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Planning your Christmas trip to New York City

Planning your Christmas trip to New York City

It’s been less than a week since I returned from the big apple, and after the most incredible long weekend exploring New York and all it has to offer at Christmas time, it would just be mean not to share it with you. New York at Christmas is one of those bucket list trips people dream of, and while I’ve been across the pond in November when the focus is more on Thanksgiving, I’ve never previously experienced it in full Christmas holiday spirit. Before I went, TravelPlanners challenged me to plan the perfect trip, so here’s all my carefully thought out tips, list of things to see and do, and hopefully some inspiration for you to plan your own Christmas trip to New York City in years to come.

Planning your Christmas trip to New York City

There is obviously an unlimited amount of things to do in New York, and it would take me forever to list them all, so this post has a definite Christmas focus, but in no way covers everything. Here goes…

See the Christmas Lights and Decorations

Rockefeller Tree

The crown jewel of New York City at Christmas time, and one of the most eagerly anticipated lights switch on in the world. Rockefeller Tree attracts more visitors than any other attraction once it has been lit, pride of place at the foot of the Rockefeller Centre. It looks incredible from all angles, but none better than straight from the front, if you stand facing it on 5th Avenue. 

Planning your Christmas trip to New York City

The Rockefeller Gardens that lead up to it are also transformed with decorations, and lit up angels, and there’s the opportunity half way down to get your photograph taken officially with nobody blocking the view. 

Planning your Christmas trip to New York City

Tip: If you get there early morning the crowds are thinner and the photographer hasn’t set up yet, so you can take your own pic without the crowds, and without paying for it.

Planning your Christmas trip to New York City

6th Avenue’s Oversized Christmas Decorations

A lot of 6th Avenue is made up of commercial buildings and office block skyscrapers, but at Christmas it is one of my favourite spots for it’s Christmas lights.

Planning your Christmas trip to New York City

Just like the towering skyscrapers above, the lights and decorations are oversized too, including a string of coloured lights, and my personal favourite the huge red baubles over the fountain.

Planning your Christmas trip to New York City

The trees are also covered in white fairy lights, and have giant red reindeer amongst them. Truly one of the most magical and Christmassy spots in the city.

Planning your Christmas trip to New York City

Tip: If you want a traditional New York steak then Del Friscos is located on the corner, and also gives a fabulous view of the Christmas lights.

Planning your Christmas trip to New York City

Iconic buildings and Landmarks

Of course all of the famous landmarks and iconic New York buildings put their best foot forward at this time of year too, and even just the simplest Christmas wreath or light garlands transform them into twinkling hubs of Christmas spirit.

Grand Central looks fabulous both from outside and inside…

Planning your Christmas trip to New York City
Planning your Christmas trip to New York City

New York Public Library has a beautiful tree in the entrance, and throughout the building giant candlesticks…

Festive photos of New York

The American Stock exchange on Wall Street has its own tree too…

Planning your Christmas trip to New York City

As well as a few others dotted about the city.

Planning your Christmas trip to New York City

Do your Christmas Shopping in NYC

Perhaps the main reason many flock to NYC in December, or even as early as November if you’re brave enough to face the Black Friday sales, the opportunities for Christmas shopping are endless.

Planning your Christmas trip to New York City

5th Avenue

The most famous street of all, 5th Avenue is littered with shops, from high end luxury designers like Rolex, Gucci, Cartier, Versace and of course Tiffany & Co., through to more high street flagship stores belonging to Nike, Urban Outfitters, Toyshop and many more. You’ll also find the NBA store, which I’d recommend if you’re into sports and going to a game of some sort while you’re there. 

Planning your Christmas trip to New York City

Maddison Avenue

This one completely surprised me, and I have to say I actually prefer it to the madness that ensues on 5th Avenue. Running alongside it and up through the Upper East Side of Central Park, Maddison Avenue is classy and quiet, but still with all the famous luxury designers.

Planning your Christmas trip to New York City

We began at Apple which is at the bottom corner of the park and at the top of 5th Avenue, and walking up from there we passed the likes of Audemars Piguet, Chloe, Hermes, Ralph Lauren, Anya Hindmarsh, Chanel and Tom Ford.

Planning your Christmas trip to New York City

Tip: Ralph Lauren have just opened a little coffee spot in their flagship store on Maddison Avenue, join the locals for a coffee break.

Planning your Christmas trip to New York City

Macy’s, Saks 5th Avenue and Bloomingdales

World famous names you’re bound to recognise, all three of these huge NY department stores were absolutely Christmas crazy, but fabulous.

We went to Macy’s on the Friday, and I lost count of how many floors there were. Everything you could possibly imagine to buy, and then some filled the shelves and rails. The Christmas shop on the 9th floor was like nothing I’ve seen before, and we obviously had to buy a New York red apple bauble souvenir.

Planning your Christmas trip to New York City

When we walked past on the following Saturday afternoon the queue to get in was round the corner, it was absolutely heaving. One to visit mid week or early morning.

Planning your Christmas trip to New York City

Saks 5th Avenue was I think my favourite, mainly because of it’s famous window display and light show on the walls outside. That and it’s directly opposite Rockefeller Centre so that whole area can’t fail to get you feeling very festive.

Planning your Christmas trip to New York City

We ventured into Saks once, for the shoe department which is every girls dream.

Tip: Take the express lift to the shoe floor, which skips all the others and takes you directly into shoe heaven!

Planning your Christmas trip to New York City

Bloomingdales, ‘my mom calls it Bloooooomies!’ of course is another famous one that I saw many people leaving with their little brown bags. 

For something a little bit different I would recommend visiting Chelsea Market in Greenwich village. The indoor market is full of quirky shops and independent trader stores, so in December when its minus temperatures outside it gives you a welcome break to potter around the shops in the warmth.

Planning your Christmas trip to New York City

Tip: Sarabeth’s Bakery does a lovely cup of coffee!


See a Christmas Show

Can you really go to New York and not visit Broadway for a show? Of course not, and there are plenty to choose from including old favourites, Chicago, Phantom of the Opera, the Lion King etc..

Planning your Christmas trip to New York City

As well as some seasonal favourites like the Nutcracker, A Christmas Carol and even Frozen.

One of the most famous shows you can enjoy at Christmas in New York is of course the Rockettes at Radio City. The queue for this is always huge, but the show is spectacular and can be found at Radio City on 6th Avenue.

Planning your Christmas trip to New York City

Other ways to get festive in NYC

Join in the Christmas spirit with the local services like NYPD and NYFD. Americans are friendly at the best of times, but at Christmas the officers in uniform go the extra mile to welcome you in their city.

Fire stations open their doors to let you in for a peak, and their vehicles and fire engines are covered in Christmas decorations. You’ll notice the buses flashing the ‘Happy Holiday’ messages too.

Planning your Christmas trip to New York City

The Salvation Army charity workers of New York can be found on a lot of the streets, ringing their bells, dancing to Christmas carols and raising money for the homeless. If you have the change give generously.

Go ice skating either at Rockefeller Centre or in Central Park. Both ice rinks are busy and overpriced but how often can you say you’ve done it? Do it while you’re there.

Planning your Christmas trip to New York City

Join in with Santacon, a day where the locals all dress up as Santa and basically go out drinking. They were everywhere, and many of the bars had offers on so make the most of them.

Even if you don’t go in, go and see the Park Plaza hotel, made famous of course by Home Alone 2. 

Planning your Christmas trip to New York City
Planning your Christmas trip to New York City

Visit Dyker Heights in Brooklyn, a place famous for the houses going crazy with Christmas lights trying to outdo their neighbours. In fact take a wander through any of the New York neighbourhoods and residential streets and you’ll find plenty of effort on the Christmas front.

Spending a Christmas weekend in New York was everything I ever imagined, and I returned home feeling fully festive. If you’ve ever considered it but aren’t sure then I really can’t stress enough that you have to go at least once in your lifetime. It’s touristy, expensive, busy, and your feet will feel like they’re going to fall off, but it is AMAZING and completely worth it.

Planning your Christmas trip to New York City

Disclaimer: We paid for everything on this trip ourselves including flights and accommodation, but this particular blog post was sponsored by TravelPlanners and their interactive tool to help you plan your own trip to NYC. As always all experiences, opinions and thoughts are my own.

Other posts you might like:

Visiting the Rockefeller Centre and Top of the Rock

A Luxury Stay at The London Hotel, New York

14 Cities Perfect for a Winter Break

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Planning your Christmas trip to New York City
Planning your Christmas trip to New York City


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7 Comments

  • Reply
    Chloe - New Girl in Toon
    29th December 2018 at 8:44 pm

    Gorgeous photos, NYC looks perfect at Christmas time. We’re actually planning our first ever visit at the moment but we’re going to go in October (as much as I love the idea of Christmas I know that I’ll never cope with the cold weather!) – think we’ll be booking our flights this week and then I’m going full steam ahead with the planning. So excited!

  • Reply
    Newcastle FamilyLife
    2nd January 2019 at 2:47 pm

    It looks amazing, I am planning on taking my teenage daughter for her 18th birthday in a few years time. Reading this has made me want to visit at Christmas time xx

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