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Christmas in New York: Two-day itinerary for first timers

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From elaborately decorated fir trees to resounding carols, Christmas is a widely revered holiday across the globe. And whereas there is some similarity in how different capitals embrace the season, Christmas in New York is a memory that will live long after the holidays. Moreover, New York has warmed its way into the hearts of many thanks to countless tales, classics, and novels written about the city.

The stunning city has numerous art deco buildings, history-clad museums, and countless theatres and malls to make for a wonderful holiday escape. And in the holiday season, the city that never sleeps kicks it up even a notch with sprawling decorations like you have never seen and carolers humming on late in the night.

And if you seek Christmas markets or Christmas bars NYC for a fun night, you are in luck; there are a couple of ways to make some precious holiday memories in the Big Apple. Here is a complete guide to where to see Christmas decorations, the weather during the season, hotels, and activities you can only enjoy during Christmas in New York.

New York Panorama

Weather in New York in December

Like all trips, prior planning is pivotal to a successful holiday escape. And knowing the weather is an excellent place to start. Perched on the northeast US coast, New York, during December experiences winter. And during the season, New York winters can get quite chilly with strong winds. This month’s average daytime temperature is 6°C and drops to 0°C in the evenings. Snow averages 1 to 3 days in December, and it is a breathtaking sight.

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What to pack for your trip

Given its winter season, you must pack additional layers to fight off the frostbite on those cold nights. Here is a list of items you will need for your trip.

  • Winter coat: A winter coat is a must-have if you plan to walk around the streets during the season.
  • Gloves: These come in handy in the winter season and will keep your hands warm as you walk out to explore the city.
  • Scarves: These keep you warm and can be a great outfit compliment.
  • Head socks: These will keep your head and ears warm.
  • Sweater: Sweaters are excellent extra layers when it gets unbearably cold.
  • Waterproof Boots: Christmas in New York is synonymous with snow and rain. Preferably over-the-knee boots are a must-have to help you walk around in such conditions.

How soon can you sight Christmas decorations in New York

Christmas in New York comes as early as mid-November, but the city really pops to life around the thanksgiving holidays with more spots staging decorated fir trees. By early December, New York is in full throttle, with malls and department stores now joining the wagon with beautiful displays of Christmas decorations.

Where to stay for Christmas in New York

There is no doubt that lodgings play a crucial part in having a successful trip. And finding one in proximity to the attractions and postcard-worthy Christmas decorations should be high on the agenda.

New York hotels don’t hold back when it comes to Christmas decorations. From 30-foot trees to pop-up wonderlands, the hotels deck their lobbies and halls with ornaments to keep the holiday spirit kindling throughout your stay. Here are the best hotels to stay in for Christmas in New York.

Lotte New York Palace

The Lotte New York Palace is one of the best spots in the city to see elaborate Christmas decorations. Its 30-foot Christmas tree in the courtyard is a sight to behold. Two slightly smaller trees in the hotel lobby along the staircase are just as captivating.

 The Palace is also the official partner of Christmas Spectacular and offers a special package for guests staying more than two nights. The offer includes a popcorn and beverage voucher for the show. The hotel is also one block away from Saks Fifth Avenue, which hosts a delightful holiday light show.

Lotte New York Palace
Lotte New York Palace

The Plaza

Nothing in the Big Apple beats the holiday spirits at the Plaza. The hotel team works tirelessly through the Thanksgiving holiday decorating every inch of the hostel in festival cheer. Each hotel room has a 6-foot Christmas tree and a Home Alone-themed package (the hotel was one of the movie’s locations).

The hotel also arranges a meet-and-greet with Santa and has a pop-up gift shop where you can buy Christmas gifts and souvenirs.

The Plaza
The Plaza

Thompson Central Park

Initially known as the Elegant Parker, the Central Park hotel was revamped in 2021 and rebranded to Thompson Central Park. Despite the extensive changes across the estate, Burger Joint remains untouched and retains its divey allure with its graffiti walls and worn ligneous booths.

What makes this hotel a good stay is its proximity (a 10-minute walk) to the Rockefeller Centre, where you will glimpse the most elaborate Christmas decorations and the Columbus Circle Holiday Market, where you can buy everything from gifts to jewelry.

Thompson Central Park
Thompson Central Park

The Peninsula

The hotel’s elaborately decorated exterior during the holiday season is one of the city’s most delightful sights. The hotel spares no expense when it comes to Christmas decorations incorporating garlands, lights, ornaments, poinsettias, reindeer statues, winter flowers and small trees.

Guests are also treated to Victorian carolers on Fridays and Saturdays throughout December. In addition, the roof bar is remodeled to a Swiss chalet theme to cater to hotel guests. The hotel also offers a Nights Before Christmas package that includes a gingerbread playhouse, Christmas tree, candy cane scavenger hunt and more.

The Peninsula
The Peninsula

The Standard East Village

The hotel is the embodiment of low-key luxury, reflecting a chic and grit factor with just the right amount of finesse. The Standard East Village revels in the holiday spirits turning its year-round garden into a winter wonderland from late November to March of the following year. The holiday season at the hotel also involves yurts, hot ‘spiked’ drinks and gruyere fondue.

Two-day itinerary for Christmas in New York

After checking into the hotel, get ready to go outside and enjoy the city’s illustrious and extravagant Christmas decorations display.

Day One

Start your trip by heading to the Rockefeller Center to glimpse the iconic 82-foot Norway Spruce Christmas Tree. The center has become a bucket list item for New Yorkers and visitors during the holiday season. Also, head up to the Top of the Rock to get a 360 view of the city. And if you are an ice-skating fanatic, the rink at the Rockefeller Center is a delightful pastime.

Then take a walk to Saks Fifth Avenue to enjoy the Christmas light show. You could also go sightseeing in this iconic city. My personal favorite is St Patrick’s Cathedral, the largest church in New York and also home to the archbishop. A walk in Central Park is just as endearing, and you could go skating at Wollman Rink. Finish off your day with a late show at the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall.

Day Two

You could schedule a couple of holiday tours for the second day to get into the holiday groove. For example, take a ride on the New York Holiday Lights and Movie Sites Bus Tour around the city, see myriad Christmas lighting, and get insight into the city’s movie history. Your tour guide (usually a New York actor) will talk you through this two-and-half-hour tour.

Also, take the Christmas Lights in Dyker Heights Brooklyn Tour. The tour is an ever-enchanting trip where you will see myriad Christmas light displays with residents of Dyker Heights, Brooklyn and Bay Ridge going all out on decorations of their homes. The once small friendly competition has turned into a holiday attraction. A licensed tour guide will take you around the towns on the 4-hour tour, showing you elaborate lighting and decorations.

Finally, head off to Macy’s Santaland, where you can see Santa. The annual event starts at Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, where Santa arrives to herald in the holiday season. And from then on, Santa sets up shop at Macy’s Santaland, working tirelessly with his elves until Christmas Eve. From there, he sets off to deliver gifts across the globe and only returns the following year for the parade.

Conclusion

From elaborate holiday decoration and lighting to memorable holiday tours, there is plenty to nibble on when it comes to Christmas in New York. The city indeed ranks as one of the most incredible places to be during the holiday season, and with our guide, you are destined for a great adventure in the Big Apple.

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Christmas in New York

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