A New York City Christmas

Have you ever had that one ultimate dream of going somewhere magical?  That location that you’d do anything to experience?  Well, a New York City Christmas adventure has been that dream in my heart for a very long time.  

I have longed to experience New York City at Christmastime.  The magical essence of seeing the big tree at Rockefeller Centre.  To walk by Macy’s and gaze at their amazing window displays.  To view the light show that Saks 5th Avenue displays.  There were just so many ‘must-see’ adventures that someday I wanted to experience.

Well, that dream of setting foot in NYC at Christmastime has come true.  My husband and I ventured to the Big Apple for a whirlwind 2-night stay at the famous Iroquois Hotel – built in 1900 and where the legendary James Dean once lived.  

Our Itinerary:

  • One night stay in Syracuse for our early train departure via Amtrack into NYC
  • 2-night stay at The Iroquois Hotel (near Bryant Park)
  • Bryant Park Christmas Market
  • View the big tree at Rockefeller Plaza
  • Skate at Rockefeller Plaza
  • 5th Avenue/Saks light show
  • See The Plaza Hotel
  • Walk through Time’s Square area
  • Frosty’s Christmas Bar
  • Ellen’s Stardust Diner
  • Horse and Carriage ride through Central Park
  • Columbus Circle Christmas Market
  • Lunch at the Original Soup Kitchen (Soup Nazi – Seinfeld)
  • Top of the Rock (Rockefeller Centre)
  • Back to the Future Broadway show

Day By Day Itinerary

Day 1 – Wednesday:

We headed to Syracuse for a 1-night staying at the Embassy Suites Hotel with the purpose of taking the train to NYC.  This fabulous hotel is situated in the perfect location – directly across the Interstate from the Amtrak station as well as the Destiny USA mall.  

Day 2: – Thursday

We had a bright and early train departure – 7:06am – but this would allow us to arrive at the Moynihan Trail Hall – Penn Station – at 12:45pm.  We would then have the entire afternoon and evening to begin our New York City Christmas exploring.  

The train travel was seamless.  Syracuse Regional Transportation Center has it figured it.  Easy parking and plenty of seating in their waiting area. We boarded with ease and settled in for our 5.5-hour train adventure.  

Upon arriving at Penn Station, we got situated with the streets and headed – by foot – to our lovely hotel – The Iroquois – about a 20 minute walk.  Along our walk – we passed Macy’s to take in their lovely Christmas decorations (which did not disappoint) and could see the Empire State Building in the distance.  

The Iroquois Hotel is situated along 44th street in a lovely area just far enough away from the busyness of Time’s Square.  A lovely boutique hotel – rated one of the best small luxury hotels – right in the heart of New York City.  We were warmly greeted by a doorman and welcomed by the front desk with a smile.  Check in was simple and our room was ready within minutes so we dropped our bags off so we could begin our NYC adventure.

Note: We booked via Booking.com and got a great deal. If you are thinking of experiencing NYC for their Christmas season, book early. We booked in September – right before the prices took a jump.

First stop was Bryant Park’s Christmas Market.  A lovely park filled with decorated craft and food huts all surrounding their gorgeously lit Christmas tree and ice skating rink.  We explored the huts taking in the beautiful décor, music and lights.  We were there during day light hours, so we did not get to experience how lovely the park would be at night time, but even still… this market did not disappointment.  

Next, we headed towards Rockefeller Centre to take in their world-famous tree.  Along the way, we admired the window displays and building décor of Saks 5th Avenue – Gorgeous! Directly across the way we spotted the big Tree.  Stunning.  We made our way over to view it more closely and immediately spotted their skating rink.  Before long, we were down on the rink, skating next to their stunning tree.  A dream come true. 

After skating, we made our way back up to 5th Avenue and we were blessed to be smack dab in the middle of Saks Department Store just as their spectacular light show were to begin.  This amazing light show actually brought tears to our eyes as we watched in awe and listened to the timely music.  We had seen this display online, but seeing it in person was magical.  

Next, we walked inside the magnificent St Patrick’s Cathedral and admired their gorgeous décor and hymns.  We had experienced this wonder a few years back while visiting NYC before, but seeing it again it did not disappointment.  We also fell upon St Thomas Church and could hear a choir.  Walking inside – we fell upon a magnificent cathedral structure being filled with heartwarming sounds of a boys choir.  We literally felt like Kevin in Home Alone as we sat and listened to this outstanding choir practicing Christmas hymns for an upcoming event.  

After our hearts being spiritually filled with song, we headed up 5th Avenue towards Central Park and the Plaza Hotel. We had longed to stop inside this famous hotel landmark – to again; feel like Kevin – but during peak holiday times, the hotel is only open to guests.  We then worked our way to find a some food and into Time’s Square to take in the enourmous video screens, lights, and hustle and bustle of what NYC is known for. 

Before coming to NYC, we had learned of a Christmas pub called Frosty’s and we quickly learned that it was on 44thstreet not far from our hotel.  We decided to see if we could experience this magical wonder before heading back.  As luck would have it, we were able to enter with no wait time – although a hefty $70 (per couple) entrance fee.  But!  Once inside, it was well worth it.  Three floors of highly decorated Christmas features.  This pub definitely knew how to display its festive spirt and drinks.  We stayed for a while taking in all of the photo prop opportunities and dancing before heading back to our hotel.  We did however – pop into a quaint Irish pub a block from our hotel (O’Donoghue’s) for a nightcap and a quick listen to a fabulous Irish band playing.  

A fantastic first day in NYC.     

Day 3 – Friday:

We decided to rise bright and early this day and head to Ellen’s Stardust Diner to experience their Broadway themed eatery.  We had experienced this a few years back as well, but it was so good, we just wanted to go back.  This second visit did not disappoint either.  Not only is their food delicious, but the talent of the waiters and staff is phenomenal.  

Tip:  Go early!  It opens at 7am and even upon arriving at 7:20am the line to enter was down the block.  We waited for roughly 20 minutes chatting with other excited patrons waiting to experience this wonder.  Allow for some wait time into your itinerary in order to experience this fabulous place. 

After our delicious breakfast, we headed up 7th Avenue towards Central Park stopping in the World Famous Christmas Cottage.  The oldest Christmas store in NYC.  Jam packed with Christmas décor.  If you were looking for a Christmas souvenir, this is certainly a great place to find it.  

Entering Central Park, we wanted to experience it via a horse and carriage and we found our perfect duo – Peter and Bella.  Peter took us on an hour long journey passing many famous structures (Strawberry Fields – John Lennon’s memorial, NYC marathon finish line, Tavern on the Green) and filming locations (Home Alone, Elf, Date Night, Balto, Friend’s fountain, Ghost Busters building, and many more).  He was informative, funny, and so kind to take our picture to remember this lovely experience.  

After our romantic Central Park journey, we were hungry for lunch and we happened to find The Original Soup Kitchen – the inspiration behind the Soup Natzi on the Seinfeld TV Show.  This was a definitely highlight.  The experience was so similar to that of the show.  You had to be quick in your decision making ability and move to the left.  I was actually almost passed by – having been told “NEXT” because I was slow.  I did however, get my soup (which came with a piece of bread, a banana and a Lindt chocolate ).  This was a laughable experience we will not forget.  

After eating our delighful soup, we headed over to Rockefeller Centre to take the ‘Top Of The Rock’ experience.  We were thrilled by the 67 flights we took in the elevator and the additional 2 flights of stairs to arrive at the top/roof of Rockefeller Centre.  The views here -even on a cloudy/misty day – are phenomenal.  You can see the enter city – past Central Park to Harlem, New Jersey, and as south as the One World Trade Centre.  The Empire State Building is in picture perfect view for exquist photos and you also get the view of the tallest apartment building (98 stories) in not only NYC, but the western hemisphere where the top floor was purchased for $280 million dollars.  An experience well worth part-taking in. 

We then headed on back towards our hotel – stopping for a happy hour drink at the same quaint Irish pub (O’Donoghue’s) before changing for dinner and the theatre.  We met a lovely couple from the UK and chatted happily about what we have each experience while in the city that never sleeps.  We liked the pub so much that we returned for dinner – and sitting again with our new UK friends prior to our theatre show time.

To top off the night, we headed to see the Back To The Future Broadway show.  We were fascinated by the talent, the songs, and the set of this magnificnat production.  We can see why it has won awards.  Outstanding!  If you are looking for a Broadway show that will not only bring you back to your childhood memories, but also fill your heart with delight and laughter, than this show is for you.  We loved it and it was the perfect ending to our NYC adventure.

Day 4: – Saturday:

Our last morning in NYC.  We had a 10:20am train departure so we did have to rise and shine a bit earlier than we had wanted to.  However, our 2-night New York City Christmas adventure was well worth it. Our hotel provided breakfast for us – due to a renovation of their kitchen area – a grab in go type breakfast was provided:  coffee/tea, orange juice, fruit, a hot breakfast sandwich, oatmeal and yogurt were offered in their lounge area.  Delightful.  They even had almond milk as an alternative option for coffee.  This was a pleasant surprise. This chic hotel was an excellent boutique establishment that perfectly fit the NYC vibe with stylish decor, an upscale atmosphere, and an intimate experience. I would highty recommend staying here to anyone travelling to NYC.

After eating, we finished our packing and organizing and began our 20 minute walk to Penn Station (Moynihan Trail Hall) for our train departure.  Our train departure and boarding went seamlessly and our 5.5 hour journey back to Syracuse was pleasant and relaxing.  

Arriving back in Syracuse – we disembarked from the train and headed to the car park area to retrieve our car.  Within minutes, we were heading home – laughing and reminiscing about what wonderful sites, experiences and people we encountered. 


  • Bryant Park Christmas Market
  • Sak’s 5th Avenue light show
  • St Thomas Church boy choir
  • Rockefeller Centre – the tree and the skating
  • Frosty’s Christmas Bar
  • Horse and Carriage ride through Central Park
  • Top of the Rock
  • Soup Nazi Kitchen for lunch
  • Ellen’s Stardust Diner
  • Back to the Future broadway show
  • The wonderful people we met (the UK family in line with us at Ellen’s Stardust and the lovely UK couple we met at O’Donoghue’s Pub)

Thoughts and Tips:

  • Always allow for time – the crowds any time of the year can push you back a bit
  • Arrive early if going to Ellen’s Stardust Diner and expect to wait in line
  • To see and experience some of the sites – get up early before the city wakes up.  You can get a perfect view of the big tree, see Time’s Square without the crowds, and you can even book a skating time at Rockefeller Center as early at 7am.
  • Book a hotel – like The Iroquois – just off of Time’s Square.  You are still within blocks of everything, but in a much quieter neighbourhood. Booking.com is a great site to use.
  • Allow for some spontaneous experiences to occur.  Have a few events planned, but it was the spontaneous ones that ended up being top on our list of highlights.
  • Avoid driving in NYC. Walking and transit is best.  To give you a perspecitive – we were staying on 44th street (between 5th and 6th avenue) – to get to Ellen’s Stardust Diner on 51st street and Broadway – it was a 10 minute walk.   

Ways To Save Money:

  • NYC is an expensive city so be prepared in your budgeting to compensate for the expense of Time’s Square. We did find that the further away from Time’s Square meant the prices were a bit more reasonable.
  • We booked The Iroquois Hotel via Booking.com back in September to beat the price hike of the Christmas season. Always search out deals and compare to booking directly with the hotel. Oftentimes, the hotel will match your price.
  • Find food carts, food fairs, or market areas to purchase food.  Restaurants in the Time’s Square area are pricey (so be prepared for that).


Our New York City Christmas adventure was a 10!  The only thing that would have made it a 10+ would have been some falling snow.  However, on the plus side, the ease of walking on the sidewalks – rolling our suitcases to Penn Station, and not having to bundle up to navigate the city streets was a bonus.  

We would definitely recommend experiencing a New York City Christmas at least once in your life time.  The sites are just as they seem on TV  – only better.  Everything was simply spectacular.  We certainly laughed a lot, had many ‘in awe’ moments, and brought all of those memories back home with us neatly packed in our luggage to reminisce for a lifetime. 

Note: To read about NYC in the summer – read a previous blog HERE.

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