How to be a tourist in NYC at Christmas…

The other day, when I was out photographing the Christmas windows, I ran into quite a few tourists…as you might expect.  Because I’m nosy, I listened to some of the conversations going on around me…and it occurred to me that being a tourist in the city might be hard.  There’s so much going on that it’s hard to decide what’s worth doing…and there are just some things that you should know.

So I decided to give you guys a few tips for being a good tourist and getting the most out of NY at Christmas…

  • The Rockefeller Christmas tree is awesome…definitely go see it.  But if you want to go ice skating, go to Wollman Rink in Central Park.  It’s cheaper and usually less crowded…and it’s just as magical as skating at Rock Center.
  • The windows at Bergdorf Goodman are not to be missed.  In fact, the whole stretch of 5th Ave from 60th to 40th or so is worth a stroll.  However, it’s OK to skip Macy’s.  The windows aren’t that great and it’s super crowded in Herald Square.  Unless you are going to see Santa…in which case, Macy’s is the place to go.
  • Eat at Serendipity 3.  It’s fabulous any time of the year, but they really deck the place out at Christmas.  If you can’t get a reservation, it’s worth the wait.  And save room for dessert.
  • See the Nutcracker.  It’s beautiful and amazing and you will love it.  Also, if you’ve never seen the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, you should check that out too.  And do the tour if you have time…it’s very cool.
  • If you are walking down the sidewalk and you want to stop and look up at a building or something…step off to the side and out of the way.  Don’t just stop in the middle of sidewalk…and if you do and someone bumps into you, don’t give them a dirty look or call them rude.  You shouldn’t have stopped in the middle of the sidewalk.
  • If you can’t find what you are looking for or figure out your stop on the subway…ask someone.  New Yorkers aren’t rude…we are actually really nice and are happy to help you get where you are going.
  • Please try to keep in mind that you are on vacation, but we aren’t…and at rush hour we just want to get home.  Please be aware of that and try not to block subway entrances and sidewalks around the train station.  We really appreciate the consideration.
  • There are several markets around the city…in Grand Central, Bryant Park, Union Square and Columbus Circle.  They are great places to buy different gifts…and support small businesses.

And lastly…

  • For the love of God…please don’t whip out your cash on the subway.  Someone will steal it from you.  Keep it in your pocket or your purse until you are in a less conspicuous location.

Those are my tips.  And if anyone is coming to NY this Christmas, please drop me an email…I would love to get together for a holiday drink or a little Christmas shopping!


  1. I was just in NYC on Saturday! You are right about the windows-absolutely gorgeous! Although I thought the puppets were the slightest bit freaky…was that at Macy’s? Anyway, the tree was spectacular but oh my goodness so crowded. You literally can’t move because of the hundreds and hundreds of people. I have been to NYC a few times since moving up North and this was the first time I stumbled on the farmers market around 900 Broadway…so much fun! They had so many tasty looking things that I wish I could have bought some and brought it all home with me. We almost went to Serendipity 3 but ended up having brunch at Tom Colicchio’s Craftbar-my choice since I have a bit of a crush on the Top Chef :)

  2. One day I will visit NYC over or near Christmas. It’s always been something I have wanted to do.

  3. Christmastime in NYC is on my 101 in 1001, so I will be seeing you at some point in the next couple of years :) I must be a huge sap, because the thought of Christmassy windows and ice-skating just got me teary.

  4. I WISH I was going to be in NYC anytime between now and Christmas eve. It really was my favorite two weeks there. I had no clue there was a Serendipity 3. Now I don’t know which one I actually used to go to for my frozen hot chocolates :) The stop and staring, combined with rush hour, always drove me nuts. Otherwise I’d envy the tourists during this time.

  5. This is SUCH a great list!!! I love that you make vacationers aware that other people are working all day etc.

    I would LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to see NYC at Christmas I can only imagine how amazing it is!!!! oxoxo

  6. SUCH GREAT TIPS. Seriously, I nearly bumped into 5 unsuspecting tourists who just stopped in the middle of very busy intersections. But sometimes I have to look to make sure a car isn’t coming so I can dart across the street and SERIOUSLY WHO STOPS IN THE MIDDLE OF A BUSY STREET ANYWAY?!? But I digress.

    Hey, I finally saw Wicked yesterday! And it was amazing and I thought of you :)

    Also worth checking out is Rolf’s on 3rd at 22nd. I love that place this time of year–for the beautiful decorations (nothing else like it) and the delicious mulled wine. Mmmm…

  7. I think, when the girls are older and more street smart, we will have to check out NYC at Christmas.

    Also, I’ve wanted to see the Nutcracker ANYWHERE for ages. I should have put this firmly on the 101 list.

  8. Great tips! If I ever get to NYC, I will be sure to seek out more information from you. =)

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