What to do in New York at Christmastime

December is a magical time to visit New York City, and there are things happening in the Big Apple that only happen between Thanksgiving and the New Year, so you want to make sure you tick off these Christmas must-dos. (This was based on my trip in December 2019, before COVID-19 struck.)

First up, head to the Rockefeller Center to see the tree (we also popped to see the tree at Lotte New York Palace, pictured below, which you might recognise as the home of Gossip Girl). But, the Rockefeller tree is the iconic New York Christmas tree, and I think it's the most special one. (Kevin from Home Alone would also agree.) Just look at it. I could have stared at it for hours, if it wasn't so busy.

If you're here, you're in the perfect place to start walking along 5th Avenue to see the spectacular window displays - most department stores join in. If you turn around from the Rockefeller tree (if you're facing it, like in the top photo), then directly in front of you will be Saks Fifth Avenue. In 2019 their display was all about Frozen 2. Which was obviously a full-on musical spectacular.

There's ice skating, of course, and New York City is not short of rinks. You've got the Wollman Rink in Central Park. Lasker Rink in Central Park (quieter as it's the Harlem side). The Rink at the Rockefeller Center. There's one in Byrant Park (pictured above). And I'm sure there are many more. The Byrant Park rink is free if you have your own skates, but you will need to bring a small padlock with you for the lockers (or you can buy one there/rent skates if you don't have these things). 

We didn't go skating, but we did stop in Byrant Park to take a look around the stalls and enjoy a hot chocolate. Whilst you're there you could also pop in the Main Branch of the New York Public Library where you'll also find a rather beautiful Christmas tree (pictured above). If you're at the front of the library on 5th Avenue where the lions are, Byrant Park is directly behind the library.

After something a bit more quirky? Take THE RIDE: Holiday Edition. I would never have booked this if it hadn't been included for free with our New York Pass (it's $69 each if you're paying), but it was an amusing way to spend 90 minutes. It's basically a sideways bus tour around Midtown (the traffic is terrible, so it's a small 4.2 mile loop) with the bus stopping off for "impromptu" live performances, all themed around the holiday season. 

The crème de la crème of Christmas shows is, of course, the Christmas Spectacular starring the Radio City Rockettes at Radio City Musical Hall (the show sadly isn't happening in 2020 because of COVID-19). It's a super twee 90-minute show with Santa, the Rockettes, singing, dancing, and even a live nativity. Good holiday fun - and the Rockettes are amazingly talented. Tickets are expensive, but it's worth doing at least once, if you can. We paid $160 each to sit in the middle of orchestra section 5, which gets you an excellent view. Tickets in the mezzanine are further away, obviously, but a lot cheaper.

Christmas Spectacular, Radio City Rockettes
Finally, catch the subway to Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, to see the Dyker Heights Christmas Lights. Most houses between 11th to 13th Avenues (Dyker Heights Boulevard) and 83rd to 86th Street professionally decorate their houses with some truly OTT Christmas decorations. Some are definitely more tasteful than others, a lot are simply awful, but I think they are all worth seeing in the spirit of Christmas. Just get there before 9pm as that's when most houses switch off their displays. 

Doesn't it all look magical? x

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