New York City at Christmas – What to See, Do & Skip!

New York City at Christmas. Is there anything more magical?! I really don’t think so. It is a family tradition for us to spend a long weekend in the city each December and every year it makes me feel like a little kid on Christmas morning.

This city guide is long overdue. I’ve been to NYC about 20+ times but never really shared much of my trip except on Instagram. I’m excited to break down all our favorites, do’s & don’ts and tips for navigating the city at such a magical, yet hectic time of year. Ready to explore New York City at Christmas? ME TOO!

New York City at Christmas

First things first, you have to figure out where to stay! Figuring out where to stay in NYC is crucial or you could spend hours ubering/subwaying between things you want to do. When RJ and I have been in the past we enjoy staying in Midtown. We feel like it’s a central location between Central Park and Chelsea area, close to Tribeca and not too crazy with tourists as places like Times Square can be. Something I’ve done in the past and had great results with is using Priceline to name my area and price. 99% of the time we get a great hotel for an amazing price.

If you want to splurge on a hotel, and a truly incredible experience, the Plaza hotel is a Christmas dream! You may have seen it in Home Alone 2 or Eloise at the Plaza, it truly is a dream destination and something to mark off my bucket list! Another hotel we love that is a little friendlier on the wallet is the Hudson Hotel. It’s really pretty with a cool rooftop bar. Although it’s not quite Midtown, the area is still good.

New York City at Christmas

Eating while traveling is one of my favorite things. I feel like it’s a true way to try the culture of the place, experience new things, and bond with the table. The food in New York is no exception, it’s so good. We have a list of our favorite spots but I’m always looking to add more, so you gotta let a girl know! Here are our favorite spots, I added stars by the ones we will not miss.

Breakfast/Brunch:

  • The Butcher’s Daughter- the Acai bowl and breakfast burrito are to die for. 
  • Tavern on the Green- Such a fun, Christmas-y atmosphere
  • Jacob’s Pickles- Everything was delicious but the GIANT chicken biscuits are making me drool right now. 
  • Beauty & Essex- This fun speakeasy is hidden behind a pawn shop and offers delicious small plates, amazing drinks, and a great atmosphere. 

Lunch:

  • Meatball Shop* – this is RJ’s all-time favorite restaurant
  • Shake Shack – quick and easy, in my opinion, BETTER than In & Out
  • Eataly – Italian Lovers HEAVEN, seriously if you’ve never been to an Eataly, you must check it out! 
  • Parm- We love Italian food! 
  • Fig & Olive- We did three crostinis and then a salmon burger, everything was delish. 

Dinner: 

  • Buddakan*- the edamame dumplings are out of this world. We all LOVE this restaurant.
  • The Smith – Everything here was so good. 
  • Il Cortile – Surprise, surprise. More Italian. 
  • Chelsea Market- Los Tacos No. 1 YUM. 

Late Night & Dessert: 

  • Doughboys Pizza – It’s a tradition for RJ & I to always order doughboys and eat it in bed. We love their giant Aranchini ball.
  • Milk Bar – The cake ball truffles are literally the best thing I’ve EVER, ever eaten. 
  • Levain Bakery – The best cookies in the whole entire world. 

We’re always looking for new spots, if you have any favorites please leave them in the comments so others can see too!

New York City at Christmas

Sightseeing: 

  • We love going to Top of the Rock. I personally think it’s a better view than the Empire State Building because you can see the Empire State Building in the skyline.
  • Central Park! We love walking around Central Park or riding a carriage through the park with some hot cocoa.
  • The tree in Rockefeller Center.
  • All the shops on Fifth Avenue and their Christmas Decor.
  • Brooklyn – another great view of the city and skyline! 

Shopping: 

  • The shops on Fifth Avenue. Even if you don’t buy much, it’s so fun window shopping and exploring. 
  • Chelsea Market. They also have beautiful lights and cute shops. 
  • Columbus Circle Christmas Markets. Grab a hot drink and enjoy the local vendors. 

Fun: 

  • Rolf’s. So we actually haven’t made it to Rolf’s yet but every year we try! This year it is 100% ON OUR LIST. If you’ve never been, google it and see all the pictures of the Christmas decor. 
  • Ice Skating. We’ve ice skated in Central Park and in Rockefeller Center. Both are so much fun. 
  • Frozen Hot Chocolate at Serendipity.
  • Seeing a Show on Broadway! We have seen Wicked Twice, it’s so good and I’ve heard great things about Frozen. 
  • If you want to go out at night Le Bain is a fun rooftop bar.

I personally think it’s smart to avoid Times Square unless it’s your very first visit to NYC. It’s super crowded and mainly filled with chain restaurants and chain stores. 

New York city at Christmas

It’s no secret that New York City at Christmas can be C O L D . So what do you pack? You’re outside so much and there’s so much to see, you don’t want to miss any of the fun. Here are a few of my favorite things to bring:

  • Fleece-Lined Leggings – These are a closet staple IMO. Right now they’re on sale for $20 and you should definitely buy a pair or two. So soft and comfy, they keep you very warm. 
  • Cozy Blanket Scarf –  I have this scarf and it’s soooo nice, especially for travel. It’s big enough to double as a poncho, so cute and keeps you warm. I’ve taken it so many places and it still looks great. It also doubles as a blanket if you get cold on a plane.
  • Tech Gloves – If you’re like me, you’ll want to have your phone out a lot to help with directions, take photos, etc. Having a pair of tech compatible gloves is important and these are so cute.
  • Winter Weather Boots – I love these UGG boots I got last year (I actually wear a size 7 shoe and got the ‘Big Kid’s’ version of this boot)
  • Cute Coats! Like I’m mentioning below, you’re outside A LOT. So I try to bring 2 or 3 cute coats that are warm too. I lived in my Free People Teddy Peacoat (shop this year’s version here). I also found this one that’s identical to mine and only $30! This year I ordered this leopard coat for my trip and I have my eye on this velvet puffer.
  • When traveling to New York City at Christmas, I like to bring lots of cute outerwear and cute winter accessories. Since we’re outside so much, I find it’s easier to bring a few staple pieces for during the day and change out accessories. I’ll link my favorite hats and scarves below.

 

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New York City at Christmas New York City at Christmas New York City at Christmas

SO – Let me know, have you been to New York City at Christmas? Is it on your list? We head back in about three weeks and I’m SO excited. Be sure to follow along with my trip on Instagram (@RileySitton). Looking for more cold weather outfits? Check out my Shop the Gram page. Have anything to add to this post? Drop it in the comments so others can see! I’m by no means a local or NYC expert, but these are our favorite things. XO 

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