The Ultimate Holiday Guide to New York City
By: HG Davis-Russell
Christmas and Hanukah are around the corner and with holiday celebrations beginning, the most wonderful time of the year is most certainly here!
If there’s one thing I’ve come to know from living in New York City, it’s that here—the holidays mean business. Since relocating to New York three years ago, my love for the holidays has only grown. Although I can’t speak for all of us city-goers, I believe the holidays are the most magical time to experience the city.
By mid-November, our favorite spaces throughout the boroughs erupt with holiday market construction and become destinations for favorite festive goodies. The days become shorter but the city glows brighter as lights adorn fire escapes from block to block and Christmas trees are set aglow left and right.
No matter the part of town you’re in, you’ll be greeted by the scent of luxe perfumes, roasted chestnuts and freshly plucked evergreen trees being sold streetside.
With schedules freeing up a bit as workflow slows until the new year, you may be wondering how you can join in on all the holiday cheer while visiting New York City. Read below for the ultimate holiday guide to New York City.
Anyone who has spent a New York City holiday with me can speak to my love for the Bryant Park Christmas tree, the Bank of America Winter Village, and the giant ice skating rink! Located just a skip and a jump from Times Square and New York Public Library, Bryant Park boasts a 17,000-square-foot ice-skating during the winter season as well as more than 170 shopping kiosks and food vendors for you to indulge in some holiday shopping!
Bryant Park also has a gorgeous tree setup that, dare I say, rivals the Rockefeller Christmas tree. Their tree lighting ceremony is my favorite neighborhood holiday event and features Olympic figure skaters and a Christmas carol singalong. It’s also extraordinarily easy and enjoyable to attend compared to the Rockefeller Christmas Tree lighting ceremony which gets rather insane due to its reputation. Call me sentimental, but taking a visit to Bryant Park with your friends during the holidays is a magical experience that means Christmas truly is right around the corner!
Saks Fifth Avenue
I’ve spoken about enormous decorative trees and glitzy performers, but what about your local holiday windows and ten-story light displays? Visiting the light show at Saks Fifth Avenue has become a favorite tradition of mine since moving to New York City. Call me a melt, but the musical composition, immaculate technical performance, and delightful sense of childhood nostalgia bring me to tears every time!
Saks Fifth Avenue has been producing awe-inspiring holiday light shows for over 90 years. Not only do they deck out their massive storefront with hundreds of thousands of lights, but Saks also creates an iconic set of window display stories according to a new theme each year.
The New York City Ballet
Visions of sugarplums will surely be dancing in your head long after attending New You City Ballet’s The Nutcracker choreographed by George Balanchine. The tradition and delight of The Nutcracker Ballet is a holiday tradition I’ve loved since I was old enough to attend theaters and in fact, lead to my hobby of collecting nutcrackers in hopes that I’d someday face a mouse king of my own!
The production choreographed by George Balanchine includes the full New York City Ballet company and two casts of School of American Ballet students as well as 150 costumes, a Christmas tree that grows up to 40 feet tall, and an incredible onstage blizzard. The ballet is available to audiences until December 31, so dress in your holiday best and head on over to Lincoln Center to experience a breathtaking performance!
Union Square Holiday Market
Sporting nearly 80 unique vendors, visiting the Union Square Holiday Market is a must when it comes to a holiday spent in NYC! Visited by millions each year, the internationally renowned Holiday Market is located in Union Square Park and features countless handcrafted gifts created by local artists, craftsmen, and vendors. There’s nothing quite like shopping for unique holiday goodies for friends and family, stopping for specialty pierogis at Veselka, and popping over to Strand Bookstore during winter weekends!
The Grand Bazaar
The Grand Holiday Bazaar located on the Upper West Side is a cheerful holiday shopping experience like no other. The bazaar features over 150 hand-picked local artisans and vendors to shop for goods ranging from handmade holiday decorations and gifts to vintage accessories, handmade jewelry and furniture, delicious food, and more! Besides supporting local businesses, all profits from Grand Bazaar NYC are donated to four local public schools! What’s jollier than supporting over 2,000 children and their community?
Columbus Circle Holiday Marketplace
Last but certainly not least is the Columbus Circle Holiday Marketplace. Another westside gem, located at 59th street and Central Park West, this market rivals the splendor of Union Square Holiday Market with its elegant, cozy appeal. It’s internationally renowned with visitors taking part in a shopping experience fit for kings and queens as the space is chocked full of glittering glassware, art, jewelry, home goods, and food vendors from around the area.
Although there are plenty of hidden holiday gems amongst the boroughs, the above are just a few of the favorites that I hope you’ll enjoy during your New York City holiday!