good morning! like in years past, i’ve rounded up all of our favorite things to do over the holidays in NYC with photos old and new, since it’s such a great time of year to visit and i get so many questions about holiday activities.
this time of year is truly so magical and for those who are heading this way, i hope you have the very best time. if any of you have anything to add that you love to do in the nyc area during this season, please share in the comments! i’d love to find a few new things for us to try or do this year.
to start off–
the thanksgiving day parade is really fun to experience in person if you are in the city. if you want a front row spot on the street to watch, it’s best to get out there before 5AM. (last year, i went at 4:30 and there were already a few people reserving entire blocks with rope and tape.) if you are having someone in your group go early to hold spots for little ones arriving later on, i recommend saving a spot on the west side of the street along central park west as they close off crossings so it’s harder to get to the east side of the street after 7am. i have more details in this post, as well as lots of photos from the parade from last year!
something we have done in the past is make a reservation for breakfast at landmarc in the time warner building at columbus circle which has incredible views of the parade below. it’s a bit of a warmer option, if you aren’t up for the full experience of standing and waiting outside in the cold for several hours. ;)
we have also loved seeing the balloons being blown up the afternoon and evening before the parade at the american museum of natural history (although in my opinion, this event has gotten so crowded over the last few years, sometimes it feels worse than the actual parade the following day!)
CHRISTMAS IN NYC!
a few of our favorite things to do over the holidays in the city….
— if you have little ones, go see peter and the wolf at the guggenheim museum. we go every year and it’s truly our favorite. it’s only about a half hour long, with live music and actors, with the stage set in central park. my kids talk about it all year long.
— we love walking down 5th avenue and seeing all of the beautiful window displays (especially the windows at bergdorfs). here is a helpful interactive map! of the best route to take.
— in addition to seeing all the decorated windows down 5th avenue, we like doing a christmas tree crawl and seeing many of the trees decorated for christmas around the city. the tree at rockefeller center of course, bryant park, washington square park, madison square park, lincoln square… we love the origami christmas tree at the american museum of natural history, and the one at the metropolitan museum of art always makes me cry.
— if you’re on the upper west side, there is also a wonderful display for the holidays in the 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.
— in addition to a christmas tree crawl around the city, there are so many great santas to visit around the city as well, you might as well do a santa crawl. we’ve enjoyed visiting santa at santaland at macy’s (the set up and experience is pretty fun, but you do need tickets in advance now, you can find info here.)
we tend to go back every year to the santa at the plaza hotel (he is so sweet and the lines never seem to be terrible).
ABC carpet and home has the most magical st. nick who we saw several years ago when eleanor was a baby (remember these photos?!) but be prepared to wait several hours because he’s only there a few days a week though so check the schedule here.
— my kids have also loved the holiday train show at grand central (there’s also a big one at the botanical gardens). here are some old photos when E and S were practically babies loving the train show!
— as far as treats go around the holidays in NYC, you can’t go wrong. there are so many good ones. it’s always a fun time of year to grab a frozen hot chocolate with friends at serendipity. i also love an excuse to eat the homemade marshmallow on top of the hot chocolate at city bakery (you’ll want to split their hot chocolate though, it is SO rich!). city bakery also happens to be so close to dough doughnuts, which is a great spot to grab a good donut in the winter. the dolce de leche is my favorite. also, it’s not unique to new york, but my favorite hot chocolate right now is from joe and the juice. it’s a good one.
— and speaking of great treats, if you visit the holiday markets around the city (so many good ones! union square park, bryant park, etc), you must try the nutella stuffed churros at the columbus circle holiday market. we also LOVE the arancini bros stand at bryant park’s holiday market. they have nutella stuffed arancini that’s amazing but also their regular ragu arancini (ask for hot fresh ones, even if ya have to wait for a few minutes!) are insane.
— we have loved seeing the radio city christmas spectacular with the rockettes each year (i just bought tickets last night for our family in a few weeks!) as it’s seriously one of the most magical shows out there. a little tip, if you get seats in the front half section of the theatre, the snow will fall on you at the end and it is our favorite part, for sure. also be sure to plan on arriving at least an hour early, because the lines to get in wrap around the block and it’s crazy. they start the show on time even if everyone is yet to be seated, so going early is key!
— chelsea market is a fun place to visit during the holidays, the lights are beautiful! another spot that we have yet to visit but i’m determined to get to this year are all the holiday lights in dyker heights, brooklyn. i hear it’s amazing and every year we try to go but somehow don’t make it out. looks like this year probably won’t happen with the baby girls but SOMEDAY I’LL GET OUT TO IT!
— 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 something else.
— we love the puppet shows at the marionette theater in central park! they do a holiday puppet show each year, details here. conrad and i just went to this specific show last week and it was pretty cute. can’t not love puppets that have ice skates on! i mean!
— ice skating in new york city is also a fun thing to do this time of year. you can skate in central park, bryant park, and rockefeller center. there’s also a darling smaller ice rink outside the standard hotel downtown.
— josh and i loved the big band holiday concert a few years ago with wynton marsalis at jazz at lincoln center. they also have a webop family holiday jazz jam this year on december 8th if that’s something your kids might be into! and of course, the nutcracker takes place at lincoln center every year with the new york city ballet.
— on christmas eve, there’s caroling where all are welcome to join in under the washington square arch around 5pm. and they have their annual tree lighting ceremony in a few weeks on december 5th!
by the way, if you’re traveling around NYC with a stroller, HERE is a map we made showing all the working subway elevators (so you only have to carry it up and down the subway stairs maybe half the time!) and HERE is a big guide we made that should help you with navigating the city (taxis, subways, groceries, food and broadway shows).
(last two photos by katie rain.)
if i missed anything you love to do in the winter in the city, please share it in the comments below! HAPPY HOLIDAYS FRIENDS!!!!!!!!!!!