The 6 Best NYC Christmas Trees That Aren’t at Rockefeller Center

Standing from the bottom of the christmas tree looking up at all the pine branches, lights, and ornaments

If you've decided to once again to skip New York's Christmas tree lighting ceremony at Rockefeller Center, well… smart move. The crowds are insane at that thing! The NYPD keeps everyone penned into "viewing areas," and unless you arrive five hours early (or are have a VIP pass), you'll wind up standing somewhere around the corner, out of sight from the tree itself, watching the ceremony on a jumbotron.

This is what Rockefeller Center looked like last year… THREE HOURS before the ceremony even started (the gentleman in the blue coat, lower right, seems about as happy as I would be if I were there):

Image from last year's Rockefeller Center Tree lighting, the whole center is packed with new york city tourists

No thanks. That said, I do love how this city gets decked out for the season–for several years our family holiday card was pictures of my kids in front of as many trees as I could drag them to–so here's a list, in no particular order, of my Top 6 Best NYC Christmas Trees. 

1. The South Street Seaport Christmas Tree

The South Street Seaport gets the nod this year not only because it's just a nice tree, but also because it's right next to the spanking-new skating rink. There are new shipping-containers shops in the immediate area (part of the Hughes Corporation's See/Change initiative), and lots of neighboring restaurants and bars have finally reopened after Sandy. Worth a trip. 

2. Central Park's Tree Lighting Ceremony

Up at the north end of Central Park, the Charles A. Dana Discovey Center hosts one of the prettiest holiday-lighting ceremonies in the city, with a 17-tree flotilla out on the Harlem Meer and thousands of LED lights on the building itself. The festivities (which also include ice carving, Santa photo-ops, and hot chocolate) are this Thursday, December 4, at 5:30 p.m.   


3. American Museum of Natural History Origami Tree

There are two museum trees that I always took my kids to when they were little: the elaborate Origami Holiday Tree at the American Museum of Natural History. The theme this year is Wicked, Wild, and Wonderful, to go with the terrific Power of Poisons exhibitions.

4. The Met Museum's Neapolitan Tree

The Met's 18th-century, Angel-laden Neapolitan Tree, notable mostly for its detailed "Baroque Creche" surrounding the base. These are great for playing the "can you find the…." game, and admission for both museums are suggested, so it's easy to pop in for a quick viewing for a buck or three.  

Image of the christmas tree in the museum of natural history, with beautiful ornaments that seem to be flying around the pine tree

5. Park Avenue's Annual Lighting Ceremony

No NYC Christmas season is complete without a late-night cab ride up Park Avenue, the dozens of fir trees twinkling on the mall from 48th to 97th Streets. The annual lighting ceremony (which began in 1945, to honor the men and women killed in World War II) is this Sunday, December 7, at 6:30 p.m. outside the Brick Presbyterian at Park and 91st.

6. The Washington Square Park Tree

And make sure you get to the lovely, 45-foot Washington Square Park tree as well, either for the lighting ceremony next Wednesday, December 10, at 6:00 p.m., complete with music and sing-alongs. Tastefully illuminated and beautifully framed by the park's iconic arch, this might actually be my favorite NYC Christmas tree of them all.     

The 45 foot christmas tree in Washington Square Park at night with its lights glowing red

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