Updated: Jul 16, 2020
Everything you need to know for a holiday in the Big Apple
Packing light is key! With all those people bustling around, you don't want to have the additional struggle of heavy baggage. If possible, leave your bags at home!
If it's your first time in the city, don't worry. The street system is in numbers so it's pretty easy to find your way around. You'll always know if you've gone a street too far or need to keep walking.
We stayed at a hotel in New Jersey which ultimately saved us a lot in accommodations. It was only a 20 minute bus ride into the city where we travelled by metro between lower and midtown Manhattan. I've also read that staying in the city is really convenient and worth the cost, so I'd highly suggest researching your accommodations well in advance.
Staten Island Ferry (The Statue of Liberty)
If you've been to NY before, you've probably already seen the Statue of Liberty. But for first timers, the Staten Ferry is an awesome (and free!) way to see the attraction without paying extra for tours. It's a free service provided by the City of New York so beware of scammers trying to sell tickets. Admittedly, you don't get as close to the statue as you would on a paid excursion, but we found the ferry to be a great alternative and still captured some fantastic pictures of the copper sculpture and Manhattan skyline- just be sure to sit on the right hand side of the ferry!
The ferry travels between the St. George Ferry Terminal in Staten Island and the Whitehall Ferry Terminal (also known as South Ferry) in Manhattan. Because we only wanted to see the statue, we hopped on the ferry in Manhattan, got off at St. George, and returned on the next ferry back about 10 minutes later. You can find specific details about the Ferry here.
World Trade Centre
Since it was our first time in NY, it was really important to me that I visit the 911 memorial site in downtown Manhattan. While it isn't specifically Christmas-related, I think it's still a good place to stop and remember for anyone visiting.
Within the World Trade Centre Complex is a white sculptural building called the Oculus World Trade Center. It's a new transit hub, train station, plaza, and shopping mall that replaces the PATH station destroyed during 9/11 in 2001. The beautifully decorated interior is a remarkable sight to behold.
After a busy first morning, we stopped by Eataly in Westfield World Trade Centre for lunch, by recommendation from a friend. We weren't disappointed! Eataly is an Italian marketplace comprising a variety of food + beverage counters, and delicious eats! It was by far my most enjoyable meal of the trip.
While in lower Manhattan, we decided to make a walk along the famous Wall Street before heading uptown. It wasn't super Christmassy or exciting, but still a great experience.
New York City's historic landmark for dining and shopping is an absolute must-see. Be aware that the area surrounding the famous Rockefeller tree is super crowded, so the best time to see the tree with fewer people is late in the night. Not too late though, because the tree is only lit until 11:30pm.
Giant Christmas Decorations on 6th Avenue
Along 6th avenue (also called Avenue of the Americas, which, in my opinion, is much cooler) you'll find some oversized red ornaments, Christmas lights, and giant nutcrackers. If you're already at the Rockefeller Centre, don't forget to walk out and take a look!
Window Shopping along Fifth Avenue
I don't usually mind crowds too much but Fifth Avenue was next level busy! If you're looking to see the beautiful window displays at Sacks and Macy's, I would strongly recommend saving your visit until Christmas Eve. We tried visiting on the 23rd and were unable to see anything with all the crowds, only to return the next day and find a much emptier street.
What's a holiday in New York without visiting Times Square? A lot less busy, that's for sure. If you haven't been already, I'd suggest coming by in the late afternoon when the sky has darkened and you can really see all the lights. Like Fifth Avenue, Times Square was crazy packed as always, so a second visit on Christmas Eve was also beneficial.
If you've been reading my blog for some time you'll know that I LOVE musicals. So of course, I had to visit some of my favourites on broadway! If you're a crazy fan like me, I'd highly recommend checking out the Theatre Circle on 268 W 44th St for sheet music, books, and merch!
Christmas markets are a great way to experience the unbeatable holiday atmosphere, and NYC has some amazing ones. I love all those warm and fuzzy feelings you get while strolling through the charming stalls with a cup of hot cider! Here are some of my favourites:
Bryant Park's Winter Village has ice skating, a food hall, and holiday shops. It's actually one of the only places you can skate for free in NYC, but skate rentals will still cost $20. Our visit was a little less enjoyable due to heavy crowds, so I suggest going early in the morning or visiting on Christmas Eve (yes, there's way less people!) to beat the crowds.
Columbus Circle Holiday Market
Located at the entrance to Central Park, you'll find lovely art, handmade gifts, and delicious eats. Columbus Circle is by far my favourite market in NYC, and I highly recommend coming early to beat the crowds. Since we were visiting Central Park in the morning, we stopped by the market at around 9:30 and found ourselves with plenty of time and space to explore.
Of course, for our first time in the Big Apple, we had to visit Central Park. In total, we probably spent almost half the day walking around and snapping pictures in the park. If you're visiting for the first time, don't expect to walk the whole park in a day- it's HUGE.
New York Public Library
Probably one of the most underrated spots in NYC but definitely one of my favourites! You can go in to see the decorated stairways, Christmas tree, and gift shop! The actual library space is located on the 3rd floor and you're welcome to see the books as well. Read more about opening hours here.
Grand Central Terminal
Before rounding out our day by revisiting the crowded attractions we weren't able to see the day before, I first wanted to see Grand Central Terminal. After reading so many books set in NYC and countless movies starring the famous landmark, I knew I couldn't leave the city without seeing it for myself. To our surprise, it wasn't as crowded as you would imagine (maybe we were just lucky!), and we were able to browse some of the market stalls set up in the Holiday Fair.
There you have it, a two-day guide to Christmas in New York! Thanks for reading until the end. As always, feel free to reach out with any questions or requests for future content- seriously, I'd love to hear from you!
Until next time,