We visited New York City last December to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child [see overview here]. In addition to seeing the Cursed Child, we also planned two days of other activities, shows, and sightseeing. Brian and I had both been to NYC before, but it had been several years, so we mixed a bit of classic sightseeing with a bit of holiday-inspired adventuring.
What to Do
*Please note that all prices listed below are subject to change. Be sure to check the website of each attraction before planning your trip to confirm hours and pricing.
- During the holidays in NYC, the must-see show is the Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes. We enjoyed this show more than we expected to. There were several skits between the major dance numbers and the costumes were incredibly festive. We were truly blown away by the cleanliness and precision that the Rockettes are so well known for. The show runs about 90 minutes and there is no intermission. Tickets prices vary greatly.
- I had hoped to see the New York City Ballet perform the Nutcracker, but I forgot to purchase tickets when I was doing the rest of our trip planning. By the time I realized my mistake (about a week prior to our departure), there were no seats remaining. Instead, we decided to see the New York Philharmonic perform Handel’s Messiah. The performance included several stunning soloists and a full choir in addition to the orchestra. The New York Philharmonic performs in the David Geffen Hall of the Lincoln Center. Tickets range from $28-$123.
- While visiting NYC during the holidays I wanted to make sure to visit one of the Christmas Markets. Based on reviews and location, we decided to visit the Bryant Park Winter Village. This outdoor market really did remind me of the Christmas markets we visited in Europe and included close to 100 vendors. It was centered around a large outdoor ice skating rink that was nearly as crowded as the one at Rockefeller Center. We picked up several gifts at the Market but after about an hour the crowds became too much.
- During the holidays there are numerous places to take festive photos. Just across from Radio City Music Hall you can find massive holiday bulbs. Down the street a bit there are gigantic Christmas lights. And of course, there is the tree in front of Rockefeller Center. I recommend trying to hit these temporary landmarks early in the day as they become so crowded by 11am that it is difficult to get a photo without twenty strangers in the background.
- Although it isn’t specific to the holidays, Metropolitan Museum of Art is an iconic NYC attraction. I had not had the chance to visit the Met on previous trips to NYC so we decided to make it a priority for this visit. The museum is massive and although we spent several hours, we were only able to see a few of the vast collections. We were advised by museum staff to start in the Egyptian Art wing. We traveled through the Temple of Dendur which was stunning and made it through most of the American Wing. Realizing we were running out of time before we had to leave to get back to the hotel to change for dinner, we made an intentional detour to the 19th and Early 20th-Century European Paintings and Sculpture to view works by masters including Manet, Renoir, Picasso, and Van Gogh. Admission is $25 for adults and free for children under 12.
- We also visited the Guggenheim Museum. Visiting the Met was our priority on this visit, so we didn’t spend a lot of time in the Guggenheim, but Brian is a big fan of Frank Lloyd Wright who designed the building housing the museum. It is worth entering the lobby of the building to view the architecture from the inside even if you don’t purchase tickets to view the exhibits. Admission is $15 for adults and free for children under 12.
Where to Eat
In New York City the restaurant options are virtually endless and selecting the right place to eat can be incredibly overwhelming. Because we had shows scheduled every night, I decided to narrow down my search to include only restaurants near each show venue that accepted reservations. For an overview of the most iconic NYC restaurants, I recommend reading this article from TimeOut.
- Before attending the NY Philharmonic, we ate at The Smith Lincoln Square. The restaurant was packed and very noisy, but the food was delicious. I ordered the Pot of Mussels. It was well-seasoned and very tasty.
- Before seeing the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall, we had a reservation at Pasta Lovers Trattoria. It was a slightly above average Italian restaurant that was also incredibly crowded and quite loud. We were seated immediately and the food arrived very quickly so we had plenty of time to get to our show.
- On our way from the Guggenheim to the Metropolitan Museum of Art we found a cute eatery called Grazie. It was a tiny upscale Italian restaurant that offered several sandwich options that were phenomenal and really hit the spot on a dreary December afternoon. Update: Unfortunately this restaurant appears to be permanently closed.
- While exploring Manhattan we stumbled across The Irish Pub and decided to have lunch. It was a bit more touristy that we would typically choose, but the restaurant served high-end pub food and the ambiance was relaxed and friendly.
What are your favorite things to do in New York City during the holidays?
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