It’s no secret that I love New York City. Every chance I get I am sneaking away to the city that never sleeps. I have always wanted to be in New York City at Christmas and last Christmas we had the chance to take our kids and spend 10 days in the city doing all the things I had always dreamed of. And, I can happily report, that it was every bit as amazing as I had always imagined. 🙂 Even with freezing temps (like 18 degrees!) and snow, these Southern Californians canvased the city streets from sun up to sun down. We couldn’t get enough. I did SO much research for this trip! I really wanted everything to be PERFECT and I wanted to do some things that were kind of unique experiences that maybe not everyone has done. I started my research on some of my favorite affiliate partner websites like TripAdvisor. You can find SO much information there about just about everything, as well as book hotels, flights, vacation rentals and even make reservations for restaurants. I also checked places like Travelocity, Hotels.com and Priceline. Like I said, I like to do my research. 😉 We ended up booking flights directly through JetBlue because it was the best deal and had the best flight times for us.
Where to Stay
Usually when we visit the city we stay in Mid-Town or SoHo, my two favorite areas of the city. Recently though there are many new hotel options opening up in the city that look interesting both downtown and on the Upper East Side. Here are my recommendations for hotels in the city, some are our affiliate partners. When you are looking, keep in mind that prices are high everywhere, especially at this most popular time of year.
BE PREPARED FOR THE WEATHER!
It was COLD in the city at this time of year…way colder than I thought it was going to be. We happened to hit an unusual cold spell, but with the super tall buildings everywhere you go, each street turns into a shady wind tunnel, and it’s the wind that really gets to you. Be prepared for everything with proper jackets, comfortable but warm shoes, layers of long sleeves and sweaters, mittens, hats and long johns. You will want every one of those layers. Here are some simlilar things that I packed. They kept me very warm in 18 degree temps with wind chill. That packable down jacket is a MUST! It condenses down to practically nothing in your suitcase, but then pops up and into a very warm coat. I usually layer mine with a long sleeve shirt and cardigan or other light sweater for particularly cold days. I bought one for every member of the family (I found the kid’s jackets here, and John’s here.)
Here are a few of the MUST HAVES in my book for a trip to NYC at Christmas. These should have you prepared for most anything weather-wise. Click on any affiliate image for more product information.
I’ve narrowed the trip down to our favorite experiences that will fit into a 72 hours whirlwind tour of the city at Christmas. Here are the things that you don’t want to miss! 🙂
When we travel with the kids we try to cram as much into our days as possible, while also remembering that they are kids. 🙂 Fortunately we have been blessed with night owls and they are SUPER travelers. While we were literally out and about ALL day (usually from about 9am-10pm) I tried to mix things up, get us off our feet on a regular basis, work in treats and fun kid activities. You of course will have to make adjustments to meet your own family’s needs, but if I had 72 hours in the city with my kiddos at Christmastime, here’s how I would spend it…
Hop on the Subway and head to SoHo to pick up breakfast pastries at Balthazaar Bakery. Brunch here is amazing, (with the MOST decadent eggs benedict), but unless you have reservations a month in advance, good luck getting in…it’s definitely one of the most popular spots in town. But, lucky for you, they have the CUTEST little spot next door to the restaurant where they sell their flaky, buttery amazing French pastries and baguettes. It’s the perfect grab and go for your busy day and seriously people, when I walked in here at Christmas time, I thought I had stepped onto a movie set. It is DARLING all dressed up for the holidays with the hustle and bustle all around, beautiful sweet treats, warm hot chocolate and Christmas music being piped through the speakers. Dreamy.
Grab your self a baguette and a hot chocolate (nothing too filling so you can eat again soon!) and head on downtown to catch a ride on the Staten Island Ferry. You can catch it at non-commuter times, so it will be less crowded. This is a great way to catch an up-close picture of Lady Liberty and it’s free! The kids will enjoy a boat ride and it’s a great chance to get off your feet.
Are you hungry yet? Well, I hope so…because after your ferry ride you’re heading to Chelsea and the heart of the Food Network, the Chelsea Market. Housed in an old warehouse, they have done a great job of preserving the old architectural details and re-using the space. It’s time to do some Christmas shopping at some of the great shops like Anthropologie and wander through the seemingly endless array of specialty food shops and restaurants. You can find the butcher shop where you can watch them at work (kind of an interesting education for kids who usually just see their meat in packets at the grocery store…but not for the squeamish!) There are lobster places, cookie shops, gelato, spices, bakeries…you name it. And at Christmas time…it is decked to the hilt with lights and decorations. Grab some lunch, warm up, and get off your feet for a bit. (there are public restrooms here too, and they are hard to find in the city, so make a pit stop!) 😉
After lunch, if the weather cooperates, step outside and look up. You are right underneath the famous Highline Park. An old track line, turned urban park, it’s fun to walk along the old tracks up above the city and watch the world go by. It goes on for quite a ways, so just walk as long as you wish. Once you’re done, hop off and head back to the subway, where hopefully you’ll be lucky enough to have a mariachi band on your train playing Feliz Navidad! 😉
Tonight is show night, so pick your favorite Broadway show…there are SO many great ones for families, you are certain to find one you can all agree on. If you decide not to buy tickets in advance of your trip, make time early in the morning before you start your day to send someone over to the TKTS booth in Times Square and see if you can find discounted tickets to a show. Often you can find tickets for as much as 50% off face value, but you have to be flexible. There are no guarantees that they will have tickets all together, where you want to sit, etc. And, most of the very popular shows don’t sell their tickets. Unfortunately, these shows all start a little late…like 8:30pm, so hopefully the kiddos are up for a bit of a late night.
Before dinner, head on over to Virgil’s BBQ in Times Square. Make reservations to ensure that you get a table. Yes, it’s messy, loud and over-run with tourists, but that’s the kind of experience you’re looking for when you’re in Times Square, right? This is not a fancy joint, so it’s family friendly and the food is surprisingly good…especially considering it’s smack dab in the middle of one of the world’s biggest tourist traps.
Enjoy dinner and the show…then head back to the hotel for some much needed R&R and get ready for a fun, busy day tomorrow! 🙂
It wouldn’t be a trip to NYC at Christmas time without a visit to Santa at Macy’s on 34th street. Lucky for you, there is a Wafles and Dinges stand on the plaza at Herald Square, so you can grab some delicious waffles topped with just about anything you can image…ice cream, strawberries, Nutella, Biscoff…you name it.
Once your tummies are filled, head into Macy’s and follow the signs to Santaland. Be warned. These lines can be long…like Disneyland long. Twisting and weaving your through a maze-like line. I discovered something when we went that we didn’t use, but it might be a big help for you. If you download the Macy’s app, there is an express pass you can get for Santaland. You have to pick a day and time and register your party, but boy would that be easier! Be sure to check it out and see if that will help you. 🙂
Directions To See Santa at Macys
Santaland is located on the 8th floor of Macy’s Flagship Store at Herald Square.
You can enter Macy’s on 34th Street at either Broadway or 7th Avenue, though the 7th Avenue entrance tends to be less chaotic.
Many subways offer convenient service to Macy’s Herald Square:
- A, C, E to 34th Street/Penn Station: Walk one block east on 34th Street to 7th Avenue
- 1, 2, 3 to 34th Street: Exit on 7th Avenue and 34th Street
- B, D, F, V and N, Q, R, W to 34th Street/Herald Square: Exit on Broadway for Macy’s main entrance
After you visit Santa, make sure to stroll along the iconic windows outside the store. They are beautifully decorated for the holidays and tell fun stories.
Once you’re done at Macy’s you’re probably going to be a little hungry…and even if you aren’t, too bad. You’re in New York and your job is to eat as much as possible while you’re here. 😉 Luckily, you aren’t too far from Little Italy and some delicious (and famous) New York City pizza. Little Italy is located on Mulberry Street, and houses some of the cutest little restaurants you will ever see.
They are cute and festive year round, so you know that at Christmas, they are even more dolled up. Wander the streets for a bit, and then hit Lombardi’s Pizza for lunch. In 1897 an Italian immigrant reinvented a Napoletana staple food into one of the world’s most eaten foods. New York City was the birth place of New York style pizza. During the year of 1905, Lombardi’s was licensed by the City of New York, becoming America’s First Pizzeria. SO duh, you have to go there. 😉 Lombardi’s is a CASH ONLY place, like many of the shops and restaurants in NYC, so plan accordingly.
After you are full of pizza, it’s time for dessert. Are there little girls in your party? If so, the next activity might just be their favorite. We’re heading uptown…to Midtown. The iconic Plaza Hotel is our next destination. Home of Eloise, the Plaza does a great job of playing up the story and keeping little kids expecting to see her having tea at the Palm Court or riding the elevators like amusement park rides. Check out the beautiful Christmas tree in the foyer (sorry, the one in the lobby is only for guests) and then take a peek into the Palm Court on your way down to the Plaza shops and food court.
Here you will find gourmet food stalls and high end shopping (if you’re hungry again Luke’s Lobster makes an AMAZING Lobster Roll)…with one exception…the Eloise store. In all of it’s pink frilly glory, it sits down the hall and around the corner from the food stalls inviting little girls to come and browse trinkets and play dress up. Don’t get me wrong…the trinkets are expensive too…but you can find some little treasures for under $10-15 dollars.
If you really want to splurge, the shop offers Eloise themed events and parties at Christmastime. Make reservations well in advance by calling the store. These events DO sell out. Ashley and I took a few hours of girl time, and spent an afternoon at a Gingerbread making party at the shop. For $75, the two of us spent a couple of hours decorating a REAL gingerbread house made by a local gourmet bakery (they also have a food stall in the Food Court), drinking pink hot chocolate, and visiting with Santa. It was magical for her and totally worth it to me for the memories and the photo op. 😉 Not to mention, the gingerbread was TO DIE FOR good. We snacked on it for days in the hotel. Each guest left with a paperback Eloise book as a party favor too. Another fun thing to do at the shop if you have a little Eloise fan, is to write a letter to Eloise. Ask the cashier about it. They will give you a piece of paper to fill out and write a note on. You stick it in the mailbox they have in the shop, and within a few weeks, you will receive an emailed response from Eloise herself. Watching Eloise at Christmastime before you make this trip with make this activity even more fun.
The Plaza sits on the south border of Central Park. It’s also the spot where you can pick up carriage rides through the park. Grab some hot chocolate on your way out of the Plaza Food Hall and head out to grab a carriage. Stroll through the park wrapped in blankets and sipping your hot chocolate. If you’re lucky, there might even be some snow. Even the hot dog carts outside the park dress themselves up with lights for the holidays. It doesn’t get much prettier.
After your carriage ride, its time to head back down south a few blocks to Rockefellar Center. It isn’t far, and the walk down 5th avenue is gorgeous at this time of year. All of the expensive shops go out of their way to entice you inside with gorgeous displays in the windows…Bergdorfs, Cartier, it’s spectacular! You’ll know you’ve hit Rockefellar when you start seeing crowds like crazy trying to either watch the light show at Saks across the street, or to catch a glimpse of the most famous Christmas Tree in the country. When I say crowds…I mean CROWDS!! We stopped by here on SEVERAL occasions at all different times of day and night and it was ALWAYS like stampede city. So be prepared. BUT, you’re here, so you have to see it, right? Just hold tight to those kiddos and go for it.
Once you catch a glimpse of the tree, you can skip out and head to Eataly for dinner across the street from Madison Square Park. It’s crowded too…but after the crowds you’ve just faced, it will seem like a breeze. 🙂 Eataly is HUGE and offers everything! Gelato, Pizza, Cheese, Pasta, you name it you can buy it there. There are sit down restaurants, grab and go options, just about anything. So, depending on how you’re feeling, you can get whatever you and the kiddos are feeling up to. Or, if the weather isn’t terrible, you can wander through Eatly just for fun, and then head across the street to the park to pick up some Shake Shack. You won’t be disappointed!
Head back to the hotel and hit the hay. You’ve got one more day of crazy fun ahead of you! 🙂
This morning we’re having some fancy brunch. ABC kitchen is one of the hottest spots in town, so make reservations before you go…I mean like a month before you go. 😉 While I have to say that I have had other brunch in the city that I liked better, the food is good and there is something fun about eating at a hot spot. The surroundings are beautiful and it is very loud, so taking the kids won’t be a problem at all.
There are so many fun shops right in and around Union Square…ABC of course, but FishsEddy is another favorite right across the street. After you do a little shopping, head on over to Bryant Park to work off a bit of your breakfast. 🙂 At Bryant park you can ice skate, check out the cute Christmas pop up shops, and go take quick tour of the NY Library. It is STUNNING! Be sure to go upstairs and take a look at the incredible reading rooms. Seriously amazing!
When your feet are sore and you are wet and cold, take a quick ride on the subway and head on over to Grand Central Station for some lunch in the ginormous food court downstairs. There is just about every kind of food you can imagine down there and it is a super fun place to sit and watch the world go by. Upstairs there is a pretty light show for Christmas and some other fun pop up shops. Don’t miss the food hall there too. An amazing marketplace with all kinds of goumet food vendors. Such a fun place to walk through!
It’s your last night in the city, so we’re going out with a bang. By far, our favorite experience last Christmas was the Rockette’s Christmas Spectacular. That surprised both John and I…especially since we usually like to do things that are a little more off the beaten path. But this was truly spectacular. You shouldn’t have a problem getting tickets…they run 4 shows a day for about 10 weeks, so you should be able to score some tickets…but here’s my advice. Spring for the more expensive tickets. Radio City is HUGE. You will appreciate it when you’re in there. Gigantic. And, the really good tickets aren’t that much more expensive than the regular tickets. I’m sure you can find better deals, but coming from out of town it was harder, so I broke down and just bought tickets online. The regular price tickets were about $90 and the good tickets about $120 each. We sat in the 10th row dead center and I am SO glad we did. It was worth every penny. They show is great for all ages and your kids will love it even more if they can see really well. Be prepared to be wowed for the 90 minute show.
After your 5pm show it will be about dinner time. You are right down the street from Times Sq. and Rockefellar Center. So, you can really take your pick of what YOU want to do for your last meal and last few ours. If you have it in you to make one more stop, wander through Times Square and hit the Toys R Us. For $5 a person the kids can ride the giant ferris wheel IN the store. They will think it’s the greatest thing ever and it is seriously the best deal in town. The ride lasts about 20 minutes or so and you can sit down and take a break while they wave and sing your praises for being the best parents ever. 😉
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