The Ultimate Guide to Visiting New York City at Christmas

A trip to New York City is always magical, but it’s a little extra magical during the holidays. From the moment the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade ends, the city transforms into one giant Christmas display. From the spectacular trees, to the store front displays, and the never ending ice skating rinks, the entire city is a winter wonderland. As a New Yorker, I’ve created the perfect guide to make the most out of your next trip to the city during the holiday season! I’ve included all the touristy spots, and the things that I, as a local, think are extra special.

One piece of advice before I begin my guide, is to remember that it will be crowded, no matter where you are or when you are there. Now my tips for avoiding this (see pic above) is to never go during the afternoon on a Saturday or Sunday. Try waking up extra early for any touristy areas, especially if you want pics. Tuesday and Wednesday are also going to be the least crowded as many people add on a day to create a long weekend and will have left by then.

A great way to make the most of your time in NYC, at any time of the year, is to plan out your days. The city is so massive and you can spend an entire day just in one neighborhood and still not see everything. When I have family or friends in town for the holidays, (or let’s be real, when I just want to go to do Christmas things, which is often) I always set out to see everything in this order as to make the most of my time at each spot, and spend minimum time commuting to places. A great general place to start is Bryant Park (above). There’s a Christmas Market with tons of cute shopping, an ice skating rink, and sweet treats and holiday drinks.

Ice skating: there are so many rinks around the city. While Rockefeller Center will be the most crowded, they really all will be all season, especially on weekends. There are many other rinks, including in Wollman in Central Park, and of course the rink in Bryant Park.

From Bryant Park, you can easily walk over to Grand Central Station. Grand Central is always beautiful and no matter how many times I go inside, I’m always taken aback by it’s massiveness and beauty. It is extra special during the holidays with giant wreaths throughout, and a holiday market inside.

Holiday Markets: the city is full of fun little markets during the holidays where you can pick up goodies and gifts. In addition to the village in Bryant Park and the market in Grand Central, there are also markets in the East Village, Bliss Plaza in Midtown, inside the Oculus, and Columbus Circle.

From here you can walk to Radio City Music Hall to see the giant and popularly photographed Christmas ornaments. Then, take a stroll down 5th Ave and explore all the ornate window displays. Barney’s, Macy’s, and of course Sak’s, as well as tons of smaller stores (make sure to walk by Cartier and Tiffany’s) will have tons of lit up and extravagant displays (and are great stops to do some Christmas shopping and take a break from the cold!). If you are really looking to go all out and aren’t intimidated by intense crowds, Sak’s display with the full lights and music at night is very worth it.

Shows: as always, when in NYC, seeing a show is a must. While here during the holidays, stop by The Nutcracker or the Radio City Rockettes (still on my city bucket list but I’ve heard so many great things!)

From here you can turn around and you’ll be right at Rockefeller Center! The window displays continue as you walk through the over-the-top decorations and harking angels while making your way up to the tree and skating rink! If you’re lucky enough to get in, (you should pre-book well in advance online) this skating rink is the most worth your time in my opinion. They try to keep it slightly less crowded on the rink and the views around you make it worth it all on their own. You can packages to The Rockettes that come with skating passes online!

If you want to continue with the picturesque displays, you HAVE to stop by Rolf’s. This German Restaurant and Bar goes every type of all out for Christmas. The ceiling is completely lined with ornaments and every inch, I mean EVERY, is decorated floor to ceiling. If you want to actually stay to eat, I suggest calling for a reservation as there is never not a line down the street and it is almost always fully booked. If just stopping in for a drink and a picture (no one will judge you, everyone’s doing it), I for sure suggest going before 5 on a weekday or before 3 on weekends (slipping the doorman a $20 will get you in also).

Picture Perfect: if you’re in search of a photo-op, I also would recommend visiting some hotels. The Plaza, The Peninsula, Lotte Palace, Gramercy Park and The Standard are all amazing hotels during the holidays. If you aren’t staying in them, you can definitely still stop in to see the amazing displays, trees, and even grab a drink or two to stay warm!

To end your adventurous day with a fun night, you can make a stop at one, or several, of the cities many Christmas themed bars! I have a fun post listing tons for a Christmas Themed Bar Crawl, as well as the best drink to get at each, and time to visit them!

Hope this guide helps take you through your New York City holiday adventures!

Cheers! Mackenzie

Best Rooftop Bars in NYC

When I think of New York City in the summer the first thing that comes to mind is rooftop bars (that says a lot about my priorities lol). I remember wanting so badly to find all the coolest, most trendy spots the summer I first moved here, and being stuck when I began trying to search. Any Pinterest result was super basic, touristy, or obviously sponsored with opinions that were clearly not honest. I wanted to create a better resource for people visiting and those new to the city alike.

So, welcome to my thoroughly researched and heavily backed-by-booze guide to NYC rooftops! All of these I have been to BY CHOICE, enjoyed, and had friends join and agree with me. Each bar guide will include level of crowdiness, price, atmosphere, and location. Hope you find this helpful on your boozy adventures!

Things to Rememeber: THIS IS NYC! Everything is expensive no matter where you go. My judgement of prices is based off someone who lives here and has become normalized to it. Reviews for every rooftop are always bad as people can’t be nice and expect the world at their feet when going to an insanely crowded venue, which just isn’t possible. In the summer the city gets miserably hot, up on a rooftop that can get even worse during prime sunny hours. But if you’re willing to spend some cash and get a little sweaty, all of these are worth it.

Refinery Rooftop

Amazing, warm atmosphere and decor. Lots of brick and a bit less of a modern vibe than most rooftops. My favorite part here is that it HAS AC!!! On a Saturday afternoon there was not a terrrible wait, but I would suggest reservations. Lots of bar space to grab a drink while you wait if you come without one, however.

$16-18 cocktails

63 W 38th St in Midtown at Refinery Hotel

Serra at La Birreria

So fun and gorgeous. This is Insta Pic city! Their decor changes with each season and I went in Spring while the flowers were endless and to die for. Staff is slow, but they have fun and sort of different cocktails that were less expensive than I expected with how hyped up it is. Pretty hot in the summer heat. Absolutely need reservations a few days in adavance for the weekends.

$15-16 cocktails

200 5th Ave Floor 14 in Flatiron. Located inside Eataly, head to very back left side and look for a blue wall of plates, then see the staff behind the counter.

Monarch

Much more of a hip, cool vibe. Very modern and lots of trendy people are throwing parties up here evrytime I’ve gone. Killer Empire State views. Food not so great, eat before hand. Got there right at 2pm on Saturday before without reservation and was seated, but fills up quickly. Pretty packed after work on weekdays, but able to get seats still.

$16-18 cocktails and all have fun, hip names!

71 W 35th St Floor 18 in Midtown (they have a special elevator with a staff member who will let you up)

Restoration Hardware Rooftop

Who doesn’t love drinking on top of a fancy furniture store? The decor here is *obviously* killer and the views aren’t bad either. They don’t take reservations but while you wait you can sit outside under umbrellas and enjoy the view of both the terrace itself and the city. Much fancier vibe, and a bit on the pricier side, than the previously mentioned bars, but a delicious brunch spot.

9 9th Ave in Meatpacking District, 5th Floor of Restoration Hardware

Time Out Market Rooftop

This is such a hidden gem. I’m not exactly sure how this rooftop was so empty in the middle of a Saturday, but I’m so excited I decided to stop by. The market on the first floor of an old Dumbo warehouse is incredible and stocked full of NYC’s best food spots, all in one place. Then, the fifth floor gives you to-die-for views of the skyline and both bridges, all while enjoying a refreshing original cocktail.

$13-14 cocktails

55 Water Street in DUMBO in Brooklyn, 5th floor

RELAXED

St. Cloud

My personal favorite rooftop for a nice view and a causal night in the city. I adore this place as it to me, is much more of a hidden gem and tends to be much less crowded. You can easily walk in on the weeknights and get a spot. The ambiance is so nice and there is a great view of the Empire State Building.

6 Times Square Floor 17 in Midtown in The Knickerbocker Hotel

PARTY PEOPLE

PHD Terrace

I am only listing this for an option if you are visiting and if you’re looking to party, (the only time I personally would be going here). Much more of a club-like vibe, it’s VERY packed on weekend nights. Insane views of Time Square and the decoration is breathtaking. A little snooty on weeknights and by far the most expensive on my list.

210 W 55th St in Midtown at Dream Hotel

Cheers! Mackenzie

Cheers to 2 Years

I can’t believe it but I’ve lived in this amazing city for TWO WHOLE YEARS!!! I felt so strongly about writing this very personal piece and am so excited to share with you all. Taking the leap to move here came after the hardest year of my entire life, and boy was that leap a blessing.

I never was the kid that sat around dreaming of living in the big city. I moved so much as a kid, I felt like I’d seen it all and could only ever think about finally getting to stay in one place. The spring of 2017, I was a hot mess. I had dug myself deep into a terribly unhealthy relationship, surrounded myself with toxic “friends”, and was going through two separate traumatic family circumstances that would forever change me. I was so full of constant anxiety and so horribly uncomfortable all the time. So many people will tell you to reach out of your comfort zone, but my whole life had been lived outside of a comfort zone and all I wanted was to dig roots, fit in, and fall into a consistent life. I was trying so hard to stay in this tiny box that seemed like where I should’ve been at that point in my life, that I just couldn’t breathe.

I got the offer for my current job completely at random. I was super hesitant because I thought I had finally learned how to stay in one place, and was dating someone I would stay with, and because I was checking all the “normal and necessary” boxes, I should’ve been so happy right where I was. But something was pulling at my heart, screaming, now is your time. Take this risk. Drop it all and run. I had spent my entire life running, how could running now be the right decision? Why did I feel called to leave such a safe space?

Life is full of ups and downs but sometimes, you are so blinded by wanting to be up, you don’t see how deep you have fallen. I read somewhere the other day that no matter how far into something you are, it’s never too late to back out. Boy do I wish my 20 year old self could have read that. My job offering was a blessing in disguise. Did I want to pack up my entire life and move to a city where I didn’t know a soul and leave my boyfriend of almost two years behind? Why of course not! But if I was truly happy with him, or with the people I had surrounded myself with, or the place I was living, then I wouldn’t have wanted, so badly, to leave.

I sat down during my break from work after getting the offer and created a list of pros and cons. I started with pros, the list was very long, and decided to move on to the negative side. It didn’t have one word, not even my boyfriend’s name. I sat and stared trying to think of one other reason in the world to stay, and I had nothing. I took the job, packed away my entire life, and moved to NYC.

Within 2 months, my eyes and heart became fully opened, I saw how mistreated I was, and ended my relationship. I met the girl who has become one of my dearest and closest friends. I fell in love with my job, I fell in love with the city, and eventually, I fell in love with a boy, too. The weight of the last years hardships was lifted from my shoulders, and with every day I spent in my new beginning, I learned to breathe again.

Over the last two years I have grown more than the entire first 21 years of my life put together. I have learned to be myself. I have found how to express myself. Most importantly, I have learned to leave people and places that don’t push me to be the very best version of myself.

If you’re in a place where you feel beat down, worn out, forgotten, or brushed aside, don’t stay there. Any person, be it a friend, significant other, or even a family member, who truly cares about you, will let you know your worth. They will lift you up and they won’t be the cause of what’s holding you back from being at your best. It’s never too late to walk away and it’s always okay to begin again. The next door you close could lead to you opening the greatest adventure of your life!

Cheers! Mackenzie

What to Wear to NYC in Summer

The first question anyone coming to visit me in the city asks is, without a doubt, “What do I WEAR!?” I remember my first summer in the city, I was no where near prepared for the heat and discomfort that comes with long distance walking, over crowding, and subway stations. Now, I’d like to consider myself an expert. The key to dressing for the city during summer time is COMFORT.

Little Dresses. The perfect way to stay comfortable, while looking adorable at the same time. The one issue I have with dresses, all points of the year, is chaffing. It happens to the best of us and is nothing to be ashamed of, but not something fun to experience. While keeping within the guidelines for comfort, I can’t suggest Spanx enough. They’ll help hold your tummy in, feel breezy, and have little shorts holding in your thighs that stay in place and prevent chaffing!!!

Knit Midi Dress-$60 Wrap Dress-$98 Floral Slip Dress-$168 Ivory Dress-$188

Shorts: cute but not when they’re riding up your sweaty butt on a dirty subway seat. I love a good pair of denim shorts, but if you’re wearing them in the city, make sure you’ve taken them out for a spin before hand. Shorts that are tight, too short, or ride up will make for an uncomfortable and dirty feeling day, and can lead to our good old friend, chaffing. Stretchy, soft fabric shorts will be your best friend here.

Marley Short – $79 Inland Sashed Short – $89 Pull-On Shorts – $44 High Rise Denim – $35

Jumpsuits and Rompers. If you follow me on instagram you already know about my love affair with rompers. What’s easier than a full outfit all in one piece? And don’t forget about having the comfort of a dress but with built in shorts so you don’t flash anyone!

Sayama Jumpsuit – $162 Mckinley Jumpsuit – $168 Selena Romper – $138 Lyla Romper – $138

Shoes: the most important part of this list. I have talked about how beat up my feet have gotten from this city in previous posts, so let me just reiterate it for you here to save you from that same pain. Comfort. Is. KEY. You don’t need that cute strappy pair of heels for a trip to NYC. The only time you’ll be wearing them is from a cab, into dinner, and back into the cab. Just not the most practical thing to pack. You don’t have to sacrifice fashion to find comfy shoes. Trust me, I have finally figured out the importance of investing in your feet. I’m actually really getting into the chunky sneaker trend, as is everyone in NYC. Since that isn’t for everyone, you can never go wrong with a pair of white sneaks, they go with everything, even dresses! If you wear heels out, make sure the heel is thick and there’s a back strap holding them in place to avoid rubbing and blisters. Comfy, sturdy sandals aren’t a bad option, but make sure they’re broken in before hand!

Fila Chunky Sneaks-$65 Adidas White Sneakers-$60 Steve Madden Platform Sneakers-$50 Espadrilles Platform Sandal-$50

Hope you found this guide helpful and have a blast exploring the best city in the world!

Cheers! Mackenzie

NYC Christmas Bar Crawl

While on a trip to NYC during the holidays (check out my guide for all the must see places here), there is one other thing you can not miss. And that, is all the Christmas themed bars. Whether you just swing by one after a long day of exploring, or you make an entire night out of visiting them all, you have to find the time to grab a cheery drink while visiting!

Before I start, here’s some links to my holiday bar crawl outfit!

Sweater / Scarf / Black Jeans / Booties 


While on a trip to NYC during the holidays (check out my guide for all the must see places here), there is one other thing you can not miss. Such a unique and sure to be unforgettable experience, the city can boast of one too many Christmas themed bars. Whether you just swing by one after a long day of exploring, or you make an entire night out of visiting them all, you have to find the time to grab a cheery drink while visiting! I’ve listed all my favorites and go to drinks at each, right here in one place for your next NYC December trip.

Rolf’s

There are SO many places that decide to deck the halls during the season, and some even stay that way year round! To start off this round up, I had to include the most Christmasy bar of all time, Rolf’s.

As I mentioned in my NYC Holiday Guide, this place is decked floor to ceiling. Located on 281 Third Ave, this place is always popping. It is hard to even get a reservation here, but if you’re in it just for a good pic, the lines normally only take 30 minutes max. Definitely worth it just once in my opinion. (Don’t bother trying the food here though)

Go-To Drink: their egg nog is devine!

Pete’s

Walking distance from there, you’ll stumble upon Pete’s at 128 E 18th St. Pete’s is also a very crowded bar around the holidays, but you won’t usually have to wait in any sort of line here. The ceiling lighting and window displays are a must see.

Go-To Drink: Hot Toddy is heavenly. Egg nog is also extra creamy and maybe even better than Rolf’s. 

Holiday Cocktail Lounge

If you’re looking for a low-key dive kinda bar. Holiday Cocktail Lounge is the spot for you. Located in St. Mark’s, this tiny, but never nearly as crowded as the rest on this list, local spot is decorated year round. Very quirky and good humored.

Go-To Drink: they have a whole list of holiday cocktails and even holiday pizzas!

Miracle on 9th Street


Another fun spot, Miracle on Ninth Street, is a pop up Christmas bar that takes the place of Mace during the holiday season. Also will definitely have a wait, but it’s more of a sit down kind of place, making it super homey. The presents hanging from the ceiling are an excellent touch of cheer!

Go-To Drink: Run Run Rudolf, a tequlia cold hot chocolate with coffee liqueur, yum!!

Sippin’ Santa’s Surf Shack

One of the best spots for fun holiday drinks is Sippin’ Santa’s Surf Shack, located on 13 First Ave. This pop up holiday bar takes over Boilermaker during the season. It transforms into a hilariously themed tropical Santa bar, and guys, it is fun.

Go-To Drink: there are soooo many good ones here. If you’re in need of something to warm you up, go for their hot chocolate brandy drink, served in a Santa mug. So yummy! Or if you’re in the mood for something real strong, try their Hanukah drink. 

Even more options!!!

The rooftop, 230 Fifth St, has igloos you can rent out to enjoy your drinks in the warmth with a great view!

Another rooftop bar, Serra Alpina by Birreria, this pop up holiday glass-enclosed beer garden takes over the rooftop of Eatly in Flatiron for the holidays. So very pretty and even open during the day.

Cheers! Mackenzie