New York City transforms into the most perfect winter wonderland at Christmas time. The streets are decorated with twinkling lights, department stores deck their windows with the most exquisite displays, locals and tourists strap on their skates to have a go on one of the many rinks around the city and not forgetting the Salvation Army out in force with their ringing bells. After watching the movies, seeing pictures, hearing friends stories I have always dreamed of seeing New York at Christmas time, so I decided to make this dream a reality…
Where we stayed: We stayed in a 1 bed apartment next door to the Empire State Building with the most stunning roof terrace. I think you definitely get more for your money if you…
a) Stay in an apartment, rather than a hotel
b) If you go through Airbnb to find your apartment. We’ve booked several places through Airbnb and they have been truly magnificent with such friendly hosts.
Price: We went for a little piece of luxury for our stay and paid £210 per night for 5 nights but it was worth every penny for the jaw-dropping views and such a lovely retreat to come back to after walking for miles and miles all day every day!
Time of year: November/December
New York at Christmas time really is as amazing and magical as it looks on the films. I would highly recommend to anyone planning a visit, that they experience New York at Christmas. However, I have heard it is a beautiful place to visit all year round, seeing the leaves change colour in Central Park would be a stunning sight to behold.
We had been planning this trip for a long time and I had looked at so many reviews, had been given a long list of friend recommendations and received a lot of valuable advice from my friend who lives over there. I amended, tweaked and changed the spreadsheet of the very busy 5 day itinerary. I wanted to really make the most of the trip and see all the big sights, so my top tip for you would be to make sure you go armed with a thorough plan of what you want to see.
So, here’s what we got up to….
Top of the Rock
The best time to go up to the top would be about 3.30pm at Christmas time. So you get to see the views in daylight, then if you’re lucky enough you’ll see the sunset and the dazzling night lights of NYC. Perfection. I think Top of the Rock definitely has the edge over going to the top of the Empire State Building, just because from the Top of the Rock you get to see the dramatic Empire State Building and the beautiful central park close up on the other side.
Grand Central Station (FREE)
I definitely suggest you pop your head in here – it’s just the most beautiful train station you will probably ever see! I hear they have a wonderful food court downstairs too if you’re after a quick bite.
Evening Christmas lights bus tour
I admit this is a very touristy thing to do but we didn’t want to miss anything and it gave our feet a much needed rest! We braved it in the open air upstairs – it was well worth losing all the feeling in your fingers and toes to witness all the bright lights of New York!
Horse and Carriage Ride, Central Park
Unfortunately this was definitely not worth the money. It was a very small circular tour and we had already walked the same route to get to the ice rink. If you can, I would just walk and explore Central Park by foot.
Ice Skating Central Park
This was great fun, and is a definite must if you are visiting NYC in Winter. It is a really special place, with the most magnificent backdrop. We even witnessed an engagement proposal on the ice – how romantic!
What an incredible tribute of remembrance and honor to the people killed in the terror attacks of September 11, 2001 at the World Trade Centre site. The memorial has twin reflecting pools featuring cascading manmade waterfalls with the names of every person who died inscribed into bronze panels. This is certainly worth a visit. They hadn’t opened the museum when we went, however, I imagine that would be fascinating and I would definitely go back to visit.
The Singing Diner
If you love a good time, a little bit of cheesiness and a laugh a minute you have to visit Ellens Stardust Diner. This diner is home to the future stars of stage and screen. All the waiters are phenomenal singers and they serve up some of the best Diner food.
The Rockettes are a Christmas must-see! The Rockettes are America’s most iconic dance company, they have been captivating audiences for decades with precision dance performances at Radio City Music Hall. Their Christmas Spectacular show was just the best and certainly got us all in the Christmas spirit. This is a great show that the whole family can enjoy.
Madison Square Gardens
What an incredible venue! We went to watch a New York Knicks basketball game and we were certainly not disappointed. Firstly, I’ve always wanted a foam finger and they had those in abundance! Secondly, the match was so entertaining, even if you don’t know the rules and are not the sporty type you’ll be sure to have a great time. Highly recommended to book tickets to a show, game or concert at Madison Square Gardens, it was just a fantastic atmosphere.
Statue Boat Cruise
Seeing the New York skyline from the water is a magnificent sight. You can opt for the Staten Island ferry which is free or a tour operated ride by Statue Cruises. We opted for the latter which included stopping at Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. There are a number of different ticket options available, you can now even get a ticket to go up in the Statue of Liberty Crown. I really wanted to do this, however, unfortunately when we went Ellis Island was flooded and we were unable to stop. Despite this disappointment, the boat trip was just beautiful, watching the sunset behind the Statue of Liberty was a memory I won’t forget.
United Nations Headquarters
I’m not overly keen on museums however, this really was fascinating. We went on the hour long tour exploring the General Assembly Hall, Security Council Chamber, the Trusteeship Council Chamber and much more. We learnt how the United Nations address issues such as disarmament, peace and security and human rights. There was even a session in progress when we went so we were able to get a sneak peek which was very insightful.
We didn’t go to New York for the shopping, we just wanted to see as many sights as possible. However, on our last morning we did have a quick wander into the main department stores. There is a lot of hype around Macy’s department store, however, I was less than bowled over. I recommend Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdales for a shopping experience like no other, even if it’s just to see their Christmas departments!
My best bits
- I honestly cannot pick just one highlight. It truly was just one incredible big one. All of the above that we did was truly worthwhile, I loved every second and each day just amazed me even more. A spectacular trip that was full of fantastic memories that will certainly last a lifetime. A mention does need to go to the Salvation Army bell ringers who were on every street corner ringing their hearts out getting everyone into the Christmas spirit.
- Don the walking shoes!! We must have walked 10-15 miles a day.
- If you go on the underground make sure you have change for your tickets. At the stations we went to there were no change machines, no attendants and the machines didn’t accept cards.
- Take a trip to Byrant Park, they have a quieter Ice Rink and a stunning Christmas market with a fantastic festive atmosphere
- The New York public library is also worth popping your head in – an absolutely stunning piece of architecture and I guarantee it’s nothing like your local library!
- Another great idea that is definitely on our list for our next visit is a walk along Brooklyn Bridge at night – I hear it’s a magical experience.
Would I go again?
100% yes! I’ve well and truly fallen in love with every thing New York has to offer. I would love to visit in all the different seasons but I’m not sure it would be able to match such a magical city at Christmas time.
Have you been to New York?
What was your highlight? Share below…