Travel Spotlight: New York at Christmas

New York is the ultimate Christmas destination and no other place on Earth offers so much to do in the festive season. We take a look at the best things to see and do in the city if you visit this Christmas…

If possible, we recommend a midweek break. Weekends at Christmas time can be busy with endless queues for the main tourist attractions. Spending hours in line on a cold wintery day isn’t anyone’s idea of a fun holiday activity.

Where to stay..

New York has a huge number of hotels some fantastic, most okay and some downright dreadful. It really depends on your budget and your taste. Hotel prices do increase in the Christmas holiday season so shop around for the best deals. We advise sticking to Midtown where the cities main attractions are located, where you can walk to the famous departments stores and the theatres of Broadway, plus get to Central Park easily.

The cities iconic Christmas sights..

Rockefeller Centre

The Tree at Rockefeller Center

The Tree at Rockefeller Center

The first thing on everyone’s itinerary should be a visit to the Rockerfeller centre to see the famous tree. This is the World Wide symbol of Christmas not just in New York but in America. The tree lighting ceremony is on 30th November and marks the unofficial start of the holiday season. The ceremony is an amazing experience if you are lucky enough to get one of the expensive ringside seats for the show. It’s best avoided if you don’t, unless you like queuing round the block in the freezing cold and being crammed in like sardines. Better to visit the tree at a quieter time with less crowds to get a better look.

Ice Skating

Ice skating is another thing many people associate with Christmas in New York. The Rockerfeller centre is also home to the cities most iconic ice rinks but beware of the $30 price tag and long queues. You may be better visiting the Wollman rink in central park, which is in a stunning setting and is a much bigger rink with a lower price tag and smaller queue.

Meeting Santa

There are many places in New York to come face to face with Santa. The absolute daddy of them all is Macy’s department store and their Santaland experience. 13,000 square feet of Christmas fun for your kids who will feel like they have been transported to the North Pole. Be prepared to queue again for this one as unsurprisingly this is New York’s most popular Santa experience.


Christmas shopping and markets

While you are in the area you have to take a walk down 5th Avenue where all the best Christmas window displays can be found. New York is famous for these elaborate and fun displays that seem to get bigger and better each year. Some of the best can be found at Macy’s, Bloomingdales, Lord & Taylor, Saks 5th Avenue and Barney’s.

Of course you don’t just have to window shop. This is New Yorks main shopping district with lot’s of department stores and high end shopping. If you want a more traditional festive experience then head out to Bryant Park in the heart of Midtown. This open air Christmas market has stalls where artisans from around the World display their unique and interesting wares which make great gifts.

There is also a small skating rink here and plenty of yummy food stalls. There is another good Christmas market at Union Square, although the Bryant Park one is bigger and better.

Central Park

Central Park, Manahttan

Central Park, Manahttan

A trip up to Central Park should be compulsory for everyone visiting the city, particularly at Christmas with a blanket of snow covering the trees and the smell of chestnuts roasting away. Grab a cheap sledge and head over to Pilgrim Hill, the parks highest peak for some sledging. A horse drawn carriage ride around the park is a great way to get that Christmas feel.

Christmas Lights

For a great view of the cities Christmas lights join an open top bus tour of the city. The bus takes you to all the cities best lights including past the Rockerfeller centre and down 5th Avenue. Remember to wrap up warm though! You could also join a tour out to the affluent area of Dyker Heights in Brooklyn, which has previously been chosen as the best decorated neighbourhood in the whole of the country. The lights adorning the houses here will amaze you.

How to get there:

There are lot’s of daily direct flights from the UK on various UK and American airlines. Indirect flights can be much cheaper especially at peak times, if you don’t mind changing planes. Flights into Newark can be a little cheaper than JFK, although taxis from Newark are generally more expensive. A cheap and easy option is to prebook a shuttle bus where minivans drop you at your hotel for a smaller prepaid fee.

Recommended Hotel

We recommend Midtown for convenience and for the most Christmassy experience. Why not splash out and stay at the iconic Plaza hotel, famous as the location of Home Alone 2 Lost in New York. The hotel has a real festive feel with lots of great decorations including one of the best dressed Christmas tree’s in the lobby. This historical hotel oozes luxury and class and is one of the cities premier addresses. If your budget won’t stretch to the Plaza there are plenty of decent three and four star options all over Midtown.



Family Trips are a UK travel company run by parents who know how hard it can be to find the perfect family holiday at the right price. Our travel experts have access to a huge range of family holidays and will help find or create the ideal holiday for you and your family. All our holidays are protected by TTA membership and are ATOL protected. We can offer you an unforgettable family experience whether you are looking for fun in the sun, a trip to the slopes or to meet Santa, a private villa, family cruise, a Disney experience and more.

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