12 days of Christmas – Your advent guide to New York

Americans love to ‘go big or go home’, and Christmas is no exception, especially in New York. You’ll be blown away by the larger than life festive atmosphere created by our neighbours across the pond. The best place to experience this is the Big Apple, without question. Head to New York in December to kickstart your Christmas season the American way. For inspiration and information, here are my 12 advent tips for your New York Christmas holiday.


On the first day of Christmas, New York gave to me…

A great big Christmas tree.  

If you’re a fan of a traditional Christmas, there’s probably nothing that gets your festive juices flowing like a beautifully decorated, twinkly spruce. During the festive season, New York gets creative, and the icing on the Christmas cake is the many trees around the city.

For the ‘main event’, head to Rockefeller Plaza, where from the last week of November, the giant Christmas tree is on display. Move over lady Liberty, this 20 metre tall national treasure, adorned with 50,000 twinkling lights and topped with a Swarovski Star, is the main Xmas attraction.

Another ‘firly’ impressive option is the Bryant Park Christmas Tree. Head over to Winter Village, enjoy the festive atmosphere and admire the 30ft tree in this popular Midtown park.

If you like your Christmas trees a little less traditional and a little more educational, from the end of November go to the American Museum of Natural History. Their tree is decorated with over 800 hand-folded origami models, by artists from all over the world.


On the second day of Christmas, New York gave to me…..

Shows for the whole family.

For some true festive razzle dazzle in New York over the Christmas season, there’s no better way to get your jingle bells ringing than going to see one of these festive productions.

Want a fun filled show with dancing, singing, plenty of sparkle and even an appearance from Santa? The Radio City Christmas Spectacular is just that, spectacular!

For fans of popular movie The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, it has been adapted into a musical for the month of December. Head to Madison Square Garden for a fun filled night.

If you’re looking for a classier evening go to Lincoln Center, where you can see classic ballet, The Nutcracker. Starring dancers from the New York City Ballet.


On the third day of Christmas, New York gave to me…

A never ending shopping spree.

Even if you’re not in New York for the big day itself, the run up to Christmas can be just as good, with endless opportunity to find the perfect gifts.

Fifth Avenue is the perfect place to get started; the window shopping alone will get you in the mood. Be sure to stop outside Tiffany & Co, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdales to admire displays like you’ve never seen before.

A perfect one-stop-shop for your whole Christmas list is Macy’s. In this huge department store, boasting 1.25 million square feet of retail space, you are sure to find gifts for even the toughest on your list.

If you’re looking for a festive bargain, and don’t mind travelling a little upstate to find it, book a bus trip to Woodbury Common Premium Outlet. Here, you can buy designer brands for up to 65% less.


On the fourth day of Christmas, New York gave to me …

Toy stores full of fantasy.

Whether you are a kid at heart, or have a kid in your heart who you want to spoil this Christmas, there’s no better place for endless toys and games than New York City.

The recent reopening of FAO Schwarz in it’s new, central location at Rockefeller Plaza has reinstated New York City as the place to be for shopping for all ages. Browse the wide array of fun and fabulous toys, perfect for under your Christmas tree.

Close by, in Times Square, you’ll find the Disney Store, bursting with your favourite characters in the form of games, costumes, stuffed toys and memorabilia.

The American Girl Store at Rockefeller Plaza not only sells the popular dolls, but also offers many festive events over Christmas. For example, holiday cookie decorating, festive tea parties and a visit from Santa!


On the fifth day of Christmas, New York gave to me…..  

Houses decorated extravagantly.

Dyker Heights is a Brooklyn neighbourhood where the residents know how to do Christmas decorations. With no regard for their electricity bills or their sanity, the locals of Dyker Heights really go all out with lighting and decorations, and the result is enough to give Times Square a run for its money! If you’re a fan of sparkle, snowmen, life size reindeer, Santa, sleighs and candy canes, be sure take a Dyker Heights tour. Tours are popular and sell out quickly, so make sure you book in advance.


On the sixth day of Christmas, New York gave to me…

A festive cruise around the city.

To top off your magical Christmas trip to New York, there’s no better way to see the skyline than from a boat on its surrounding waters.

There are a number of boat tours to choose from, both during the day and for dinner. If you’re spending Christmas in New York, be sure to book on to a Christmas Eve cruise for a festive meal as you float past the sights.

On the seventh day of Christmas, New York gave to me…..

Ice rinks around the city.

Whether you’re a graceful pro, a wobbly-legged beginner or just like to watch, visiting one of Manhattan’s ice rinks is a great way get festive in New York.

The rink at Rockefeller Plaza offers skating with a fantastic backdrop, the Rockefeller Christmas tree. Head there before or after a visit to the Top of the Rock.

If you’re planning on spending time in Central Park, you’ll no doubt pass an ice rink at some point. The park has two rinks; the Wollman on the south side and the Lasker, a lesser known rink in the north of the park.   And again, to Bryant Park, New York’s winter wonderland offers a large rink, between the market and the Christmas tree.


On the eighth day of Christmas, New York gave to me…

The chance to sit on Santa’s knee.

Would your Christmas be incomplete without a sighting of the big guy, himself? Fear not, New York has plenty of opportunity for getting up close to the jolly one this Christmas.

Santaland at Macy’s is a wonderland in its own right. Go there for a chat with the elves and and a photo with Santa. Book on their website to avoid long queues.

At Eloise at the Plaza Hotel on Fifth Avenue, from late November, you can book tea with Santa. Enjoy tea, sandwiches and sweet treats with Father Christmas.

Catch sight of the man of the moment at the kids section of Bloomingdales. Head to the fifth floor before indulging in some luxury Christmas shopping.   

On the ninth day of Christmas, New York gave to me…

Bars fit for getting merry.

Christmas is not just for children: New York offers some great options for the grown ups too.  Enjoy a festive cocktail and the magical atmosphere that this time of year brings.

Surround yourself with festive cheer and baubles by heading to Rolf’s on 3rd Avenue. This German-style restaurant and bar goes all out with their festive decor, spending over $60,000 a year. Not an inch is left unadorned, it’s a festive explosion, and great for a selfie!

One of my favourite ways to admire Manhattan is to see it, beer in hand, from a rooftop bar. During the winter months, go to 230 Fifth Avenue, where they install igloos for festive drinks with a view.


On the tenth day of Christmas, New York gave to me….

Lights as far as the eye can see.

New York is known for its illuminated buildings and 24-7 bright lights. Seeing the city at Christmas only amplifies the magnitude of this!

Join the Holiday Lights bus tour to get a festive perspective of the entire city, enjoy the sights as you see them in all their glory, decorated and illuminated for this magical season. Pass trees, shop windows and iconic buildings. There are eight stops where you can get off the bus and take a short walking tour.


On the eleventh day of Christmas, New York gave to me…

A sports game at MSG.

It may not be the first thing that springs to mind when you think of Christmas in New York but, for an electric atmosphere and plenty of cheering crowds, a sports game in the heart of Manhattan is a must.

The Knicks basketball and Rangers ice hockey teams both play at Madison Square Garden, right in the centre of Manhattan. Even if you’re not a sports fan, experiencing a game is a fantastic experience. At the height of the basketball and hockey seasons, the Christmas period is a great time to go.


On the twelfth day of Christmas, New York gave to me….

Many Merry Markets to see.

As well as a huge offering of shops, Christmas in New York brings further retail opportunity in the form of it’s various holiday markets where you can find mulled wine, decorations and lots of handmade gifts.

The most popular option, in the heart of Midtown is the Bryant Park Winter Village. Featuring a huge Christmas tree, an ice rink and plenty of stalls offering food, drink, gifts and decorations.

The impressive architecture of Grand Central Terminal is enough, alone, to draw a crowd. At Christmas time, Vanderbilt Hall is transformed into a large Christmas market with stalls selling art, clothing and home goods.

A little downtown, the Union Square Holiday Market is a popular festive destination. With an array of stalls and a festive atmosphere, there’s ample opportunity to fill your stockings here!

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