New York is one of those places where Christmas is undeniably magical, especially for us foreigners. Having grown up with holiday movies set in New York, many of us have associated family joy over the festive period with this city since we were kids, and whether your inspiration be Elf, Home Alone or Miracle on 34th Street, you can’t beat New York City as one of the best places to celebrate Christmas and the holiday season.
Here are some of our favourite reasons why Christmas in New York is so special.
Image © wallyg
Some of New York’s Christmas scenes are as iconic as the Empire State Building, with the big tree at Rockerfeller Centre being one of them. Having recently survived Hurricane Sandy, this Christmas tree is a must-see tradition dating back over eighty years. If you can get tickets then make sure to get your skates on at the famous ice-skating rink there as well, although ice-skating can also be enjoyed in Bryant Park and at the Wollman Rink in Central Park, at a fraction of the cost.
Rockerfeller Center Christmas tree © scottbphilp
Speaking of which, Central Park is another star of many a Christmas movie, so a stroll around Manhattan’s precious green space on a frosty morning – all wrapped up of course – could be one of the most festive things you do. If you’re feeling lazy then succumb to your inner tourist and snuggle under the blankets aboard a horse and carriage tour of the park. While there look out for a floating Christmas tree on Harlem Meer. To get involved in a more unusual Christmas tradition in Central Park, find out about the annual citizen’s bird count walk around the park, which takes place on Christmas Day.
Central Park © Thomas Hawk
If you’re looking to entertain Christmas-crazy children, or if you’re keen to indulge your own inner child, then a visit to FAO Schwarz on 5th Avenue is a must. Go early and during the week to avoid queues and make sure you have a go on the giant piano made famous in the movie Big. If that wasn’t enough toyshop entertainment for your little (and big) ones, then Toys R Us near Times Square has an indoor Ferris Wheel every Christmas!
Big Piano © clio1789
Of course, you’re in prime shopping real estate now and the perfect place for all your last minute purchases. From the magic of Macy’s Santaland (of Miracle on 34th Street fame) for Christmas decorations to the early sales taking place across Midtown, you’ll need extra elves to help you carry all the shopping home.
Singing Christmas trees at Macy’s Santaland © Doug Wallick
More traditional and homely goods can be found at one of the many Christmas markets held across Manhattan and New York’s other suburbs. With typical wooden huts popping up serving Lebkuchen (traditional German gingerbread), bratwurst sausages and mulled wine, you could be mistaken for thinking you’re in Germany, not in downtown Manhattan at one of the Christmas markets held at Union Square or in Columbus Circle.
Union Sq Farmers’ Market © elisbrown
Last but certainly not least, it’s important to remember that for many Christmas is a spiritual time and a meaningful celebration. The Cathedral of St John The Divine is one of the most special places to hear carols being sung at Winter Solstice. More low-key family-friendly carol singing can be enjoyed at the unveiling of Christmas trees across Manhattan and other New York boroughs like the Caroling on the Steps at St. Bart’s in Midtown East or the exciting Unsilent Night in the West Village – a “boombox parade” alternative to traditional carol crooning.
Image © anjuli_ayer
Merry Christmas HouseTrippers, from the big apple.
First image © Thomas Hawk