Es Weihnachtet Sehr: Getting Into the Spirit of the Holiday Season in New York City

SantaCon in NYC
SantaCon in NYC

It’s eleven days into December, which means there are less than 3 weeks left until the end of this year. Crazy! This month is usually the month during which all things festive start popping up. After Thanksgiving all stores have somehow let loose and are now in the right spirit for Christmas, or Hannukah, or the holidays in general – whichever is more important to you.

Celebrating the holidays here can actually be a quite joyous event. Not only are there tons of attractions to visit and markets to see, but there are also some cool events happening and more fun stuff meant for the entire family.

1) Holiday Markets

Equivalent to Germany’s Weihnachtsmarkt, the holiday markets are found throughout the entire city. The big ones are certainly at Union Square, Bryant Park and Columbus Circle. You can find the one or other smaller one popping up at random spots throughout the boroughs and it seems that there are also different ones on different weekends. But the three mentioned above are certainly the biggest ones, offering anything from unique jewelry over artsy pieces to handmade gift ideas, from waffles over truffle fries to non-alcoholic Gluehwein, and many more. The only thing missing are the rides and proper mulled wine with alcohol.

Union Square Holiday Market
Union Square Holiday Market

2) Ice-skating Rinks

Here again, you have the major ones, such as in Central Park, Prospect Park and Bryant Park. Smaller ones can be find in other spots (the financial district has a cute one close to the water). This is a great idea for family or friends, or even when you’re by yourself. Last season I made my way onto the ice for the first time in what must have been 15 years or longer. I did not break a leg or have any major accidents but actually enjoyed myself thoroughly. I ended up going to the Bryant Park ice skating rink multiple times with a few co-workers and we had a lot of fun.

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3) The Holiday Train

The MTA Holiday Train is quite unique and I’m not sure for how long it’s been around. I’ve been enjoying it from 2014 and onwards, but have yet to ride it this season. It was an amazing experience the last two years. The train features vintage cars (which can be seen in the museum throughout the rest of the year) with vintage wall art, posters, and signs. Sometimes you get lucky and see the Jazz crowd, which dresses up like in the 1920ies. Other times you can still see quite some dressed up people with great costumes on.

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4) Festive Art throughout the City

From lights throughout the parks over new gingerbread house installations to other fancy sculptures: There is some impressive holiday art, which can be found throughout the entire city. I find the one at Madison Square Park pretty magnificent. Last year there was a mirrored sculpture and this year it was a light sculpture with white hammocks inside. Today was the first day of snow and yet there were still so many people trying to lay in the hammocks, it was pretty crazy.

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5) The Rockefeller Center

Of course the Rockefeller Center with its giant tree and its oversized red ornaments cannot be amiss on this list. I went here just yesterday and totally did not like the huge crowds. I guess if you go here only once, it’s an experience of a lifetime. Either way, the gigantic tree is worth looking at and so are the red bulbs floating around in the fountain.

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6) The Fancy Displays on Fifth Ave and Beyond

Be it Macy’s at Herald Square or Lord and Taylor on 5th Avenue – their display windows always show some fun stories and great, colorful figures. I seldom wander past them anymore, but whenever I do, it’s quite a magical experience. I really only see them when I have visitors in town and am forced to sightsee with them (as they are on everyone’s agenda).

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What are your favorite parts about the holidays in your current city or hometown?

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