The Quintessential Guide to NYC Holiday Activities

There is nothing quite like the holidays in New York.  From the fantastic window displays along Fifth Avenue to the chestnut stands throughout the city, it’s no wonder why New York is a December favorite.  With so many festive activities, it can be difficult to pinpoint what to fight the crowds for and what to pass.  Here are a few worthwhile options.

Christmas Trees

While the tree in Rockefeller Center is the most famous, it is also the most crowded, and there are many other wonderful places to see Christmas trees and holiday lights.  Bryant Park has a lovely holiday market and beautiful tree.  The Met and New York Public Library also have beautiful trees that are well worth the visit and provide the perfect setting for a holiday photo op (without being photobombed by crowds of tourists).  

New York Public Library Christmas Tree, New York, New York

Holiday Lights

One of my personal favorite holiday activities in New York is to see the trees lit along College Walk at Columbia’s campus.  It’s the perfect activity to get your fill of festive lights and escape the crowds ogling the displays and watching the Sak’s light show on Fifth Avenue

The Perfect Cup of Hot Chocolate

When the weather starts to turn, nothing screams “Happy Holidays” like a cup of hot chocolate.  Two of my personal favorite spots are City Bakery on 18th street and Cafe Lavazza in Eataly. City Bakery makes the perfect simple hot chocolate.  And after the holidays,  be sure to check out City Bakery’s Hot Chocolate Festival in February to try unusual and delicious creations.  If you are a fan of a thicker hot chocolate, Cafe Lavazza is the place for you.  They prepare an excellent rich hot chocolate.

Festive Meals

To top off a holiday adventure finish your day with dinner at Rolf’s German Restaurant or Panna II Garden.  Both restaurants are known for their over the top holiday decor. Some may find Rolf’s gimmicky, but I thought it was the perfect spot to enjoy holiday themed drinks with friends while admiring the restaurant’s vibrant decor and eccentric characters.  Although I have not eaten at Panna II Garden, I’ve heard that it has great holiday decor- it is one of the few BYOB restaurants in New York!

Rolf's, New York, New York

Pop-up Shops

Pop-up shops are by far one of my favorite part of New York during the holidays.  A couple notable pop up shops this year are Tictail Market on Orchard Road, Young & Able on Rivington, and Goop Mrkt in Columbus Circle. Check out Tictail Market to spruce up your wardrobe with their tastefully curated collection of international independent clothing brands.  Young & Able showcases homegoods, clothing, and accessories from Brooklyn based Woman designers. If you’re a fan of Gwyneth Paltrow like me, Goop is a must stop this holiday season. Gwyneth’s lifestyle brand’s pop-up features a carefully curated selection of beautiful homegoods & clothing.


Although you may not be able to completely escape the crowds, these picks will give you a unique and truly New York holiday experience.

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