Christmas in NYC
December 14, 2013 3:01 PM   Subscribe

I'm visitng NYC for the next couple days and would like to pack in some quintessential Christmastime in New York City activities. !

I'm visitng NYC for the next couple days and would like to pack in some quintessential Christmastime in New York City activities. What do you suggest, mefites? So far I'm thinking windows at Bergdorf, a visit to Central Park, seeing the tree at Rockerfeller Center, stopping at hot chocolate at Serendipity and perhaps getting some dim sum in Chinatown. Here are my questions:

1. What else is there that's not to be missed at Christmastime? I'd love to walk the Brooklyn bridge and see the Statue of Liberty, but I'm thinking these are more of summer things to do.

2. What's the best / most efficient way to see this stuff? Best time management strategies.

3. Any good restaurants for Chinese or other Christmas fare?

Thanks, guys!
posted by gardenbex to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (18 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Winter is actually a pretty cool time to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, if you don't mind bundling up. It's MUCH, MUCH less crowded, and you can usually get a nice hot chocolate if there's a food cart out on the Manhattan side.

Rockefeller Center is mobbed, but you can get pretty close to the tree at any time. If you're going skating there, be prepared to wait on line. We were there last night, and the line looked to be at least an hour long.

I haven't been to Serendipity in years, but last time I was there, it was about a 2 hour wait at Christmastime.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 3:09 PM on December 14, 2013

I think it's worth going in Betgdorfs, too, to check out their holiday stuff. So beautiful.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:25 PM on December 14, 2013

Macy's top floor (the Xmas department)
posted by Tandem Affinity at 3:29 PM on December 14, 2013

Bergdorf's, and yes, the department store windows, up Fifth Ave. -- start at Macy's at 34th street and Sixth Ave., then walk to Fifth Ave. and go uptown, first stop Lord & Taylor at 38th or 39th street -- and keep going -- Rockefeller Center tree is around 49th or 50th?
posted by DMelanogaster at 3:30 PM on December 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

If you have the money--Radio City is so corny, it's cool.
posted by Ideefixe at 4:04 PM on December 14, 2013 [3 favorites]

Definitely go to the Brooklyn bridge! Right now it should be snowy and beautiful, and the view of Manhattan cannot be beat. Enjoy the bridge, then walk down to DUMBO, get a delicious hot chocolate (sooo thick) at Jacque Torres on Water St, and enjoy the new Brooklyn Bridge waterfront park, including Jane's carousel.

Walk yourself up the hill to Brooklyn Heights to the promenade, and enjoy another great view of Manhattan and a bunch of really pretty classic brownstones, a large proportion of which should have Christmas decorations. Lots of good food in the Brooklyn Heights/DUMBO/Boerum Hill area too, and you can venture a bit further south into Carroll Gardens for even more options.
posted by foodmapper at 4:16 PM on December 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

How about some other cool Christmas trees, in addition to the one at Rockefeller Center:

- the Origami Holiday Tree at the American Museum of Natural History, and maybe also the Power of Poison exhibit that is the inspiration for the Wicked, Wild, and Wonderful theme of this year's tree

- the Christmas Tree and Neapolitan Baroque Crèche at The Metropolitan Museum of Art

- the tree at the Bryant Park Winter Village; while you're there, you can also ice skate, do some holiday shopping, and tour the New York Public Library -- the one with the lions out front.

Another fun thing: a Dyker Heights Christmas Lights and Cannoli Tour.
posted by merejane at 4:43 PM on December 14, 2013 [3 favorites]

Another option is to take the train into Brooklyn, walk over the bridge, and then eat a meal in Chinatown. On the weekends, for dim sum, two of my favorite places are Oriental Garden [smaller], Golden Unicorn [giant], and Buddha Bodai [vegetarian]. For other meals, Joe's Shanghai [soup dumplings!] is great. Ten Ren is a good place to get some souvenirs [delicious jasmine tea].
posted by the twistinside at 5:30 PM on December 14, 2013

I broke my arm in 6th grade and went to NYC with my Grandpa. Since my arm was in a cast, I had it on the inside of my jacket. I highly recommend getting frisked by the Toy Soldiers at FAO Schwartz! It is sort of surreal!
posted by Nanukthedog at 5:47 PM on December 14, 2013

IIRC the ice skating at Rockefeller Center is actually open pretty late and going after hours is the best way to beat the crowds (caveat: half remembered from years ago, definitely check times first)
posted by sexyrobot at 7:03 PM on December 14, 2013

As far as picking a Chinese restaurant, my family are native New Yorkers on both sides, and the method we've always used is to just walk around Chinatown and look for the place with the most Asians eating there. It's never failed us.
In fact, as I type this, I'm in a Chinese restaurant I just picked using this method, and the food is some of the best I've had in a long time.
posted by MexicanYenta at 7:04 PM on December 14, 2013

Tomorrow is Tubachristmas in Rockefeller Center.

You (thankfully) missed today's Santacon.
posted by Brian Puccio at 9:31 PM on December 14, 2013

I always like Union Square Holiday Market. Lots to do within walking distance of there as well.
posted by Miko at 9:35 PM on December 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Bucking tradition and advising strongly against Macy's, it's horrendous.

FAO Schwartz is the place! Also, you will be across from Central Park, with the snow, it's beautiful! The Plaza still has some charm, and Bergdorf's is close by, and you are just around the way from Barney's for the windows.

You can find other skating options (Rock Center is pretty tight and very expensive) at Bryant Park (in fact, if you head over there at 8 a.m., you can see the delightful sight of office workers getting in a little skating before work!) and Wollman Rink in Central Park.

Walk north and west and you'll pass by Columbus Circle but keep going to Lincoln Center. The lights are spectacular and the whole campus is pretty dazzling at this time of year -- with great people-watching.

Keep going north ... St Patrick's is under intense construction, so if you have some time, head up to the Cathedral at St. John the Divine, even better if you can go for the Christmas Eve wonderments.

Have fun!
posted by thinkpiece at 7:14 AM on December 15, 2013

But St. Patrick's on the inside at Christmastime is great. Just go on in at a time that's in between Masses - it's open all day. You can follow a path around the perimeter, where all the small chapels are, and they have interpretive text describing the art and history of the place. They have an incredible large Nativity scene, and some Jesuit brothers are usually there to tell you about it. It's beautifully dressed with pointsettias everywhere. It's a really nice experience, even for non-Catholics; something people from all over the world do. There are some scheduled guided walk-in tours on certain days in December. If you felt like it you could attend a Mass - the acoustics there are insane, and their choir has incredible singers, some who double as opera singers at the Met and so on.

Just stumbled upon Top Ten Things to Do in NYC 2013. Maybe you'll find something there. I always pick up a hard copy of Time Out New York for detailed weekly listings of things that are going on - it's a great way to find out about some of the lesser-known, quirkier things that happen all over the city at the holidays. Many are free. NYC Tourist has information and listings too.
posted by Miko at 7:27 AM on December 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

Check out Bryant Park. Festive and great shopping.

Nutcracker at Lincoln Center?
posted by anad487 at 8:01 PM on December 15, 2013

Response by poster: Great advice, everyone. Thank you!
posted by gardenbex at 9:30 AM on December 17, 2013

You may have come and gone by now, but just in case (or, for future readers) I'm gonna recommend something kitschy: the light displays in the Dyker Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn. It's, like, that over-the-top display from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, only the entire neighborhood is like that.

It's unfortunately a bit of a hike from the subway, but a dealable one (about a 20-minute walk from the subway to the lights); once you're there you can just wander around and behold the ridiculousness. Or, there is an actual bus tour that goes through there every year, complete with an on-bus tour guide, an on-bus multi-media presentation about the 'hood, and a stop for hot chocolate and cannolis at a local pastry shop.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:49 AM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

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