When visiting New York City at Christmas time, even the 12 days of Christmas may not seem like enough to enjoy all this famous city has to offer. But you’d be surprised how much Christmas spirit you can cram into just 12 eventful hours in the Big Apple.

Here’s how we would enjoy Christmas in New York City:

Christmas in New York Citychristmas-divider

Rockin Around the NYC Christmas Tree

Rockefeller Centre New York Ice Skating Rink

Kick off your Manhattan holiday early with a morning visit to Midtown and two of the city’s quintessential symbols of Christmas: The Rink at Rockefeller Center and the stunning and stately Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree (between West 48th Street and West 51st Street, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues).

The rink is open from now through April 2016, and eight general-admission skating sessions are available daily, starting at 8:30am. We suggest booking well in advance to avoid the massive queues – and to get a coveted morning slot. Skate hire costs US$12, and ticket prices are US$15 for children and seniors, and from US$25 to 32 for adults, depending on the day you go.

Lace up your skates and admire the mammoth Christmas tree between figure eights. The city will light up this year’s tree – with 45,000 lights! – on 2 December, and it will remain lit until 6 January.

Walking in a Window Wonderland

Fifth Avenue Christmas New York

From here, you’re perfectly placed for a spot of spectacular Christmas window shopping. Several classic Manhattan department stores are famous for their holiday window displays – and you don’t have to spend a thing! These displays are more like exhibits than windows – expect a festive and sensory experience that combines storytelling, design, sound, animation and fashion. From Rockefeller Plaza, you’re just a quick walk away from Saks Fifth Avenue (611 Fifth Avenue), the first of three must-visit retailers.

Then meander down Fifth Avenue (towards downtown Manhattan), taking time to appreciate the many sights and sounds of Christmas along this famed thoroughfare. If you’re feeling a bit peckish you can even find, if you’re lucky, actual chestnuts roasting on an open fire from one of New York’s street vendors. If you miss out on the chestnuts, there are always the warm, doughy, salty New York pretzels.

Next stop? More windows at Lord & Taylor department store on 424 Fifth Avenue (and West 38th Street). Last year’s Lord & Taylor windows celebrated the flagship store’s 100th anniversary; it will be exciting to see them try to outdo themselves this year! Finally, take a right onto West 34th Street and head to Herald Square – and the iconic displays at Macy’s (151 West 34th Street).

Seasonal Showstoppers

Radio City Christmas Tree, NYC

Besides the requisite shopping, you can’t have Christmas in New York City without seeing a show, and no show ushers in the Christmas season better than the Radio City Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall (1260 Avenue of the Americas). Book tickets for a mid- to late-afternoon matinee (there are multiple performances daily) and get ready to be wowed by the world-famous, legs-that-go-on-forever Rockettes in this magical musical performance that combines singing, dancing, comedy and film.

When the 90-minute show lets out, share your favourite parts over dinner at nearby Rue 57, a short walk up Sixth Avenue (60 West 57th Street). Here, cosy up with some comfort food at this French Brasserie with an Asian and American twist. Think French onion soup, steaks and even sushi rolls. Save room for dessert… but not here (more on that later).

Horsing Around

Central Park Christmas Horse Carriage New York

Walk off dinner with a short stroll to renowned Central Park, where, especially if you’re travelling with someone you love, you can take a romantic horse-drawn carriage ride to see the highlights of these hallowed grounds. A 45-minute ride starts at US$155, and carriages hold as many as four adults or three adults and two small children.

New York Christmas…with a Cherry on Top!

Now that you’ve rested your feet, it’s time for that dessert, and it’s a brisk 15-minute walk from Central Park to one of the best sweet spots in town: Serendipity 3 (225 East 60th Street). Here, you’ll find decadent desserts, such as the Serendipitous Hot Chocolate (with whipped cream, cinnamon, grated valley orange and shaved French chocolate), Lemon Ice Box Pie, Dark Double Devil Mousse and a variety of spectacular sundaes.

If you’re a really big spender – and really hungry – you can even have the Guinness World Record-holding Golden Opulence Sundae for US$1000 (but you have to order this 48 hours in advance). Aren’t you glad you saved room? It’s enough to make you think you’ve landed in Dean Martin’s classic Christmas carol, “A Marshmallow World”.

But your Manhattan Christmas marathon day is not over just yet. It’s time to bring your journey full circle. Hop in a cab – we won’t make you walk any more – and head back to Rockefeller Plaza (where your adventure began) for a nightcap in the cocktail lounge at the illustrious Rainbow Room. Yes, a drink here will set you back US$20 to 30, but toasting to a merry Christmas with a view of the lit-up Empire State Building is worth the expense and marks a fitting and relaxing end to a day packed fuller than Santa’s sleigh.

All that’s left now is to ask Santa to bring you a white Christmas – New York City in winter is all the more beautiful draped in snow.

Snowman against NYC skyline in winter

When To Go

To take advantage of all things Christmassy in New York City, it’s best to plan your trip for December. But dress accordingly – New York in winter can be very cold, with average temperatures ranging from -1° Celsius to 5° Celsius.

Where To Stay

Budget accommodation at Christmastime in New York can be tricky, but you can find options. Check out Bowery Grand Hotel on the Lower East Side. For something mid-range, try the DoubleTree by Hilton New York City in the Financial District. And if you can really afford to give yourself a Christmas present this trip, then stay at Langham Place right on Fifth Avenue.
More Hotels in New York

How to Get There

Multiple international carriers fly from Singapore to New York (JFK) including Cathay Pacific, which stops over via Hong Kong, and British Airways and Singapore Airlines, which connect via London.

Visa Requirements

Singapore passport holders can visit the US for up to 90 days without a visa.