On this trip to New York City, we wanted to focus specifically on the holiday decorations and festivities. For this reason, we didn't visit some of the usual locations like the Statue of Liberty or Time Square. Here are some of the best Christmas lights, decorations, and activities we found!
We attended four different markets while in Manhattan, and the one we enjoyed the most was Bryant Park Winter Village! It runs daily from 11 am until about 10 pm, although quite a few vendors closed before 10 pm. This appears to be the largest market, with the freshest baked goods and a large ice skating rink and Christmas tree. And we enjoyed lunch in a clear, enclosed, heated outdoor seating area at Bryant Park Grill with great views of the neighboring market!
Columbus Circle Holiday Market and Union Square Holiday Market, while at opposite ends of Manhattan, are two additional markets we could recommend. Columbus Circle borders the Southwest corner of Central Park, making it a nice place to journey into the park for activities like the Wollman ice skating rink. And the Union Square market, located in Union Square Park, is adjacent to their Greenmarket or farmers market, making it an ideal place for fresh produce, flowers, and other foods. The holiday markets are open from 11 am to 8 pm, and the farmers market is open from 8 am to 6 pm.
Tip: Many of the same vendors reside at both the Columbus Circle and Union Square markets, so you can choose which one is most convenient to you.
If the weather outside is truly frightful, there is a small indoor market located within Grand Central Terminal entitled the Grand Central Terminal Holiday Fair. It's quite small, but it's better than nothing if you don't want to brave the elements outside.
HOLIDAY LIGHTS & DISPLAYS
I think the number one reason people come to New York City during the holiday season is to see the wonderful lights and displays! So I'm just going to start with the biggest one - Saks Fifth Avenue light show and window displays. Wow! This year, the show ran about every 10 minutes at night, and lasted about 3 minutes. You can view it from here on 5th Avenue, which also happens to be at the end of the Rockefeller Center Channel Gardens display and their famous ice rink and Christmas tree. The ice rink has been featured in movies such as Elf and Home Alone 2. And the intricate window displays at Saks are also some of the best in the city!
Saks Fifth Avenue is a luxury fashion store which opened it's first location in New York City in 1924. They displayed their first holiday light show in 2004. The 2023 theme, Carousel of Dreams, featured a large zodiac wheel, flowers, stars, and clovers.
Rockefeller Center is a large complex consisting of 19 buildings between 48th Street and 51st Street in the Midtown Manhattan neighborhood of New York City. It was constructed primarily through the 1930s.
Note: this location, between Saks and Rockefeller Center on 5th Avenue, can get really crowded. So be sure to bring some patience with you when you go. It's definitely worth it!
Further North on 5th Avenue you'll find Bergdorf Goodman women's fashion store. Their lavish and glittering windows displays are truly eye-catching! You might be able to find another holiday display on nearby Pulitzer Fountain as well.
Another series of window displays not to be missed is at Macy's Department Store. Herald Square is the main entrance, where you can find colorful animated window displays. But be sure to check the windows on the sides of the building as well. And inside the store you'll also find a beautiful Winter wonderland of displays.
Macy's (originally R. H. Macy & Co.) is an American department store chain founded in 1858 by Rowland Hussey Macy. Macy's operates 508 stores in the United States, with its flagship store located here at Herald Square in New York City
Tip: While daylight is fine for enjoying window displays, you'll discover they are much better and brighter at night!
Hudson Yards appears to be a relatively new neighborhood on Manhattan's West side. The Vessel, a spiral staircase comprised of 154 flights of stairs, is a large copper-colored icon just outside of the shops and restaurants at Hudson Yards. The Shops & Restaurants at Hudson Yards is an upscale indoor shopping and dining mall which opened in 2019. The main lobby of the shopping mall is always decked out for the holiday season!
On 6th Avenue, behind the Rockefeller Center between 49th and 51st, you'll find two large holiday displays, the giant candy canes and the Christmas balls fountain. Both are quite picturesque, and fun to pose with for photos!
Avenue of the Americas, or 6th Avenue in Manhattan, New York, is always festive for the holidays. Further South you'll discover multiple Christmas tree decorations in the plazas along the street. And best of all, it's a lot less crowded than 5th Avenue during the holiday season!
One last piece of artwork we discovered were the sculptures along the center median of Park Avenue, just South of Grand Central Terminal. A different artist is featured each year. This year it was Carole A. Feuerman.
ENTERTAINMENT & ICE SKATING
There is one annual entertainment event which we highly recommend, the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes!
Home to the Rockettes, Radio City Music Hall was completed in 1932 as part of the larger development of Rockefeller Center in New York City. The Radio City Music Hall Rockettes, originally founded in 1925, have been kicking up their heels here ever since it opened. Their Christmas Spectacular, which was first performed in 1933, is a definite must see when enjoying the holiday season in New York!
Holiday themed or not, you could always catch a great Broadway musical while you're in town as well!
The only other holiday entertainment we could find which we thought we might enjoy was Cirque du Soleil's 'Twas The Night Before...
There are three places we found for ice skating, each at an iconic location:
The Rink at the Winter Village at Bryant Park - this is a large ice skating rink in the heart of the holiday market in Bryant Park. You'll be right in the middle of Manhattan, surrounded by skyscapers.
Wollman Rink NYC - located in Central Park, you can skate surrounded by nature with a backdrop of skyscrapers on Central Park's East side.
The Rink at Rockefeller Center - this is the smallest of the three rinks, and very popular. It's also the location of many iconic movies with the Prometheus statue and Christmas tree right beside you.
Along with lights and decorations outside, these restaurants in Manhattan also have elaborate decorations on the inside. If you're interested in dining in one of these, I recommend making a reservation online way in advance.
13 E 17th St, New York, NY 10003
45 W 27th St, New York, NY 10001
22 E 54th St, New York, NY 10022
DYKER HEIGHTS CHRISTMAS LIGHTS
The neighborhood of Dyker Heights in Brooklyn, New York, is becoming very popular as the place to go for residential Christmas lights displays! It took us about an hour by subway to get there from Midtown Manhattan. But if you can brave the night time temperatures, it's definitely worth a visit! They offer bus tours and guided walking tours as well.
1072 80th St, Brooklyn, NY 11228
We either walked or used the subway to get around. The New York subway system was very convenient, and let us use our own personal debit/credit tap cards to pay at the gate of entry. And we used Google maps to determine which line to take.
New York City during the holiday season is magical! Christmas markets, ice skating, window and light displays, holiday shows, etc. A bucket list trip for certain! Make it part of yours as well!