New York City at Christmas is magical. As a kid, I had seen so many movies showing impressive window displays, FAO Schwarz, Rockefeller Plaza and, of course, a snow covered Central Park. We visited once back in 2016, but only for a few hours. This year, we went for 3 days, 2 nights. We found the perfect balance of Christmas, New York City staples and toddler friendly activities. The entire weekend felt serendipitous.
We stayed in a 2-bedroom Brownstone townhouse in Brooklyn. The townhouse has been broken up into 3 apartments. Ours was on the second floor, newly decorated and had free street parking. There is not a better apartment in NYC for the price. We paid $420 total for 2 nights. The weekend we went, the cheapest studio hotel room was over $330 per night. The apartment is a 15-20 min walk from the subway, but it was an easy walk.
Central Park: If you’re in New York City with or without kids, you MUST go to Central Park. It took me 3 visits before I went. Someone could spend days and days meandering this massive park. It is absolutely stunning. Photo spot: head to the 77th St-Central Park West entrance and head toward the rocks at the lake. You can get some photos with the skyline and lake in the background. If you’re super lucky, there will be snow on the ground!
Columbus Circle Christmas Market: We got off the Subway at the 59th street stop and headed toward Central Park where we stumbled on the Columbus Circle Christmas Market. “Located at the entrance to Central Park, at 59th street and Central Park West, visitors lose themselves in glittering aisles of art, jewelry, home goods and delicious eats from local artisans and designers.”
Times Square: Times Square is a must for anyone visiting New York City. It is an iconic square with so many TV screens you must see it to believe it. While not necessarily in themed with Christmas, there were so many Christmas ads on the screens and it was very fun to see!
Rockafeller Plaza: First off, I love the Today Show. Ever since I became a stay at home mom, I have watched it. I loved seeing the studio, the ice skating rink and most importantly I LOVED seeing the gigantically beautiful Christmas Tree. We visited the weekend after they lit the tree, so it was PACKED with people, but it’s still worth the trek over to see!
Saks Fifth Ave Light Show: We missed the show the first time we visited, but caught it this last time. It runs about every fifteen minutes, so if you miss it just hang around a few minutes and it will start again. The kids were silent in awe during the show.
Oculus: “The “Oculus” serves as the centerpiece of the World Trade Center Transportation Hub, incorporating 78,000 square feet of multi level state-of-the-art retail and dining. We Visited the Oculus to take in it’s gorgeous Christmas decorations. While we were down by the stores The Original Dicken’s Carolers sang different Christmas songs. The show was completely free and such a wonderful surprise. You can look up show times and events on the Westfield World Trade Center website.
Zuccotti Park: This park is near the WTC site; maybe 2 blocks away. It is absolutely stunning at night. The entire park had giant Christmas tree displays and all of the par’s trees were strung with white lights. It was magical. If you are in lower Manhattan around Christmas, visit this park at night to see it in its glory!
Other Christmas Activities:
We didn’t have time for everything, but these were on our list! (We’ll get to them next time!)
Macy’s Window Shopping: I have heard about the Macy’s window displays my entire life and I must see them for myself. Not to mention the famed 13,000 sq foot indoor Santaland at the Macy’s on Herald Square (151 W 34th St). “You'll encounter everything from a Rainbow Bridge to a giant Lionel train-scape, Santa's bustling workshop to a shiny red sleigh being prepped for the big night. Twinkling lights, snow-topped trees and other fun exhibits lead the way to Santa in this enchanting experience.“ -timeout.com
FAO Schwarz: From window displays to the magic of Christmas, FAO Schwarz is amazing during the Holidays. The store recently re-opened, so be prepared to wait in line or get there right when they open!
Grand Central Station Train Display: The New York Transit Museum put’s on their annual Holiday Train Show inside Grand Central station. The display consists of a two level track that shows trains departing Grand Central Station and heading for the North Pole!
Anchor Coffee & Corp: This coffee shop was super close to our Airbnb. We grabbed cappuccinos, coffee cake, muffins and a cheddar biscuit here before heading to the subway. If you find yourself near the Kingston-Thorpe Subway stop in Brooklyn — definitely stop in.
Shake Shack: Just go here. We stopped in for lunch after several hours perusing the American Museum of Natural History. The food is DELISH and the prices are very fair. I had a spicy chicken sandwich with fries while the kids chowed down on a hot dog. This place is very popular, so there was a quite a wait considering it was fast food. (Approx 30 min) We couldn’t snag a table with our large group, so we walked down the street a bit and ate on some park benches.
Steve’s Pizza: When you are over near the WTC, please add this stop to your itinerary. The food was SO GOOD. The pizza melts in your mouth. This is a stand up only food places, but there is an amazing park directly out front where you can sit on a bench and enjoy the NYC skyline. I personally enjoyed the Buffalo Chicken Pizza while the kids devoured some cheese slices.
Tacuba: (Reservation Recommended: P: 212-245-4500) This was the fanciest place we ate in NYC. We had a larger group of 4 adults, 2 kids so we called ahead for reservations. Tacuba is in Manhattan and about a 15-minute walk from Times Square. The staff was able to store our stroller for us, provide a high chair and even gave us a kid’s quesadilla for only ONE DOLLAR. We were seated in the basement where there are extra tables and some very nice bathrooms. I highly - HIGHLY - recommend ordering the Carne Asada. I am 100% sure everyone had food envy of my plate. The food at this restaurant is hands down the best food I have had in a very very long time.
Dough Donuts: We were told Dough was good, so we made the stop on our drive out of the city. We visited the location in Brooklyn at 448 Lafayette Ave. We were surprised there were no tables to sit at and no espresso drinks, but we quickly got over it when we saw these doughnuts. Each donut is gigantic. Easily twice the size of an average donut. They are so delicious I can’t even put it into words. I got the kids each a glazed donut, some donut holes and I enjoyed a Cafe Au Lait donut which took me two rounds to eat just one. The donut is more of a giant pastry — SO. DAMN. GOOD.
Subway: For children who need carseats, this is by far the most efficient way to navigate NYC and Brooklyn. We parked our car the entire weekend and never used it. The Subway is free for up to three children under 44 inches when riding with a paying adult. The adult fare is only $2.75 per way, so it’s extremely economical. We found the subways were not stroller friendly, but if you want to read more about navigating NYC’s subways with a stroller, see our post HERE.
Uber: Use the app and catch a ride! If you’re kid are old enough to not need carseats, this could be a more time efficient route.
We absolutely LOVED Christmas time in the City. There is a reason there are songs about it, reasons there are movies about it and reasons you’ve always wanted to see it. I hope everyone gets the chance to experience this magical time in one of the most iconic cities in the world. Don’t forget to bring the kids along to experience the magic through their eyes!
Have you ever visited NYC at Christmas? What was your favorite part? Tell us in the comments!
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