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There are few things as magical as Christmastime in New York City. The entire town comes alive with twinkling lights and beautiful window displays. And even though this time of year also means a spiked stress level, it’s really important to set time aside to take advantage of the city’s beautiful seasonal sights.

I was born in New York City and, even though I grew up in Miami, have lived here for over a decade. And yet seasonal decorations always stir something in me… the joy that I think is meant to accompany this time of year.

Sure, this list is made up of mostly tourist-overrun cliches, but things become cliche for a reason, right? If you have the pleasure of visiting New York City in December, brave the crowds and be sure not to miss these classic spots.

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(1) Rockefeller Center

Maybe you’ve heard about this little tree they have there? I have a very vivid memory of my parents taking my sister and I to see the lighting of the famous Christmas tree. It was cold, and we had to basically stand there all day. Not so fun. Unless you’re a super-fan of one of the performers any given year (this year’s headliner was Gwen Stefani), it’s not worth it. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stop by another day though!

It can get crowded, especially on the weekends, but at least take a stroll around the main plaza. There are a ton of shops, as well as the famous ice skating rink, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Plus, if you’re like Frozen‘s Elsa and the cold doesn’t bother you anyway, take a trip up to Top of the Rock. It’s a little pricey at close to $40 per person, but it tends to be less crowded than the Empire State Building, and the views can’t be beat.

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(2) Macy’s Herald Square

Even though it’s not actually the “World’s Largest Store” like the sign says (that honor belongs to a Korean department store named Shinsegae), it is still pretty epic. If crowds aren’t your thing, beware; it can be hectic, especially on the ground floor. If you can find your way to one of the up escalators or manage to squeeze on to an elevator, head straight up to the ninth floor.

Sure, you can make an appointment to meet Santa on the eighth floor, but their new mandatory reservation system led to us waiting over an hour for that pleasure, when in years past we were in and out of there in 15 minutes with a reservation. Instead, take a leisurely stroll on nine. They have a bunch of beautifully decorated trees, as well as several cute photo ops and an area for kids to sit and color for a bit if they need a break from the crowds.

 

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(3) Union Square Holiday Market

One of my favorite holiday traditions is a standing date for brunch and a walk through Union Square’s Holiday Market with one of my friends. This year, life got a little away from us AND we got a freak snow on the day we were finally able to meet. We powered through though, and still managed a full lap of the stalls.

There are several similar markets that pop up throughout the city around this time of year, but this one holds a special place in my heart. Bryant Park’s Winter Village is lovely, but seems a little more expensive. I love the cozy feel of the booths at Union Square… and the proximity to several great brunch spots.

What about you? Have you visited New York City around the holidays? Any favorite sights to see? I’ve heard really great things about Brookfield Place down in Lower Manhattan, but unfortunately wasn’t able to make it down there this year. Anything else?

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