What’s the one place that you think of that really puts you in the Christmas spirit? For a lot of us, myself included, I always think of sitting at home by a fire looking at my beautiful Christmas tree all lit up with maybe a few presents underneath, if I’ve managed to not be lazy and actually wrap a few. But besides home there’s always one place that will always put me in the Christmas spirit, no matter what kind of mood I’m in, and that’s New York City! There’s just something about the hustle and bustle and all of the Christmas decorations that always seems to put me in the Christmas spirit!

The Wandering Weekenders- Christmas In New York City

Last year, Chris and I took a long weekend trip to New York City with one of my best friends Kayla who first introduced me to NYC in college. I never got around to recapping our trip, especially since when I actually had time to start recapping our trip, Christmas had already passed. Since the Christmas season is officially in full swing in some parts of the world, and it will be here in the United States on Friday, I thought that I’d kick off my New York City posts by telling y’all about  Christmas in New York City and some recommendations for your next trip!

See the tree at Rockefeller Center

This is probably the most iconic Christmas thing to do in New York City. The tree at Rockefeller Center is featured in every single Christmas movie that’s set in NYC, from Elf to Home Alone 2, the huge and stately fir tree always makes an appearance. And when you see the tree in person, it’s easy to see why. It’s just so huge and beautifully decorated, it’s hard not to be happy and in the Christmas spirit when you see it!

The Wandering Weekenders- Christmas In New York City

My Suggestion: Obviously, everybody loves to see the tree all lit up at night time, but my suggestion is to also stop by Rockefeller first thing in the morning to see the tree. Yes, the tree won’t be all lit up, but it won’t be nearly as crowded either, and you can get some pretty fantastic pictures in front of it!

The Wandering Weekenders- Christmas In New York City

Ice Skate At Rockefeller Center

During the winter there are multiple places to ice skate all over New York City, but with a backdrop of the iconic Rockefeller Christmas tree, there’s no better place for a true winter activity! During our first December trip to NYC we ice skated at Rockefeller and we loved it so much!

The Wandering Weekenders- Christmas In New York City

My suggestion: Make a skating reservation and go first thing in the morning. The ice skating rinks can get very crowded the later in the day that you go, which if you’re a southerner like me and not very stable on ice skates can be kind of scary with all the New Yorkers whizzing by you, and you’ll have longer lines to wait in. By making a reservation and going first thing in the morning, you miss a lot of the crowds, and you’re guaranteed skate time! Plus, if you’re having the true New York City experience, you’ll be walking a lot during your trip, which means that your feet will be hurting later on in the day, which means they will hurt when you ice skate! Trust me, it happened to us last year!

The Wandering Weekenders- Christmas In New York City

See all the window displays on 5th Avenue

I’ll be the first to disagree with those people that say that window shopping can be just as much fun as real shopping, because let’s face it, it’s always more fun to actually bring home something tangible from a shopping spree. Well almost always. The only time that I view window shopping as more fun than regular shopping is if it involves seeing all of the Christmas displays up and down 5th Avenue! 5th Avenue is home to all of the high end designer stores, and those designers go all out with their window displays for the holiday season. Saks literally has displays that move and glitter and light up! It’s crazy! I don’t know about all of you, but I’ never going to be able to afford all of those designer stores, but it’s so much fun to see all the beautiful displays at Christmas!

The Wandering Weekenders- Christmas In New York City

My suggestion: Walk down 5th Avenue first thing in the morning after seeing the tree. Again, all of the crowds won’t be out and you can really take in all of the amazing work that went into those beautiful displays!

The Wandering Weekenders- Christmas In New York City

See The Rockettes Show

Again, an iconic Christmas activity around Rockefeller Center! The Rockettes have been thrilling audiences for almost 100 years with their high kicks and perfectly in sync dance moves, and there’s nothing like seeing them live in New York City. Not only do they perform their iconic dance numbers that they’ve been performing for decades, but they also tell the story of the birth of Jesus, which I think is pretty incredible in this day and age.

The Wandering Weekenders- Christmas In New York City

My recommendation: If you have your heart set on seeing multiple Broadway plays while in New York City, but also want to see The Rockettes, try to catch one of their afternoon performances. There will be time to see two in one day!

The Wandering Weekenders- Christmas In New York City

See the light show at Saks 5th Avenue

Besides coming back to Rockefeller Center at night to see the tree all lit up, you’ll also want to come back to see the light show at Saks 5th Avenue. Located directly across the street from Rockefeller Center, Saks 5th Avenue rivals the Rockefeller Christmas tree when it comes to lights! Every 15 minutes, the whole of Saks 5th Avenue lights up for an amazing light show set to Christmas music of course! It’s something that’s not to be missed!

The Wandering Weekenders- Christmas In New York City

Visit Macy’s

Besides Rockefeller Center, another place that’s featured quite often in Christmas movies set in New York City is the Macy’s store at Herald Square. Boasting 11 stories and taking up one full city block, Macy’s is filled to the brim with all things Christmas and some great window displays as well. That might sound just like all the stores on 5th Avenue, but Macy’s does have one thing that those stores don’t have, and that’s Santa Clause! But Macy’s doesn’t stop there; they also have a full-fledged Santaland as well! Macy’s will without a doubt put you in the Christmas spirit!

My recommendation: Be prepared to stand in line to see Santaland, even if you don’t want to see Santa Clause. We wanted to just walk through the last time we were there, and there was a line to even get into Santaland.

Visit Bryant Park

Bryant Park is a beautiful park located smack dab in the middle of New York City that is perfect for catching some sun or a movie during the summer. During fashion week, Bryant Park transforms itself into fashion central, and during Christmas it transforms itself into its own little Christmas Market. Complete with a beautifully decorated tree, an ice skating rink, and tons of little shops, Bryant Park is another place not to miss during the Christmas season in NYC!

The Wandering Weekenders- Christmas In New York City

My recommendation: Check out Bryant Park in the evening. The tree is so beautiful all lit up, it’s fun to watch all of the ice skaters, and there’s some of the stands sell food and drinks. It’s the perfect place to be all bundled up, sip some hot chocolate, and get all the Christmas feels!

The Wandering Weekenders- Christmas In New York City

Now these are just the specific Christmas activities that I could think of, but I feel like no matter what street I’m walking down in New York City in December, there’s lights and Christmas decorations and Christmas trees on every corner and around every turn. It’s truly a beautiful city, but it definitely goes all out for the Christmas season! I’m linking up with these Wanderful Women from some Wanderful Wednesday- Lauren of Lauren on Location, Van of Snow in Tromso, Isabel of The Sunny Side of This and Marcella of What a Wonderful World!

Have you ever visited New York City during Christmas? Are there any other Christmas activities that you do in New York City?

Other New York City Posts

Five Favorite Things About NYC
6 Things I Learned While Visiting New York City

Pin It!

The must do activities for celebrating Christmas in New York City! From the tree at Rockefeller Center to Macy's Santaland, there's something for everybody!

  • Gorgeous photos! I would love to visit NYC at Christmas time!

    • I hope that you get to visit during Christmas soon! It really is an unbelievable city, but especially at Christmas!

  • Oh lovely! I’ve wanted to go back to NY since 2005! I always said if I go back it’ll either be during the Fall or for Christmas! #WanderfulWednesday

    • From the first moment that I visited NYC I fell in love with the city! It’s so beautiful, but especially at Christmas! I’ve actually never visited during the fall, but I’m sure that it’s beautiful!

  • I’m not a big fan of NYC and I don’t have much desire to go back but I’ve always wanted to see the tree lighting in Rockefeller Center in person. I’d make an exception if I was there for that. #wanderfulwednesday

    • That’s such a bummer that you don’t like NYC! What was it that you didn’t like? The tree lighting at Rockefeller would be so much fun! I feel like that’d be the ultimate Christmas experience in NYC!

      • I hated the crowds. I loved Central Park but it was so crowded everywhere else. I get really anxious around huge crowds (except at Disney, go figure) so my anxiety was through the roof the whole time we were there.

  • seriously the one thing better than fall in NYC is christmas! i love the Rock and the ice skating. all of it. 5th ave. it’s all so classic and fun! perfect for the holidays. great tips girly! have a wonderful thanksgiving too!

    xoxo cheshire kat

    • Thank you! It looks like you’ve had a wonderful Thanksgiving too!

      I think that the only time that I haven’t visited NYC is the fall, and I feel like that needs to change because I’m sure that it’d be so beautiful! We’ve visited NYC twice during Christmas, and I think that I could go back again and again during that time of the year because it’s so pretty!

  • The holidays in New York are definitely my favorite too– we’ve done a couple of Thanksgivings and I’m always sad on years we don’t go. Love everything you’ve highlighted and all your tips to do things early! I love seeing all of the window displays too- so pretty!

    • I seriously can’t get over how beautiful all of the window displays are! They’re just so perfect, and I love imagining myself as some of the girls in the scenes. That’s so cool that you get to visit during Thanksgiving! I think that would be so much fun, and would really get you in the Christmas spirit!

  • Jen

    NYC at Christmastime is truly magical! We went a few years back and it was incredible. It was our first trip to NYC and I’m so glad we did it then so we could experience the holiday season there.

    • My first trip to NYC was during the summer, but I wish that my first trip had been during Christmas because it’s just so magical like you said! We’ve now been twice during Christmas and I think that I could go again and again!

  • I love this, and it’s such perfect timing for me since we are going in a couple of weeks! I didn’t know you could make a skating reservation at Rockefeller Center! I’m not sure if the couple we are going with wants to ice skate, but I’ll definitely need to look into it! I remember two years ago when Daniel and I went at Christmas, we were going to go ice skate there, but the line was crazy at night! If we can’t do it this time, we will definitely make a reservation next time we go at Christmastime! The Bryant Park Christmas market is amazing, and I can’t wait to go again. And, I definitely think we need to do the 5th Avenue shop windows first thing in the morning like you suggested…. What a simple but amazing idea! I remember not being able to see the windows very well last year which was really disappointing, so we will make sure and get a good view this year if we can. 🙂

    • I’m so excited for your trip with your friends! NYC during Christmas is so magical, and I know that y’all are going to have so much fun! I think that you have to pay in advance for your skating reservation, but it’s totally worth it! Even though you won’t see the tree all lit up, I think going first thing in the morning really is the best way to do the ice skating because it’s not as crowded, and you can avoid having some major feet hurting! My feet were dying when we went in the afternoon last year, and I really regretted it! We love Bryant Park so much! It’s so beautiful, and all the little shops are so cute and there’s always a ton of things to shop for!

  • I absolutely love NYC and love it more during the holiday time. I went once a loooong time ago for a weekend in early December, I was able to check out the tree at night, but that was all. I definitely want to make it back there during the holiday season to check out the window displays and ice skating. Chicago has some great window displays too on the magnificent mile which I’m sure is similar to 5th Ave.

    • Me too! I feel like the fact that Houston isn’t that much of a walking city means that we don’t have a ton of pretty window displays like some of the cities up north! I’ve heard that Chicago is gorgeous during Christmas, and I want to go up there one year and explore! Plus I loved the food so much that I’d want to go just to eat! I hope that you get to make it back to NYC sometime soon! It really is so pretty and it really does feel like Christmas is around every corner and not just at Rockefeller Center!

  • Nadine

    I would love love love to go to NYC around Christmas just to get to experience all of this. One of my favorite things about watching Home Alone 2 is getting to see some of this, haha! Such a magical city around the holidays!

    • That’s one of my favorite things about Home Alone 2! I feel like you really do get to see the highlights of NYC during the holidays! Hopefully you can make your own trip up there sometime soon!

  • Visiting NYC at Christmas is on my bucket list – it looks so magical and full of holiday spirit. Loved this recap!

    • Thank you, and I hope that you get to visit sometime soon! Magical really is the perfect way to describe NYC during the holidays, and I probably would visit there every year if I could!

  • I went to NYC last year just after Christmas and did every. single. thing. you mentioned in this blog post. Well, except for the ice skating. But I wanted to, so does that count? 😉 I loved the Sak’s Fifth Avenue light and music display last year! It was so much fun! But really crowded too… Thanks for you Christmas in NYC list! It was a lot of fun reliving the experience with you! 🙂 #wanderfulWednesday

    • I’m glad that you got to visit and do almost everything on the list! I really do think that wanting to ice skate counts as doing it! The area around Saks 5th Avenue and Rockefeller really is my favorite part of the city during the holidays! It’s just so beautifully decorated and so magical too!

  • Girl, you and I are on the same page because I have a post ready for Monday on how to spend the holiday season in Chicago! LOL. That said, I LOVE Christmas in NYC. When we first moved to the States, we lived in NYC, and I have such fond memories of it. 🙂 I need to go back with Chris. It’s such a magical time in the city!

    • We really are on the same wave length! I’ve been dying to visit Chicago during the holidays because I’ve heard it’s so beautiful and that they have a Christmas market which I feel would look and feel so European! Magical really is the only way to describe Christmas in NYC, and I couldn’t imagine living there and getting to experience it every day!

  • I’ve never been to New York but I would love to go. Happy Thanksgiving for tomorrow. Xx

    • I hope that you had a great Thanksgiving! New York is such a fun city, but it’s truly magical at Christmas! I hope that you get to visit one day!

  • Rachel

    There really is nothing like NYC at Christmas! Totally agree about the ice skating, the rink is always packed! And I love seeing all the windows on 5th Avenue. Hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

    xo, Rachel
    A Blonde’s Moment

    • We had a great Thanksgiving, and I hope that you did too! Christmas in NYC really is so magical, and I could spend whole days around the Rockefeller and 5th Avenue area! It’s just so beautiful and I love seeing all the window displays!

  • Oh how I love NYC especially during the holidays! Awesome suggestion to go see the tree in the morning, plus the ice rink isn’t as packed. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend gurlie <3

    Green Fashionista

    • I hope that you had a great Thanksgiving! NYC is so awesome all the time, but visiting during the holidays really is my favorite! It just feels like the whole city gets into the Christmas spirit!

  • This is every single thing I want to do around Christmas time in NYC if I ever get a chance to go!

    • I hope that you get the chance to go! It’s such a fun city, but it really gets into the holiday spirit and becomes even more beautiful and magical!

  • I have always wanted to visit NY around this time of year. Your recommendations are great. I think I’m just held off by the cold weather!

    • If you love the holidays and all the decorations that go along with it, then you definitely need to visit during the Christmas time! You might be surprised, some years might be warmer than others! Last year when we went it was pretty warm and we didn’t even need scarves or gloves, but a few years ago we needed to bundle up! But don’t let the weather hold you back!

  • Biana Perez

    I went to NYC on NYE one year – well I was there that weekend and the tree was still up and the stores still had all their displays so I felt like I got to enjoy the magic of the city during Christmas!! Definitely want to go skating at Rockafellar Center though!! Hope you have a great Thanksgiving girl! xo, Biana –BlovedBoston

    • I hope that you had a fantastic Thanksgiving! I’m so glad that they still had all the Christmas decorations up even after Christmas was over and that you got to experience it! When you get the chance to go back, you totally need to go ice skating at Rockefeller! It was so much fun to ice skate right in front of the tree!

  • Living on Cloud Nine

    Such a perfect Holiday season city! Love your photos. My mom and I were there one year after they lit the Rockefeller tree and it is so breathtaking in person. Have a blessed Thanksgiving full of good food, good fun and lots of love!

    • Thank you so much, and that’s exactly how our Thanksgiving was, and I hope that your Thanksgiving was exactly the same! NYC at Christmas, there’s really nothing like it! I felt like I could have stayed in the Rockefeller Center and 5th Avenue area just looking at the beautiful tree and the window displays! It’s just so beautiful!

  • so beautiful! I’d love to see all this one day:)

    • I hope that you get the chance to visit one day! NYC is such a fun city, but it becomes even more beautiful during Christmas!

  • I’ve never been to New York but it certainly seems like a great Christmas destination to me too! Ice skating is a must at this time of year and I wouldn’t mind some Christmas shopping either 🙂

    • It doesn’t get cold enough in Texas for there to be ice skating rinks outside, so I knew that we had to take full advantage of it when we were visiting NYC! I fell in love during my first visit almost 10 years ago, but it just blew me way when we visited during Christmas! It’s so magical and the whole city just really gets into the holiday spirit!

  • Yay New York! I so want to go back. These all sound like such fun activities, I didn’t really know about any of them so thanks for the useful list! It just all looks so festive and pretty! I agree on window shopping and doing things early. I definitely found that was the key, and having jet lag that meant I woke up stupidly early actually really helped me make the most of the city!

    • I’m so glad that you enjoyed your time in NYC so much! And yes, getting up early is definitely the key to getting to do everything that you want to do in NYC because it can get so crowded! I feel like the whole city gets in the Christmas spirit, and it’s just so magical! Maybe you need to come back for another trip sometime in the future 🙂

  • Love this! I went to college in NY and my boyfriend and I went into the city every Christmas for a night on the town filled with Christmas things. I really need to plan a trip back!

    • That sounds so perfect, and I love that y’all took advantage of being so close to the city! You definitely need another trip back soon, I think that I would go back everyday if I had the chance!

  • I’ve never been to NYC at Christmastime! I am going with my mom and sister for her 21st birthday on December 28th, and I’m so excited to see the Christmas decorations! Will definitely remember your tips! 🙂

    • You’re going to have such a fun time, and it sounds like it’ll be such a fun 21st birthday for your sister! I hop that you get to do all the Christmasy things while you’re there, and try to wake up as early as possible to take full advantage of the few people that will be out and about!

  • One of my wishes is to go to NYC during Christmas! The tree is just so iconic and I would love to see all the light displays and festive decor! Thanks for sharing all your pictures -they’re so beautiful!

    • Thank you, I feel like it’s easy to take pretty pictures when the scenery is so beautiful! I hope that you get to make a trip to NYC sometime soon! It really is such a beautiful time of the year, and everything is decked out and beautiful, and I love it so much!

  • These are such great suggestions for Christmas time in New York City, AKA avoiding the crowds. I love Christmas in New York (there’s just something that feels so traditional about it, probably from the movies), but unfortunately I tend to avoid visiting at this time because of all the tourists (no offense 😉 hehe) … Still sometimes it’s unavoidable like when I lived there …. BUT all and all Christmas in New York is such a magical time and everyone should experience it at least once! Glad you got a chance to 😀

    • I totally agree with you that it’s a big time for tourists to come to the city as well, but all the hustle and bustle is one of the reasons why it’s so magical during Christmas! We’ve been twice now during Christmas, and I think that I’ll continue to go back more and more because it’s just so pretty and I can’t get enough of all the trees! I think that Hollywood definitely has perpetuated the idea that NYC is the traditional place to be during the holidays, but I still love it!

  • love all these photos and recommendations! I’ve never been to nyc for christmas, sending this to my friend who is about to go this week!

    • I hope that you get to visit sometime during the holidays! It’s so pretty and so festive! I hope that your friend has a great time, and that this is useful for her!

  • What a fun trip! You have such a great list here, I love locations that are really festive for holidays! 🙂 I think a lot of it could even be used year-round. hehe Though not the events that are specific to Christmas. I love the light show photo, I had no idea they did that! 🙂 XO – Alexandra

    Simply Alexandra: My Favorite Things

    • I didn’t realize that they did a light show either until we happened upon it one night! It was so pretty and I love that they played music too! I’m really bummed that we’re not traveling somewhere this December because visiting places that go all out for Christmas really put me in the Christmas spirit even more! You could definitely use some of these tips year round like trying to get places early!

  • Christmas in New York City is on a whole other level!!! I love how magical the city is in the winter time. I visited a few years back with my mom in December while my sister was living in Manhattan. even though i’d been to NYC many times before that nothing compared to seeing the city all dressed up in it’s christmas decorations!

    • I totally agree! My third time to NYC was during Christmas, and I don’t think that I’ll ever want to visit during another time! I was just totally mesmerized by all the decorations, especially the Rockefeller Tree! Although, I haven’t visited NYC during the fall and I’ve heard that it’s beautiful, so maybe I still need to go then!

  • Love this post!! I’m probably biased because I grew up in New York so we would visit NYC every year at Christmas, but I think it’s magical and perfect. I don’t care how crowded it is, NYC at Christmas is perfection and I think that the crowds kind of even add to to the beauty. Every year, my family goes to see the Radio City Christmas Show and the Rockefeller Center Tree, a tradition my parents started when they were dating! And Nick proposed to me in front of the Rockefeller Center Tree. It wasn’t his original plan but I love how it worked out. I would add that going to eat at Carmine’s is so much fun at Christmas because of the way that they go all out with their decorations, plus the food is amazing. Did I mention that I love NYC at Christmas?!?!

    • So I have never actually been to Carmine’s, so obviously next time I make it up to NYC, and let’s face it, it’ll totally be during Christmas because I love it so much, I’m definitely adding Carmine’s to my list! That’s so cool that Nick proposed to you in front of the Rockefeller Center Tree! Talk about romantic, even though it wasn’t planned. It can totally be crowded around the tree all the time, but I just can’t stay away! It’s just so quintescentially New York at Christmas! I know so many people that are headed there this December, and I’m so jealous because I want to go back!

  • Emily Dunham

    NYC at Christmas sounds so lovely! I would love to make it there and see everything!