What better place to get into the Christmas spirit than New York? A festive market atmosphere in a downtown market in 1822 inspired the famous poem ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.’ According to Miracle on 34th Street, there is a Santa Claus, and Macy’s has him.
While some of New York’s Christmas landmarks have become well-worn tourist traps, they remain worth checking out if you have some dos and don’ts in mind.
DO try ice skating; Central Park’s Wollman Rink is a great place to ice skate.
DON’T miss a visit to Rockefeller Center Plaza, also known as the Capital of NYC Christmas, so you can admire the big tree – which has been around since 1931 and boasts around 50,000 LED lights – and take a photo. The golden Prometheus statue looks fantastic after dark when the lights reflect off its bare shoulders. In the days leading up to Christmas and New Year’s Eve, the lights are turned off at 11:30 pm and 9 pm, respectively.
DON’T skate the ice rink here. You could have to wait in line for up to two hours for ice time, and it’s tiny and expensive ($32 + $12 rental). The Wollman Rink in Central Park is bigger, somewhat cheaper, and equally atmospheric after January 4, when the wait is shorter, and rates are lower.
DO make a last-minute Christmas shopping trip to Union Square Holiday Market, where local craftspeople and artists offer unique items. From November through Christmas Eve, the market operates daily.
DON’T attempt to brave the crowds outside Times Square stores. Nothing kills the spirit of Christmas faster.
DO visit Macy’s elaborate Santaland; the scene is breathtaking, with snow, Christmas trees, elves, and toy trains. A Miracle on 34th Street reference and the store’s hotline (+1-212-494-4495) confirm that it is still the home of “the one and only real Santa Claus”.
DON’T visit on weekends or at noon on weekdays. The best opportunity to visit is to show up before opening time (10 am) so you don’t have to wait long or to come an hour before closing (the doors close at 10 pm Monday through Saturday and at 9 pm on Sundays). Also, avoid tugging on Santa’s beard. There’s nothing fake about that!
DO see the Rockettes perform at Radio City Christmas Spectacular.
DO take in a holiday show. A beloved winter concert series at St John the Divine is the Winter Solstice celebration, while Radio City Music Hall’s Christmas Spectacular is what every New York kid grows up watching.
DON’T overlook the other boroughs. In Brooklyn, the Barclays Center is showing Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas live in concert with orchestra, choir, and lighting; in the Bronx, the New York Botanical Garden has one of the city’s great Christmas traditions, the Holiday Train Show, with a quarter-mile toy train track that passes iconic buildings like the Brooklyn Bridge and Statue of Liberty.
DON’T go out of your way to window-shop downtown. The Midtown district simply does it better. The best way to see Fifth Avenue is to walk from Saks at 49th Street to Bergdorf Goodman at 58th Street while also making sure to keep an eye out for outliers such as Barneys New York, Lord & Taylor, and Macy’s (34th St & Broadway).
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