The holidays are an exciting time to visit New York City, whether with friends or family. Traveling around the city with kids requires a bit more pre-planning, but there’s no reason why adults and kids alike can’t enjoy the same activities!
Here’s my day in NYC visiting some of the top Christmas-y spots, in order of our own little DIY walking tour!
If you plan to visit THE tree, I recommend starting here first as it gets VERY crowded throughout the day. We went before the tree was lit so the crowds weren’t nearly as bad, but obviously it’s not quite as photogenic. The tree is best accessed from the northern entrance (6th Ave then 50th street) where there tend to be less foot traffic. You can also visit FAO Schwartz nearby with the kiddos, but the lines just to get in the store are very long, even early in the day, so be prepared to wait. (Not worth it in my opinion.) You can always wander around the plaza or go ice skating if you wish, or head over to 5th Avenue to view the window displays at Saks and nearby stores.
Next head down a few blocks to Grand Central, which is decorated for the holidays and has a small pop up holiday market with local vendors. This pop-up is very small, but Grand Central is a beautiful place to visit anytime of year so it’s a nice spot to wander through. If it’s out of your way, this one isn’t a necessity.
Bryant Park Christmas Markets
Bryant Park has some of the best Christmas markets in the city in my opinion, and tend to be slightly less crowded than the Union Square ones. (Although be warned, it’s still crowded.) This would be a great stop for a snack or lunch, or just some shopping. Grab some chocolate babka from the Breads Bakery kiosk as a souvenir.
Head southwest towards Herald Square to see the Macy’s window displays. If you’re brave and not afraid of more crowds, it may be worth popping inside.
A newer (as of 2019) holiday display that’s popping up on Instagram everywhere is at Hudson Yards, which decorates inside with tons of lights and adorable hot air balloon display. Go to the second floor for great pics of the display with the Vessel as a backdrop. If the kids need a break you can head over to Camp, a cute kids store that also has a little playground inside for them to run around while you start your Christmas shopping.
Next, head down to one of my favorite spots in this neighborhood, Mercado Little Spain, the food hall by José Andrés which is an awesome spot to grab a Flauta Mixta and a drink from Bar Celona.
Walk the High Line
From Hudson Yards, you can exit near the Vessel and continue south right onto the High Line which now extends here and is able to be accessed from the street level (great when you have a stroller). Walk south through the various neighborhoods in this elevated park that was formerly railroad tracks. It was also a great spot to let our toddler walk out some of her energy after being in the stroller the whole day. Note that only some of the exits have elevators, but once you get towards the southern end you’ll find an elevator where you can pop down to the street level and grab a beer at the Standard Biergarten.
From here you can hop on the subway to get to one of the many restaurants that go all out with holiday decorations, such as Rolf’s (make reservations way in advance), Loreley Beer Garden, or Fraunces Tavern.
A new pop up near the Seaport at Watermark Bar has been making the rounds on social media, but we found this to be really gimmicky and certainly not worth the $20 entrance fee. Definitely skip this one and instead head over to the nearby Tin Building for some food hall eats or to Stone Street for some picturesque neighborhood restaurants. (Adrienne’s is one of our favorites.)
And if you are in FiDi, you might as well stop and see the Stock Exchange Christmas tree which is less crowded than Rockefeller’s.