How to Spend Christmas in New York City Like in the Movies
And when it comes to Christmas movies, from the classics to the contemporary, there's no city that shines like the Big Apple (although Chicago gets an honorable mention for “While You Were Sleeping”). It's no coincidence that millions visit New York City during the holidays — they're lured by the lights, the landmarks, and the intangible magic you can feel amid a fresh snowfall in Central Park.
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So how do you enjoy a holiday in the city just like in the movies? You can start by visiting the locations from your favorite Christmas classics.
Here are some of the places you'll find in “Elf,” “Miracle on 34th Street,” “Home Alone 2,” and many more.
Arrive at LaGuardia
Stay at the Plaza Hotel (or just have tea there)
The most iconic of New York City hotels, the Plaza has hosted Eloise, Kevin McCallister in Home Alone 2 (which also probably wouldn't happen today), “Crocodile” Dundee and many other characters. In Home Alone 2, Kevin lives out his dream New York City holiday with the help of a luxurious hotel suite. If a suite isn't in your budget, you can still enjoy this gorgeous building by having tea at The Palm Court or by perusing the Food Hall on the hotel's concourse level. (That's the rich word for basement.)
Go ice-skating at Wollman Rink in Central Park
Go skating like John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale in “Serendipity” at the Wollman Rink. (Or just buy a ticket to ride the carousel.) There are few things more iconically “winter in New York City” than skating in Central Park. And when you need to warm up, head to Serendipity 3 (on 60th Street between 3rd and 2nd Avenues) for some more film-inspired cityness.
Revel in Times Square
Times Square, often avoided by locals, has unique appeal around the holidays. There's nowhere else to take in the lights and the people, and really have no choice but to go with the hustling flow. And as amNewYork so wonderfully explained, it's pretty easy — assuming you can suspend your fear of being judged — and cheap to enjoy midtown like Buddy the “Elf.” So find a revolving door, enjoy the “world's best” coffee, play hopscotch in a crosswalk (carefully), and have a holly, jolly Christmas.
See the Ghosts of Christmas at the Seagram Building
While the business-centric East 50s of Manhattan don't typically attract tourists, the skyscrapered blocks have been featured in many films. The Seagram Building, on Park Avenue at 52nd, is in two Christmas movies that — ironically enough — remind us there's more to life than work. In the 2000 film “The Family Man,” Nic Cage spends Christmas Eve working here before a series of events has him questioning his priorities. And in 1988's “Scrooged,” Bill Murray sees those infamous Christmas ghosts and loses some of his bah humbug. (And that's to say nothing of the building's architectural history.) Several other buildings in the area have been featured in non-holiday movies, so if it feels familiar, you've probably seen a lot of '80s movies, like I have. And a subway grate at 52nd and Lexington is also a landmark: It's the spot where Marilyn Monroe posed for the cameras in that white dress.
See the city from the Top of the Rock
While the interiors in the 1957 classic “Desk Set” were sets on a studio lot (Christmas happens in this movie, so I'm totally calling it a Christmas movie, deal with it), Katharine Hepburn's fictional office is in Rockefeller Center. And that's where Spencer Tracy arrives to install his “electronic brain” — and bring in the modern computer era. The legendary pair spend a comedic scene on the roof, freezing in the November weather, but you can enjoy the views from the comfort of the inside viewing area at Top of the Rock (or go outside, just bundle up). Going to the top of the Empire State Building is on many NYC bucket lists, but the best *view* of the Empire State Building is from here.
See the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree
The iconic Rockefeller tree gets special treatment in more than a few movies, and “Home Alone 2” and “Elf” are two of the best for getting into that Christmas spirit. Rent some skates or just enjoy the view of the tree that, tall as it is, is no match for the grandeur of Rockefeller Center.
Meet Santa at Macy's
The urban home of Santa Claus, Macy's department store kicks off the holiday season in New York City with the Thanksgiving Day Parade. Whether you prefer the 1947 classic with Natalie Wood, Maureen O'Hara, and Edmund Gwenn, or the more recent 1994 classic with Mara Wilson, Elizabeth Perkins, Richard Attenborough, there's nothing more Christmas in New York City than windowshopping and a visit — up a wooden escalator — to Santa at Macy's.
Pick up a Christmas tree on the sidewalk
Thanksgiving weekend New York City's sidewalks turn festive, as Christmas tree sellers start setting up and the scent of pine is around every corner. Make like Harry and Sally and get a tree yourself — you could even go to where they got theirs in the movie, at Broadway and 96th Street.
Shop at FAO Schwarz
While you can't visit the FAO Schwarz in the movies anymore — that landmark closed due to, what else, high rent — visitors to New York City will soon be able to visit a new FAO Schwarz. If it stays on schedule, the new toy store will open in fall 2018, just in time for holiday shopping. For 2017, there's an FAO Schwarz pop-up open through December 31.
See the Rockettes
The Rockettes are a New York City institution, and they've been in more than a couple Christmas movies. Go see the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall, and you'll be participating in a decades-long tradition.