Visiting New York City at Christmas is on a lot of people’s bucket lists (including mine). It was an amazing gift to get the chance to visit and photograph it and experience some of the cultural mythos surrounding it. Here are some recommendations for awesome things to check out if you’re in the large apple during the holidays.

During the daytime, you should check out Bryant Park. Not only is it close to Grant Central Station, but it’s filled with artisan vendors and the International Centre of Photography is just around the corner (the Sebastião Salgado: Genesis exhibition is going on there until January 11th and it’s amazing.  Especially if you like huge black and white film prints with National-Geographic-type content ).

New York has a passion for huge Christmas trees: 

(left to right, huge Christmas trees on Wall Street, behind NBC studios, and in Bryant Park)

The Radio City Music Hall Rockets Christmas Spectacular is something that many New York families attend together year after year. It’s quite a show, and I can see why it holds some of the quintessence of the Christmas season for so many New Yorkers.

The finale was this crazy huge on-stage nativity scene, featuring two actual camels, and sheep! I couldn’t help but wonder where these camels hang out when they’re not on stage. Just how big is the Radio City Music Hall green room, anyway?

These giant ornaments are right across the street from Radio City Music Hall.
These giant ornaments are right across the street from Radio City Music Hall.
Around the corner from Radio City Music Hall you can find this skating rink, and the NBC Christmas tree.
Around the corner from Radio City Music Hall you can find this skating rink, and the NBC Christmas tree.

On to the famous Macy’s Christmas Window Displays.

This year Macy’s had a great planets and science theme. Even Neil deGrasse Tyson was tweeting about them.  

Macy’s inside:

I commend all the parents who were standing in the Santa lineup. It was like a Midgard serpent, encircling the entire top floor. All happy faces though. Another classic New York Christmas sight. 

Truth be told, it doesn’t matter if you don’t have the funds to buy tickets to fancy shows, or buy fancy things.  New York at Christmastime is best experienced by just walking the streets.  The areas around Times Square and Central Park are great places to start.  Seeing the city and interacting with people will be some of my fondest memories, and they were 100% free.  The exception is that you should definitely buy a hot dog at some point, and that’ll probably run you about $3.

Central Park is great, and if you’re into museums there’s a whole slew nearby, including the Museum of Natural History, the MOMA, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Guggenheim (to name a few). Central Park is also home to the Strawberry Fields John Lennon memorial (go see it) and public skating rinks.  I can’t wait to come back here in the summer and see it in all its lush green glory.

Leaving Central Park, we found another great Christmas Market near the south gates (see below). It had a real Weihnachtsmarkt feel, and there were even some German guys selling glühwein and bratwurst.

There was one stall in this market with some guys selling the BEST beef jerky I have ever had. I don’t even like beef jerky, and I was reaching for seconds and thirds of the samplers. I bought one bag to bring home, but I kind of wish I had bought five.

It was a great trip and I saw some beautiful things.  I’m sure I missed some things too.  This city is huge!   You can turn down an unassuming alleyway and find yourself in a forest of artists, or a beautiful stretch of architecture.  I’m glad a finally got to experience New York; I’ll definitely be coming back here.

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