New York City At Christmas

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    One of my favorite places to visit becomes even more magical at Christmas.  For years I had been dreaming of visiting New York City at Christmas.  I loved watching movies based in New York during the holiday season.  The past two years I have had the opportunity to go and finally make my dreams come true.

The shops on fifth avenue are covered in decorations for the seasons.  Saks fifth avenue even has a holiday show displayed on their building.  The one from 2013 featured a snow scene and ice skaters.  Many other shops and buildings are completely decked out for the season.  I absolutely love walking around New York and looking at the various Christmas windows.  Some of the more notable holiday windows include Bergdorf Goodman, Bloomingdales, Macys, Saks Fifth Ave, Tiffany and Co, Henri Bendel, Lord & Taylor.  Each features a different theme every year. The Macy’s Holiday windows are some of the most famous always feature a different whimsical theme for each year.  After you look at these windows be sure to look on the other side of the building for the traditional Yes Virginia windows.  Based on the 1987 letter to the New York Sun and its reply.  They are way less crowded as many people miss them. These ones however do not change every year.

My favorite winter activity is going Ice Skating at the various rinks around the city.  Not only are these rinks around for the Christmas holidays but also before and after as well.  From Rockefeller, to Central and Bryant park the city offers recognizable places to skate. You may have even seen some of these in movies.

The tree lights up above the rink at Rockefeller center and Santa might even be there to skate with you.  He was there when we went skating right before Christmas and right after Thanksgiving.  Grabbing food inside the center with a view of the rink is a great way to stay warm and enjoy the action.  Rockefeller center has two fancier restaurants called the Rock Center Cafe and The Sea Grill that both offer views of the rink.  However there are many restaurants and a Starbucks inside the center where you can bring the food to a food court like area with tables in front of the windows with a view also of the rink.  This view is set back however behind a sitting area to the side of the rink and it can be hard to find a table in this exact location.

Central park Ice skating rink has been featured in many movies and is located in the  park near the Plaza hotel, which makes it close to many of the other Christmas attractions.  If you have your own skates, head over to Bryant Park for free skating.  Skate rentals are available though for a fee.  A festive holiday market surrounds the rink which makes it a great place to spend time at even if you don’t enjoy skating.  There are plenty of places to grab something to eat and even a seasonal restaurant, called Celsius, that offers a indoor overlook of the skating from the second floor restaurant.  There are also other ice skating options in New York however these are the ones that are closest to the majority of the other attractions.  Most of these rinks do not allow you to bring a back of any kind onto the rink, even a small purse.

While the whole city is filled with Christmas lights some of the best are found just outside the city in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Dyker Heights.  Located from 11th avenue to 13th avenue between 83rd to 86th street houses go all out in this amazing tradition.  These tend to be the best during the middle of December between the hours of 5-9 pm.  Since this is located over a mile from the subway it can be a little harder to get to.  Many tour companies offer a tour taking you from central Manhattan.  We found a cheap car rental and did our own tour and were able to find plenty of parking on the night we went.  Although I have heard that parking can be hard to find on some nights.

When I visited New York last Christmas, I went the few days before Christmas as well as the week of Thanksgiving and it was obviously extremely crowded both times.  However, I thought that the crowd of shoppers and those enjoying the holiday scenes added to the Christmas magic that was in the air.  This definitely added wait times at rocket feller ice skating but I was able to skate at Central Park without a wait.  A tip to avoid these crowds would be to go during the first couple weeks of December.  All of the decorations will all be there but minus the extreme Christmas crowds.  However even with all of the crowds I think that the Christmas decorations are those who are not to be missed.