Christmas in NYC

Guide to Christmas in New York City

Is there anything more magical than Christmastime in New York City?! I think not! It has been a lifelong dream of mine to visit NYC during the holidays and I finally checked it off my bucket list....ya'll, it did not disappoint! I've been to New York many times before (it's one of my favorite places to visit....see my guide to NYC here) but visiting at Christmas is an entirely different experience.

First off, YES it is magical. Second, it is BUSY. Like I said, this was not my first time in the city (I've been three times in the fall and during New York Fashion Week) and I have never seen it as crowded as it was this December. I am 100% glad I went and I very much enjoyed the trip, but I don't think I would go back at Christmas was a lot to handle and take in! That being said, it is definitely worth it to experience Christmas in NYC once if you aren't claustrophobic and don't mind crowds!

Since we have been to NYC so many times, we booked this trip with the intention of just doing Christmas-specific things. We stayed Thursday night - Sunday afternoon and it was great!! Scroll on down to see all the holiday activities we took part in.

Blogger Amanda Martin shares her experience in New York City at Christmas
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Travel Tips

Be Prepared to Hurry Up & Wait. I kid you not, there are lines and mobs of people around every Christmas related activity. Bring your patient pants and be prepared to wait / push your way through a crowd.

Pack Warm, Bring Layers & Accessorize. Christmas in NYC is COLD!! It didn't get much above freezing when we were there and the wind (though not as intense as the Oklahoma wind) is reeeeally chilly on any bare skin (fingers, cheeks, ears, etc)! I always had gloves, a hat/earmuffs and a scarf and am so glad I did. I even layered leggings under my jeans and a long sleeved lulu winter shirt under my sweaters. I did get cold, but never unbearably cold.

Wear Comfy Shoes & Warm Socks. Everyone does a lot of walking in NYC regardless of if you take an Uber, a cab or the Subway. It is kinda impossible to not walk because walking gets you places faster than driving due to the traffic and congestion. Believe me, it is not fun to walk for miles in uncomfortable shoes so make sure to pack warm shoes that you don't mind walking in and some fuzzy socks to keep those toes warm! These boots were 100% worth the investment - I wore them all over town and they were so comfy!

Make Reservations Early: We were shocked at how quickly hotels filled up and how expensive they were. Be sure to make reservations as early as possible (for both a flight, a hotel and any nice restaurants you might visit).

Oklahoma based travel blogger Amanda's OK visits New York at Christmas

What to Do in NYC at Christmas

See the Rockette's Christmas Spectacular! This was pure Christmas magic and totally got me in the Christmas mood! I got our tickets back in October - we sat on the front row of the third mezzanine. I thought they were decent seats for how far up we were and not toooooo expensive (not much more than a Broadway play). Radio City Music Hall tells you to arrive an hour before showtime and they were not kidding......we waited outside in the cold for close to 45 minutes! However, once getting inside and through security it was easy to get concessions (hello hot cocoa and Bailey's) and get to our seats.

Amanda Martin of Amanda's OK sees the Radio City Rockette's Christmas Spectacular in NYC

Radio City Music Hall Mezzanine View

Ice Skate! Ice Skating in NYC at Christmas has forever been at the top of my bucket list and 30 before 30 list. We skated at the Wollman Rink in Central Park, but there are several other rinks in town (both at Rockefeller Center and at Bryant Park). We had heard that Central Park was larger and wouldn't be as busy but I don't think it matters where you go ..... ALL of them are crazy busy in December! If you go to Wollman, be sure to bring cash (and a lot of it) as they don't accept credit cards and they charge quite a bit to get in, rent skates and rent a locker. I'd recommend arriving right when they open at 10 a.m. (or even a bit before) in order to beat the crowd. The skyline view was incredible, though, and I totally felt like I was in a movie!

Amanda Martin of Amanda's OK Blog ice skates at the Wollman Rink wearing a red pearl sweater from H&M
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Oklahoma Blogger Amanda Martin and her husband visit NYC and ice skate in Central Park

See the Rockefeller Tree! A MUST. It's the biggest tree of them all! If you want to get a picture with it, I'd recommend going early in the day or late at night (but not too late, they turn the lights off at 11:30). The crowds around the tree are nuts in the evening, but it is totally breathtaking when you see it for the first time. We came back to see it during the day and were able to get a little less-crowded of a photo, but not much much less crowded!

Note: The tree at Bryant Park and the tree at the Palace Hotel (where Serena lived in Gossip Girl) are both beautiful, too!

New York City's Biggest Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center

Grab a Drink a Rolf's. This is supposedly a bit of a Christmas legend in New York! Rolf's is a German Restaurant in Gramercy that turns into a Christmas masterpiece during the holidays and serves delicious (but expensive) Christmas cocktails (I got the Christmas Smoothie and Cole got the Egg Nog). Every square inch of the tiny restaurant is decorated with Christmas decor, it is seriously beautiful. Be prepared to wait in line, though, (we waited about 45 minutes on a Friday evening) and know that it is TINY on the inside so you will be rubbing shoulders and sharing personal space with about 75-100 strangers. We could barely move our arms enough to take our coats off and it was impossible to get a selfie because we couldn't stretch our arms out! I was a bit claustrophobic and had all I could stand after one drink, but it was a fun experience. They do take reservations (I was unable to every get through on the phone) but I *think* it is only for dinner and the reservation people still had to wait in their own separate line which didn't seem to move much faster than ours!

Note: If Rolf's doesn't sound like your cup of tea, try the Papillon Bistro and Bar. It's really close to the 5th Avenue shopping and they had some pretty great decor, as well. It was crowded, but nothing compared to Rolf's.

Rolf's German Restaurant Christmas Decor

Blogger Amanda Martin from Oklahoma City visits Rolf's for a Christmas cocktail in New York City

Visit a Christmas Market! We went to the Winter Village Bryant Park but Union Square has a Christmas Market, too, and I've heard Chelsea Market is decorated beautifully! Bryant Park was a total cluster and a bit hard for me to enjoy, but we did get a giant gingerbread cookie at the apple cider stand that was absolutely delicious.  They have a ton of little shops set up like a European open-air market, all filled with art, food, ornaments and is really cute! In my honest opinion, the tree here was way prettier then the tree at looked like a real tree that came straight from the north pole! There is a skating rink and a whole indoor area, as well, in addition to the open-air market. If you visit Bryant Park, I'd recommend checking their website so you know which little pop-up shops are worth going into.

Note: we visited the Winter Village and skated in early-November a few years back and there was NO ONE else around - we had the whole place to ourselves. It was so much more enjoyable that time compared to mid-December! I've heard it's not as bad at night, but I don't know for sure!

Amanda Martin of Amanda's OK Blog visits Bryant Park Winter Village in NYC

The best gingerbread girl in Manhattan according to Amanda Martin of Amanda's OK Blog

See the Storefront Decor on 5th Avenue! Window shopping on 5th Avenue is fun no matter what time of year it is, but at Christmastime is the best! So many of the stores go ALL OUT on their decor. I'm pictured in front of Cartier here. You wouldn't believe the line of basic bloggers waiting to take this exact photo. It was nuts trying to get out there! Regardless, the storefront lights turn on around 4 and the window displays are all beautiful. Sak's 5th Avenue has an entire musical light display that lasts several minutes. Macy's, Bergdorfs, Tiffany's and more are all worth a looksie!! Be prepared for massive crowds here, took us no less than ten minutes to cross a street because we got stuck in a legit mob of people and couldn't move. It was intense.

Note: Grab dinner at the Halal Guy's Street Cart and order the Chicken Bowl! YUM. It is $8, SO MUCH food, plenty of protein and so delicious. It was super easy to eat while looking at the window and light displays.

Amanda Martin, OKC Blogger, admires the Christmas decorations and shops on 5th Avenue
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Sak's Fifth Avenue Christmas Light Display

Do Happy Hour on the rooftop at Eataly: we ALWAYS visit Serra at Birreria on the rooftop of Eataly when we visit New York because it is next to our favorite hotel. They always have it decorated like a winter wonderland during the holidays and it is so festive to see! In past trips it hasn't been over the top busy (we've always been able to get a seat at the bar) but this time it was jam packed, standing room only. We visited on a Saturday evening this time, though, so I bet that was why. I'd suggest going earlier in the day or on a weekday! When we visited in November a few years back, they had it decorated like a ski lodge in the Alps.

Christmas decorations at NYC Eataly's rooftop bar, Serra by Birreria

Take a Carriage Ride through Central Park: OK we didn't actually do this but I've always wanted to and what better time to do it than at Christmas?! Pure magic and so romantic! It might sound like a Hallmark movie but that's OK with me!

Oklahoma blogger Amanda Martin enjoys coffee and Christmas in New York City
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There you have it! Christmas in NYC in a three-day-weekend. It was magical! I have heard that the crowds are significantly better the week following Christmas (before New Years Eve) if you're willing to visit after Christmas Day. I've also heard it is better pre-Thanksgiving, but some decorations might not be up yet.

Have you ever been to NYC? Have you visited at Christmas / would you want to? It is one of my favorite cities and no matter how many times I visit, I never seem to get enough time there.

This was my last trip of 2018.... I'm so sad that my year of travel has come to an end but at least it finished with a bang. I won't be traveling near as much in 2019 but I will forever cherish the memories I made this year. Thanks for tagging along on my adventures - happy travels to you!

xoxo, Amanda Martin signature

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