New York City is a great year-round destination, but especially magical during the holiday season. From the best Santas to the best toy stores to the best classic New York holiday shows and happenings, we’ve got you covered.
Where to see Santa:
Skip the crowds at Macys and head straight to antique-chic ABC Carpet and Home for some quality lap time with our favorite Santa in NYC. The line is usually fairly short to see the bearded big guy at their 6-story Manhattan flagship and staff keep things orderly while passing out tiny treats. Lighting is low and twinkly and it’s Bring Your Own Camera (and free). While you’re there, browse their luxe home goods for the stylish hostess on your list and pick up some vintage ornaments for the tree.
Santa Hours – November 29, 30, December 7,14, & 21: 10am – 3pm // December 1, 8, 15 & 22: 11am – 3pm
Where to Shop for Toys:
Our toy store of choice, FAO Schwartz, is the oldest toy store in the entire United States. This toy emporium boasts a huge selection of lifelike Hansa stuffed animals on the ground floor, a giant sea green Statue of Liberty built entirely of Legos and remote control helicopters whizzing overhead, being demo’ed throughout the store. Kids will love taking a turn on the BIG piano upstairs that Tom Hanks made famous when we were kids.
Where to Buy a Tree:
At Whole Foods locations around the city, you’ll pay $50 flat for a 6-8 footer – far less than from the Christmas tree stands on every other street corner, with no negotiating necessary. The process is painless; just choose your firry favorite and point. The best part? Home delivery is available.
Best For Train Lovers:
The New York Botanical Garden Holiday Train Show features more than 140 scaled New York landmarks constructed out of natural materials like bark, twigs, fruits and pinecones. The choo choos chug along a quarter mile of track, crisscrossing mini Yankee Stadium, Radio City, the Brooklyn Bridge and the Empire State building to name a few. Or call the babysitter and go for “Bar Car Night” — certain Friday and Saturday nights in December are kids-free and each ticket includes a complimentary specialty cocktail.
Best For High Kicks
Nothing says Christmas in New York like long-legged ladies doing high kicks in unison at Radio City Music Hall. The Radio City Christmas Spectacular is a classic, embraced by generation after generation. This year the show features new special effects and choreography including a mesmerizing 3D ride with Santa from the streets of New York City to the North Pole, ice skaters, and dancing teddy bears.
Where to Sip Hot Cocoa
If you’re out and about uptown near Central Park, grab of cup of chocolately goodness at Bouchon Bakery in the Time Warner Center. Their version has hints of vanilla bean, coriander and cinnamon — get Thomas Keller’s recipe here. If you’re doing your shopping downtown closer to Soho, Marie Belle is a good bet. Out of their four different flavors, we like the Aztec Spicy – intensely rich with a little kick. Marie Belle’s jewel-like ganache, each with a delicate design in signature blue boxes also make fantastic gifts. They’re almost too pretty to eat! (Almost.)
Where to Ice Skate
There are plenty of rinks to choose from throughout the city. The Rink at Rock Center is the city’s most iconic — and most crowded — with views of the big tree. Central Park’s Wollman Rink is great for families, offering youth figure and synchronized skating classes. City Pond at Bryant Park is set up alongside its Winter Village, with holiday shops and an indoor pavilion with a Canadian-themed lounge to keep warm.
A new downtown option this year is the Rink at Brookfield Place, overlooking the North Cove Marina.
Other Holiday Happenings
See the Rock Center Tree Lighting: The 81st Annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony takes place on Wednesday, December 4 from 7-9 p.m. Tens of thousands of people will crowd the sidewalks for the event and hundreds of millions will watch it live across the globe. We will be in the latter group (but if you haven’t gone before, it is fun to see once.) The more than five miles of lights used to decorate the 65 foot-plus Norway Spruce will remain lit and can be viewed until 11pm on January 7th, 2014.
Go Grinch at CMOM: Stop into the Children’s Museum of Manhattan’s Grinch’s Holiday Workshop exhibit where kids can go “Sock Skating” on an indoor rink, create Suess tree ornaments and steer an interactive sleigh all the way to Who-ville. Now through Dec 31st.
Celebrate Winter’s Eve at Lincoln Square: The 14th Annual Winter’s Eve festivities — New York’s largest holiday festival — runs from 5:30pm—9:00pm on Monday, Dec. 2nd along Broadway from the Time Warner Center to 68th Street. For families, there will be live musical performances, face painting, a balloon artist, a stilt walker by Big Apple Circus, ice sculpting and arts and crafts. Mom and Dad will surely enjoy the food tents with tastings by A Voce, Asiate, Bouchon Bakery, Landmarc, MASA and Bar MASA, and Porter House New York among others. Admission is free, but consider bringing a gently used or new coat to Broadway and 63rd Street to support the New York Cares Coat Drive.