This was such a fun trip! I mostly centered it around Christmas activities for the kids but the big kid in me had a lot of fun too. New York City is just a magical place at Christmas time no matter what age you are. I have always wanted to see the Rockefeller tree and all of the fun window displays and go ice skating and drink hot chocolate while walking through the pretty Christmas markets….I wanted to do all of the Christmas things and NYC did not disappoint!
We were just in NYC in September for my birthday but I actually had this trip planned first. (you can check out those posts here, here, and here) I’m SO glad we decided to go in September too so we could do all of the touristy things without the lines. We never would have been able to do it all in 4 days (we were there from Friday to Monday this trip) if we hadn’t already done all of the major tourist attractions and this way we were able to really enjoy all of the Christmas festivities without having to wait hours in lines to do everything else too. There will be lines and crowds this time of year for EVERYTHING so just be aware, plan accordingly, and make sure you are all dressed warm since you might be hanging out in a line outside for a few hours. Try to avoid weekends if you can because that is when it is most crowded. We made the mistake of going to see the Rockefeller tree on Saturday night and the crowds were insane. You could barely even move through or get out of that area for hours. You will definitely want to keep a close eye on the kids because they can easily get separated from you with all of the pushing through the crowds. I had really given up on getting a picture of us in front on the tree until this sweet lady walked by and offered to take one for us. I really didn’t think it would turn out well since there were so many people and usually when people take pics for us they are either blurry or just awful photography where they cut off half of our heads or something but she did a pretty good job considering the circumstances!
One of the highlights of the trip for all of us was going to FAO Schwarz. We used to have an FAO Schwarz in West Palm Beach when my hubby and I went to college there so it brought back some fun memories of walking through the store there and (me….and maybe him too?) imagining bringing our kids there one day. I always loved all of the giant stuffed animals but they didn’t have the amazing candy store inside like the new one in NYC (or at least I don’t remember it). When I was a kid I always dreamed of dancing on that big piano when I saw it in movies. It just looked so fun and I’m so glad I got to finally check that off of my bucket list and better yet do it with my kids! When we were there in September the boys saw the sign saying FAO was going to be opening in November and they were so excited (and I was too). I had always wanted to take them there but the one in West Palm Beach closed before they were born so I didn’t think it would ever happen.
Like everything in NYC this time of year there is a line to get in and on the weekends it is CRAZY long but we lucked out on Sunday afternoon and only had to wait about 20 minutes. They have awesome window displays so the boys were ooogling them the whole time and talking about all of the candy and toys they wanted so the time went by really fast. My boys loved it so much they asked if we could go there again and said they would wait in any line to get in again. They had magicians and toy demonstrations and of course the big piano (with another line but so worth it). The candy store is a lot like It’Sugar if you have ever been there. I would definitely put FAO SCHWARZ on my must do list.
Another must do if you are going to be in New York City this time of year is ice skating. My boys absolutely LOVE ice skating and would do it all day everyday if they could. I love it too! So much fun and great exercise so you don’t feel so bad about all of the chocolate chip walnut cookies from Levain that you ate. (I posted about Levain Bakery in my last NYC posts too. You HAVE to get one of their cookies if you are in the city….my favorite are the chocolate chip walnut closely followed by the chocolate peanut butter….ask for them warm. Seriously…..no other cookies compare!)
There are a few different rinks in NYC and I would’ve loved to skate at all of them if we had the time but we chose to go to Wollman Rink (located in Central Park) and we loved it. The day we went they had free hot chocolate, soft pretzels, and cookies and Brian Boitano was there doing a special skating thing and it was so fun! I always used to watch him in the Olympics and figure skating was my favorite thing to watch so I was totally starstruck and my kids were like “Brian who?? What are you talking about mom?”.
I love Wollman Rink because it really has that old school ice skating feel and you have the city as your backdrop. It also seems a lot larger than the rink at Rockefeller. I have heard the one at Bryant Park is really nice too. I only glanced at it when we were at the Christmas Market there. If we had time we would’ve skated there too!
Another thing I love about NYC this time of year are the Christmas Markets. They have so much good food and cute stuff that you really can’t find anywhere else so they are great if you are looking for some unique gifts. I ended up getting some NYC themed ornaments for our tree. I always try to get ornaments when we travel so we have them for memories on our tree. The Bryant Park Christmas Market was amazing and there is also one in Union Square and a smaller one that we found by accident walking to the Upper West Side at Columbus Circle. There are a few more scattered around too and I would’ve loved to go to all of them if we had time!
I also highly recommend just walking down Fifth Avenue and looking at all of the window displays. They really go all out! Saks was my favorite. The tree at Lotte New York Palace Hotel is gorgeous too! It’s pretty close to Rockefeller so just take a little 5 minute detour (if its not crazy crowded) to see this tree too.
One thing that I would skip is Santaland at Macy’s. Unless you live in the city and this is your only chance to bring the kids to see Santa I would say it didn’t really live up to the hype. If you do plan on seeing Santa at Macy’s then definitely make a reservation. You can do that online here up to 5 days in advance (and you are going to want to do it 5 days in advance because it fills up pretty much instantly). I was really excited about taking the boys to see “the real” Santa there because a few years back they had Santa at a Macy’s near us that was SO good. Even I was convinced that it was Santa but that was not the case here. Even with our reservation we waited over an hour and the boys did enjoy looking at everything in “Santaland” while we waited which was done really well but then we got to the end and the “Santa” we ended up seeing did not look like the real deal so we were not impressed. It would be cute for the younger crowd though that maybe wouldn’t notice as much but I don’t really think it’s worth the hour plus wait.
I was completely amazed by how gorgeous all of the Christmas trees were for sale on every street corner. I wish I could’ve brought one home with us. They were so perfect! And don’t forget the hot chocolate!
Thanks for reading and Happy Holidays!