• A Guide to the Holiday Season in New York City

    A Guide to the Holiday Season in New York City

Rows of Christmas trees line the streets and glittering lights are shining bright everywhere you look. It’s no secret that NYC is magical during the month of December. Let us guide you through an unforgettable holiday season in the city.

Best Holiday Season Activities in NYC

A trip to New York City is always a good idea, but there’s truly no better time than the holiday season. The city boasts an array of festive happenings like the legendary Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, ice skating, light festivals, and the best shopping of the year. Best of all, The James NoMad is the perfect place to set up camp and find refuge from all the excitement. The hotel is nestled in the Flatiron NoMad area, conveniently located near many of the city’s holiday happenings.

If you’re searching for a very merry holiday season, this guide can help you navigate all the must-do activities in the city.

Holiday Markets

Let’s be honest, a trip to New York City without a shopping is like the holiday season without snow—it just doesn’t feel right! It isn’t a proper Christmas in the city without visiting the holiday markets. One of the most prominent is the Union Square Holiday Market, which has been named one of the best in the United States. It welcomes 185 vendors, each featuring unique gifts created by local artists, craftsmen, and entrepreneurs. Another amazing market is The Winter Village at Bryant Park, just a 15-minute walk from The James NoMad. The Winter Village hosts artists from all over the world, and offers ice skating and curling at their curling cafe and bar!

A Guide to the Holiday Season in New York City 1

Ice Skating Rinks

Speaking of skating in Bryant Park, their legendary Rink is one of the best in Manhattan. It’s larger than any other Manhattan rink, and is free if you bring your own skates. If you’re not someone that travels with their own ice skates (can’t imagine many do), no worries, they have rentals starting at $15. You can avoid waiting in line by reserving your skate time online ahead of time.

If you’re looking for the quintessential “Christmas in New York” picture-perfect moment, you must ice skate at Rockefeller Center. You can walk up 5th Avenue from The James NoMad, starting at our own Winter Wonderland Windows, and see all of the Christmas displays — the stroll will certainly warm you up in winter weather!

Since Rockefeller Center is such a popular tourist destination, especially around this time of the year, we recommend booking ahead through the Rockefeller Center Ice Skating Experience. This includes a 90-minute ice skating session, access to the heated VIP chalet, skate rental, hot chocolate, and freshly baked cookies. Plus, the experience ends with a visit to the Top of the Rock observation deck, which is not to be missed.

A Guide to the Holiday Season in New York City 2Tree Lightings

Another noteworthy highlight of Rockefeller Center is the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, New York City’s pride and joy during the holidays. This brilliant symbol of the season attracts hundreds of tourists and even native New Yorkers for a little bit of holiday cheer and photo opportunities.

This year’s tree came all the way from Queensbury, New York. It stands 82 feet tall and weighs 14 tons. It’s decorated with over 50,000 multi-colored LED lights and crowned with a 900-pound Swarovski star for its lighting ceremony. It will be lit up through mid-January, so you have plenty of time to gaze upon this amazing icon of the city.

Though Rockefeller Center is the start of the show in this day and age, the first ever public Christmas tree was actually in our very own Madison Square Park. The Madison Square Park tree went up on December 21 of 1912, and sparked a new trend. They named this iconic tree “The Tree of Light”. The following year in 1913, public Christmas trees popped up all over the place in Chicago, Detroit, Baltimore, Jersey City, and fifty other cities.

You can see The Tree of Light depicted in our Augmented Reality Winter Wonderland exhibit painted on our lobby windows – check out the immersive experience via the FRAGALE app. The app is available in the iOS App Store, making the AR art viewable on your iPhone or iPad from the hotel, or from anywhere in the world!

Make sure to check out our very own lit tree in the lobby of The James NoMad, and grab a picture in front of our hand-painted winter mirror by Steven Fragale —located by the elevators.

The World’s Largest Menorah Lightings

Both Grand Army Plaza in Midtown and Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn compete every year for the title of the World’s Largest Hanukkah Menorah! The 32-foot-tall steel menorahs are lit each night of the eight-day holiday. In Brooklyn, every night of Hanukkah — December 18 through 25 — is celebrated with live music, hot latkes, and gifts for the children. Don’t miss this authentically New York Celebration.

Holiday Light Shows

New York will transform into a wonderland of light displays during the holiday season. From Staten Island to the Bronx, there’ll be twinkling lights and crowds gathering. To experience the best of the lights, let it shine at the New York Botanical Garden at its third annual Glow festival. Head over to The Bronx at dusk to walk the 1.5 miles of colorful holiday lights. The glowing centerpieces focus on the Haupt Conservatory, the Mertz Library Building, and flora and fauna surrounding the gardens.

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden has also brought back its gorgeous, after-dark holiday installation, Lightscape. This one-mile illuminated trail is the work of local and international artists. It features the iconic winter cathedral and a fire garden — all illuminated by over a million lights. Experience the beauty of this botanical garden under the moonlight while enjoying a hot chocolate (regular or spiked!), seasonal treats, and festive music to put you in a jolly mood. Remember that this is a ticketed event—get yours before heading out to see the lights for a seamless experience.

The NYC Winter Lantern Festival returns this 2022 season with four events to help illuminate the season. This year the Queens County Farm will transform into a radiant oasis inspired by theme parks and Chinese myths and legends. Plus, there will be several illuminated tunnels, rideable twinkling swings, and other cheerful surprises! Don’t miss the chance to attend a one-of-a-kind light festival, perfect for a family outing.

New York City Ballet: The Nutcracker

If you love the holiday classics, there’s nothing like watching the Nutcracker performed by the New York City Ballet. This magical 1954 production, set to Tchaikovsky’s extraordinary score, includes the entire New York City Ballet company and two casts of School of American Ballet students. The show features a breathtaking onstage blizzard and a Christmas tree that grows from 12 to 40 feet. From its legendary choreography by George Balanchine to its extraordinary visual effects, it’s a dazzling production you’ll remember long after the curtain falls.

Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City RockettesA Guide to the Holiday Season in New York City 3

The whole family will get a kick out of this holiday staple, which features Santa, wooden soldiers, and, of course, the dazzling Rockettes. Radio City Music Hall is a short subway ride from The James NoMad, making this a convenient and must-see experience.

This year’s Christmas Spectacular includes a new routine from the Kickline, The Dance of the Frost Fairies, and classics like The Parade of the Wooden Soldiers, which has remained unchanged since 1933! For an extra memorable experience, book a backstage tour of Radio City Music Hall. You can explore the secret room where Walt Disney and Judy Garland hung out and meet a Rockette face-to-face.

A Guide to the Holiday Season in New York City 4Elevate your Holidays

The winter season is a fantastic time to visit New York City. Storefronts are decorated with special holiday displays, and there are lights and decorations everywhere you look! Make sure to book a cozy suite to stay in at The James NoMad, close by to all of the holiday happenings in the city. We can’t wait celebrate the most wonderful time of the year!

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