It’s Christmas time in the City. New York City, that is.
It’s no surprise Christmas comes with a big price tag. The holidays aren’t cheap. But NYC, America’s famous pre-holiday, tinsel-covered destination infamous for it’s expensive reputation, does offer free holiday fun. Plan a budget holiday trip before December 24 and 25. Then simply mix expensive holiday activities–Broadway’s annual production of White Christmas or a whirlwind shopping spree at Saks Fifth Avenue–with these five low-cost activities that’ll stretch your weekend budget further.
1. Ice Skate at Rockefeller Center
NYC’s famous, huge Christmas tree stands in Rockefeller plaza, home to the ice skating rink that first opened on Christmas Day in 1936. You can rent skates for $8-9 and admission to the rink varies depending on what time of day you visit but typically costs $10 for adults and $7.50 for children. The ice rink is located in between 47th and 50th Streets and 5th and 7th Avenues.
If you like to start your mornings early, visit the live taping of the Today Show, located in Rockefeller Center. You don’t need tickets and it’s totally free. People line up for the Today Show as early as 6am (or before) but Meredith Vieira and Matt Lauer don’t come out of the NBC studio until 7:40am at the earliest. Groups of school children, a dance team from an area high school, families, couples–everyone turns out. For more information on the Today Show and tips on how to get noticed by the hosts/ get on TV, visit here.
3. Window Shop Down 5th Avenue
Walk down 5th Ave. starting up on 53rd St. and work your way down both sides of the street for NYC’s best window shopping. Saks, Lord & Taylor and Macy’s all have incredibly complex, colorful, animated holiday displays in the store windows that you have to see if you’ve never been to the city at Christmas. Display technicians craft the displays months in advance and the bells, whistles, twirly gadgets and moving toys are certainly a shopping-must.
If you like Christmas lights, visit Dyker Heights in Brooklyn for NYC’s most outrageous, over-the-top lights displays. Professionals design the displays and in an effort to top last year’s efforts, they combine lights with inflatable Christmas decorations and motorized Christmas displays. Dyker Heights is located from 11th Avenue to 13th Avenue and from 83rd to 86th Street. Dyker’s weekend displays are the best and Dyker residents turn on the most intense light displays between 7-9pm.
5. Visit Santa at Macys
Santaland, located on the 8th floor of Macys’ flagship store, Herald Square on 34th street, is the best place to see Santa. There will most likely be a long line but it moves quickly and an elf at the end of the line will give you an estimate of how long it’ll take. You can have your children’s picture taken with Santa. Macy also has letter-writing stations where children can write holiday wish lists to Santa.