We're in the final days before Christmas! I hope you have finished your shopping and are home enjoying some time with family, and some hot chocolate. I am very happy this year to have been able to spend these past few weekends in the city.
Growing up in Upstate NY, I never imagined living this close to New York City. Having everything at my fingertips and the endless opportunities that the city offers is so amazing. This time of year is both a wonderful and a terrible time to visit. Knowing exactly what you want to see and when you should see it will help you make the most of your trip. Here are some images (and some tips!) from my last three weekends in Manhattan.
It may be cliche, but seeing the Rockefeller center Christmas tree is the thing to see at Christmas time in NYC. From The day of the tree lighting, to the week of the 25th, Rockefeller center is jam-packed with people. You want to be able to move around and enjoy your time at the tree? Visit on a weekday or come late at night. 5pm on a Saturday is the last time you want to attempt a tree-viewing!
Shopping seems to be one of the main reasons people visit NYC for the holidays. I love doing my Christmas shopping in the city too. Malls are confining and packed with people, filled with the same old shops. The city has dozens of special boutiques, all decked out in their holiday finest. If you come for a visit, please don't shop at the same stores that you have at home. They all sell the same thing.
Not only are the insides of the shops decorated, people line up outside to view the windows at Saks, Bergdorf-Goodman, Lord & Taylor & Macy's. My favorite this year? The often overlooked Lord & Taylor. This year, mice dance along the windows, finding mischief and playing games. The window below can be found at Macy's, where a little boy travels through space with Santa.
Coming to Manhattan during the second weekend of December? Watch out for all the Santas! Santacon happens every year, much to the chagrin of locals and bar owners alike. Twenty somethings from New Jersey, Long Island and Upstate New York all dress in festive costumes and take to the trains. They follow a pre-determined route of bars through the city and drink all day. Instagram is usually full of passed-out Santas by 5pm. Don't want the kids to see all the Santas? Avoid Midtown on Santacon day.
Is your trip to NYC not complete without a spin around the ice? Your options are not just limited to the famous Rockefeller rink. The popularity of the original rink has lead to several other rinks popping up around the city. The Trump Rink (formerly the Wollman rink) in Central Park is much larger and feels so much less claustrophobic. My favorite rink is in the Bryant Park winter village. There's a tree, a Christmas shopping village and a lovely restaurant. You can pickup a groupon for dinner and skating. We did it last year and it was such a fun time.
Bundle up! Bring your scarves, mittens and fuzzy hats. Wind often whips down the avenues and cuts right through a thin coat. Also, the sun sets around 4:30pm during the holidays. This makes it easy to view the beautiful decorations that are up and down Sixth Avenue. And as always, please step off of the sidewalk if you want to stop and take pictures!
Don't forget to fuel up each morning! You need calories to keep warm. No yogurt parfait or egg white omelet will ward off the chilly air. What you want is Norma's. Sitting inside of Le Parker Meridian, Norma's is all about decadence. I chose the very berry brioche french toast on my last visit. It was more than I could eat in three breakfasts!
If you need to shop at a mall, I suggest the Time Warner Center on Columbus Circle. You can visit fun shops like C Wonder and diptyque to pick up some gifts, then get a snack at the basement-level Whole Foods. Or you can just buy gifts for people at Whole Foods, I'd be good with that!
This year there are massive stars in the entryway. At night, music plays and the stars light up and dance along with the tune. Stop and watch, but do it from a safe corner. People will knock you down if you stand in front of the doors. Avoid these shops after five pm. Locals will be running around doing their own holiday and grocery shopping and they don't care for your touristy ways.
Also, take a few Festive Selfies. One more selfie in front of the Rockefeller tree isn't going to make that instagram statement that you were hoping for. Get creative and have fun with the elements around you!
If you are visiting the city at this time of the year, my one piece of advice is this - Plan for less, expect more. Manhattan is a big place and there are a ton of people here. It will take longer than you think to walk five blocks and you will want to linger a little longer once you get there.
Not visiting us this year? How do you celebrate the holidays in your village/town/city? I'm looking for a fun place to visit next Christmas and need some inspiration!