Christmas is one of the best times to come and visit New York City. Everything is beautifully decorated, there are tons of sales everywhere, the restaurants offer special holiday menus, the Broadway shows get discounted, etc. There are tons of things to do, but there are a few things in my opinion that you simply should avoid.
DO go to Central Park, this December, the Central Park Conservancy will illuminate 17 trees on the Harlem as part of the city’s most impressive tree flotilla and its annual holiday celebration for families and children. It is certainly a great way to spend one of your days on the weekend with your family.
DON’T take a horse-drawn carriage ride through Central Park. It’s a quite a rip-off, and these horses are seriously mistreated. They work absurd hours every single day without proper breaks, co-exist with dangerous NYC traffic, develop illnesses from exhaust fumes and leg problems from pounding the pavement so many hours a day, get spooked by the loud traffic jams, and at the end of the day are held in insanely tiny closet-like stables. Lots of New Yorkers have been unsuccessfully trying to get them banned from the park for years.
DO go to Rockefeller Center Plaza. A visit to New York City during Christmas time would not be a trip to New York City during Christmas time without a trip to Rockefeller center to visit the big tree (here since 1931, now boasting 30,000 lights), and snap a photo or two. It’s worth fighting the crowds, particularly after dark when the lights bounce off the bare shoulders of the golden Prometheus statue. Lights click off at 11:30 pm through Christmas, then at 9 pm through New Year’s Eve.
DON’T skate the ice rink here. It’s tiny, expensive ($21 + $9 rental), and lines regularly take up to two hours to get ice time. You can always go skating at Bryant Park and pay a little less and perhaps there will be a shorter line.
DO go to see Christmas Window Displays. We’ll show you Christmas window displays at several of New York’s top stores, including FAO Schwartz, Lord & Taylor, and the top stores on 5th Avenue. Lady Gaga is decorating windows at Barney’s this year, so they are sure to be spectacular. We’ll take you to see the extravagance.
DON’T stick with hipster downtown. Midtown simply does it better. Have a walk up Fifth Avenue from Rockefeller Center, to FAO, and detour to Madison to see the modern, funny antics of Barney’s on Madison Ave and 62nd St.
DO go to the FAO Schwartz one of the greatest toy stores ever. It’s near Central Park on 58th Street and Fifth Avenue. It has an ice cream parlor, candy store, live show (employees/dancers dance on the keys of the giant piano that was used in the movie, “Big”.) You can make your own toy cars and make or design your own doll. They have all sorts of games, the best stuffed animals I’ve ever seen. Kids love this place. I do, too.
DON’T just drop by, particularly on weekends, when lines curl around the block. Go when it opens, preferably on weekdays (9 am Sunday to Thursday, 8 am Friday or Saturday) to avoid (most) of the crowds. Otherwise, and it feels sad to say it, kids really do love that Times Square Toys’R’Us and its indoor Ferris Wheel.
DO see a holiday show. St John the Divine’s Winter Solstice is a beloved, and rather secular, concert series, while Radio City Music Hall’s Christmas Spectacular is the show every NY kid sees growing up, with dozens of dancing Santas and the line of Rockettes a-leg-kicking.
DON’T forget the other boroughs. Brooklyn’s BAM is going irreverent on the ‘Nutcracker’ this year (Dec 13-22), while the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx has one of the city’s great Christmas traditions, the Holiday Train Show, with a quarter-mile toy train track passing NY icons like the Brooklyn Bridge, the Yankee Stadium and St Patrick’s Cathedral.
I hope these recommendations help brighten up your Christmas. Happy holidays everyone!