“Baby, it’s cold outside”… but winter is a great time to visit New York City! I have lived in the suburbs of New York City my entire life and I still haven’t experienced it all. There’s just an endless supply of activities, shows, shopping, art, and more and during the holiday season, November through January, it goes into high gear. Our family makes sure to spend at least one day in the city every December just for holiday enjoyment.
Winter Village Holiday Shops
Holiday shopping is at its best when you get the pick of unique artisan creations! We love finding gifts for our beloved family and friends at these holiday village pop-ups. Some of the treasures we have purchased include a sculpted dragon made from metal scraps, designer silver earrings, wall art, German stollen, funny stocking stuffers, and even iPad cases made from recycled plastics. Here is a list of some great Winter Holiday Shopping Villages:
- Bank of America’s Winter Village in Bryant Park- This is the best ice skating spot in the city aside from the iconic ambience of Rockefeller Center. “Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park is Manhattan’s winter wonderland. Enjoy the Holiday Shops, The Lodge by Urbanspace, and The Rink, the centerpiece of Winter Village and New York City’s only free admission ice skating rink. The Rink and The Lodge are open 8am-10pm daily through March 3, 2019. The Holiday Shops are open through January 2, 2019.”
- Winter Fest at the Brooklyn Museum in Prospect Park- programs, activities, and daily events; 50 wooden chalets in the Maker’s Market filled with local artisan’s goods; seasonal treats to build your energy and keep you warm; North Pole Experience (small fee- Christmas tree maze, chocolate story dome, origins of Santa display)
- Grand Central Holiday Fair – 40 hand-picked unique artisans in the architectural beauty of Grand Central Station in Vanderbilt Hall.
- Union Square Holiday Market in Union Square Park, Southern Side- This one is our favorite for shopping. “`The Union Square Holiday Market is an internationally renowned Holiday Market located at the heart of New York City, in Union Square Park. Hailed as a must-visit destination for unique gifts created by local craftsmen and artists, millions of people browse the winding aisles each year enjoying this unique and eclectic holiday experience.”November 15 – December 24, Monday – Friday 11am-8pm, Saturday 10am-8pm & Sunday 11am – 7pm
- Columbus Circle Holiday Market ,- “The Columbus Circle Holiday Market is internationally known as one of the most elegant and beautiful places for holiday shopping. 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. Now in it’s 15th year, the market is the perfect place to do all your holiday shopping while soaking in the splendor of winter in New York City.”November 28 – December 24, Monday – Friday 10am -8pm, Saturday 10am-8pm & Sunday 10am – 7pm
- NY Holiday Handmade Cavalcade-“The Holiday Handmade Cavalcade has ten(!) years worth of history, and has become a must for holiday shoppers looking for unique and locally crafted gifts for their loved ones. Comprised of members from the NY Handmade Collective (formerly Etsy NY Team), this holiday market showcases a selection of handmade wares from indie vendors, all based in the NYC metro area.”
- Manhattan Dec. 3-9 at Chelsea Wine Storage, 410 W. 16th St., NYC
- Brooklyn Dec. 15-16 at The Invisible Dog Art Center, 51 Bergen St., Brooklyn
Take the Window & Decor Tour with some benefits!
There are holiday events in every part of the city, so my list is just a beginning for you. I’ve listed the highlights along one walking path so you can see as much as you like in the time that you have. The holiday windows are works of art, engineering and imagination that you don’t want to miss!
Bloomingdale’s- Lexington Ave between 59th & 60th
Beautiful holiday window display.
Barneys- Madison Ave between 60th & 61st St
Decorative holiday window display.
The Plaza- 5th Ave. & Central Park S.
This NYC landmark has been visited by Kings, Presidents and Stars of the stage and screen. If you’re looking for an enchanted experience, reserve a room at The Palm Court in this hotel for Afternoon Tea. You won’t be disappointed with the ambience and the beautiful holiday decorations. Reservations can be acquired online. Visit: http://www.fairmont.com/the-plaza-new-york/dining/the-palm-court/
If you’re in a hurry and just passing by, stop for a photo at the Pulitzer Fountain in front of the Plaza (59th St & 5th Ave).
The Plaza is listed on the Register of Historic Places and the only New York City hotel to be designated as a National Historic Landmark.
Bergdorf Goodman– Fifth Avenue from 58th to 57th St.
Entertaining holiday window display.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral- Madison Ave. between 51st & 50th St.
One of the city’s most iconic places to see and free to visit! 460 Madison Ave. Open daily from 6:30am to 8:45pm (closes at 7pm for Rockefeller Tree Lighting).
Saks Fifth Avenue- Fifth Avenue between 49th and 50th St.
Saks Fifth Avenue creative windows for the holidays. The outside of the building is a musically themed light show!
Rockefeller Center– 5th Ave between 49th and 50th Streets
Rockerfeller Center is a section of New York that you could spend an entire weekend exploring. Fortunately, it’s broken into sections that you can pick and choose attractions and activities to match with your time availability. Visit: http://www.rockerfellercenter.com
Radio City Christmas Spectacular– 260 Avenue of the Americas (6th Avenue) between W. 50th St. and W. 51st St.
Located in the heart of Rockefeller Center, the Rockettes perform flawless routines to entertain you and immerse you in the holidays. This magical show has been enhanced with new immersive state of the art technology and stunning effects to make you feel like you’re part of the show. This is a wonderful experience for the first time show attendees to the seasoned.
These Rockettes really know how to make you feel special. If time allows, you can book a special experience with them (ie; dance class, Girl Scout Pre-show, Pre-show reception, and more).
Tickets range from $51-$599 based on time and day. The show runs from November 20 through January 1. Visit: https://www.rockettes.com/
The Rink at Rockefeller Center– 5th Ave between 49th and 50th Streets
Would you believe there are several places to ice skate in NYC? Our family has skated at Wollman Rink in Central Park, Bryant Park’s Winter Village, and Rockefeller Center. We all agree that as much as we enjoyed all of them and can’t wait to explore more, the rink at Rockefeller Center is our favorite. The rink may not be as large as the others, but the energy and holiday spirit are incredible. We visit just to skate every year.
If you can get there Weds, Nov 28, you can enjoy the Christmas Tree Lighting and special festivities that they hold. (Or you can avoid the crowds and watch it at home on TV.)
The rink is open daily 8:30am to 12am. Skating is on a first come, first served basis- everyone must wait together in line (about 1 hour wait), arrive early 8:30-10am when lines are shortest. They don’t have lockers, but they can check personal belongings (especially those shopping bags). Visit: therinkatrockcenter.com
Skate Rentals are $12.50
Daily skating rates vary by day- holiday $28, standard $25, peak $33
Top of the Rock– 50th St. between 5th & 6th Ave
Going up to the top of Rockefeller Plaza (70th) floor gives you unbelievable 360 degree views of Central Park and the NYC skyline. Be prepared for the weather because they’re open rain, snow or shine. This is an open-air roof deck with glass enclosed barriers. You won’t see the Tree this high, but you get a good view of it on your way down.
There are many variations on ticket options depending on how much time you have, but the base ticket to go to the Top of the Rock is- under 6 (free), 6-12 ($30), Seniors ($34), Adults ($36). You can buy tickets there if there’s availability, but purchasing in advance is suggested. Top of the Rock is open 365 days of the year 8am-Midnight (holiday hours shift). Visit: http://www.rockefellercenter.com/attractions/top-of-the-rock-observation-deck/Observation Deck
Lego Store– 602 5th ave at 50th Street
The LEGO Store at Rockefeller Center is a stop you can’t ignore if you or anyone in your group is a Lego-maniac. This location is home to one of the world’s tallest Pick a Brick walls, which allows customers to purchase a LEGO brick of any size, shape, and color. (Note: bring your canister if you’ve done this before or you can purchase one at the store to fill.) The LEGO models on display throughout the store are captivating works of engineering and art (Our favorite is the dragon winding through the store). They also offer in-store family events and building workshops if you have more time and can plan accordingly. Visit: https://www.lego.com/en-us/stores/stores/us/rockefeller-center
Open: Mon-Sat 10am-8pm, Sunday 10am-6pm (Closed Christmas & Thanksgiving Day) Special Holiday Hours
Bryant Park- 6th Avenue between 40th & 42nd St
The Winter Village at Bryant Park is worthy of its own full day of exploration. It is located directly behind the NY Public Library on 6th Avenue between 40th & 42nd St.
Bryant Park is the home to NYC’s only admission-free ice skating rink! Lockers and skate rentals are available as well as some food options. The rink is open 8am-10pm.
Le Carrousel is a delightful animal carousel that revolves to the sounds of French Cabaret Music. Located in the Park Area, it is open 11am-7pm and costs $3 per ride.
You can also spend the day enjoying the Winter Village’s Holiday Shops. These outdoor kiosks typically sell handmade and original items from local artisans from food and clothing to jewelry and art as well as novelty gifts.
Check their website for dates and times on Santa’s Corner, Winter Carnival Events, and the Tree Lighting Skate-tacular. Visit: http://www.bryantpark.org
For a really interesting history on this park (aka potter’s field), visit: http://bryantpark.org/blog/history
NYC Public Library- 476 5th Ave between 42nd & 40th
This is the main branch of the New York City Libraries and it is a National Historic Landmark. It’s the 2nd largest public library in the US behind the Library of Congress and the 4th largest in World. If you don’t have time to visit this amazing library, take the time to snap pictures with the Lions that sit on the front steps, Patience (South) and Fortitude (North). The library is decorated for the holidays. If you can plan a trip to this library, you won’t be disappointed. There are several divisions inside- general research, prints & photographs, manuscripts & archives, rare books, genealogy, etc. Visit: http://www.nypl.org/locations/schwarzman
Located at 476 5th Ave (between 42nd & 40th). They’re open 10am-6pm (Mon, Thurs, Fri), 10am-8pm (Tues & Weds) and 1-5pm on Sunday.
Lord & Taylor– Fifth Avenue between 38th and 39th St.
Lord & Taylor’s stunning holiday windows.
Empire State Building– 5th Avenue at 34th Street
If you want to include a stop at the Empire State Building , here’s your chance! This stop can be a day long adventure all by itself, but it doesn’t hurt to stop in for some holiday pictures. If you’re even more pressed for time, take a look up and a quick selfie with this monumental building. It’s located on 5th Avenue at 34th Street. See the link on the first line for my post on it.
Macy’s– Broadway between 34th & 35th Streets
Macy’s is widely known for their holiday spirit. They have two sets of windows with holiday displays — one on Broadway between 34th & 35th Streets, and the other along 34th Street. If you can afford the time to visit Santaland, your holiday spirit will soar.
Macy’s Herald Square hosts a magical visit with Santa from November 23 through December 24. Whether you have children or you are a child at heart, you will enjoy your wait for Santa as you travel through an intricate display of elves, woodland creatures, and holiday joy. Santaland is by reservation only at a pre-selected time slot (choose one from 30 minutes to 5 days in advance). Admission is free! Professional photos are available for purchase, but they’re optional (around $21). Located on the 8th Floor of Macy’s Herald Square, 151 W. 34th Street, New York, NY, 10001.
Time slots open starting November 18. Visit: https://www.macys.com/social/santa-land/
Family Adventure Rating ♥♥♥♥
Cost– Transportation is your real cost. Once you’re in the area, you can walk the length of this suggested route. Factor in a taxi/Uber or subway ride in addition to your train costs (highly suggested this time of year) or parking and toll costs of driving in. You could easily plan a walk though to experience full holiday spirit or increase your costs by skating at Rockefeller, pictures with Santa, getting a bite to eat, etc. Of course if you’re planning to stop at the Holiday Villages for some shopping…be prepared! Give yourself a pre-planned budget before you go-they have terrific things!
Parking & Transportation– Parking is close and there’s plenty of it, but it costs $30-$55 per day. Best to reserve a spot in advance to guarantee availability and reduce costs (reservations allow you to find deals and lock them in). Public transportation is everywhere.
Location– This action packed city doesn’t disappoint on its innumerable options for entertainment, fun and food. Do your research and you can find all of the free activities offered (start with Bryant Park).
Day Trip or Overnight– If you live within commuting distance, you can easily make this a day trip.
Experience– There’s a lot of family fun and exploration to be had in Manhattan. The holiday season just adds to the excitement and variety.
Combination– There’s an innumerable amount of combinations to plan your adventure in Manhattan!