New York City is magical during December as it transforms into a winter wonderland with elaborately-adorned Christmas trees, spectacular window displays and millions of twinkling lights. From ice skating under the stars to shopping for unique gifts at the many seasonal markets, the festive atmosphere in the Big Apple is hard to beat:
Magical (and miniature) winter wonderlands: Manhattan’s holiday window displays: One of the city’s greatest Christmas traditions from mid-November is the eagerly-awaited transformation of major department stores’ window displays into miniature winter wonderlands, with ornate and ever-more-creative themes each year (think classic fairy tales with a New York City twist). Grab a hot chocolate to keep warm and get walking – stores not to miss include Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, Tiffany & Co., Henri Bendel, Barneys and Bloomingdale’s.
Handmade gifts galore: Columbus Circle Christmas Market, Central Park – complete with concierge: Stock up on presents crafted by local artisans and refuel along the way with delicious bites from the likes of the Macaron Parlour and the Sigmund Pretzel Shop. This annual bazaar (1-24 December) at the southwest corner of Central Park even has a market concierge to help you navigate your way through the sea of yuletide booths.
Shop for one-of-a-kind creations: the Grand Central Holiday Fair: This beloved holiday fair (16 November-24 December) in the historic Vanderbilt Hall houses nearly 80 microboutiques – featuring an array of gifts from contemporary jewellery to presents for pets – all with a focus on handcrafted American-made products. Jacques Torres’ creatively-named chocolate bonbons, spiced hot chocolate and chocolate-chip cookies are firm favourites.
Sparkling lights and Swarovski: Tree Lighting Ceremony at the Rockefeller Center: Nothing marks the start of the magical holiday season like the Tree Lighting Ceremony (2 December) at the Rockefeller Center (aka the Capital of New York City Christmas). Watch live musical and dance performances as an iconic 65 ft. high Norway Spruce is illuminated by 30,000 twinkling lights, adorned with decorations and crowned by a Swarovski crystal star.
There’s a plethora of ice-skating spots to choose from throughout the city. Skate in the shadow of the Rockefeller Center’s iconic Christmas tree, amongst spectacular Central Park scenery, post-shopping at Bryant Park or whilst enjoying Hudson River views at the Riverbank State Park.
Sample price: Apple Core Hotels combine great locations with great value (leaving more money to splurge on Christmas shopping); room rates are from £128 per night (two sharing a Queen room) with the group’s three properties in Midtown Manhattan: nyma, the new york manhattan hotel, The Hotel @ Times Square and broadway @ times square hotel.
Excellent free-of-charge amenities include wi-fi, continental breakfast (think fresh bagels, jams, cream cheese, juices, cereal and yoghurt), calls nationwide, 24-hour business centres, fitness centres and in-room coffee makers. Flights extra – from around £331 pp with Skyscanner.