NYC is such a lively city there’s always a buzz about something here.
Come November and December, there is a unique vibe in the city. It definitely knows how to bring on the Holiday cheer.
While there are so many places to visit in NYC during the festive season, Holiday markets are my absolute favorite. NYC boasts pretty diverse Holiday markets ranging from traditional to modern ones.
Here’s my take on three popular markets celebrating the spirit of the season –
Bryant Park Holiday Market
The most famous holiday market of them all is the Bryant Park Holiday Market.
Bryant Park was named after William Cullen Bryant in 1884. There’s a statue in the park honoring him on the eastern side.
The eastern edge of the park also happens to be the location of the flagship building or the main branch of New York Public Library (NYPL), where as the actual lawn is on the west side.
As I was walking through the lawn, I had an Indiana Jones kind of moment when I found out that the lawn is actually built on an underground vault full of library books. Isn’t that so cool?
Bryant Park is located between 40th and 42nd St. and between fifth and sixth avenues (also known as Avenue of the Americas). The park is accessible via B,D,F,M and 7 drains directly and is also 7 to 10 minutes walk from Grand Central Station, Port Authority Bus Terminal (PABT)and Times Square.
You would have heard that the park has a famous French carousel and a beautiful fountain, but did you know the fountain collects thousands of dollars (in multiple currencies) annually from the visiting tourists?
Restrooms are available in the park and are pretty clean.
Quick tip– If you happen to find the restrooms in the park crowded (which happens a lot during holiday season), you can walk a few steps to use the ones located in the New York Public Library.
Back to Holiday markets – Often called as the Manhattans Winter Wonderland the Bank of America Winter Village is perhaps the most famous event in Bryant park.
It’s based on the concept of Christkindlmarkt of German origin (search for #Christkindlmarkt on instagram to look for these markets around the globe).
The holiday market at Bryant Park opens right after Halloween as if it was the city’s way of saying bring it on holiday season we are ready for you!
In the middle of city’s concrete blocks the place just transports you to a magical land. The central attraction of the park is the Norway Christmas tree and competing it for popularity is the ice-skating rink.
From ice-skating to hot cocoa from Christmas ornaments to custom jewelry from holiday lights to delicious food they’ve got you covered.
Fun fact–>The ice-skating rink at Bryant Park is the only FREE ice-skating rink in New York, and what’s more is that you can even reserve your spot online check the site for more information.
With excited tourists, repeat local shoppers, and holiday clad Instagrammers the place is worth visiting! You can plan to spend 2 to 3 hours at the very minimum to explore the beautiful market.
With over 170 pop-up shops and booths, there is something for everyone. You can check the complete directory of shops here.
Sharing now some of my favorites from this year:
- Christmas in NYC : While there are multiple ornament shops in the market, this one stands out for its unique Christmas tree decor and hot cocoa. You’ve got to sip that hot cocoa while browsing through the ornaments right😊? Added bonus, remember the Turtle Doves from Home Alone 2, you can find them here :).
- Joyful look: You can find the famous Zohara Tights here. This is personally my absolute favorite. These guys have the best chic tights with so many unique designs to choose from. They are a little pricey but make a great statement.
- Made from coins: Talking about a style statement, nothing quite says it like the jewelry made out of real silver coins. The artist Jessie Driscoll recycles old American coins into beautiful and unique jewelry. I met her husband Dan Driscoll who was kind enough to showcase all their collection.
- The Fairy Lights Factory: Special mention for the fairy lights, the store sells unique lights made out of cotton hand dyed balls and they are extraordinary. The best part is that you get to DIY and pick your own colors from 50+ different shades. A great and unique way to oomph any space with a pop of color.
- Shalant Candles: What’s holiday without candles while you can get fragrant candles anywhere, but wouldn’t it make it special to be able to see the ingredients they are actually made of? That’s what this shop has to offer and is quite unique. You can smell as you can see it in the glossy glass jars that have real fruits and flowers and other fragrant ingredients in them.
- Nirvana Designs: Last on my must see list are the cutesy winter accessories from Nirvana designs. Their animal design earmuffs are an absolute hit with children and there’s also hats and mittens.
All the shopping is going to make you hungry, worry not – there’s a lot of yummy food choices like Sicilian rice balls from Arancini Bros, Destination dumplings the Bryant Park staple Waffles and Dings and more.
Overall I would rate the market 5 out of 5, for its unique holiday experience!
QuickTip: While you are there at Bryant Park, don’t forgoet to peek in the NYPL. Its ornate detail architecture and reading rooms are sure to mesmerize you (will be posting a blog soon, stay tuned)!
Union Square Holiday Market
The second market on my list was Union Square Holiday Market.
Union Square Park has been the home of the first Labor Day parade in 1882 and since then has been a popular site for many gatherings and movements. The park also has statues of many prominent political influencers such as US president George Washington, Mahatma Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln and more.
Set in the Union Square Park, this Holiday market has gained popularity in the recent years. A lot of vendors are a repeat from Bryant Park since the markets are hosted by the same company Urbanspace, but they still look different.
If you’ve never been to a holiday market this is sure to entice you. But honestly when you compare to Bryant Park holiday market this scores a little low basically because of the crowded space and the missing ice rink.
Union Square is the intersection or the union of Broadway and fourth Avenue and is accessible by 4,5,6, L,N,Q,R,N and W trains.
Like Bryant Park there are more than hundred vendors here with unique one-of-a-kind items and for food lovers there’s plenty of sweet and savory delicacies
Things that set this market apart are its concierge with heaters, super helpful charging stations for all the popular phones and Citibank’s holiday lounge.
My favorite shops from Union Square Holiday market this year are –
- Wood and Stone : They sell Vietnamese hand crafted wooden craft items and their carved initials with famous Disney characters are an eyecatcher. You can use them as ornaments or as any part of home décor.
- Victoria Bekerman Studio: One of our family friends sells beautiful hand crafted jewelry. The designs are so simple and yet so elegant. They have a booth at Union Square as well as at Grand Central Holiday Market. Do check them out.
In terms of food there’s plenty, I particularly loved the desserts from The Flo, they combine flavors with Italian meringue and are absolutely mouth-watering.
If I had to score this market I would do 3.5 out of 5 again only because of the missing ice rink and the crowded walkways.
Westfield Holiday Market at Oculus
After trying to do traditional holiday markets I decided to try the modern one in the Oculus or the World Trade Center transportation hub.
For anyone who is unfamiliar with Oculus, it is an architectural marvel designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava and looks like a dove in-flight.
It is a transportation hub, also houses the Westfield World Trade Center mall and is a modern touch to everything.
The Holiday Market in the Oculus is no exception. It’s very modernized with cool use of projections, modern structure and spaces, it’s set in a futuristic world.
Navigate to the tallest building in NYC, no kidding really, Oculus can be reached underground from the One World Trade Center. Being a transportation hub, the Oculus is also accessible from both NJ (PATH trains from Newark) and New York City Subway ( 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, A, C, E, J, R, W & Z Trains)
This year‘s Holiday market in Oculus brings a beautiful clock tower adorned with twinkling lights in a nice ambient atmosphere. They also have the monochromatic snowman, that was an Instagram rage last year.
The market features about 20+ speciality shops for gifts and treats, One that got my attention was Ring Ding bar with classic ring dings in bold flavors there’s Nutella funfetti, Pumpkin pie, Rainbow flavors and even PB&J.
Even though there’s less holiday themed shops here but its indoors and in a mall, so there’s plenty of other shops to venture and it’s a good spot to relax and enjoy the holiday spirit I will probably give it 4 out of 5 for its uniqueness and cool displays.
So my dear friends what are you waiting for, sip some hot cocoa and brave the cold air and visit a holiday market this year!