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New York Christmas Route

Every winter, New York City is covered in Christmas Lights and is transformed into a dazzling, glistering winter wonderland. Revel in the magic of the twinkling Christmas window displays at the famous warehouses, visit the holiday markets at Central Park, and skate the ice rink around Rockefeller Center. In this New York Christmas Route, we’ll take you through some of the highlights to discover during the merriest time of the year.


Route info

  • Route name: New York Christmas Route
  • Suggested duration: One day. Actual walking time is around 3 hours.
  • Best on foot
  • Distance: 14 KM
  • Best time of the year: End of November until December 24th
  • Highlights: Bryant Park Winter Village, origami decorated trees, and ice rinks.


  • The New York Christmas Route


    Start your route with a big bang at Bryant Park Winter Village. This Midtown Manhattan’s winter wonderland combines 125 stands, with different offerings from apparel and clothing to seasonal food from local restaurants, to an ice skating rink. This ice skating rink is the only New York City rink with free admission, which means you can expect to wait in line for a while.




    Winter Village at Bryant Park


    From Bryant Park Winter Village, head over to the most beautiful window shopping fronts you’ll get to see in the city, at Saks Fifth Avenue. This year’s theme of the Christmas display is “the land of 1000 delights” and is showcasing colorful landscapes of candy and fashion. Just around the corner, you’ll come across another highlight of the route at the Rockefeller Center. The lighting of 44,000 lights of the 27-meter Christmas tree is the official start of the holiday season at the end of November. Next to the tree, you’ll find the ice skating rink to show off some of your twirls and spins.




    The Rockefeller Christmas Tree


    Time to head north and visit some Christmas markets! Although you can find markets throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn, like the Chelsea Christmas Market, you’ll come across the Columbus Circle Holiday Market on your route towards Central Park. The annual market has over 100 booths and is runned by the same people behind the Union Square farmer’s market, which promises an abundance of handmade products and snacks from local craftsmen and women.


    The best way to reach the next stop on the route is by walking on the Central Park West Lane, towards the Lincoln Center Plaza. At Lincoln Center Plaza you’ll be able to view the ultimate Christmas ballets of all ballets: Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker. Since 1954, the New York City Ballet puts on this performance during the holiday season, and the famed artistic director, George Balanchine, is directing this year’s rendition. Although tickets are fairly cheaper in November, the December performances give you an extra jolly feeling during in the festival season.




    Nutcracker at Lincoln Center - Photo: NYC theater


    Continue your route on the Central Park West lane, you’ll arrive at the American Museum of National History. For 50 years, the museum has the tradition of decorating their Christmas tree with origami designs. On the 4-meter tree, you can count over 1000 origami models, created by volunteers since March. Wander through the Central Park and you'll reach the Wollman ice skating rink. If you’re really enthusiastic to go ice-skating, this is probably the most sensible choice of ice rinks, as the lines are relatively short here. The additional bonus of this ice skating rink is the beautiful surroundings of skyscrapers and nature around you while practicing your twirls.


    A Christmas trip to the United States wouldn’t be complete without taking a picture with Santa! As many of the greater department stores offer a snapshot with the winter king, a trip to Bloomie’s Santaland in Bloomingdale’s warehouse will give you the shorter lines. While paying a minimum of $22 for your photo package, don’t forget to look around, as Bloomingdale’s also has one of the most beautiful Christmas window displays in the city.




    Santa at Bloomie's Santaland


    Although the Christmas markets offer plenty of seasonal treats, nothing beats delicious German food and beers in a restaurant. Completely decorated in holiday decor during most of the year, Rolf’s Restaurant is completely ‘lit’. This place looks as if Santa's workshop landed in the middle New York, fully decorated in ornaments and tinsel. With large portions of German dishes, for example: sausages and sauerkraut, this restaurant is the place to refuel for the last part of the route.




    Photo by: Rolf's German Restaurant


    The STORY Christmas shop is not typically on the Christmas to-do lists, but comes highlight reccomended when visiting NYC. The larger-than-life concept store has over 2000 perfect Christmas gifts to choose from and the decorations of the store is inspired by the ‘The Greatest Snowman’ this year. On Saturdays, the concept even invited local food trucks to provide snack while you shop (until the weekend of December 23rd). Forget the usual knick-knacks from the Christmas markets and bring something home to remember.


    The final destination for this New York Christmas Route is a spot that cannot be missed in any Christmas route: Macy’s. The world famous department store is known for creating Christmas window displays that people talk about for years, and this year is no exception. This year’s display is called ‘Believe,’ and is dedicated to those who slightly lost their faith of the magical holiday season. The six windows each show off an iconic holiday scene, such as Santa’s North Pole and the communication station.




    Macy's window display 2017 - Photo: Diane Bondareff for AP


    Suggested reading for Christmas:




    Columbus Circle Holiday Market - Photo: Charley Lhasa




    Origami tree at AMNH - Photo: NYC guide




    Photo by: STORY home for holidays


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