New York City is a great place to visit any time of year but it is especially fun at Christmastime. It is a fabulous place to spend a few festive days with or without children. For this post, we have kept our recommendations to all things related to NYC at Christmas. We left off all the usual museum and food-related recommendations you expect to get with NYC and have stuck to Christmas.
Making the most of a weekend at Christmastime in NYC does require a bit of planning. With the proper preparation, you will be amazed at what you can fit into a weekend. You will need to book tickets well in advance to get to the shows without having to sell one of your children to pay for them! However, with planning and a bit of schedule jiggling, you should be able to get affordable tickets that suit your timings.
Here are a few of our favourite places for the perfect weekend break in NYC at Christmas.
Breakfast with Santa
There isn’t anything more New York than the Rockefeller Center. At Christmastime, it’s beautifully lit up Christmas tree makes for a fabulous place to take the children for breakfast with Santa. You can choose between the Sea Grill and the Rock Center Cafe. Both restaurants look out over the skating rink. Your breakfast price includes a huge breakfast, photos with Santa, a souvenir and tickets to the skating rink. The ice skating allows you to enter through the VIP line so you get to skip the queue.
If you can get an early booking, it is worth getting up early for. You get to walk through NYC while it is still dark and the streets are empty which makes it so much easier to appreciate all the Christmas lights and decorations. It also means you get to get onto the ice before it gets crazy busy.
If you arrived early then after you have finished skating is a good time to visit the Rockefeller Centre LEGO store. If you are with kids then it will be impossible to walk by without going in so you might as well go early when it is less busy. It gets super packed, so the earlier you get there the better.
Can you say you have been to NYC at Christmas if you haven’t checked out the fabulous window displays? You might even want to consider a walking tour that takes in the most popular displays. The department stores all have amazing windows and are usually easy to get to. Macy’s is probably the most popular so if you only have time for one choose this! Theirs are usually based around Miracle on 34th Street. It can get very busy though, up to 10,000 people an hour, so this is a good thing to do early in the morning before the streets get busy. It is worth popping your head inside to see the indoor decorations.
Bloomingdales is also fun. Make sure you see the windows on Lexington Avenue as these are customised to a theme and change every year. Braney’s, Bergdorf Goodman and Saks Fifth Avenue are worth the effort and you are likely to be walking past at least some of them as you move around town.
You really do need to get onto your bookings early if you want to get the timings that suit you and reasonably priced tickets. Tickets for most things go on sale well in advance so you can start looking as early as September. The Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes is legendary and such a delight to watch. Tickets can be pricey so get in early. The Big Apple Circus involves loads of acrobatic fun for the whole family. It is usually easy to get reasonably priced tickets and almost all of the seats provide an excellent view, so this is a good place to go for the cheaper tickets. You can’t go to New York at Christmas without going to the New York City Ballet production of The Nutcracker! They put on an amazing performance with a stunning set.
Bryant Park Winter Village is worth visiting for the huge skating rink and lovely Christmas tree covered in thousands of lights, but do not expect the market to be like you would see in Europe. They have some nice stalls but it is rather commercial. (See breakfast with Santa for ice skating at the Rockefeller Centre).
There are so many choices and much of where you choose to stay comes down to your budget, the area you want to be in and the size of your family. A favourite of ours is The Roger which is located near Madison Square Park so relatively central and lovely spacious (by NYC standards) rooms. We have also found the Martinique New York on Broadway to be a great location. The rooms are small but if you aren’t going to be there much it doesn’t really matter. It is close to the subway, Macey’s and Speedy’s is right around the corner offering a great 24-hour breakfast.