New York City has been a quintessential destination for the holidays since the dawn of cinema, and quite possible even earlier than that. The nostalgia experienced around the holidays from the old black and white movies of crowded New York streets and busy shopping malls seems to draw tourists and vacationers alike year after year to the bustling Big Apple. That feeling, coupled with the crisp winter air, the decorated city parks and the famous lighting of the tree in Rockefeller Center all add to the allure of New York City in December.
If you have never experienced the holiday season in NYC then there’s no time like the present to jump on a plane and immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of the city. Unless you plan to be there for Christmas day, the best time to plan your trip is the beginning of December when the tree is scheduled to light, usually one week after Thanksgiving. The crowds that are present for the lighting are a spectacle all of their own and a wonderful part of the experience. Once the decorations are up and the lights are on, Rockefeller Center hosts some of the best food and shopping that New York City has to offer.
While walking around Rockefeller Center you will notice the giant indoor ice skating rink. If you want to experience the true holiday feel but aren’t prepared for the crowded rink or hoards of onlookers, my favorite outdoor spot is Bryant Park. Located in Midtown and just a short walk from the Center, Bryant Park offers a decent size ice skating rink, top notch food trucks, the enchanting sounds of holiday music blowing through the trees and the famous Le Carrousel, designed to pay homage to the French design throughout the park.
One of the best tips you can get when visiting NYC in December is to be prepared to be an early bird. This doesn’t just apply to any shopping you may want to do, it also applies to any major attraction you would like to come near to within a city block. Plan what you want to do in advance, such as visit Macy’s Santaland or tap around on the giant floor piano at FAO Schwarz toy store, and remember that people still work during the holidays and mid-week, mid-morning is a great time to beat the crowds.
Regardless of how you decide to spend your December in The Big Apple, and even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, there is something for everyone and a sense of wonder that can only be captured by visiting… or soaking in the classic films, and even those just leave you wanting more. Whether you visit for the lighting of the Hanukkah Menorah, the lighting of the Christmas tree, the shopping or the nostalgia, make sure that visiting New York City makes it to your list of destinations when traveling through the holidays. The wondrous sights and smells of the city in holiday is something you will keep with you for the rest of your life.