New York City means different things to different people. At Christmastime it often means shopping. Lots of shopping.

If you happen to find yourself in NYC after Thanksgiving with a shopping list— perhaps a tween or teen who loves to shop— here are a few stores you’ll definitely want to check out. You’ll find fun gifts for everyone in your family from babies to grown-ups.

Since shopping is very tiring, I’m also listing my favorite places to stop for seasonal sweets like hot chocolate and German spice cookies and perenial favorites like cupcakes. The kids you have with you will enjoy every bite! And since it’s the holiday season, you might as well dig in and enjoy, too!

Top Christmas Shopping and Dessert Stops In NYC

Crafty Gifts at Union Square’s Holiday Market

A view from above of the union square holiday market in new york

Head down to the Union Square area, and you’ll find lots of things to do.

Every year Union Square plays host to a large outdoor Holiday Market that features unique, often-handmade jewelry, ornaments, art, clothes and toys (cool toys!).

There are also foods to both give as gifts and eat on site. Pretty tins of German Lebkuchen are great to give as gifts; I usually buy one for myself, too.

Hot cocoa from city bakery in nyc

After getting chilly in the markets, warm up with hot chocolate at nearby City Bakery on 18th Street west of 5th ave. A cup is always topped with their enormouse house-made marshmallows. If you don’t have sweet tooth go for the pretzel croissants.

Or try Max Brenner on Broadway just south of the park for an afternoon of chocolate overload.

Not done shopping? Head just south of Union Square on Broadway to stop by the famous Strand Books, where you can choose from 18 miles of new, used and rare books.

Or stop by Forbidden Planet for the dedicated comic-book fan in your family.

Cruise Columbus Circle

The Southwest corner of Central Park has a smaller holiday market with similar vendors to Union Square’s. It’s worth a stop if you’ve been skating at nearby Wollman Rink, or seeing the Nutcracker at Lincoln Center.

When you get cold, head inside the Time Warner Building where a light and music show cues up every half hour from 5:00 on starting mid-December.

Goodies from bouchon bakery

Afterward, head upstairs to Bouchon Bakery & Cafe, probably the most affordable Thomas Keller restaurant in his collection. It’s a nice spot for lunch. You can indulge in any of his impeccably yummy baked goods at any time of day.

Hit Rockefeller Center

While it may sound fairly obvious, the Rockefeller Center tree really is a sight to behold. The best view is from 5th avenue, looking down the line of trumpeting angels.

The stores along 5th Avenue from Central Park to Rock Center include Tiffany’s, Bergdorf’s and Cartier. They’re probably best for window shopping but definitely worth a peek.

Lego fans must stop by the Lego Store above the rink for its NYC icons done in Lego bricks. The NBC Studios Shop across the rink is the place to shop for fans of the network’s latest hit shows.

Cupcakes from magnolia bakery with flowery icing.

The nearest stop for your sugar craving is Magnolia Bakery on 6th Avenue at 49th Street. It’s famous for its cupcakes, but I prefer the cookies and lemon bars.

If it’s getting dark out, consider heading to Top of the Rock to see the city lights from above.

More Shopping? Sure!

Small independent stores are what make New York unique.

Babest is one of several stylish kids clothing and toy stores in nyc

Try like Kidding Around in Chelsea, Boomerang Toys in Battery Park City and the stylish Babesta in Tribeca for toys and baby goods.

For older kids head to the Compleat Strategist, a legendary shop full of popular and hard-to-find games on 33rd Street, near the Empire State Building.

No matter what you do, you’re sure to catch some of that Christmas spirit—it’s everywhere in NYC.

Plan This Trip!

Find the best available rates for NYC hotels on TripAdvisor.
• Or explore NYC’s neighborhoods with a vacation rental from VRBO.
• Find a guided shopping tour of only-in-NYC stores on Viator.
• Or try cupcake walking tour of NYC, one of several food tours onViator.
Read more: top Thanksgiving and Christmas hotel packages in NYC.
• NYC Christmastime Dos and Don’ts, too.)

Pin it for later!

Kristy Jefferson is a freelance writer and NYC parent.


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  1. New York is a special place any time of the year but particularly around the Christmas period. Great tips for what to do, thanks for sharing. #TheWeeklyPostcard

  2. I was in NYC at this time last year and it was bordering on hot. I wanted to do the hot chocolate thing and waffles at Bryant Park. Ok we did it anyhow, but we just had a warmer than normal visit.

  3. Brace yourself for NYC in December, cold and crowded! But also be prepared to have a lot of fun!

  4. So do I. But being on vacation, in a new environment with unique things, can sometimes put me in a shopping mood.

  5. I am very exited about all these recommendations. I am taking good notes about these sweet and delicious places. I will be in New York in two weeks and I can’t wait to hit all these places (and many more). #TheWeeklyPostcard

  6. I am a big fan of the City Bakery and that hot chocolate. Past years they do a special thing in February where they have different flavors. Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard.

  7. I love New York City during the holidays. It’s so festive and there is so much to do there. Warming up with some hot chocolate sounds heavenly after a stroll in the chilly markets.

  8. What a great page! Being a father of two little kids, i am constantly looking for fun activities in New York. Doesn’t matter if it’s summer or winter, New York is always happening!

  9. You must have been reading my mind! A few hours ago, I was thinking of a ring I bought at Bryant Park a few Christmases ago and trying to decide whether I should return there or check out Lincoln Square.
    You’ve reminded me of some other options. Thanks!

  10. Wonderful list and pictures – Being in NYC during the holidays is something that’s on my “life list”

  11. I love NYC. Winter is the one season my wife and I haven’t been there. We will have to try City Bakery. I personally am not a fan of Magnolia though…

  12. Love NYC, and would definitely like to be there at Christmas to see the lights and hear the carollers.

  13. NYC is a magical city! The one time I was in town during the holiday season, I was lucky to have good weather which allowed me to sit in Bryant park enjoying hot chocolate. It was perfect!

  14. What a great list of holiday activities! We have been to NYC twice with our kids for New Year’s but I’d love to go prior to Christmas sometime and enjoy all the pre-Christmas activities. Love all your suggestions on where to get treats – haven’t tried any of them yet!

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