NYC Christmas Trees

NYC Christmas Trees


American Museum of Natural History Christmas Tree 2013
American Museum of Natural History Christmas Tree

Believe it or not, there are many more Christmas Trees lit up around the city than just the famous one in Rockefeller Center. All the boroughs have their share of Christmas spirit.

While I’ve seen a handful of nyc Christmas trees throughout the years, I wanted to take a full day to see a selection of the more well-known trees. After some deliberation and planning, myself and a friend made a Christmas Tree map and were ready to go.

We hit nine trees in total. We only skipped one that was on our list (too tired) but snuck in a bonus one to make up for it.

This made for a really fun day in Manhattan. If you have an unlimited metro card, the day will cost you $6 (minus food). You cover most of the city and get to see most of nyc’s iconic landmarks. If you’re new to the city, this is a fairly comprehensive trip of many Manhattan neighborhoods. Feel free to spend extra time in each one after viewing the tree there.

The whole trip (starting and ending in Brooklyn) took 7 hours. It spanned daytime and nighttime, meaning we got to see the last few trees lit up. As a bonus, many buildings had Christmas lights too. And of course the store window displays were presented.

On the day we went, it was rainy and dreary. The rain was on and off, which we didn’t mind. I wore rainboots and a hoodie. The dreary weather meant there were fewer people in most places. Notably, the tree at Rockefeller Center was practically empty. Just the way I like it.

NYC Christmas Tree Map

NYC Christmas Trees Map and highlights
NYC Christmas Trees Map and highlights

We mapped out our 9 tree locations. After some deliberation, we decided the most practical method to hit them was to go up the west side, then back down the east side. Our choice spots were: Lincoln Center, AMNH, St. John the Divine Cathedral, The MET, Plaza Hotel, Rockefeller Center, Bryant Park, Washington Square Park, and NYSE. With honorable mention maybes at Madison Square Park and South Street Seaport.

Lincoln Center

Lincoln Center Christmas Tree 2013
Tree #1: Lincoln Center

Take the A/B/C/D/1 train to Columbus Circle then walk to Lincoln Center at 63rd st and Broadway. That’s tree #1.

The Christmas tree at Lincoln Center is beautifully placed as the hanging centerpiece over the entrance. It has multi-colored lights and lots of toy ornaments. The key feature is a train track & moving train traveling around the base of the tree. Following the train is a bird also flying around the tree with silver elves riding on it.

This 25ft tree was my favorite as far as ornaments go. The train and cute elves made it feel child-like and whimsical. I also liked it being a hanging tree. This made it easier to look at!

More Photos:
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American Museum of Natural History

AMNH Christmas Tree 2013
Tree #2: American Museum of Natural History – Origami Tree

From Lincoln Center, walk up to 81st to see tree #2 at American Museum of Natural History. The museum has a minimum donation of $5.

Annually, the American Museum of Natural History displays their Origami Christmas Tree. This indoors tree stands 13ft tall and features over 500 origami animal ornaments. Each year features a different theme depending on their latest exhibition. This year’s is “Poison” with the bottom of the tree showing off various animals & pieces of literature that involve poison.

For added sparkle, there are shiny star mobiles hanging around the top part of the tree. And the Christmas Tree topper is an origami whale!

More Photos:
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St. John the Divine Cathedral

nyc christmas trees st john the divine peace tree
Tree #3: St. John the Divine Cathedral – Peace Tree

From AMNH, walk down to the subway right there and take the B/C uptown to 110th St/Cathedral Parkway. Note: The B doesn’t run on weekends. Walk west a few avenues until you see St. John the Divine Cathedral at Amsterdam Ave & 110th st. for tree #3.

The Peace Tree at St. John the Divine is another annual Christmas tree. There are over 1,000 origami paper crane ornaments displayed on this beautiful indoor tree, accented with white lights.

If you have never been to this cathedral before (regardless of your beliefs), you really must. Cathedral of St. John the Divine is the fourth largest Christian church in the world! And it’s in Manhattan! The church itself is absolutely stunning. More beautiful than St. Patrick’s in midtown and far less crowded & touristy feeling.

More Photos:
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The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Tree #4: The MET
Tree #4: The Met

From St. John the Divine Cathedral, walk back down to 110th st and Amsterdam, where you’ll see a bus stop on the South side of the road. You’re looking for the M4 bus. The route runs right along the east side of the park down 5th Avenue. This is much more efficient than trying to take a train, trust me. The bus stops right in front of The Met at 84th st for tree #4. The museum has a minimum donation of $1.

The Met’s art tree is candle-lit and features beautiful angel/cherub ornaments. The simple decorations are classic, not garish. The highlight of this indoor tree is the neapolitan nativity scene surrounding the entire tree. The details of the scenery and figures alone is worth viewing.

There is a “lighting” of the tree on some weekdays at 4:30pm (the museum closes at 5pm), including recorded Christmas music and some spotlights on the tree.

More Photos:
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Plaza Hotel

Tree #5: Plaza Hotel
Tree #5: Plaza Hotel

Leaving The Met, get back on the M4 bus to get down to 59th St. The bus stops right in front of The Plaza Hotel, tree #5.

Surprisingly this was my first time in the Plaza Hotel! Anyone is welcome in the lobby, which I recommend wandering into even when there isn’t a sparkly Christmas tree there. The Plaza’s tree is as classy as the hotel itself. All white lights with silver ribbons and ball ornaments. But there were several Abominable Snowmen ornaments to keep it lighthearted.

Some beautiful wreaths were also set-up in the lobby. Along with their permanent beautiful chandeliers!

I learned that there is a whole food & shops area in the basement of the hotel. You can access this through the main lobby (head to the left) or there is a side entrance as well. I saw hot food, bakeries, and boutiques. This is predominantly for the public, so feel free to walk around!

Rockefeller Center (Bonus: Trump Tower)

Bonus Tree: Trump Tower
Bonus Tree: Trump Tower

From the Plaza Hotel, you’ll be walking down 5th Avenue. There’s a bonus tree at Trump Tower, which you’ll be walking right past. Walk down to 50th St., then head west until you see Rockefeller Center. Can’t miss tree #6.

Yeah, okay, it’s a big tree. I have to say, this was my first pleasant experience seeing the Rockefeller Center tree. Usually, it’s just terrible. The crowds are so large that it doesn’t feel Christmas-spirit-like at all. The whole thing is crazy commercialized. And, honestly, the tree really isn’t even that pretty.

However, with all that grinch stuff said, this time it was a little nicer. Probably because it was a Monday at 5pm in the rain, there were far less crowds than I had ever seen near The Tree. I actually could walk right up to it, which I’d never been able to do before. So, it wasn’t awful with less people.

Okay, the tree itself. It’s a big tree. A really really big tree. But because of it’s size, it just has a whole lot of multi-colored lights all over it. No ornaments, no theme. That’s fine because it’s a giant tree. But compared to all the other Christmas Trees you’ll be looking at, this one is definitely the gaudiest. Sorry everyone!

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Bryant Park

Tree #7: Bryant Park
Tree #7: Bryant Park

From Rockefeller Center, continue walking west to 6th Ave, then walk south to Bryant Park at 40th st. Tree #7 is at the north side of the park, just past the ice rink. If you have time, there is another bonus tree at the New York Public Library also at the north end of the park.

As a second really-big-tree, the Bryant Park tree has always been my favorite in midtown. In the winter-time, Bryant Park becomes this holiday winterland (yes, also commercialized). The park is taken over by boutique shoppes, an ice rink, and a giant Christmas tree! The tree is lighted with multi-colors and has a bright yellow star on top. Along the tree are various sized ball-ornaments. You can get right up to this tree to really get a feel for it’s size.

If you want to get the tree & ice skating experience without the cost & crowds of Rockfeller Center, this is your best alternative.

More Photos:
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Washington Square Park

Washington Square Park - NYC Christmas Trees
Tree #8 Washington Square Park – Tree under the Arch

Leave Bryant Park and hop on the B/D/F/M train at the Bryant Park station. Take it downtown a few stops to W4. Walk a block east to Washington Square Park. Tree #8 is at the north end of the park under the arch.

The Washington Square tree is a simple large tree with white lights and a star. What really makes this tree stand out is it’s placement under the park’s infamous Arch. Entering the park from the south end gives you a great view of the tree and the arch. The combination really is beautiful at nighttime.

More Photos:
wsp_01 NInth tree on the NYC Christmas Tree Tour Washington Square Park

New York Stock Exchange

Tree #9: NYSE
Tree #9: NYSE

From Washington Square Park, walk back to the train station then take the A/C downtown to Fulton St. From there you can walk 15 mins or take the J one stop (only on weekdays). Tree #9 is in front of the New York Stock Exchange. There is a bonus tree south east of here at the South Street Sea Port.

The NYSE may not inherently be full of Christmas spirit but this tree sure is. The beautiful tree right outside of the stock exchange, in the middle of the cobble-stone tree, has a pseudo-gift-box for a base, then multi-colored lights and bright yellow star.

The feeling of old new york that embodies Financial District plus the added Christmas tree brings some whimsy to this usually stoic part of town.

And that’s the end of the NYC Christmas Tree tour. Starting on the west side, going down the east side, and ending right here in Financial District. I can’t think of a more comprehensive way to explore the various neighborhoods of Manhattan.


4 Replies to “NYC Christmas Trees”

  1. This is lovely. Everyone hears about the Rockefeller tree, but it never occurs to think about all the other beautiful trees that must be around the city. Next time I’m in NYC around Christmas time, I’ll be sure to check out these. (I think the Museum of Natural History one is my favorite!)

    1. In planning out which trees to look at, it was fun to learn just how many beautiful Christmas trees really are set-up all across the city!

  2. What a cool idea! I think the one in the Plaza Hotel is my favorite. I’ve always loved those old hotel lobbies and when they decorate it for Christmas there is just something so cozy about it. That being said, I’m so happy Christmas is over. lol!

    1. Hotel lobbies, which are open to the public, are something I never think about! I want to go back to the Plaza at other times of the year just to see the beautiful lobby by itself.

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