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Top NYC Holiday Shopping & Sugar Fixes

For more on NYC at any time of year see our At a Glance section.

I may be biased, but there’s nothing more magical than Christmastime in New York. The lights, the decorations, all those cozy spots to stop in for a hot chocolate; it’s pure yuletide bliss. So if you happen to find yourself in NYC, here are a few things you’ll definitely want to check out – besides the obvious (and wonderful) Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.

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 (top) that features unique, often-handmade jewelry, ornaments, art, clothes and toys (cool toys!).There are also foods to both give as gifts and at on site.

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.

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.

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

The Time Warner center in NYCCruise 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.

Hit Rockefeller Center

magnolia bakery cupcaleWhile 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.  Lego fans must stop by the 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 sugar stop 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 fun shop full of games on 33rd Street.

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

Planning a trip? Look for hotels and packages on *Expedia.  Look for dining deals on

Kristy Jefferson is a freelance writer and NYC parent.

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holiday season in NYC offers lots of opportunities for unique shopping and sweets


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  1. December 5, 2016 at 8:40 am — Reply

    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. December 4, 2016 at 11:32 pm — Reply

    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.

    • December 6, 2016 at 1:54 pm — Reply

      Last year was an oddly mild winter. it made for nice ice skating weather.

  3. December 4, 2016 at 3:19 am — Reply

    I try to avoid shopping, but I do like the festive atmosphere around Christmas. I will, however, stop in a for a hot cocoa! #wkendtravelinspiration!

    • eileen g
      December 4, 2016 at 3:52 pm — Reply

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

  4. December 3, 2016 at 9:51 pm — Reply

    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

    • eileen g
      December 4, 2016 at 3:53 pm — Reply

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

  5. December 3, 2016 at 9:21 am — Reply

    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.

    • eileen g
      December 4, 2016 at 3:54 pm — Reply

      That sounds awesome! we just might have to check that out.

  6. December 3, 2016 at 4:14 am — Reply

    All those sweets look great. If I go shopping, I’ll go shopping for the sweets 🙂

  7. December 2, 2016 at 7:55 pm — Reply

    Having only seen NewYork at Christmas on TV it always looks so magical and the store amazing with their window displays.

  8. […] FamiliesGo  #WkendTravelInspiration […]

  9. December 2, 2016 at 6:56 pm — Reply

    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.

  10. Nikhil
    February 11, 2013 at 9:16 am — Reply

    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!

  11. InsideJourneys
    December 8, 2012 at 12:44 am — Reply

    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!

  12. Tricia (
    December 7, 2012 at 1:47 pm — Reply

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

  13. Sensibletraveler
    December 6, 2012 at 10:11 pm — Reply

    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…

  14. Nancie
    December 6, 2012 at 7:12 pm — Reply

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

  15. Debbie Beardsley @ European Travelista
    December 6, 2012 at 2:45 pm — Reply

    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!

  16. Lisa from Gone With The Family
    December 6, 2012 at 2:33 pm — Reply

    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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