To kick off December and the Christmas advent, I’ve decided to take you on a journey of Christmas and holiday activities! Having a nineteen-month old, while pregnant, means that all of these adventures are kid-friendly, and extremely manageable. I am navigating nap times, meal times, and snacks for all, so everything below can be accomplished in half a day, or less. Visit this post each day, for a new activity listed below, with special tips for moms, dads, locals, visitors–anyone that wants a true taste of New York City’s Christmas season! 25 Christmas activities…here we go!
December 1st – Head to Macy’s Santaland!
Taking your kids to meet Santa is one of the most exciting
parts of parenthood and the Christmas season. There’s always anxiety (will she be scared/freak out), stress (a million people around you, all with the same goal of a happy child and a perfect picture), and joy (no matter what the picture, it will be a hilarious and/or adorable memory). It’s kind of a rite of passage that keeps happening until your kids don’t want to be seen with you or in dorky poses anymore. And THE most famous of all the Santas in New York City, is the one (or several of all different races to accommodate everyone!) at the famed Macy’s Herald Square. Just like in Miracle on 34th Street, you can head right there to Macy’s (with a reservation, link below), take a tour through the 8th floor Christmas village, and tell Santa what you want for Christmas.
Now, I thought the entire scene was mayhem. The village was not over-the-top impressive, and they had a lot of kinks to work out in regards to the checking out process, and getting customers on their way, but it’s Macy’s, so you kind of have to do it once. The visit is free, and the pictures are optional, but who is going to pass up a picture of baby with the Big Guy? They make a pretty penny (about $35.00 for one printed picture that offers a digital copy), but that’s to be expected.
My advice? It’s stroller-friendly so pack it full of snacks and water, as it will take you up to an hour just to get to Santa (that’s with a reservation), but at checkout, have your partner take your child and stroller out of the photo area. The stroller line was not well managed and everything moved very slowly. Whether your child liked Santa, or not, she’ll be over the experience by then, anyway. For out-of-towners–it’s a crowded area, so the subway is definitely your best bet. The 34th St Penn Station exit is, like most, equipped with an elevator for strollers, and brings you right out, facing Macy’s. Our door-to-door experience was three hours. Now, go tell Santa what you want for Christmas!
December 2nd – Stop in FAO Schwarz!
The iconic kids store is back! At a brand new location, 30 Rockefeller Plaza, three stories of magic awaits, right in the heart of New York City! I have strong memories of visiting when I was a kid, so to take my daughter, and watch her get wide-eyed and so overcome with joy was so incredibly special. This is a destination for everyone! Toys for little littles, a Build-A-Bear station, the famed, oversized floor piano anyone can enjoy, advanced puzzles, jewelry and makeup kits, and collectibles for the older kiddos, and all the candy for all ages. Whether you’re picking out a toy alongside your children, crossing off items on your Christmas shopping list, or just looking to wonder around, FAO Schwarz will not disappoint.
Note: It can get busy, especially on the weekends, so expect, but don’t be discouraged, by an outside line. The staff does a great job controlling the crowd on the outside so it never gets too busy on the inside. I would much rather wait fifteen minutes right away, than have a crowded, uncomfortable shopping experience. Once inside, I felt relaxed to shop and safe to let my little girl down to roam within a close distance. Checkout moved quickly. The longest wait was really for the piano. Stroller-friendly. Overall, a great hour and a half adventure.
For the Website Click Here.
December 3rd – Check out Brookfield Place!
Any time we’re taking my daughter out to a restaurant, my husband and I like to make sure she has ample time and space to get her energy out beforehand! A mom hack, you might say! Well, what better place to run around than Brookfield Place this time of year? The luxury mall’s famed luminaries will wow adults and children alike, and the stairs make for a perfect place to hang out and enjoy a hot beverage (or climb up and down, up and down, if you’re a nineteen-month old). Right under the luminaries in the Winter Garden, you can catch a free showing of the Nutcracker (you’ll have to wait until next year, as their last showing was yesterday), or check out some of their other special events listed on the website below.
Other Christmas-themed activities include viewing a variety of decorated trees, shopping (naturally), and visiting Santa, of course! This Big Guy is one of my favorites for a couple reasons. Since Macy’s Santaland is such a big to-do, it’s kind of nice, especially with very young children, to be in and out of the experience rather quickly. Also, I think his wintery, outdoor backdrop is just so, so pretty!
Lastly, my daughter is a little young, but bring your kids outside to The Rink at Brookfield Place! Ice skating right on the water, surrounded by Christmas and city lights is just too perfect. Maybe not the country winters I grew up with, but a whole new type of outdoor magic!
December 4th – Watch Broadway Under the Stars!
Throughout November and December, you can head to The Shops at Columbus Circle, in the Time Warner Center, to experience a little bit of Broadway! Every Monday at 5:00PM, Broadway performers casually chat and sing select performances from their hit Broadway shows, all for free! Head to Columbus Circle, gather around the second floor stage, and enjoy the show!
Only one show is Christmas-themed, but to be indoors, around the holiday-decorated shops, under the grand color-changing stars, and being entertained with your loved ones, this event just sings “Happy Holidays!” The staff does a great job sectioning off an area in the front for older kiddos to sneak up and sit together. Since my daughter is on the younger side, I got there a half hour before the show for a front row spot to park my stroller. Mom Tip: Bring lots of snacks! Since it is so, so crowded, and you may have to wait a little while, you want to keep your younger children confined to the stroller, as they could easily get lost in a crowd like this one. I keep my daughter seated and happy with food, until the music starts and takes over holding her attention!
For show details, check out the website below. Enjoy this unique activity to spruce up a lil’ ol’ Monday evening!
December 5th – Indulge in Hot Chocolate at Bibble & Sip!
I found Bibble & Sip on a list of best hot chocolates in New York City, so naturally had to check it out for myself. Walking around the city, taking in the holiday decor, and watching amazed tourists, all while sipping on a decadent hot drink is one of life’s greatest pastimes!
I will try to get the name right. There is a very popular British cabbage and potato dish called Bubble & Squeak, that later turned into the nicknames for my two cats, which my brain keeps wanting to revert back to. But, BIBBLE & SIP has nothing to do with cabbage, or the U.K., and is actually more Asian-influenced than anything else. In their Midtown West shop, you can find assorted baked goods and high-end pastries with lots of special ingredients like matcha, black sesame and lychee. While my daughter and I thoroughly enjoyed the Black Sesame Almond Croissant, it’s not the Christmasy treat that earned a spot on this to-do list.
Bibble & Sip’s Hot Chocolate is fantastic! It’s not some grown-up, rich, dark hot chocolate you often see at gourmet shops. This hot chocolate is reminiscent of what your mom would make you after a long afternoon playing in the snow. Swiss Miss as if she’s grown up and decided to offer you the best ingredients and make her hot chocolate to order. Really sweet, and really creamy. The marshmallow on top is the star. It’s a must.
So pop in, grab a treat or two to enjoy in the warmth of the little shop, or wander the city during this wondrous time of year!
December 6th – Visit the Rockefeller Center Tree!
This is probably the most obvious of New York City Christmas activities, but for good reason! The Rockefeller Center Tree is breathtaking. It stands tall and proud in the concrete jungle that is Rockefeller Center. Packed with tourists, and home to the famed skating rink, NBC Studios, amazing shopping, and Radio City Music Hall, Rockefeller Center is a huge destination year-round. Add a Christmas tree, and it may as well be the most popular place on Earth.
This might sound like Hell for some people, but once you’re underneath that big Christmas tree, you’re overcome with joy. Watching loved ones snap photographs of each other, little kids pointing up in amazement–it really is a beautiful sight and truly captures the spirit of Christmas.
My advice? Go on a weekday. It’s naturally busier on the weekends. Hold on to your little ones. There are lots of bright and shiny things, and they want nothing more than to run away and touch them all, but it really is too packed to let young children roam free. Lastly, make sure you take in the viewpoint from the top of the Channel Gardens for your IG pic of the season!
Some Fun Facts: This new Swarovski star (which is so, so beautiful) is the first time the tree-topper has been changed in 14 years! Also, once the tree is done being showcased, it’s turned to lumber and donated to build homes for good causes such as Habitat for Humanity!
December 7th – Enjoy Toddler-Friendly Music with Mozart for Munchkins!
I knew holiday music was a seasonal must for this list, and for my daughter to experience, in general, but finding something appropriate for a nineteen-month old is HARD. She doesn’t have the attention span or patience to sit through a full, seated concert, and a lot of outdoor events are too chilly or do not work with her nap schedule. When I came across Mozart for Munchkins, I knew this was the event for us! We went to a very similar holiday show last year in London, put on by a group called Baby to Bach, so I had an idea of what to expect. Mozart for Munchkins, though, was a much more intimate, sensory experience, and overall a better concert for little ones. Baby to Bach was a more traditional, classical, professional concert, which included a lot of “shhhing” from the staff, yet still an area for kids to crawl around, but Mozart for Munchkins was a more interactive, fun, sing-a-long for a much smaller group and very mobile kiddos. The women that put on the event offer bells, bubbles, scarves, and maracas for kids to play with throughout the show, and finish up the hour by letting the children actually touch the instruments! The two musicians are also moms, so very understanding when my nineteen-month old kept running right up to the piano to press keys as the pianist was mid-song.
Mozart for Munchkins operates year-round, so if you missed the holiday show, you don’t need to wait until next year to check them out. This event was in the Upper West Side, but they offer others, so check out the website below. The holiday show ran around $30 (a little less if booking through KidPass.) Now go find some music this holiday season!
December 8th – Indulge in Seasonal Goodies from Magnolia Bakery!
Magnolia Bakery is a true New York City gem. Started over twenty years ago in the West Village, it now offers American baked classics in multiple New York City shops, as well as in several locations worldwide. Walking around New York, you’ll see Magnolia bags everywhere, hanging off the hands of locals and tourists alike. It’s not a well-kept secret, but rather a treasure that everyone in town celebrates. Magnolia Bakery made our gender reveal cake, which turned out beautifully, and the customer service throughout the process was really exceptional. Now, the Upper West Side shop is our go-to for mother-daughter dates.
It’s made this list for their seasonal classics, which include Christmas and Hanukkah-decorated cupcakes, crinkle cookies, and apple-cranberry muffins (which are so, so good, with the largest chunks of apple you’ve ever seen in a muffin.) The shop is darling, the sweet treats are great, and there are Magnolia Bakeries all over–making it an accessible place to visit, no matter where you find yourself in the city!
December 9th – Visit The Holiday Train Show at The New York Botanical Garden!
This adventure is one of the bigger outings on this list. Pick a sunny day to head out of Manhattan and up north to the Bronx, to the New York Botanical Garden! There you will be able to walk the picturesque grounds (with lots of space for a toddler to release some energy), view the yearly renowned Holiday Train Show, and finish up with a nice late lunch or early dinner.
Accessible by car or subway, the New York Botanical Garden is a beautiful place to visit year-round, but from November to January, The Holiday Train Show boasts impressive replicas of hundreds of buildings and landmarks built from natural materials and moving toy trains, throughout the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory. Tickets to access the gardens and the show have timed reservations and run around $30, with discounts for seniors, students, and children (with children under 2 free.) This show will captivate your little one with the beautiful plant life, moving trains, water features, and the detailed mini-cities. Note: Strollers are to be parked outside the exhibit, which is fine since the conservatory is pretty warm and humid, it’s best to give your child space to breathe! Make sure you dress in layers and bring water to make for a comfortable, relaxed visit (coming from a pregnant woman that is never comfortable.)
Since our daughter naps in the middle of the day, afternoon outings always work best for us. To finish up an afternoon wandering the Garden and visiting the Holiday Train Show in the Conservatory, I recommend an early dinner at the Hudson Garden Grill. The staff is very accommodating, the entire place has a cool, relaxed, farm-to-table vibe, and the food is outstanding. I wanted to host my daughter’s first birthday there, but they only would accept larger parties if the whole restaurant was rented out, and it was either that or her brand new pony. Just kidding, but, yeah, it was expensive. So now, we settle for dinners there whenever we get the chance! It’s very child-friendly and a great way to finish up an afternoon on your feet.
So, if you’re looking to get out of Manhattan, but not too far (just far enough to feel the presence of nature around you), head to The Holiday Train Show. There is a lot of culture at the New York Botanical Garden, but your child will probably just appreciate some space to run around, some greenery, and then a yummy dinner!
December 10th – Taste the flavors of Christmas at Ample Hills Creamery!
I can indulge in a frozen tasty treat or an iced coffee, any day of the week, no matter what the season. So, I found it necessary to include one of the City’s best ice creameries on this list. From its Brooklyn roots, to now locations all over New York City (and in four states!), Ample Hills Creamery is THE destination for intense, inventive, flavorful ice cream. Their seasonal flavors are awesome, and their classics never disappoint.
My daughter and I visited the stand within Hell’s Kitchen’s Gotham West Market, which is full-service and even has a selection of pint-sized, to-go offerings. While I was disappointed in the staff member’s lack of knowledge in regards to the egg used in the Egg Nog flavor (pregnancy probs), I was completely satisfied with the Candy Cane flavor I enjoyed in-house (PERFECT with a latte), and the Ooey Gooey Butter Cake pint I took home. The latter is so, so unbelievable and probably the best ice cream I have ever had. If you’re not in a seasonal mood, GET THAT.
It doesn’t matter which location, just get to Ample Hills Creamery for these seasonal hits while they are still around.
December 11th – Visit the Columbus Circle Holiday Market!
The Columbus Circle Holiday Market is really too cute for words. You hear Christmas market and instantly think tchotchkes no one needs and maybe some hot chocolate. Well, not in this case! The artisanal booths, local, high-end gifts, unique offerings, and delicious food and dessert stands make this holiday market a must-visit!
The cherry on top, Columbus Circle is soooo accessible. Home to the A, B, C, D, and 1 subway lines, and right off Central Park, within walking distance of some of the top tourist attractions, makes this an easy market to visit for a quick stroll, and, perhaps, a nice lunch!
Be aware, this isn’t the market where you’ll find some Christmas steals. The high-quality gifts found at the Columbus Circle Holiday Market will be worth every penny, but might cause a little sticker shock. When searching for a new baby gift, the least expensive onesie ran $25.00. But, for that price, you get 100% organic cotton and really cool designs. For a little bit more, you can support a local artist and her drawings, printed on, again, organic cotton, with proceeds also going to Multiple Sclerosis research. So, why not pretend it’s Small Business Saturday again this weekend, support the locals, and find some really one-of-a-kind presents to put under your Christmas tree!
December 12th – Have a Special Tea at Alice’s Tea Cup!
Coming from many years in London, Afternoon Teas have sort of become part of any special occasion or time of year for me. Visitors in town? Let’s go to a tea. Celebrate Easter? Tea. Celebrate a birthday? Tea. A day out, just the girls? Tea. The list goes on and on. So, naturally, when my cousin (who also briefly lived in London!) suggested a holiday ladies afternoon out, it was assumed we would find a tea!
It’s obviously much harder to do in New York City than in London, or England in general, but they’re out there. The proper teas on my list will have to wait–The Ritz, The Plaza, The Pierre, etc.–until my daughter is just a couple years older and stops throwing things on the floor. For now, we settled on Alice’s Tea Cup, a whimsical little spot on the Upper West Side (with other locations around the city.)
While I was hesitant to give the small cafe another shot (the first time I went was the morning of my daughter’s first birthday. We had a reservation with a high chair, but they accidentally gave all the high chairs away to people who had not reserved tables. We were left searching for a spot to dine before we had a hungry baby meltdown, and luckily found the wonderful Cafe Luxembourg), but I knew my options in the toddler-friendly tea department would be limited.
Alice’s Tea Cup turned out to be perfect for my little lady. The staff had saved a high chair for her and gave her fairy wings that she could proudly parade around the restaurant. She enjoyed the scones–being the proper British baby she is–and even tried her first cookie, because they were staring her in the face so how could I say no? For adults, the tea selection is nice. It’s no comparison to an English Afternoon Tea service, but that’s to be expected. The jam was more like a basic jelly, and instead of clotted cream, they served a dollop of whipped cream (which is almost a sin in my opinion!) But, I was spoiled for many years with something the English do so, so right.
You’ll have a great time, no matter your tea expectations. Have young, crazy kids? Check out Alice’s! Kid-free? Check out one of the top players in the NYC Afternoon Tea game. But no matter what, dress up with your ladies and enjoy a special afternoon out this holiday season!
December 13th – View the Origami Holiday Tree at the American Museum of Natural History!
The American Museum of Natural History is my FAVORITE place in New York to take my daughter. The Pay-what-you-wish General Admission makes it accessible for all, it’s very spacious, and it’s packed with four floors of amazement. I’ve posted previously about the current Our Senses and Unseen Oceans exhibits, and the Dark Universe showing in the planetarium, but, today, the Natural History museum has made the holiday list!
For over forty years, hundreds of pieces of origami art are folded throughout the year to adorn the tree displayed during the holiday season in this Upper West Side destination. This year, the theme “Oceans of Origami,” was inspired by the (AMAZING) Unseen Oceans exhibit mentioned earlier in the blog.
If you want to escape the cold and see probably the most unique way to decorate a tree, go check out the First Floor exhibit (located in the Grand Hall) at the American Museum of Natural History. After you’ve checked it out, beyond the exhibitions, take a walk through the Mammal Halls and then up to the Fourth Floor to see the giant dinosaur fossils. Those will really wow your toddler, but if you have the pleasure of not being on a 20-month old’s schedule, and able to stay longer, walk around and check out the rest!
December 14th – Visit Schmackary’s for a Seasonal Cookie!
Schmackary’s, the Hell’s Kitchen destination for inventive, decadent cookies, has an unreal holiday menu. It’s definitely worth taking a stroll to grab a sweet treat in between the museum visits, tree viewings, and Christmas markets.
Their decaf latte was nothing to write home about (pregnancy problems), but their cookies–oh my! We opted for a Yogi Bare (my best attempt at a healthy choice for a toddler with a base of oats, seeds, and dried fruit, but obviously still contained a lot of sugar. We walked through Times Square after and I think she was on a very crazy sugar trip), and a Red Velvet with a nice deep red color and edible glitter for me! Other seasonal treats include Eggnog, Cranberry Dream, and Dirty Peppermint cookies, and deep-dish cookies with festive-colored frosting.
There’s really a cookie for everyone, so go check out Schmackary’s with your loved ones this season! Website below for store details and online ordering.
December 15th – Check out Bryant Park’s Winter Village!
While I prefer the quieter scene of the Columbus Circle Holiday Market (especially when pushing around a toddler), the Bryant Park Winter Village has a lot more to offer. You’ll find the same level of artisanal gifts, food stalls, and treat shops, but in Bryant Park, you’ll also have access to a huge ice skating rink with special performances and events, and a large rinkside bar and food hall.
Bryant Park is situated right in the center of major tourist attractions, so expect crowds. The entire park platform is raised, so if you’re pushing a stroller and cannot take the stairs, finding handicapped ramps can be a little bit of a puzzle. I have a Bugaboo which is pretty sturdy, so I ended up pushing it up and down the mini staircases to save myself the hunt for accessible areas. I would probably save this market for older kids, as the pushing the stroller gets tight in general, and it’s definitely an area where a small child could easily get lost in a crowd!
My daughter loved watching the skaters. Something she hasn’t experienced yet, but was in awe and confused at the same time. The whole setting is done beautifully. There’s a large tree overlooking the rink that may occasionally have carolers singing below! Make sure you check out the website below to time your visit in line with special events (or outside of them, if you’re looking to access the rink) depending on your interests! Enjoy!
December 16th – Have a Special Dinner at Tavern on the Green!
Get in the true Christmas spirit with a festive dinner at Tavern on the Green! This iconic Central Park restaurant dresses up nicely for the holidays with Christmas trees inside and out, beautiful wreaths, topiaries, a gingerbread house, and more. The dining room has an outdoor feel with a large atrium looking out to the restaurant’s decorated courtyard, making this destination unique to any other eatery in New York.
Since it’s existence (which dates back to the 1930’s!), Tavern on the Green has always been quite the tourist destination. This is probably the biggest downside of visiting the restaurant–especially around Christmastime. It’s packed. And most people don’t have a reservation, they just want to view the place and grab a drink at the bar. This makes the initial period of waiting for a table pretty miserable. With a reservation we still had a fifteen minute wait, so the hostess suggested we get a drink at the bar. I looked at my pregnant belly, hyper toddler, and the hundred people drunkenly scattered around, and let the hostess know we would just wait right there.
Luckily, once we were seated, it was smooth sailing. Beyond that really, we effortlessly floated through one of the best meals I’ve had in awhile. My daughter was the happiest little girl, due to a quickly prepared macaroni and cheese, and Christmas lights all around her. The food was fantastic. Plump, chilled shrimp cocktail, moist, tender chicken, and an AMAZING dessert. Their “Birthday Cake” is the best. It tastes just like a frosted Funfetti cake you would have had on your 8th birthday. I quickly consumed the entire piece while my daughter was distracted with a bowl of berries, and my husband was caught up in a whiskey. Happiness for all!
I can’t say enough good things about our experience at Tavern on the Green. I found the price pretty reasonable for the quality of food, and the quality pretty amazing for the tourist destination that it is. And a nice place with high chairs, and a kids menu…icing on the birthday cake!
December 17th – View the Tree at the Lotte New York Palace Hotel!
Don’t let the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree take all the credit! Just a few blocks away is another proud holiday tree, just begging for its picture to be taken. The courtyard of the Lotte New York Palace Hotel is right off Madison Avenue, and boasts a well-decorated beauty in a picturesque setting.
Everything around this tree is beautiful–the stonework, the topiaries, St. Patrick’s Cathedral as the backdrop–but my real favorite part, and why viewing this tree made a spot on this list, is the lack of people! I have never had to wait in a line to snap a photo, or take one quickly because the crowds were moving in. Nope, surprisingly with its proximity to Rockefeller Center, this hotel and area is still pretty quiet!
Take a walk through the lobby to see the festive decorations that continue inside the grand hotel. If you’re a Gossip Girl fan, stay and have a drink, and enjoy one of the featured landmarks of the show. We had the pleasure of staying at this hotel for an anniversary a couple years back, and it really was a nice experience. So, if you’re looking for a place to stay, or place to warm up with a cocktail, or just a quick photo-op…visit the Lotte New York Palace!
December 18th – Visit the New York Public Library for a Holiday Story Time!
To get yourself into the holiday spirit (maybe by following along with my to-do list!), does not mean you need to spend a lot of money! Tree viewings are free, a coffee and cookie, here and there, is under $10.00, holiday markets have no entrance fees, most museums are free, and today’s holiday activity, a visit to the New York Public Library, free!
Visit the NYPL website to see the list of monthly events for your local branch, but most likely, there’s a Toddler Story Time planned! This morning’s event, at the Riverside Library, was first come, first serve, with a 10:15am start time. (I recommend arriving at about 9:45 before the library opens at 10:00. Any later and there will be a line!) The Story Time runs about 45 minutes and includes a couple books, the typical props (scarves/bells/bubble machine), and lots of songs, delivered to your littles by the animated children’s librarian. Let me warn you, it gets a little crazy in there. Kids everywhere, strollers all over, one small elevator for everyone to get up to and down from the Children’s Library. But, the kids have a blast which makes it allllll worth it. It’s also a very nice change to have a book-focused event. Most other kids activities are all about movement and music, (also great) but sometimes it’s nice to appreciate a good ol’ fashioned story!
December 19th – Indulge in a Festive Treat at the Dominique Ansel Bakery!
Whether you want to try one of Dominique Ansel’s festive little cakes, or stick with his signature Cronut (invented and first introduced in this Soho shop!), you will not be disappointed.
I think out of all the bakeries I’ve visited this month for seasonal purposes, his are the most darling! Miniature Bûche de Noëls, delicate Gingerbread Pinecones, Santa cream puffs, and cakes with little antlers! Sophisticated and dainty enough for adults to appreciate, but obviously right up any kid’s alley, making the Dominique Ansel Bakery a winning destination for all.
All their baked goods, while less festive (despite the addition of a Gingerbread Croissant), are absolutely delicious, as well. Flaky, buttery, golden perfection! My daughter devoured her croissant (because I’m still trying to hide most sugar from her–Santa cream puffs can come next year), and I secretly took a box of treats to-go to enjoy with Daddy after 7:00PM!
There is plenty of seating in the back of the store, and a nice little garden area if you’ve remembered your mittens and a hot drink! Visit this Soho shop for an afternoon coffee break from the craziness of Christmas shopping, or to break up the pre-holiday work day that may seem longer than usual!
December 20th – Go Holiday (Window) Shopping!
While we’re in the age of online shopping, there is still something to be said about Christmas shopping on foot in New York City. Grab your best girls, a hot chocolate, wear layers, and shop for your loved ones before Tuesday is upon us!
If you just want the sensation of Big City shopping without all the dry air, crowded departments, and long checkout lines, how about a little window shopping? Midtown New York is famous for spending big money on decadent window displays in the heart of the city. Check out Macy’s, Bloomingdales, Saks, the 5th Avenue jewelry stores–anywhere, really–these stores really know how to dress the part! Art meets fashion meets Christmas–these are a few of my favorite things…
Couple this seasonal activity with grabbing a hot drink or treat from one of the suggested bakeries, or wandering around after tree viewings, and you’ll definitely have a special afternoon!
December 21st – Take a Stroll Through Dyker Heights!
Brooklyn’s Dyker Heights has been called the brightest neighborhood in NYC, and for this month at least, I can’t disagree! Whether you join a guided tour, or just park and wander around (like we did), you will be amazed by the holiday creativity and diversity in one little part of the city.
The area to focus on is between 11th and 13th Aves., between 83rd and 86th streets. We parked on 86th and wandered by foot for a very exciting hour! We arrived early, around 4:30PM, since it’s quite the trek from the Upper West Side and we have toddler bedtimes to consider, but, honestly, I wouldn’t have changed a thing. As we were leaving around 5:30PM, busloads of groups and tours started rolling in, making what felt like a private experience for us, a little overcrowded. We were able to take photos free from anyone outside of our small party invading our pics. It was a perfect little excursion (by car, as public transport would have taken 2-3 times longer…) to see some pretty amazing light displays.
Let me just talk about these displays for a second. They were truly jaw-dropping. Some of them, anyway. You have the over-the-top, on the tackier side, covered in inflatable snowmen and mis-matched lights, or the traditionally dressed, picture-perfect white lights, green garland, and red bow situations. These were to be expected. But, in between all those (still impressive and very exciting for children) homes, you have some that are pretty special. One home felt like a jungle of green lights. I thought I was transported into the Avatar movie. Another, was completely covered in only light blue–the whole house, all their trees, and an expansive yard. It was peaceful and beautiful. But, talking about it won’t really do it justice. You need to go see it all for yourself while you still can!
If you’re feeling up for a ride, get to Dyker Heights and check out the Christmas lights displays! Grab your loved ones, stop at the areas food trucks and wander the magical streets of Brooklyn.
December 22nd – Check out some Fancy Gingerbread Houses at William Poll!
When I heard there were $1000.00 gingerbread houses in the Upper East Side, I just had to know what they were all about. Although they were slightly out of this year’s price range, it doesn’t hurt to look! Plus, the Upper East Side feel so different from my home in the Upper West, so any excuse to grab a coffee and breakfast in another neighborhood and wander around with my family is what weekends are for!
I have to tell you, I don’t get it. These gingerbread houses do contain music boxes, and sure they’re pretty–much cleaner looking than the one I put together with my toddler–but $1000.00?? On the way home, my husband and I were trying to think of bigger wastes of money than that, and we really couldn’t! At least if you go to a fancy meal, you get to experience the taste, as well as presentation. And if you have sooooo much money you can afford such luxuries, why not donate it instead?
But outside of the gingerbread houses, William Poll is a neighborhood staple, known for its high-end catering and delicacies. If you’re not looking to drop $1000.00, the store does have a great selection of sweets, perfect for holiday gifts, and nice cheese, spreads, sandwiches, and other grocery items. Check it out for yourself!
December 23rd – Visit The Met’s Annual Christmas Tree!
I’ve seen so many Christmas trees this season that they all sort of blend together and it’s hard to pick a favorite. Or, in this case, the most recent one becomes my favorite! You can check out The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Annual Christmas Tree and Neopolitan Baroque Crèche for yourself, and let me know if it’s all in my head or if this one really does take the prize.
What I like about The Met’s annual tree is that it is sprawling. The tree, covered in angels, looks over a dramatic crèche for probably the most traditional and thought-provoking Christmas display I’ve ever seen. It’s painfully beautiful, peaceful, and gentle. A calm washed over me when viewing the installation. My daughter was also in awe, and didn’t try to touch it, so that was a success.
The tree aside, The Metropolitan Museum of Art is just a great place to visit, in general. It’s stroller-friendly, lovely, holds a toddler’s attention, and offers the “pay-what-you-wish” option for New York residents and tri-state area students. As the weather gets colder, it’s great to remember all the indoor options New York City has to offer!
The tree is up for the entire week following New Year’s, so if you do not have time to get there around Christmas, you will still have a chance to appreciate the beauty of when Christmas and art meet as we head into 2019!
December 24th – Do Last-Minute Shopping at the Union Square Holiday Market!
My last market of the Christmas season! The Union Square Holiday Market–put on by the same company that hosts the others listed above, Urbanspace–is basically more of the same sweet treats, tasty food-truck-but-in-a-booth style foods, artisanal gifts, and some Christmas events and music. I would say, there’s no reason to do all three, just pick the one closest to you and you’ll be fine. I was partial to the Columbus Circle Holiday Market because it was closest to my home, the easiest to navigate with a stroller, and had the least amount of people. I also found it to be in the best neighborhood (right on the corner of Central Park), but if you want to be in the center of it all, Bryant Park may be better for you, or this Union Square Holiday Market if you are dining at some pretty good downtown restaurants. Whichever market, I’m sure you will enjoy the experience. I am glad I visited this last one because I got some pretty delicious donuts from the Doughnuttery, and then a last-minute stuffed zebra for my cousin’s 16-day old baby from a little fair trade shop of gifts hand-crafted in Sri Lanka. If you’re strolling around town with your loved ones, why not stroll right through the Union Square Holiday Market!
December 25th – Have a Festive Meal at Rolf’s!
Aah, the last of my holiday adventures! Which is fine because I’m kind of exhausted to tell you the truth! Being pregnant with a toddler around the holidays is a lot, and trying to have a very active season has made me quite sleepy. I wouldn’t trade any of these special memories, though. Take this adventure to Rolf’s, for example. This German restaurant, located in Gramercy Park, is probably THE most festive place I have every been to! It is cozy, warm, filled with hearty comfort food, small, friendly, and COVERED with Christmas decorations. Dine here in a tiny little booth, while listening to Christmas music, drinking egg nog and mulled cider (for everyone that wasn’t pregnant) and eating schnitzel, spaetzle, mashed potatoes, and meatloaf, and LIFE IS GOOD! You cannot help but feeling drunk on Christmas when you leave this adorable little restaurant.
Now, for what to know: Reservations are an absolute must. Even with a reservation, the line is about 30 minutes long. You still have a chance without, but expect to be waiting for a longggggg time. We had a reservation, but the max party size was for 4 or 5 people. Since there were 7 of us, we made two separate reservations, and luckily the host was able to seat us right next to each other. We brought our tiny travel stroller, folded it, and stashed it under the table while we ate. ditched the booster seat they offered (high chairs aren’t available because the aisles are just too tiny) and squeezed our daughter right in between us for a cozy little time. She had a blast and definitely slept well after all of Rolf’s wonderful overstimulation! This crowded, touristy destination isn’t for everyone, but for us, it was magic. See the website for details.
So, there you have it! My December Activity Advent that I was lucky enough to complete with my daughter, and with occasional guest stars that included my husband, parents, siblings, aunts, cousins, and friends! I hope you have enjoyed these recommendations and find them helpful. Please comment with feedback, and any new suggestions for next year! I hope everyone had a very merry, safe, warm, memorable, relaxing Christmas with loved ones!