I know, I know, my timing is off. Spring is in the air and I am posting about Christmas. Forgive us while we catch up on some posts we’ve been meaning to share…

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been told many times about how magical New York City is at Christmas time. Being a short train ride away from Boston, we thought we would see what all the hype is about. We headed to NYC for one weekend in early December.

 

The Lowlights: Is it Worth the Holiday Hype?

We arrived to a city more crowded than usual, parents with eager kids in tow, ready to absorb the city’s holiday spirit. It wasn’t long before we felt a little discontented, as our expected feelings were overtaken by feelings of excess, frustration with long lines and crowds, and the sense of overt commercialism. I know, I sound like a Scrooge; but this was our honest impression!

Don’t get me wrong; I expected New York city to be crowded, especially over the holidays. But I was shocked at how prohibitively long some line ups were, and surprised by how little of the city seemed to feel truly merry. Places like Macy’s Santa Land, Rolf’s restaurant (known for it’s over the top Christmas decor) and Rockefeller centre were too busy to even step foot into.

 

The Highlights: Cocoa & Carols

But, there were parts we loved.

There are numerous Christmas markets throughout the city, with Bryant Park being a favourite. Bryant Park Market is full of several small shops, a covered area serving food and drinks, as well a skating rink donned by a magnificent Christmas tree.

And unlike the skating rink in Central Park (bad idea), Bryant Park is free and without the neverending line-up!

Though arguably a popular tourist spot, afternoon tea at the Plaza Hotel was another highlight. Maybe because reservations are required, this didn’t feel overly crowded.

The kitchen served up holiday-themed delights with accompanying wintery teas. The hotel itself – known for its part in “Home Alone: New York” – was elegantly decorated and a pleasure to walk through. And for a thrifty $1500 a night, you can live the Home Alone experience in the suite filmed in the movie with a nightly ice cream sundae delivery…

Many other big hotels are cheerfully decorated, including the Peninsula Hotel and Lotte City Palace. We liked stepping foot in and out of these hotels as we strolled through the city, just to relish in the Christmas decor.

Another high point was the more intimate “Cocoa and Carols” Christmas sunset boat ride. This was a suprise planned by the boys on our trip, and we all agreed it was our favorite. We rode a small boat with a hot chocolate in hand (or wait, did I substitute mine for champagne?), listening to Christmas carols courtesy of a lovely live band. All while watching the sun slowly set over the Manhattan skyline.

Overall, we discovered activities we enjoyed that put us in the festive spirit. However, I couldn’t help but wonder if there were less visited cities that would better embrace the Christmas spirit without the crowds. I remember a visit to Chicago at Christmastime a few years back left me feeling quite jovial, and I can only imagine what European Christmas markets would be like! That’s a bucket list item for us one day…