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From the end of November to the New Year, the streets of Manhattan become a twinkling wonderland of winter-time cheer. Nighttime lights, giant Christmas trees, and windows decked in their holiday finest make it a season of epic proportions. That’s why smart travelers come with a list of quintessential New York things to do during the holidays—so they can be sure not to miss out on a single one. Here, for your convenience, is the Knick’s top list.
You’ve seen it on TV, you’ve seen it in the movies, almost no shot of New York during Christmas is complete without a spotlight on the magnificent, 75-foot Christmas tree, a tradition that’s graced the plaza since its first year in 1931. Plan wisely to visit during non-prime time hours to see the tree in all its glory. A good shot is from Fifth Avenue through the Channel Gardens with their trumpeting white Christmas angels.
Yes you can ice skate at several locations throughout the city, including the popular Rockefeller Center rink, but Wollman Rink is about four times the size and nothing beats the special holiday feel of open-air skating surrounded by trees in Central Park.
We don’t know which is a more delightful Christmas experience—the insides of holiday-bedecked department stores or the fantastically creative window displays outside. We just recommend you make two trips: one to see the windows, and another to do your actual shopping. Start from Macy’s Herald Square and head up Fifth Avenue stopping along the way to see Lord & Taylor, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman and ending at Tiffany’s.
For indoor treats, there’s no better place to behold the fantasia that is German-style Christmas than at Rolf’s near Gramercy Park. Stop here for an eggnog or a full Bavarian meal and enjoy the eye-candy environs festooned with Jurassic-sized garlands of lights, balls and icicles.
All good little boys and girls know that Santa arrives at Macy’s on the morning of Thanksgiving, at the end of the Thanksgiving Day Parade. He sets up shop on the 8th floor of Macy’s Herald Square in a winter wonderland complete with toy shop, elves, ice skating penguins and miles of toy trains. There’s no better place for your little one to tell Santa her or his wish.
Speaking of shopping, few places offer more creative gifts and better hot chocolate, in a more yuletide setting, than the traditional holiday market. In NYC you’ll find the the best holiday villages in Bryant Park and Union Square.
Speaking of holiday decor, there are magnificent trees all over the city. In addition to Rockefeller Center and Bryant Park, you’ll find stately firs in the New York Public Library and one gracing the Radio City marquee. Other notable Christmas trees include the tree at Lincoln Center, inside the Museum of Modern Art, and in Washington Square Park.
You may have seen this show plenty of times before, but nowhere does the classic Nutcracker come to life in as grand a fashion than at the New York City Ballet at Lincoln Center. With layers of theatrical detail and world-class performers, kids young and old are always delighted.
One sure fire way to experience Christmas in New York City is with the Rockettes and St. Nick himself at Radio City Music Hall. The Christmas Spectacular runs from early-November through the first of the year, so you should have plenty of options for tickets.
Another great activity for families is the holiday train show at New York Botanical Garden, which features more than 175 specific New York City landmarks among its miles of G-scale locomotives and tracks. If you don’t feel like hopping on a train yourself, the NYC Transit Museum also puts up a great holiday train set at Grand Central Terminal.
Looking for more than just a good restaurant near Times Square? Check out The Knick’s NYC Travel Guide for our curated recommendations of things to do in New York.