It’s the season of starry nights and serendipitious moments.
Christmas has arrived in New York
There’s a sniff of chocolate in the air
And starry sparkles everywhere.
This Christmas shall be our fifth Christmas in New York. How time flies! Last year, we shared our favourite Christmas desserts at our favourite Christmas Market, a hot chocolate tour in Soho, and the wonder of peppermint bark. This year, join us on a tour of our favourite Christmas lights in Midtown Manhattan, and a memorable dessert that will wrap up your walk in the most perfect New York style. Wishing a Merry Christmas and happy end of 2021 to all!
Bryant Park Christmas Market
- Best for: Our favourite NYC Christmas Market. You may recall our review of the best desserts to be had at this Christmas Market (see here), but aside from that, Bryant Park’s Christmas Market stands out for its incomparable festive vibe. Housing a variety of handicrafts and delicatessen food stores, the mini glass chalets of this Christmas Market twinkle by day and night. When it’s particularly cold, the fountain freezes completely over and drips with icicles, snow flutters over the ice skating rink and the scent of hot chocolate infuses the chilly air.
New York Public Library
- Best for: A moment of quiet in Midtown. We love NYPL’s majestic Rose Room any time of the year, but it is particularly enchanting in the days leading up to Christmas. Maybe because it is the one place in Midtown where you have to be whisper quiet while gazing at the lights.
- Best for: The heart of Christmas in New York. If NYPL is hushed, Rockefeller is the complete opposite. It is chaos to the extreme — you are just as likely to be whipped in the face by someone’s hair while they are attempting to pose in the mayhem as you are to find yourself slammed by a million camera phones jousting to photograph the largest Christmas tree in the city covered in a glitter bomb of lights. Our tip is to take a breath, and just calmly focus on the crystalline angels in the centre and let your gaze rise to the sky.
Saks Fifth Avenue
- Best for: A dream of a fairytale. After Bloomingdales, Saks Fifth Avenue is our second favourite department store in the city. But during the Christmas season, it stands out for its spectacular “light and music” show that plays on repeat every 10 minutes or so in the evenings. We return every year, and our favourite visit has to be that year when the soaring crescendoes of the “Love Actually” theme song were blasted out from the radiant castle displays.
- Best for: Body mash. The worse idea we ever had in five years of living in NYC was to venture to Midtown on Christmas Day. We thought that all the stores would be closed, all the people would be hibernating inside, and that we would have the city to ourselves. Boy, were we wrong! After cutting across from 5th to 6th Avenue, you join what seems like the entire New York crammed into just two street blocks. And the pandemonium does not dissipate on Christmas Day — in fact, it seems even crazier!
- Best for: Walks by candelight. When we first moved to NYC, we were warned never to venture into a New York park at night. Given the seemingly increasing crime rate, we still pay particular heed to that warning. However, just once, just as the sun retired and the moon awoke from its slumber, we ventured into Central Park after dark. There is something magical about the way the city lights reflect as shimmering gold in front of Gapstow Bridge. There is something rather dream-like when one follows the warm amber emanating from tall lamp posts, edging deeper into the park. And then there is something about the way skaters fly over the ice at Wollman Rink that seems so very much out of a movie.
- Best for: Solitude. Sick of the midtown crowds yet? Then, as a last stop in this walk through Midtown Manhattan, stop by Bloomberg Tower. Here, a trio of flickering trees are situated in quiet cul-de-sac. Depending on when you visit, this is one of the rare spots in NYC where you may just capture a moment of Christmas all to yourself.
Dessert epilogue at Serendipity
- Dessert destination: Serendipity3, 225 East 60th Street, New York 10022.
- Best for: The Frozen Hot Chocolate. All that walking uptown weaving in and out of the crowds requires a proper “recovery” dessert! Ensure to reserve your seat in the ultra-kitschy Serendipity 3. Adorned with an kaleidoscopic assortment of tinsel, stained glass, vintage art and mirrors, and colourful chandeliers, Serendipity is one part cottage-esque cafe, another part American diner. Yes, the service is sometimes chaotic, yes, the food is without question exorbitantly priced ($30 for a sundae!?), yes, the place is congested with tourists, and yes, its signature drink possesses a higher ratio of whipped cream than chocolate, but just once, the Frozen Hot Chocolate is the perfect reminder of all the joy of New York during the festive season.