Top Things to do in New York City during Christmas

There is no place better to celebrate the holiday season than New York City! With countless annual holiday traditions and decked out places to shop, dine and drink, NYC is the place to be to get you in the Christmas spirit.

The Annual Christmas Tree Lighting at Rockefeller Center
Kick off the holiday season in New York City at the world’s most famous Christmas tree lighting! When most people think about Christmas in NYC, one of the first things they picture is the famous, giant Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center.
The annual Christmas tree lighting is usually the last week in November or the first week in December, is completely free and is open to the public on a come, first-serve basis. Every year, thousands of people come to witness the live broadcast and musical guests while millions of people around the country watch it on TV. Check out the website here for details on when and where the annual Christmas tree lighting occurs.

Did you know that before the first ever formal Christmas tree was placed in Rockefeller Center, it served as a gathering place for the holiday season where construction workers would come to collect their paychecks during the Great Depression? The annual tradition of placing a tree in Rockefeller Center to kick off the Christmas season started shortly after in 1933!

The Christmas Spectacular starring the Radio City Rockettes
The Christmas Spectacular is by far my favorite holiday activity in NYC and in my opinion is just as great as any show on Broadway! It should definitely be at the top of your to-do list during your visit.
The show is 90 minutes long and features music and dancing with 140 talented performers and REAL camels!
The first ever Christmas Spectacular performance was on December 21st, 1931 and is one of the most popular holiday traditions in New York City today. Purchase your tickets here.

Ice skating in New York City
There are multiple places you can go ice skating in New York City during the Christmas season. Choosing the location really just depends on your personal preference. Here are my top 3 recommendations:
1. Wollman Rink in Central Park
Wollman Rink first opened in 1949 and is a popular location to go ice skating for both New Yorkers and tourists today. Located in the heart of Central Park, this ice skating rink is open from October through April and features spectacular views of the Manhattan skyline. You can find pricing and rink hours here.
After working up an appetite from ice skating, I would recommend brunch or lunch nearby at either Sarabeth’s or Rue 57.
2. The Rink at  Rockefeller Center
Located in midtown Manhattan, The Rink at Rockefeller Center is steps away from Times Square and Bryant Park. In my opinion, the ice skating here is the best location in New York City because you can take iconic photos with the famous Christmas tree and you’re surrounded by some of the best shopping and dining in the city.
You can find more information including pricing and rink hours here.
After working up an appetite from ice skating, I would recommend brunch or lunch nearby at either Rock Center Cafe or Del Frisco’s Grill.
3. The Rink at Bryant Park
Open from late October to early March, The Rink in Bryant Park is the only free admission ice rink in New York City, but you do have to pay for your skate rental.
You can find more information including pricing and rink hours here.
After working up an appetite from ice skating, I would recommend brunch or lunch nearby at Bryant Park Grill.

Holiday shopping in New York City
There are a plethora of shopping destinations New York City during the holidays, but here are my top suggestions if you’re looking to be selective!
1. 5th Avenue
Start at 5th Avenue and 57th Street, working your way South. High end stores like Tiffany and Co., Bergdorf Goodman and Cartier have some of my favorite holiday decor, both inside their stores and in their front windows. Make sure to stop by Saint Patrick’s Cathedral for beautiful architecture and history, Rockefeller Center for photos with the giant Christmas tree and Sak’s 5th Avenue for their annual Christmas light show which is projected onto the front of the store.
If you’re looking to fuel up before your shopping journey on 5th Avenue, check out the Food Court at the famous Plaza Hotel between 58th and 59th street, located on the lower level of the hotel.
2. The Holiday Shops at Bryant Park
Every holiday season, Bryant Park sets up an open-air shopping experience with 170 boutiques that offer unique gifts and local food. You can find everything from winter accessories, Christmas ornaments, skincare products, kitchen seasonings and art to specialty coffee drinks and sweet treats.
If you get hangry (like me) after a lot of holiday shopping, I would suggest grabbing brunch or lunch nearby at Bryant Park Grill.
3. Chelsea Market
Chelsea Market is one of my favorite year round shopping destinations in New York City and is decked out in Christmas decor during the holiday season. It’s home to many different unique shops, boutiques, bakeries and restaurants.
This is a great spot to find a wide variety of unique gifts with a few of my favorites being Artists and Fleas, Sarabeth’s Bakery and Anthropologie. You can check out the full list of stores and hours here. My favorite brunch and lunch spot to check out after all your shopping nearby is Westville.
4. Macy’s at 34th street
The annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is the official kick off to the Christmas season.
If you don’t feel like doing Christmas shopping here, I would highly recommend making your way to the 9th floor to check out Macy’s Holiday Lane Christmas Shop. There are fantastic options for Holiday home decor, themed Christmas ornaments and giftable holiday sweets. My favorite thing to do is pick out a New York City themed Christmas ornament each year! Be sure to take the elevator up because I can guarantee you’ll get lost trying to navigate your way via the store escalators.
If you’re shopping with little ones, they can meet Santa and his elfs at Santa Land located on the 8th floor. Book your spot in line here.
5. Smorgasurg in Brooklyn
If you’re willing to make the trek, Smorgasburg in Brooklyn is another indoor unique, fun spot to explore with Holiday gifts and sweet treats. It’s a shopping experience like no other! Come with an empty stomach and leave with your hands full of goodies and gifts. You can check out more information and hours here.

Enjoy a Holiday Hot chocolate
There’s nothing better than warming up with a delicious hot chocolate after a long day of shopping in the city. My favorite hot chocolate is from Maison Kayser and La Maison Du Chocolat. Both places also offer specialty coffees, tea, delicious pastries and chocolates that are to die for!

End your night with a Christmas cocktail
Starting after Thanksgiving, most bars decorate for the holidays, but a handful are famous for their extravagant decorations in New York City.
The most famous you’ve probably seen on instagram is Rolf’s, a German restaurant that’s known for every single inch of their restaurant and bar being covered in Christmas decor! If you don’t book a reservation before October, you’ll have to wait in line outside in the cold and if even if you arrive by 10am any day of the week, you’re still pretty much guaranteed to wait. Rolf’s was great before it became insta-famous but now you’re pretty much crammed into the bar and it can take 15 minutes yminimum to grab an $18 cocktail.
if you don’t feel like waiting, two of my favorite bars down the street that decorate for Christmas include Lillie’s Victorian Establishment and Pete’s Tavern. Both have loads of Christmas decorations, plenty of space at the bar and cocktails that are just as good as Rolf’s, plus you won’t have to wait in the cold!

Happy Holidays!

Top 15 Things to do & see in New York City

You’ve got your first trip EVER planned to visit New York City?? Wondering what you should see and do but have no idea where to start? I know…you want to do and see it all!
And you’ve come to the right place.

Even if this is your SECOND trip to New York City, I bet you haven’t been to all 15 of these places on my list, but I promise to give you good enough reasons why you should visit them, some of which may have never even heard of!

Lets get started…

1) Times Square
This one is obvious! The Mecca of the Big Apple and usually the very first place on everyone’s list when they come to visit. Not only is Times Square extremely iconic to New York City, but did you know the lights of NYC can be seen from outer space? An estimated 26 million people visit Times Square per year and a whopping 50,000 people walk through it a day!
Popular restaurants nearby I would recommend include Carmine’s (Italian Family Style), Ellen’s Stardust Diner (which includes singing and dancing entertainment during your meal) and John’s Pizzeria. My favorite spot for cocktails is Lillie’s which is right around the corner from Times Square or if you’d rather enjoy an awesome view, visit The View Bar at the Marriott Marquis Hotel.

2) The Empire State Building
YES, you should totally go up to the top! The views of Manhattan are worth every penny and minute of wait time. Tickets are $37 for Adults, $31 for children and $35 for seniors and hours are from 8am to 2am. Yes, I said 2am! Nighttime and daytime are just as beautiful, but I would recommend sunset so you can experience both. Purchase your tickets here.

3) Central Park
You’d be surprised how many people don’t make it to Central Park on their first visit to New York City. Obviously Spring through Fall are ideal seasons to spend a day in the park, but Winter is beautiful as well, especially when it snows! Central Park is pretty massive, spanning 2 and a half by 3 miles long. I would recommend spending an entire day in the park if your visit to NYC allows. Here is my one day guide to NYC’s Central Park. Make sure you dine at or have a drink at Tavern on the Green or The Loeb Boathouse which are two of Central Park’s most popular restaurants.

4) The Statue of Liberty
There are so many ways to see Lady Liberty! You can pay $31 for a 1 hour boat tour OR you can ride the Staten Island Ferry for free which passes by the Statue of Liberty close enough for a photo op. If you have time, I would also suggest spending time on Ellis Island to explore the National Museum of Immigration and the history of New York City.

5) Top of the Rock & Rockefeller Center
Located in Rockefeller Center, Top of the Rock is my favorite view of the New York City skyline because you get to experience 360 views of surrounding skyscrapers from see-through glass panels. It’s the best view of Manhattan in my opinion! Tickets are $36 for adults, $30 for children and $32 for seniors. Purchase your tickets here.
If you’re visiting during the Winter, I would highly recommend going to see the Rockette’s Christmas Spectacular Show at Radio City Music Hall! It will get you in the Christmas Spirit, as will the famous annual Christmas tree in Rockafeller Center.

6) 5th Avenue
Shop til you drop! There is no other shopping area like 5th avenue. From luxury stores like Tiffany & Co, Louis Vuitton, Bergdorf Goodman to stores such as H&M, Zara and Forever21, there is shopping for everyone. Seriously, you could spend a whole day exploring! If your starving after your shopping, drop by one of my favorite brunch/lunch spots nearby, Sarabeth’s or Rue 57. Make sure you also check out the famous Plaza Hotel and if you’re willing to splurge, enjoy tea time at The Palm Court restaurant, located right passed the lobby.

7) The World Trade Center Memorial & One World Observatory
Both a somber and humbling experience, the World Trade Center Memorial is beautiful and honors the lives of those lost on September 11th, 2001. The memorial is open to the public and hours are from 7:30am to 9pm daily.
Afterwards, head up to the top of One World Observatory for amazing views of the city. Purchase your tickets for $34 here. You can also check out the new Oculus shopping center at street level below.
If you’re visiting during the Spring or Summer, pop down the street to Loopy Doopy Rooftop Bar, located at the Conrad Hotel and enjoy stunning views of the Hudson River as well as delicious boozy popsicle cocktails! Another great option for food and drinks nearby is Pier A Harbor House, with more spectacular views of the Hudson River and delicious lobster rolls.

8) Broadway Show
There are so many Broadway shows to choose from! My personal favorites include Wicked, Aladdin and The Lion King. For older audiences or if you’re going to see a show with your parents I would recommend Phantom of the Opera or Jersey Boys.

9) The Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET)
The most popular museum in Manhattan is the MET because it showcases 5,000 years worth of art! You can explore paintings, sculptures and artifacts from before our time. Hours are Sunday through Thursday 10am to 5:30pm and Friday to Saturday 10am to 9pm. NY residents can pay whatever they wish, but tickets for out-of-town visitors are $25 for adults, $17 for seniors, $12 for students and free for children. Purchase your tickets here.

10) The American Museum of Natural History
This is my favorite museum in NYC! My favorite parts of the museum include the Dinosaur Exhibit, Butterfly Conservatory and Planetarium Space Show – all of which I highly recommend you check out. Tickets vary depending on which parts of the museum you wish to see and you can purchase them here. Museum hours from 10am to 6pm daily.
Looking for some awesome grub after a full day at the museum? Head down the street to Maison Pickle (my favorite brunch spot in NYC) for delicious southern comfort food or Shake Shack for the best burgers and shakes. If you’re looking for some sweet treats, dive into ice cream, cookies and famous ‘crack pie’ at Milk Bar nearby.

11) The High Line
The High Line is a 1.5 mile elevated park that is now walkable to the public but used to be part of the New York City Railroad. The high line runs from 14th street up to 34th and during the Spring and Summer you can grab coffee, lunch or ice cream on your walk through the park. If you choose to begin or end your walk near 14th street, I would suggest dining at Bubby’s High Line for incredible breakfast and lunch options. They also have awesome ice cream at their Ample Hills Creamy next door! Murray’s Bagels is also nearby which is my favorite bagels in the city.
Craving sweets? Drop by Billy’s Bakery. Their Banana Bread Cupcakes with cream cheese frosting are to die for!

12) Chelsea Market
Chelsea Market is a 13,000 square foot food hall and shopping center located in the heart of NYC’s well-known neighborhood, Chelsea. I always take friends here who are visiting for a local shopping and dining experience and they always love it because it has such a unique character! Check out all shopping and dining options at Chelsea Market here. You can get anything and everything from ramen and seafood to donuts and ice cream.
If you can make a reservation far enough in advance, I would suggest dining at Buddakan for dinner. It’s one of NYC’s top rated restaurants.

13) The Brooklyn Bridge
During your NYC visit, you should absolutely walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. Not only are there fantastic photo ops and gorgeous views of the city, but there is a plethora of things to do and see on the other side of the bridge in Dumbo. Brooklyn Bridge Park has tons of shopping, bars and restaurants. Enjoy a cocktail on the rooftop of the One Hotel, grab a pizza from the original Grimaldi’s Pizzeria or have a margarita and Mexican food at one of my favorite spots next-door, Gran Electrica.

14) Smorgasburg
Located in Brooklyn, Smorgasburg is the biggest open air market in the US! With over 100 street vendors, you can enjoy delicious bites and shop from small designers and businesses. On average, 20 to 30 thousand people flock to Brooklyn each weekend for Smorgasburg, which is located in Williamsburg on Saturdays and Prospect Park on Sundays from 11am to 6pm both days. It’s totally worth the trek from Manhattan!

15) Circle Line Boat Tour
This was the first ever touristy thing I ever did in New York. Enjoy the breeze and beautiful views of the New York City skyline while your tour guide educates you on the history of NYC and each neighborhood. You’ll learn so many things you never knew about the city! There are a multitude of cruises to choose from and pricing ranges from $31 to $43. Purchase your tickets here.

A Guide to New York City’s Central Park

Summer is my favorite season in New York City! The tulips are fully bloomed, the birds are constantly chirping and you no longer have to wear a jacket at night. Outdoor activities are very limited during the Winter, but luckily NYC is home to some of the world’s best indoor museums and restaurants (which you will definitely want to check off your list during your Summer visit as well!)

During the Summer, New Yorkers spend most of their time in Central Park to relax, get some sun and picnic (if they’re not off to the Hamptons for the weekend of course). I’ve lived in New York City for 8 years and have created a one day guide that includes the most popular sights to see and activities to do in Central Park. ENJOY!

Tips before you go: Make sure you bring comfortable walking shoes. Central Park is 2.5 miles long and a half mile wide. My guide below guide requires about 3 and a half miles of walking. Fun fact: On average, the typical New Yorker walks two to five miles in a day!
There will be plenty of street vendors throughout the park so make sure to bring cash so you can pick up bottled water or snacks as needed throughout your day. I would also suggest bringing sunscreen if you plan to knock out my entire list below!

9-10AM Weekend brunch at the famous restaurant Tavern on the Green 
Located on the West side of Central Park at 66th Street & Central Park West, begin your morning enclosed in a beautiful glass room or on the outdoor patio sipping fresh squeezed orange juice and enjoying homemade pastries, French toast, eggs Benedict and more. The restaurant opens at 9am Saturday and Sunday and closes at 8:30pm. Be sure to book a reservation two months in advance (the earliest possible) as it is one of the most popular restaurants in Manhattan!
View their brunch menu here, lunch and dinner menus here.
(About half a mile walk to next destination, 10 minutes)Tavern on the Green Restaurant Central Park Top Activities in Central ParkTavern on the Green Restaurant Central Park Top Activities in Central Park
10:15 Visit the Strawberry fields “Imagine” mosaic

In memory of John Lennon, 2.5 acres of landscaped land has been dedicated to this former Beatles member. Check out the famous “Imagine” mosaic which is adorned with flowers daily. There might even be someone playing Beatles music and/or singing Beatles songs as a tribute during your visit!
Expect to spend about 10 minutes here.
(About half a mile walk to next destination, 12 minutes)
Imagine Mosaic Central Park Top Activities in Central Park10:45 Belvedere Castle
Located in the heart of Central Park, Belvedere Castle was built in 1869 and offers some of the highest and best views of the park. Typically, hours are from 10am to 5pm but it is currently closed due to renovation and will re-open in 2019. Regardless of the renovation, it is still a major tourist destination within Central Park and is worth a visit and photos!
Expect to spend about 20 minutes here.
(About 0.3 mile walk to next destination, 7 minutes)
Belvedere Castle Central Park Top Activities in Central Park11:15 Bow Bridge
Bow Bridge was built in 1862 and was constructed out of cast iron. Spanning a total of 60 feet long, it is the most iconic and largest bridge in Central Park; perfect for taking beautiful photos of the lake, Loeb Boathouse and memorable photos during your visit.
Expect to spend about 10 minutes here.
(About 800 feet walk to next destination, 3 minutes)
Bow Bridge Central Park Top Activities in Central Park
Bow Bridge Central Park Top Activities in Central Park
Bow Bridge Central Park Top Activities in Central Park11:30 Bethesda Fountain
Bethesda Fountain is located at the heart of Bethesda Terrace and is one of the most famous fountains in the world! It is very iconic to Central Park, measuring 26 feet high and 96 feet wide, featuring an 8 foot bronze angel on top. A beautiful sight to see and great for turtle and people watching.
Expect to spend about 10 minutes here.
(About 0.2 mile walk to next destination, 5 minutes)
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Bethesda Fountain Central Park Top Activities in Central ParkNoon-1:30pm Have lunch at the Loeb Boathouse & take a boat out on the lake
One of the most famous places in all of Central Park and definitely my favorite! The boathouse is over 150 years old and offers lakeside dining with delicious lunch menu options including crab cakes, ahi tuna, salads, burgers and more. You can dine inside or out on their patio while you watch the boats go by. The Loeb Boathouse offers dinner as well as weekend brunch only. View the full menu here.
House are based on seasonality which you can view here.
I would highly recommend taking a boat out for an hour after your meal! Boats are $15 an hour, but make sure you bring cash as they do not accept credit cards.
Expect to spend about an hour and a half here (lunch and one hour of boat time).
(About 800 feet walk to next destination, 4 minutes)

Loeb Boathouse Central Park Top Activities in Central ParkLoeb Boathouse Central Park Top Activities in Central Park
The Loeb Boathouse Central Park Top Activities in Central Park1:30pm Alice & Wonderland Statue & Conservatory Pond Boats
The Alice in Wonderland sculpture was built in 1959 and was made from smooth bronze. One of the most visited statues in the city, children are encouraged to play and climb on it if they wish!
Expect to spend about 10 minutes here.
(About 0.6 mile walk to next destination, 14 minutes)
Alice In Wonderland Statue Central Park Top Activities in Central Park2-4pm Visit the Central Park Zoo
I bet you didn’t know there was a zoo located inside Central Park! Check out penguins, sea lions, snow leopards, grizzly bears and more. You can watch the penguins and sea lions being fed twice a day and there is also a children’s area with a petting zoo.
Zoo hours are 10am to 5:30pm and tickets are $13 for children, $18 for adults & $15 for seniors 65+. You can purchase tickets here.
Expect to spend two hours max at the zoo.
(About 0.4 mile walk to next destination, 9 minutes)
Central Park Zoo Top Activities in Central ParkCentral Park Zoo Top Activities in Central Park4:15pm Ride the Central Park Carousel
The original Central Park carousel was built in 1871 and operated with a horse and mule underground! It has since then had four total remodels. The current carousel was built in 1908 and is one of the largest carousel’s in the US with 52 horses and 2 chariots.
Fun fact: 250k people ride the Central Park carousel a year!
The carousel is open from 10am to 6pm daily, weather permitting, and costs $3 a person.
(About 0.3 mile walk to next destination, 7 minutes)
Central Park Carousel Top Activities in Central Park4:30-6pm Picnic and people watch in Sheep Meadow
My favorite thing to do in the Summer! I typically drop by Whole Foods in Columbus Circle for a bottle of Rose, cheese and crackers. Technically you’re not allowed to have an open container in public in the city so make sure to bring some plastic cups and throw out any glass bottles when you’re finished. I would suggest popping by there beforehand to grab a snack. Be sure to bring a blanket, sunblock and a football to throw around with friends or family!
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Other popular activities in Central Park include: 
8pm ‘Shakespeare in the Park’ shows at Delacorte Theater. Purchase your tickets here.
Bike riding in Central Park. I would recommend renting a bike for an hour or two at the corner of Central Park West & Central Park South (at the Columbus Circle park entrance).