Top Things To Do in New York City in December
While New York might be on your bucket list all year round, New York City is a little extra special in December during the holidays! Since December is one of the most popular times to visit NYC, you will be learning the best things to do all from a local New Yorker -me! Below, I cover the best things to do in New York City that are specifically special during the winter and December for 2021!
I will continue to update this guide as we get closer to the Holidays in NYC.
Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links where I may make a small commission at NO extra cost to you. Disclosure
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Top Things To Do in New York City in December
- Rockefeller Center During December
- NYC Saks 5th Avenue Christmas Lightshow
- Radio City Music Hall
- Cartier Holiday Decorations
- Bryant Park Winter Village (Bank of America)
- Macy’s Holiday Window Displays
- Central Park in December
- Lotte Palace
- Broadway Show
- Washington Square Park
- Rolf’s Restaurant
- Hudson Yards
- Columbus Circle
- Dyker Heights Christmas Lights
- Igloos at 230 Fifth
- The Rooftop At Pier 17
- New Years Eve in New York City
- NYC Best Things to do in December Travel Guide: Wrap-Up
Rockefeller Center During December
Let’s start with the super festive things to do and what’s more festive than Rockefeller Center?! Every year a few weeks after Thanksgiving, Rockefeller Center does its epic Christmas tree lighting ceremony. People from all over the world come to the tree sparkle in the night sky!
Did you know the first Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree was in 1931? It was a 20ft tree decorated by construction workers during the depression.
The Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center is usually between 80-100 ft on average!
While at Rockefeller Center, you can enjoy their little Christmas Market, Ice Skate under the Rockefeller Christmas tree at the Rink, and even go to ” The Top of The Rock”(Top of Rockefeller Center Tower)! At the top of the Rock, view Manhattan’s epic skyline! It is easily one of the best things to do in NYC!
Furthermore, Saint Patricks Catherdal is located just across the street from Rockefeller Center.
NYC Insider Tip: If you want to go to the Top of The Rock, I recommend getting tickets in advance online or get one of the NYC Passes. The line can be long at all times of the year and these specialty passes give you discounts on top NYC attractions including the Empire State Building and The Edge. New York City Pass | City Sightseeing Pass
For dinner around Rockefeller Center, check out Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse.
How to Get There: To get to Rockefeller Center take the subway line B, D, F, or M train to the 47-50th Street Rockefeller Center stop. You can also take the 1 train to 50th. Uber, Lyft, and NYC Taxis can also get you there.
NYC Saks 5th Avenue Christmas Lightshow
After visiting Rockefeller Center, make sure to check out Saks 5th Ave. light show! It starts at around 5 pm (Sundown) and does the full light show about every 10-15 minutes.
If there is any NYC store you visit for holiday decorations, let it be this one. You will be able to see it from the Rockefeller Center.
Saks 5th Avenue is located at 611 5th Ave, New York, NY 10022. You can take the same train lines as Rockefeller Center to get here.
Radio City Music Hall
Another one of the best things to do in New York City during December is visiting Radio City Music Hall. Radio City Christmas Spectacular to see the Rockettes dance the night away is on most NYC winter bucket lists! But even if you don’t go to the show, make sure to check out the Radio City Christmas tree decorations!
The Rockettes have been performing at Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan, New York City, since 1932.
If you plan on seeing the Rockette’s perform, make sure to get your tickets well in advance!
Radio City Music Hall is also where you will find the iconic giant red Christmas Ornaments and a decorative court. While visiting, there are usually vendors selling all types of goodies including bags, wallets, and paintings.
Radio City Music Hall is located right by the Rockefeller Tree.
The address is: 260 6th Ave, New York, NY 10020
Cartier Holiday Decorations
If you love holiday decorations, make sure to add the NYC Cartier Building to your winter itinerary! The building does fun Christmas holiday lights every year that makes it very a very photo-worthy spot. You will also be right near Saks 5th Ave.
The address to see the Cartier holiday decorations is: 653 5th Ave, New York, NY 10022
Bryant Park Winter Village (Bank of America)
A stop at the Bank of America Winter Village in Bryant Park is a New York City must in December! The Bryant Park winter village is likely one of the best Christmas Markets in NYC. They offer tons and tons of holiday shops and food!
Bryant Park also does a Christmas tree lighting ceremony and has a rink for ice skating. If the Rink at Rockefeller Center is too busy for you, consider hitting the ice here!
While visiting the Bank of America Winter Village, make sure to check out insta-worthy eatery, The Stackery for the most delicious Chimney Cakes with hot chocolate and Bolivian Llama Party for out-of-this-world fries!
Bryant Park is located in Midtown between Fifth Ave. and Ave. of the Americas and between 40th and 42nd St.
NYC Tip: While in the area, you can also check out the New York Public Library (if open).
Macy’s Holiday Window Displays
If you find yourself in New York City in December, Macy’s of Herald Square is known to put on one of the best shows in terms of window Christmas decorations.
Did you know Macy’s was the first retail store in NYC to do Holiday window displays?
Each year is different and the closer you get to Christmas, the longer the line, so best check them out early! You will also be right next to the Empire State Building if you plan on visiting the top.
Address: 151 W 34th St, New York, NY 10001
Central Park in December
No New York City List is complete without Central Park being on it; December is no exception! If you are lucky, you might even have the chance to visit Central Park when it snows, making the whole park a winter wonderland.
Some places to visit in Central Park include Bow Bridge, Bethesda Terrace and Fountain, and Ice Skating at the famous Wollman Rink.
If you are looking for NYC insta-worthy holiday photos, make sure to check out the Lotte New York Palace Hotel! They put out (IMO) the most beautiful Christmas tree. The hotel itself is also supposed to be absolutely beautiful if you are looking for somewhere to stay!
Address: 455 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10022
Escape the NYC winter weather and head over to a Broadway Show. It’s one of the most iconic things to do while visiting New York City and what better time since it’s likely freezing (or as us New Yorkers might say, “BRICK OUT”)!
It’s been said that going in person will result in better prices on tickets, so keep that in mind!
Washington Square Park
If you love Christmas trees and famous NYC landmarks, you will also want to add Washington Square Park to your New York City December itinerary!
Not only is Washington Square Park free to visit, but it is also located in the quaint neighborhood of Greenwich Village.
They also put up a Christmas tree under the famous arch, making the square look pretty magical!
On your way to or from Washington Square Park, you can also consider stopping by Union Square Christmas Markets.
Looking for the ultimate NYC holiday-themed restaurant? Rolf’s is a German restaurant decked out with holiday cheer!
It’s as if the Grinches bag of all the stolen decorations exploded here but in the best way! Expect large crowds here as it is extremely popular to visit in December.
Address: 281 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10010
Hudson Yards is New York Cities newest playground! Some top attractions include the Vessel, a huge honeycomb-like structure standing at 154 ft high.
Likely the most exciting attraction, The Edge, NYC’s newest and highest outdoor sky deck on the West Hemisphere!
Then of course there is top-of-the-line shopping and they deck it out with Christmas decorations making it a must-visit during your NYC December itinerary! The Edge tickets
Edge Entrance: The Shops and Restaurants at Hudson Yards, New York, NY 10001 Enter at level 4
Another one of the best places to visit in NYC during December is Columbus Circle. Not only do they have excellent shopping, but they also deck out the inside with Christmas lights. It is also a great place to warm up from the cold New York streets.
So enjoy some Christmas lights, shopping, and food. Columbus Circle is located right next to Central Park!
Address: 10 Columbus Circle New York, NY 10019
Dyker Heights Christmas Lights
Dyker Heights, Brooklyn is not inside New York City, but if you have extra time, I would definitely check it out!
During December the homes of Dkyer Heights, Brooklyn go into a Christmas lights battle royal where each house goes above and beyond making the ultimate Christmas spectacle!
The best time to enjoy the Dyker Heights Christmas lights with fewer crowds is at the beginning of December, however, all the houses might not be lit up. For the best light show, mid-December is better, however, the crowds are much much larger!
The lights go on at Sundown (about 5 PM) and end around 10ish (when homeowners go to bed). For the best lights travel around 11th Ave. to 13th Ave. and from 83rd to 86th Street.
If you are traveling from NYC, you can take the R, N, and D trains. From there it’s about a 15-20 min walk from all 3 train stations to get to the lights.
(IMO) The best way to get here is actually by car since it is usually very cold during this time of year. If you don’t have a car, the next best option is to either rent a Zip Car or doing one of the many tours.
A Dyker Heights tour, of course, will be the most informative and know the best houses to bring you to!
Igloos at 230 Fifth
Want to experience a trendy dining option? 230 FIFTH is NYC’s largest outdoor Rooftop Garden that has been outfitted with 17 heated Igloos for dining on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
They must be reserved ahead of time and can accommodate 4-10 people. Find more info for the Igloos at 230 Fifth here!
The Rooftop At Pier 17
This year Pier 17 turned their rooftop with an upstate vibe with the downtown feels of NYC. These trendy glass cabins fit 2-10 people and offering seasonal drinks and dishes. To learn more and make reservations, check Rooftop at Pier 17 here!
New Years Eve in New York City
As a local New Yorker, you will never find me waiting for the ball to drop in Times Square for NYE, however, there are always thousands of people every year. To be honest, it’s generally pretty cold in NYC during December, especially NYE, so standing out in the cold for hours is not always comfortable.
I would suggest checking out one of the many bars, restaurants, etc that are having NYE events to watch the ball drop!
NYC Best Things to do in December Travel Guide: Wrap-Up
This covers some of the top things to do during the holidays in New York City specifically in December! For additional New York travel tips, find helpful resources below!
Please note: Restrictions for 2021 in New York are constantly changing. Currently, you will need a vaccine card to go inside restaurants and possible other attractions.
Additional New York resources include tours and New York passes which allow you to receive a discount for the major NYC tourist attractions like the Empire State Building, Top of the Rock, etc. The best passes and tours can be found at City Pass | City Sightseeing Pass | Hop on Hop Off Bus | Get Your Guide NYC Tours