I’ve been getting a lot of questions over the past few weeks about what to do in NYC during the Holidays so I wanted to put together this easy 3-day itinerary! The great, and sometimes overwhelming, thing about New York City is that you can ask 20 different people for a recommendation and you will get 20 different options, all of which are probably really good. So, this is just my personal list of what Kyle, my brother-in-law, Jason, and I did when we went last year and liked!
Day 1: Arrive, Christmas Markets, NoMad District
Arrive in NYC and check into your hotel. We stayed at the Renaissance New York Midtown and we loved it. The location is near Penn Station, Madison Square Garden, the original Macy’s and lots of other shopping. It was also great for walking around midtown and up to Times Square and Bryant Park. We grabbed a quick lunch at the hotel and then head out to our first Christmas Market!
The Winter Village at Bryant Park is the best Christmas Market you’ll find in NYC! We wandered around the little shops for hours and were able to get a lot of unique Christmas gifts here as well. Every time we found ourself with extra time on our hands or nearby, we wound up here again to take another lap.
We had planned to go from Bryant Park to the rooftop bar at the Refinery Hotel. Alas, it was closed for a Christmas Party, as were two others we tried, so be sure to call ahead and see if they are open to the public. From there we moved on to the Ace Hotel for a drink at their bar. This was a cool spot to stop in and have a cocktail, but be warned its like trendy hipster central and finding a seat is next to impossible.
From there we wandered through the NoMad district, a super trendy area full of boutique-ish hotels, bars, and good restaurants, where we soon found the famous Flatiron Building! We had dinner at The Smith NoMad and I have recommended this spot to lots of people already! So lively, great atmosphere, people watching and good food - go there!
Day 2: Brunch, Hop On Bus Tour, Ice Skating!
We started off day 2 with a highly anticipated brunch at Jack’s Wife Freda. This place is insta-famous so I had very high hopes and I have to say that I think it is slightly overrated. Still a cool spot, with pretty good food and a neat atmosphere, but it didn’t blow me away. Too bad, so sad.
From breakfast in Soho we hopped on one of NYC’s hop-on, hop-off bus tours. This is just an easy way to see a lot of the city in a very short window of time. We rode down to the Lower East Side, where we did some shopping (very cool design store called BDDW if anyone is interested) and ventured to one of the coolest spots we found, Freeman’s. When you look it up, you’ll notice the address says “END of Freeman’s Alley,” and its true. Its at the end of an alley way, so out of the way its on of those you have-to-know-to-go spots. We sat at the bar and had a drink while we warmed up. From Freeman’s you can hop back on your bus to continue the tour or walk to the nearby Tenement Museum. Sadly, we didn’t have time, but I’ve heard great things and definitely want to go back next time I’m in NYC!
For lunch we went to a great Italian spot recommended to us by a friend called Charlie Bird. The food here was delicious and it would also be a fantastic spot for dinner if you can get a reservation.
Our plan from here was to take the bus through the neighborhoods uptown and through Central Park, however we underestimated how early it gets dark in NYC in December (like by 5 its lights out!). Since this was primarily the residential areas of the tour, we figured we wouldn’t see much so we hopped off (no pun intended) at one of the many Christmas markets around the park. Then we found our way to Wollman Rink in Central Park. This is the famous one you’ve seen in lots of movies - I always think of Serendipity - and its a great spot for a photo op!
Dinner was at a very cool yet casual spot, Old Rose at The Jane Hotel. Its an Italian cafe and the atmosphere at Christmas is on point. In fact, the whole hotel is super cool and historic and if you are looking for a place to stay near the High Line this would be my pick. Its in a trendy neighborhood - Meatpacking District and Chelsea - but on a quiet street and after checking out the website again, I want to go stay here!
Day 3: Top of the Rock, Shopping, Broadway!
This was our last full day in the city and we woke up to **SNOW**! We had an early start so we quickly grabbed bagels at Best Bagel and Coffee, right across the street from our hotel.When in Rome, right? They were delicious! We grabbed a taxi to take us to Rockefeller Center where we had tickets to go to the Top of the Rock! The guys probably thought I was a slave driver with our 8 a.m. passes, but it worked out great and there were very few crowds. We sprung for the VIP passes which lets you skip all the lines so we zoomed right through and were at the top in less than ten minutes. While it was initially a bummer that we had such poor visibility due to the snow, it made for a pretty cool experience being up there in a snow storm.
Afterwards we hung around Rockefeller Center for a bit, saw the sites, took some pictures. Then the guys wanted to check out a few stores along 5th Avenue so we took off to shop until lunch! Had it been a nicer day we would have gone to walk along the High Line for a bit, however it was coooooold so we simply headed straight to Chelsea Market for lunch. So here’s the thing…Chelsea Market is very cool, there a lots of good food options and cute shops, but it was crowded! Like really, really crowded! I mean it is New York City at Christmas (and to top it off there was a snowstorm outside) so its to be expected, but I think we were feeling a little claustrophobic for the first time. We managed to grab lunch and then promptly exited the premises. **Another option would be to go to the Oculus at the World Trade Center. Shopping and eating!
We headed back to the hotel to rest up and change clothes before our big Broadway night! Kyle and I actually found time to make a trip back to Bryant Park to buy Christmas presents too.
That night, we had dinner at Joe Allen’s (another recommendation). Its kind of your standard steak and potatoes type of place, but it is located right in the thick of the Broadway scene. They also mainly cater to show-goers so they are pros at having you in and out in time for your show. We then went to see Waitress: The Musical, and y’all, it was so good! We would all recommend this one ten times over (except maybe for young kids). This was the perfect way to cap off our trip!
As you can see, NYC during the holidays is pretty magical! I would recommend staying flexible though as weather, long lines and big crowds are kind of the norm especially this time of year. Definitely plan ahead and buy all tickets and make all your restaurant reservations as much in advance as humanly possible.
Let me know if I can help!