Okay, so I am definitely not a New Yorker ( I don’t even live in Jersey) and I’m not a pro, but we’ve done the New York thing with kids at Christmas time a few years now so I feel like I have some good insight for anyone wanting to try it! I definitely learn more each time and am not afraid to strike up conversations with other “families” on the street/train to ask questions.
Since posting pictures of our trip, I’ve received a ton of questions from friends and followers. The biggest three:
“How do you do it?”
“Where do you go?”
“Is it worth it?”
I promise to answer all of those questions and more!
Christmas in New York City
Most people dream about visiting New York City in December, all the lights, the hustle and bustle, the store windows, and the magic of the city at Christmas. I totally get it! I’m not a city girl at all but it is fun, beautiful, definitely something worth seeing, not to mention different.
My mom’s dream has always been for an annual girl’s weekend. Something we can do every year … just us girls. The first trip to New York at Christmas was just my mom, Miss B, and I. This year we upgraded to the whole fam! I mean all the ladies!
My sisters flew in from North Carolina and Texas and my mom and I brought the kids from Delaware. We spent a gorgeous day in the city taking in everything we possibly could (and we had a lot on our list to see). Remind me to show you my map (it’s a perfect picture of my OCD ways)!
As I told a friend earlier this week, if you are going to do New York City at Christmas you should plan on sticking in the Rockefeller Center / Central park areas. If you want to be touristy and visit the museums, memorials, or Statue of Liberty, I recommend a spring or summer trip.
How do you do it?
Getting into the city
This year we wanted to maximize our day in the city without actually spending the night in the city. So, we got a hotel room in New Jersey! From there we made a short trip to Newark Penn Station and hopped a super short train into Penn Station in New York.
There are a ton of places to catch a train from surrounding areas into the city and it’s definitely what I recommend. Most that I’ve seen have parking lots, typically around $20 for the day. This way you don’t have to worry about driving in the city.
The length of your train ride will affect the price of the ticket but we never spend more than $30 roundtrip for all five of us.
What to Pack
This is the tricky part! Being prepared without having to carry a freakishly heavy backpack or bag all day long. I can’t be much help here… I haven’t mastered this yet and my back would agree!
We typically dress in layers and then pack hats, gloves, snacks, and water to cut back on what we have to buy in the city. It definitely gets colder at night and you can’t always count on the sun during the day due to all the buildings. The girls were required to wear sneakers and prepped for the fact that they would be walking a lot.
I don’t recommend a stroller! I tried to take a small one our first year and I just felt like she was too low to the ground and would easily be trampled but still had to carry it around all day. Once it gets dark, places like Rockefeller Center are extremely crowded and getting a stroller through is a nightmare. If you have a little one, wearing them in some sort of carrier would be your best bet. We even ended up carrying the twins at one point this year, because it was borderline dangerous for them to be walking.
Where to Eat
If you are like us, you’ll want something New York(ish) without the super long wait for your dining experiences. To find cool shops and fun places to eat, you’ll have to get off the main streets like 5th, 6th, or 7th street and venture down the side streets. We found some awesome, true New York places on 56th, 57th, and 58th streets with a variety of flavors that will hopefully strike your fancy!
All About Food
Hale and Hearty Soups
Between the Bread
Must See Places
New York City at Christmas truly is a spectacular yet crowded experience. Just be prepared for massive amounts of people, particularly at night and around the “lighted” places like Rockefeller Center. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still worth it, but I wanted to give you the heads up!
We went the first weekend in December and actually had both beautiful weather and a pretty easy day as far as crowds until the light shows began! But… let’s get back to those magical places.
My sister actually learned about Bryant Park this year and I’m so glad she did! A gorgeous park in Manhattan with an ice skating rink, al fresco dining, pop up shops, activities, and so much more! We shopped, went ice skating, and enjoyed the scenery of the park! Definitely a must-see!
Side note: If ice skating in New York is in your plans Bryant Park is the place to do it. It’s free to skate, you only have to rent skates and it is much less crowded than Rockefeller Center.
THE Christmas Tree! If you go to New York after Thanksgiving, you have to stop by Rockefeller Center for a token picture of the most beautiful Christmas tree around! Lace up your skates or just enjoy the views at this iconic site.
This made the list because it’s… Macy’s! We don’t go to New York to shop, mainly just to sightsee and exlore, so we rarely make it past the gorgeous window displays, but they are gorgeous!
Saks Fifth Avenue
Saks Fifth Avenue on Fifth is one of my favorites! Their light display lights up the whole side of their building and can be viewed throughout the evening. It’s typically themed and extremely impressive, for this reason this area will be very crowded!
Every year we say we want to spend more time in Central Park, however we never do! The carriage ride around Central Park was the girl’s favorite part of the trip (that and the M & M store). It’s a little hectic trying to actually hail a carriage even so it’s truly magical once you do! There are tons of picturesque places to see all over the park if you have the time to check them out.
We always hit Times Square on our way back to the train station at the end of the night. I personally think Times Square is more effective at night, but it’s pretty cool anytime of day. We always stop by the M & M store, who could pass up the Color Wall?
Side note: The ball they drop on New Year’s Eve will be a disappoint… just wait!
American Girl store (if you have a girl)
This is probably the only store other than M & M World that we actually go in to. I’m not quite sure why we started this, however Miss B received her very first American Girl doll last Christmas, which means that we make it a point to stop by each year. It’s always fun to see what’s new and just window shop!
Seeing a show on Broadway might also be on your bucket list! It’s definitely something we want to do, we just haven’t gotten around to it yet. They typically have a show for all ages, this year’s is The Lion King! As with most places, it’s best to buy tickets before hand and arrive early!
Radio City Music Hall
The Rockettes are on my bucket list! I would absolutely love to see them live in NYC, not just in the Macy’s Christmas Parade I watch each year on TV. I’m not sure this would hold my girls’ attention just yet, but one day it will!
If it’s something you’ve always wanted to do, go for it! A day, if you live close enough, or a weekend in New York City is perfect for a girls weekend, a family outing, or just a once in a lifetime adventure. You won’t regret it!
If you’ve been to New York and have any fun places or advice to share, I’d love to hear it! If you have questions as you begin planning your trip, I’d love to help if I can!
Until next time,