One Day in New York City at Christmas 🎅🏽
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Lucky you! What’s better than spending one day in New York City at Christmas?! There’s so much you can see and do in 24 hours. Whether you want to take this opportunity to recharge for the upcoming family festivities, buy some more Christmas presents or simply explore the magic of the city. New York won’t disappoint you.
We’ve compiled the best activities for you to experience the most festive day in New York City at Christmas – categorized by neighborhoods because we know you can’t take the subway around town for hours!
If you only have one day in New York City at Christmas and are trying to see as many sights as possible, you should definitely spend most of your time in Midtown Manhattan. This area is packed with true Christmas gems.
Let’s start on the East Side where you can find Grand Central Terminal. Don’t just admire it from the outside though. Inside you’ll be greeted by an abundance of Christmas decorations! Furthermore, Grand Central Terminal hosts a Christmas Holiday Fair in the Vanderbilt Hall and a Holiday Train Show (especially nice for kids!).
Once you’re leaving Grand Central Terminal you should head toward the biggest Christmas gem, the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. On your way make sure to stop by the New York Public Library (NYPL) to see its majestic Lions with their gigantic Christmas wreath necklaces in front of the building. Right behind the NYPL you will find Bryant Park. If you have a minute or two, you can spend some time in their Winter Village and admire the park’s impressive Christmas tree.
OK, but now you should really head toward Rockefeller Center. The best route is along 5th Avenue because you’ll naturally come across the huge animated Saks Fifth Avenue Holiday Light Show and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Once you are in this area you can’t help but notice the wonderful Christmas decorations in the Rockefeller Center Channel Gardens which lead you directly to the highlight of the Midtown Christmas gems: The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree and the Rockefeller Center ice skating rink.
But that’s still not all! Once you’re leaving the area and head toward the West, you should make a stop at the Radio City Music Hall. If you are in New York with kids during Christmas you should even consider seeing the Radio City Christmas Spectacular if time allows it (tip: book way in advance). Right across the Radio City Music Hall you will find giant Christmas ornaments in a fountain – definitely worth seeing.
Last but not least you can take the opportunity to head over to Times Square. Usually there is not too much Christmas vibe going on but hey, it’s Times Square! Also a bit further downtown, but still in the vicinity, is the Empire State Building. If you’ve never been, take the elevator up and get your skyline photos!
And that’s Midtown Manhattan! You see, this route covers all the festive highlights you should see in one day in New York City at Christmas.
There are several options to experience Christmas Uptown – where you start your day depends on where you are staying. Our example route starts on the West Side at the Columbus Circle Holiday Fair where you should get a hot chocolate to start your day. Only a few steps away is Winter’s Eve at Lincoln Center happening which should be especially fun for the little ones.
One day in New York City at Christmas, especially if you’re anywhere Uptown, wouldn’t be complete without a walk through Central Park. While there is generally so much to discover throughout the park, we recommend you take the path to the Wollman Skating Rink. If you’re not too eager about skating yourself, how about a trip to Central Park Zoo? It’s just footsteps away!
Last but not least, we suggest that you’re leaving Central Park at the Southeast Corner as you’ll end up right in front of the famous Plaza Hotel and 5th Avenue. And if you’re feeling especially fancy, you can take a horse carriage back into Central Park to see even more of the green lung.
In case you’re staying in Downtown Manhattan and don’t have enough time to take a trip Uptown or Midtown you can still experience one day in New York City at Christmas without sacrificing a bit of the Winter Wonderland magic.
You could start your trip in Little Italy where you can also find one of the biggest Christmas Stores in town (get an ornament for your own Christmas tree!). While you are in the area, we suggest a pit stop in Chinatown as well which is essentially just one block away from Little Italy.
Now it’s probably best if you take the subway to Wall Street (Train J or Z from Canal St to Broad St). When you get off, head right to the New York Stock Exchange because the second best Christmas Tree will be waiting for you right in front of it as well as the Fearless Girl sculpture which used to be in front of the Charging Bull. Speaking of which, the Charging Bull should also be on your route. Rumor has it that if you rub it’s gems you’ll be blessed with luck, prosperity and a good financial day – and hey, the New Year is just around the corner!
Now that you’re almost at the southern tip of Manhattan, you should take it one step further and visit Battery Park to get a glance at the Statue of Liberty. From Battery Park it’s up to you if you want to go east or west. Both areas are charming.
The East Side awaits you with the Seaport District and its historical cobblestone street. At Pier 17 you can also spend some time ice skating while enjoying a gorgeous view of the Brooklyn Bridge.
The West Side is just as exciting. From landmarks such as the One World Trade Center to the Brookfield Place Shopping mall with its exotic Winter Garden Atrium (summer feelings guaranteed). And to top it, there is also an ice skating rink in Brookfield Place. This time with a view of New Jersey.
If you wish to spend one day in New York City at Christmas in Brooklyn and don’t want to drive all the way to Manhattan, then don’t worry. Brooklyn’s neighborhoods Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights are known to be the ultimate Christmas Meccas anyway. Nowhere in Manhattan can you find more Christmas lights than here.
From gigantic Santas and reindeers to trees covered in thousands of Christmas lights. Some residents get so competitive that they don’t shy away from a huge electricity bill only to have the shiniest house in the neighborhood! If you don’t have a car, take the R, N or D train (includes short walk) to 11th Ave & 82nd St, Brooklyn, NY 11228 (always check your smartphone’s map for the best connection from your starting point).
We hope this list made it easy for you to plan one day in New York City at Christmas. While we know there are endless things to do in NYC during Christmas we want to make sure that you’ll make the most of your day. And the activities listed in this collection won’t disappoint you – guaranteed!
Let us know which area you’re planning on visiting!