Christmas in New York

Christmas in New York is magical and wonderful and lives up to all the hype.

Here are just a few of our favorite Christmas traditions in New York (click “Read More” below for my full list):


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:


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!


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).


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.


Every year a bunch of people I know ride skateboards down Broadway, dressed as Santa.


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.
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.


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)


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)


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. 


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.

Merry, Merry Christmas!


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  1. Sage December 6, 2011 at 1:01 pm - Reply

    I'm sending this post to my husband. We only live an hour away, but he hates going to the city except to go to the temple. Either way I'll be trying to take my daughters to the nutcracker!

  2. Creole Wisdom December 6, 2011 at 2:38 pm - Reply

    I have always wanted to visit NYC at Christmastime. Going ice skating would be on the top of my list. I may not get to be there this year, but at least I'm seeing the Nutcracker in a few weeks.

    I love that last photo of Temple Square that you posted, such pretty lights!!!

  3. Allie December 6, 2011 at 3:57 pm - Reply

    One of my dreams is to go to New York at Christmas time. All of this seems magical!

  4. Sage December 6, 2011 at 6:01 pm - Reply

    I just bought tickets to the Ballet! Thanks, Mara!

  5. Tamra December 6, 2011 at 7:39 pm - Reply

    Does the neighborhood with the lights take donations? Seriously, lighting like that is not cheap. Funny: there's a few guys who do lights like that in Cincinnati, but the neighbors don't, so those guys just look like freaks. (Honestly, though, their lights are NOT as cool as the Dyker Heights lights.)

    Also, I saw a video about the NY Botanical Garden's train display – how it was made, set up, and then footage of it all finished. I think the same company that does NYC's does Cincinnati's little one at our Krohn's Conservatory, too. I love ours, but NYC's takes it to a whole new level. You should definitely check it out!

  6. rebecca December 6, 2011 at 8:17 pm - Reply

    what? i had no idea this existed.

  7. mara December 6, 2011 at 8:40 pm - Reply

    Sage! SO happy that you got tickets to the Nutcracker!! That's wonderful & definitely something you guys will remember always. What a dream. It will be fun for them to see the temple across the street, too.

  8. mara December 6, 2011 at 8:42 pm - Reply

    Tamra, yes – I think some of the houses do take donations. There is also a documentary called "Dyker Lights" which I really want to see. I heard it's hilarious.

  9. mara December 6, 2011 at 8:44 pm - Reply

    Rebecca, are you talking about the Dyker Heights lights? Yes, it is out of this world.

  10. rebecca December 6, 2011 at 8:58 pm - Reply

    dyker heights xmas lights, that is. sorry. it didn't load the whole page before i commented. plus i'm a goober.

  11. Jill December 7, 2011 at 5:41 am - Reply

    I'm getting heart pangs looking through your NYC posts, I really love & miss that city! NYC really is magical during Christmas.

  12. Jordan December 7, 2011 at 10:51 pm - Reply

    These are gnarly!

    Peace, Love and Puppies

  13. Laurie December 8, 2011 at 5:51 am - Reply

    MARA, one of my favorite books is Christmas on Jane street! I re-read it every year 🙂 it always puts a smile on my face and makes me feel like visiting NYC at Christmastime. Great list!!! And next time i'm there, I want a tamale!

  14. mer December 14, 2011 at 7:53 am - Reply

    Oh how I miss Christmas in NYC! Who am I kidding, I always miss NYC but it's especially prevalent this time of year. Think it's time we visit.


  15. The Harper Family February 24, 2012 at 5:32 am - Reply

    That is the most gorgeous bowling lane I have ever seen. I never thought I'd say that in a sentence. 🙂

    Now I want to come to NYC during Christmas!!

    I love Google…I found this recipe and it's Martha Stewart. 🙂

  16. Maggie November 28, 2012 at 10:38 pm - Reply

    You absolutely HAVE to add the windows on 5th Avenue. I go up to New York every Christmas to see them. Bergdorf steals the show every year.

    I've always wanted to see the Rockettes! It's nice to hear it is worth the money.

  17. xchristybx July 11, 2013 at 10:03 pm - Reply

    Just booked a trip to NYC this December and I'm so excited after reading this!! Goosebumps! x

  18. Liz #1 November 27, 2013 at 4:44 am - Reply

    Beautiful pictures! NYC is magical at Christmas time! Another great addition to a holiday visit to New York City is a Family In New York tour! They offer custom private New York tours! They can create a custom tour just for you that includes all the best that NY has to offer during the holidays!!!!!

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