Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree-Top Tips for visiting New York City at Christmas www.casualtravelist.com

Ice skating at the Rink at Rockefeller Center is an iconic New York City Christmas experience. General admission is on a first come basis or reservations can be made for special events and night time skating.

With so many Christmas sights nearby it would be a shame not to visit the top of Rockefeller Center, one of New York City’s most iconic skyscrapers. For the stunning views of the New York City skyline at sunset aim to get your timed ticket for around 4:30pm, you’ll most likely have to visit the ticket window a few hours earlier in the day to make sure you get the time you want.

The view of Manhattan from the Top of the Rock -Top Tips for visiting New York City at Christmas www.casualtravelist.com

Head to Radio City Music Hall to catch the Rockettes Christmas Music Spectacular.

Across from Radio City Music Hall check out the whimsically oversized Christmas ornaments on 6th Ave

Top Tips for visiting New York City at Christmas www.casualtravelist.com

You can never go wrong with a Broadway show, check out wat’s on offer at the TKTS booth for reduced priced tickets.

Love it or hate it, Times Square is an only-in-New York experience that you have to do at least once. Be aware that the crowds and massively lit advertising displays can be a bit of a sensory overload.

Times Square in New York City-Top Tips for visiting New York City at Christmas www.casualtravelist.com

For one of the best views of Times Square without the crowds check out the R Lounge at Two Times Square inside the Renaissance New York Times Square Hotel.

You will see some of the most entertaining and engaging Salvation Army bell ringers near the Christmas sights. Spread some good tidings and leave a little something in their bucket.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral has been welcoming New York’s faithful since 1910. The peace and calm inside the church is a welcome respite from the hustle of the holiday crowds.

St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City Top Tips for visiting New York City at Christmas www.casualtravelist.com

In the shadow of the New York Public Library the Bryant Park Winter Village is a European-style holiday market featuring over 150 local artisans and vendors. For a true taste of Europe make sure you get a piping hot chimney cake (a sweet tube shaped pastry coated with cinnamon, sugar and nuts) filled with Nutella.

If you want ice skating in New York without the crowds skip the ice rink at Rockefeller Center and take a twirl at the Bryant Park Skating Rink. There’s no admission fee here if you have your own skates and skate rentals are available.

Ice Skating at Bryant Park in New York City-Top Tips for visiting New York City at Christmas www.casualtravelist.com

No trip to New York is complete without a visit to Central Park. This iconic New York City landmark offers miles of walking trails and two ice skating rinks for winter time fun.

Check out the New York Pass for use of the hop on/hop off sightseeing bus and entrance to many of of New York City’s top attractions .

Indulge your inner Eloise and check out The Plaza Hotel beautifully decked out in her holiday finest.

In the impressive lobby of Grand Central Station the Grand Central Holiday Fair features 40 vendors with a focus on American-made handcrafted items.

Central Park in New York City-Top Tips for visiting New York City at Christmas www.casualtravelist.com

New York City Hotels

Even though New York City is well connected by public transportation during the holidays it’s best to stay near the action in Midtown Manhattan.

A few blocks from Rockefeller Center I loved the understated elegance of the Intercontinental New York Barclay.

Right in the thick of Times Square the rooms on higher floors of the Hilton Times Square have great views of Manhattan.

The Library Hotel offers a touch of home steps from Grand Central Station.

 

Have you visited New York City at Christmas? Share your tips with me below in the comments!

 

43 Comments on “Top Tips for visiting New York City at Christmas

  1. Fantastic! We just got back from “The City” and loved all of these, except we missed the giant decorations on 6th Ave. 🙁 That’s it…we gotta go back! I’d also say the Christmas Windows at Saks 5th Avenue are worth some time. Merry Christmas, Brianna!

  2. Memories come up… I´ve been to NYC three years ago and it was incredible. It was also Christmas time because I wanted to see the Christmas tree 😉

  3. It looks amazing! I love the giant string of Christmas lights! I’ve only visited in the summer but will have to visit during the winter at some point!

  4. I LOVE the oversized Christmas lights! I’d love to see NYC around Christmas… in fact, I just want to go back to the city!

  5. I would love to visit NYC during Christmas! Seeing The Rockettes perform is high on my list. I never knew they had a European market during that time either!

  6. Amazing lights! I really do need a good excuse to come back to New York – I haven’t been for over ten years. I remember the Central Park ice skating though – and it looks like there’s more of that around now too.

  7. The big apple looks lovely all light up for the Christmas season. Being Australian I know a few iconic things about Christmas in New Your just through Tv. Ice skating at the Rink at Rockefeller Center is the first thing that comes to mind and something our kids would love to do. Wishing you a merry christmas

  8. Brianna, Your post could not have come at a better time. We are off to NYC next week for a few days. We will definitely want to follow your path along the store windows and to Rockefeller Centre. Good tip about getting tickets for the night view early! You have gotten me excited for our trip. Thanks! Linda

  9. I’ve been to New York City, but not during the holidays. Seeing the Macy’s Day Parade is on my bucket list and I’d love to take in other sites you mention, especially skating at Rockafeller Center and St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

  10. Thanks for introducing all the christmas joy in New York City. That’s true that the department stores would all be festively decorated but I think ice-skating and the Christmas tree at the Rockefeller Center is irreplaceable! @knycx.journeying

  11. A good friend was last year in December in NY and I was really jealous! I would love to take the kids to see the Xmas lights and ice skating in Rockefeller

  12. We visited NYC last summer and walked by the Rockefeller Center. When we told my cousin (who lives in NYC) that the square didn’t seem to be that interesting to us, she told us that it’s actually much more beautiful during Christmas Holidays, especially because of its famous Christmas Tree. And indeed, with 50,000 lights and a 550 pound Swarovski crystal star, it has to be awesome! haha… Anyway, a friend of mine is visiting NYC this Christmas, so I’ll share your post with her. And I’ll make sure to tell her to go to the less-crowded Bryant Park Skating Rink, instead of the Rockefeller! 🙂

  13. I love NYC in the holiday season, love all the lights and decorations! I remember when I went to the big apple for the first time, it was during this season & I got to skate in the Rockefeller!

  14. I am so embarrassed I have never been to New York during the holidays .. not once. HOWEVER – after seeing that they have over 50,000 lights on the tree at Rockefeller, I have made up my mind to go next year. That just sounds uber impressive! How do you think they get that heavy crystal on top? Crane?

  15. My dream for years has been to experience Christmas in New York City one day and you have just made me very jealous (in a good way!). It has spurred me on to look into it properly and have bookmarked this post for reference. Really useful tips and lovely photos

    • The Plaza was absolutely stunning, be sure to stop by Lady M for a delicious crepe cake.

  16. I have not visited New York at Christmas, I’m a bit of a Grinch! But I go to NY to see the tennis US Open. However, I love Grand Central and would like to see it at this time of the year.

  17. I would love to be in New York over Christmas. I hope to be there next year so I am going to use this for my planning. I love the tip about the seeing the skyline at sunset. Thanks so much!

  18. I have always wanted to visit NYC during the holidays. The idea of skating at Rockefeller and gazing at the glorious windows all set up for the holidays sounds incredible. My niece happens to be there right now so I shared your post with her.

  19. Ahh this makes me want to be in NYC right now! I love goign during Christmas time! It’s just so magical and the department store windows are to die for! Ice skating at Rockafeller is also really fun!

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