New York Holiday Travel Guide

There is no place like New York City this time of year. From ice skating in Central Park to the dazzling department window displays. Millions of illuminated lights, festive markets, and holiday shows will surely fill your heart with joy. Every avenue is a string of lights from the Seaport District to Washington Heights! This magical season kicks off every year with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and ends with the ball drop in Times Square. This guide will give you the best sights to visit including window displays & hotels to explore, food to eat, markets to shop, & shows to see! The biggest tip I can give you to survive through the crowds is to GO EARLY, dress warm, & enjoy the Holiday spirit. New York at Christmas..what a show! It’s a total yuletide high according to the Radio City Rockettes. Let’s start with the Rockefeller Center!

The Iconic Rockefeller Christmas Tree

The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is a world-wide symbol of the holidays in New York City. This year’s tree hails from State College, Pennsylvania. The 75-foot-tall Norway spruce will be dressed in 50,000 multicolored LED lights and will be lit for the first time on Wednesday, November 29, at Rockefeller Plaza. The annual tree lighting ceremony is free and open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis!  Want to see it from above in a helicopter? Click here for more info. For the eleventh consecutive year, the 2017 Christmas Tree will be donated to Habitat for Humanity. Each year, the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree continues to be a symbol of hope, and inspired the children’s book, “The Carpenter’s Gift.” 

 Image via MR MAGAZINE

 After seeing the tree at Rockefeller center, waltz over to 5th avenue where you will see a spectacular light show on the building of Saks 5th Ave! This show plays every 10 minutes from 5-11 p.m. After watching the show, stroll on 5th ave and ogle at gorgeous window displays. Don’t miss Bergdorf Goodman, Henri Bendel, Bloomingdales, Lord & Taylor, Barney’s, and Macy’s in Herald Square! Click here to plan your walking tour of these magnificent windows.


Explore Decorated Hotel Lobbies & Courtyards

New Lotte Palace Hotel: This historic hotel off Madison Avenue is a personal favorite. Their 30 foot tree that glows behind the iron gates is a sight for sore eyes!  This is definitely a great photo op and within walking distance to Saks 5th Ave and the Rockefeller Center. This is also where Gossip Girl was filmed. Make sure to go inside to see the grand staircase and holiday decor. In the mood for a drink? Trouble’s Trust is where Serena was spotted sipping their signature drink the “Queen of Mean.”

Images via The Plaza & Time Out

Plaza Hotel: The iconic Plaza Hotel is absolutely stunning all year around but especially around Christmas. The team at the plaza stays up all night on Thanksgiving to decorate for Christmas. Hotel guests wake up the next morning surprised and in the Christmas spirit. Reserve a table for tea at The Palm Court and experience the special holiday tea offerings. This is also where Home Alone 2 was filmed. Merry Christmas, ya filthy animal!

Also don’t forget to see the decor at these hotels:

The Penninsula, St. Regis, The Ritz Carlton Central Park & Gramercy Park Hotel!


The Best Holiday Shows

My number one show is the Radio City Rockettes Christmas Spectacular! I cry (tears of joy) every time…it’s SO GOOD. And those legs! A wonderful show in a historic venue (Radio City Music Hall) ! You can get your tickets here!

                  Image via NYC Theater

  • The New York Philharmonic Orchestra is performing Handel’s Messiah from Dec 12-16. Get your tickets here…
  • The Metropolitan Opera is performing Mozart’s whimsical and classic “The Magic Flute” from Nov 25-Dec 9. Get your tickets here… The Magic Flute
  • Elf The Musical will be playing at the Madison Square Garden Theater from Dec 13-29. Get your tickets here!
  • Jingle Ball: The hottest ticket of the season. Performances by Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, The Chainsmokers & Sam Smith…December 8, 2017 at MSG. Get your tickets here!

Christmas Shopping

             Image via Timeout

  • Winter Village at Bryant Park: This is my favorite market and always opens during Halloween weekend. It is filled with artisan vendors from around the world, local crafts, an ice skating rink, a beautiful Christmas tree, and delicious food. Click here to find out more information about the rink, hours, pricing, and vendors.
  • Union Square Holiday Market: This is a must-visit market for unique gifts created by local craftsmen and artists. This year, they have exciting new sections such as Little Brooklyn, a Warming Station, a Lounge, and a Kid’s Arts Studio. They also have live music! Click here to plan your trip.
  • Columbus Circle Christmas Market: The Columbus Circle Holiday Market is internationally known as one of the most elegant and beautiful places for holiday shopping! More info here.
  • Grand Central Terminal Holiday Fair: Explore one of the most beautiful architectural settings in the world featuring New York’s grandest holiday market this holiday season. More info here.
  • Brooklyn Flea + Smorgasburg:  In addition to a wide selection of decadent food vendors, this indoor holiday market will provide personal, thoughtful gifts for everyone on your list. More info here.


Indulge in a cozy meal & festive drinks

Image via 6sqft

  • Rolf’s German Restaurant: This restaurant is known for their elaborate Christmas decor. How does $65,000 worth of Christmas cheer sound?! Be sure to make reservations. Enjoy a giant mug of eggnog, mulled wine, or a bratwurst and soak in the festive decor including 15,000 ornaments and 100,000 lights!

Image via TimeOut

  • Baita at Eataly Rooftop: Every winter Eataly transforms their rooftop into an alpine ski lodge with sheepskin rugs and festive decor.The vibe is really fun and upbeat!
  • Jacques Torres: Sip a cup of wicked hot chocolate and browse the holiday collection of hand crafted chocolates. Buy one for your family…or yourself. This is a Blair Waldorf favorite.
  • Dominique Ansel: Pick up a Cronut from this famous french bakery. Make sure to go early (around 7am) or else you won’t get one. December’s flavor is Eggnog Caramel…yum!
  • Serendipity 3: One of my favorite movies is Serendipity. I love going to this cute little cafe around Christmas time. Make sure to get the frozen hot chocolate!
  • Miracle on 9th Street: A Christmas inspired pop-up bar returns to the city! Escape the cold and soak in the festive atmosphere while enjoying a glass of Jingle Ball Nog or a Christmapolitan. Check out more holiday pop ups around the city here
  • Jacob’s Pickles: a charming upper west side restaurant with delicious southern comfort food that will surely make you feel warm and full (their portions are huge). Start with their biscuits & fixins! Try the Croque Madame or their Bacon Egg & Cheese Biscuit Sandwich. Go early as there is usually a long wait. Jacob’s Pickles is toasting to the holiday season with their festive cocktails. Try the Cinnamon Snowflake or the Cherry Santa Cider.



The Christmas Tree under the Arch at Washington Square Park

 Image via Spoiled NYC

Metropolitan Museum of Art Christmas Tree and the 18th-century Neapolitan crèche.

Image via MET

Dyker Heights, Brooklyn! More info here on how to get there!

Image via Business Insider

Giant Christmas Ornaments & Radio City Music Hall. For tours click here.

See the original manuscript of A Christmas Carol at The Morgan Library (my favorite library in the city)… Friday’s are free from 7-9 p.m. More info here.

       Image via timeout

New York Botanical Garden Holiday Train Show. For tickets and info click here.

Image via extravaganza

What to Wear

Warm clothes and comfortable shoes! There most likely won’t be snow on the ground but the winds can be quite harsh. Be prepared! Enjoy your trip to New York City!


  • Lohren
    November 30, 2017 at 5:56 am

    This has me craving NYC during Christmas BIG TIME. Love all the suggestions and ideas, might just have to book a spontaneous trip because New York during the holidays? Yes please. Best guide ever!

    • Emily Jane
      November 30, 2017 at 3:35 pm

      Lohren! Thank you, my dear! Isn’t it just magical?! Yes, please book a trip! And stay with me!