When you think of the modern Christmas scene, New York is at the top of the list. Thanks to films such as Home Alone 2, Miracle on 34th Street and Elf, the Big Apple has become the epitome of Christmas extravagance and wonder. If you’re one of the lucky ones who’ll be spending the holidays in New York, you’ll be hard pressed to get everything done in a short amount of time.
Where to stay
Unless you’re rubbing elbows with the likes of Donald Trump, the ultra-luxurious Plaza Hotel on Fifth Avenue is going to be a little out of your price range, with rooms going for at least $1,000 a night. Fortunately, in the city that never sleeps you aren’t going to be spending a whole lot of time in your room, so you can opt for more modest accommodation to boost your budget elsewhere.
For a place to lay your head at a reasonable price that’s still close to the action, take a look at Hotel @ Times Square. A five-minute walk from Times Square, the hotel lets you experience as much of the city as possible and doesn’t charge you an insane amount for the pleasure of resting at the end of the day.
Alternatively you can cast your net a little wider and check out The Soho Grand Hotel in West Broadway, just a 10-minute cab ride from the Theatre District. A classic boutique hotel, the Soho Grand offers you the famous New York opulence without it costing the earth.
Where to shop
New York is a shopper’s paradise, and you can’t say Christmas in New York without adding the word “magical”. One of the most famous and most impressive shops in the world is Macy’s, which pioneered the depiction of the department store Santa’s Grotto in the movies. If you’re heading to New York a little early to beat the December rush, be sure to check out the famous Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade.
New York’s Fifth Avenue is a veritable Mecca for shoppers, and with such a wide array of extravagant Christmas displays and sales, it’s all too tempting to reach for that credit card. From the ultra-luxe gifts of Tiffany’s (note that you can’t actually have breakfast there) to the super stylish Gucci, Prada and Armani, there’s going to be something to scratch that spending itch. If you’re looking for presents for the kids, Fifth Avenue also boasts the largest Build-A-Bear Workshop in the world.
Christmas shopping isn’t all about big stores and chic gifts, either. If you’re looking for unique Christmas presents, head down to the Holiday Market on Union Square, just a few minutes from Fifth Avenue. One of the most popular Christmas markets in New York, the Union Square Market has a variety of stalls selling hand-crafted clothes, ornaments and toys. What better way to bring an authentic piece of New York back home?
What not to miss
Where to start? There’s so much to see and do in New York you’ll need a weekend just to plan your itinerary. A must-see at Christmas is the Rockefeller Center Plaza, where hundreds of people gather to see the huge tree and thousands of Christmas lights. Don’t bother going to the Rockefeller ice rink, though, as it’s overcrowded and expensive. Instead, head over to Central Park’s Wollman Rink near the Central Park Zoo for a less expensive but equally enchanting experience.
Even if you aren’t planning on doing a great deal of shopping, Christmas is a time when stores around New York pull out all the stops to create fantastic Christmas window displays. This is window shopping at its best, and it’s free! Make a beeline for Bloomingdales, FAO Schwartz and Sak’s Fifth Avenue for some of the best displays New York has to offer.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. New York at Christmas offers so much more, so plan ahead to make sure you don’t miss out on anything.
Jamie Gibbs is the resident blogger and armchair explorer for credit-card comparison site Confused.com. Everyone’s told him that New York is just like in the movies, which worries him because that means there are Ninja Turtles living in the sewers.
Feature image by Lori L. Stalteri