There are very few places as magical as New York City during Christmas. From the lighting of the tree in Rockefeller Center to the imaginative window scenes on 34th Street to the smell of chestnuts on street corners, you can’t help but get into the holiday spirit.
As a native New Yorker, I still look forward to heading into Manhattan to be delighted by all my city has to offer for the festive season. There are so many things to do, so I’ve decided to take a different approach here with some NYC local secrets to help you navigate your trip better.
Best Christmas things to do in NYC this year
Here are my insider tips for all those modern Gen x women who want to experience something different this time and quickly plan the ladies’ holiday getaway of their dreams.
Are you ready to amaze yourself?
Shine Bright Musical Light Show
Experience the extraordinary musical light show “Shine Bright” which is happening exclusively in the shops at Hudson Yards. The indoor/outdoor exhibit, presented by Wells Fargo, features more than two million twinkling white lights and includes a 30-foot hot air balloon suspended inside the megamall is not to be missed.
Hudson Yard is New York’s newest neighbourhood and home to more than 100 diverse shops and culinary experiences, offices for leaders in industry, significant public art and dynamic cultural institutions including The Shed, modern residences, 14 acres of public plazas, gardens and groves and the world’s first Equinox Hotel®.
The Plaza Hotel and its surroundings
You can’t think about New York City and Christmas without remembering the Plaza Hotel scene in “Home Alone 2“ or “Buddy the Elf “ walking through Times Square. Since opening in 1907, the limelight has never left the Plaza itself—in fact, the hotel has held starring roles in a number of major Hollywood films. I’d suggest booking a guided walking tour by Free Tours By Foot to recreate some of your favourite Christmas movie moments. Fun guaranteed!
Grand Central Terminal’s Holiday Fair
Who doesn’t love to get a unique gift for the holidays? Forget the finding holiday prizes in department stores and head over to Grand Central Terminal’s Holiday Fair. While smaller than Bryant Park or Union Square, it is also less crowded and you get the benefit of seeing the gazing up at Grand Central’s celestial ceiling. Showcasing 36 local-artisan vendors offering one-of-a-kind products across a variety of categories, the Grand Central Holiday Fair runs for six weeks. Vendors offer a diverse mix of gift-able items, including men’s and women’s clothing and accessories, original artwork, jewellery, stunning holiday keepsakes and distinctive home décor, self-care products, and endless varieties of handcrafted goods.
Rolf’s German Restaurant
Holiday cheer needs holiday cheer. Head on over to the east side of Manhattan and slip into Rolf’s for an afternoon cocktail while sitting in the middle of the elaborate winter decorations. Located near Gramercy Park at 22nd Street and 3rd Avenue, Rolf’s German Restaurant offers a truly unique holiday dining experience. From the moment you step inside, you’ll be enveloped in the festive atmosphere. Think hundreds of thousands of Christmas Lights and thousands of ornaments and icicles all strung and lined throughout the restaurant. In addition to these, there are hundreds of porcelain dolls and wreaths, artificial fir trees, garlands, ribbons, and other festive bits and pieces.
Purple, green, blue, pink, red, and a rainbow of colourful lanterns adorn the Winter Garden at Brookfield Place this holiday season. Conceived by the LAB at Rockwell Group, luminaries glowing canopy consists of 640 twinkling custom lanterns that change in colour and intensity. This is free to walk through and experience which is a bonus in NYC. While you are there, pick up a few holiday gifts, go ice skating, stop by and take a selfie with Santa.
Moxy Hotel East Village
On the theme of selfies, check out Moxy Hotel East Village’s new pink winter wonderland, located in the enclosed outdoor terrace off Alphabet Baryes, Yes, I said pink. You can sip a pink cocktail while lounging in the pink chairs, a can’t-miss photo opportunity for your ladies’ holiday getaway. Moxy Hotel East Village is located in the heart of New York City’s hallowed East Village––the breeding ground for society-shifting movements in rock n’roll, avant-garde art, Beatnik poetry, LGBTQ+ activism, and American counterculture as we know it.
Watermark’s Winter Wonderland
How would you like to dine outside in your own private temperature-controlled glass house with waterfront views? Sounds like a dining adventure of a lifetime and is exactly what you will get when you head over to Watermark’s Winter Wonderland. The restaurant is transformed into a sparkling experience. Take a look at how the restaurant was transformed into the North Pole inspired by Disney’s newest movie, The Santa Clauses.
When you think of gingerbread houses are you envisioning four walls and a gumdrop roof? Well, think again. Gingerbread Lane has been in the Guinness Book of world records for the largest gingerbread display. Over 500 individual houses adorn the historic Essex Market, on the Lower East Side. Each village is planned, designed, decorated and created year after year by Jon Lovitch. Lovitch’s passion for the project began when he was working as an apprentice chef at a hotel in Kansas City where the pastry chef made a gingerbread house. He noticed visitors’ positive reactions to the chef’s creation, so he wanted to try his hand at making his own. That first year in 1994 as a teenager, he made 14 gingerbread houses, what he’d now consider a small display.
New York City is synonymous with art and they have also brought to life some of the most fun and interactive events. What happens when these two trends come together, we get Monet’s Garden. This 360-degree installation of Monet’s most famous work is a multi-sensory exhibit incorporating lights, music, and movement.
Visitors are guided through three experience rooms. Each room is a highlight on its own and provides the traveller not only with an insight, but also with new experiences and new perspectives on Monet’s life, his work and his masterpieces.
The Amaze Light Festival
Lastly, step outside of Manhattan and take the 7 train to Citifield, home of the New York Mets. Citifield has been converted into five different storybook worlds you can get lost in. The Amaze Light Festival incorporates lights, dancing, music, food, and an arctic train. Meet the lovable characters, Zing and Sparky, from the Amaze storybook, who bring the stage dancers, singers, and light show to life with their magic powers. Visit the holiday market and then stop in and grab a treat at Sparky’s Sweet Spot. Enjoy savoury and sweet culinary treats, as well as speciality drinks and cocktails. Amaze is an open format that allows visitors to explore and uncover magic at every corner. Make traditions and memories that last a lifetime.