NYC CHRISTMAS GUIDE!

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CHRISTMAS IN NYC!

well, it’s happening! we’ve made it to the monday before thanksgiving which means at this time on friday, i will be wearing christmas jammies and decorating my christmas tree with mariah carey singing her heart out on my bluetooth speaker and nobody can stop me. the best time of year is finally here and i’m gonna end this sentence with extra exclamation points just to get the message across of how stoked i am!!!!!!

since it’s one of my more popular questions this time of year (i love how many of you are heading to new york around the holidays!), i’ve compiled a big guide for you today highlighting our family’s favorite things to do in new york around this time of year, as well as favorite things to eat, ways to serve in the city, how to best stay warm (and keep your kiddos warm, too!) plus my thoughts and suggestions for getting around town. it’s all below and i hope it is helpful! if i missed anything holiday specific, please ask in the comments below… (ps- my thanksgiving guide is RIGHT HERE for those of you who are visiting new york this week.)

LET’S DO THIS!

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BEST SHOWS AND ACTIVITIES FOR THE ENTIRE FAMILY!

— if you’re going to catch just one show over the holidays in new york city, you won’t be disappointed if it’s the radio city christmas spectacular featuring the rockettes. honestly, they pull out all the stops and it really is magical. i have confirmed with friends who have already been this season that they brought back the snow this year (they did away with it last year) so if you want to splurge on orchestra seats in the front half section of the theatre, the snow will fall on you at the end and have to say, it’s kind of amazing! i also appreciate that they have a quick paced run down of the nutcracker in this show as well as a live nativity at the end (makes me cry year after year) so you get a lot of great stuff in one show. my biggest tip with this one would be to arrive at least an hour early if not sooner, because the lines to get into the theatre wrap around the block and the show begins promptly regardless if everyone has taken their seats or not.

— BEST BEST BEST live show to catch with little ones is peter and the wolf at the guggenheim museum. it’s only about a half hour in length, with live music, dancing, acting and a stage design set in central park. my kids talk about it all year long and it’s become a favorite holiday tradition. also, isaac mizrahi narrates it which means it’s really fun.

— having performed in the nutcracker every year growing up starting when i was like, seven — i do have a soft spot in my heart for the nutcracker ballet this time of year. and new york city ballet is the place to see it if you’ve never before (george balanchine’s version). in my opinion though, if you’re debating between this and the christmas spectacular with little ones, you do get a mini version of the nutcracker in the christmas spectacular, so i’d recommend that one first.  but if your kiddos are into it and you think they can sit through it, then this is a great option, too! also, lincoln center this time of year should not be missed!

— in years past, we have enjoyed the marionette theatre puppet shows in central park! the holiday show, yeti, set, snow is one that both conrad and i really liked last year when we saw it on a little date together. puppets wearing ice skates, i mean, that’s pretty adorable.

— ice skating outside in the city is something else around this time of year. you can skate in central parkbryant park, and rockefeller center.

— there is a live nativity on christmas eve at the church of the heavenly rest on 92nd and 5th avenue.  we’ve had friends participate in years past and hear it’s really beautiful.

10098766ALL THE CHRISTMAS LIGHTS IN NYC!

— always fun to walk down 5th avenue and see all of the beautiful window displays (the bergdorf goodman windows never disappoint and are always my favorite.) we like to start at bergdorfs and walk down towards macy’s, catching the displays and lights at tiffany’s, henri bendels and the light show outside saks fifth avenue.  here is a helpful interactive map! of the best route to take.

— another great spot for a fun light show is the holiday stars at the time warner center at columbus circle. the 12 foot stars perform to music every half hour on the hour beginning at 5PM each evening through january 5th. the time warner building is also a great spot to warm up if you’ve been out all day and browse the indoor shops. another spot for fun lights in an indoor shopping center are the luminaries at brookfield place. they also light up to music every hour on the hour during the holiday season.

— speaking of lights, our family rented a car last year and drove out to dyker heights to walk around the neighborhood that goes all out with their holiday lights and decorations each year. it was pretty impressive. the most populated area to catch the lights are from 11th to 13th avenues from 83rd to 86th street in dyker heights. a little info on traveling out there– we didn’t have any trouble parking but we planned on arriving just as the sun set so it wasn’t too populated just yet. when we were leaving it was crazy busy and traffic was wild! if you’re taking the subway in from manhattan, there is a stop about 15 minutes away from lights (the D train at 79th street and new utrecht ave). if you do a car, i’d recommend going on the earlier side of the evening so you can beat the rush with parking and traffic.

— on out list this year is to check out the new lumino city lights festival out on randalls island. there are apparently 12 acres covered in light art and it looks pretty cool.

— and not a lights display exactly, but a fun display for the holidays my kids always get a kick out of are the (2 very small!) windows of apthorp cleaners between 78th and 79th on amsterdam! they have unbelievable window displays every month of the year, but they are especially fun to check out over the holidays if you are in the neighborhood. don’t make a big trip out of it unless you’re already on the upper west side and in the neighborhood (like if you did the origami tree at the american museum of natural history first!)

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CHRISTMAS TREES AND SANTA CLAUSES NOT TO BE MISSED!

— while the rockefeller tree is undoubtedly the most popular (rightfully so, it’s big and grand and beautiful!), i have a special place in my heart for the origami christmas tree at the american museum of natural history. this year, the christmas tree has a theme called t. rex and friends inspired by the t. rex special exhibition on display right now. the museum has also announced that volunteers will be on hand at the museum each day to teach paper folding to visitors both big and small!

— another incredible tree is the nativity tree at the metropolitan museum of art. josh actually took the baby girls and eleanor over there to the museum last weekend which had me a little bit confused considering he’s so vocal about nothing christmas until after thanksgiving. ;) he says they didn’t go to see the tree, but i like to think maybe he’s warming up to the idea after all that christmas trees before thanksgiving aren’t so terrible. :)

— many of the parks have big lit trees on display including bryant park (you could spend several hours here with their holiday market and ice skating set up, too), washinton square park, madison square park and lincoln center. we sang christmas carols under the washington square park arch and tree last year on christmas eve (so much fun, i highly recommend!). you can also sing christmas carols with fellow new yorkers on december 2nd during the tree lighting on park avenue.

our favorite santa in the city is at the plaza hotel (reservations recommended, you can make them here.) he takes such sweet time with the kids and is just very sweet.

this year, our family made reservations to have breakfast with santa at rockefeller center. several friends of ours have gone in the past and recommended it. admission also includes ice skating and a way to pass the lines and head straight to the ice. i’ll report on the experience after we go, so stay tuned!

we’ve enjoyed visiting santa at santaland at macy’s (the set up and experience is pretty fun, and while free, you do need to reserve tickets in advance.)

ABC carpet and home has had the most magical st. nick in years past, but it looks like he won’t be there this year. we haven’t seen him since eleanor was a baby (remember these photos?!) but he really is the real deal and is worth the wait if they bring him back in the future!

SERVICE OPPORTUNITIES IN NYC DURING THE HOLIDAYS!

finding ways to give back and serve all year round wherever you live is amazing! and there are many chances to do so here in new york city. we have really enjoyed being able to serve alongside a lot of you over the past few years during our food bank for new york city volunteer days. the food bank for new york city is always looking for volunteers which you can learn more about here. i’m actually in the middle of working on something with them where we’re hoping to get more families (with younger children!) involved in dedicated service opportunities year round and excited to share more soon once everything is set.

in the past we have also been so impressed with our experience at the meatloaf kitchen, which is run entirely by volunteers and does so much for the community. you can get involved and help serve a meal right here.

citymeals on wheels is a great volunteer organization we found through our church group which helps homebound elderly new yorkers receive meals as well as just a friendly visit. they are accommodating of all sorts of schedules so it’s a great one for anyone trying to find something that can work with a demanding schedule.

and if you have little ones in the city (even if you don’t! this is a great one for adults too), the light the world giving machines located outside our church on columbus avenue between 65th and 66th are a must. they just arrived and will be there throughout the holidays.  they are like vending machines, but filled with options of buying a sheep for a family in a third-world country or 100 meals for your local food bank. you can buy a pair of shoes or school books or a soccer ball for a child in need. there are several options (watch the video here) and a great way for anyone to quickly give to someone else this holiday season.

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WHAT TO EAT IN NYC AROUND THE HOLIDAYS!

— a lot of you have asked for restaurant recommendations near radio city music hall or other spots around times square where you might be catching a show. while i know it’s convenient to grab food near the venue you want to be by, i recommend trying to plan your visit so you aren’t eating your meal in that area (mostly for the sake of it being overly priced and not great- you know, more of a touristy trap.) i know that can’t always happen with time constraints, but just ten or twenty minutes on the subway and you’re better off!

will recommend just a few things since this is more of a holiday guide and not a food guide (although i have several nyc neighborhood based guides with food recommendations right here. — the video versions linked here.)

if you’re near lincoln center, we really enjoy the smith (get the bleu cheese chips!). a short walk from there is the ribbon and also parm. both great dinner options!

if you find yourself on the upper west side during the day, the lunch menu at daily provisions is my absolute favorite thing right now (the broccoli melt, specifically.)

it is touristy, but the frozen hot chocolate at serendipity’s this time of year is always fun. other fun spots along those lines include tea and sympathy, alice’s tea cup and ladurée in soho.

it will depend on how you plan your day, but our favorite bagel in the city is at absolute bagels, and a great donut to try can be found at dough. forget the cronut and get the chocolate chip cookie at dominique ansel’s bakery. and to throw in a few other favorites around the city (so hard to name only a few!) but rossopomodoro ,  la esquina, bar pitti, and misi in brooklyn.

LOVE-TAZA-NYC-SNOWDAY-83hfj-34GETTING AROUND THE CITY DURING THE HOLIDAYS!

i know it seems like grabbing a taxi or an uber is the best bet, but the train (or walking!) really is going to get you wherever you need to go more quickly. especially if you’re anywhere near midtown, just take the train (or walk!). i also am such a fan of biking to your destination in new york, but i recommend that less in the winter months for obvious reasons. :)

HERE IS A SUBWAY MAP HIGHLIGHTING THE ELEVATORS in the subways here in the city. i hope it’s helpful for you to reference or print out and carry as you are traveling or commuting with a stroller.

a question i’m often asked is about carseats in taxi cabs here. you can read more about those laws here, but taxi cabs are exempt from requiring a car seat so it’s really up to you to make that call.

another question that comes up often is stroller verses baby carrier. this depends on your kids ages and your preference, but for us, our stroller is home base when we plan to be out all day and i know i don’t have the abs or back strength to baby wear all day long. strollers are hard (especially double strollers) in crowds and on subways, but it’s not so bad if you try to avoid rush hour traveling times and also add an extra ten minutes to your commute time knowing you can’t really weave in and out of sidewalk traffic the way you could if you were walking.

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WHAT TO WEAR TO STAY WARM AND BEST SPOTS TO GET WARM WITH KIDDOS!

new york city can be brutal in the colder months when it comes to temperatures. i put together THIS GUIDE that highlights everything you and your kiddos need in my opinion.

if i know we’ll be outside for most of the day, i put my kids in merino wool base layers and then in these performance snowsuits which are amazing. they also wear these waterproof snow boots that keep their toes and feet extra warm and dry.

stroller mittens are something that sound excessive but i count on heavily as i’m pushing a stroller around outside for much of my day. stroller bunting (think sleeping bag for your little one in their stroller!) is also of necessity and i can’t recommend enough.

the important thing to remember is that even if you’re outside for a good chunk of the day, you can break it up so easily in the city with breaks inside shops and museums or galleries and coffee shops to defrost a bit. the city is filled with places to wander into and explore, so you never have to feel like you’re stuck in the cold for long (unless you’re in the middle of central park!).

i hope this was helpful! please let me know in the comments if there’s anything i missed that you have a question about regarding nyc around the holidays. if you’re visiting the city this winter and you happen to see us out and about, please do say hello! i love meeting you all on the streets of this city and it always makes my day to put faces with this sort of internet-y type thing.

ps. if you missed it, a GUIDE FOR THANKSGIVING IN NEW YORK and also, lots of VIDEO GUIDES we made based by neighborhood right here.

  1. Kim

    This is so practical and helpful, thank you! We’ll be doing a brief trip to the two days after Thanksgiving with our two girls(4 and 1) and I don’t have any grand plans to try to do a performance with them but so many of these things are easy to work into our itinerary and will be so special to them. I’m sure putting this together took a lot of work – thank you!

  2. janet

    New York City is magical during the holidays! This makes me want to go back.

  3. New York City is simply magical during the holiday season. I loved all of the window displays, the Rockettes and ice skating at Rockefeller Plaza. Makes me want to go back!

  4. Margo

    Sadly, there is no Santa at ABC this year – just wanted you to know!

  5. Heather

    can’t wait to hear about the volunteering opportunities!

  6. Amanda Egan

    Amazing list Naomi. Really fun to read and make my list of must dos this year! Thanks for all the time it took to put it together!

  7. Susan McPhail

    Can you recommend any toy stores which offer unique items, not available in big box stores ?

    Any place which carry vintage toys?

    Does the Madaame Alexander factory in. Harlem have a store on the premises ?

  8. Erin

    We visited New York City 2 years ago with our 2 year old and 6 month old at the time. We had the best time. We followed many of your recommendations! My boys loved the little train show at Grand Central, the Natural History Museum, and evening though it was chilly we did the High Line and Chelsea Market which is always so festive! We also just used our strollers rain cover and it kept them pretty warm (while still being bundled in coats and bunting).

  9. Elaine

    Naomi… this is amazing. Your followers have got to thank you for all that you have put into this Christmas post. I read every line and looked at most of the links even though we won’t be there for Christmas this year. I want to savor and remember everything for the next Christmas I’m there. It’s great that your family has more than a month to enjoy it all. Hope you can stay well to do so!

  10. Genevieve

    I love this list and discovered Peter and The Wolf show from this blog.

    I would love the scoop on if Rock Center Breakfast with Santa
    is ending after this year! Heard a rumor that the restaurants are getting torn out…

  11. Kelly

    So many great ideas – this makes me homesick for New York!

    xx Kelly
    Sparkles and Shoes

  12. Anne Davis

    I beg to differ but the BEST SANTA in NYC is at the Palace Hotel.

    • josh

      Hmmm. I can totally see that. We should check it out! Thanks, Anne!

  13. Pingback: NYC CHRISTMAS GUIDE! - Christmas Tips

  14. Allison

    Oh man-it would be such a dream to go see the Rockettes, or just Radio City Hall in general. I’ve driven around on a tour of NYC while on a work trip and it was so fun then, I can only imagine how fun it is during Christmas.

    Allison
    https://clementschronicles.com

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