New York City: Enjoy Christmas and New Year contrasts


Natalie Morris offers up eight things to do in New York City this Christmas and New Year.

There may be few – if any – better places to spend the winter holidays than in New York City. But as is the case for every town, a little bit of knowledge will help you make the most of what it has to offer, while perhaps avoiding some its less ‘festive’ aspects. Combining research, testimony from a couple of opinionated locals and my own personal experience, here are my 8 ideas for anyone travelling across the pond this Christmas and/or New Year’s Eve.

But first, let’s start off with what you shouldn’t do (but probably will): walking around Times’ Square might seem like a must when visiting New York at any time of year, but the truth is that the iconic spot is perhaps one of New Yorkers’ most disliked places to have to walk through, never mind hang around. This is due to its extremely crowded, touristy vibe with the most cynical, soul-crushing displays of capitalism you will ever find – and I am barely exaggerating. If you must see it, pop by just long enough to take a selfie, then head off to discover all the far better places to take in the magic that is New York at Christmas time.

For instance, the Bryant Park Winter Village awaits just a few blocks away. Normally a relatively relaxed space to sit and have your Wholefoods sandwich, between the bustling 6th Avenue and the impressive, classical-style main building of the New York Public Library, the Park somehow turns into a wonderful Christmas extravaganza this time of year, with around 170 market stalls, a giant Christmas tree and, of course, a 17,000 square-foot ice-skating rink.

NEW YORK CHRISTMAS NEW YORK BRYANT PARK WINTERHowever, if it’s skating you’re really after, you can’t get more magical or traditional than Central Park’s Wollman Rink, featured in probably half of the Hollywood Christmas movies you’ve seen, and with good reason. For lower entrance fees and skate rentals, try going anytime from Monday to Thursday.

On the other side of the Christmas-magic-spectrum, it is highly advised not to try out the Rink at Rockefeller Center, which is rather too expensive and packed with visitors to be make it all that enjoyable. That being said, the awestriking Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree remains an absolute must-see (some places are just crowded for a reason).

And while you’re sightseeing in Midtown, don’t forget to window shop. Many high-end stores here make no concessions with their wonderful, dreamlike window displays. In particular, the sense of fairy tale aspiration and attention to detail put into the displays at Bergdorf Goodman truly make it an attraction all of its own, regardless of whether you can afford any of the items.

The next item on our list is Paul Winter’s Winter Solstice Celebration. Set in Saint John the Divine’s Cathedral (near Columbia University), it is a ‘multimedia’ show featuring ‘musicians, vocalists and the 25 dancers and drummers of the Forces of Nature Dance Theatre’ – meaning Paul Winter himself on the saxophone, an organ player, a gospel singer, said 25 dancers, something called a ‘sun gong’, etc., colliding in a flashy, spectacular celebration of the return of the Sun. Need I say more?