While some may not equate cold weather with liveliness and vitality, Manhattan arguably springs to life most during the winter holiday season. There are a number of festive activities to enjoy across the five boroughs, but below are some of the best. Merry Christmas!
- Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree
A New York City Christmas staple for over eight decades, the massive tree in the middle of Rockefeller Center is truly the epicenter for Christmas in the city. It is open for free to the public from 5:30 AM to 11:30 PM through January 7th.
- Saks Fifth Avenue
After viewing the Christmas tree, cross 5th Avenue for some shopping or browsing at Saks. From the decorative windows along 50th street, to the stunning interior filled with luxury fashion, you will be awestruck at every turn.
- Macy’s, Lord & Taylor, and just about any store up 5th Avenue – Windows!
Speaking of decorative windows, Saks is not alone. Multiple stores along 5th Avenue vie for the unofficial holiday crown. Head further south to Lord & Taylor and Macy’s for more holiday cheer and window decorations.
- Ice Skating – Wollman Rink, Bryant Park, and Brookfield Place
Even if you are not a professional ice skater, it is great people watching to sit by one of these rinks with a warm drink, especially if you witness a few falls. For the more adventurous types, strap on a pair of skates and give it your best Nancy Kerrigan.
- Winter Markets – Bryant Park, Union Square, Grand Central, Columbus Circle
Seeking artisan gifts, or some amazing Christmas-themed food? Look no further than the sprawling winter markets across Manhattan, from Central Park (Columbus Circle) to Midtown (Bryant Park and Grand Central) and Union Square. Go early or toward dusk to skip big crowds.
- Shopping at the Oculus
The Oculus transportation hub opened last summer. It’s spacious, clean, festive around the holidays, and full of good shops (including Eataly!). Wander around and explore the typical (e.g., Apple) and more unique (e.g., Cos). If you’re feeling rich, walk through the passageway to Brookfield Place where Gucci, Bottega Veneta, and many other luxury brands await.
- See a Show – The Nutcracker, Rockettes, etc.
One of the best activities in Manhattan during the holidays is seeing a show. New York City Theatre has a great list, which comprehensively details the best holiday performances. Two of my favorite are The Nutcracker at Lincoln Center and the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall.
- Rolf’s – German Christmas
If you are craving a Christmas feast with family or friends, few places can match the holiday décor at Rolf’s. Although it appears to be booked through Christmas for dinner, they always accept walk-ins so you might get lucky. Of course, you can always sit at the bar!
- Nomad Bar
When it comes to classy bars, rife with holiday cheer, the Nomad Bar at the Nomad Hotel is one of the best in the city. It offers a delicious tavern-style menu and an extensive list of craft cocktails and sought-after microbrews. Drinking under the massive wreath at the bar is icing on the cake.
- Holiday Tea at the Plaza
If you are feeling classy and desire a sophisticated activity to warm up from the cold, head straight to the Plaza Hotel. Their versions of high tea at The Palm Court are elegant and tasteful. You will be immediately consumed with holiday spirit.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!