Here are just a few of our favorite Christmas traditions in New York (click "Read More" below for my full list):
DYKER HEIGHTS CHRISTMAS LIGHTS:
There is an entire neighborhood in Brooklyn that goes bonkers with Christmas lights! You can see the neighborhood lit up from the air if you are flying into JFK. It is seriously out of control, but someone's got to let those 30-foot toy soldiers do their magic :)
I am a sucker for the Christmas Spectacular show at The Radio City Music Hall. It really is good!! The production is amazing and those glitzy girls will have you smiling and gawking at their long legs and 40s glam! I seriously left there feeling like a teenager with starry eyes and wished I had taken more dance classes when I was young. haha. I think I might like their solider costumes the best:
A LIVE NATIVITY ON CHRISTMAS EVE:
Last year we went with friends to a gorgeous church on the Upper East Side in Manhattan. On Christmas Eve they perform a Christmas Pageant, complete with 100 children performing, live animals, an angel chorus, instrumentalists, two pipe organs, beautiful costumes, and lots of singing of hymns and carols with the congregation. I am telling you, it is a beautiful experience. It's now one of my favorite things to do over Christmas. And, it's just fun to see all the Upper East side families dressed up in their Christmas finest. Get there early for a good seat!
ICESKATING IN BRYANT PARK:
Citipond in Bryant Park is one of the best places to ice skate in New York. It's just fun to ice skate nestled in the middle of a city block. The ice rink is larger (opposed to Rockefeller Center) AND you can make advance reservations and skip the line. Iceskating is free, skate rentals are $14.
Also, there is a charming little Christmas Market surrounding the park. Danny & tried some of the Kettle Corn NYC there & now I can't stop thinking about it. (Especially loved the caramel and original flavors).
CHRISTMAS TREE LAND:
During the Christmas season, for once the sidewalks of New York smell AMAZING!! haha. It's because little festive Christmas tree lots line our walkways & fill up the street corners. It is one of my favorite things about Christmas in New York. There is even a DARLING children's book written about a family that comes to New York every year to sell Christmas trees, Christmas on Jane Street.
SANTAS SKATEBOARDING DOWN BROADWAY:
Every year a bunch of people I know ride skateboards down Broadway, dressed as Santa.
BOWLING @ BOWLMOR LANES:
Bowling is a holiday tradition for both of our families (when Danny was younger, he was even on a bowling league with his Dad.) Bowlmor Lanes (est. 1938) near Union Square is one of my favorite alleys (+ they have a great menu from David Burke). They will soon have a Bowlmor in Times Square.
The Parker Meridien now hosts a Gingerbread Extravaganza where local bakeries and chefs create elaborate gingerbread houses. $1 to vote for your favorite. And who doesn't want to be that much closer to Burger Joint? (Milkshakes only served after 1:30 pm. Very important to keep in mind :)
I loved "Grand Central Terminal" by Magnolia Bakery...
"Christmas in Palm Springs" by Tribeca Treats...
and "Chrysler Building" by Soutine Bakery.
CAROLING IN WASHINGTON SQUARE PARK:
December 7th they will light the tree, followed by caroling. And on Christmas Eve, more carols (led by a brass quartet) at the Arch - sing with all the locals staying in New York for the holidays. More info. here.
HOLIDAY TRAIN SHOW:
I have yet to visit this Train Show at the NY Botanical Gardens, but friends have gone & I have heard rave reviews. All the train displays are made out of barks, leaves, fruit, nuts, & twigs!
(Photo: Rag & Bone)
MILON INDIAN FOOD:
Eat Indian food at Milon while every type of of Christmas light known to man hangs above your head.
The website says "where chili pepper lights meet Christmas lights!" It's kitschy enough that you have to love it.
(Photo: Anabel Wold)
DINNER AT THE NATURAL GOURMET INSTITUTE:
On Friday nights, the future chefs serve dinner. Danny & I went on a date here once and loved it. In December they have holiday menus! (with seasonal produce, organic beans & grains, natural sweeteners, whole foods, & nutritionally well balanced meals.)
The moms I know love taking their kids to see Santa at ABC Carpet & Home - shorter lines & a pretty setting! More details here & here. (image)
I *LOVE* hot chocolate. (Though I no longer eat dairy so I need to experiment with some almond milk.) But here are my all time favorite New York hot cocoas:
Jacques Torres Wicked Hot Chocolate (super thick, rich & a little spicy. perfect for drinking while walking around DUMBO)
City Bakery (super thick/rich, worth an extra trip there, possibly worth forgetting that I don't eat dairy :) [And now I see they sell the EXACT liquid chocolate in cartons, so you can drink some from home.]
And for some more cocoa obsessions, read the "Cocoa Chronicles" of the girls at Kate Spade.
TAMALES IN SUNSET PARK:
I grew up in Arizona and ate tamales every Christmas. My grandmother made them. My mom makes them. And my sisters make them. And I eat them :) It took me awhile to locate some good ones in New York, but here are my two favorite places from Sunset Park, Brooklyn: Rico's Tacos & Don Paco Lopez Panaderia. I once ordered like 75 tamales for one of our Progressive Dinners in Brooklyn!
You guys, the Nutcracker by the New York City Ballet is really amazing! I just love it. There are also many other Nutcrackers playing throughout the city. This year I went to one by the Urban Ballet Theater in the Lower East Side, which was such well done performance! It's a modern, colorful, take on the classic story - set in the Lower East Side - complete with breakdancing rats of the Grand Street subway station, a drag queen Mama Fruita, & flamenco dancers. Such a fun night out with some dear girl friends (& their sweet daughters)!
The Nutcracker at Lincoln Center - Photo by Kelly-Mooney Photography
'Nutcracker in the Lower' by the Urban Ballet Theater
What did I miss? I know there are so many other things. I'd LOVE to hear if you have any other suggestions!
UPDATE: I made a second huge list of Christmas tips! See it HERE.