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Spend a Fun & Frugal Holiday in New York City

Spend a Fun & Frugal Holiday in New York City
Christina Hammarberg

There's no place like New York City for the holidays! If Hollywood has taught us anything, it's that the City is the quintessential holiday location. There's just something about the combination of the City's natural charms with the glitz, glamour and just plain “magic” of the holidays that makes it an extra special place to be. And the best part is you don't have to go broke while you're there – many of the most popular holiday spots are totally free.

When to Go

Decorations start appearing in Midtown Manhattan - the “heart” of the City's holiday festivities - in mid-November, just in time for Macy's annual Thanksgiving Day parade. Depending on your travel preferences, anytime between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day is a good time to visit. The tree in Rockefeller Center is lit the following Wednesday, which officially kicks off the season. By then, all of the decorations and lights will be up, and stay up until early January.  Just know in advance that Manhattan is pretty popular during this time of year - so expect crowds!

Getting There

Inspired to make some travel plans, but time is a factor? No need to worry. Some of the best deals heading to New York can be found last minute. As you budget out your trip, realize that getting there is going to be your big splurge, particularly if you need to fly. But there are always great travel deals and packages on sites like Travelocity and Orbitz.

Where to Stay

There is no shortage of four- and five-star hotels in New York City, with prices to match. Again, keep an eye on package deals from sites like The highest prices will be close to the action in nyc christmasMidtown. Don't be afraid to look for lodging a little further away. If you're willing to wait until the last minute, however, many of these hotels drop their rates in anticipation of the holiday rush. The lowest prices of the season are usually for Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, but you'll need to act fast to grab those deals. You might also consider booking a room in a hostel or perhaps trying out one of the Pod Hotels, which offer a variety of small, yet clean and comfortable and rooms, often for less than $100 a night.

Holiday Hot Spots

Now comes the fun part: sightseeing! The beauty of spending the holiday season in Manhattan is that there are plenty of free events and sites to enjoy. The bulk of the festivities are in Midtown, all conveniently within walking distance of each other.

You could start your sightseeing with a walk along Fifth Avenue, where you'll be treated to the stunning window displays at Saks, Bloomingdales, Macy's, Lord and Taylor and other iconic stores. These elaborate holiday displays change every year, and feature lights, music and animated characters. Fifth Avenue is also where you'll find FAO Schwartz, the famous toy store with the giant floor piano. Next, head over to Rockefeller Center Plaza and check out the Herald Angels, the massive Christmas tree - decked out in more than 45,000 LED lights - and, of course, the famous Rockefeller skating rink. Before you leave the Avenue, a visit to Macy's Herald Square is a must. Up on the 8th floor is where you'll find Santaland, a 13,000-square-foot walking tour of the North Pole, with Mr. Claus himself waiting at the end. Admission is free, so lines are typically long (sometimes two hours or more!) so plan ahead or try to get there when the store opens.

Just a few city blocks away from the Plaza is Times Square. Just walking through Times Square is anyc christmas macysn event in itself with stores, restaurants and people at every turn. Keep your eyes and ears peeled for spontaneous street performances to keep you in a festive mood. The mega-stores are lots of fun, too. Be sure to stop into Toys 'R' Us, which has a working ferris wheel and larger-than-life LEGO displays, plus all sorts of toys and games that you can try out for free.


The Rest of Midtown and Beyond

There's plenty more holiday fun to be had as you explore the City. Stop into Grand Central Terminal on 42nd Street and catch the free light show. Beyond Midtown, you'll find outdoor holiday markets, like the ones in Columbus Circle or Bryant Park. You can also head to Central Park to take in the sites.

New York City is the gift that keeps on giving if you know where to look. These few time-honored holiday traditions are fail-safe fun the family will never forget!

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