5 cheap things to do in NYC at Christmas

Ice skating at Rockefeller Center
Ice skating at Rockefeller Center

It's Christmas time in the City. New York City, that is.

It's no surprise Christmas comes with a big price tag. The holidays aren't cheap. But NYC, America's famous pre-holiday, tinsel-covered destination infamous for it's expensive reputation, does offer free holiday fun. Plan a budget holiday trip before December 24 and 25. Then simply mix expensive holiday activities -- Broadway's annual production of White Christmas or a whirlwind shopping spree at Saks Fifth Avenue -- with these five low-cost activities that'll stretch your weekend budget further.

1. Ice Skate at Rockefeller Center

NYC's famous, huge Christmas tree stands in Rockefeller plaza, which is also home to an ice skating rink that first opened on Christmas Day in 1936. You can rent skates for $8-9, and admission to the rink typically costs $10 for adults and $7.50 for children (although it varies slightly depending on the time of day). The ice rink is located in between 47th and 50th Streets and 5th and 7th Avenues.

2. Watch the Today Show Live

If you like to start your mornings early, visit the live taping of the Today Show, located in Rockefeller Center. You don't need tickets and it's totally free. People line up for the Today Show as early as 6 a.m. (or before) but Meredith Vieira and Matt Lauer don't come out of the NBC studio until 7:40 a.m. at the earliest. Groups of school children, a dance team from an area high school, families, couples -- everyone turns out. For more information on the Today Show and tips on how to get noticed by the hosts/ get on TV, click here.

3. Window Shop Down 5th Avenue

Walk down 5th Avenue starting up on 53rd Street and work your way down both sides of the street for NYC's best window shopping. Saks, Lord & Taylor and Macy's all have incredibly complex, colorful, animated holiday displays in the store windows that you have to see if you've never been to the city at Christmas. Display technicians craft the displays months in advance and the bells, whistles, twirly gadgets and moving toys are certainly a shopping must.

4. Check out Brooklyn's Lights Displays

If you like Christmas lights, visit Dyker Heights in Brooklyn for NYC's most outrageous, over-the-top lights displays. Professionals design the displays and combine lights with inflatable Christmas decorations and motorized Christmas displays. Dyker Heights is located from 11th Avenue to 13th Avenue and from 83rd to 86th Street. Dyker's weekend displays are the best and Dyker residents turn on the most intense light displays between 7 and 9 p.m.

5. Visit Santa at Macy's

Santaland, located on the 8th floor of Macys' flagship store, Herald Square on 34th street, is the best place to see Santa. There will most likely be a long line but it moves quickly and an elf at the end of the line will give you an estimate of how long it'll take. You can have your children's picture taken with Santa. Macy also has letter-writing stations where children can write holiday wish lists to Santa.

Stay in NYC for pre-holiday weekends at Hotel Pennsylvania New York City or Wingate by Wyndham New York City.

–Patty Hodapp, Lost Girls World

[Photo Credit: Flickr/Yoav Lerman]

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