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Make Your NYC Holiday Season Unforgettable: 21 Must-See Places

NYC Holiday Season

NYC Holiday Season starts with the culmination of the annual Thanksgiving Day Parade as Santa arrives at Herald Square officially marking the most joyful, magical and fun-filled time of year. The christmas season is here at last!

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Photo credit: Deirdre Gartner

Christmas time in the city is like no other. It’s in the air, it’s in the hustle and bustle on the streets, the jewel-like sparkling of Christmas trees peeking out of apartment windows, the numerous outdoor holiday markets dotting the city landscape, as well as the myriad decorations in lobbies and shops. Familiar memory-filled smells and sounds pervade the senses; pine mixed with gingerbread and peppermint, hot chocolate, roasting chestnuts, church bells, Christmas tunes echoing in the chilly night air, and excited laughter of gleeful children.

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Photo credit: Deirdre Gartner

The delightfully visual scene and intoxicatingly fresh scent of newly cut fir trees propped up against sheds decked in twinkling lights, wreaths and homemade decorations. The sight of festive New Yorkers carrying their newly purchased trees through the streets, on top of yellow cabs, rigged up to the back of a Citi-bike and a few even held precariously in the back of a pedicab. New Yorkers are endlessly creative!

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Photo credit: Deirdre Gartner

City sidewalks are busy sidewalks as locals and tourist alike navigate their way down Fifth Avenue strolling by decorative store windows, having their photos taken in front of the famous Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, waiting in line at FAO Schwarz toy store, or heading to the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall.

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Photo credit: Deirdre Gartner

Restaurants, cafes and bars go all out on the holiday décor, from the elegant Tavern on the Green to the over-the-top explosion of holiday spirit at Rolf’s German Restaurant. With 100,000 lights, 15,000 ornaments and thousands of icicles hanging from the rafters of this cozy eatery-well, if this place doesn’t get you in the holiday spirit, then nothing will!

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Photo credit: Deirdre Gartner

When you are there make sure you try the spiced-eggnog or a glass of their famous mulled wine. After a day of window shopping, sightseeing and just breathing in the city in all its festive finery, you’ll be glad you did.

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Photo credit: Deirdre Gartner

Here is your comprehensive list of things you MUST do in NYC holiday season!

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Photo credit: Deirdre Gartner
  1. Visit the tree at the Rockefeller Center

  2. See the Radio City Christmas Spectacular

  3. Shop for gifts at Bryant Park Holiday Market

  4. Meet friends at Lillie’s Victorian for holiday drinks

  5. Visit Santa at Macy’s (no matter how old you are)

  6. Go skating in Central Park

  7. Book afternoon tea at the Plaza Hotel

  8. Admire the Fifth Avenue holiday window displays

  9. Take a carriage ride through Central Park

  10. Have a festive dinner at Rolf’s

  11. Order a holiday cake from Magnolia Bakery

  12. Get tickets to New York City Ballet’s Nutcracker

  13. Admire the city’s holiday lights from above at Top of the Rock

  14. Pick up Christmas ornaments at John Derian

  15. Take the family to see the Big Apple Circus at Lincoln Center

  16. Shop the Flower Market for Christmas poinsettias

  17. Bask in the glow of the tree at the Met Museum

  18. Slurp frozen hot chocolate at Serendipity 3

  19. Stop into Greenwich Letterpress for holiday cards

  20. Attend a reading of A Christmas Carol at the Merchant House Museum

  21. Head to Washington Square Park for caroling on Christmas Eve

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Photo credit: Deirdre Gartner

NYC holiday season is truly The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.

Deirdre Gartner was born and raised in the city of New York. She brings a uniquely personal and distinct perspective to the city that she adores. As a former fashion executive traveling the globe for years, nothing was more affirming and inspiring than when she would return home to Manhattan. Informed by her adventures abroad, this native daughter’s ardor and curiosity for all things New York led her to zealously document both the obvious and hidden that the city has to offer. Gartner’s extensive collection of lovingly curated photographs, stories, and historical details eventually led to the creation of the “Girl in the Yellow Taxi NYC” website and Instagram. Her work has been featured in Conde Nast India, the New York Board of Tourism, StreetEasy, and others. She has been a guest blogger for various websites and has created custom itineraries for her enthusiastic international and domestic followers.

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Karen LeBlanc

Karen LeBlanc is a travel host and writer with a popular travel show, The Design Tourist, and a companion lifestyle blog. As a widely published travel journalist and content creator, Karen is a member of the North American Travel Journalists Association. She also serves as the Design and Travel editor of the national lifestyle magazine, LaPalme. Karen believes that every destination has a story to tell through its local art, architecture, culture, and craft. This immersive creative exploration begins with authentic accommodations where the narrative of place unfolds through art, accessories, accouterments, furnishings, fixtures, and food. 

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