Being from the east coast, I can’t imagine not spending the holidays in New York City. Los Angeles is great around Christmas time and for those of us that grew up surrounded by snow, it’s really hard to adapt when it’s sunny and 65 degrees outside.
Last year my boyfriend and I started the tradition of going into the city a few days before my birthday (December 23rd), and then meeting up with my family for Christmas Eve dinner. For those of you that haven’t been to New York in December, I highly recommend that you put it on your list of things to do. It’s an experience that everyone should have; at least once in their lifetime.
This guide is based on all of my previous trips into the city and features places to visit, things to do, where to eat, and where to shop. Some of these attractions are holiday based, while others are just cool and unique spots that have stood out to me.
The Plaza is one of my favorite places in Manhattan. I remember as a child watching Home Alone: Lost in New York, and Eloise At The Plaza and falling in love with the hotel. My favorite things to do there is to have afternoon tea at The Palm Court and then head downstairs and visit the Eloise shop. There’s also a food hall with shops like Assouline Books and MCM.
In December Central Park really puts me in the holiday spirit. There is so much to do and see here that out-of-towners often don’t realize how big it is. My favorite spots to visit are Strawberry Fields, Wollman Ice Skating Rink, The Pond, and of course having dinner at the iconic Tavern On The Green. For a healthy quick bite to eat, stop by Le Pain Quotidien.
The Rockettes Christmas Spectacular
I love getting dressed up and heading to The Rockettes Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall. This is an astounding musical holiday show that is filled with all the sights and sounds of this magical season and features the world famous Rockette dancers. It’s worth a trip to the city at Christmas time just to see this memorable production.
Rockefeller Christmas Tree
In the evening I love grabbing a hot cocoa to keep warm and stopping by to view the stunning Rockefeller Christmas Tree. Watching the ice skaters, and listening to the Christmas music that accompanies them certainly adds to the festive atmosphere. When you leave there you leave with the Christmas spirit. There’s really nothing like it.
5th Avenue Window Displays
Department stores like Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdales, Bergdorf Goodman, and Macy’s step up their game by turning their window displays into what can only be described as works of art. My favorite is the LED light show that Saks Fifth Avenue puts on right on their building. The lights change color, move, and dance to the music as crowds of onlookers take in the beauty. You can follow this walking tour to view all the iconic window displays and learn more about them.
Bryant Park Winter Village
I love strolling through the open-air market at Bryant Park’s Winter Village. It’s the perfect place to Christmas shop. You can find handmade gifts from around the world. There’s also plenty of things to do here, like a huge ice skating rink, caroling, and Santa sightings.
Ever since I played a “party child” in The Albany Berkshire Ballet’s production of the “The Nutcracker,” I’ve been obsessed with the music, costumes, and sugarplum fairies. No other place in the world puts on this show like The New York City Ballet. People of all ages from all over the nation fill the David H. Koch Theatre to see this magical and elegant stage production. This should definitely be on your list of things to do while in the City.
You’ve probably noticed on your Instagram or Facebook feed, rainbow confetti cakes with sprinkles, glitter, and jimmies that pour out when the cake is sliced. Chances are the photos are from Flour Shop bakery located in Little Italy. There you can stop in and try all their delectable sweets, like rainbow push pops, rainbow cake balls, or even order a custom cake made for your next party. These are what inspired me to create a rainbow layer cake for A Girl in LA’s one year blogging anniversary.
To New Yorkers, Ricky’s NYC may seem like a typical drugstore, but when you don’t live there…it should be on your list of places to stop. Ricky’s carries lines like NYX, Tweezerman, Burt’s Bees, Manic Panic, SugarPill, Votivo, Essie, Fekkai, Voluspa, and Pureology. When I’m in the city and my feet are hurting from walking all day, I’ll run in and grab some Braza heel cushions. Or, if I’m in need of a quick gift, I’ll stop in and buy some candles, stickers, or a notebook. Ricky’s is the perfect place to go when you’re away from home and realize you forgot to pack something.
This whimsical restaurant Serendipity 3 is located on the Upper East Side, and has been featured in many movies like Serendipity, and is famous for their frozen hot chocolate. Rumor has it that Jackie O tried to buy the recipe for one of her parties. As you walk in this small and quaint eatery you will first see all sorts of cool novelties for sale; then you’re led to a dining room which is covered in pink, disco balls, stained glass, and unicorns. In December the focal point is a giant pink and white Christmas tree, and is where I chose to have my birthday last year. Serendipity’s serve soups, salads, and burgers; as well as tea, and espresso. But what they’re most known for is their sundaes and desserts. If you’re planning on dining here, reservations are strongly recommended because the wait can be three hours long.
Dylan’s Candy Bar
Dylan’s Candy Bar puts Willy Wonka to shame. This Upper East Side candy shop has two floors of floor to ceiling sweets and a cafe. They carry everything from their own brand to the classics you loved as a child. Stop in to pick up the ideal gift, like their bento boxes, or their rice crispy treats. On the top floor you can dine at their cafe, which offers sandwiches, snacks, and sundaes. Be sure to put a couple hours aside, because that’s how long it’s going to take you to browse all their goodies.
Times Square is probably one of the most “touristy” places that you can visit in New York City, and it can get very crowded depending on what time of the day or night you’re there. Located in Midtown Manhattan, it’s the epicenter of entertainment and where the famous countdown and New Years Eve ball drop happens. From restaurant row, to historic broadway theaters, shops, and hotels, the streets are lined with flashy billboards and bright colors. My favorite things to do in this area is see the broadway show Phantom of The Opera, visit Madame Tussauds, and enter the escape room, OMEscape.
The Brooklyn Bridge
For a truly mesmerizing experience take a walk or a drive over the iconic Brooklyn Bridge to view Manhattans cityscape. It’s one of the most awe inspiring things you can do. My favorite time to go is when the sun is setting or at night when the city is all lit up. If it’s to chilly to walk, I’ll request a Lyft and ask the driver to pull over so I can snap some photos since it’s hard to do when the car is moving.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
As soon as you step out of Rockefeller Center there’s a beautiful gothic building that stands out among the rest. It’s the Roman Catholic Church St. Patrick’s Cathedral. This beautiful architectural wonder was built in 1878 and is a major tourist attraction. Christmas is such an awesome time to visit it with all its spiritual beauty!
Gnoccheria by Luzzo’s
New York City is known for many things, but one that stands out to me is the abundance of delicious Italian restaurants. My favorite is Gnoccheria by Luzzo’s, which is located in the East Village. Gnoccheria offers a variety of homemade gnocchi, pasta sauces and Italian dishes. This charming restaurant is a perfect date night spot, and you will feel like you’re dining in Italy.
Years ago I fell in love with Henri Bendel, so much so, that my apartment is filled with Bendel’s coasters, candles and teapots. I’m also obsessed with their jewelry and accessories and wear Bendel’s every day. Even though I’ve been to the NYC flagship store countless amounts of times, I make it a tradition to stop in each time I’m in the city. Bendel’s has three floors filled with their signature white and brown striped accessories, glittering jewelry, and classic handbags.
When I’m in need of a massage, a manicure, or a facial (or maybe all three), I’ll head to Bliss. Located in the W Hotel, Bliss Spa 49 W is one of my favorite places to get pampered. In between appointments, they serve all sorts of tasty treats in their relaxation room; like champagne and the best blondie brownies I’ve ever tasted! Once I’m done, I’ll browse their spa products and pick up a hot salt scrub, an oxygen day cream, and their deliciously smelling lemon + sage butter butter to continue the spa experience at home.
Everyone that knows me knows that I’m a huge fan of books; especially coffee table books. My boyfriend and I have our apartment filled with them; from fashion, to music, to art, photography, and design. When friends visit they always ask where we found these books and the answer is that a lot of them are from Rizzoli. Visiting the flagship store is a must for any book lover because they offer such a variety. The decor is warm and inviting and you could literally spend a whole day browsing all they have to offer.
We also like to fill our apartment with records, and in this day and age, it’s difficult to find a record shop that carries hard to find vinyl. The people at Record Runner scour the world (literally–they travel to Tokyo, Paris and beyond) to bring their customers the most sought after vinyl and movie memorabilia. Located in Greenwich Village this shop is a must for any lover of music and collectables.