It is no secret I have a deep and undying love for The Big Apple. From the time I lived there after college, to my recent engagement in 2014, these are all memories that I will cherish forever. Every moment I’ve spent in New York City has been magical but there is one season that is not to be missed in Manhattan and that is the holidays. From twinkling lights and specialty markets, to ice skating and Broadway productions, there is nothing quite like Christmas in New York City. With Christmas fast approaching I wanted to open my book of memories (and snapshots) and relive some of my most favorite experiences during Christmas in NYC!
Lighting of the Rockefeller Center Tree
Technically speaking, the holidays don’t begin until the lighting of the Rockefeller Center tree. Like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, this is a staple event in New York City and I was lucky enough to witness it first-hand. People from all over the world gather to watch the tree lighting at Rockefeller Center and for good reason. The tree is always staggering in height and spectacular in views. Not to mention the world renowned acts that always grace the stage at Rockefeller Center at this time help bring the tree to life and mark the start of Christmas in the city. Stars such as Mariah Carey, Justin Bieber and Sting have all graced the plaza stage to ring in the holidays. When I joined in on the festivities in 2010, I was speechless at the magnitude of the event and grander of it all. I still watch it to this day in awe of the magic that the lighting of the Rockefeller Center tree brings to New York City.
Ice skating is synonymous with Christmas in New York City. There are three noteworthy rinks around Manhattan that are sure to get you in the holiday spirit. The Rink at Rockefeller Center is probably the most famous ice skating rink in the world and is a must do at least once in your life. The Rink is intimate, with room for only 150 skaters at a time, and is located at the base of the iconic Christmas tree. I was able to skate The Rink at Rockefeller Center for the first time last Christmas and even though I was terrible at it, I will always cherish that memory. Winter in the city wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Central Park, and home to noteworthy rink #2, Wollman Rink in Central Park. Wollman Rink is located on the east side, close to the Central Park Zoo, and boasts one of the most scenic experiences during the holidays, as you are able to glide across the ice with picturesque city skyline views as the backdrop. I know from experience that there is nothing more magical then seeing Central Park covered in snow. My final noteworthy ice skating stop is The Rink at Bryant Park. Home to Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, Bryant Park is a not to be missed stop during any visit to New York City, but especially during Christmas. The Rink at Bryant Park is the centerpiece of the park during the holidays and features free admission skating, surrounded by a magical Winter Village. Although this is the smallest of the rinks, it is sure to fulfill all of your ice skating desires!
Any time of year you can find a pop up festival or market lining the streets of New York City, but those markets and festivals turn magical during Christmas. Two of my favorite markets during the holidays in the city are the Columbus Circle Holiday Market and the Winter Village at Bryant Park. Both markets are chock full of Christmas shops, local artisan crafts, treats and tons of holiday cheer in the air. The Columbus Circle Holiday Market is located in one of the most stunning locations at the base of the southwest Central Park entrance and bustling Columbus Circle. In the heart of the Winter Village at Bryant Park you can find The Rink mentioned above. I absolutely love walking through the holiday markets, sipping homemade apple cider and picking up little gifts such as personalized ornaments, jewelry or handmade stocking stuffers. Either market is the perfect place to soak in the splendor of Christmas in New York City!
Empire State Building Engagement
There is no way I could open my Christmas in New York City memory book without including the most special holiday visit yet, my engagement on top of the Empire State Building. The Empire State Building is more than just a view, but yet a full experience inside one of the most world famous landmarks. Since 1976, the worldwide icon of the New York City skyline has lit up to commemorate special occasions and events throughout the year, including celebrating Christmas with a dazzling red and green light display. The 360 degree views of the city at any time of year is inspiring but the views during Christmas, bundled up with snow falling around you, is that much more magical. That is exactly what I was able to experience on December 12, 2014 when my fiancé got down on one knee, from the 86th floor observation deck, with South Manhattan in the background and snow flurrying around us. The Empire State Building was always one of my favorite stops to take all out of town visitors, but now it will mean that much more!
Radio City Christmas Spectacular
Just as synonymous with ice skating in the city, The Radio City Rockettes live up to the hype in their Christmas Spectacular show that can be seen every winter at the world famous Radio City Music Hall. This show is unlike any Christmas performance you’ve seen before, with the iconic Rockettes in true form as toy soldiers and reindeer, always with legendary high kicks. Each year the Rockettes put on a Christmas extravaganza even bigger and better than the last. The Christmas Spectacular was a highlight of my holiday visit last year and kept me intrigued and entertained the whole way through. Radio City Music Hall is an unbelievably beautiful venue, with a sparkling chandelier, gold trimmings and red velvet accents. The production adds to the splendor that is Radio City with grand Christmas décor and Santa sightings galore. The dancing Rockettes will leave you captivated while the entire show will fill you with Christmas spirit.
A visit to Manhattan over Christmas isn’t complete without checking out the unparalleled beauty of the millions of twinkling lights throughout the city. One of my all-time favorite ways of viewing the lights is by double decker bus. There are countless night and holiday light tours throughout the city that allow you to catch a glimpse of the extravagant displays in department store windows, towering glistening Christmas trees and dazzling strings of lights that transform the streets of NYC into a true winter wonderland. I love the double decker bus tour because you not only get to sit back and relax as a professional guide steers you through the city streets, but you don’t have to navigate the crowds by foot or worry about getting lost if your unfamiliar with the area. Plus, there is something special about cuddling up with your loved ones on an incredible journey of lights through New York City. However you choose to view the world famous sights lit up in quintessential NYC charm, the holiday lights in the city truly make your visit extra magical!
I can’t wait to fill my scrapbook with future city memories for years to come! What are some of your favorite holiday memories made while in New York City?