Why Christmas in New York City is so Magical

Emily DeMotte, Travel Editor

Picture this: you step out of the airport into New York City on a chilly December day, fresh from completing your midterms and excited for Christmas day as it creeps closer. A group of people pass clutching shopping bags and cocoa, their faces bearing rosy cheeks and smiles all around. As snowflakes fall in delicate patterns glistening on top of twinkling city lights, only one word comes to mind to describe the feeling you get: magical. Based on the large crowds that fill the city during the holidays in a normal year, the feeling is pretty unanimous. But what is it that makes this time of year so special in the Big Apple? While much can be owed to the natural attraction of the city and simply something in the air, many of New York’s holiday attractions make a generous contribution. Here are just a few!


Rockefeller Center

Located on a 22 acre stretch of the city between 48th and 51st street in Midtown Manhattan, Rockefeller Center is a heart of holiday cheer for locals and visitors every year, and home to many of the attractions that shape the season. Go for a skate on The Rink with the dazzling sight of the iconic Rockefeller Christmas Tree (shining for it’s 88th year!) above you, take to the shops to check off your list, or ride to the Top of The Rock to take a look at the sights of the city from dazzling height. Also located within Rockefeller Center is the Radio City Music Hall, home to the Radio City Rockettes. 


Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes

The performing arts are a large part of the atmosphere of New York City, especially during the holiday season, and it wouldn’t be Christmas in New York without a visit to the Christmas Spectacular. This exuberant holiday performance is put on every year at the Radio City Music hall and features the stunning, precise work of the Radio City Rockettes. It takes more than 250 people to put on the enchanting show, including the 150 person cast that includes the Rockettes, singers, musicians, figure skaters, dancers, and more, and the crew that does the behind the scenes work to make the magic happen. 


New York City Ballet’s The Nutcracker

In New York City Ballet’s The Nutcracker, a classic christmas children’s tale springs to life as dozens of carefully trained professional ballet dancers waltz across the stage in sparkling costumes, telling the story of Clara Staulbaum as she receives a wooden nutcracker doll as a Christmas gift. The Nutcracker doll later comes to life and fights the evil Rat King before taking Clara through the land of sweets where she is greeted by the Sugar Plum fairy and the sweets of her kingdom. NYCB performs this show 47 times each year, each cast including 90 dancers, 62 musicians from a live orchestra, 40 stagehands, and 125 children from the School of American Ballet, NYCB’s official school. With instantly recognizable music by Tchaikovsky, a trip to Lincoln center for a viewing of The Nutcracker is perfect for any family.


Central Park

While Central Park’s beauty is not limited to any certain time of year, there is something extra special about it covered in a blanket of white snow during the holidays! Take a ride on a horse drawn carriage to make you feel like you are starring in a period drama, visit the Columbus City Holiday Market, take a skate at the Wollman or Lasker ice rink, or drop by famous movie moment sites such as the Pine Bank bridge where the snowball fight scene from Elf (2003) took place. The possibilities are endless!


But what do iUniversity Prep students have to say about what makes season’s bright in New York City?


6th grade student Haley Travis, who visited a couple years back during Thanksgiving, says  “I loved the statue of liberty, it was probably my third favorite because we went to the crown and the view was amazing. My 2nd favorite was Times Square because there were so many lights and shops and the people were so nice and helpful! My favorite thing was seeing the Rockettes even though I did break my ankle when we saw them, because it reminded me of my dream of being a dancer and actress!”.

Freshman Eve Bamber, who visits during Christmas with her family every year, says “NYC has so much to offer, especially during the holidays. During this time, Rockefeller center is especially vibrant, and the Rockefeller ice rink is bustling with giddy tourists trying to get that perfect ‘New York Christmas’ picture. Being someone who loves to ice skate, getting to skate on this festive-clad rink, no matter how busy it is, is definitely one of my favorite NYC holiday experiences. Along with this, the infamous Rockefeller Christmas Tree is definitely a surreal sight that makes my list of favorites! Finally, the store ‘Serendipity’ from the well-known movie, Serendipity, is definitely a go-to for extravagant Christmas treats from gigantic S’mores hot chocolate to an equally enormous toasty creme brulee sundae. Everything they offer is delicious and visually stunning! I definitely recommend visiting all these if you’re in NY for the holidays, as these are definitely my favorite parts!”.


While many of the traditions and attractions that shape the holidays in New York are not possible this year and staying home and safe is the first priority, it’s not too early to start booking your 2021 Christmas vacation to the city and dream about sipping hot cocoa under The Tree. In the meantime, you can always look into virtual options for these holiday experiences and make the most of a Christmas in Texas. There probably won’t be snow, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be cheer!




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