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 2023!
I will continue to update this guide as we get closer to the Holidays in NYC.
Planning to be in NYC on Christmas day? Here are the best things to do in NYC on Christmas Day!
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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
- The Nutcracker New York City Ballet
- Cartier Holiday Decorations
- Bryant Park Winter Village (Bank of America)
- NYC 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
- Upper East Side Christmas Decorations
- The Rooftop At Pier 17
- Wall Street Christmas Tree & Stock Exchange
- Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden
- Join the Santacon Parade
- Experience Amaze Light Festival New York
- New Year’s Eve in New York City
- Christmas Basketball Game
- 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 20 ft tree decorated by construction workers during the depression.
The Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center is usually between 80-100 ft on average! Last years Christmas Tree was around 90 years old, 82 feet tall, 50 feet wide, and weighs about 14 tons.
While at Rockefeller Plaza, 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 Cathedral is located just across the street from Rockefeller Center. You can even attend mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Christmas day.
NYC Insider Tip: If you want to go to the Top of The Rock, I recommend getting tickets online in advance or getting 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 (menu). Find more NYC Christmas trees here!
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. Seriously, they have the best Christmas decorations in NYC! 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 performed at Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan, New York City, since 1932.
If you plan on seeing the Rockettes 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
The Nutcracker New York City Ballet
Another classic experience during the holiday season and top thing to do during the month of December in NYC is watching the Nutcracker. The performance is at the David H. Koch Theater (Lincoln Center), and it is being Choreographed by George Balanchine this year, 2022.
Make sure to get your tickets in advance since this sells out quickly! Find tickets for the Nutcracker here.
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, which makes it very a very photo-worthy spot. You will also be right near Saks 5th Ave. The below Christmas decoration photos are from 2021 and 2019.
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 hosted at 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 an ice rink to enjoy. If the Rink at Rockefeller Center is too busy for you, consider hitting the ice here! It is also one of the only free ice skating rinks in NYC if you have your own skates.
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!
This year they are also introducing “Cozy Igloos” that you can make a reservation for 90 minutes to enjoy! To learn more about these epic igloos and to make a reservation, click here!
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).
NYC Holiday Window Displays
If you find yourself in New York City in December, visiting the top department store window displays is a must!
Some of the best window displays are Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman, Macy’s, and Bloomingdales. Make sure to also walk down 5th avenue for all the designer storefronts as well to get in the full holiday spirit!
Did you know Macy’s was the first retail store in NYC to do Holiday window displays?
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 during the Christmas season!
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 than in December 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! Seeing a Broadway play is also one of the best things to do in NYC at night!
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 (West 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 the Union Square Holiday Market, which is located in Union Square Park. Their Christmas Market usually starts mid-November – December 24th. They have over 160 vendors, and have been considered one of the best holiday markets in the United States!
Washington Square Park Address: Washington Square, New York, NY 10012
Union Square Holiday Market Address: 14th st, New York, NY 10011
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. Also, make sure to make your reservation in advance!
If you love Christmas theme decorated bars and restaurants, you may also want to check out Lillie’s Victorian Establishment, Oscar Wilde NYC, and Miracle on 9th street Pop-up Bar.
Address: 281 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10010
Hudson Yards is New York City’s 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, one of NYC’s newest and highest outdoor sky decks 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.
There are often pop-up holiday markets at the Hudson Yards as well. From the Hudson Yards, you can stroll the High Line to the Chelsea Markets for some great food and more Christmas decorations.
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 The Shops at 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 weather of New York streets.
So enjoy some Christmas lights, shopping, and food. Columbus Circle is located right next to Central Park!
Oh, and did I mention The Shops at Columbus Circle will also be hosting their second annual Broadway Under The Stars? This is a free concert with live performances that will be held on Mondays from November 13 to December 11. Some performances you can expect are Wicked, Chicago, and Charley and the Chocolate Factory. See the showing dates here.
Additionally, outside of the shopping plaza is the Columbus Circle Holiday Market. Here you will find more festive season holiday treats and shopping for all the holiday vibes.
Address: 10 Columbus Circle New York, NY 10019
Dyker Heights Christmas Lights
Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, is not in Manhattan, but if you have extra time, I would definitely check out the Christmas lights here!
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 the winter months (especially at night). You can expect the temperatures to be around 40 degrees Fahrenheit to below 32 degrees. 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.
It is one of the most popular rooftop bars to visit during December for its epic view of the Empire State Building and of course the igloos.
They must be reserved ahead of time and can accommodate 4-10 people. Find more info for the Igloos at 230 Fifth here!
Address: 230 5th Ave 21st Floor, New York, NY 10001
Upper East Side Christmas Decorations
December is the month of all things Christmas in NYC, so it only makes sense I tell you about more places to see Christmas decorations. A stroll around the Upper East Side (UES) will surely fit the bill!
Each year the beautiful brownstones around the UES go all out in decorations. Check 78th Street and walk around. One of my favorites last December was at E 64th street between 5th and Madison.
The Rooftop At Pier 17
Another great place to enjoy the holidays in New York is at Pier 17, located in The Seaport. Every year, they turn The Rooftop into a winter wonderland.
These trendy glass cabins fit 2-10 people and offer seasonal drinks and dishes. You will also be treated to beautiful skyline views with the Brooklyn Bridge in the background. Since the Rooftop is very popular in December, you will want to make reservations in advance. Rooftop at Pier 17 reservations here!
The Seaport also puts up a beautiful Christmas Tree every year!
Address: 89 South St, New York, NY 10038
Wall Street Christmas Tree & Stock Exchange
If you’re a huge fan of Christmas Trees, you won’t want to miss the tree on Wall Street at the Stock Exchange located in lower Manhattan. This year will be the 99th annual lighting celebration!
They are located in front of the New York Stock Exchange at the corner of Wall and Broad Streets.
Address: 11 Wall Street New York, NY 10005
Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden
Another favorite NYC event in December happens at the New York Botanical Garden. They are going into their 32nd year of their model trains that travel through over 190 famous NYC landmark replicas!
Presale tickets usually happen some time in September. The show is usually from mid-November through mid-January. Find tickets to the New York Botanical train show here!
Join the Santacon Parade
Ever wonder what it would be like to participate in a New York City Parade? Join thousands of people parading through Manhattan wearing Santa Claus costumes. The event is actually a charitable event, and to just wear a Santa Hat is considered “lame.” Therefore, they want you to be fully in the holiday spirit and dressed from head to toe.
The 2023 date has not been announced yet. You can learn more and get your ticket here to have access to the official Santacon venues. This is an over 21-year-old event.
Experience Amaze Light Festival New York
This year, Citi Field is hosting the Amaze Light Festival. Enjoy an immersive storybook experience highlighting its 5 themed worlds of holiday displays and activities.
Additionally, you will experience music, live performances, and a light show every 30 minutes. After, visit the holiday market and then grab some treats at Sparky’s Sweet Spot. Enjoy savory and sweet culinary treats, as well as specialty drinks and cocktails.
If this comes back for the 2023-2024 season, the event will start in November and go through Janurary.
You can experience Amaze Light Wednesday – Sunday: 4 PM – 10 PM. Find tickets to Amaze Light here.
Address: Citi Field 41 Seaver Way, Queens, NY 11368
New Year’s 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!
Christmas Basketball Game
If you want to warm up on a cold December night in NYC, head to Madison Square Garden to catch the New York Knicks play! Or you can even head to Brooklyn and watch the Brooklyn Nets play at the Barclays Center.
Although it doesn’t always feel holiday-themed, it is a fun experience if you are interested in Basket Ball!
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!
Where to Stay in NYC: Best Neighborhoods
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:
Each pass offers a handful of attractions at a discounted price. They are all good, but come with different attractions. The best one will be whichever pass includes the most attractions you want to see!
Other NYC Articles:
- Things to know before visiting NYC
- Best Free Things to Do in NYC
- How to use the Subway in NYC
- NY Accent Words
- 4 Days in NYC Massive Itinerary
- NYC Food Not to Miss!
Have any questions about any of these top things to do in NYC in December? Let me know in the comments below, or send me a DM or email, and I will do my best to help you out!
12 thoughts on “Top Things To Do in New York City in December (From a Local!)”
Come on pandemic ..finish fast..cant wait to visit Time Square, MnM store etc etc..Wish my family and I could have been there for the winter. Hopefully next year
The first time I ever went to NYC was at Christmas and I fell in love! I love the way the city gets so into the festive season and I loved seeing amazing decorations around every corner! I think the Rockefeller Center was my favourite part!
Ahhh I want to visit NYC in December so badly! I have been in Feb, May and July before, and while those are all great times to visit too, I would love to see all of the beautiful Christmas sights 🙂
Woww! New York looks like the place to be in December. You’ve captured such a warm, festive, golden glow and so many decorations. Looks like there’s loads to do as well.
Thank you so very much for your kind comments! I hope you will make it to NY during the holidays one year!
New York City during Christmas looks truly magical! All those things to do sound awesome 😍
NYC is pretty special during the holidays! Hopefully, you will visit soon! =)
Wow, NYC looks so festive and pretty. Love your outfit too. Thank you for sharing as New York is on my bucket list 🙂