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Top NYC Christmas Shopping & Sugar Fixes

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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, and 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 everyon 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. Enjoy every bite!

(Read about top Thanksgiving and Christmas hotel packages in NYC, and NYC Christmastime Dos and Don’ts, too.)

Top Christmas Shopping and Dessert Stops In NYC

Get Crafty at Union Square’s Holiday Market

hot cocoa from City Bakery in NYCHead down to the Union Square area, and you’ll find lots of things to do.

Every year Union Square plays host to an 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.

After getting chilly in the markets, warm up with hot chocolate at nearby City Bakery on 18th Street west of 5th ave, Their homemade marshmallows are enormous! 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? Stop by the famous Strand Books to choose from 18 miles of new and used books. Or stop by Forbidden Planet for the dedicated comic-book fan in your family.

goodies from bouchon bakery

Note: The Strand has tall stacks, tiny aisles and lots of people browsing in December. Don’t even think of bringing a stroller in.

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.

Afterward, head upstairs to Bouchon Bakery & Cafe, probably the most affordable Thomas Keller restaurant in his collection. If it’s not a meal time try any of his impeccably yummy baked goods.

magnolia bakery cupcaleHit 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.

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. Then consider heading to Top of the Rock to see the city lights from above.
Babesta in NYC

More Shopping? Sure!

Small independent stores are what make New York unique.

Try like Kidding Around in Chelsea, Boomerang Toys in Battery Park City and the stylish Babesta (right) 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.

Planning a trip?
Check reviews and rates for NYC hotels and holiday-season attractions on TripAdvisor.
Find the lowest hotel rates across booking sites on HotelsCombined.

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Kristy Jefferson is a freelance writer and NYC parent.

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