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The Magic of Christmas in NYC

Top Five Holiday Destinations

By Jordan Staggs

Who says having a holly, jolly Christmas has to mean chestnuts roasting on a fire and a one-horse open sleigh? If the makers of such iconic Christmas films as Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, Elf, and, of course, Miracle on 34th Street have anything to say about it, the magic of Christmas might just be hidden within the grid of Manhattan’s busy streets. Visiting New York City is a bucket-list item many world travelers can’t wait to check off, and with some of the world’s biggest and most elaborate holiday decorations, there’s even more to see at Christmastime! But if you want to hit the highlights, here are a few destinations in the city you shouldn’t miss!

5. The Plaza Hotel

Built in 1907 and long considered to be one of New York’s finest hotel experiences, the Plaza has luxurious guest rooms and suites, magnificent furnishings, varied dining experiences, and a storied past that have kept it in the top tier of accommodations since the city’s Gilded Age. Fairmont Hotels and Resorts reopened the renovated property in 2008, and the building now boasts nearly three hundred guest rooms and over a hundred and fifty private condos, all conveniently located on Fifth Avenue overlooking the south end of Central Park.

Empire state building NYC

The Plaza is the ultimate in Manhattan grandeur—especially around the holidays. Lobbies bedecked with garlands and grand Christmas trees will greet guests, while the famous Oak Room, the Palm Court, and more offer dining that’s open to the public. And don’t forget about one of the Plaza’s most famous residents: Eloise. The Eloise series of books and films, which chronicle the life of a girl who lives on the Plaza’s “tippy-top floor,” has brought fans of all ages to the Plaza since the 1950s.

Those seeking the perfect New York holiday stay should look into the Plaza’s Radio City Christmas Spectacular package, which includes tickets to the famous Rockettes Christmas performance.


4. The New York Public Library

Take a stroll down Fifth Avenue, but don’t get lost in the crowds at Rockefeller Center just yet. First, head a little farther south—between Forty-Second and Fortieth Streets, to be exact—and you can’t miss the broad front steps and marble facade of the historic Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, better known as the main branch of the New York Public Library. It’s worth a visit anytime, but visit during the holiday season for added value! As you head up the main steps, be sure to look left and right at the pair of majestic marble lions flanking the entrance. These stoic guardians are Patience and Fortitude, and they have been watching over the library’s south and north ends, respectively, since 1911. At Christmastime, you will probably find them a bit more festive than usual, sporting wreaths and large red bows for the occasion.

Photo courtesy of New York Public Library
Photo courtesy of New York Public Library

Step inside the marble lobby and feast your eyes on a grand Christmas tree in the foyer. It’s a great spot for a photo op. Before you branch off to explore the building, particularly the vast Rose Main Reading Room with its chandeliers and numerous study tables, check near the main lobby for information on special exhibits. Those running this year include Public Eye: 175 Years of Sharing Photography, Printing Women: Three Centuries of Female Printmakers, 1570–1900, and more. They even display historic Christmas cards and Charles Dickens’s prompt copy of A Christmas Carol each year!


3. Bryant Park

Exit the New York Public Library on the west side and you’ll find yourself right in the middle of a true winter wonderland. During the holidays—from the end of October until just after New Year’s—the Bank of America Winter Village in Bryant Park will transport visitors to what seems like a cozy North Pole village. Vendor booths selling art, handmade jewelry, comfy knitted accessories, delicious treats, and much more line the park. You can get all your Christmas shopping done in a day, all while sipping delicious hot cocoa or hot apple cider with cinnamon. Before you leave, take a spin on the Rink, which stays open until early March for those who might have missed it during the holiday season.


Ice skating in NYC Bryant Park Christmas in New York City Bryant Park

2. Rockefeller Center

There might be some contest between numbers one and two on this list, so we’ll let you visit and decide for yourself which is your favorite. But there’s no denying that when you think of Christmas in New York City, your mind wanders to the largest Christmas tree there is, sparkling with multicolored lights as it overlooks a huge ice-skating rink buzzing with activity. Though large, the rink only holds a hundred and fifty skaters at a time to provide guests with an enjoyable experience with friends and loved ones. The Rink at Rockefeller Center is open daily from October 10, 2015, until April 2016.

Look to the east from the rink to Fifth Avenue, where sparkling white angels herald the season along the walkway toward the bustling shopping mecca of the city. The grand entrance of Saks Fifth Avenue, aglow in the evenings with twinkling garlands, also hosts a spectacular music-and-lights show projected onto its facade every few minutes.

Radio City Music Hall Christmas time

There’s no doubt that holiday decorations in Rockefeller Center follow the motto “the bigger, the better.” Tourists and locals all pause for photos with giant displays of twinkling lights, enormous red Christmas baubles, monolithic reindeer, and more before crossing the street to none other than Radio City Music Hall. The theater’s famous Radio City Christmas Spectacular, starring the lovely and talented Rockettes dancers, is a must for many who visit NYC for the holidays.

The best vantage point to take in all the magic of Rockefeller Center? The Top of the Rock, of course! Take a quick (and we mean quick!) trip skyward seventy stories to the observation deck and survey a frosted landscape that sparkles like diamonds in the afternoon sun. The Top of the Rock has some of the best views of the city’s most iconic landmarks, including Central Park and the Empire State and Chrysler Buildings, and on a clear day, maybe even a peek of the Statue of Liberty.


1. Macy’s Herald Square

In 1947, writers George Seaton and Valentine Davies made New York City Christmas history with the release of their film, Miracle on 34th Street, the beloved tale of a young girl whose mother hired a department store Santa Claus and got way more than anybody bargained for—the real thing. But Thirty-Fourth Street, home to Macy’s Herald Square, was famous long before the movie. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, a highly anticipated annual event, has marked the official start to the Christmas season since 1924.

Macy's NYC at Christmas

Throughout the holiday season, there’s no better place to imagine you’ve stepped inside Santa’s workshop than the busy shopping floors and quaint hideaways inside Macy’s Herald Square. The building is decked floor to ceiling with shining lights, garlands, and good spirits. Classic holiday tunes and newer contemporary Christmas hits will put you in the mood to be merry as you browse floors and floors to find that perfect gift.

There’s no better place to imagine you’ve stepped inside Santa’s workshop than the busy shopping floors and quaint hideaways inside Macy’s Herald Square.

Sending a special letter to Santa Claus? Well, Macy’s has you covered with the special mailbox on the ground floor, where kids (and kids at heart) can write and send their Christmas wishes to Kris Kringle. The wishes are magically transferred straight upstairs to Santaland, where they are printed onto a list two miles long for Santa and his trusty elves to review before Christmas Eve. Last year’s list broke the Guinness World Record for the longest wish list to Santa, with a whopping 121,138 wishes! Part of Macy’s annual Believe campaign, the wish list and those from other Macy’s stores across the country were accompanied by donations that totaled over $2 million for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. After you navigate through a maze of impeccably decorated trees on the top floor, be sure to stop by Santa’s Believe Meter and see how the campaign is doing this year!

New York City Christmas ornaments at Macy's

Santaland is the place to be for Christmas at Macy’s! With animatronic animals, real-life elves to help with anything you need, and more toys and decorations than you could possibly imagine, Santaland is the closest thing to the North Pole workshop you’ve always dreamed about. Santaland is open from the Friday after Thanksgiving—when Santa arrives in his sleigh during the parade—until Christmas Eve.


— V —

These, of course, are only a few of Manhattan’s most popular holiday destinations. Half the fun of visiting the city is exploring new areas and exciting attractions for yourself, and Christmas offers the chance to see it shine like no other time of the year. Even though it’s one of the biggest cities on earth, New York might feel like a giant snow globe or a quaint Christmas village during the holidays as you traverse the sidewalks with your favorite people. Search for those perfect gifts, warm up with a cup of cocoa, sing carols, or maybe even start a friendly snowball fight in the park. Whatever your favorite holiday pastime in the Big Apple may be, enjoy it!

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