Kristen Taekman’s Top Five New York City Holiday Traditions

The holidays are finally upon us! It’s cold outside, the peppermint mocha lattes are brewing, the smell of pine candles are burning and NYC is filled with holiday spirit. Manhattan is one of the best places to celebrate the most wonderful time of year. Tis the season for giving, not getting!

There are so many incredible places to visit during this magical time of the year. Some of the most well knows spots include Rockefeller Plaza while skating with Santa around the largest and most beautiful Christmas tree, Bryant Park and its Winter Village filled with the trendiest food trucks and local vendors, the fantastic Holiday Train Exhibit at the New York Botanical Gardens and of course, the New York City Ballet’s performance of The Nutcracker! Oh, and no holiday season is complete without a stop at The Plaza hotel for high tea (the décor is absolutely breathtaking). But did you know that The Standard Hotel downtown also has a super fun ice-skating rink with limited wait times? Wollman Rink in Central Park is another iconic holiday stop during the holiday season. Last but not least, one of the most viewed attractions is walking up and down the city viewing the fabulous holiday decorations in department store windows, which leave you in complete awe!

 

Kristen Taekman's Top Five New York City Holiday Traditions
Photos by Sasha Moiger

Although these are all great things to do during the holiday season and I highly recommend experiencing them all, I want to tell you about the insider’s guide of exclusive places to visit in NYC during the month of December. Let’s call it the locals guide to the holiday season in NYC.

The Radio City Rockettes

 

Kristen Taekman's Top Five New York City Holiday Traditions
Photos by Sasha Moiger

We all know and love The Rockettes! They are an iconic part of NYC, especially during the holiday season with their infamous Christmas Spectacular Show. My family and I go see this show every year and no matter how many times I see it, I fight back tears every time, the nostalgia of seeing Santa gets me every time! It is one of my all-time favorite Christmas traditions and I will continue to make my kids see this show until their married – haha. I recently learned about their VIP Elite experience where you will witness the magic of the Christmas Spectacular from the best seats in the house. The experience includes premium tickets, pre-show reception and buffet and open bar, private entrance into Radio City Music Hall, personal Christmas Concierge to escort you to your seats as well as a photo opportunity with Santa and two of the Rockettes. There is no better way to enjoy The Rockettes than with the VIP Elite experience. They also offer a package where you can do a dance class with an actual Rocket! How cool is that!!

Tree lighting at Rockefeller Plaza

 

Kristen Taekman's Top Five New York City Holiday Traditions
Photos by Sasha Moiger

There is something so magical about experiencing the iconic holiday tree lighting ceremony in Rockefeller Plaza. The only aspect I don’t enjoy about the lighting is the massive crowd! (And is usually extremely cold outside, lucky for us it was almost 6o degrees this year!) Well, this can now be avoided and you can watch one of NYC’s most celebrated events from a private outdoor viewing area. You can purchase tickets to a fabulous gala located inside a chic venue at Rockefeller Center. A premium cocktail reception, gourmet dinner as well and live entertainment is part of the VIP tree lighting experience. While tens of thousands of people fill the sidewalks in the freezing cold, you can experience direct views of the tree in a private outdoor viewing area. This is one gala I highly recommend attending (limited tickets can be purchased online). This is on next year’s wish list for me!

Rolf’s Restaurant in Gramercy Park

 

Kristen Taekman's Top Five New York City Holiday Traditions
Photos by Sasha Moiger

Rolf’s is an iconic NYC establishment that goes above and beyond every year with their breathtaking Christmas decorations. Photos don’t do the restaurant’s décor justice; you literally feel like you are walking inside a Christmas tree. It is definitely worth walking into Rolf’s to take a photo of the elaborate decorations. The German restaurant transforms into a winter wonderland filled with twinkling lights, elaborate ornaments and green garlands. The food isn’t too impressive but they do have a really yummy mulled cider and spiced eggnog! I definitely recommend calling in advance and making a reservation. The restaurant opens at noon and a line starts forming around 11:40am. The week before Christmas is packed so make sure to plan ahead (I would go ahead a book your table for next year!).

Dyker Lights in Brooklyn

 

Kristen Taekman's Top Five New York City Holiday Traditions
Photos by Sasha Moiger

Dyker Heights has the most spectacular displays of Christmas lights. As much as I love the lights around the city, nothing compares to this neighborhood in Brooklyn. There are guided tours of Dyker Heights but many people prefer to either drive or higher a driver for the night. You will not be disappointed by the decorations! Dyker Heights is filled with over the top Christmas lights, inflatable Santas and snowmen. Oh, and I can’t forget to mention the Christmas carols coming from outdoor loudspeakers. The breathtaking light displays stretch from 83rd to 86th street from 11th to 13th Avenues in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn. This is such a fun and interactive experience! I forgot to mention you are also able to park your car and wander through the Christmas lights. Make sure to visit Dyker Lights anytime from early December through January 1st!

VIP horse carriage ride through Central Park

 

Kristen Taekman's Top Five New York City Holiday Traditions
Photos by Sasha Moiger

From November 21st through January 1st you can book a VIP holiday horse carriage ride through Central Park. A carriage ride has been in just about every movie in NYC history but there is nothing more romantic than a ride through the park during the holiday season. It is a great way to experience Central Park like never before with a fully guided tour. It also includes a stop by Cherry Hill fountain where you can take pictures and look at the breathtaking views. This is a luxurious way to see and learn about the history of Central Park while getting into the holiday spirit. My family and I went on this tour last year and it was beyond memorable (we’re definitely going again this year). Grab a cup of hot coco before you go for an extra warm touch!

Whether you live in NYC or are just visiting, take advantage of all the incredible experiences the city has to offer during this holiday season. It’s the season of joy so why not try something new and experience private or exclusive events. Don’t forget NYC is the number one travel destination for the holidays so by all means, book waaaay in advance!!!

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Kristen Taekman's Top Five New York City Holiday Traditions
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