We originally published this list of tips for Visiting NYC at Christmastime with kids and the must see Christmas attractions in New York City in 2013, but we update this annually.
The smell of roasting chestnuts
Sidewalk Santas ringing bells
Gazing into department store windows
It’s Christmas in New York City!
This is my family’s yearly tradition! For some of you this might give you the shakes. The crowds, the cold, the traffic, the CROWDS. Yes, it can be intimidating and it can be much more fun to snuggle under a blanket by your tree and watch a Christmas movie, but if you follow some of these tips, having a day in New York City at Christmastime can be memorable and maybe even become your tradition too.
Tips for Visiting NYC at Christmastime with kids!
Figure out how you’re getting there. Driving can save money, but parking might break your bank. Take a look before you go at nearby parking garages for online coupons! If you have a car you can take in instead of a SUV you’ll save money as well. There are plenty of mass transit options, PATH, NJTransit, Seastreak Ferry and NY Waterway. Up to certain ages and on certain days kids ride free – it’s everyday kids ride free on NY Waterway ferry! There are also private bus companies operating out of different areas of New Jersey that could offer a stress free ride into midtown.
Decide what’s most important to see. Is it store windows? The Rockefeller Tree? Santa at Macy’s? All of those are located close to each other and you can probably see all in one day, especially if you download the Macy’s app and get an express pass to Santa (you skip Santaland if you see him this way). But as mentioned – THE CROWDS. Be sure to keep expectations low in case it takes too long or is just too cold to get anywhere. Consider visiting on a weekday. The rush hour traffic/congestion might be worse, but the visiting crowds will be better!
10 Things to Do with Kids in New York City during Christmas
Aside from the previous mentions, my personal favorite is the Winter Village at Bryant Park. There you’ll find a smaller ice rink, smaller tree (with decorations!), and fewer crowds. There are also plenty of places to eat and shop, and just take a load off. The smaller feels cozier to me, and there’s plenty of tables to rest at – you might even catch an outdoor movie! Their tree lighting ceremony is December 2.
The Radio City Christmas Spectacular is a must see! This year there are plenty of live shows to see including Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, performances of The Nutcracker, and plenty of family friendly Broadway shows. If you find yourself going into the city for any of those, you can surely take a detour to see the Rockefeller Center Tree (will be lit on 11/30), or the Bryant Park tree.
New for 2016, visit the Paley Center for Media (25 West 52 Street)’s “It’s Holiday Time in Paleyland.” Free hot cocoa, visits with Santa, Holiday Classics to view, it’s a must see FREE event. Our Jersey Family Fun writer Kimberly got to visit on opening night!
The New York City department store windows are magical. They start unveiling as early as November 10th! The old standbys are Macy’s Herald Square, Lord and Taylor on 5th at 38th Street, and Saks on 5th and 49th Street. Tiffany’s on 5th, Bergdof Goodman at 5th and 57th Street and Bloomingdale’s at 60th and Lexington Avenue also put on a show in past years. The windows are a distinctly New York thing, where you can be transported to old time NYC, create your own Peanuts character, or look at the highest of high fashion.
Maybe your travel plans bring you into Grand Central Terminal? While you’re there, check out the New York Transit Museum’s Holiday Train Show.
Are you heading toward Central Park instead? There’s a Columbus Circle Holiday Market new this year. The park also has some events like a guided holiday tour, a marionette show, and of course the horse and buggy rides.
Need a break while in midtown? Take in a screening at Sony Wonder Labs. They have some free and low cost events and screenings like Shalom Sesame and Dora’s Christmas Carol Adventure.
If trains are REALLY your thing, look into the New York Botanical Garden’s Holiday Train show. Reservations are recommended and the Bronx is further than Manhattan for most of us, but it’s a show to be seen. The event runs from November 19 to January 16 so you can avoid the peak holiday season.
Are you driving in? Consider taking a nighttime detour to Dyker Heights, Brooklyn for the outrageous Christmas displays. Live nativities, live Santas, lights to rival the Osborne Family … you won’t be disappointed! Find them anywhere from 80th to 85th Streets between Tenth and Fourteenth Avenues.
South Street Seaport will have holiday lights, a holiday market and other events this year. Not to be outdone, so will the nearby World Financial Center. This season they will have the Glade sponsored Museum of Feelings, Santa, and the Luminaries light show as well.
Is Macy’s Santaland too chaotic? There are plenty of other Santas to visit in NYC! Check out Bloomingdales, The Plaza Hotel, even ABC Carpet & Home have hosted the big guy. And on December 4th, you can see a Santa Rescue at the New York City Fire Museum. Viewing the rescue is free, but seeing Santa inside requires advance tickets.
Whatever you end up doing, make it memorable! Maybe your children just want to see where the movies Miracle on 34th Street or Elf take place. Take lots of pictures, dress warm, and enjoy the magic. Oh and have a hot pretzel for me!
Did we leave off your favorite NYC Christmas event? Let us know!
Click over to see the rest of our Family Travel to New York City series.
To arrange a feature on your location contact Jennifer Auer, Jersey Family Fun publisher.