Christmas in NYC: Best Things To Do During the Holidays
Christmas in NYC is easily one of the most magical times of the year to visit! As a local New Yorker, it is honestly one of my favorite times to visit New York City, even if it is busy. So, if you’re looking to cross off some of the best Christmas things to do in NYC, this New York City guide has you covered on the top Christmas attractions you won’t want to miss!
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Christmas in NYC: Best Things To Do During the Holidays
- 1. Visit Rockefeller Center for Christmas
- 2. Enjoy the Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park
- 3. See The Christmas Lights at the Hudson Yards
- 4. The Nutcracker New York City Ballet
- 5. Dyker Heights Christmas Lights
- 6. New York City Cocoa and Carols Holiday Cruise
- 7. Radio City Christmas Spectacular
- 8. Ice Skating at Wollman Rink
- 9. Join the Santacon Parade
- 10. Saks Fifth Avenue Light Show
- 11. Walk Down NYC 5th Avenue During the Holidays
- 12. Upper East Side Christmas Decorations
- 13. Find The Best Christmas Trees in NYC
- 14. Visit Central Park During the Holiday Season
- 15. Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden
- 16. See Lightscape at The Brooklyn Botanic Garden
- 17. Find the Best Hot Cocoa in NYC
- 18. Enjoy a Holiday Bar
- 19. Visit the Christmas Markets in NYC
- 20. Witness a New York Philharmonic Performance
- Bonus: Ice Skate Under the Brooklyn Bridge
- Best Christmas Things to Do in NYC Wrap-up
1. Visit Rockefeller Center for Christmas
One of the best Christmas activities to enjoy in NYC is at Rockefeller Center. Known for being one of the most famous Christmas Trees, you really can’t miss this spot if you visit New York City during Christmas time.
The Rockefeller Christmas Tree tradition started in 1931 with a 20-foot tree. Now, you can expect an 80+ foot Christmas Tree to grace Rockefeller Center with thousands of Christmas lights and a stunning star topper.
Every year, an annual tree lighting ceremony happens right after Thanksgiving. This year, it will happen on November 29, 2023. Countless proposals and shared kisses happen under the tree, making it also quite romantic. The tree stays lit every day from 5 AM – 12 AM, and then 24 hours on Christmas Day.
Additionally, let’s not forget the opportunity to skate under the Rockefeller Christmas Tree at the Rink! If you have children, you can also stop inside FAO Schwarz, the iconic toy store.
NYC Local Tip: Try to avoid visiting Rockefeller Plaza during the weekends. Later at night also tends to not be as crowded.
Address: 45 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10111
2. Enjoy the Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park
Probably one of my all-time favorite places to experience Christmas time in NYC is at the Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park. First of all, they have one of the best Christmas Markets in NYC, in my opinion.
They also have a beautiful Christmas Tree, indoor and outdoor food stalls, and an ice skating rink that is less crowded and more affordable than Rockefeller Center. You are also right next to the New York Public Library, the Empire State Building, and Grand Central Terminal.
If you’re feeling fancy and festive, consider even renting out one of the “Cozy Igloos.”
It’s free to explore, but I can’t promise you won’t feel inclined to purchase some Christmas goodies.
Address: Bryant Park is located between 5th and 6th Avenue and W 40th and W 42nd Street.
3. See The Christmas Lights at the Hudson Yards
You can never go wrong with seeing Christmas Lights while in New York City, and, in my humble opinion, seeing the light decorations at the Hudson Yards is one of the best places to do it.
The whole inside of the shopping mall will be decked out with Christmas Lights and have hanging, dazzling air balloon decorations. Plus, it gets super cold during Christmas time in NYC, so it’s nice to enjoy some attractions in the warmth! Best yet, it is free to experience these Christmas lights.
While in the area, you can also consider going to the top of the Edge Observation deck, which offers one of the best views of the city.
4. The Nutcracker New York City Ballet
If you have any interest in theatre or love the Nutcracker, experience the George Balanchine Nutcracker at Lincoln Center. This screams Christmas, and what better place to experience it than in NYC? Plus, this is another great way to join the festivities without freezing your butt off!
Tickets are already on sale, and since this is beyond popular, getting tickets ASAP will be important if you want to attend.
Address: Lincoln Center Plaza, New York, NY 10023
5. Dyker Heights Christmas Lights
Ok, so I said the Hudson Yards have the best Christmas lights in Manhattan; however, Dyker Heights has the best Christmas lights in NYC! If you’ve never heard of the Dyker Heights Christmas lights, just imagine the most over-the-top Christmas decorations on private homes.
Dyker Heights is a neighborhood in Brooklyn, that gives us locals and tourists something to be cheerful about, all at their own expense. It is completely free to walk down the streets, although most out-of-towners take a tour bus.
If this is the type of Christmas festivity you have been searching for, you can get all the deets on how to visit the Dyker Heights Christmas Lights here!
6. New York City Cocoa and Carols Holiday Cruise
Enjoy Christmas in NYC from a new perspective on a Holiday Cruise! This cruise is decked out in Christmas dectorations, listen to live jazz, sip on hot cocoa, and see some of the cities top landmarks!
They offer several tours throughout the day, so you can enjoy the city during the day or lit up at night!
Address: Classic Harbor Line 62 Chelsea Piers Pier 62, New York, NY 10011, USA
7. Radio City Christmas Spectacular
Another iconic Christmasy event to enjoy in NYC is seeing the Rockettes at Radio City! This holiday-filled experience has been a tradition since 1932 and a favorite among both locals and tourists to enjoy!
Watch them kick and dance the night away at Radio City Music Hall starting November 17th. Similar to the Nutcracker, you will want to secure tickets in advance!
Because this is an indoor activity, you shouldn’t have to worry about weather messing up your night either!
8. Ice Skating at Wollman Rink
For a wintery wonderland Christmas experience, you should head over to the Wollman Rink to go ice skating. This is the same magical ice skating rink that the film Serinditity was filmed in, and it is located right in the heart of Central Park!
If the weather plays out right, you may even get to be in Central Park with snow for your Christmas holiday! If I am being honest, we don’t really get much snow in December, but hey, you never know! That is the magic of Christmas, right?
So, as you may have guessed, this centrally located ice skating rink will be busy, but not as busy as Rockefeller Center. Also, the prices are more reasonable than the Rink at Rockefeller Center! Don’t miss out, as this is a great activity to enjoy during winter in NYC!
To save time, I suggest booking your time slot online ahead of time. Early in the morning and weekdays tend to be less crowded!
Admission: Starts at Adults: $15; Children 2-12: $10 – Price for adults ranges from off peak days to prime days.
Hours: Monday – Tuesday: 10 AM – 2:30 PM; Wednesday – Thursday 10 AM – 9 PM; Friday – Saturday 10 AM – 10 PM; Sunday 10 AM – 9 PM
Address: 830 5th Ave New York, NY 10065
9. Join the Santacon Parade
Visiting NYC during Christmas is all about getting in the Christmas Spirit, right? So, why not join in on the fun of the Santacon Parade?! This parade is really designed for adults, although they mention Santa’s in training are allowed to come with an adult.
The main reason is that it involves getting dressed in your best Santa costumes and visiting all the participating bars! This Christmas event usually happens on the second Saturday of December (12/9/2023).
10. Saks Fifth Avenue Light Show
Another incredible Christmas event in NYC is the Saks 5th Avenue light show. Located right across the street from Rockefeller Center, you can literally turn from looking up at the Christmas tree, to watching the magical light display that is on the front of the department store.
The show starts after sundown and repeats every 10 to 15 minutes. Best yet, this is a completely free Christmas event to enjoy. If you love Christmas decorations, you can’t miss this one! It is one of the best Christmas decorations in NYC!
11. Walk Down NYC 5th Avenue During the Holidays
Visiting the Department Store holiday windows has been a coveted event to experience in NYC for years, and thousands of people come to see them. Macy’s started the tradition back in 1889, and now it is one of the best parts of visiting New York during the holiday season.
So, as you may have guessed, some of the best window displays to see will be lined down 5th Avenue. Bloomingdales, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman, and Cartier are all classics around the 5th Ave. area. This is also a great free thing to do in NYC during the Holiday season.
12. Upper East Side Christmas Decorations
Speaking of decorations, some other places to see lovely Christmas decorations will be on the Upper East Side around Central Park. These multimillion-dollar brownstones do a fantastic job getting into the Christmas spirit, and while I don’t believe they are as good as Dyker Heights, they are closer.
13. Find The Best Christmas Trees in NYC
We all know Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is the main event in NYC, but did you know there are plenty of other really lovely Christmas Trees to visit around Manhattan?
Some other great NYC Christmas Trees include the Washington Square Park Tree, the tree at Madison Square Park, the Stock Exchange Tree, and the Bryant Park Christmas Tree.
14. Visit Central Park During the Holiday Season
I know I mentioned visiting the Wollman Rink, which is in Central Park, but Central Park really deserves its own spot on the list, right?! I mean, this is the most iconic park in New York City, after all. Plus, this is by far my favorite free thing to do in NYC during any time of the year! Christmas in NYC can be really expensive, so it’s always nice to have some free activities to enjoy on your itinerary!
So, if you are visiting during the winter holiday, strolling around the park will allow you to encompass all the nostalgia of the Big Apple. You may still be able to see some fall foliage, or there may be snow on the ground.
Central Park is over 800 acres, so to help steer you in the right direction, some of my favorite areas include Bow Bridge, The Mall, Bethesda Terrace, and Empire Rock.
If you’re looking for somewhere to warm up, head to the MET (Metropolitan Museum of Art) or the American Museum of Natural History if you’re traveling with kids!
15. Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden
A perfect Christmas event to enjoy with kids in NYC is at the New York Botanical Garden to see the Holiday Train Show.
This highly anticipated NYC Christmas tradition is entering into its 32nd year of operating model trains through more than 190 replicas of well-known New York City landmarks!
If you visit after the sun goes down, take advantage of their NYBG GLOW, where beautiful Christmas light decorations light up the garden. For the adults in the group, participate in the well-liked Bar Car Nights, which are open to visitors aged 21 and up to enjoy yummy festive drinks.
Tickets are already on sale, and this Christmas event begins on November 17, 2023, and runs through January 15, 2024.
Address: 2900 Southern Boulevard Bronx, NY 10458-5126
16. See Lightscape at The Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Another great nighttime holiday event to enjoy in NYC is at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. They also host their own holiday lights event and have the very Instagrammable arch everyone loves taking photos in.
This is also a great place if you’re looking for something family-friendly.
NYC Tip: This is an outdoors event, so make sure to wear warm layers. You can check out my ultimate winter NYC packing list here.
17. Find the Best Hot Cocoa in NYC
What better way to enjoy Christmas time in Manhattan than to try some of the city’s best hot chocolate?! It is up for debate who actually has the best hot chocolate, so I will let you decide that for yourself, but some great places to start include:
- Serendipity 3 for their frozen hot chocolate
- Levain Bakery
- Angelina Paris NYC (traditional Parisian hot Chocolate)
- S’mores N’more Hot Cocoa
- Dominique Ansel Bakery, SoHo
18. Enjoy a Holiday Bar
In the “city that never sleeps,” the fun doesn’t stop when the sun goes down. Continue your night at some of the most festive holiday bars in NYC! You’ll truly feel like they have decked the halls just for you! It is important to note that these bars are usually busy, so if you can make a reservation in advance, do it.
Or, just expect crowds, and don’t be too upset about it!
- Lillie’s Victorian Establishment
- Rolfs Restaurant (can feel very overwhelming)
- Oscar Wilde (a crowd favorite)
- Frostys Christmas Bar
- Miracle on 9th Street Pop-up Bar
- The Greens at Pier 17 (pop-up holiday cabins that need to be booked in advance)
- Igloo Bar at 230 Fifth Rooftop (popular Igloos with the Empire State Building view)
- The Lavaux Wine Bar (Swiss Chalet that needs to be booked ahead of time)
19. Visit the Christmas Markets in NYC
It goes without saying that the Christmas Markets in NYC are one of the main events when visiting during the holidays, and there are a handful to choose from! My favorite holiday market is at Byrant Park, which we covered above.
The same company sets up most of the holiday markets throughout the city, so they have the same holiday vibes. These green stalls are designed to imitate a European Christmas Market.
Aside from the Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park, there is also a market in Union Square and Columbus Circle. There are also two indoor Christmas Markets at the Oculus and Grand Central Terminal.
20. Witness a New York Philharmonic Performance
Last but not least, Holidays with the NY Phil. If I am being honest, I didn’t even know about this holiday tradition until recently, and I am a local! Therefore, you can expect this Christmas event to be a little less touristy.
Enjoying music is required as you will be enjoying the sounds of the Philharmonic Brass, Percussion, Soprano, Alto, and more, depending on the show you attend. These holiday shows will be happening from December 12th to December 17th.
Address: David Geffen Hall 10 Lincoln Center Plaza
Bonus: Ice Skate Under the Brooklyn Bridge
This year, Brooklyn Bridge Park has a special treat for New Yorkers and visitors alike! Get ready to ice skate under the historic Brooklyn Bridge! Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge is an iconic thing to do when visiting the city, so this is really a no-brainer!
They will be teaming up with Glide and have additional food options on top of Brooklyn Bridge Park’s extensive list of incredible restaurants. Make sure to add this to your Christmas activity list starting November 15th. Tickets in advance are recommended!
Admission: Adult: Off-Peak: $15; Peak $25; Youth (2-12) $10 $12 NY residents get discounts. Skate rentals are $12.
Location: Emily Warren Roebling Plaza at Brooklyn Bridge Park Brooklyn, NY 11201
Best Christmas Things to Do in NYC Wrap-up
Now, consider yourself prepared to experience some of the best things to do in NYC for Christmas time! Since New York City is one of my favorite places to write about, you will find a ton of other guides linked below that will help you further plan your holiday trip!
Have any questions about this list of Christmas things to do in NYC, or have any questions? Feel free to reach out to me via email/Social DMS, or the comments below!