Is New York at Christmas Worth the Hype?

The crowds are insane, every flight out is fully booked, prices are outrageous and all to experience the magic that is New York at Christmas. Before I went to New York in December for the first time I found myself in a conversation with one of THOSE people, you know the ones where everything they say is laced with cynicism. Probably your uncle or something. I was telling him that we were going to the big city on December 10th and I was so ready to hear how horrible the crowds were and how crazy expensive everything was and how, “He’d rather light himself on fire than go there.” but to my dismay, he stopped and looked at us and said…”It’s magical, you’re going to LOVE It!” I was SHOOK. But that’s when I knew, if HE said It was good…it’s gotta be good.

That was five years ago, and I’ve been every year since then…it’s a non-negotiable in the Page household. So here I am, sitting in a coffee shop and planning out our next trip to New York at Christmas. I can confidently say that I know how to plan this trip like a pro, I’ll help with what to do and what not might be worth the hype. This trip is similar to the one here where I walked through how to tackle the city in three days, anytime of the year. But this one has a few more things that will get you into the holiday spirit, STAT. I’ll share our itinerary below for five days in the city so you’re sure to not miss a beat.

Booking + Arrival

We always book an early flight into the city and a late flight out of it. We leave out of Atlanta and fly into LGA and there are flights going about every hour. We like to get into the city before lunch so that we have a mostly full day to see all the things! We ALWAYS stay at the Lotte New York Palace ESPECIALLY at Christmas. They are famous for their beautifully decorated lobby and the HUGE tree in the courtyard, it’s magic every time you walk downstairs. Book through Expedia, they price match and if you aren’t using Skymiles or reward tickets you can get some good flight + hotel bundle deals. With an early flight, we get to the hotel at around 10:30. When we get to the hotel we will check in and drop our bags off for holding until our room is ready–sometimes we can get in our room right away, and sometimes we have to wait.

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DAY ONE – Thursday

Lunch @ Melt Shop – We go here because it’s close to the hotel AND you get to walk by Rockefeller Center and see THE TREE! Ugh, it’s the best.

Bryant Park + New York Public Library – Bryant Park has the most adorable shops set up and there’s another Christmas Tree there that is photo worthy with an ice skating rink.

Check-In

Car to Washington Square Park

  • Greenwich Village
  • Coffee at Stumptown

Dinner @ John’s on Bleecker Street – I have on good word from a friend that grew up in the city that John’s is the best pizza. We thought no better way to ring in the first day with a slice or two.

Dress: Casual

Resveration: Not available.

Top of the Rock – I always say this, but it’s my favorite view as far as tourist attractions are concerned. We book our tickets with the Sun & Stars add-on, meaning you can go twice in 24 hours.

Photo Oct 22, 3 33 40 PM

DAY TWO – Friday

Breakfast @ Sarabeth’s Central Park

Dress: Business Casual

Reservation: Required, especially around the holidays. At least three weeks in advance.

Central Park

  • Boathouse – If the weather is nice, rent a canoe and take a little ride!
  • Bethesda – Cue every iconic movie ever filmed in NY. Blair and Chuck’s wedding, anyone?
  • Bridges – There are quite a few and the architecture on ALL is worthy of the walk. Stroll through the mall and see the artists and musicians, it’s so whimsy.

Upper East Side + Laduree – If you go from Bethesda and cut over to Upper East, It will put you right by some beautiful residential areas to walk through. Cut over to Laudree for the BEST macarons of your life, guaranteed.

We had plenty of time before dinner so we explored more on the Upper East Side before taking a cab back to the hotel to freshen up.

Dinner @ Carmine’s

Dress: Casual

Reservation: Required at least a week in advance. Can book up to 30 days in advance.

– This is your chance to see the charm of the Upper West Side. This is my best recommendation for family style Italian food. After we ate (too much) we walked through UWS down to Magnolia Bakery, PLEASE get the banana pudding, they’re famous for It. This location is especially charming because it’s not nearly as crowded as Rockefeller is, but equally as delicious. From here we grabbed a cab back to the hotel and called It a night. Try hailing a cab, know your cross streets and destination and use cash, cool points go up almost immediately.

DAY THREE – Saturday

Soho – We had a meeting at The Real Real and they have a cafe where we had pastries and coffee for breakfast. I wasn’t into dealing with the Saturday morning brunch crew. We walked in and out of all the shops in SOHO, walked the cobblestone streets and stopped (again) in Laduree for more macarons, because we have our priorities in order.

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Lunch @ Shake Shack – This is the original location in Madison Square Park so obviously It tastes better. We sat and ate in the park (they have heaters outside) and then walked a few feet over to the Flatiron Building. This is a must for a photo, so iconic!

We left this afternoon wide open and ended up doing a little shopping before heading to The Polo Bar for a late dinner, because Shake Shack will fill you up for days.

Dinner @ The Polo Bar

Dress: Business Casual

Reservation: Required in advance. Call 30 days before you want your reservation at 10AM to secure one.

I recommend getting here early and having drinks. They will seat you in an adorable little lounge and bring out snacks, you can sit and drink in front of a fireplace until your table is ready. It’s such a fun experience.

DAY FOUR – Sunday 

DUMBO + Brooklyn Bridge – There are a lot of fun things to see in this area! Dumbo is a cool view of the Manhattan bridge and from Dumbo you can get on the Brooklyn Bridge and walk the whole thing across to Manhattan. After that, it’s the perfect time to check out Chinatown, Financial District and One World Trade.

Tea at The Plaza – This is a MUST! I look forward to getting dressed up and heading to The Plaza for afternoon tea. The iconic backdrop of this afternoon adventure is so magical and creates the best memories. Plus, get all the Home Alone vibes and trespass throughout the first few floors of the Plaza…it’s worth It. We sat and talked for hours and It was just the sweetest time.

Dress: Fancy!

Reservation: Required, at least three weeks in advance.

Shopping on 5th Avenue – Once we were done with tea, It was the perfect time to stroll down this shopping destination and see the beautiful window displays and flagship stores. Then we headed back to the hotel to change for dinner.

Dinner @ Fig + Olive  – This was the perfect dinner spot after an afternoon tea. The portions are perfect for splitting so we went with apps and It was perfect. The food here is SO GOOD.

DAY FIVE – Monday 

Breakfast @ The Smith – There a couple of different locations you can go to, any of them are amazing. We chose the Upper West Side location so we could see that part of the city during the day. We walked back to the hotel to take in just a little bit more of the city and packed up our things.

Dress: Casual

Reservation: Probably a good idea.

Lunch @ The Plaza Food Hall – We went to the Food Hall in the basement of The Plaza for a quick bite, shopped some more and then headed back to the hotel to catch a cab to LGA.

There were a few things we did that are not included in the above, because let’s be real this was four months ago and my memory just isn’t that good. Because of our amazing location, we made Saks Fifth Avenue a frequent stop. The light show is so fun and I could stand and stare at that tree for hours! The fun thing about NYC at Christmas is that anything you do will feel festive because the decorations are everywhere and errybody in the Christmas spirit.

Here is a list of options for eats, drinks and things to do for any spare time you might have!

Food:

  • The Polo Bar
  • Salon De Ning (Drinks)
  • Fig + Olive
  • The Smith
  • Shake Shack
  • John’s Pizza Carmine’s
  • The Melt Shop
  • The Plaza Food Hall
  • Sarabeth’s
  • While We Were Young
  • Magnolia Bakery
  • Laduree

Sights:

  • Bryant Park
  • New York Public Library
  • DUMBO + Brooklyn Bridge
  • Central Park
  • The Met
  • The High Line
  • SOHO
  • Chinatown
  • Greenwich
  • Washington Square Park
  • Flatiron District
  • Madison Square Park
  • Grand Central Station