The holiday season is a special time to be in New York City.
Everything glitters a bit brighter, everyone smiles a bit more, and there’s a sense of wonder and excitement that permeates the city streets from Harlem to the Bowery.
Whether you’re celebrating your 1st Christmas (or Hanukkah, or Kwanza, or Yule) in New York or your 50th, the holiday spirit here is inescapable. But navigating a hectic holiday calendar can be a challenge even for the most industrious elf!
Fortunately for you, the mistletoe mavens at Follow Me New York City Adventures, are here to help you make the most of everything the Big Apple has to offer during the holidays!
So, hold onto your jingle bells! Here are our picks for the best HOLIDAY HAPPENINGS in New York City!
1.) The Bryant Park Winter Village
Everyday from now until January 2nd Bryant Park will be transformed into a winter wonderland so spectacular it will make even the Scrooges among us feel like sampling some eggnog and strapping on some ice skates.
Not only does the Winter Village feature the city’s only free ice skating rink (you just pay for the skate rental), you’ll find nearly 200 holiday pop up shops, a restaurant called Union Fare (operated by Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group) and of course all of this is set against the backdrop of the beautiful New York Public Library on 5th Avenue. If you only make it to one holiday market in the city this season, the Winter Village is the one to see.
Bryant Park is located at 41 W 40th St between Sixth and Fifth Avenues
Skating hours: Daily 8am–10pm, through Mar 4.
Holiday Shops: Mon–Fri 11am–8pm, Sat, Sun 10am–8pm, through January 2.
2.) The Radio City Christmas Spectacular
This magical performance makes our list as one of the two “Must See” performances in NYC during the holidays. Radio City’s Christmas Spectacular is an unabashed pageant of glitz, glamour, and glitter and- of course- legs, courtesy of the legendary New York City Rockettes.
The show is continually upping the holiday ante, refreshing classics such as the Parade of the Wooden Soldiers and incorporating new, brilliantly choreographed numbers sure to dazzle audiences old and young. Plus, they have a live menagerie on stage. We’re talking live camels here, people!
Ticket prices vary and can be purchased at the Radio City Box Office, by phone, or through their website.
The Radio City Christmas Spectacular is located at Radio City Music Hall in Rockefeller Center. Take the B, D, F or M to 47th-50th/Rockefeller Center, or the 1 to 50th St./Broadway
3.) The Nutcracker at Lincoln Center
Each year, the New York City Ballet presents this George Balanchine classic and before the curtain falls a new crop of wide-eyed, hopeful children will gaze up at their parents and declare that they, too, want to become ballerinas.
Such is the power of experiencing The Nutcracker for the first time- watching the tree magically grow on stage, watching the Sugar Plum Fairy dance alongside her snowflake escorts, that it’s bound to give rise to at least a few attempts a at decent Pas de Bourrees.
But even if you’re decidedly past the age when there is any conceivable hope of your growing up to join the ranks of this elite ballet corp (Mother!) you should still go and see the show and be swept up in the magic of it all.
And go ahead, dance out of the theatre after the show. We won’t tell.
Tickets for George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker may be purchased at the Koch Theatre Box Office, by phone, or on their website.
The Koch Theatre at Lincoln Center is located at 20 Lincoln Center Plaza
62nd street at Columbus Avenue
Take the 1 to 66th street
4.) Louis Vuitton New York Exhibition
What are the holidays without a little shopping? And if, like us, you enjoy the occasional indulgence where your personal style is concerned than have we got the holiday highlight for you!
Louis Vuitton has left an indelible mark on fashion all over the world but for this exhibit in the Financial District the brand pays homage to its long, happy love affair with New York. Admission is free but reservations are required and can be booked here.
Guests can view and interact with iconic items from the fashion house’s long history (they debuted in 1854), exploring three levels of trunks, luggage, and handbags that will inevitably make your wish list a smidgen longer this season.
And if the exhibit really gets under your skin, they do have a flagship store on 5th Avenue…
Hey, you’re buying something for everyone else this year. Why not get something to stuff your own stocking with, amiright?!
You can find Louis Vuitton’s Volez, Voguez, Voyagez Exhibit at 86 Trinity Place in the Financial District
Take the A, C to Fulton Street or 2, 3, to Wall Street
5.) Holiday Train Show at The New York Botanical Gardens
On display through January 15th you can find a fleet of model trains weaving their way through a painstakingly crafted miniature metropolis constructed entirely from plant parts at the New York Botanical Gardens in the Bronx.
The show includes approximately 150 NYC landmarks including The Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, Times Square and Broadway Theatres, Rockefeller Center, Grand Central Terminal, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Chrysler Building, and, of course, a replica of the Botanical Garden itself.
You’ll find yourself marveling at the artistry and dedication it takes to create something of this scale (pun intended!) and scope. And the littlest travelers in your group will fall in love with the trains, zipping merrily along their tiny, wooden tracks. This one must be seen to be believed!
And, after your visit to the gardens, it’s a short trip to Arthur Avenue where you can score a truly impressive Italian dinner if you’re looking to begin your Feast of the Seven Fishes early this year.
Pick up your tickets to the train show here.
New York Botanical Gardens are located at 2900 Southern Blvd in the Bronx
Take the B, D, or 4 train to Bedford Park Blvd. Station or the 2 train to Allerton Avenue
6.) Visit Santa Clause at Macy’s
Admit it, you want to go see Santa. It’s OK, we all do.
There is something deeply comforting and innocent about the idea of paying a visit to good ole’ Saint Nick and rattling off your heart’s desires to him in the hopes that on Christmas morning you’ll will find what you wanted most waiting for you beneath the tree.
And whether you are planning to ask for a new sled or for the swift demise of the electoral college, there is one place in NYC where Santa has heard (and perhaps granted) all manner of Christmas wishes. I’m talking, of course, about Macy’s Herald Square- that happy corner of 34th street where Natalie Wood got her miracle.
These days, Santa is on a pretty tight schedule. So, you’ll need a reservation if you want to get past the candy cane barricades. But securing one is easy enough on the Macy’s website. So, pick a time slot and then get your wish list in order. We’ll see you there!
Macy’s is located at 151 34th Street between Broadway at 7th Avenue
Take the N, Q, R, W, B, D, F, M trains to 34th Street/Herald Square
7.) Dyker Heights Christmas Lights
It is perhaps the most gaudy, ostentatious display of Christmas cheer you’ll find anywhere in the world. And we do mean anywhere!
The residents of Dyker Heights are continually raising the stakes in the never-ending battle for Yuletide supremacy. (Because nothing says “peace on Earth and good will toward men” like sticking a 20-foot-tall Santa Clause on your front lawn!)
That said, it is pretty darn impressive.
And this borderline ludicrous display holiday cheer is one of those quintessential “only in New York” things you should take part in at least once, if only to say you were there.
Dyker Heights is a residential neighborhood in southwest Brooklyn.
Take the D train to 71st Street and walk about 15 minutes to get into the heart of the neighborhood. The best displays are concentrated from 11th to 13th Avenues between 83rd and 86th streets
8.) Get Your Hanukkah On
Did you think I forgot about Hanukkah? Hell no, I didn’t!
New York City has a number of Hanukkah festivities you can attend including the lighting of the world’s largest menorah, a glamourous party at The Museum of Jewish Heritage and the 9th Annual New York City Latke Festival.
It’s going to be eight crazy nights, people. Pace yourselves.
9.) Charles Dickens and the Spirit of Christmas at The Morgan Library
In 1843, English author Charles Dickens penned what may be the most famous holiday book of all time A Christmas Carol. In 2017, the Morgan Library and Museum has assembled the five manuscripts that comprise the original work and are presenting them for public viewing.
There is undoubtedly a reason why this tale of the miserly old curmudgeon Ebenezer Scrooge still resonates so strongly. Even in our modern and hectic world, so removed from the one which Dickens and his characters inhabited, we recognize in this parable of the season a universal truth about the human condition and about our duty to one another. Year after year, decade after decade, century after century, that truth makes A Christmas Carol a tale still very much worth telling.
The Morgan Library is located at 225 Madison Avenue at 36th Street
Take the 4 or 5 train to Grand Central Station or the 6 train to 33rd street
Additional details are available on their website
10.) The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree
It’s the nation’s Christmas tree.
The one that inspires us all to come together simply to watch it be illuminated. The one we all aspire to make a holiday pilgrimage to.
You could choose to enjoy a skate in its towering shadow. Or perhaps drink in both the atmosphere and a cocktail at one of the many beautiful restaurants near by.
Or you could just smile up at it wistfully. We have. It’s the best kind of holiday fun. The simple, free, unspoiled kind. And we recommend it highly!
The tree will stand in front of 30 Rockefeller Center until January 7th, 2018. After which it will be taken down and turned into lumber for Habitat for Humanity. In our book, that makes this tree the best sort of Christmas gift.
The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is located at 30 Rockefeller Plaza.
Take the B, D, F or M to 47-50th Street/Rockefeller Center