Spending Christmas in NYC is magical. The holiday lights, window displays, Christmas trees and festive markets are a holiday traveler’s dream. At the same time, massive crowds, endless shopping, walking in the cold and indulging in holiday treats can take a toll on even the jolliest of revelers.
While the iconic NYC Christmas attractions should have a place on any holiday itinerary, you might want to make room in your schedule to restore your mind, body and spirit and put the “merry” back in Christmas.
Local tips for spending Christmas in NYC
First, some local travel tips to help you prepare for, and enjoy, the holidays in NYC.
Embrace the crowds. As one of the most visited Christmas destinations (for good reason, I might add), NYC gets even more crowded than usual during the holiday season. Be prepared for shoulder-to-shoulder situations and cattle-like crowds almost everywhere. There’s really no fighting it, just gather up your holiday cheer and embrace it.
Visit in the off hours. If crowds are really not your thing, but you still want to enjoy spending Christmas in NYC, try visiting the main attractions during off hours (late night, early morning) and traveling during the week versus the weekend.
Limit your time in midtown. You can also make like a local and try to avoid Times Square and midtown altogether. Sure, much of the classic Christmas action is in midtown. However, there are plenty of places to spread your Christmas cheer in (slightly) less packed conditions downtown, uptown and in the outer boroughs.
Dress warmly. Don’t underestimate how cold it can get in NYC. Late December can bring frigid temps and sometimes snow. Pack layers, warm socks, gloves, a hat and shoes that can take some splashing.
Mindful and merry things to do in NYC
After a day or two window-shopping, light-seeking and Christmas tree-spotting, here are a few unique and cozy things to do that will chill you and refresh your holiday spirit.
Hit reset with holiday-themed wellness. Take a rejuvenating break from the holiday craziness with a wellness workshop. The Holiday Restorative Yoga & Aromatherapy workshop at Laughing Lotus seems like the perfect holiday-tour pit stop.
Nurture yourself with a winter-warming spa day. Venture out to a quiet corner of Queens to indulge in the most epic of spa experiences, Spa Castle. It’s like a spa Disney World and you will not regret it. Don’t worry about the distance, take the 7 train from Manhattan to the last stop in Flushing, Queens then grab the free shuttle bus.
Connect with others through food and festivities. Want a uniquely local experience complete with good food and holiday cheer? Enjoy a home-cooked holiday dinner and a personal Dyker Heights holiday lights tour through this EatWith event. For the unfamiliar, Dyker Heights is a Brooklyn neighborhood is known for its decked out holiday light displays.
Enjoy a little nature and novelty. Head to the Bronx Botanical Garden for the Holiday Train Show, a popular experience here in NYC. And for those looking to indulge a bit, snag a ticket to Bar Car Nights which includes a nighttime train show viewing, cocktails, food, ice sculptures, a cappella music and fire pits overlooking the gardens. It’s basically a dream winter situation.
Set intentions for the holidays with a meditation class. There are many places to meditate in NYC, but the outcome-specific classes at MDFL could help you soothe whatever the holidays are bringing up for you. Try the Intention class to help you get clarity on the new year. Or sit in the Heart class to help boost your compassion for yourself and others this season.
Get your hygge on and sip a cocktail by the fire. Reward yourself after a long day of festive sightseeing and shopping with a drink by a fire or a Christmas cocktail. It doesn’t get more hygge than that.
Check out the holiday-themed pop-up bar Miracle at 9th Street at Mace on the Lower East Side. Or head to the Reindeer Lounge in Greenpoint, Brooklyn with four fireplaces and all the cheer you can handle.
Want something a little less kitschy? For the ultimate rooftop winter cabin hideaway, head to The Lodge at Gallow Green atop the McKittrick Hotel.