What to do in New York City at Christmastime with Kids. New York City windows, ice skating, playing, and eating ideas during the holidays.
New York City really knows how to do Christmas. Hotels are decorated to the nines with Christmas trees, wreaths, and lights. My mum has visited the Big Apple the past few Decembers and surprised my little ladies and me with a girls trip to see the wonder of NYC at Christmastime. Christmas in New York City is full of life. It’s energetic, sparkly, full of culture, crowded, expensive, beautiful, loud, fast, delicious, and magical. New York City reminds me of the European cities I love in many ways. There are endless hidden gems of authentic restaurants and beautiful shops. All in one block you can marvel at Roman, Parisian, and modern architecture. Many of the New Yorkers I saw were very well dressed – dapper gentlemen and not a flip flop in sight – quite a change for this California gal.
A visit to New York City at the holidays is a bucket list trip for many. Here’s my guide to the city that’s perfect if you’re traveling with kids. Or not.
Whether day or night, walk around the fancy shops and check out their window displays. They are incredible works of art. This ice princess window is at Saks 5th Avenue.
And when you step back from the windows, there’s this… an incredible light show covering the facade of Saks. It is so spectacular, it could easily be mistaken for a Disneyland show.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Stop in to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. This Gothic church was opened in 1858 and is a landmark and respite in Manhattan.
Directly across the street from St. Patrick’s is Rockefeller Center. This enormous iconic tree flocked by angels is a must-visit. To me, it’s the epitome of Christmas in NYC. For an incredible view of the city, take the elevator up to the Top of the Rock.
Rockefeller Center is home to shops, places to eat, and of course the Rink at Rockefeller Center. This rink tends to get crowded and we had plans to skate at Bryant Park the next day, so we just watched. My girls loved the idea of being able to skate outdoors, since we only have an indoor rink were we live.
Bryant Park Winter Village
Bryant Park transforms into a winter wonderland for the holidays. The rink sitting right in the middle of tall buildings is beautiful, but was insanely crowded the day we were there. A warm 65 degree Sunday in December is probably not the ideal day to visit.
After a spin on the ice, wander through the Bryant Park Winter Village. The village is set up with more than 125 boutique vendors. From fresh crepes, to vegan soups, to kids toys, housewares, and jewelry, there is a lot to see. This reminded me so much of the Christmas Markets in Europe. So full of charm.
Next stop: a ride on the Bryant Park carousel. It’s a nice slow ride. There was also a magic show going on while we were riding.
The least crowded of the ice skating rinks we saw was the Wollman Rink in Central Park. We were much too busy playing in autumn leaves (a novelty coming from CA), doing cartwheels, rock climbing, and admiring all the cute dogs on walks to do any skating though.
We did many special “fancy” New York things on this trip, but in the end, kids just want to climb rocks and play. Although we had envisioned chilly weather, and perhaps even a white Christmas visit, we were treated to 65+ degree weather! Is winter ever coming to NY this year?
More windows to admire. This year, Bergdorf Goodman created the most jaw-dropping window displays that included over 7 MILLION Swarovski Crystals. I knew the New York City holiday windows were incredible, but I had no idea there was this level of detail. They are truly works of art. I think this Neptune scene was my favorite. The sea turtle was gorgeous.
The longer you look, the more you notice. The details seem to go on an on.
Just around the corner from Bergdorf’s is the iconic Plaza Hotel. You may remember this hotel as being home to Eloise (of the children’s books and movies), and appearing in Home Alone 2 and other movies. Eloise can be seen all over the hotel. For a special treat we took the girls to an Eloise themed high tea in the Palm Court. It was rawther fancy and the amount of treats was rawther ridiculous, but so much fun for the kids for a one-time experience. Alice’s Tea Room also comes highly recommended by friends.
And spectacular it was! The show is so much more than just dancing and high kicks. There is a 3-D video, live camels on stage, and kid-friendly story lines. The Rockettes are a must-see when in New York during the holiday season.
As we visited during a warm, very busy weekend, we were thankful everything we wanted to do was within walking distance of our hotel. Even with kids who aren’t into walking miles and miles. The one time we took a taxi to dinner, it took about 30 minutes to travel two miles in gridlock traffic, so having everything nearby was key. Although the thin crust pizza and crispy Brussels sprouts at Rubirosa in the East Village are totally worth the drive. And a pizza night is absolutely a must when in NY. We were also thankful for our small, boutique hotel not being in a major tourist location (my mum’s wisdom). The Hotel Elysee included a lovely breakfast every morning and wine and cheese in the evenings. We enjoyed relaxing and looking out the windows at the festive street below. Mum and I were certainly ready for a glass or three of bubbly at the end of a frenetic New York City day.
Until next time, NYC!
Did I miss any of your favorite holiday NYC treats?
I'm so glad you're here! I'm a busy mama to two sweet girls and a bunch of funny animals. I'm passionate about sharing the beauty of real food through plant based recipes. I hope you find many easy, nourishing, delicious recipes your family will love.