Friends, happy 2019! December was a whirlwind – a wonderful whirlwind. But it’s so nice to be getting back to a normal routine and to be writing and creating and thinking again. I’m really excited for this year.
As a lot of you know, for Christmas this year, we gave our kids a trip to New York and DC. We’ve done a trip gift the last two years and it is the best! I have to say, in 2017, we didn’t get quite the reaction we wanted from our kids – I think they didn’t quite know what to make of it, they had a hard time visualizing it, etc.
But this past Christmas, we packaged it up well with fun activities, and had talked New York at Christmas up the entire month. Our kids are old enough that they totally understood the magic of New York at Christmas and could really picture it, but they’re still young enough that they didn’t pick up on all the hints we were giving, haha. We kept talking about how magical New York is at Christmas, how huge the Rockefeller tree is anytime we saw another big tree, watched clips of the Rockettes and NYC Ballet Nutcracker, etc. So when they found out, they were OVER the moon. It was so fun to watch their reaction.It can be a little overwhelming deciding what to do in New York, especially around the holidays. There is just so much to do! So if you’re wondering what to do in New York at Christmastime, you’re in luck – we loved every minute of our trip and I’m excited to share.
We flew out the day after Christmas (which I would…not recommend. ha.) and spent 3 days in New York before heading down to my parents’ house in DC. We had an early flight so we were sure to take our inflatable leg rests on the plane with us for naps. The kids took their awesome folding travel backpacks which are super lightweight, and each had their own stuffed animals, snacks, water bottle, and an activity or two (Toone was so excited to pull out his new Mercy Watson book he got for Christmas, and we took a small bag of Click a Bricks and LEGOs. Kina was very content with her Magic Treehouse book about New York, and Nat flew through a few of those on the kids’ Kindle Fire and couldn’t wait to pull out some math challenges with his new Skilly Billy).We’ve visited New York a bunch before (especially while living in Philly/DC for 14 years), so we knew of quite a few things, but we also did a few that were new to us that we’d wanted to try for years.
Here’s my version of a perfect 3-day itinerary for New York at Christmastime!
- Ice Skating at Bryant Park
- Bryant Park Holiday Market
- New York Public Library
- Rockettes Christmas Spectacular
From there, if you have extra time, take a while to wander the city (or perhaps head back for a nap!). If your day has been more leisurely, head straight over to the Rockettes Christmas Spectacular! This is an absolute must-do for Christmas in New York. The tickets can be pricey, but you can sometimes find discounts if you book through Visa or American Express. Regardless, it’s worth ponying up the money because it is magical!
- The Met or AMNH
- NYC Ballet Nutcracker
- Shop windows
(Tip: The Met is open until 9pm on Friday and Saturday nights. If you’re not exhausted, go around 7pm and it will be SO much quieter. We love it there then!! We saw the Egyptian temple, some armor, and some 19th century European paintings, plus the tree, in just over an hour.)
After lunch, head to the Lincoln Center for the NYC Ballet’s performance of Nutcracker. The NYC Ballet set is so iconic and beautiful, especially in the 2nd act! If it’s your first time taking kids (or even if not!), here’s a list of 7 tips to prepare your kids to see the Nutcracker. It’s such a special and magical experience, especially when everyone is ready for it.
(We honestly debated whether we should see it as we’d already seen the SF Ballet one this season, plus my daughter had performed in her ballet company one that we’d seen, and her kindergarten class put on a mini version. But our kids LOVE Nutcracker, and we knew if we told them we were going to New York and weren’t seeing Nutcracker, they’d be super disappointed. Sure enough, it was the first thing they asked, it was the activity for which they were most excited, and the favorite thing we did for both Nat and Kina (Toone’s fave was the Rockettes. So if your kids are familiar with the story/music/dancing, it’s so special to go live.)
- Plaza Hotel Eloise breakfast
- NYC Botanical Gardens train show
- Seaglass Carousel & Brooklyn Bridge OR The Cloisters
From there, if you’re up for it, head all the way downtown to get some lunch as well as ride the Seaglass Carousel. It’s a bit of a trek from up there but the carousel is, by far, the most beautiful carousel we’ve ever ridden. You get to sit inside gorgeous translucent glass sea animals and ride up and down to beautiful music and lights. It’s not holiday-specific but it IS magic. From there, if you’re feeling adventurous, you can walk the Brooklyn Bridge, or maybe you can just walk to the water to see it instead. If you do make it all the way to Brooklyn, be sure to stop for pizza at Juliana’s.
If you don’t want to head all the way back downtown, go from the Botanical Garden to the Met Cloisters, one of my very favorite museums in the city. It’s surprisingly fun for kids with all the beautiful courtyards and fun stone windows and unicorn tapestries, and it has an extremely well-curated gift shop. Such a delight.
There are tons of other wonderful things to do at Christmastime and otherwise while in New York, and there’s no way you’ll be able to do them all (especially on a short time frame). But this will definitely put you in a festive mood and invite some Christmas cheer. That said – what did I miss? Any New York Christmas favorites that are must dos for you? Or if NYC feels overwhelming, here are some wonderful small towns to visit for Christmas!