A Full Guide To Dining, Sight-Seeing, And Shopping In NYC During The Holidays

There are fewer places in the world more magical during the holidays than New York City. That could be why millions of people from around the globe flock to see the world-famous Rockefeller Tree, ice skate at Bryant Park's Winter Village, and shop till they drop for holiday presents on Fifth Avenue. Every year, different pop-ups appear all over the city to celebrate the most festive season, and plenty of New York City hotels go full out in their over-the-top décor. It's easily the most beautiful time in the metropolis, and even those with Grinch-sized hearts for the holiday season will find it difficult not to break character when walking around the brightly lit New York streets.

If you're one of the many who has the bucket list venture of visiting New York City during Christmastime, there's a great chance you've felt overwhelmed in determining what to do. You, dear reader, have come to the right place. We have compiled a list of the best things to do in the city this holiday season — from steering you to dining and lodging establishments to shopping and festive opportunities — to help you plan a perfect holiday trip to the Big Apple.

Shop till you drop

No trip to New York City during the holidays is complete without shopping. You can't go wrong with the classic shopping hotspots like Macy's in Herald Square and strolling Broadway in Soho. Still, the city has plenty of pop-ups and markets explicitly geared toward the holidays that should also be added to your shopping radar. One of the best places to shop during the holidays is the Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park. Nearly anything can be found in these shops, from quirky jewelry to customized ornaments to children's toys. Best of all, there's free ice skating for visitors to enjoy.

Another fantastic holiday pop-up is the Union Square Holiday Market. Similarly to the Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park, the Union Square Holiday Market is filled with shops, ranging from gifts for furry friends to artisanal chocolates. Head to the Holiday Market at the Oculus by Brik + Clik in Downtown Manhattan for everything festive, including delicious meals, holiday fun, and shopping. Sometimes, carolers make an appearance to really complete the holiday experience.

Foodies rejoice

While visiting during the holidays can be an overwhelming time of year, determining where to eat in New York at any given time seems like a daunting task, thanks to the abundance of stellar eateries. If you need to fuel up before a long day of strolling the city, head to Popup Bagels, which has quickly become one of the best new bagel shops in New York City. If you want pizza, Don Antonio, which is close to Times Square, is run by Italian native Giorgia Caporuscio and serves authentic Neapolitan pies. Pro-tip: try the montanara classica. For classic New York steakhouses, go to Delmonico's (the oldest fine-dining restaurant in the country), Benjamin Steakhouse, or Empire Steakhouse.

For something different, try the immersive eatery Journey NYC. This innovative eatery, run by Executive Chef Diego Negri, offers an interactive dining experience that allows diners to travel the world without leaving New York. There are plenty of holiday-themed eateries around New York, as well. Eataly's SERRA by Birreria goes full out with its holiday menu each year, with a robust offering of rustic Italian cuisine. This year, their rooftop is decorated with sage green and pops of pastel purple, which guests can enjoy while sipping a festive fig mule or winter old-fashioned. For another cheery rooftop option, head to Refinery Rooftop, where you can nosh on their addictive cacio e pepe tots while overlooking the city, thanks to their covered glass roof.

Something boozy and something sweet

Many bars and sweet shops in New York City embrace the Christmas charm by amping up the décor. One of New York City's most popular decked-out Christmas bars is German eatery Rolf's, which has an extreme amount of holiday adornment year round. Frosty's Christmas Bar is another spot perfect for snapping some festive shots for the 'gram, thanks to its abundance of tinsel. Oscar Wilde is a Victorian-style eatery and bar notorious for donning oversized Christmas décor when the holiday season arrives. Lillie's Victorian Restaurant, which has several locations in the city, is well-known for being one of the most festive places in New York City around the holidays, particularly at its Union Square location.

There's also a wide array of Christmas dessert options around New York City. Serendipity 3 offers seriously oversized sundaes and a "frrrozen hot chocolate" in various flavors, from peanut butter to cookies and cream to classic. The Museum of Ice Cream will be in a "Pinkmas" theme this year, where guests can sample treats like a candy cane cone with vanilla and peppermint flavored soft serve and hot chocolate cotton candy, all against the backdrop of a life-sized snow globe.

New York can get chilly around the holidays, but what better way to warm up than with some hot chocolate? Head to Bar Pisellino, Daily Provisions, or Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain for some of the best.

Keeping it classic

While new holiday pop-ups appear every year, and old ones don't make a return, some classic landmarks simply make New York one of the best places to be during the busy holiday season. Rockefeller Center is known for having the grandest Christmas tree in the city, and despite how busy it gets, you won't really have the full experience of Christmas in New York if you don't stop at The Rockefeller Tree.

There is also always a giant display of ornaments on Sixth Avenue between 49th and 50th Streets, just down the road from the Rockefeller Tree. Saks Fifth Avenue is also well-known for having an over-the-top yearly holiday display. Fashionistas and art lovers will find joy and inspiration at the Bergdorf Goodman Holiday Windows, which have a rotating theme each year.

On the corner of Sixth Ave and 50th Street is a giant candy cane display that pops up annually. The Peninsula Hotel has one of the best decked-out holiday lobbies each year, with a stunning tree usually accented with gold and red, with giant nutcrackers on either side.

The most festive hotels in the city

Just like the city itself, hotels around NYC tend to go full out each year with holiday décor. For an equally whimsical and luxurious experience, head to Four Seasons Hotel New York Downtown, where, this year, they have giant ornaments adorned all over to give an Alice in Wonderland type of effect for guests. One of the most iconic holiday trees in New York City is at the Lotte New York Palace, and their lobby is always decked out to the max. The Plaza Hotel is the most aspirational holiday hotel in the city since it's where Home Alone was filmed. Since The Plaza is a bucket list hotel for many, it sells out quite quickly around the holiday season.

You might think you need to stay in Manhattan to properly enjoy Christmas cheer, but that's not the case, especially with hotels like The William Vale being one of the most festive in all five boroughs. This Williamsburg hotel brings out the holiday cheer each year and is a perfect place to beat the cold with its winter spa. Hotel Indigo is another fantastic choice in Brooklyn, thanks to its central location and top-notch amenities.

The W New York – Times Square is no stranger to over-the-top décor. Times Square can be hit or miss when it comes to accommodation, but there's a reason the W New York – Times Square consistently ranks as one of the best in the area.