New York City is a beautiful and mesmerising place to be at any time of year, but during the holidays it morphs into something straight out of a Christmas movie. We visited during 28th December – 2nd January so that we were able to spend Christmas at home, but still see all of the lights and decorations the city had to offer, and to see in the new year with a bang!
Just a couple of tips before we get started. Have a look online for NYC Explorer Passes or other similar passes if you are planning to see several attractions, they saved us quite a bit of money. Also, don’t forget that once you get your bearings, New York is essentially a large grid, and much of it can be walked to and from. If you do decide to use transport, get a Metro card and top it up with a weekly pass. We spent well over $150 on topping up our card on the go, only to realised that we could have walked much of what we got to via the tube.
Come on then, let’s get started!
Window displays on 5th Avenue
Some of the large designer stores really go to town for their holiday window displays, many of which don’t stop at just the windows but instead decorate the entire building! Some of our favourites were Macy’s, Saks, Cartier and Lord and Taylor. Make sure to stop by Saks after 4:30pm to see the light display across the building. As this happens every ten minutes it’s fairly easy to grab a space near the road to witness the full effect of the beautiful display.
Dyker Heights Christmas lights in Brooklyn
The residents of Dyker Heights take Christmas very seriously – with some spending tens of thousands on Christmas lights and decorations to adorn their gardens, windows and doorways. This is a truly magical place to visit during the holidays and a great way to get you into the Christmas spirit!
Warm yourself up with an indulgent hot chocolate from the City Bakery near central Manhattan
The homemade marshmallows are like nothing we’d ever seen before! That hot chocolate is divine too, like pure, molten chocolate.
Try a Cronut from Dominique Ansel Bakery
These are delicious, flaky, crisp croissant/doughnut hybrids, covered in a light, tasty icing and filled with whipped cream and a flavoured filling. Top tip – Get there for 7:30am and join the queue otherwise they might have sold out of their daily quota of cronuts by the time you arrive!
Or any of these other delicious goodies from the bakery!
Visit Chelsea Market
This quirky marketplace is brimming with independent sellers, inspiring artwork and sculptures, lots of tasty food stalls (including a huge fish market) and during the holidays it is all glitzed up with pretty decor. We came in the evening and found it relatively quiet and still had plenty of time to meander around as it doesn’t close until late. The market is all indoors so is a good option if you find yourself stuck under a persistent rain cloud or storm.
Get a peek at Pomander Walk
A gated community on the upper west side, Pomander Walk is like a little slice of Old England in the heart of New York. The twenty seven homes were built in Tudor-style during the 1920s when the developer was unable to get financing to build a sixteen storey hotel. The area is only accessible to those who live there, but it’s worth a glimpse through the gate to witness the quaintness of this little street.
Take a tour of Radio City and watch a show with the famous Rockettes
We didn’t have time for a show when we visited, but we did take the seventy-five minute guided tour of Radio City, and would highly recommend it to anyone. The tour guide was very knowledgable and enthusiastic, and you can go behind the scenes to see the stage and costumes, as well as the VIP areas usually inaccessible to the general public. We caught glimpses of the show in action as part of our tour and were left in awe of the talent and creativity that can be found in beautiful venues like this.
Witness the city from the Top of the Rock
We chose to experience the views of the city from the top of the Rockefeller Centre in daylight as we knew we would see Central Park, and also see the Empire State Building from here too. If you can, book a time in advance online to avoid the queues and a lengthy wait for the next available time slot! Time at the top is not limited, so there’s no need to rush.
Take in the views from the iconic Empire State Building
We decided to experience the Empire State at night in order to see the city lights in their full glory. Unfortunately you can’t book a time slot in advance here as you can with Rockefeller, but you will have to queue to go security whether you are buying tickets on the day or if you purchased them in advance. I think the queuing is fairly inevitable here, but it’s worth it to see the beautiful interiors of this American icon.
Explore the Market Stalls at Bryant Park
Bryant Park is close to Times Square and houses beautiful little conservatories filled with independent sellers. There is a lovely restaurant here which we didn’t eat at, but looks like it would be a nice place for a rest and bite to eat.
Celebrate New Year’s Eve at Brooklyn Bridge, Central Park or Prospect Park
We decided not to battle the crowds in Times Square on NYE, and were torn between Central Park, Prospect Park and the Brooklyn Bridge. There is a NYE run that occurs through Central Park which tempted us to go and cheer them on, and apparently there is hot chocolate and other tasty things at Prospect Park which was equally tempting. In the end, due to its close proximity to our accommodation, we decided on the Brooklyn Bridge. The fireworks from Liberty Island were nice, and other than a bit of a queue to leave the bridge, it was pretty calm and relaxed here which was ideal. I’d recommend this, or any of the parks if you are spending New Year’s Eve in NYC.
Explore the city and enjoy the streets and architecture
New York has some of the most beautiful streets and architecture in the world. We enjoyed just taking a minute to stand and watch the crowds fly by.
St Patrick’s Cathedral
See how many Christmas trees you can find!
We found quite a few Christmas trees dotted around the city, both indoors and outdoors. See how many you can spot!
Empire State Building
Washington Square Park
Tiffany’s 5th Avenue
American Museum of Natural History
See the city from above on the High Line
In the 1930s, the High Line was set up as a railway line, carrying goods throughout the city above the traffic, through buildings. In 1980, the last ever train undertook its journey on the tracks, and by the 2000s, the High Line was set up as a walkway for pedestrians to explore the city from the air by following the old railway tracks. If you visit Chelsea Market there’s an easy access point from there.
Not sure quite what the story was with this guy, but we had to get a picture!
Find the many beautiful sculptures throughout the city (including special Christmas sculptures!)
New York has loads of beautiful artwork and sculptures dotted across the city, but at Christmas, even more of them appear, often with spectacular lighting and colours.
These cute little guys can be found dotted around the subway system! They form a piece of artwork called ‘Life Underground’ and were created by artist Tom Otterness.
Take a romantic stroll through Central Park and go Ice Skating
Spot some of the sculptures around Central Park, including Alice in Wonderland and Hans Cristian Anderson.
The ice rink at Central Park is bigger than the Rockefeller rink and the surroundings are more tranquil. It was still quite pricey, but if you buy tickets online it’s usually cheaper. We used the NYC Explorer Pass (which you can find from a variety of websites) and we tacked on the skating for $12 per person.
We came across this gorgeous pusscat out on a walk with his owner in the park, having a great time chasing the squirrels. He is a Siberian cross Persian for anyone who is interested!
Indulge your inner child at Dylan’s Candy Bar
Located close to Central Park at Union Square, Dylan’s Candy Bar is filled with every sweet imaginable!
Enjoy the company of the many eccentric individuals around the subway
No elaboration necessary…
Take a moment to remember those who are no longer with us at the 9/11 memorial
This is a really peaceful, serene area to come and take a moment of reflection.
Take advantage of the free Staten Island Ferry to see Lady Liberty
Departing every 20 minutes to half an hour, the ferry runs regularly from Whitehall Terminal in Manhattan, across the water to Staten Island. You can get some great views of the skyline from the ferry, as well as Liberty Island.
Visit Grand Central Terminal and try the Whispering Arches
Grand Central Terminal is worth a visit just for the beauty of it. The architecture is luxurious, and the food hall is a great place to while away some time by people-watching. Whilst you’re there, be sure to have a go at the whispering arches. You can stand at one corner and due to the way the building was designed, someone at the diagonally-opposite corner can hear what you whisper! We tried it and it genuinely works!
Track down and walk through the waterfall tunnel behind the McGraw-Hill Building
We even had a little snow flurry when we visited! There’s also a big waterfall at Paley Park which we didn’t get a chance to see but which looks pretty cool.
We had an amazing time in New York over the festive period, yes it was super busy, but that just adds to the atmosphere!
We did so much on this trip that we’ve split the vlog into sections. Check out part one here:
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