One of the most wonderful aspects of the holiday season is all the different traditions, especially differences between the East Coast and West Coast in cities such as New York and San Francisco. At a first glance, San Francisco and New York could appear to look almost the same at Christmas time; a big tree in the center of tall skyscrapers with an ice skating rink right underneath. However, both cities have much more to offer during the holidays than a tree on display.
Tis the Season in NYC
In New York, Rockefeller Center is the place to go during the holiday season. Whether it’s taking endless pictures of the beautifully lit tree, ice skating with family, friends, and strangers on the exquisite ice rink underneath, or watching the Radio City Christmas Spectacular with the Rockettes, there is something for everyone to be a part of the holiday spirit.
Another popular tradition throughout the streets of New York is literally just walking the streets. Famous avenues such as 5th and Madison are known for their extraordinary window displays in almost every store, from Macy’s to Henri Bendel to Saks. Each store elegantly incorporates aspects and colors of the holidays to create uncomparable scenes from Christmas dinner placements to winter wonderlands. The beauty and detail that goes into these displays add to the holiday cheer of people bundled in faux-fur coats, cute hats, and warm gloves, while sipping on hot chocolate from Starbucks and savoring macarons from Laduree.
It wouldn’t be Christmas in New York without the endless number of people and the inevitable pushing and shoving that follows suit. The constant cluster on street corners paired with street vendors shouting to entice customers encompasses the hustle and bustle that the northeast has become “oh-so famous” for. Nonetheless, it has become a part of the holiday tradition that makes New York such a special place to visit during the holiday season.
While certain similarities help both cities embrace the holiday season, the differences are what showcase unique holiday traditions.
San Fran Santa
A perfect visit to San Francisco during the holidays must always begin with a cable car ride through the city. Cable cars are decked out with tinsel and wreaths, blasting holiday music as they fly down the hills. They become the perfect ride to get from shopping in Union Square and the San Francisco Center, all the way across the city to end with a Christmas sundae at Ghirardelli Square. Nothing says Christmas in California more than drinking hot chocolate at Ghirardelli and looking out at the lights on the tree, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the waves crashing on the beach.
Everything in San Francisco is much more laid back than in New York. Even during the holidays there is not as much of a rush to get from place to place, as there is a more relaxed, laid back vibe to the streets, most likely due to the fact that the city is surrounded by beaches, which brings a Californian touch to the city. Since even in December temperatures stay relatively warm compared to New York, it is not uncommon for the beaches to be packed, even on Christmas.
A visit to San Francisco during Christmas time is never complete without a ride in the Saint Francis glass elevator, which has amazing views of the tree, ice skating, and the wreaths in every window of the Macy’s in Union Square.
While both cities spread the Christmas spirit in different ways, they both uniquely capture the special moments that people create with family and friends during the holiday season.
-Madeline Cox and Emily Baker