City Vacations

New York During the Holidays: What to See and Do With the Kids

Last updated 14th May 2018

Why Go

There is no place better on this Earth to ring in the holidays than New York City where the Big Apple becomes a family’s winter wonderland filled with wide-eyed wonder and life-long family memories. It truly is something for the bucket list. The stores’ stunning Christmas windows bring magic to life on the streets of Fifth Avenue and will dazzle young and old. The windows come alive with twirling, glowing and musical displays that are nearly as show stopping as what can be found on Broadway. Maybe even better because looking at windows are free! Entire buildings become a musical light show and nearly every single place you visit is dripping with garland, wreaths and lights. The famed Rockefeller tree towers above the quaint, but busy, ice skating rink below. And the Rockettes are kicking in the New Year right.

Where to Go

It’s all about location, location, location! There is an endless array of hotel options in New York but this is Christmas, so the closer you stay near Fifth Avenue the merrier you’ll be! There you will be in the heart of the action and enjoy the whimsical holiday windows, Rockefeller Center’s famed tree and ice skating rink and the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall. Since your traveling at the most popular time of the year in New York, this is not the time to go bargain hunting for hotels. Spend the extra money for a nice hotel near Fifth Avenue. You have been good all year, right? Splurge a little.


What to Do

First, get a map of the stores’ holiday windows displays, which will ensure you don’t miss one twinkle and hit the streets with some comfy warm clothes and shoes. Walking the windows route, in daylight and again at night, provides a completely different experience as you gaze in holiday wonder. Rockefeller Center is right smack dab next to Saks Fifth Avenue and its glorious windows, so it’s the best place to start your adventure. Remember it’s crowded so be sure to keep hold of little hands. New York is busy, but New York at Christmas is busier. Secure all your tickets in advance if you can, including the Radio Music City Hall Christmas Spectacular. The famed Rockettes steal the show and you can even purchase discounted photograph options so you may take a family photo with a real Rockette. For a truly unforgettable Santa experience, head to the famed Plaza New York, where all are invited to visit with Santa from the day after Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve. Photographs are available for purchase starting at a reasonable $29.99 and you get to tour the iconic hotel and perhaps enjoy a discounted and pre-fixe menu at their charming eateries to boot! And what visit is complete without a trip to Central Park, where you can see where “Elf” had his famous snowball fight! Kids will love to snuggle under blankets and enjoy a hot chocolate during their horse-drawn carriage tour of the park. Plan more time then you need, as you may also enjoy donning some skates at the park’s Wollman Rink or grabbing a bite to eat at Tavern on the Green. And do not miss the holiday markets of handmade crafts at Union Square or Bryant Park, which are open yearly from mid-November to Christmas Eve. There you can find the perfect souvenir, or Christmas present, to take back home.


Getting Around

If you choose the right hotel near 5th Avenue, most of the major holiday sights will be easily accessible on foot. Subways can be a little intimidating if you are not accustomed to the New York minute and dragging children in tow can make it more stressful. Taxis are always available, but don’t forget about the handy other options for bouncing around town like Lyft or Uber. Just remember to personally pin where you are standing, as the “location” service is a little trickier on the crowded streets. And consider choosing the private car option as sharing a ride with another rider can make you frustratingly behind.


Written by Julie Hostetter