15 Best Christmas Trees in NYC to See
Updated: Dec 9, 2020
Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree…or 15 Christmas trees...
I don’t know about you, but there is nothing that gets me into the Christmas spirit more than a well-decorated tree -- whether it's with twinkling lights or shiny, colorful ornaments. My eyes are always at a gaze and my heart is always full. Since the Christmas season is here, I have created a list of decked-out Christmas tree lights for you to check out in my hometown: New York City! Let’s be real … it doesn’t get more extravagant than New York City during Christmas!
It is no wonder that 7 million people come to New York City during the Christmas holiday season! Even more amazing is the fact that 125 million people visit the Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center each year.
Table of Contents
History of Holiday Celebrations in NYC Parks Best Christmas Trees to Check Out in NYC 1. Rockefeller Center 2. Bryant Park 3. Wall St, Financial District 4. Lotte New York Palace 5. Madison Square Park 6. Washington Square Park 7. Tavern on the Green in Central Park 8. Brookfield Place 9. Lincoln Square 10. South Street Seaport 11. Origami Christmas Tree 12. Christmas Tree at the MET 13. MetroTech Christmas Tree 14. Brooklyn Borough Hall Christmas Tree 15. Brooklyn's Grand Army Plaza Christmas Tree Tips Before Visiting for Christmas Holidays
History of Holiday Celebrations in NYC Parks
Did you know? New York City is the location of the first Christmas tree to have electric lights!
It started when engineer and vice president of the Edison Electric Company, Edward Hibberd Johnson (Thomas Edison's business partner) decorated a Christmas tree with 80 red, white, and blue light bulbs. He placed it in the parlor window of his townhouse on East 36th Street in 1882. Before that, trees were lit by candles only briefly on Christmas Eve and Day!
Holiday festivals in NYC parks started in 1911 in Manhattan -- there were Christmas trees to decorate, organ music, and dancing. In 1912, Madison Square Park hosted a Christmas tree lighting ceremony -- a 60-foot-tall tree arrived by horse-drawn truck from the Adirondacks and lit up with 2,300 colored electric bulbs. The idea for the tree came from Emilie D. Lee Herreshoff, the 49-year-old wife of a prominent chemical scientist, as a way to allow everyone, especially those who couldn’t afford a tree of their own, to participate in the lighting ceremony.
Did you know? The tree up in Madison Square Park was the nation’s first public Christmas tree!
In 1913, the annual City Hall Christmas tree lighting ceremony began by the mayor. Later on, in 1924, the Washington Square Association began its annual tree lighting celebrations with holiday songs and carols.
In Brooklyn, the tradition began in 1920 with a decorated 40-foot tree in Prospect Park, using 600 red, white, blue, green, and purple electric bulbs. According to some records, Christmas trees were set up in different parts of the park. Three hundred school children from P.S. 9 sang Christmas carols around the tree such as “O Come, All Ye Faithful,” and “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” capped off with a finale featuring “America, The Beautiful.” Christmas festivals continued into the 1930s at recreation facilities, as part of the regular park programming. Children continued to sing carols during the holiday season.
During Robert Moses’ tenure as Park Commissioner, large-scale citywide celebrations began in 1934. The Parks Department put up 14 fifty–foot Norway Spruce trees in the parks across the city. There was even a 75-person choir performance broadcasted on the city’s radio station. A year later, it was expanded to 25 sites.
To this day, holiday celebrations continue in the city's parks and recreation facilities -- even the tradition of the City Hall Christmas Tree Lighting. Other traditions have emerged as well such as erecting a menorah in Brooklyn’s and Manhattan’s Grand Army Plaza.
Furthermore, parks with private donors have been beautifying public fountains with holiday-themed displays such as winter plants and ornaments created by school groups. Furthermore, since 1981, there is an annual wreath interpretation exhibition where fine artists, environmentalists, landscape architects, graphic designers, and other creative people from within and outside the Parks Department use materials such as foliage, wire, bicycle wheels, forged iron, knitted gloves, and scissors to create unique wreaths.
Best Christmas Trees to Check out in NYC
1. Rockefeller Center
Location: Between West 49th and 50th Streets and Fifth and Sixth Avenues
2. Bryant Park
Location: 6th Avenue (Avenue of the Americas) between West 40th & 42nd Streets
3. Wall St, Financial District
Location: NY Stock Exchange: Broad Street between Wall St. & Exchange Pl.
4. Lotte New York Palace
Location: Madison Avenue between 50th & 51st Streets
5. Madison Square Park
Location: Fifth & Madison Avenues between 23rd & 26th Streets
6. Washington Square Park
Location: Fifth Avenue & Waverly Place or West 4th St.
between Macdougal & Wooster Streets
7. Tavern On The Green in Central Park
Location: Central Park West & West 67th Street
8. Brookfield Place
Location: West St. between Liberty & Vesey Streets
9. Lincoln Square
Location: In front of Lincoln Center
10. South Street Seaport
Location: Cobblestones at Fulton and Water Streets by the East River
11. Origami Christmas Tree
Location: American Museum of Natural History
200 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024
12. Christmas Tree at the MET
Location: Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 5th Ave, New York, NY 10028
13. MetroTech Christmas Tree
Location: MetroTech Commons, in front of 2 MetroTech Center
between Jay Street and Flatbush Avenue, and Willoughby Street and Tech Place
14. Brooklyn Borough Hall Christmas Tree
Location: Brooklyn Borough Hall
209 Joralemon Street Brooklyn, NY 11201
15. Brooklyn's Grand Army Plaza Tree
Location: Grand Army Plaza
Tips Before Visiting for Christmas Holidays
Dress in Layers: Winter in New York City is usually in the 30s-40s. Therefore, you will want to dress warmly since most of these trees are outside. However, NYC weather is also erratic, so sometimes it is warmer than normal.
Explore Midtown: If you are looking for the most concentration of Christmas holiday displays or things to do, exploring Midtown Manhattan from 34th Street to 50th Streets and from Madison Avenue to 6th Avenue is your best bet!
Be Patient -- New York City is typically crowded. During the holidays, New York City experiences a new level of crowded, which will mean harder to walk around, more people bumping into you, and more people photobombing your picture. A little patience goes a long way!
Be Ready to Move in a Herd: Because it is so crowded, especially by Rockefeller Center and Times Square, be ready to move in a herd with people and follow the flow of traffic.
Give yourself more time for everything. Because of the huge crowds, it will naturally take longer to walk or get a picture. It is best to build in buffer time for each stop you will make.
Make reservations when possible: For any restaurant that you wish to go to, check to see if reservations are an option. This will be a huge help as very often restaurants will have a 1-2 hour wait and sometimes will be booked for the evening. Some restaurants will not allow you to reserve on weekend. Therefore, if you are able to go on a weekday, you will have a better chance.
Get creative for photos: If you do not want people in your photos, you may need to get up during the crack of dawn or explore very late at night. Otherwise, have lots of patience -- whether it is waiting for someone to quickly move or finding a unique angle to take a photo!
Have a plan: You will end up wasting a lot of time and most likely not see everything you want to see without a plan. You should map out all of the places you want to check out so that you can figure out which is closer in proximity -- that will determine the order you see things; hence, saving you time.
Take advantage of restrooms when you see them: You will be doing a lot of walking and potentially eating/drinking. As a result, there will come moments when you need to use the restroom. Sadly, New York City does not have a lot of public restrooms, and the number of clean ones is more limited. Your best option is to go to the bathroom when you stop to eat at a restaurant or visit a museum as it is likely to be clean and have fewer people on line. Otherwise, your next best bet is a Starbucks or Mcdonald’s, but cleanliness will be questionable. Other options include Grand Central Station, Rockefeller Center’s Concourse, the Time Warner Center in Columbus Circle, Macy’s at 34th St and 6th Ave., and the Occulus downtown.
Don’t try to do everything!: There is an endless list of things to check out in New York for the holidays, let alone New York City periodt. It can be very overwhelming. Therefore, create a list of your must-sees and do’s and then list extra things just in case you have time. Remember, what you do not do now is a good excuse to come back next year!
Get hype! Rock around a Christmas tree or two!