You’ve probably seen some pretty iconic Christmas moments in NYC—that is, again and again in films and on TV. Tourists flock to some of these Big Apple attractions around Christmastime, which may be a drag to navigate to if you’re not crazy about crowds, but in all fairness, there’s a reason they’re so popular! Here are some suggestions for how to spend Christmas in New York City this December:
Rockefeller Center Plaza has the famous giant Christmas tree, will be lit on Dec. 4 (until Jan. 7, 2014). Tens of thousands of people will be there—between West 48th and 51st Streets on 5th and 6th Avenue—watching the event as miles and miles of lights are illuminated on the towering tree. On the subway, you can take the 6 train to 51st and Lexington or the B/D/F/V trains to Rockefeller Center.
If you want to go ice-skating in Central Park, just be aware that the fees rack up quickly: Admission, skate rental, lock rental, and even spectator fees can easily bring your group expense to over a hundred bucks. That said, Wollman Rink is quite atmospheric during the holidays, with the classic songs over the loudspeakers, the lights, and maybe even a proposal (which isn’t rare to see around this time).
The Radio City Christmas Spectacular is another high-profile event, and this year marks the Rockettes’ 85th anniversary. Tickets range from $39 in the third mezzanine on non-peak days to $299 for premium seats on peak days, so plan accordingly.
You can also go hear Handel’s Messiah at Carnegie Hall or attend one of the numerous holiday concerts and events in old churches around town, like Trinity Church on Wall Street, St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Madison Avenue, or the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, a Gothic Revival church Uptown—all of which are gorgeous to see even without events going on.
But there’s another way to experience Christmas in the city without paying exorbitant fees, waiting in massive lines, or dealing with huge crowds, and that is just to soak up NYC Christmas at your own pace in your own way. The Empire State Building — one of NYC’s top attractions — turns red and green, most storefronts have themed decorations, jazzy tunes play in coffee shops, and the general vibe is just a little bit nicer. Walk by Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale’s, Barney’s, or Lord & Taylor. Peruse the Holiday Markets at Bryant Park, Union Square, or Grand Central and pick up some crafty gifts. Treat yourself to a warm drink on a street corner and let the city’s contagious Christmas vibe come to you!
If you won’t make it to NYC for any of these Christmas events, though, not to worry—just cozy up with an NYC Christmas film like Serendipity, Scrooged, or Miracle on 34th Street. You can also browse these awesome seasonal events in NYC for a special holiday experience.