Exploring New York City for the Holiday Season
The city that never sleeps pulls out all the stops for the holiday season. Not matter how long your trip to NYC is – a day adventure to an extended stay – there is enough to fill any length of time and something to fit everyone’s holiday wish.
- There was so much food going on at these markets that we did not need to eat outside of them.
- Typically the food vendors are bunched together so once you find them, you can assess all your options before committing.
- The more the merrier! This allows you to share items and leave stomach space to try more foods.
- There are three main markets in NYC – Union Square, Bryant Park, and Columbus Circle.
- Between the three markets, I would say over half the vendors overlap at all of them – so if you are not ready to have a certain item but want it later, odds are high you will see it again later in the day at another market.
- That being said, there are market specific vendors and those are definitely ones you want to plan around.
Venders to find at any market location:
- No chewing allowed chocolate (free sample!)
- Hot chocolate from The Chocolate Works (more spiced) and/or Max Brenner (thick)
- Hudson Valley Farm House for apple cider donuts
- The Boiis for mochii donuts
- Duck Season for duck fat poutine
- Veselka Pierogi Bar for short rib pierogis
- Baked Cheese Haus for racelette (market favorite!)
- S’mores N’more for toasted marshmallows
- Sweet Tooth NYC for pastry cones filled with goodies
- Bratworst by German Delights – the only stall that sells Gluehwein!
- Empanada Lady
The city illuminates as the sun goes down and having an earlier sunset means lights typically go on between 4PM and 5PM so you will have plenty of time to see them all. There are definitely more light displays in the city than what I have listed – including some wonderful displays in shops and restaurants – but these are the classics and on the walking route I have laid out.
Hudson Yards – The inside of Hudson Yards is sparkling with lights with some great photo opportunities. There are also lights outside including some trees.
High Line – Make sure to take a stroll on the popular High Line to get great views of the city and holiday decor. Swing into Chelsea Market to grab a bit and see the decorations in there as well!
Rockafeller – Rockafeller Center is the icon of NYC Christmas featuring the enormous tree, the ice skating rink, and more. There are chalets that overlook the rink that look like a wonderful spot to enjoy a cup of hot chocolate. The crowds are usually quite high here but there are two different ways to view the tree so make sure to try both.
Fifth Avenue – The stores on Fifth Avenue all pull out the stops when it comes to decorating the store fronts. One that draws a crowd is the exterior of Saks Fifth Avenue – the light display covers the entire building and dances to different holiday songs every 10 ten minutes starting at 5PM each evening. If shopping is on your list, make sure to allocate time to pop into all these famous stores.
Shows and Activities
There are so many festive events to explore!
- Rockettes are a tradition in NYC. For me, it was fun to do once though I know people that visit each year.
- Ice skating can be done in multiple spots in the city, the most popular being the rink set up at Rockafeller Center and Bryant Park. If you have your sight set on participating in this activity, make sure to check how you can access these. While Bryant Park had a traditional waiting queue, the one at Rockafeller Center had tickets and reservations.
- New for 2022 is The Santa Clauses’ Winter Wonderland where a pier has been transformed into the North Pole. There are many pop up experiences that vary from year to year so make sure to do a quick Google search to see all the options available for when you visit.
- There are tons of holiday shows and concerts throughout the entire city. One we have enjoyed and definitely want to see again is the Big Band Holidays Jazz Orchestra at the Lincoln Center. Also make sure to hit any non-holiday shows and concerts as well – Broadway is full of mazing shows all year round and do not go away for the holidays.
For our day trip exploring the holiday activities, we started south and then gradually made our way north.
- Start at Union Square Markets
- Hudson Yards
- The Highline / Chelsea Market
- Bryant Park
- Rockafeller Center
- 5th Avenue
- Columbus Circle Markets
- End the evening with a show