For the past four years, my travel bestie and I took a trip to New York City for the holidays. This isn’t a long trip, just a few days to get into the holiday spirit. Since we visit NYC often we skip the traditional tourist sights and focus instead on our favorite holiday locations. We have both fallen in love with our holiday tradition because nothing screams the holidays like NYC! Check out my list of must-see holiday sights below, and let me know in the comments which ones are your favorites!
Favorite Christmas Markets:
Christmas Markets are typically open from November through January but always check online to make sure they haven’t changed their schedule.
- Columbus Circle
Located at the entrances to Central Park in Columbus Circle, the Columbus Circle Christmas Market is one of our favorites to visit. There are food and shopping galore — keep an eye out for samples! Plus if you start getting cold you can easily find a hot chocolate or warm cider and even some hot mulled wine (only spot to get booze while shopping) to help warm you up. If you catch a big chill then the Columbus Circle Mall is right across the street. Go and do some window shopping while you warm up; the stores can be a little pricey but the window displays are to die for!
- Bryant Park
The Bryant Park Christmas Market is often called the prettiest market in NYC. This market has over 100 stalls that selling items ranging from clothes and jewelry to drinks and snacks. You can find pretty much any last-minute gift here! There is also a small ice skating rink in the middle of the park.
Personally, I enjoy this park because it is near the Public Library which offers an escape from NYC’s biting cold. It is also close to Grand Central Station, which is nice to see at any time of the year.
- Rockefeller Center
Rockefeller Center is the epicenter of holiday celebrations in NYC recognizable from almost any holiday film! You can see gorgeous holiday displays, a giant Christmas tree, and ice skating. The tree lights are bright from about 6 am to midnight. The tree is typically first light on November 28th. You can pay for professional photos in front of the gorgeous tree, but from my experience, a well-angled selfie looks just a good and is free! Like any popular tourist sight, this area can get incredibly crowded, however, the sights are more than worth it.
Across the street at Saks on Fifth Avenue, you will find the other iconic holiday light show. This occurs from 5 pm-11 pm every 10 minutes. Personally, I time my trip to the Rockefeller Center so that I can see the tree and catch a light show from the Saks at the same time.
Make sure you wander down Fifth Avenue while you are in the area, and check out some of the elaborate and breathtaking window displays! Tiffany, Louis Vuitton, and many more show their design skills in gorgeous holiday themes.
- Rockefeller Center
Personally, I have never gone ice skating at Rockefeller Center. It is extremely popular making the lines huge and intimidating, and the prices rather high (anywhere from $25-$45/person). However, if this has been on your NYC bucket list for years than just anticipate the line and enjoy!
- Central Park
There are a few temporary ice skating rinks in Central Park- I mean it’s a HUGE park! My favorite, and easiest to get to is Wollman rink which is located on the east side and is close to the Central Park Zoo. Tickets and hours vary by day but on average are about $15 per adult, plus extra for a locker and skate rental.
- Type A Tip for Ice Skating: Bring your own skates. It will save you about $10/person! Luckily I live only 5-ish hours from NYC so it is very easy for me to pack my skates. However, if this isn’t a possibility for you, you can still rent skates, just anticipate the extra cost.
- Grand Central Station
I can’t really tell you what it is about Grand Central Station that I Iove, but find this NYC destination a must-see on any trip to the city. During the holidays Grand Central gets some festive decorations that make it even more gorgeous. Another bonus to visiting Grand Central during the winter is that it is one of the few indoor sights, plus on the lower floor are plenty of food and shopping options!
- Brooklyn Bridge
One of my favorite NYC activities is walking the Brooklyn Bridge at sunset. This walk gets you a gorgeous view of the Manhattan skyline and offers one of the best sunset views the city has! Walking the bridge during the holiday season can be a bit chilly, but the sights are well worth the cold fingers.
- Central Park
I have said it once and I will say it again, Central Park is simply gorgeous! Wandering this extensive park during any season is a must-do activity, but during the winter can give you a different perspective of the park. If you want you can also rent a bike or hire a horse-drawn carriage. However, I like having my own two feet carry me around while I explore this massive park.
Type A Tips:
- It’s COLD! As I hinted a few times in this post, NYC during the holidays gets COLD! I live in New York state, I’m used to the cold and even I find NYC a bit too cold for me. So what can you do?
- Plan some warm escapes.
- Wear layers! Typically I wear leggings under my jeans/pants. I’ll also wear a lighter shirt under a sweater under my coat.
- Remember your hat and gloves! Don’t worry that the hat might ruin your hair, staying warm will allow you to enjoy the many NYC holiday activities, pretty much all of which are outside.
- Get toe or hand warmers from any drug store for an instant boost of heat.
- Try to visit during the weekday. You aren’t the only one wanting to visit NYC during the holidays. This means NYC is very busy and can get a bit crowded at the popular sights. By going on a weekday you not only save money but will find the sights and activities you want to do are less crowded.