Whenever I think of New York City I think, sparkly. Is that weird?! Maybe its the shining lights in Times Square or the studded outfits the Rockette’s wear in Radio City Music Hall, but when I imagine NYC I think of the most glittery city.
Visiting during the holiday season between Thanksgiving and New Years is especially magical, so much so, out of the 5 times I’ve been there, 4 of them have been during this season.
With the grandiose Saks 5th Light Show directly across the iconic Rockefeller Ice Rink and Christmas Tree, the adorable Christmas Market in Bryant Park and the Rockettes Christmas Spectacular, NYC is in my humble opinion the BEST place to be during this season.
Thanks to Skyscanner I was able to pull off this last minute spontaneous trip to the city. I find all my airline tickets on their site because they have the BEST deals! Click here to see what deals they have now!
After putting holes in my boots from walking ALL over the city and doing some extensive research (and taste testing lol) I’m about to give you what I believe to be the best NYC guide for a 2-3 day trip. This guide includes specific things you can do/see in the holiday season (November-January). For my neutral/year round NYC guide, CLICK HERE!
I hope this helps you plan the most magical trip to NYC! Take pictures and tag me in them so I can see and follow along!
NYC has the best food in the entire country so this list is hard for me (and mostly consists of desserts lol)
The cutest little Aussie cafe in Chinatown serving, fresh, healthy eats and spectacular coffee.
A little slice of Hawaii in the big city. Broken Coconut is your dose of paradise offering, smoothies, acai bowls, oatmeal, avocado toasts and egg scrambles.
As seen on Shark Tank, this tiny shop will fulfill all your oatmeal dreams. This oatmeal bar offers every flavor combination you can think of, including savory oatmeals!
Sara Beth’s Central Park South
This is one of my all time favorites for breakfast and it sits right at the south edge of Central Park. But better go early or make a reservation because this place gets packed!
Cafe Lalo is one of my favorite spots for any meal. You may recognize it from When Harry Met Sally and other movies. This quaint little eatery in the Upper West Side has the most delicious omelettes and expansive dessert case with cheesecakes, cakes, cupcakes and pretty much any pastry you can think of.
Here are some of my other top picks for quick/healthy grabs for lunch:
Cava, Chopt, Sweetgreen
Rolf’s German Restaurant
I think Santa sneezed on this restaurant because HOLY WOW. I tried to go here on my last trip, but didn’t realize you have to make reservations almost 3 months in advance. You can stop in and wait for a table but you might be waiting a long time. If you can plan ahead, this would probably be one of the most magical experiences. LET ME KNOW HOW IT IS.
After three different people recommended this restaurant to me, I thought it might be worth checking out. 😉 BOY am I glad I did because it was probably the best dinner I’ve ever had in NYC. Balthazar is a French brasserie in Soho by chef Keith McNally. Definitely make a reservation here but if you can’t get in, they have 5 sister restaurants in the city!
The Meatball Shop
Every time I come to New York I come here because WOW. Great service, comfortable, casual feel, affordable prices for DANG good food and a lot of it. You basically get to make a bowl choosing from 5 different kinds of meatballs and sides ranging from noodles, salad and roasted veggies. I’m all about a good build-your-own situation and this place has it DOWN.
Sweets, treats and baked goods
Three years ago I came to Dominique Ansel 30 minutes after they opened for their famous cronut and they were SOLD OUT. I couldn’t’ believe it. I settled for one of their equally ridiculously delicious pastries but knew one day I had to come back. On this last trip I finally got my beloved cronut and my goodness was it worth the wait. They have one flavor a month and this month’s was cookie butter caramel. It was like they knew I was coming. Even though I waited outside in the cold before they opened, they gave us a free pastry and hot chocolate and Dominique himself was there to greet everyone as we walked in. #worthit.
I had no idea this was the sister bakery to Mr Holmes in San Francisco but I should have known based off of the impeccable display, and trendy neon sign. Their pumpkin croissant was THE BEST, but you really can’t go wrong with anything here.
This adorable little bakery is just a hop, skip and a jump away from Times Square and has enough sweets to make you drool. I recommend their famous sticky bun.
I’ve only had their cupcakes until I discovered their banana pudding and now, I will never not get that. A spoonful of this will send your senses straight to the deep south of Alabama and have you asking for all the seconds.
Whipping up cinnamon chimney cakes, the stackery is a must stop during Christmas time in New York. You can get them filled with hot chocolate, coffee or even toasted marshmallows, but no matter how you do it, it’s a perfect snack to munch on while you stroll through the shops at Bryant Park.
NYC’s famous cookie shop! Well… one of them. I’ve heard so much about Schmackery’s and it didn’t disappoint. Try their confetti flavor!
Every time I go to NYC I always find myself here. Their known for their frozen hot chocolate but my go to is their “can’t say no” humble pie sundae. It’s a beast, so unbutton your pants and come prepared.
Van Leewan Ice Cream
I’m the kind of person who will still eat ice cream when its 25 degrees outside. But when it’s Van Leewan how can you not?!? I tried their top seller honey comb flavor and it was SO GOOD. Located right next to Radio City Hall!
Like an ice cream shop but edible cookie dough. enough said.
Helicopter tour with Wings Air
One of the most incredible ways to view the city. This was my first helicopter tour and I’m already itching to do another one! If you want a unique NYC experience you will never forget, do a helicopter tour. The easiest way to get to the airport where you get on the helicopter is to take the Train north to White Plains then uber 10-15 min to Ross Aviation. Took me 4 hours total!
Walk through Central Park
I always make a point to come to Central Park when I visit New York because it’s so calming and peaceful to walk through the trails and be in nature. Even when it’s cold outside, its a great, free way to spend your afternoon.
Saks 5th Light Show/Rockefeller Ice Rink
The Saks 5th Light show is extraordinary and FREE. It happens every 15 minutes or so and it’s right across the way from the Rockefeller tree and ice rink.
Top of the Rock
If you like views of the city, heading to the top of the Rockefeller building is an unforgettable experience. Tickets are $38 and give you access to the top floors on the building with 360 views of Manhattan.
Rockette’s Christmas Spectacular
I cried when I watched this show. IN A GOOD WAY. This is one of the most incredible shows I’ve ever seen and it’s worth every penny.
Christmas Market at Bryant Park
As I’ve mentioned before, the market in Bryant Park is so cute and such a festive thing to do during the holidays. and it’s FREE!!
World Trade Center/911 Memorial
I get chills every time I come downtown and see this memorial. It’s a heavy experience, but a must if you’ve never done it before.
Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge
Just a 5 min walk away from the World Trade Center you can reach the entrance to the walkway across the Brooklyn Bridge. By now you know I’m a sucker for a good city view, and even getting half way across the bridge gives you a good perspective of just how grand Manhattan is.
Walk through the Vessel
Located at top of the Highline, the Vessel is a sight to see. You can enter for free but tickets go pretty quick so if you don’t get the time slot you want, you can pay $10 to go in right away. I was skeptical, but I’m so glad I went inside and climbed the stairs because it’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen before!
It all depends on what kind of experience you want. If you want a more luxury experience, close to all the action, I recommend the Marriott in Times Square or a boutique hotel like Citizen M or Merrion Hotel.
For me personally, unless I’m at a resort on the beach, I’m rarely in my hotel because I’m out and about on adventures! A hotel for me is a place to keep my stuff and rest my head so I don’t need it to be super fancy and I can save money here! If you want a budget friendly option, I recommend, Days Inn Hotel Broadway, Air bnb or on some trips, I stay with a friend!
The fastest, 2nd cheapest (first is walking lol) way to get around the city. NYC’s subway system is amazing and plus, I feel like it’s a crucial part of your experience, especially if it’s your first time in the city! If you’re going to be riding more than 12 times I would get an unlimited pass, if not I would just put a small amount on a card and then keep refilling it as needed.
I think I say this in every guide I make but walking is the best way to travel because it helps you really learn the city and opens up opportunities for you to stumble upon things you might not find! Plus, it’s great exercise so it’s a double whammy.
Uber’s and Lyfts are EXPENSIVE but I think it’s the quickest way to get to a from the airport with all your luggage. You can take the train to and from the airport but it takes much longer and it’s kind of a hassle with all your luggage. I would avoid taking them throughout the city because with traffic, sometimes it takes as long as it would to walk.
Similar to the uber except hailing a yellow taxi in NYC is iconic and I think you should do it at least once just to say you did it. 🙂
I could go on and on with my list of things to do and where to eat in NYC but this should give you a good place to start for the most magical things to do during the holidays. For my other favorite restaurants and things to do, check out my Ultimate Guide to NYC HERE.
Whether it’s your first or fifth time in the city, NYC is the place to be during this season and I hope this guide helps you have the most memorable time.
xx Nicole #DoStuff