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Christmas Time in New York: Best Things to Do

By Viktoria Walker | 11 Dec 2019 | OUR GUIDE TO TRAVEL

Going to New York at Christmas time was a dream come true. This time last year I was planning my first trip to the Big Apple. Many films have inspired my love for New York over the years. Three, in particular, are Santa Claus the Movie, Home Alone 2 and Elf. Classic Christmas films, that in my house are watched every year at some point during the festive period. There were so many places I wanted to see; The Rockefeller Christmas Tree, Duncan's Toy Chest (should it exist), The Empire State Building, Central Park... The list was endless.

I had so many places I wanted to visit but I would I fit them all in?

central park in winter

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The answer is simple, you won't. The best advice for visiting New York is a plan where you want to go, and what you want to do when you get there. There is just so much going on day and night that it can be a bit overwhelming and it's easy to get sidetracked and lose half a day at a tourist hotspot that you only planned on spending half an hour at.

We arrived in New York early evening. I remember the feeling when I walked outside for the first time. I couldn't stop staring up at the sky. The buildings were so tall. Disappearing into the night sky above me. I think I walked around like that for a while until I became accustomed to being surrounded by giant skyscrapers.

It was cold and ‘wintery’. I was wrapped up in my coat, hat, gloves, and scarf. It felt like Christmas time! There was even the smell of roasted chestnuts powering through the cool air adding to the Christmas feel.

After a good night's sleep our first stop was the Empire State Building. We headed there quite early to 'beat the rush'. As it turns out New York really is a city that doesn't sleep. It is busy all of the time, so the best thing to do is join the queues, be patient and just relax and take it all in. It was well worth it when we got to the top. The views were amazing. We were so high it looked like a model village below, the pedestrians in the street below looked like ants. We stayed there for a while admiring the views, located famous landmarks and then headed back down for a coffee.

You can't visit New York at Christmas time without doing some shopping. My favourite shop was Macy's. A huge department store, one afternoon in here and you can buy presents for the whole family. The sales normally start around Thanksgiving, so they were already on when we were there. International visitors can also receive a further 10% on purchases. You can visit Macy's Customer Service Department and ask for Visitor Savings Pass, that you can use in-store throughout your whole trip.

Another way to see New York from above is at the Rockefeller Centre. We decided to visit here in the evening to experience the 'Rock at Night'. It was beautiful looking down onto the bright lights of the big city. And this time you get a fabulous view of The Empire State Building which makes for a great photo backdrop.

The Rockefeller Center is also home to one of New York's famous landmarks during the festive season; the Christmas Tree. This year the tree will officially be switched on December 4th and will remain lit until January 7th. There is an ice rink below the tree to if you want to get your skates on and take in the cheerful atmosphere.

After a few laps on the rink, I would highly recommend a trip to Bryant Park. Here you will find some a fabulous Christmas Market where you can buy some beautiful handcrafted Christmas decorations, the usual sweets, and treats, and some delicious mulled wine, or even mulled cider. Perfect for warming you up whilst wandering around the market.

Our trip ended on New Year's Eve. Where is there to go but Times Square? It is worth knowing that Times Square is such a hotspot for New Year's Eve these days that it gets extremely busy. You need to be in Times Square by about 2pm. Once the area is full, the whole area is cornered off and you can’t return should you wish to leave for any reason. If you are keen on being in Times Square for the drop of the ball be prepared to wait outside from early afternoon take the essentials with you, food, drinks, warm clothes etc.

At midnight, once again the long wait was well worth it. The anticipation turns to excitement and the streets are filled with cheers, as everyone celebrates the New Year together.

All in all, New York was a great place to visit during the festive season, see you again NYC!



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