The Big Apple at Christmas is magical and it’s worth experiencing it up close. We suggest routes and events for the whole family to enjoy. The little ones will appreciate it
New York is always a trip in capital letters, but at Christmas, and with children, it is an unforgettable experience. The spirit of the holiday can be felt at every turn, there are lights everywhere, shop windows that look like something out of a fairy tale, ice rinks, pavements full of fir trees and… hundreds of things to do! And if you’re lucky and it snows… no, it’s not a movie scene, it’s the Big Apple at Christmas! and it has a lot to offer. But you can’t always get to enjoy everything. That’s why we propose a list of must-do experiences to enjoy with the family.
2. Visit the big tree at Rockefeller Center
You can’t say you’ve been to New York at Christmas if you haven’t visited the big tree at Rockefeller Center. It’s the starting point for rejoicing in the magic of Christmas and for the kids to enjoy. Its lighting, with more than 50,000 LED lights, marks the start of the holiday season and is lit from 6am to midnight each day, with the exception of 25 December, when it is lit 24 hours a day. The gigantic fir tree is 25 metres high and is crowned with a star made of 3 million Swarovski crystals. And if you add the skating rink, which is set up at the foot of the tree (see below for more details), the Christmas experience is guaranteed!
- Location: Midtown Manhattan, 45 Rockefeller Plaza, between 48th and 51st Streets and Fifth and Sixth Avenues.
- More details: Here
- Other trees worth a visit (if you have time): The Christmas tree and Neapolitan baroque nativity scene at The Met Fifth Avenue, the one at the New York Stock Exchange or the one at the Plaza Hotel.
1. Ice skating in its traditional rinks
A very Christmassy family plan. Ice skating is great fun and if you’re lucky if there’s snow, it’s a great movie! Here are some rinks where you can train spins and pirouettes with the little ones (you can even sign up for some quick classes at some of them):
- Skating rink at Rockefeller Center: to skate next to the biggest Christmas tree, and if it’s lit up, all the better! There is a fee (40-60 minutes). Open until March 2023. It is highly recommended to book in advance on their website.
- Bryant Park Skating Rink: the only free skating rink in New York City. If you don’t have skates, you can rent them for €18. Reservations must be made in advance on the website. A good time to go with young children is before 11am, Monday to Friday, and before noon on Saturdays and Sundays as skating aids are free. Open until 5 March 2023. There is also a Christmas market around the rink.
- Brookfield Place Skating Rink: located in the southern part of Manhattan. There are sessions from €14 and skate rentals from €5. It is recommended to make a reservation in advance on their website.
- Other rinks: you can also find other options such as the recently opened Governors Island or the Vale Rink at The William Vale Hotel (with views of the New York skyline in the background).
3. Stroll through the flea markets or wander around the Dyker Heights neighbourhood.
Christmas in New York is an experience that children and adults will remember forever, especially if you also visit the markets scattered throughout the city, where everything looks like a picture postcard and where you’ll find a wide variety of beautiful souvenirs, clothes, and crafts, and the best part is to enjoy a good cinnamon roll, a variety of Christmas sweets or an appetizing hot chocolate. Some of the most worth seeing are: Bryant Park Market, Grand Central Terminal (which is the only indoor market located in a world-famous historic building), or the Union Square Christmas Market, where handmade items take centre stage.
Another must-visit alternative is the famous Dyker Heights, neighbourhood, where for more than 30 years the residents of this Brooklyn neighbourhood have been organising a peculiar competition to choose the best-decorated house. It’s reputed to be the neighbourhood with the most Christmas lights in the world. A stroll through the neighbourhood while sipping a hot chocolate will help you soak up the Christmas spirit to the full.
4. Attend a Christmas event
New York is awash with Christmas spirit everywhere you look. And that translates into activities everywhere to enjoy. Here are a few must-visit seasonal events:
Holiday Train Show: NYBG’s Holiday Train Show is a favourite tradition for the little ones and takes place at the Botanical Gardens. This model train show features more than 190 replicas of New York landmarks created from natural materials such as birch bark, lotus pods and cinnamon sticks. And it gets even more magical when thousands of lights illuminate the gardens creating a unique spectacle.
Santa’s Factory in the Multiverse: if you feel like getting away from the streets and immersing yourself in a virtual Christmas universe, Spectacular Factory: Holiday Multiverse gives you the chance to interact with nutcrackers, candy canes or giant bells in an immersive experience designed by the innovative studio Artechouse. A journey into another dimension of Christmas, do you dare?
Broadway musical show: another must-see and even more so this season. But if you go at Christmas and with children, The Rockettes’ Christmas Spectacular is, without a doubt, the most important.
Important notes if you are travelling with children:
→ Don’t forget to check dates and times of attractions and events (some rides are long and can be exhausting).
→ Make sure you take travel insurance for the USA – very important!
→ New York invites you to stroll through its streets. But it is colder than any major Spanish city in December. You should dress warmly, and wear thermal clothing. Don’t neglect your footwear and also think about the possibility of rain. In weather like this you have to take care of the children, who will be the first to forget about the temperature and enjoy everything on offer.