Is that sleigh bells we hear? It’s that special time of year where New York City transforms into a winter wonderland
There is no better place to surround yourself with holiday cheer than New York City in December, when the city lights up (both figuratively and literally) with endless strands of holiday lights, intricate window displays, and a slew of activities to warm your hands and hearts. While many of these time-honored holiday traditions have been altered due to health and safety restrictions, there are still endless ways to enjoy all New York City has to offer. As you plan your trip, be sure to stay up to date with current event openings and restrictions here.
The famous Central Park is synonymous with New York City, and a visit wouldn’t be complete without a wintery stroll with a hot chocolate in hand under the trees. As you wander through the winter wonderland, keep your eyes peeled for the multi-colored Christmas trees floating in the center of “Harlem Meer.” For a more unique public park experience, head to the High Line; built on a historic railway line above the streets of Manhattan’s West Side, the High Line gives a bird’s eye view of the bustling streets below as you’re surrounded by nature and art. Prospect Park is a city-favourite for its many hills, so grab your sleds for an afternoon of wintery fun for the whole family. Brooklyn Bridge Park offers iconic views of the city, and we highly recommend a stroll across the bridge as you enjoy a unique perspective of the Manhattan skyline.
What makes New York City so special is how the magic of the holidays seems to permeate every street. Take part in time-honored traditions, such as the Rockefeller Christmas Tree Lighting on December 1st (which takes place via live national broadcast only, so everyone is invited!) and ice skating in Rockefeller Center, Central Park or one of the many other rinks dotting the city. The city also boasts not one, but two of the world’s largest Hanukkah Menorahs, which can be viewed across from the famed Plaza hotel in Manhattan or at the top of Prospect Park. Need to do some last-minute holiday shopping? (Plus, we love supporting local!) Head to the cheery Winter Village at Bryant Park to peruse the European-inspired open air market hosting artisans from around the world, or enjoy a skate in the city’s only free ice-skating rink. For families, the Holiday Train Show is a favourite at the New York Botanical Garden; enjoy a full city tour in miniature, as toy trains chug alongside small-scale replicas of New York’s famous landmarks, such as Yankee Stadium, the Midtown skyscrapers, and Coney Island. While it’s always fun to experience the magic of the holidays, why not capture it, too? Book a Flytographer shoot to capture you and your loved ones and plenty of winter wonderland cheer!
As the wintery chills begin to set in, warm up at one of the city’s many incredible museums. At the Met, make sure you take in the Christmas Nativity masterpiece that adorns the 20-foot tree: more than 200 realistic cherubs, angels, animals and key figures like the Magi dating back to the 18th century. The American Museum of Natural History has its own decorated tree to enjoy as well: the Origami Holiday Tree, which features more than 1,000 individual origami pieces folded by volunteers throughout the year. Explore the exhibition halls of these museums and more, such as the MoMa for a dose of art, the 9/11 Memorial, and Ellis Island to learn about the deep and expansive history of the city. Can’t help but gaze around in wonder as you simply explore the streets? Turn your wandering into an educational experience with a self-guided audio tour. Try the Ellen Reid SOUNDWALK whereas you explore Central Park, your route will trigger musical cells recorded by Philharmonic musicians that harmonize with the park’s landscape and attractions. Detour leads you through the city’s most iconic locations as you walk in the shoes of your narrator, who was chosen based on their unique connection to that place. Finally, try Strayboots for an engaging scavenger hunt, such as the Food and Drink Hunt at The Village, the Chinatown & Little Italy Scavenger Hunt, or the Grand Central Terminal Scavenger Hunt.
Neighbourhoods to Explore
While a polished itinerary is a useful tool, be sure to let the city reveal itself to you! Simply choose a neighbourhood and explore the streets with no destination in mind. You never know what hidden gem may cross your path. Here are a few of our favourite neighborhoods:
DUMBO – An acronym for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, this area is one of the most-visited spots in New York, and once you arrive, it’s easy to see why. Expansive dining and shopping, incredible views, colourful street art and photogenic industrial architecture make this hip spot walking distance from Manhattan a must-visit.
SoHo – Lively and artsy, SoHo – which stands for south of Houston Street – is for those who love brunch (we love Jack’s Wife Freida and The Dutch) and the arts. Whether you’re holiday shopping for your loved ones or yourself, shop for handmade or vintage treasures at Artists and Fleas. Ready to see the city from the sky? Take in panoramic views from the One World Observatory.
Times Square – While this iconic spot is not exactly “under the radar,” it’s worth a walk-through if you’re visiting the city for the first time! We recommend an early morning at Top of the Rock for instagrammable views without the crowds, and it’s just a short walk to beautiful Bryant Park. Greenwich Village – An eclectic blend of culture and art with a bohemian flare, this quirky neighbourhood is a people-watchers paradise. The streets are lined with eccentric small businesses, jazz clubs, incredible dining and historic spots. Some of our favourites are Smalls Jazz Club for music, Washington Square Park for people-watching, the Stonewall Inn for a tasty drink (where Pride began!), and John’s of Bleecker Street for a true taste of New York via fresh pizza.