Christmas in New York – PART II

Tips for Christmas in NYC

Dear readers, we’re back in NYC now!!!! All is good in the world. We’re here with my sister and her 3 children and playing Aunt & Uncle until early January. We’re doing laundry at the laundromat, washing dishes by hand, moving the car on no parking days, cooing with a newborn, grocery shopping at the Food Coop, and walking groceries and kids up the stairs to a cozy apartment on the third floor. And dear Danny is cooking meals for us all like crazy. It has been beyond wonderful to be here.

In honor of my favorite city in the world, here’s a continuation of my very best tips for Christmas in New York. A few years ago I wrote a HUGE LIST of things and those are all still highly, highly recommended (including an Indian restaurant COVERED in Christmas lights, the best place to get tamales, and the most amazing live nativity on Christmas Eve.)  But here’s PART TWO. I guess Christmas in New York truly is just that good.  🙂

Secret Santa for Children in Need 

Our neighbors told us about The Henry Street Settlement in the Lower East Side. They provide a TON of services for families and children in need. At Christmas time, they have a list of children’s names on their website and they have scanned letters that the children have written to Santa. You can choose one or several of the children and go shopping for them (apparently “Elite” Nike socks are what all the NYer kids want this year!!) Unfortunately at the time of this post, the gift drop off deadlines have passed (so next year!). Other options: Winter Wishes Santa program with New York Cares Coat Drive with Letters to Santa Program with the United States Post Office.

Handel’s Messiah at Trinity Church on Wall Street

Listening to Handel’s Messiah every year is a major tradition for me. There are MANY places to see it, but the performance at Trinity Church on Wall Street definitely stands out (the iconic NY location cannot be beat – have a listen here.) We will be going there this week- can’t wait. And of course there is the performance by the NY Philharmonic at Lincoln Center. And also a festive, multi-faith Messiah Sing-A-Long at the Beth Elohim Synagogue in Park Slope. We just went there with Brooklyn friends and LOVED it.

Trinity Church Messiah

Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir

We love to go to the New Year’s Eve choir performance at the Brooklyn Tabernacle (usually they have performances at 7 pm and 10 pm, but do confirm). Trust me, you will ring in the new year like never before. We’re talking a gospel sing-a-long with an entire room full of people with their hands in the air and praising Jesus. ha! The experience kinda blew us away and the singing seriously took the roof down. Be ready for the donation basket to be passed and for lots of people to give you high fives and hand shakes when you walk in the door. Brooklyn Tabernacle, 17 Smith Street. Get in line early as it fills up! 

Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir
Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir

Downtown Brooklyn Street Lights + Junior’s Cheesecake

While in Brooklyn, don’t miss seeing these awesome street lights that are fairly new and lining the streets of downtown. We are huge fans. If I was really on my holiday A-game I’d end this Christmas outing right at Junior’s Cheesecake. They seriously have INCREDIBLE cheesecake – possibly the very best in New York. And they also have a matzo ball soup with H-U-G-E matzos. Have some of each for me!
Christmas lights in Brooklyn
Junior's Cheesecake

Soup Dumplings at Joe’s Shanghai

This is the best kind of food to warm your soul on a cold day. Go to the location in Chinatown for the best experience. And make sure to have the waiter show you the proper way to eat a soup dumpling. Joe’s Shanghai, 9 Pell Street, Chinatown

Sledding at Prospect Park

Some of New York’s best sledding is at Prospect Park. The eastern side of the Lookout Hill is a great place to go (F Train to 15th St. Park entrance is at 15th St. and Prospect Park West.) I wrote a post about our sledding experience HERE. So, so, so fun!!!!

Sledding in Prospect Park

Chinese Banquet at Pacificana

We have some friends with Chinese heritage and they often celebrate holidays with Chinese banquets. So fun, right? So one year we all went out for a Chinese banquet after seeing the Christmas lights in Dyker Heights. It’s really the PERFECT thing to do as the Brooklyn Chinatown (Sunset Park), is very close by. And Pacificana will not disappoint. Go with a huge crowd and eat family style, using the turn table in the center of the huge round dining tables. They even have red linens and fancy chandeliers to add to the ambiance. Pacificana 813 55th St. @ 8th Ave., Sunset Park

Iceskating on Christmas Morning in Prospect Park 

Some friends I know have a tradition of going iceskating in NYC on Christmas morning…and we finally did it last year. It was delightful even in the very cold morning air and so worth bundling up for. Going earlier in the day is better, if you’d like to beat the crowds. Our friends go to Rockefeller, but we loved going to the Prospect Park rink for the almost hidden location, gorgeous view, beautifully designed rink, and a cheaper price. They recently redesigned the rink in a new area of Prospect Park called “Lakeside.”

Iceskating at Prospect Park

The Nutcracker at BAM

Love, love, love the Nutcracker at BAM (in Brooklyn). The show is SO well done and the theater is not as huge, so you feel closer to the action. This year I took my niece and nephew to the show. My niece takes dance class nearby BAM, so she was especially excited. 🙂

BAM Nutcracker


Yes, yes, yes. Fight the crowds and go see the Rockefeller Tree. It’s glorious. Other fantastic trees: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Natural History Museum (origami!), Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, Bryant Park. These places have special tree lighting ceremonies with music, treats, singing. There is also a special tree lighting ceremony along Park Avenue each year (54th St. to 96th St.) I’ve always wanted to go! I think tree lighting nights are the perfect way to start off the season.

Store Windows + Saks 5th Avenue Light Show

While you’re at Rockefeller Center, absolutely go see the store windows on 5th Avenue. They are delightful every year. Barney’s (660 Madison) and Bergdorf Goodman (Fifth Ave. and 57th St.) usually have my favorite windows. And don’t miss the magical light and music show on the front of Saks Fifth Avenue that plays every few minutes. It’s usually so well done!! We love it.

Brooklyn Flea

The Brooklyn Flea is the North Pole of New York City where all the elves have the best kind of gifts: hand made or vintage. And keep in mind that the food vendors are not to be missed. Go with an empty stomach and sample delights from Brooklyn’s best artisanal food makers. (I wrote more about Brooklyn Flea here.)

Sushi at Hatsuhana

Danny and I LOVE sushi but save the best sushi restaurants for special occasions or holidays. Hatsuhana is a favorite for a festive holiday dinner as they are STEPS from everything Christmasy in Midtown. Nothing tastes better on a cold night than some warming miso soup. Hatsuhana: 17 E. 48th St. btwn Madison & 5th Ave. (ask for a seat at the sushi bar!)

Chocolate Editions by Mary + Matt

This Brooklyn chocolate is straight from the elves who specialize in graphic design. 🙂  I adore their packaging (my friend, Abby, even frames it which is not a bad idea!) And the two chocolate makers are really delightful people. Where else can you get caramel flavored chocolate? See Chocolate Editions to see their awesome website and order on-line.

What did I miss?? I’m a complete sucker for this stuff.
Hope you have a MERRY, MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!

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  1. Anonymous December 15, 2014 at 3:55 pm - Reply

    What happened to your blog?

  2. Lauren December 16, 2014 at 10:22 pm - Reply

    I really wish people would be more thoughtful in their comments :(. Danny and Mara are not obligated to write a certain number posts. We aren't paying customers you guys. I think we miss the point of their message when we gripe and complain when we something doesn't meet our expectation.

    Oh man, I wish I would have seen this yesterday! I am riding the train back to Boston right now from my first trip (in my adult life) to NYC! I had an amazing time with my girlfriends. I still can't get over the Christmas store fronts!

    • mara December 18, 2014 at 2:25 am - Reply

      Lauren – thank you dear. We appreciate so much your comment. And how AMAZING that you got to visit NYC!!! (And how amazing that you live in Boston.) I'm afraid those are our two favorite cities. And taking the train between the two is way too fun.

  3. Maria December 22, 2014 at 3:22 am - Reply

    Thank you for this post, Mara! We're visiting New York next week and this post will come very handy. On a side note, may I know the winter coat that you're wearing on that ice skating picture with Danny? Thanks!

    • mara December 22, 2014 at 3:34 am - Reply

      SOO awesome that you get to visit NY!! And so nice of you to ask about the coat. I freaking love that thing. It's from Soia & Kyo from Canada. I had been looking and looking for a new coat one year. I wanted a puffy down coat (truly a must for New Yorkers). But I also wanted it to be somewhat slim fitting. Anyway, this coat has been perfect. It is super sturdy, zippers and pockets are well thought out and sturdy, it's SUPER dense and warm, and the hood has been a life saver (the fur really does help to keep wind out.) Anyway, I highly recommend their coats. They prob. don't have the same one anymore, but if they have a style you like, I would trust the quality and go for it. Also, FYI – Saks and Macy's in NYC both have MASSIVE coat departments for both men and women.

  4. Lisa Harris December 24, 2014 at 8:45 am - Reply

    Fresh updates! It is certainly outstanding blog with detailed conception and clearly best for the reading.
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  5. Hannah Taylor December 27, 2014 at 12:41 pm - Reply

    Great your article! fantastic blog side name and nice picture. It's Christmas, and an absolute necessity check whether you're in NYC. Check online for arrangements, so don't pay the maximum in the event that you don't need to. I found an arrangement on Travel zoo.we sat in line L, focus symphony, which was a tad far. I would pick 10 columns closer.the show runs 90 minutes, no interlude. Santa Clause commences the show with a 3d show and the Rockettes were incredible.Wintry greetings !
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  6. Rancho Bernardo December 8, 2016 at 12:25 pm - Reply

    I’ve always wanted to do NY at Christmas, now I’ve seen your pictures I want to even more! A girl can dream, right? Isn’t Wicked the best show ever? I saw it in London when it first came out……….fabulous!

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