There's nothing quite like Christmastime in New York City — but in order to really enjoy the magic, advance planning is non-negotiable. An estimated 60 million tourists visit NYC each year, and the holiday season is one of the most jam-packed times to stop by. The crowds can be tough, but with a bit of strategic organization, you can make the most of your Big Apple trip this winter.
Whether you're a veteran visitor or a newbie New Yorker, it's impossible to resist the allure of Rockefeller Center and its iconic larger-than-life Christmas tree. Here's a quick and easy guide to one of Manhattan's most glittering attractions this holiday season.
1. Book a dinner and skating package that secures you seats at the Sea Grill or the Rock Center Cafe. Both restaurants are situated beneath the ground level of 30 Rock, the famed home of "Saturday Night Live" and "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon." Both restaurants are especially lovely in the wintertime because they both look out onto the picturesque seasonal skating rink. The Sea Grill is a bit more upscale, and a VIP package (starting at $89) will also snag you access to the VIP igloo entrance to the rink. Perks of the igloo? Cookies, hot chocolate and a break from the cold whenever you need it.
If you're traveling with kids or just really love Santa, there's also a Breakfast with Santa package (starting at $45) with menu of our winter dining dreams: Brioche French toast, a chocolate fountain, bacon, gingerbread men, a crepe station, a charcuterie table, and (of course) a New York bagel station are all at your disposal.
PHOTOS: See the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree through the years
2. Take in 360-degree views of the city on the Top of the Rock Observation Deck. Many tourists make the mistake of thinking they'll just be able to head up whenever they so choose. Not exactly: You'll be given a designated time to board the elevator, and the assigned time could complicate your evening plans. You can grab advance tickets here (tickets are around $40) to avoid any issues.
3. See a taping of "The Tonight Show," "Late Night with Seth Meyers" or the morning "Today" show. Tickets for Fallon or Meyers are free but require a bit of luck; you can try your hand here for "Tonight Show" and here for "Late Night" to see if any tickets are still available. For "Today," all you have to do is show up bright and early!
4. Pop over next door to Radio City Music Hall to see the Rockettes. The annual show is always a holiday favorite, but as we get closer to Christmas Day, tickets start to grow scarce. If the evening you had in mind is sold out, consider a mid-day performance. On Fridays and Saturdays in December, there are a remarkable five performances throughout the day. Get tickets right here.