Visiting NYC During the Holiday Season: Exploring, Shopping, and Sightseeing- Itineraries for Two and Five Days

When I returned to New York as an adult, a new friend and co-worker said to me, "New York City around the holidays is absolutely magical. The lights, the store windows, the snow - it is all so exciting! Then January and February hit and you wish all the snow and cold would disappear!" As a native, and now, seasoned New Yorker, I couldn't agree more with her statement.

With the Thanksgiving holiday, New York turns into a snow globe of magic. If it snows, even more so. People bundled up and sloshing around make for a quiet and pretty New York City experience. Sure, people are still as feisty as ever, it is the holiday season after all, and shopping can be overwhelming even for those prepared with lists and gifts already purchased, but there is an overall sense of happiness and delight that comes with interacting with strangers.

The holiday season is also the busiest for New York City travel wise. Many visitors from around the world come to experience all that New York offers during the season including the endless shopping. EtsyNY team members know all about the shopping season, as they're currently and hurriedly making and packing goods for upcoming markets. 

In preparation for the season upon us, I've put together a list, with the help of native New Yorkers and current residents, of what is considered "must do/see" when visiting New York in December depending on a two-day/weekend or a full five-day/week schedule.

Two Days in NY: Holiday Windows + Handmade Markets at Bryant Park and Union Square + Rockerfeller Center

1. You definitely want to see the windows of Macy's at 34th Street and Lord & Taylor at 5th Ave. Both are gorgeous displays of holiday merriment.

2. If you're looking for unique and special gifts for the holidays, you want to make sure you visit the holiday markets set up at Bryant Park at 42nd and 5th Ave (on the map in point 3) and Union Square* at 14th Street. There are a few more open holiday markets such as Columbus Circle (no map available), but, these two I can confirm definitely have EtsyNY Team members selling their handmade and locally made wares.

If you're visiting Union Square, I highly, and I mean highly, recommend you stop at The City Bakery on 18th between 5th and 6th Avenues. They have some of the most decadent hot chocolate in the world. They also have these amazing homemade marshmallows that slowly melt by the temperature of the hot chocolate. YUM! As you're walking along this tour, you'll be glad to have one! 

Note on this map that Chelsea Market, which is hosting our annual Handmade Cavalcade, is listed on here and is the main focus on this map. Our Handmade Cavalcade is detailed below in the five day/week long schedule.

Note on this map that Chelsea Market, which is hosting our annual Handmade Cavalcade, is listed on here and is the main focus on this map. Our Handmade Cavalcade is detailed below in the five day/week long schedule.

3. Last, but not least, you'd have to see 42nd Street, or Times Square. Minutes away from there is Bryant Park, which is listed as a place to shop at their open holiday market; Grand Central Terminal, which is a beautiful building and also has trains to points North by way of Metro North; Rockerfeller Center, which has their famous Christmas Tree; and Radio City Music Hall, which currently has the Rockettes Holiday Show, "Christmas Spectacular" performing and is a must see.

Five Days in NY:  Holiday Windows + Handmade Markets at Bryant Park and Union Square + Rockerfeller Center + NY Botanical Garden Annual Train Show + Christmas Lights in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn

1 - 3.  See the three maps above and check out all of those options, as they're within walking distance from each other.

4. If you have a couple of hours to spend walking the grounds of the New York Botanical Garden, I recommend it. Currently, the annual Train Show (celebrating its 25th year!) is on display and it is perfect for children and adults! The trains have history and, as is New York City, are always evolving. I suggest you add this to your visit to Grand Central Terminal. You can purchase a ticket upon arrival, or on MTA's website to take the Metro-North Harlem local line to Botanical Garden Station.  It's a 20-minute train ride. The main entrance is across the street from the train station. You can't miss it!

Note: Almost directly across from the NY Botanical Garden is the Bronx Zoo. I'm not sure what they have on display for the Holidays, but if you're up there, you might want to make a full day and visit both locations. Remember, they're both large and you'll want to map your day accordingly if you do both.

Note: Almost directly across from the NY Botanical Garden is the Bronx Zoo. I'm not sure what they have on display for the Holidays, but if you're up there, you might want to make a full day and visit both locations. Remember, they're both large and you'll want to map your day accordingly if you do both.

5. Take a tour of the houses with Christmas light displays in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn! This is another option that requires some time and should be done in the evening. The lights go on at dark, around 5pm and stay on until around 9pm, give or take. The lights are definitely worth seeing around mid-December, if you can trek out to Dyker Heights. When I visited a few years ago, I did a bus tour through A Slice of Brooklyn that ran 3.5 hours, met at Union Square, and had a cannoli and coffee stop at the end. Their website (link above) has all details, including how to purchase tickets. Well worth the money in my opinion!

If you're not interested in spending that kind of money, you can take the subway to Dyker Heights, averaging around an hour each way and walk around the houses. There are some hills, so if you go the walking way, don't complain that you were not warned! Also, depending on when you go, it may be really cold, so you'll want to be bundled warmly if walking around.  Free Tours by Foot has some great instructions on how to best get there, along with streets and houses you want to make sure you see.

Note: Brooklyn is not scaled and therefore is not accurate. It should be wider.

Note: Brooklyn is not scaled and therefore is not accurate. It should be wider.

4. Last, but not least, you should head over to Chelsea Market. It's an institution and the High Line Park is around the corner. It has delicious eats and some great shops and most importantly, it will have the EtsyNY team Holiday Handmade Cavalcade (HHC) for the third year!

This year, the HHC will run for a full week - opening Monday, December 5th and closing on Sunday, December 11th. We are hosting a "Sip 'n' Shop" event on Thursday, December 8th between the hours of 6:30pm and 9:00pm. The event is sponsored by Brooklyn Brewery and will have alcoholic beverages for you to drink while shopping. The Handmade Holiday Cavalcade is a sought after event and we highly recommend RSVPing ahead of time for both the Cavalcade and the Sip 'n' Shop event. Shoppers without an RSVP will be charged $2.00 at the door.

If your holiday travels bring you to NYC at any time through the holiday season, we welcome you! Not to mention, you have a few ideas on how to spend your time. We hope you'll enjoy them, if you do decide to use these suggested schedules.

If you happen upon our glorious City during December 5th-11th, we hope you'll find your way into Chelsea Market and into the doors of our Handmade Holiday Cavalcade, leaving you with everlasting treasures from your holiday visit.

Happy Holidays!

Sara Stroman

Sara is a stationery maker and paper lover and runs S2 Stationery & Design. Since the young age of seven, she loved grabbing handfuls of deposit slips from banks and using the carbon copy paper to trace designs. In 2012, she traveled to Echizen, Japan to learn paper making from well known paper makers in the community with the blessing of their paper goddess. She also loves to travel and as you can see, doodling maps not set to scale.

Valentine's Day Tutorial: Make a Heart Pop-up Card for your Loved One(s)!

Valentine's Day is just around the corner here in the US. With today being February 1st, you officially have 13 days to buy goodies for your loved one. 

I'm a huge fan of Valentine's Day. I love everything about the holiday. I love that it is a day designated for love, even if we should be showing love every day. I love that people dress up in red on that day. That people do their best to be compassionate and kind. These things are more real to me than boxes of chocolates and expensive dinners. Don't get me wrong, those have their place, but I think Valentine's Day is so much more than spending money. It's about holding doors and saying "hi" or "I like your shoes" to a stranger. It's about giving $.50 to a homeless person on the street. It's about calling your Mom, grandparents, sisters and brothers, nieces and nephews, boyfriends/girlfriends, regular friends and saying, "I love you."

In the spirit of keeping things simple this Valentine's Day, I've put together one of my favorite handmade craft projects in a video and am sharing it with EtsyNY readers and followers - heart shaped pop-up cards. They take about three to five minutes a piece and can be embellished as you like. Really these are a winning card!


  1. Scissors
  2. 8.5x11 sheet(s) of paper - be creative!
  3. Confidence in your cutting and folding skills

Instruction Video:

As a stationer, I always think the more important element of any holiday is the way we communicate our feelings and emotions to the people we care the most about in our lives.  I hope you find many uses for this card, not just the holiday of love.

If you make one or two or even a few, share pictures in the comments!

Happy Valentine's Day! Happy Love Day! Happy Heart Crafting!


MEET the ARTISAN: S2 Stationery & Design + GIVEAWAYS

"MEET the ARTISAN" is a blog series that spotlights Etsy New York Team artisans and their craft. In this feature, we learn more about Sara, the creator of S2 Stationery & Design. 

Q: What is S2 Stationery & Design? Can you briefly describe your business for us?

A: S2 Stationery & Design is truly a company that uses "design" as a way to usher in communication in all aspects of our lives - personal, business, and everywhere else in between.

Q: Some artisans develop their products to meet consumer needs, while others craft products based on things and/or experiences that inspire them. What is the inspiration behind your business?

A: This questions could take this entire post. My inspiration is (and has been) largely based on experiences in every day life and while traveling.  S2 was decided years ago in my youth (although I had no idea of it at the time), when I loved playing with paper. It came full circle after my father's death in 2009 while traveling around Italy after running the Rome Marathon. A dream woke me up at 3am one morning and I woke up knowing that this was my calling; my passion to pursue. It helps that I was in Italy, one of the most beautiful countries in the World and the colors, food, smells, and people inspired me daily. 

To a degree, though, consumer needs is also an inspiration, although not the focal point. My stationery is not a life style brand. I'm hardly interested in keeping loyal customers, although I do love them and appreciate them! For me what is important is that a card or set of stationery inspires the customer to write and communicate their emotions. In other words, if a customer buys one card from S2 Stationery & Design and it allows them to be vulnerable and share sentiment that they might otherwise not, that is worth more than continuous sales from products that aren't necessary and are a strain to the environment.  Should they return to me because the quality is top notch, or they really like my product, then great! But the idea that a card sale can turn into a potential pencil set sale, or an annual calendar sale is not my inspiration.

Q: Oftentimes, each artisan has a different strategy and objective for their business. What are the next steps for you and your business?

A:  There are a lot of steps I want to take. My big goal for 2015 is the Stationery Show at the Javits Center. It's huge and the real deal. I'm also working on positioning my Etsy shop a bit more and separating the custom work from the social stationery. While custom work fits into the social stationery category, it is a different monster and requires a lot more effort and work. I'd love to have them parallel in building S2, but not as closely tied as they are now. 

The other big thing is that I'm working on ways to integrate large scale communication. When I was a child we had pen pals and I loved my pen pals. While not trying to bring back pen pals, I'm thinking creatively on ways to bring about peace and acceptance through communication, food, and social stationery.  In other words, 2015 is going to be busy!

Q: As many artisans look to grow and further develop their businesses, do you have some advice that you can share with fellow artisans?

A:  Take it slow. Running a business is a lot of work. When I started, I thought I could do everything quickly and easily thanks to technology, but it's a lot of work. It can be overwhelming sometimes - so much so that a person can end up burned out fast. It's also important to know the difference between part-time and full-time business running. I quit my job earlier this year to focus on S2 full-time and it's been exhausting, frustrating, and at times I've almost called it quits. Yet, something has kept me fighting and that is the understanding that it all takes time. People who have relatively easy success had struggles, too. Just remember to breathe and if know that if you have the heart, you have the stomach.

Special thanks to Sara for sharing with us. You can find her products showcased on her Etsy shop at And, details of her special product GIVEAWAYS are below. Please enter for your chance to win one of three "My Thankful Space" paper place mats!

A gorgeous decorative piece (and keepsake if food and water damage are minimal) to any Thanksgiving table, the "My Thankful Space" place mats are delicate, but sturdy and a great gift to give those giving thanks in your home. The larger, patterned paper is artisan paper from China.  The top layer is a text weight (32lb) metallic paper to compliment the back layer.  It is best to use a marker such as a sharpie to avoid smudging and for immediate drying.  Each place mat is cut to approximately 12"x18" and assembled by hand. 

Enter to win here! To enter simply, like the"S2 Stationery & Design" page on Facebook and/or this blog post, along with a comment with three things you are thankful for this Thanksgiving.  Three (3) winners will be selected randomly for one of three sets of paper place mats. (Marker not included!) 

One set of the white and silver place mats has 8; one set of blue and gold place mats has 10; one set of red and gold place mats has 10.  Please include in your comment what color placements you prefer.  Winners will be notified within 24 hours of being selected for shipping information.  Good luck!


Published by Susan Ng / /