New York is pure, simple, unique magic in December.
A mix of sounds, lights, savors and colors – besides an unmistakable fragrance of Vermont’s firs spreading practically everywhere – invades streets, parks, buildings, theaters and museums, giving a special and unforgettable atmosphere to whom is in the city right at the Advent time – like the one “told” endless (and often wonderful…) times in the many movies set in the city at Christmastime.
Over a month – more or less from late November until Christmas Day – a series of theme events, decorations and ornaments invades literally the city and its neighborhoods, attracting locals and visitors from all over the world.
It’s difficult – if not impossible – to take part into each of them. However getting organized in advance it’s possible to watch some of them, maybe fitting them in right between one tour and the other of the major New Yorker attractions.
Down here – always according to my personal experience – I selected for you 7 experiences which worth it literally the journey in this particular period of the year – in my personal opinion. My 7 reasons to visit New York in December!
Saks Fifth Ave is one among the first New Yorker department stores celebrating with a suggestive lights sound effects the beginning of the Advent, usually starting from the last but one weekend of November. Starting from one month before (late October about) you can find the countdown for the opening on the official website with ornaments and theme songs.
It’s a public show lasting 10 minutes about, starting in the middle of the afternoon (just it begins getting dark) until late in the night, every 15 minutes.
Every year Saks chooses a theme among the Disney fairytale and the Broadway’s shows, covers the façade of its great building in the Fifth Ave with intermittent Led lights and decorates the window stores with moving scenes and characters.
Across the street – like in a perfect game of contrasts – you’ll find the suggestive avenue decorated with angels with trumpets leading to the big Christmas Tree of the Rockefeller Center (usually opened and lighted the last weekend of November) and the skate ring below.
Starting from November 23rd until December 24th – above all if you travel with your own family and kids – you can book your meeting with the old Santa Claus directly on the Macy’s Departments Stores official website.
Right as it happens in many famous movies set in New York at Christmastime – the first one crossing my mind is certainly the very beautiful and unforgettable “Miracle in the 34th street” – you’ll be able to make your kids seat on Santa Claus’ legs in order to give him the Christmas letter, ask him to realize a wish, to receive a special gift or simply to hug him strong.
It will be one of the most beautiful memories for them…and for you!
Try to imagine Bryant Park – in my opinion the most beautiful park in New York by far – decorated with elegant decorations, stands preparing delicacies from all over the world at the moment and wooden small houses where to buy really particular Christmas handmade objects. And at the center a boundless skate ring set among some of the most suggestive buildings of the city, like the New York Public Library, everything under the watchful look of the Empire State Building’s tip.
Add a big Christmas Tree and a series of Advent songs in the background. As I wrote before, it’s pure magic that one of the Winter Village at Bryant Park!
The Winter Village works from late October until the middle of January. The skate ring is usually open – weather permitting – until the whole February.
One (more than) valid reason to visit New York in December is without any doubt the chance to watch the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, a musical which has been taking place every year since 1933 – generally from November until early in January – in the mythical temple of the Radio City Music Hall.
For the New Yorkers it’s a downright Christmas tradition to respect, for visitors is also the proper occasion to admire the very good Radio City Rockettes’ dancers and admire the art deco insides of the theater.
The old cars of the New York subway – called Nostalgia Trains – take life again literally in this particular period of the year, giving New Yorkers and tourists a downright charming travel back in time.
The New York Transit Museum – preserving these relics in an abandoned station of the Brooklyn subway – between late in November and late in December – makes several ‘20s, ‘30s, ‘40s and sometimes also ‘70s and ‘80s cars and locomotives work again on some lines of the Manhattan subway.
It’s not unusual to meet on these convoys people theme-dressed and find oneself listening to swing and jazz band in costume while improvising downright shows along the route.
Find here any useful info to have a ride on the Nostalgia Train.
One of the most beautiful Christmas traditions to watch in New York – above all if you travel with kids – is the Holiday Train Show taking place at the New York Botanical Garden from the middle of November until the middle of January.
Vintage locomotives and cars move along a path of almost one km through perfect small models on scale (built exclusively with leaves, bark and natural materials) of the most iconic places of Manhattan, from the Brooklyn Bridge to the Rockefeller Center, Soho, City Hall, et cetera.
This year – December 2018 – the show will focus on Lower Manhattan, the birthplace of New York City, with the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and the most representative skyscrapers of the area. Furthermore, even four new locations will debut on the path: the One World Trade Center, the historic Battery Maritime Building and two vintage ferryboats of the South Street Seaport.
The New York Botanical Garden is located in Bronx Park, Bronx.
Every year, right after the Thanksgiving, the Dyker Heights inhabitants, an elegant residential neighborhood to the south-west of Brooklyn, start to decorate their houses, sometimes downright dwellings, with lights, decorations and odd ornaments. Other ones with elaborated representations and animated characters, others with an endless series of led lights along the entire perimeter of the houses, other ones with the most typical scenes of the Nativity with some addition definitely unusual and original.
A tradition turned over time into a sort of competition which a good part of the residents takes part into.
If you’re going to visit New York in December and you want to reach Dyker Heights, you can easily arrive alone by subway – the nearest stop is the line D one, 79th Street, New Hutrecht Avenue corner, then moving easily on foot (a 20minutes walk about) from the 83rd as far as the 86th Street, between the 13th and the 10th Ave.
If you decide to widener your stay in the city, I recommend also two interesting and involving Christmas events, less tourist and very “local” – with Christmas Market, theme festivals and shows for kids – taking place between Brooklyn and Staten Island.