6 Days in Iceland: A Self-Drive Itinerary

When it comes to planning a trip to Iceland, especially during the winter months, it’s best to accept prior to your trip that every day may not go exactly as planned. While going through security before our flight home, we heard numerous groups discussing their own trips to Iceland, complaining that all of their tours had been cancelled or that they hadn’t been able to experience every single thing they thought they would.

So before we continue, take a deep breath, and accept that your plans may perhaps fall through. Winter weather in Iceland is wildly unpredictable, but at the same time, winter there is so visually stunning. I would’ve been fine if we did nothing but drive around “oohing” and “ah-ing” at volcanic ranges. Secondly, if you or another person in your party has experience with harsh winter driving, rent a car. I’m not saying that it is necessarily a smart idea to drive into a blizzard despite all tours being cancelled, I’m just saying that on certain days we drove into a blizzard despite all tours being cancelled.

All joking aside, renting a car gives you a lot more flexibility when it comes to your schedule. Whereas booking a tour could result in a wasted day, driving gave us the option to change our plans at last minute notice if roads were closed or there was inclement weather in certain areas. We definitely left Iceland having missed out on a couple things we had originally wanted to see, but to be honest, we experienced so much that those things were barely a thought. Plus, that just means we have to go back.
Day 1: Reykjavik
Day 2: The Golden Circle
Day 3: Snæfellsnes Peninsula
Day 4: The Langjökull Glacier
Day 5: The South Coast
Day 6: The Blue Lagoon

Day 1: Reykjavik

Coming from New York meant that a majority of flights we could’ve booked would get us to Reykjavik at approximately 4:30am-6:30am the following day. Personally, I always prefer earlier arrival flights because I’m able to run on adrenaline for almost twelve hours after landing; but also because it can often mean a whole extra added day to your trip.

First things first: get your rental car. When you exit the “arrivals” area of Keflavik, you’ll find various car rental depots for popular car rental companies, such as Budget, Hertz, Enterprise, etc. However, if you’re like us and booked your car through a company exclusive to Iceland, you’ll have to hop on a shuttle to the actual rental car office. This shuttle is a bright yellow bus that you can catch at the designated bus stop about a minute walk from Keflavik. I’d assume if it were summer and you had minimal luggage that you might be able to walk to the rental office, because Blue Car Rental was the second stop and we were there in what felt like three minutes.

    • While I highly recommend Blue Car, please be smarter than we were. Just because a car says “7-seater” does not mean it’s the type of 7-seater you may be used to. In fact, once we stored our luggage, it only really fit five of the six of us. Sitting awkwardly atop two of my friends while my head was bent in an a 90 degree angle, definitely did not make for the most comfortable 45 minute ride to Reykjavik. To make matters worse, even after we unpacked our luggage, we consistently rotated since the back two seats were suitable for people 4″11 and under. Long story short, if you’re more than five, get a second car.
    • We opted to have Wi-fi included with our car rental and it was the greatest choice we made. Your wi-fi comes in the form of a portable little egg shape device that one us kept in our pocket even when we left the car. Because what’s better than being able to Snapchat data-free virtually everywhere you go?
    • Purchase all the car insurance. It’s better to pay upfront than have to worry about a potential large payment later.

Next stop: Breakfast.

It had been a goal of mine to have breakfast at the Laundromat Cafe, and luckily that’s exactly where we ended up at 8:00am on our first morning in Iceland. The Dirty Breakfast which consists of eggs, bacon, potatoes, tomato, sausage, and yogurt is just as heavenly as it sound, and the ambiance is a liberals paradise.

 

 

Unfortunately, I found out a few days ago that the Laundromat Cafe shut its doors just a week after we left. But never fear! The owner insists they are currently seeking another Reykjavik venue to re-open. Until then there are a boatload of other great spots for breakfast in Reykjavik like Bergsson Mathús, Cafe Bablu, and C is for Cookie.

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After breakfast, head to the Saga Museum; but don’t forget to stop along the way and appreciate the beauty of Mount Esja, which isn’t actually a mountain at all, but an entire volcanic range. We spent a good fifteen minutes just gawking at its beauty – this was before we realized that the entire country is one giant scenic view.

The Saga Museum uses life-like figures to depict different moments in Iceland’s history, and is a great way to learn a bit more about the country you’re visiting before diving right in.

The Saga Museum is open daily, from 10:00am-6:00pm and entrance is 2100kr ($20).

 

 

The next two stops are quintessentially Reykjavik. First, stop by the Sun Voyager statue for a quick photo opportunity. Jón Gunnar Árnason, the sculpture of the statue has said its design was meant to convey, “the promise of undiscovered territory, a dream of hope, progress, and freedom.” In a way, it reminds me of the meaning behind the Statue of Liberty back home.

When visiting you’ll also have an excellent view of both Thufa, an outdoor art piece by Ólöf Nordal; and Harpa, the majestic concert hall of Reykjavik.

6 Days in Iceland | Iceland Self-Drive Itinerary | Winter in Iceland | #agbhow | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

From here, head over to Hallgrimskirkja. This structure which took 41 years to build is not only the largest church in Iceland, but is also among one of the largest structures of Iceland in general. I guess that’s why most visitors can’t leave Iceland without heading to the top to take in the view of Iceland’s largest city. And once you’ve descended, don’t forget to check out the statue of Norse explorer, Lief Erikson who greets visitors as they enter.

Hallsgrimskirkja is open from 9:00am-5:00pm during the winter months, and 9:00am-9:00pm during the summer. Note that on Sundays, the tower is closed from 10:30am-12:15 due to mass. Admission to the tower is 1000 ISK.

6 Days in Iceland | Iceland Self-Drive Itinerary | Winter in Iceland | #agbhow | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

 

 

If you’re a history buff, your next stop should be the not-to-be-missed National Museum of Iceland, which is home to over 2,000 artifacts.

The National Museum of Iceland is open daily from 10:00am-5:00pm, though it is currently closed on Mondays. Admission is 2000 ISK, and free for anyone under 18.

At this point you may be getting smacked by hunger pangs and sleep deprivation. So run over to Baejarins Beztu Pylsur and order one (or two) with everything, and take a relaxing walk around pond Tjornin. Then when you’re done, do a quick grocery run at the closest Bonus, stock up Skyr, and head to your accommodations for a much deserved nap.

 

 

NOW WAKE UP, because you have to spend a night experiencing Reykjavik nightlife at least once. Literally, maybe just once, because the booze prices in this country are astronomical.

The first bar we stopped at was the Lebowski Bar, where we ordered White Russians all around. If you don’t get the reference, add watching the Big Lebowski to your list of post-Iceland activities. The Lebwoski Bar has a list of about a dozen different White Russians, though I prefer a classic.

If you’re feeling lucky, for 2500 ISK you can have the bartender spin a wheel which might leave you with 10 “free” beers. Our first friend to spin actually hit the jackpot and won 10 (really 8 if you subtract payment) free beers to start the night. But don’t get too cocky; the next two to spin both hit “gutterballs” and walked away 2500 ISK poorer.

Hopefully you didn’t spend all your money spinning the prize wheel, because Lebowski’s bar food is surprisingly delicious. After all, nothing goes down better with a White Russian than mozzarella sticks and a Honey Boo burger.

Side note – our bartender was beyond awesome! By the end of the night we felt like she was part of the gang.

6 Days in Iceland | Iceland Self-Drive Itinerary | Winter in Iceland | #agbhow | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

American Bar was next, which also had a spin-to-win wheel, but thankfully we had learned our lesson by then. One of the best parts of Reykjavik is that a majority of the bars are all in a five block range, so walking between them is super easy. Others worth checking out: The English Pub and The Dubliner.

6 Days in Iceland | Iceland Self-Drive Itinerary | Winter in Iceland | #agbhow | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com


Day 2: The Golden Circle

The Golden Circle is one of the most popular sightseeing routes in Iceland and offers an array of different stops along the way. The weather was a bit back-and-forth on this day and due to the minimal light hours during the winter, we had to cut out some of our hidden gems off the itinerary. That being said, it’s definitely possible to hit more stops than we did depending on the weather and time of year, so definitely pick out your favorite gems to add to your own itinerary.

Stop one: Thingvellir National Park

6 Days in Iceland | Iceland Self-Drive Itinerary | Winter in Iceland | #agbhow | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

How much you enjoy your time at this park is going to be based on how adventurous you are willing to be. At first glance, the park seems pretty barren, though even barren is stunning with the sun shining through. The deeper into Thingvellir you go, the more there is to see – from towering lava rock to a small church with adjacent buildings, which was apparently the site of Iceland’s first parliament in 960 AD.

6 Days in Iceland | Iceland Self-Drive Itinerary | Winter in Iceland | #agbhow | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

Many of the paths had been snowed over but we, along with a few other visitors, trekked through the slush to experience as much as we could.

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    • If you’re traveling in winter, make sure you have a pair of waterproof winter boots. There is nothing fun about attempting to make your way in sopping wet sneakers, or injuring yourself by slipping on an icy patch.

 

At one point on our adventure, we accidentally stumbled upon Öxarárfoss, a small waterfall that remains semi-frozen during the winter months. This ended up being one of those accidents we questioned not originally having on our itinerary; though it may be much smaller than some of the more popular Iceland falls, it’s slight seclusion and simplicity make it that much more beautiful.

 

 

After your excursion through Iceland’s only UNESCO Heritage Site, head over to Strokkur, Iceland’s most famous geysir that erupts every 6-10 minutes. Though on our trip it seemed a bit more frequent. Not every eruption is as dramatic, so it may be worth sticking around for a two or three.

6 Days in Iceland | Iceland Self-Drive Itinerary | Winter in Iceland | #agbhow | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

After freezing your fingers off trying to capture an image of Strokkur blowing its top, head over to Fridheimar for a late lunch/early dinner. I highly recommend making a reservation to be on the safe side, though we had made the latest reservation available and were dining with only four other groups.

Fridheimar is located inside one of Iceland’s geothermal tomato greenhouses, and hence every menu from the entrees to the desserts are tomato-based. This restaurant is more of an experience than a meal, and is worth every penny.

Fridheimar is open daily from 12:00pm-4:00pm.

 

 

Finally, it’s time to visit the majestic and popular, Gullfoss. Gullfoss is one of those natural wonders that leave you wondering why so many places to choose to pave over beauty for skyscrapers. Be sure to do some walking among the open space surrounding Gullfoss as you’ll be able to get a few differently angled views of the falls.

This is one of those rare occasions where I’ll suggest stopping at the visitor center gift shop before departing. Were some of the items overpriced? Of course, it’s Iceland. But I was able to grab some stunning post cards and prints that actually didn’t break the bank.

6 Days in Iceland | Iceland Self-Drive Itinerary | Winter in Iceland | #agbhow | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

Other stops you may want to make during your Golden Circle self-drive tour:

Faxi Waterfall (64.2254° N, 20.3372° W)

Porufoss (64.260707, -21.369836)

Kerid Crater (64.0413° N, 20.8851° W)

Solheimar Eco-Village (64.0656° N, 20.6419° W)

Gamla Laugin Geothermal Pool (64.1377° N, 20.3097° W)


Day 3: The Snæfellsnes Peninsula

Often called “Little Iceland” due to the varying landscapes that exist in one location, the Snæfellsnes Peninsula had been calling out to me from the initiation of our trip planning.

If you’re driving from Reykjavik, which is about 2.5 hours, this definitely requires an early start if you’re attempting to see much of the peninsula in the same day. So quickly down some of that Skyr you purchased at your local Bonus supermarket and hit the road.

 

  • Reminder: Though not quite as north as the Westfjords, in winter this area was approximately 8-10 degrees colder than Reykjavik. We also experienced some intense winds that at times were almost painful if your face wasn’t covered, so I’d recommend bringing along some extra layers and a ski-mask.

Stop 1: Búðir

You’ve probably seen snapshots of the Búðir or “the little black church” without even realizing, as it’s become a common stop for photographers visiting the peninsula. To many, this may seem an odd spot for church – secluded from much else. But this little hamlet provides an erie but stunning break from the snowy surroundings.

6 Days in Iceland | Iceland Self-Drive Itinerary | Winter in Iceland | #agbhow | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

Stop 2: Bárður Snæfellsás

Legend has it that Bárður Snæfellsás, half troll and half man, was the settler of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. In 1972, co-founder of the Icelandic Sculptors Society, Ragnar Kjartansson built a stone figure of Bárður, which now stands tall in the fishing-village of Arnarstapi watching over his land.

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If traveling in winter, don’t be surprised that Arnarstapi is almost completely deserted. It seems that this town is mostly utilized during the summer season, which makes sense considering how dramatic winters in the area can be.

Stop 3: Hellnar

Hellnar is an ancient fishing village one stop over from Arnarstapi, and is a great place to stop for the perfect view of Snæfellsjökull, a 700,000 year old glacier.

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Stop 4: The Londrangar Basalt Cliffs

  • Warning – If you think the rest of the peninsula is windy, just wait until you stroll along the Londrangar Cliffs. In the wintertime, there are also some difficult-to-see ice patches, and one almost sent me flying off of a ledge. So walk slowly, take your time, and pay attention to your surroundings.

The view, however, is completely worth it.

6 Days in Iceland | Iceland Self-Drive Itinerary | Winter in Iceland | #agbhow | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

Stop 5: Vatnshellir Cave

Vatnshellir is the cave that apparently inspired Jule’s Verne’s, “Journey to the Center of the Earth” and with Summit Adventure Guides you can journey down into the 8,000 year old lava tube. We had a great tour guide who went by “Gummy” during our 45 minute tour, and his knowledge, jokes, and Marvel references really added to the experience.

At one point, once you’re two stairwells, a bridge, and a walk deep into the tube, everyone is asked to turn of their lights, leaving you absolute darkness. This is the level of darkness that your eyes will never be able to adjust to. Despite this proclamation, we all still attempted to stare at our own hand, thinking at some point we’d make out an outline. But nothing.

Summit Adventure Guides provides several tours including the Vatnshellir Cave Tour, which runs all year. Tours should be booked in advance and run 3750 ISK, roughly $37.

 

 

Stop 6: Djúpalónssandur & Dritvík

While Djúpalónssandur is known for being the “black-lava pearl beach”, Dritvík is known for something a bit more somber. In 1948, an English trawler ship slammed into the beach, killing 14 of the 19 crewman. The few iron remains of the ship remain in the same location out of respect and memory of those who passed.

Despite the snow covering much of both areas, these destinations are not to be missed.

6 Days in Iceland | Iceland Self-Drive Itinerary | Winter in Iceland | #agbhow | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

Stop 7: Feast in Ólafsvík

We had asked our Vatnshellir tour guide for some restaurant recommendations, considering a majority of businesses in West Iceland were closed for the winter. He eagerly suggested two spots over in his hometown of Ólafsvík, one he described as “a black house with a green roof”. This restaurant ended up being “Hraun”, which was not only run by some of the most accommodating staff, but also is home to some of the best tasting burgers you will ever eat.

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Stop 8: Hunt the Northern Lights

We had booked an Airbnb for one night alongside Kirkjufell to experience the countryside and hopefully catch a glimpse of the northern lights. We had accepted the day prior that we probably were going to leave Iceland without having seen them; after all, we had daily snow, almost complete cloudy skies, and on that night the aurora forecast was extremely low. But hey, at least the views from the cabin were stunning.

6 Days in Iceland | Iceland Self-Drive Itinerary | Winter in Iceland | #agbhow | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

6 Days in Iceland | Iceland Self-Drive Itinerary | Winter in Iceland | #agbhow | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

While we hung inside, I made a point of running outside every twenty minutes or so to see if we could at least get a view of a dark starry night sky. But due to the weather, all I kept seeing was solid darkness. But luck was on our side. On my fourth time out, there finally seemed to be a gap in the cloud cover, and I was greeted by a strip of stars like I had rarely seen. If this was all we got, I’d have been happy. However, after calling my friends out, one pointed out what appeared to be a mild bright, white light from behind Kirkjufell.

Slowly these light patches lightened and began to spread out and few snaps of my camera proved we were finally getting a glimpse – a few green stripes were in fact streaking the sky. During the peak, there were even what appeared to be some vertical moving lines. But just as quick as they appeared, the cloud cover regained its position over West Iceland.

6 Days in Iceland | Iceland Self-Drive Itinerary | Winter in Iceland | #agbhow | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

 

 

We might not have experienced the most intense aurora borealis, but the experience was still memorable – and waiting it out was half of the fun.


Day 4: The Langjokull Glacier

We had originally planned to wake up early and drive the almost three hours to the Husafell Base Camp, where we would begin out Snowmobile Into the Glacier tour with Mountaineers of Iceland.

This tour would’ve taken us snowmobiling on the second largest glacier in Iceland, followed by a cave tour. However, there are only so many experiences that can be saved by self-driving in Iceland. And it is extremely dangerous and never okay to enter an ice cave or take part in activities like glacier hiking without certified professionals.

But if the weather wasn’t a deterrent, this would’ve been a great chance to take part in some action-packed activity on your way down from the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.

On the flip side, Mountaineers was great to work with and processed our refund in a timely manner with no issues. Be sure to check out their official site for other awesome Iceland tours.

The Snowmobile Into the Glacier Tour with Mountaineers of Iceland must be booked in advanced, and runs 29.900 ISK for two guests on one snowmobile. All drivers must have a valid driver’s license. 


Day 5: The South Coast

Stop 1: Seljalandsfoss

Seljalandsfoss is the first of the two main waterfalls you will hit on your South Coast drive. Though it appears smaller in comparison to Skogafoss, it actually drops about 197 feet. During the summer months or when icy paths are no issue, guests can walk a path behind the falls for a unique view.

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Stop 2: Skógafoss

Skógafoss is one of the biggest and most accessible waterfalls in Iceland, making it a popular stop all year round. Pictures really don’t do this waterfall justice, as you really don’t understand its power or size until you’re there in person, walking right up to it.

  • If you’re traveling in winter and want to get up close and personal, make sure to bring a waterproof jacket or poncho. You do end up walking right into a thick wall of mist, and wet clothing isn’t a great combination with potentially strong winds.

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Stop 3: Sólheimasandur Plane Wreckage

On November 24, 1973, a US Navy plane ran out of fuel and crash landed on Sólheimasandur’s black sand beach. Later on it would be found that the pilot actually just switched to the wrong fuel tank. Fortunately, all onboard survived but the wreckage still remains on the beach as a popular tourist attraction.

Though driving to the wreckage used to be allowed, in order to preserve the beach it has since been prohibited. In order to reach the wreckage, you now have to walk approximately 45 minutes there and 45 minutes back. This walk, I’m sure, can be relaxing in the appropriate weather. We chose to do walk in an almost zero-visibility blizzard – and let’s just say, I would not ever recommend it. But in general, I do recommend taking the walk to the site. It’s really something.

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Stop 4: Reynisfjara Beach

Despite Iceland being home to primarily black sand beaches, Reynisfjara has always been the iconic black sand beach to visit. This is due in part to it’s unique features, like Hálsanefshellir Cave, basalt columns, and stunningly tall rock formations.

  • When exploring the beach, be sure to avoid walking to close to the shoreline. Reyinsfjara is home to sneaker waves, which can appear suddenly and are strong enough to pull you out to sea. Putting yourself in dangerous situations is not worth the photo op.

If you feel you didn’t take in enough of the sites on your drive, never fear, because you just might get a glance when you turn around to drive all the way back to Reykjavik!


Day 6: The Blue Lagoon

The Blue Lagoon is the perfect last stop before your flight home, due in part to it being not too far from Keflavik Airport.

  • Be sure to look up sunrise time for the day you’re planning to visit when booking your tickets. Watching the sun come up behind the bridge of the lagoon was the highlight of our time there.

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Tickets for the Blue Lagoon run from 6990 ISK – 53000 ISK depending on your package. We went with the cheapest package, which ended up costing about $80 for our time slot, and have no regrets. Just a heads up: bring a towel, as the cheapest option does not include one.

While the Blue Lagoon can seem a bit pricy, the entire experience seemed worth the price of admission. The staff, premises, shower/changing rooms (which are even equipped with blowdryers) are clean, spacious, and top of the line. If you’re envisioning a giant swimming pool, yes, $80 is a bit steep. But if you appreciate the Blue Lagoon for the spa experience that it truly is, then it’s a steal.

Plus, when it begins to hit you that your spectacular Iceland trip that you spent months planning is finally coming to an end – you can drink your sadness in beer and Skyr smoothies at the pool bars.

6 Days in Iceland | Iceland Self-Drive Itinerary | Winter in Iceland | #agbhow | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

 

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The Haunted Orphanage of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania ft. Jennie Wade House

Considering how saturated the market is when it comes to haunted attractions and ghost tours, I was a bit skeptical when my friend suggested we book one of these tours during our short trip to Gettysburg, Pennsylavania; But for $15 per person, what did we have to lose? We booked our tour with Ghostly Images of Gettysburg due to their Orphanage/Jennie Wade House combination tour.

Upon our arrival, we were greeted by Bill who would be leading us through both the orphanage and the Jennie Wade House with about a dozen others guests. Right off the bat, I was glad we had been grouped with Bill as he wasn’t merely reading off a script but was extremely knowledgable on the history and backstories of both locations as well as the Civil War.

Considering the era, the role of most women was stay-at-home mom. If they did have a job, they most likely were not paying a livable wage. During the Civil War, if a father were to lose his life in battle, many children would be turned over to orphanages as it was believed their mothers lacked the financial support to provide for them. One of the these Civil War era orphanages was the orphanage we would be visiting this day. The orphanage was originally opened by a woman whose husband had lost his life in battle. Rather than give them up, she opened an orphanage where she cared for many parentless or abandoned children. Eventually though, she remarried and her and her children moved to a new home out of the orphanage.

Unfortunately for the children left behind, as well as those who had yet to arrive, the new mother of the house, Rosa Carmichael, didn’t share the original owners love for children. Rosa would apparently inflict cruel and unusual punishment on the children; these punishments included being shackled into the basement, being locked in an outhouse in the middle of winter, and at times being put into the pit.

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The pit itself is really just a deep alcove in the cellar, but as we each climbed in, I couldn’t even bare think about young children sitting their for hours or days in the dark, and all alone. If this orphanage is truly haunted, and many feel it is, it’s easy to see why.

At one point, Bill told us that there is actually a family currently living in the floor above the old orphanage, which is where the bedrooms of the children and house mother would have been located. Bill then said what were all probably thinking, “I have no idea why anyone would want to live there.” To this comment one of my friends whispered, “cheap rent.” If that is not #facts.

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In the cellar, you’ll find a few toys scattered throughout. These aren’t remnant of the past, but were actually put their by current owners. Some people have reported feeling a presence when playing with the toys, as if someone is trying to play with them. A few have even mentioned feeling a hand touch them. I didn’t personally have an experience, but Bill noted that oftentimes the toys will be rearranged or found in places not last seen, such as this one pink bear which was seemingly out of place, laying atop a barrel on our arrival.

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Once we left the orphanage, we had a ridiculously cold but quick walk across the street to the Jennie Wade House. Oddly enough, this wasn’t the house that Jennie actually lived in. She, at the time, was living across the street but had headed to her sister’s house where they baked bread and packaged it with water for the soldiers. Unlike most families who had holed up their cellars or fled the city, Jennie felt a need to be active in aiding those fighting. Unfortunately, this selflessness also led to her demise.

Bullets had already riddled the house an Jennie and her family had suffered a few close calls – and on the final day of the battle, Jennie lost her life when a confederate bullet shot through their roof. Almost 8,000 soldiers died while fighting in the Battle of Gettysburg; But only one civilian.

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The middle photo is of Jennie Wade.

We explored two floors of the Jennie Wade house, which surprisingly housed more room than you’d think when viewing the house from the outside. Bill pointed out specific areas of the house that typically experience more activity in movement and in photographs than other parts of the house. And “introduced” us to certain ghosts – such as a ghost believed to be a young girl aged about 6.

The Haunted Orphanage of Gettysburg | Jennie Wade House | #agbhow | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | Top Things to Do in Gettysburg

It doesn’t seem like it from he outside, but the house is actually pretty large in terms of amount of rooms.

In many spots, Bill would shut the lights and allow us to take photos to potentially snap some paranormal activity; and while I didn’t get much, I did get a few small orbs, as well as some video footage of one of what seem liked a few mini small orbs floating by.

The Haunted Orphanage of Gettysburg | Jennie Wade House | #agbhow | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | Top Things to Do in Gettysburg

This tour definitely surpassed my expectations and was entirely different than what I ha expected. If you’re someone looking for a scary house to walk through, while teenagers dressed up grab at you every five minutes – maybe wait for the Halloween attractions. But if you’re someone who has even questioned the paranormal, and has an interest in history, even those parts that may seem a bit dark, then I think this tour is right up your ally.

 

The Haunted Orphanage of Gettysburg | Jennie Wade House | #agbhow | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | Top Things to Do in Gettysburg

Must-Try Bites at Bryant Park’s Winter Village

I touched on the Bryant Park Winter Village in my Very Merry Christmas Guide to NYC, but I didn’t delve into much detail regarding the array of food-coma inducing options available while you wander this winter wonderland. Fortunately for me, I get to pass by Bryant Park at least twice a day. Unfortunately for my wallet, this means that I have already paid a visit into the park five times since it’s seasonal opening on October 28th; Three days of which were spent hopping from food vendor to food vendor. In just three days, I’ve tried foods from 12 of roughly 35 food-related booths. Do I regret it? No. Am I ashamed? Absolutely not. Because everyone knows that during the holiday season, food doesn’t go to the stomach. It goes to the soul.

Must-Try Bites at Bryant Park's Winter Village | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | Christmas in NYC

Must-Try Bites at Bryant Park's Winter Village | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | Holidays in NYCBolivian Llama Party
I won’t even lie and say that the name of this vendor wasn’t what immediately drew me to it, but it’s the food that will keep me coming back. BLP’s Winter Village menu primarily consists of sandwiches, sliders, and fries; all of which smell way too good while you’re waiting to order. It literally took me about ten minutes to decide if I wanted brisket on a slider, or atop some papitas; and then another twenty minutes to actually get my order. I was definitely annoyed, up until I finally received my specialty papitas, which were topped with brisket, chimichurri sauce, and a little bit of cheese. I’m saying it now, this takes the number one spot for me this year. Every flavor blended perfectly together. Guess I’ll have to go back for the sliders.


Must-Try Bites at Bryant Park's Winter Village | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | Holidays in NYC

Chick’nCone
Chick’nCone provides an on-the-go take of chicken and waffles, and while I don’t know if the two can be compared the Chick’nCone is amazing for what it is. So far, I’ve tried two of the three flavors being offered at the winter village; Kick’n Ranch  packed a punch of spice and flavor and combined perfectly with the crunchy cone. I wasn’t too thrilled with Cinna-Maple, but it was a tad too sweet. That being said, the chicken was cooked to absolute perfection with both servings, which I honestly was not expecting. Chick’nCone definitely falls into my top three favorite food vendors this year.


Must-Try Bites at Bryant Park's Winter Village | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | Holidays in NYCLa Sonrisa Empanadas 
Typically, I’d gravitate towards a beef empanada, but all flavors lost my attention when I set my eyes on the “Mac and Cheese Empanada”. For the record, it’s not as good as it sounds; it’s better. And pairing with some hot sauce for dipping takes it over the edge. On another visit, I tried the “Bacon Mac and Cheese”, which is the exact same recipe but with some chunks of thick-cut bacon thrown in. After purchasing, you have the option to enter you cell number for rewards points. At 1 point per empanada purchased, you receive a free one after gaining 10 points. Challenge accepted.


Must-Try Bites at Bryant Park's Winter Village | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | Holidays in NYCDulcinea Churros
Dulcina Churros was the first shop I stopped at at this year’s Winter Village. While I’m not generally a churro fanatic, I couldn’t pass up on trying these stuffed churros I kept hearing about. It was a tough choice, but we eventually decided on Boston Cream, Dulce de Leche, and Smores filled churros. The Boston Cream was great; with a perfect amount of filling and that mildly sweet taste you’d get from a Boston Cream donut. The Dulce de Leche on the other hand, though flavorful, seemed to be overstuffed making the entire thing a bit unappetizing. The smores flavor was definitely my favorite, as it put a twist on a typical smores by combing marshmallow and Nutella, as opposed to chocolate. However, I do wish that they made this substitute more clear as I happened to be sharing with two people with nut allergies. Luckily, I noticed as soon as I saw the consistency of the filling when tearing it apart.


Must-Try Bites at Bryant Park's Winter Village | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | Holidays in NYCWoops!
If Paris is always a good idea, so are macarons. The Woops! booth at the Bryant Park Winter Village is one of my favorites, due in part to it’s simplicity, but also to the exceptional flavors of macarons. Choosing a few is always a challenge, especially because a couple new flavors are added each year. This time, I went with Key Lime Pie, Cereal Milk, and Nutella and couldn’t have been happier with my choices. If you’ve eaten Nutella, or anything flavored with the product, you can probably already tell what this macaron tasted like. Of course this isn’t a bad thing. Cereal Milk was different but delicious, and gave us a flavor of Fruity Pebbles. But my favorite was the Key Lime Pie; the filling was perfectly tangy without being bitter.


Must-Try Bites at Bryant Park's Winter Village | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | Holidays in NYC


You may have seen Dō posts all over your social media feeds, or read about it in my NYC Food Fads post. My review of the Winter Village version is pretty similar. It’s pretty good, but in the end you’re spending $7 on a cup of semi-frozen cookie dough. That being said, everything tastes better when eating it in front of an ice rink while holiday music plays.


Must-Try Bites at Bryant Park's Winter Village | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | Holidays in NYCHome Frite
I personally feel like Home Frite is the younger, slightly less cool cousin of Pomme Frites, because honestly nothing beats being able to choose between 30 different dipping sauces. But the handful of dipping options offered by Home Frite aren’t half bad. On this day, I tried the lemon garlic aioli, which I felt was a little bland compared to some of their others. On the plus side, home frites fries are already so good on their own, that no dipping sauce is required. PSA: one order is definitely good for two people, maybe three if you’re not that hungry. As much as I wanted to, and I really wanted to, I couldn’t finish one cone on my own.


Must-Try Bites at Bryant Park's Winter Village | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | Holidays in NYCArancini Bros
Rice balls, arancini, whatever you want to call ’em, I love ’em. So of course, I had to make sure to try as many flavors as I could. Some of them I wasn’t too enthusiastic about; the Buffalo Chicken had some flavors that just didn’t line up, and the Pizza ball was just okay. But some flavors were top-notch, like the Chicken Parmesan, Classic Ragu, and Bianco Verde. If I had to choose, I’d say the Chicken Parmesan was the clear winner. But I got my eye on the French Onion Soup arancini for next time.


Must-Try Bites at Bryant Park's Winter Village | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | Holidays in NYC

Max Brenner
I always tell myself I’ll skip a stop at the Max Brenner booth each time I visit, because honestly I’ve enjoyed enough Sunday Pasta, chocolate fondue, and lava cakes at their brick-and-mortar restaurant to last me a lifetime. But a trip to the Winter Village is never the same without a cup of Max Brenner’s hot chocolate. If you’re expecting a watered-down, powder base, sorry excuse for a drink type of hot chocolate, then this is not the place for you. Max Brenner hot chocolate is like nothing you’ve ever tasted; It’s super rich, flavorful, and worth every single calorie.


Must-Try Bites at Bryant Park's Winter Village | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | Holidays in NYC

Pickle Me Pete
Walking passed the Pickle Me Pete booth, the first thing you’ll probably notice is the dozen or so buckets of different varieties of pickles available to order. That’s right, there is a booth that strictly sells pickles: bread & butter pickles, small kosher dills, small horseradish pickles, you name it. And as much as I love myself some plain pickles, the fried pickles are apparently the must-try at this booth. These pickles were extremely average in a good way, because I have yet to taste bad fried pickles. But they were good and I’d probably grab some again sometime.


Must-Try Bites at Bryant Park's Winter Village | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | Holidays in NYCBaked Cheese Haus
If you’ve experienced Swiss, French, or German cuisine of certain areas, this may not seem too odd for you. But for many a sandwich of alpine cheese scraped right off of the wheel, spring onions, baby gherkins, dijon mustard, and bratwurst, may seem like an interesting combination. I had tried something similar when visiting the Christmas markets in Quebec, but this one had a lot more going on. While I loved the bratwurst, gherkins, and dijon, I probably would’ve preferred a bit less cheese; which is odd considering that is almost the staple of the Raclette. But overall, it’s definitely one of the more unique items you’ll try at the village, and worth trying if you have the chance.


Must-Try Bites at Bryant Park's Winter Village | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | Holidays in NYCJars by Dani
Honestly, you could put any ready-to-eat product in a glass jar and I’d probably purchase it, based on cuteness alone. Jars come in a variety of flavors and are made up of cake, a mouse or merengue, and a buttercream; with a few extras thrown in depending on flavor. Jars also come in size small (pictured) and large. I grabbed a Cookie Dough for my sister but my choice was the Lemon Bar, which is made up of chewy lemon bar crust, lemon custard, whipped cream, and sprinkles. While, I feel the price is a bit high for the size of the product, it was absolutely delicious. Jars by Dani may look like a cute DIY project, but the taste screams high-quality baker.

If this didn’t make your stomach rumble, keep checking back for updates as I make my way around the Bryant Park Winter Village.

Must-Try Bites at Bryant Park's Winter Village | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | Christmas in NYC

A Very Merry Christmas Guide to New York City

Queue “Silver Bells” by Bing Crosby.

If there is one thing I love most about New York City, it’s the way the atmosphere seems to change around the holiday season. There is something about the holiday lights shining bright amongst the city lights, while grey slush puddles shoppers fill the streets that just makes this city seem a little more magical.

I have always been a winter person. Some people tell me it’s because I was born in February, but I’ve always believed it’s because the holiday season here is like no holiday season anywhere else. After 24 years, I have yet to grow tired of all there is to experience at Christmastime, and I think it’s time to share the wealth.

The Holiday Shops

The Union Square Holiday Market – Union Square Park, Southern Side, New York, NY
November 16 – December 24, 2017
Nearest Subways: N,Q,R,4,5,6,L

While this area of Union Square is typically reserved for the Union Square Greenmarket, during the holiday season it transforms into a holiday marrket of approximately 200 vendors, selling everything from custom artwork, to handmade to jewelry, to leather goods.

A Very Merry Christmas Guide to New York City | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | A Great Big Hunk of World

Winter Village at Bryant Park, 476 5th Avenue, New York, NY
October 28, 2017 – January 2, 2018
Nearest Subways: F,B,Q,R,N,6,1,2,3

Bryant Park’s Winter Village is by far my favorite of the Christmas markets and is the one I visit most frequently. With a huge ice rink and a 64-foot tree in the center of it all, it makes for a fun, half-day of holiday fun. Be sure not to fill up before dropping by; you don’t want to miss out on the macaroons, fried pickles, and Max Brenner Hot Chocolate.

A Very Merry Christmas Guide to New York City | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | A Great Big Hunk of World

Grand Central Holiday Fair, 89 E 42nd Street, New York, NY
November 13 – December 24, 2017
Nearest Subways: 4,5,6,7,S

If you’re visiting New York for the first time, I’d be surprised if Grand Central Station wasn’t on your list of sights to see. Visiting around the holiday season technically makes this spot a two-for-one. This market is one of the only one’s that lets you get in on the Christmas market fun without having to endure the New York winter outside.

A Very Merry Christmas Guide to New York City | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | A Great Big Hunk of World | Photo: Marc A. Hermann / MTA New York City Transit

Columbus Circle Holiday Market, Central Park West and 59th Street, New York, NY
November 29 – December 24, 2017
Nearest Subways: Q,N,W,R,1

You’re in New York City, you’re within walking distance of Central Park (the 3rd most visited attraction in the world), and it’s Christmastime. Now add on the 50 vendors all selling unique crafts, art, food, and home accessories, and you’ve got a great day of holiday festivities.

A Very Merry Christmas Guide to New York City | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | A Great Big Hunk of World


The Holiday Shows

The Radio City Christmas Spectacular
November 10, 2017 – January 1, 2018

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t once dream of becoming a Rockette, but unfortunately I stopped growing at about 5’4. Still, that never stopped me from my almost-annual tradition of going to see the Rockettes, live in action. Between the sets and costume changes, special effects, heart-felt storyline, and amazing dance numbers, this is a hard show to top when you’re visiting for the first time, and especially when visiting during the holiday season.

You can purchase tickets to the 84th year of the Christmas Spectacular here. Since tickets have been on sale since around July-August, I’d recommend snagging yours as soon as possible.

A Very Merry Christmas Guide to New York City | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | A Great Big Hunk of World

Elf the Musical
December 13 – 29, 2017

What’s better than spaghetti with sugar and Will Ferrell comedies? Elf the Musical live from Madison Square Garden! While this show may not the list when up against some other popular shows, it’s a great choice for something that will entertain the whole family.

The Nutcracker at the New York City Ballet
November 24 – December 31, 2017

For a little over a month each year, visitors can experience George Balanchine’s Nutcracker with the New York Ballet Company at Lincoln Center, a building worth a visit in it’s own right. Other season favorites also include Romeo & Juliet, and Swan Lake.

A Very Merry Christmas Guide to New York City | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | A Great Big Hunk of World

A Christmas Carol
November 24 – December 17, 2017

A cast of only seven bring this classic alive, with a wonderful retelling of the story of Scrooge and his adventure with three Christmas spirits. Smaller in size, the Beckett Theater provides a more intimate feel than other large-scale theaters, which is exactly the type of environment needed for this show. Tickets can be purchased here.

Handel’s Messiah, David Geffen Hall, 10 Lincoln Center Plaza, New York, NY
December 12 – December 17, 2016

Experiencing a performance by the New York Philharmonic should be on every New York bucket list. For one week, you can experience Handel’s “Messiah”, which is considered a holiday favorite. Tickets can be purchased here.

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Christmas Windows

Fifth avenue takes on a whole new vibe during the holidays, and I’ve never been able to go a season without a self-guided tour passed the Christmas windows. Designs range from mannequins dolled up in their finest holiday fashion, to avant-garde, light filled displays; to windows like those at Macy’s, designed and arranged to tell a new story each holiday season.

Macy’s Herald Square, 151 W 34th St, New York, NY
Nearest Subways: B,D,F,M,N,Q,R,W

A Very Merry Christmas Guide to New York City | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | A Great Big Hunk of World

Lord & Taylor, 424 5th Ave, New York, NY
Nearest Subways: B,N,Q,W,R,2,4,5,6,7

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Saks, 611 5th Ave, New York, NY
Nearest Subways: B,D,F,M,1,6,N,Q,R

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Bergdorf Goodman, 754 5th Ave, New York, NY
Nearest Subways: Q,N,W,R,F,1,4,5,6

A Very Merry Christmas Guide to New York City | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | A Great Big Hunk of World

Barney’s, 660 Madison Ave, New York, NY
Nearest Subways: Q,N,W,R,F,1,4,5,6

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Bloomingdales, 000 Third Avenue, 59th Street and Lexington Avenue, New York, NY
Nearest Subways: Q,N,W,R,F,1,4,5,6

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Tiffany & Co., 727 5th Ave, New York, NY
Nearest Subways: Q,N,W,R,F,1,4,5,6

A Very Merry Christmas Guide to New York City | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | A Great Big Hunk of World


Ice Skating Rinks

One of my favorite lines, from one of my favorite films, P.S. I Love You is “If we’re all alone we’re all together in that too.” While Kathy Bates character wasn’t talking in the same context, I’ve always related it to New York City. Despite the fact that you can pass thousands of people on the street regularly, most New Yorker’s tend to be caught up in their own little world. I always get chills when I’m skating around a packed ice rink with some friends, surrounded by dozens of smiling people all together, while the city and Christmas lights glisten in the background. This may sound super cheesy, but I guess we can blame the Christmas spirit coming out a bit early this year.

Most ice rinks also stay open a months after the Christmas shop season has ended, so it’s a great addition to any itinerary for those who weren’t able to visit earlier in the season.

The Rink at the Bryant Park Winter Village, 476 5th Ave, New York, NY
October 28, 2017 – March 6, 2018
Nearest Transportation: F,B,Q,R,N,6,1,2,3

This one was mentioned earlier, but I’ll reiterate how much I recommend going. It’s the prime location, surrounded by holiday shops and may be the best time for you to whip out that pair of ice skates you have thrown in the back of your closet since skating is free but rentals cost a small fee. FYI, the line for the ice rink can often wrap around the entire perimeter of the park. Get their earlier in the day, and try to plan your visit for a couple of weeks before Christmas Day for the shortest wait time.

A Very Merry Christmas Guide to New York City | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | A Great Big Hunk of World

Wollman Rink at Central Park, 830 5th Ave, New York, NY
October 23, 2017 – February 28, 2018
Nearest Subways: A,B,C,D,1,N,Q,R,F

The Home Alone vibes are alive and well here, at least for me since I’ve never been able to think “Central Park at Christmas” without thinking about my favorite Christmas movie. Wollman Rink is not as huge as some others, but the city skyline in the background and close proximity to Central Park definitely makes it a worthwhile spot. Price of admission runs about $12 per person, $6 for children under 11, and skate rentals run at $9, tax included.

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The Rink at Rockefeller Center
October 7, 2017 – January 1, 2018
Nearest Subways:B,D,F,M,1,6,N,Q,R

Skating at this rink is popular amongst visitors during the holiday season, due to it’s close proximity to Radio City Music Hall and the ever-so-popular Rockefeller Christmas tree. Since the price of admission is a bit higher than others, roughly $25-32 a person depending on the season ($15 for those under 11), and skate rentals at $12 per pair, this is a slight splurge when visiting with a large family. For those looking for a more in-depth experience, add-on’s like Breakfast with Santa and Christmas Spectacular tickets are available.

A Very Merry Christmas Guide to New York City | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | A Great Big Hunk of World


Christmas Themed Bars

Some local bars go all out for the holidays, and while this list could be quite extensive, I’m going to share my favorite festive bars which all happen to be in pretty close proximity of each other. Holiday pub crawl, anyone?

Rolf’s, 281 3rd Ave, New York, NY

I have a love/hate relationship with Rolf’s. This German restaurant and bar has gone viral every year due to their insane amount of Christmas decorations, which stay up until sometime in May. The wait time, in my personal opinion, isn’t always worth it as pictures are quite deceiving in how large the space actually is. That being said, the holiday drinks are strong, and the decorations are in fact as outlandish but amazing as you’d imagine. If you don’t mind waiting in a 40 minute line to get in, definitely make this stop #1 on your pub crawl to get it out of the way. Another option is making a reservation for dinner, which you should do weeks in advance if possible, and enjoy some decent and overpriced German faire while taking in the surroundings. FYI, the Spiked Apple Cider and Holiday Smoothie are top notch.

A Very Merry Christmas Guide to New York City | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | A Great Big Hunk of World

Pete’s Tavern, 129 E 18th St, New York, NY

Just how many lights does Pete’s Tavern string across their ceiling during the holiday season? The world may never know. But what I do know is that you didn’t do Pete’s Tavern right until you’ve tried one of their Spiked Eggnog’s.

A Very Merry Christmas Guide to New York City | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | A Great Big Hunk of World

Paddy Macguire’s Ale House, 287 3rd Ave, New York, NY

Paddy’s does very minimalistic holiday decor, but the tinsel-ordained shop-front and strands of tinsels, lights, and wood-working fireplace inside make this Irish pub seem like the perfect laid-back spot to finish off your year with a cold one, and a few of your closest friends.

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Molly’s Pub, 287 3rd Avenue, New York, NY

This pub, which looks as if it were plucked from the streets of Galway and dropped into New York City, also follows the less-is-more approach; but it’s still one of my favorite bars to visit during the holiday season. This spot doesn’t have an extensive holiday drink list, but after dropping over $10+ a drink at many other spots, it’s nice to kick-back with a more reasonably priced beverage.

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Lillie’s Victorian Establishment, 13 East 17th Street, New York, NY

While Lillie’s sticks to the typical train-style floor plan, it feels a bit more spacious than some others, though I’m sure there are nights where that isn’t the case. Being a bit further away from the other’s, this is a perfect way to end the night.

A Very Merry Christmas Guide to New York City | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | A Great Big Hunk of World


Other Worthwhile Holiday Experiences

The Dyker Heights Christmas Lights, 11th Avenue to 13th Avenue and from 83rd to 86th Street
Nearest Subways: D,M

This Brooklyn neighborhood has received much acclaim for their awesome holiday displays. While some families go all out; one house used to have a small-scale moving ferris wheel being ridden by elves, some go a more simpler route, covering their entire home with 30,000 LED lights. Some displays even cost home owners upwards of $15,000! I’ve recently seen tours being offered, because who wouldn’t want to bank off the popularity, but in all honesty, I’d recommend grabbing some hot chocolate from Dunkin Donuts and tackling the neighborhood on your own by either foot or car. You can book a guided tour of the Dyker Heights Christmas Lights here.

A Very Merry Christmas Guide to New York City | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | A Great Big Hunk of World

Santacon, TBD
December 9, 2017

The first time I ever experienced Santacon, was freshman year of college while walking to work. You’d imagine by surprise when I was suddenly thrust into a cluster of what felt like 2,000 Santa Claus’s. Of course, I decided to take part in the nonsense the following year.

Santacon has become a popular pub crawl over the last few years in a handful of cities, and involves dressing up as Santa (or a reindeer, or an elf, or in some cases Jesus, himself) and crawling from bar to bar, beginning around 10am. Usually, only brunch is an excuse to day drink, but I guess Santacon can be added to that list. The price of admission, which gets you a wristband that usually allows for some discounted drinks gets donated to that year’s charity of costs.

As usual, Santa’s route isn’t released until decently close to the day of, but you can sign up for updates here. Santacon is not for the faint of heart, and those with anxiety of large groups may prefer a different activity.

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The Rockefeller Tree Lighting, 30 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY
November 29, 2017
Nearest Subways: B,D,F,M,1,6,N,Q,R

Each year, a tree is brought in from upstate New York and dropped in the middle of Rockefeller Center. The tree, which can sometimes average 94 feet tall and 56 feet wide has become a focal point for holiday excursions around the city. Live performances usually take place the day of the lighting from 7-9pm, followed by the lighting of the tree, which will remain lit until January 7th.

A Very Merry Christmas Guide to New York City | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | A Great Big Hunk of World

Visit Santaland at Macy’s, 151 W 34th St, New York, NY
November 24 – December 24, 2017
Nearest Subways:B,D,F,M,N,Q,R,W

During my freshman year of college, I actually worked seasonally as an elf at Macy’s. After all, Santa’s real elves were busy back at the North Pole making gifts and Macy’s offers their elves a really nice hourly. It was always amazing seeing the excitement on the faces of children, not only when meeting Santa but during the entire experience. To make the wait a bit more tolerable, and just to add to the fun, the entire queue is designed to take you on a guided walk through the villages of the North Pole. After passing through the rock train that takes you to the North Pole, you pass magical snow globes, brilliant train displays, caroling snowmen, and more all before ever reaching the big guy. There’s also a couple cute photo ops along the way, which you can purchase along with your Santa photo once you’re done.

A Very Merry Christmas Guide to New York City | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | A Great Big Hunk of World

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, From 77th Street and Central Park West to Macy’s Herald Square at 151 W 34th St, New York, NY
November 23, 2017

Little fact about me; I was actually in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade from about age nine, to age seventeen when I finally aged out. As I always still wanted to remain a part of it, because to me the parade signifies the official start to the Christmas season, I join my grandparents each year as a make-up artist, helping to paint the faces of all 900 or so clowns you seen make their way down the parade route. It involves waking up at 3am, and by the time I get home, I usually crash as the parade replays on tv until dinner, but it’s always been one of my favorite parts of the year.

I’ve met dozen who’ve told me that they come all this way each year just for the parade, even lining up early in the morning despite how cold it may be that day. If you’ve ever gotten excited just seeing the parade on television, it’s a whole other feeling seeing it in person if you’re able. The parade concludes with Santa and Mrs. Claus making their way down the route in his sleigh, on his way to Macy’s where you’re able to meet him beginning the day after Thanksgiving.

Find out where to park your family by checking out the parade route here.

A Very Merry Christmas Guide to New York City | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | A Great Big Hunk of World

The Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden, NYBG Main Entrance, 2900 Southern Boulevard, Bronx, NY
November 22, 2017 – January 15, 2018
Nearest Subways: B,D,4,2

Enjoy miniature New York landmarks as part of carefully put together train displays at the Holiday Train Show, located in the Bronx. Tickets run around $23-30 per adult, and $10-18 for children 12 and under, but the show is definitely a great value for your money.

A Very Merry Christmas Guide to New York City | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | A Great Big Hunk of World

See the Lighting of the World’s Largest Menorah, Fifth Avenue and W 59th Street, New York, NY
December 12-19, 2017
Nearest Subways: N,W,R,F

For a week straight, you can enjoy the lighting of this menorah which stands at about 32-feet tall and weights close to 4,000 pounds. Over in Brooklyn, you can enjoy the lighting of a slightly smaller menorah at Grand Army Plaza, where you can enjoy a concert and latkes on the night or the first lighting.

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The Tree Lighting Under the Arch at Washington Square Park
Washington Square N, New York, NY
December 7, 2017
Nearesr Subways:A,B,C,D,E,F,M

The second longest running tree lighting is right under the arch at Washington Square Park. For closet-singers, this a great time to let your inner star shine as Washington Square Park is one of the best spots for caroling. And at 5pm, enjoy the lighting of this 45-foot tree in front of one of the most popular backdrops.

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There’s no denying that New York City is one of the amazing cities for the holidays; and there is so much more to make your holiday merry and bright, like stopping by every holiday photo op such as the giant ornaments near Radio City Music Hall, or enjoying Christmas Eve Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. But you’ll never be bored, and you’ll probably never experience a Christmas as magical as one in New York when it’s Christmastime again.

Recommended Tours

Christmas in New York with the Rockettes + Holidays Lights

New York City: 2-Hour Private Christmas Holiday Tour

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