Expat Experiences, New York

Christmas in New York

A New York Christmas

Is it a fairytale after all?  Happily, yes!

NYC during the festive period is truly a sight to behold and more than worth braving the tourists and the cold (actually the coldest times are usually February / March so December is very doable if you wrap up warm).

Even the grumpy locals or transplanted locals (like myself) will spare a grudging yet pleased smile at the sight of the infamous Macy’s windows or Rockefeller tree.

The Rock

Doesn’t the Rock look beautiful?

What to See?

What not to see?  There’s so much to take in when visiting the Big Apple during Christmas.

An absolute priority is to swing by Macy’s and check out their lovely window displays.  Each year on 1 December they unveil that year’s display and the windows quickly become crowded with viewers.

After a suitable number of photos, step inside to appreciate the indoor decorations and warm up too.  There’s usually about a million people inside Macy’s on any given day in December (or so it feels), so arrive early or very late.

Macy's Window Decorations

I always love to see the Macy’s Christmas window display

Mum and Dad at Macys

I love this photo of Mum and Dad outside Macy’s – even Santa made an appearance!

Macys Interior decorations

Such pretty Christmas decorations inside Macy’s too

Macys Interior decorations

Fight the crowds to admire the decorations 

Macys Interior decorations

The Toy Dept gets a Christmas makeover too

Macy’s Santa

If you’ve got kids (and for a few select folk, even if you don’t) you might want to take the time to see the famous Macy’s Santa.

You need to book online but still be prepared to wait up to half an hour in a long, long queue but the whole display is incredibly cheerful and efficient.  Once you get into the main part of the grotto, there’s plenty to see while you wait.

Kids get the opportunity to sit and talk to a very cheerful Santa, get their photos taken (not cheap but you can take your own too) and best of all – it’s free!

Polar Express in Macys

All aboard the Polar Express to meet Santa!

Gran and the kids are excited

The kids brought Gran to meet Santa too

Amazing decorations in the grotto

Now that is an amazing train track

Older decorations still on display

Older Santa getting his beard tugged by a very impudent young lady.  She’s definitely on the naughty list.

The kids meeting Santa

The kids meeting Santa – so exciting

The kids meeting Santa

Harry earnestly telling Santa his Christmas list wish

Other Sights

Personally, to take in as many windows as possible we wrap up warm and start at Macy’s then head to Times Square (skirt AROUND it unless you’re crazy enough to step foot in the Square itself) and head to Bryant Park.

Here you’ll find the beautiful Winter Village complete with an ice rink (you can bring your own skates for a discount), another beautiful tree and The Holiday shops consisting of fancy foods and fancy gifts.  A little pricey but you can find some unique products for sale.

Bryant Park Ice RinkBryant Park ice rink by day

Bryant Park Ice Rink

Bryant Park ice rink by night, so pretty

After Bryant Park I would suggest you keep walking up Fifth Avenue where you’ll see the showstoppers – St Patrick’s Cathedral (if you time it right, you can watch the choir rehearse for their Christmas performance and that truly is a spectacular sight); the Rockefeller Tree shining brightly under the beautiful Rock and the light performance at Saks.

The stunning tree and ice rink at the Rockefeller Centre

Fancy a spot of ice skating at the Rockefeller?


Saks puts on a yearly display on a given theme.  This year the theme was Snow White and it was a Disney spectacular.

Firstly stand across the street and wait for the performance to start. It’s roughly every 10 minutes and worth the short wait.  The exterior of the building lights up in a dazzling display of lights and music.  Even grizzled New Yorkers must stop to appreciate this at least once a year 😉

Once you’ve seen the display once or twice, cross the street to take in Saks’ window display.  Join the orderly queue and appreciate the festive scenes.

Amazing light and window display at Saks

Uh oh, there’s evil afoot on Fifth Avenue

Amazing light and window display at Saks

Snow White has a rude awakening but that’s what happens when you sleep in a stranger’s bed

Amazing light and window display at Saks

Snow White and Dopey enjoy a dance

Amazing light and window display at Saks

The Wicked Queen always has to be centre of attention.  Drama Queen 😉

Amazing light and window display at Saks

Don’t do it Prince Charming. Read the room.

Amazing light and window display at Saks

We all like a happy ending but it’s not a good idea to marry the man who kissed you while you were unconscious.  Come on Snow White, pull it together!

Stunning light and music display outside of Saks

Stunning light and music display outside of Saks

Stunning light and music display outside of Saks

Colour scheme change


No Christmas tour would be complete without strolling past Tiffany’s to spot their ubiquitous bows blooming brightly.

Continue on to examine the amazing and unique window display at Bergdorf Goodman.  Each window celebrates an NY institution such as the Natural History Museum and whilst not necessarily traditionally Christmassy, they will easily have you standing for the longest time as you take in the details.

The UNICEF Snowflake

The beautiful UNICEF Snowflake strung high above 5th Avenue representing A Symbol of Hope

Tiffany's Lights

Tiffany’s Lights which always remind me of pineapples

Amazing Bergdorf Goodman windows

Amazing Bergdorf Goodman windows 

Amazing Bergdorf Goodman windows

Amazing Bergdorf Goodman windows

These windows are some of my favourites precisely because of their unusual themes and decor.  My photos did not do the windows justice but you can see the slideshow here.


After all this walking you may be hungry.

Turn the corner at Bergdorf Goodman and head to the Plaza Foodhall which is downstairs and has a great choice of light foods and warm drinks.  Great way to round off the evening and warm up before heading home or continuing on with your tour.


Of course, there is an endless amount to see in NYC.  The Lord & Taylor display is pretty too and popping by the Natural History Museum to see their Holiday Origami Tree is a necessity (see my past blog on the Tree here).

Go see the Rockettes, shop in the numerous holiday markets, get a hot chocolate and go ice skating if you dare!  Don’t miss the Holiday Train Show at the Botanical Gardens and make time to head out of Manhattan to see the amazing neighbourhood of Decker, Brooklyn lit up in extravagant style. Oh, and Grand Central Station holds a special holiday treat for train lovers.

Frankly, the city just keeps on going. Your wallet will be empty and your feet may ache but New York is worth the cold at Christmas.  Enjoy!

Mum and Harry at a frozen Bryant Park

Mum and Harry at a frozen Bryant Park

Ice sculpture?

The fountain becomes an amazing ice sculpture 

Cool Christmas tree at The Occulus

The Occulus prefers a more contemporary approach to Christmas decor 

The snowy park looks beautiful at night

The snowy park looks beautiful at night

Carol singers in Forrest Hills

Carol singing in our neighbourhood

Jones Beach Magic of Lights Show

If you have a car and have not yet had your fill of amazing lights, head out of the city to Jones Beach to see their amazing light display.

This festival of lights is one to save your feet because you drive through the attraction.  On busy evenings you may well need to queue for ages (up to an hour) but you’re in your car, warm and comfortable.

You do pay an entrance fee which can be cheaper on weeknights and it’s also worth booking online before you go but proceeds benefit local charities and the display is really worth seeing.

Stretching over 1-2 miles the light go on and on, covering a wide and varied range of themes.  Harry fell asleep and was so annoyed to miss the fun but we thoroughly enjoyed the journey.

Jones Beach Lights Display

Jones Beach Lights

Jones Beach Lights

Jones Beach Lights

Jones Beach Lights

Jones Beach Lights

Jones Beach Lights

Jones Beach Lights

Jones Beach Lights

Jones Beach Lights

Jones Beach Lights

Jones Beach Lights

Jones Beach Lights

Jones Beach Lights

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2 thoughts on “Christmas in New York

  1. Love all your photos! It gave me such a nostalgia… We just had Christmas few weeks ago and it’s over… Glad you had an amazing time and your parents were to experience the city magic

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