Christmas in New York City can give a magical experience for any family! Check out our tips for an action-packed two day itinerary in the bustling island of Manhattan.￼
It is very easy to spend lots of time on transportation in any major world city. You’ll need a basic understanding of the subway unless you plan to spend lots of money on taxis or Uber. We decided to divide the city into two different days: uptown and downtown. Downtown is full of important cultural and historic sites, but uptown has more appeal to kids. We decided to put our uptown itinerary first in order to kick off the festivities and excitement in the hearts and minds of the kids. We identified several sites from movies that they would recognize and be eager to see and experience.
Day 1 – Uptown
You’ll want to organize your activities based on location, any particular showtimes you are trying to catch, and also the weather. It was very cold and drizzling with rain on our first day, so our priority was hot chocolate!
There are literally dozens of options for food and drinks.￼ right at the skating rink, there is a hot chocolate shop specializing in chocolate which looks like various tools. You have to really look closely to see that it’s actually chocolate and not rusted hand tools.
Bryant Park is a medium sized city park tucked in among the buildings in the city center. During the holidays, it is packed with numerous festive options for anyone in your group. We opted to try ice-skating, which has an extra high price during the holidays. It was around $100 for skate rental and ice time for three people.
￼The incredible setting is half the fun as you are hidden in this metropolitan area with a giant Christmas tree, holiday music, lights and decorations. ￼
After skating, we could not escape the smell of truffle fries in the air. We had to try them!
They come in a large brown bag for you to take and find the picnic table elsewhere in the park. They were amazing! The birds liked them too. If you are patient and willing they will eat right out of your hands.
FAO Schwarz and Rockefeller Center
A trip to New York with your kids is simply not complete without a stop at the famous toy store. However, during the holidays, expect outrageous crowds. It was definitely among the top two most crowded places we visited. The store is very savvy and takes a modern approach to the toy store concept. There are interactive displays and store employees showing you how to use a variety of exciting toys, magic tricks, or other fun activities to try.
We did not have time to get the full experience of Rockefeller Center, but we certainly had to see the famous Christmas tree which is literally right outside the doors of the toy store. You can smell the incredible Christmas tree from a block away. Many people don’t realize it is actually a real tree from the region. After the holiday season, the lumber is donated.￼
Plaza Hotel Dining and Shops
While it may be impossible to to get a hotel room at a reasonable rate, you could still experience the hotel by dining in their restaurants and shops area on the first floor. There’s absolutely something for everyone. From noodle shops to Italian food, you can find anything your group needs right at the plaza hotel.￼
We absolutely loved the gourmet donut shop called the Doughnuttery. It was the perfect small treat after lunch.￼
Not only are the food options brilliant, the location is perfect for a stop. You are right at the corner of 5th Avenue and Central Park. It’s just a short walk to the subway or the zoo! ￼
Central Park Zoo
This metropolitan zoo may be small, but it is packed with great sites. From the snow leopards and bears to the indoor rain forest, it is an excellent couple of hours in your day.￼
There is also the option to upgrade your ticket for a few dollars to see the 4D show. It is not usually our thing, but it was the holidays and Polar Express was showing. It is a quick 15 minute show, but full of fun.
No trip to New York is complete without a stop by Times Square. You can have a walk by it simply snap a few pictures, or you can easily spent half a day here having a coffee, doing some shopping, or enjoying a great meal. Of course, you should expect heavy crowds at any time of year but the holidays are extra packed. There will be lots of security and police on every corner.￼
The list of other options is endless, but some top picks would be visiting a museum or catching a show. The American natural history Museum and the Museum of modern Art are both free museums. The entry fees listed are actually suggested donations. Of course, Broadway is one of the most important theater districts in the world. However, expect very high ticket prices and limited options during the holidays unless you’ve booked well in advance. You can also enjoy numerous activities within central park. There are trails in every direction and play structures as well as various street performers a little cafés￼.￼ you can also stop by the iconic Empire State building, and ride to the top. It is drastically cheaper than the One World Observation Tower!
Check out our Day 2 Itinerary for Downtown in another post!