Things to Do in New York City in December

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I’ve been to NYC many times…spring, fall, summer, winter.  But despite the sometimes cold temperatures, I love New York City in December.  I prefer going toward the beginning of December as it is after the Thanksgiving rush and before Christmas vacation for many. Consequently, I can enjoy the shows, dinner, and Christmas decorations among slightly lighter holiday crowds.

This December of 2021, my friend Tina and I were quite lucky.  We spent three full days in New York and completely missed the Omicron spike and resulting shutdowns.  Aside from enjoying savory dinners and seeing plenty of musicals, below are some things we did while visiting New York City in December.

Where to Stay

Obviously there are many places to stay in New York City. We didn’t pick the best or the worst. We just wanted something centrally located. As a result, we selected the Belvedere Hotel for its location in Midtown.  The Belvedere, rated 3 stars, is nothing fancy.  While we enjoyed our larger, upgraded room on the 11th floor, it could stand some double paned windows and more insulation to drown out sirens, trash trucks, and dings of the service elevator.

Fortunately, we weren’t in New York to sit in the hotel.  Instead, we used it as a convenient base.  It is perfect for dining and theater, and it provides easy access to Central Park, the High Line Canal, the tree at Rockefeller Center, and the department store windows at Saks, Macy’s and others.

Check Out the Christmas Windows

We spent our first day in New York City heading south from 48th St.  First, we took a short detour east to check out the windows at Sak’s 5th Avenue.  In the daytime, they are nice, but with the dynamic light display, they are better to see at night.  At least we saw them, and then we caught the Christmas windows at Macy’s as we worked our way back southwest to the High Line.

Visit Hudson Yards

At the northern entrance of the High Line, is Hudson Yards which features the Vessel, the Shed, the Edge, and a large shopping mall with holiday lights, shops, and restaurants.  The most unique structure to me was the Vessel.  It looks like an upside-down pinecone.  It used to be open to the public and was meant for climbing to the top. Unfortunately, people climbed to the top to jump off, committing suicide. Now, visitors may only ascend to the first floor when it is open.

The Edge, however, is a big tourist attraction.  Climbers scale the outside of a skyscraper 1,200 feet to a platform where they lean out and look down!  It is definitely for the thrill-seeker type!

The Shed commissions original works of art across all disciplines.  It features music, digital media, painting, sculpture, dance and more.  We just stepped inside briefly to see what it was about and unknowingly timed our arrival during some type of Project Runway event.  The fashion (or costumes as I would call them), certainly turn your head!  I don’t watch the show, but Tina was excited to see the judges, contestants and the crazy getups!

Walk the High Line

From Hudson Yards, we walked down the High Line to the Whitney.  The High Line is an elevated park that operated as a train line beginning in the 1930’s.  It was once called the West Side Elevated Line and transported millions of tons of meat, dairy and produce.  It even cut through the middle of buildings, creating easy access to companies like Nabisco.  Such factory is now the Chelsea Market.

Over time train use dwindled with the rise of trucking. Soon the rail line was abandoned and eventually turned in a 1.45 mile linear park.  The path is lined with plants, art sculptures and several nice apartment buildings.  The neighborhood also has many art galleries.

Admire the Arts

We took the High Line all the way to the Whitney Museum of American Art in the Meat Packing District.  The Whitney was founded in 1930 by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, for whom it is named.  The museum focuses on the 20th and 21st century art.  We visited for the Jasper John’s exhibit which was quite good.  I didn’t know much about the artist accept that my favorite author, Michael Crichton, wrote a book about his work.  He is known for his abstract expressionism and depictions of the American flag.  On display, were several interesting pieces. And the GIANT elevator was intriguing!

Explore Little Island

With the end of the day winding down, we briefly stopped at the Little Island, located just north of the Whitney on the Hudson River.  Little Island is a man-made, 2.4 acre park and is part of the Hudson River Park.  The project came to fruition after 2012’s Hurricane Sandy damaged Pier 54, once used for the arrival of the Titanic survivors and in the departure of the RMS Lusitania that was later sunk in WWI.

The new park was designed and constructed by all New York companies.  The island resembles a leaf floating in the water with each one of its pods looking like tulips.  It was constructed over the existing pier as to not disturb the marine life.  The island features an amphitheater, seating, and a path with art installations through the green space.

While the base looked more like women’s high heeled shoes to me, the concept is nice, and I can only imagine how busy it is in the spring and summer with nice weather and music events.  Though we didn’t do any nice weather lounging, we also didn’t have to make a reservation for a timed entry either!

littile island new york city in december

Admire the Christmas Tree

After spending our first day toward the bottom of half of Manhattan, we spent the next day north of midtown.  But before heading toward Central Park, we had to stop by Rockefeller Center to see the tree. The tree is brought into the city in mid November and is lit in a public ceremony the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. It stays up until the beginning of January.

the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center

Go Shopping

From Rockefeller Center, we headed north to Central Park. On the way, we admired the lights around the Plaza, were disappointed to find the food court below it closed permanently, but had some fun trying on some expensive clothing by a Japanese designer in Bergdorf Goodman’s before wandering through Central Park. It took us nearly 10 minutes to figure out how this blouse, that forms a circle on one side, fit! Who wants to take a guess at the price?

shopping at bergdorf goodman's in new york city in december

Stroll through Central Park

I swear, every time I visit Central Park, I see something new.  The 843-acre park has miles of trails.  I think we clocked about 12 miles in the park and hardly followed the interior paths.  We passed by the zoo, the ballfields, Tavern on the Green, the ice-skating rink, a filming crew, and the carousel.  I spent a few dollars to bring the child out in me and rode it.

We also visited the Belvedere Castle for lovely views, circled the right side of the Reservoir, passed through the Conservatory Garden, and took a construction detour to see the Blockhouse.  The Blockhouse, built to defend New York in the War of 1812, is the oldest surviving building in Central Park.

Despite the maps, signposts, and even the cast iron lamp posts which are marked with four numbers indicating the cross street and the side of the park (odd-west, even-east), we still sometimes walked aimlessly and felt lost.  Even finding one of the many bathrooms in the park proved challenging, as several were closed for the season! Wouldn’t it be lovely to know your way around as well as all the bicyclists, joggers, dog walkers, and horse drawn carriages?

Search Out Seinfeld

Since we made it to the northwest corner of the park, we popped over to Tom’s Restaurant, the diner, whose façade regularly appears in my favorite television show, Seinfeld.  Inside, it doesn’t resemble the place where Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer always meet, but the service is fast and friendly and the menu, extensive.  Strategically located near Columbia University, its all-day breakfast is popular among the students.

tom's restaurant in New york city

Further south on the westside, is Jerry’s apartment, or at least the address of his apartment in Seinfeld.  The façade of his apartment was never shown in the television series.  That’s probably a good thing, as 129 W 81st Street was a little run down.

jerry's apartment address in new york city
It’s the white building!

One more stop on the Seinfeld trail is at The Original Soupman on West 55th.  Anyone familiar with the show knows, you must know how to correctly order; have your pick ready when you get to the counter, hand over the money, get the soup quickly, and don’t ask any questions.  If you don’t, you might fall subject to the soup nazi… “No soup for you!  Next!”

The original location on 55th between 8th and Broadway, Soup Kitchen International, was run by Ali Yeganeh.  He later changed the name to The Original Soupman.  While it is currently under new ownership, Seinfeld fanatics will be happy to know the lobster bisque is still on the menu. 

the soup kitchen in new york city

Elaine describes her date, “I met this lawyer.  We went out to dinner.  I had the lobster bisque. We went back to my place. Yada yada yada. I never heard from him again.”

Jerry, “But you yada yada’d over the best part.”

Elaine, “I mentioned the bisque.”

Okay, so Elaine yada yadaing sex wasn’t in the same episode, but it was in the season following the soup nazi episode when they savored the bisque!

Dine for Dinner

While our days were filled with sightseeing, our nights were filled with delicious food and broadway shows.  New York has some of the best restaurants in the world. We savored French, Korean, and Italian food at Chez Josephine, Danji, and Vice Versa, respectively.  For a detailed description of these restaurants, see my article, Hell’s Kitchen Pre Theatre Dining.

dining at Vice Versa in New York City in December

Splurge for a Broadway Show

As always, the Broadway musicals in New York City are fantastic.  The theaters are small and the talent is top notch.  As a result, to me, a Broadway show is a must see!  Since we haven’t been able to make our yearly trip to New York City in December, we loaded up to see Hamilton, Come From Away, Jagged Little Pill, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Tina – Tina Turner the Musical.  For more information on these shows, see my article, On Broadway: NYC.

come from away, a great broadway show in new york city

Other Places to Eat

Since we dined out for dinner every night, we didn’t want to spend a long time at breakfast or lunch.  Fortunately, we stumbled across a few other places for quick eats.  Hudson Bagel was located just around the corner from the Belvedere Hotel on 9th and 48th, so we visited them every morning.  They don’t have anything gluten free, but the bagels and all their selections are great.  The breakfast sandwich was so big, we took half of it with us on the way to the Whitney Museum.

hudson bagel

We were also very pleasantly surprised by Ippudo, a ramen noodle chain.  The front was so non-descript that we would have walked right by the restaurant on W 51st, except for the line out the door.  Ippudo is clearly a local favorite.  It was great, and I would have never guessed it was a chain!

salad in a measuring cup at ippupo

In all, we loved New York City in December and are already looking forward to next year!  ETB

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned award winning travel blogger and photographer sharing the earth's beauty one word and image at a time.

10 thoughts on “Things to Do in New York City in December

  1. You can never run out of great things to do in NYC! Glad you made it there. Love walking the High Line, Central Park, and shows. Wishing you well for the new year.

  2. As a 🇯🇲 living in NYC, I appreciate the many places to go, things to do and restaurants to eat. There are no other city in the US like NYC. I personally think tourist enjoy the fun things that NYC offers than the residents.

  3. Visiting NYC at Christmas has been on my bucket list for such a long time — I hope to one day get to experience it. Your tips and guide is great and makes me want to go now more than ever. Thanks for sharing!

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