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NYC Christmas Visit: Must Sees & Free Adventures In The City

Updated: Jan 14

All you need to know about exploring the iconic city like you live there 🍕🥨🍎

Rockefeller Center at Christmas Time

This itinerary is a 3 day guide to making the most of your time and hitting all the best spots! Feel free to linger longer if you have more days. Have a question? Feel free to ask, I am happy to help you enjoy every minute and save as much money as possible while doing it!

Day 1- Wear good walking shoes and start early!

The 60th Street and 5th Avenue Walk from Central Park to the Public Library, and Grand Central:

You've arrived. Let's gooooo - I recommend beginning this day at either the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Natural History Museum. Both open at 10, boarder Central Park, are amazing, and could easily be a full day (depending on how much time you'll have in the area). Hit either museum in the morning, and then proceed with the walk down town around noon. This route is full of pit stops you can go inside and warm up along the way. There will be plenty of opportunities to eat when you get hungry.

Another Museum option is the Cloisters, in Fort Triton Park – the renaissance museum in a castle overlooking the Hudson. Although not as central, or as huge of an art selection, a real place that will make you feel like you have left NY for another time and place. If you have an extra day this is a GREAT place to wander and take photos. More on that later...

The Cloisters, Medieval Museum in a Castle

The Met Cloisters 10-5

99 Margaret Corbin Drive

NY NY 10040

Phone: 212-923-3700

If you go here don't miss the unicorn tapestries.

The Met, Egypt Me and the Sphinx twinning!

The Met Fifth Avenue 10 - 5:30

1000 Fifth Avenue

New York, NY 10028

Phone: 212-535-7710

If you go here – DO NOT miss the Egyptian section or the roof top view.

Museum of Natural History, NYC

American Museum of Natural History

10- 5:30

Central Park West at 79th Street New York, NY 10024-5192 Phone: 212-769-5100

If you go here – Do not miss the dinosaurs 4th floor.

See Day 3 for more on prices and discounts for Museums...

Once you start your walk down town you will get a real appreciation for NYC. This is definitely a city best seen on foot.

Next Stop: Christmas WOW! Go inside the Lincoln Plaza shopping mall – Upstairs on the second floor are the big holiday stars that change colors and light up – DO NOT MISS THIS

AKA the Shoppes at Columbus Circle – on floor 2 star exhibit ** BEAUTIFUL **

The stars in Columbus Circle, lights that change colors

We are ready to cross over to 5th Ave for our hike!

*Begin your walk headed East along 60th Street, the border of Central Park, at Columbus Circle

*Walk from West to East along the bottom of Central Park to 5th Ave

*Eat hot dogs/ good street food (also good and cheap souvenirs in this area)

*Wander into Central Park and see some really awesome sites/ landscapes

*Do a little pit stop for Rock Climbing in Central Park

*Start walking down 5th Ave – admire windows, street lit snow flakes and take your time window shopping.

There are Decorations all around

Windows are always displayed well!

5th Avenue –

5th Avenue Snowflakes line the road

Even if you can't afford to shop at Cartier or Prada, you must stroll down NY's famous shopping row. Have your own little breakfast at Tiffany's or peek into shops along the way. There are also more accessible options like H&M and Sephora. Apple and Rolex are impressive pit stops also.


*Dress warm! Invest in those gloves that allow you to touch your phone screen so you don't have to freeze every time you want to take a picture!

*Walking from fifth avenue and 60 St. (Central Park) going South in direction, plan the following stops: Rockefeller Center, St. Patrick's Cathedral, The New York Public Library and stop in Bryant Park's Winter Wonderland. You have a few hours, and want to be by the Chrysler building by dusk to watch the sun setting. Check your sun set time and take time wandering.... *Walk over to The Plaza, act like you’re staying there, just stride into the Grand Lobby. Get a good look at the Palm Court Restaurant, and all the shops inside; then stroll out like you’re going somewhere, as the dressed up bellmen opens the big doors for you. OK...then you’re back on 5th Avenue, and Trump Tower is just across the street, with Tiffany's beside it. First, go into Tiffany's and oooh and aaah at the Tiffany Diamond. Then hit the Trump Tower, under the scrutiny of lots of guards. Wander all around the atrium, go up the escalator, and enjoy the views. Next stops are Bergdorf Goodman and Sax. Farther down 5th Ave is St. Pat's Cathedral and Rockefeller Center to explore. That little stretch of 5th is a GREAT thing to do with kids who are old enough to appreciate it, and it's free. It’s also hard not to be impressed no matter how old or young you are. The lights and the cold, along with the city hustle and bustle are like no other place in the world.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral - stop for art and prayer

(Right across from Tree)

Address: 460 Madison Avenue, New York City, NY 10022

Phone Number: +1 212-753-2261

Go inside, warm up, see beautiful architecture. St. Pat’s is right across from Rockefeller Center and next door to Saks Fifth Ave. dept. store. The place is always full of tourists taking photos. Go inside and warm up! See Christmas displays and admire the beauty. People walk around inside looking at the many displays, and there is usually quite a crowd.

*If you're exploring the holiday windows, be sure to stop long enough outside Saks Fifth Avenue to enjoy the light show (it runs every 8 minutes or so).

Rockefeller Tree 2014

Rockefeller Plaza – STOP FOR TREE

The Tree! This Plaza holds many people each day and night awed by the Christmas scene

Address: 45 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10111

Walk around the square plaza. See the tree and angels from a variety of view points and find the best photo! NY never skimps on Christmas spirit, although the crowd may be difficult and the weather cold!

Right across from the Tree is Sax 5th Avenue, their light up window shows are part of the reason you are here. Check it out!

KEEP walking down 5th Ave enjoying the displays until you reach the….

NY Public Library, climb the step the 4th floor is worth the walk !

NY Public Library

*When it opened, the NYPL was the largest marble building in the country, and home to over a million books – you will know it by the two large marble lions on either side of the steps.

Warm up and go up to the 4th floor for some REAL architectural beauty.

476 Fifth Avenue (42nd St and Fifth Ave)

New York, NY, 10018

(917) 275-6975

Regular Hours:

SUN - 1 PM–5 PM

MON - 10 AM–6 PM




Bryant Park – STOP to take in the majesty of the Chrysler Building rising up over the Public Library (bonus: watch at dusk as the tower begins to glow). Bryant Park is a 9.603-acre privately managed public park located in the New York City borough of Manhattan. It is located between Fifth and Sixth Avenues and between 40th and 42nd Streets in Midtown Manhattan.

There is a Winter Wonderland exhibit set up here and you can walk through and get candy, Hot Cocoa, see cool stuff AND ICE SKATE FOR FREE – if you have your own skates. If not you can rent them! Fun village and by now it should be getting dark. The Christmas lights begin to twinkle right on time.

Bryant Park Winter Wonderland Tree

From there….

Walk over to….

Grand Central Terminal

Address: 89 E 42nd St, New York, NY 10017

89 E 42nd St, New York, NY 10017

(212) 340-2583

Grand Central Terminal is a commuter rapid transit railroad terminal at 42nd Street and Park Avenue in Midtown Manhattan and.... Great place for eating – if you want fast and cheap try the food court, also to warm up – or stop at the Oyster Bar if that more meets your needs. There is a whispering gallery outside of the Oyster Bar if you are into that sort of thing. Look up! The Zodiac ceiling, the Clock, you will feel like you’ve been there before because these are featured in so many places. From there, catch a train up to Broadway/ Times square if you don’t want to walk…. Or if its too cold! It would not be cool to say you went to NY and didn’t ride the subway. There are usually some street musicians down there playing, and maybe a hustler offering to give you a ticket for some cash…. Keep your eyes open and look like you know where you are going!

Broadway – Cool strip to walk and people see, if this is not your thing skip and walk through Times Square. DO NOT GO TO Central Park in Dark. Stay in busier areas.

If you want to see a show, and don't care what you see (and don't mind waiting in line), snag discounted, day-of tickets at the TKTS booth in Times Square. It opens each afternoon and offers tickets that haven't yet sold at 20-50% off. The TKTS app will tell you what's available each day. Arrive at the booth early, as the lines will get long. Head off of Times Square for better pre- and post-show food and drink. Restaurant Row (46th St. between Broadway and 9th Ave) has a lot of great options, as does Hell's Kitchen. You will experience shorter lines at the TKTS booths at South Street Seaport or the Brooklyn location.

Question: Can I really go to a Broadway show in casual clothing?

Answer: Yes, that's what most people are doing now.

If it fits your traffic pattern and you prefer to freshen up, feel free- If not do not miss the opportunity!

ALL of that was one well planned day – the 5th Avenue adventure! That is the Christmas time MUST!

If you followed this plan your route looks like this:

This shows beginning at the Museum of Natural History which makes the easiest traffic pattern)

Shops at Columbus Circle, Cross Central Park South, Walk down 5th Ave!

Day 2:

Lower Manhattan Day!

The Spirit of NY down in the financial district will move you like nowhere else. This day is not as spread out as the first, there is a lot of action clumped into the Lower Manhattan area. Walking will be the fastest way to navigate the busy streets. Just take a taxi, Uber or train to the Statue of Liberty to begin.

Today’s stops:

Statue of Liberty/ Ellis Island/ Battery Park

National Museum of the Native American

The Bull

The freedom tower and WTC memorial

Liberty Park

Trinity Church

South Street Sea Port

Statue of Liberty –

If you know you are coming and want to see this attraction, book your tickets in advance.

Tickets are $25.50/ person for a reserve or pedestal ticket, $28.50 for crown access, and sell out 6 weeks in advance typically. So check your options as soon as you know your travel dates. Late afternoon tours, after 2PM and 3PM, will not have enough time to stop at Ellis Island Immigration Museum.

Regardless of if you are going up into the statue or not, the ferry ride and Ellis Island are worth the trip. The views of the skyline, historical presence and monumental significance are awe inspiring. Dress for the weather, plan for some lines and a security check to enter.