I am convinced that there is no better time to see New York City than at Christmas. All of the Christmas lights are up, the weather is perfect for bundling up and drinking hot chocolate, and it’s ice skating time! Maybe you’ll even get lucky and meet some New Yorkers who are filled with the holiday spirit?
Matt and I travelled with his family to New York this past Christmas, and we had a great time! We hit up all of the typical New York places to see, but there were some things we did that are only available at Christmas time. If you’re thinking of visiting the Big Apple during the holiday season, then consider this your guide so you don’t miss anything!
This is probably the most iconic spot in New York for Christmas. Everyone’s either heard of it or seen a picture of it. I knew I wanted to go ice skating just to say I’d done it, but I had heard the crowds were nightmarish. We went to Rockefeller Center on one of our first nights so we could see the gigantic Christmas tree, and I couldn’t get over the amount of people there! The crowd was so bad that you had to stand shoulder to shoulder with strangers, and there was definitely no moving quickly. Heaven forbid you get separated from your group!
To try to fight the crowds I have these suggestions: don’t go on a weekend (especially evening). If you want to get pictures with the tree or angels across from the rink, try to go on a week night. There will still be a lot of people, but it won’t be as bad.
If you’re wanting to go ice skating, then there’s no better way to do it than buying tickets for the “early skate” option. Yes, it means waking up really early. But this was the best thing we did! With the early skate tickets, you’re allowed out onto the ice an hour before it normally opens. We arrived right on time for check in and there was not a SINGLE PERSON on the ice. We had the entire rink to ourselves so we got to hobble around the rink at our own pace, and we got free hot chocolate! Since there were no crowds on the sidewalks either, we got to take pictures of the tree and angels without anyone photo bombing us. Early morning in the city was so peaceful that I’d recommend waking up early to see Rockefeller Center even if you don’t plan on ice skating.
Type A Tidbits:
Buy your ice skating tickets online ahead of time.
Check out Magnolia Bakery for the best banana pudding and cupcakes if you do the early skate… they open at 7 AM, and you can beat the rush! We tried to go here one evening for dessert and the line was around the block! You’re allowed cupcakes for breakfast on vacation!
Christmas Spectacular Starring the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall
Seeing the Rockettes perform in their Christmas Spectacular show is a New York City Christmas tradition! They started performing during the holiday season in 1933, and they haven’t slowed down since! I was so excited to see them, and I loved the show! I will say that it wasn’t entirely what I was expecting… the show was only 90 minutes and some of the acts were VERY cheesy. Families with kids would love this though! I’m glad we went, and we’ll probably go again if we’re in New York for Christmas, but it wasn’t what I wanted it to be. I think I hyped it up in my head for so long that they just couldn’t live up to my expectations. The dancer’s choreography was beautifully in sync, and the costumes were fantastic. If we go again, I would like to sit a lot closer so we could see the facial expressions and details on the costumes. We were in the balcony, and I think that’s a little too far away for the whole experience. So if you can afford to spend the money for closer seats, then I think it would be worth it.
Saks Fifth Avenue Light Show
Across the street from the Rockefeller Christmas tree, is the most magical light show! Saks Fifth Avenue decorates the entire front of the building, and displays an LED light show set to music. The show begins every 10 minutes so if you miss the beginning, then just wait around for the next one to start. Don’t forget to check out the elaborately decorated store front windows too! And, yes, expect it to be very crowded!
See the decorations all over the city!
New York City does a great job of decorating everywhere for Christmas! Near Radio City Music Hall, you can find the giant red Christmas ornaments and the string of Christmas lights. The decorations don’t stop there though… you just have to look around!
We loved the city so much that we’re already planning next year’s trip! Thanks for reading!