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Christmas Cheer in New York City

New York City sparkles with extra glitz and glamour in the lead up to Christmas, with plenty of accessible fun for all ages.

New York City sparkles with extra glitz and glamour in the lead up to Christmas with plenty of accessible fun for all ages.

Embracing that Christmas magic is easy to do with a visit to New York and it will leave your senses tingling with festive delight. New York is always a bustling, vibrant city and while the lead up to Christmas is no different, it does appear that people are more inclined to take time out from the rat-race to enjoy the spoils of the season.  

Wheels on ice

We’d always dreamt of ice skating on an open-air rink surrounded by the New York skyline. While Wollman Rink in Central Park may be one of the most familiar rinks featured in movies, The Rink at Bryant Park is the most accessible. Both power and manual wheelchair users are allowed on the ice and adaptive sleds are also available to borrow free of charge.

Located in the heart of New York City and surrounded by Christmas markets, this is a festive choice with plenty of seasonal treats. Accessible entrances are located mid-block on 40th and 42nd Streets, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. 

A Plaza of Christmas joy

Rockefeller Plaza and the surrounding streets offer a one-stop overload of music, lights and Christmas decorations. Even the Grinch would be hard pressed not to be wowed by the statuesque Rockefeller Plaza Christmas tree. When we visited New York City, it was a towering 23-metre-high Norway Spruce festooned in 50,000 (give or take) twinkling lights and topped with a Swarovski Star. Christmas toy soldiers stand guard and the Rockefeller Plaza Ice Rink glistens under the bright lights. 

Rockefeller Plaza Christmas tree & ice rink
The Rockefeller Christmas tree is a sight to see!

While in the area it is easy to peek in the Christmas themed windows of Saks Fifth Avenue and watch the 10 storey-tall theatrical light show projected on the Saks Fifth Avenue store façade. 

High kicking family fun

The Radio City Rockettes Christmas Spectacular is a New York City institution, with many locals making a trip to the show an annual holiday tradition. Housed in the famous Radio City Music Hall it’s a great spot to escape the winter chill while enjoying the Christmas themed show.

Expect to be wowed by the synchronised high-kicking Rockettes as they sing, dance and provide lots of family-friendly entertainment. Find out more on their website.

All aboard for Grand Central Terminal

New York City’s major landmarks are all decorated for the Christmas season, but step inside Grand Central Terminal for an extra special treat. Train buffs and young children will delight in seeing the Holiday Train Show with a themed miniature electric railroad housed in The New York Transit Museum’s Grand Gallery. 

Santa Claus Convention 

New York’s population is brimming with eccentric characters and Santacon brings out the city’s most colourful. Santacon is a charity event which is described as a “nonsensical Santa Claus convention that happens once a year to spread absurdist joy”.

Santacon in New York City
New York City’s Santacon will get you in the Christmas spirit.

When we found ourselves among a sea of men, women and children dressed in Santa costumes and Christmas jumpers it was hard not to get swept up in the spirit of the day. Santas can be spotted all over the city on the day, spreading a bit of Christmas cheer. Some are cheerier than others depending on how many bars they’ve visited. 

For event details check

Lighting up Christmas 

If the Griswolds owned a suburb it would be Dyker Heights. An area where the home owners are so dedicated to spreading Christmas cheer, many pay lighting professionals to decorate their homes.

The displays appeal to all ages with couples, families and multi-generation groups making the pilgrimage to appreciate the displays. Street after street is filled with homes dripping in dazzling lights. Many bus tours operate from Midtown Manhattan, but we chose to book with Free Tours by Foot, the most economical option. We met our guide in Brooklyn and travelled as a group to Dyker Heights by subway. Our guide played Christmas carols, shared fun facts and inside intel on the best displays as we walked the streets.

Free Tours by Foot offer accessible tours by prior arrangement.

A family on the ice, including a young child in a wheelchair
Christmas cheer in New York City knows no bounds.

New York City offers seasonal surprises at every turn with carollers in the subway tunnels, busking musicians and the most exuberant Salvation Army collectors you’ll ever meet. So, if you find yourself on Santa’s nice list, request a trip for the future.  I dare anyone to be bah humbug about Christmas when visiting New York during December. 

This story first appeared in Travel Without Limits magazine. You can subscribe here.

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