Skip to Content

Christmas in NYC: Local’s Guide to 25 Things to do in New York in Christmas

There’s nothing quite like Christmas in NYC. After all, it’s a wonderfully magical time of year filled with twinkling lights, exciting holiday window displays, piping hot cups of cocoa, enchanting Christmas markets, and amazing Christmas shows.

Therefore, if you’re looking to plan the perfect Christmas in New York City vacay, then this insanely comprehensive, over-the-top informative guide is totally for you.

Especially since I’m a 30+ year local who knows all the ins and out’s of planning a next-level awesome trip to spend Christmas in NYC.

Because with the crowds, high prices, and hordes of people, it can really be the best and worst time to visit New York, if you know what I mean.

So, if you want to get away from the crowds, ditch the guidebooks, and spend Christmas in New York City like a real New Yorker, then this post is where it’s at.

Because I’m about to share all my insider tips with you so that you can quickly and easily plan the trip of your dreams.

This way, you can stop stressing and start feeling the holiday spirit as you enjoy all that Christmas in New York City has to offer.

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure for more information. As an Amazon Associate, I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases.

🎅 Looking for some amazing experiences for Christmas in NYC? I highly recommend checking out the Dyker Heights Christmas Lights. It is one of the top attractions at this time of the year! 🎄

Contents show

Where to Stay this Christmas in NYC

Not sure where to stay this Christmas in NYC? Well, if you’re emphatically nodding your head “yes” right now then check out my stellar insider’s guide to the best areas to stay in NYC.

Otherwise, you can just check out my super sweet hotel recs below.

Pod 39 (Budget) – Rooms at this sleek, well-priced, modern hotel in Murray Hill start at just $120 per night and feature either stainless steel bunk beds or plush queen-size beds. This hotel also sits inside a historic home from 1918 and has rooms that come out-fitted with TVs and bedside tables too.

The Jane Hotel (Budget) – This is another historic hotel from 1908 with budget-friendly, nautical-inspired accomodations that include flat-screen TVs (with DVD players), iPod docks, bunk beds, and terraces with river views, and more.

The restaurant here also serves a great brunch and guests can enjoy free bike rentals too.

James New York (Mid-Range) – Clean, refreshing, and well-appointed rooms at this NoMad hot spot start at just $177 per night and include high ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows, glassed-off bathrooms, complimentary toiletries, and linens that are made from all-natural fibers.

The Bowery Hotel (Luxury) – This swank AF hotel in Nolita features amazing rooms that start at a solid $300 per night. Highlights of any stay also here include impeccable service, free WiFI/bike rentals, and stellar views of the surrounding area.

21 Best Things to do This Christmas in NYC

1. Enjoy a Festive Holiday Cruise

1920's style boat with holiday decor on New York Harbor.
Image sourced from Get Your Guide.

⭐️ Rating: 4.9/5 (12 Reviews) Price: $68 per person Duration: 1.5 hours 📍Meeting Point:  Pier 62 of the Chelsea Piers Details: Read more on Get Your Guide Now!

Ready to channel your inner sugar plum fairy, get back into the holiday spirit, and sail into yesteryear aboard a beautifully decorated, vintage, 1920s-style yacht?

If so then this 1.5-hour long holiday cruise through New York Harbor will be one of the best things to do this Christmas in NYC for you!

See, you’ll start the best dinner cruise NYC has to offer at Pier 62 and embark on a glorious, daytime cruise, during which you’ll see immortal, New York City icons like the Statue of Liberty – and all from the comfort of a climate-controlled indoor observatory or an open-air deck on top of the ship.

“Perfect Holiday Cruise for family and friends. Easy to find a check in and meet spot. Service was great. Very friendly staff! Pretty holiday decorations inside. Complimentary drink (first one) and Christmas cookies! Great selection of drinks and food. Heated and very comfortable inside. Strongly recommend. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️”

Hiromi (read more reviews now!)

So, gather your friends and family together to enjoy a truly unique view of the city while sipping on one complimentary drink of your choice.

You’ll also be treated to light commentary along the way, in addition to the sweet, sweet sounds of classic holiday music over the onboard radio.

Pro Tip: Be sure to save room for homemade hot cocoa and holiday treats that are available for purchase during your cruise.

Address: Departs from Pier 62 at Chelsea Piers.

Hours: The cruise is 1.5 hours long with most departures at 2:00 pm.

Price: $64 per person. Book your tickets now, spots fill up fast.

How to Get There: Take the A/C/E train to 18th Street/8th Avenue Station and walk from there.

2. Enjoy the Dyker Heights Christmas Lights

By: Megan Indoe of Your Brooklyn Guide

Holiday Lights in Dyker Heights

⭐️ Rating: 4.6/5 (540 Reviews) Price: $59 per person Duration: 4 hours 📍Meeting Point: Meet in front of the Treehaus Liquor Store. Details: Read more on Get Your Guide Now!

One spot that has to be on your Christmas in NYC bucket list is the Dyker Heights Christmas Lights.

Tucked away in the Dyker Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, every year, 250 homes in the area deck their houses to the nines with holiday decor and thousands of strands of Christmas lights!

It’s a truly iconic, neighborhood and NYC tradition that has been going on for well over three decades, making it one of the best places to see Christmas decorations in NYC.

“Amazing tour to see the lights. Was a very cold night but glad it was not raining! nice tour lady and special to go on Christmas Eve.”

Megan (read more reviews now!)

Besides, “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” level Christmas lights you’ll also see other over-the-top decorations and displays that include inflatable Santas, snowmen, nativity scenes, and other holiday-themed surprises.

The displays here also typically go up around the day after Thanksgiving and continue through to New Years Day.

Although, if you visit too soon after Thanksgiving, not all the houses here may have their displays ready.

Also, some of the most impressive holiday lights in the area can be found between 23rd and 86th Streets and 11th and 13th Avenues.

Now, if you’re not prepared to navigate the outer boroughs of NYC on your, you can always join a guided tour.

Although, you will have a bit more freedom if you DIY the experience since you can stop at the Tasty Pastry Shoppe and eat some delicious holiday cookies while you’re here!

Address: From 83rd St. to 86th St. between 11th Ave. and 13th Ave, in Dyker Heights Brooklyn.

Hours: Lights come on after sundown (best seen between 5 pm and 9 pm), daily, from late November through early January (if you go after December 25th, it will be a lot less crowded).

Price: Free, unless you do the tour which is around $56 per person.

How to Get There: Take the D train from Rockefeller Center to 71st Street station and walk from there.

3. See The Rockettes at The Radio City Christmas Spectacular

By: Claire of Claire Pins Travel

Radio City Music Hall sign

The iconic Christmas Spectacular Show takes place inside the historic Radio City Music Hall, which sits within Rockefeller Center.

This immersive performance features the famous Radio City Rockettes dance company, known for their precise, synchronized movements and their high kicking chorus line.

So, if you attend a performance this Christmas in NYC, you can expect to see sparkling costumes, dazzling stage sets, hear bright/uplifting live music, and enjoy a special visit from Santa Claus himself.

Because attending this popular show is a holiday tradition among many New Yorkers, and is a must-do activity if you are planning a holiday season trip to New York City.

And at just 90-minutes long, the performance is relatively short and an ideal choice for younger children with short attention spans.

Now, for the best views of the stage, always consult the online seating chart before booking. Also be sure to avoid the first ten rows and try finding seats in the 400 section, which is mid-Orchestra level.

Otherwise, consider booking aisle seats to avoid having your view blocked by anyone in front of you.

Additionally, plan to arrive at least an hour early so that you can pass through security and locate your seats. There are also snacks, beverages, and merchandise available for purchase on-site.

Address: Radio City Music Hall at 1260 Avenue of Americas, New York, New York

Hours: The show is around ninety minutes long and runs from November through early January, with performances sometimes daily at 2:00 pm, 5:00 pm, and 8:00 pm.

Price: Tickets range in price from $49 to $225 per person. You may also be able to purchase discount tickets through TodayTix and Groupon.

How to Get There: You can easily walk here from Tines Square since it’s just 7-minutes away.

4. The Train Show at the New York Botanical Gardens

By: Eileen Gunn of FamiliesGo!

Trains wizzing by during the train show at the New York Botanical gardens, one of the best things to do this Christmas in NYC.
Image sourced from the New York Botanical Gardens Press Room.

The Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden has become an annual Christmas-season must-do for many New Yorkers.

The main attraction is 175 scaled models of New York City landmarks built from all-natural materials. It’s incredible how artists expertly replicate iconic structures like the Brooklyn Bridge, Empire State Building, Yankee Stadium, and St. Patrick’s cathedral from flowers, leaves, twigs, and bark.

There are also 25 model trains running along a half-mile track, making this a popular event throughout Christmas in NYC for families with small children.

They even offer adult-only train show evenings with cocktails that are perfect for anyone who wants a fun evening out this Christmas in NYC, minus the kids.

If you can, time your visit so that you can have dinner on Arthur Avenue, an Italian neighborhood in the Bronx that is just ten minutes away and that is known for its delicious, authentic Italian food.

So, get your fill of classic Italian dishes with red sauce at the insanely popular Dominick’s. Otherwise, avoid the long lines at other quieter restaurants like Umberto’s Clamhouse and Pasquale’s Rigoletto.

Also, be sure to save room for dessert so that you can stop by Morrone pastry shop for some fresh cannolis, Italian cheesecake, and almond-flavored rainbow cookies.

Pro Tip: You MUST book your tickets in advance. This event is also indoors so you’ll need a mask and proof of covid-19 vaccination for anyone 12 and over.

Address: 2900 Southern Boulevard Bronx, NY 10458-5126

Hours: The show typically runs daily from the last week of November through the last week of January. Times vary but they are typically open 9:30 am to 4:00 pm daily.

Price: Tickets are $32 for adults, $30 for seniors (65+)/students with valid ID, $18 for children (2-12), and free for anyone under 2. Book your tickets now!

How to Get There: Take the B, D, or 4 train to Bedford Park Blvd. Station. From the station exit, take the B26 bus east to the Botanical Garden’s Mosholu Entrance.

5. Marvel at the Tree and Go Ice Skating at Rockefeller Center

By: Debbie Fettback of World Adventurists

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

One of the most classic Christmas experiences in New York is a trip to the iconic Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center.

And the best place to view the tree this Christmas in NYC is from within Rockefeller Plaza, between West 48th Street and West 51st Street and Fifth and Sixth avenues.

If you can, try to attend the annual tree lighting ceremony, which will be held on December 1st this year. It’s a lovely event that marks the official kickoff of the holiday season in New York.

However, you can always visit the tree any time you like until around mid-January when it finally gets taken down.

However, another great way to view the Tree and embrace the magic of the season is to go for a skate on “The Rink” at Rockefeller Center.

After all, this activity quickly became one of the best things to do during Christmas in New York City upon opening on Christmas Day in 1936.

So, enjoy an evening skate beneath the twinkling lights of NYC’s most famous Christmas tree and glide past the Prometheus statue in this popular spot.

Just be prepared for a bit of a wait since only 150 skaters are allowed on the rink at any given time.

Pro Tip: Avoid crowds by visiting early in the morning or by booking your tickets well in advance so that you will not be disappointed if they sell out.

Address: 45 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, New York

Hours: Open all day daily from the end of November through mid-January. The rink itself opens on November 6th and will be open daily from 9:00 am to 12:00 am.

Price: Free to see the Tree.

How to Get There: Take the M50 bus to E 50th street and walk from there. It’s also an easy walk (10-minutes) from Times Square.

6. Bank of America New York Winter Village at Bryant Park

Skaters on the Risk at Bryant Park

If you can only go to one of the many Christmas markets in New York City, let this one be it.

After all, the Bank of America Winter Village in Bryant Park arrives in the city each fall and is brimming over with 60+ food kiosks and shopping stalls for you to enjoy.

So, this is a perfect spot to get all those unique, totally one-of-a-kind, NYC-inspired gifts for you and your family.

Plus, there’s even a 17,000 square-foot ice rink here where you can go ice skating for FREE! Yup, you read that right. Free, unless, of course, you need to rent a pair of skates!

Therefore, this is an infinitely cheaper and more exciting rink to enjoy than the one in nearby Rockefeller Center.

Plus, afterward, feel free to warm with a holiday-inspired cocktail in hand at The Lodge Deck pop-up restaurant right next to the ice rink.

And if you want to explore some of the other holiday markets in the city, you can try:

  • Columbus Circle Christmas Market
  • Union Square Holiday Market
  • Artists and Fleas at Chelsea Market

Address: 35 W 40th St, New York, NY 10018

Hours: The rink is open daily (once the winter village is set up) from 8:00 am to 10:00 pm.

Price: Around $22 per hour to rent a pair of skates.

How to Get There: It’s a short walk from Times Square.

7. Bemelmans Bar in the Carlyle Hotel

By: Martha of May Cause Wanderlust

Classic cocktails on a dimly lit table in the Bemelmans Bar in the Carlyle Hotel.. One of the best things to do this Christmas in New York City.

With so much to do during Christmas in NYC – walking tours of Manhattan, shopping, ice skating, etc. – you may feel like you’ve earned yourself a cocktail or two by the end of the day.

Well, there is one place in New York that can not only deliver an exquisite cocktail but that can also transport you back in time to New York’s glamorous heyday in the mid-20th century – and that is Bemelmans Bar.

It’s a small, intimate cocktail bar in the iconic Carlyle Hotel, that was first opened in 1947 and that is named for Ludwig, the creator of the classic Madeline series of children’s books.

In fact, his immortal illustrations adorn the walls here, which is why this bar has been a popular haunt of famous celebrities, artists, and musicians since it was initially established. So much so that JFK and Marilyn Monroe were rumored to have stayed here in the 1960s.

Today though, many modern-day celebrities still gather here in preparation for the annual Met Gala.

So, stop by any evening after 5:30 pm to sit at dimly lit tables and enjoy classic cocktails served by impeccable waiters as live piano music plays in the background.

Pro Tip: Visit early, before the Jazz Trio starts at 9:00 pm, to avoid an expensive cover charge. Also, try classic cocktails like a Manhattan or an Old Fashioned.

Address: 35 E 76th St, New York, NY 10021

Hours: Open Tuesday through Thursday from 12:00 pm to 12:30 am, Friday/Saturday from 12:00 pm to 1:00 am, and Sunday/Monday from 12:00 pm to 12:00 am.

Price: The cover charge is $25 for a table and $15 for a seat at the bar.

How to Get There: Take the 6 train to 77th Street station and walk to the bar from there.

8. Go Ice Skating

women lacing her ice skates

Whenever I think of Christmas in NYC, I immediately imagine effortlessly gliding across the rinks in Central Park (aka Wollman Rink), Bryant Park, and Rockefeller Center.

Because even though I may not be able to land that triple axel of my dreams, I can soak up all of those classic holiday feels at any one of these amazing places. I mean it is after all one of the top winter activities in NYC.

However, the problem with all of these rinks during Christmas in New York City is that they are crowded beyond belief.

So, where can you go to get all those cozy holiday vibes without hordes of self-stick-wielding tourists? Well, thankfully, NYC has a whole host of rinks for you to choose from, including:

  • Industry City Ice Rink
  • The Vale Rink at the William Vale (this is a great sky rink that sits on the 23rd floor of the hotel)
  • LeFrank Center at Prospect Park (for all my Brooklyn lovers out there)
  • Sky Rink at Chelsea Piers (this place has great views)
  • Lasker Rink (also in Central Park but a lot less crowded)
  • The Rink at Brookfield Place (You can also see the luminaries while you’re here)

9. Rooftop 93 Bar In Midtown Manhattan

There are loads of bars in the city but when it comes to Christmas in New York, I usually always recommend THE ROOFTOP 93 bar in lower Manhattan. Yes. That’s the name of it. 

Perched right in prime location, this place isn’t particularly large but it does span two floors so space isn’t that much of a constraint either. The thing is that it is always in demand because of the spectacular views that it offers. Plus it is cozy.

It does have open air seating. As you can imagine that is pretty much not in use during the Christmas season largely because it is uber cold. I mean no one is going to have much fun outdoors freezing either way. 

You don’t have to be disappointed though. One of the great things about the Rooftop 93 is the ceiling to floor windows which offer you a rather amazing view of the northern NYC skyline. That way you remain really nice and toasty indoors but you don’t miss the view. You can see why it is one of the cool things to do in New York in Christmas.

Pro Tip: Head here closer to sundown. That way you get a birds eye view of the spectacular sunset alongside the skyline. The Christmas lights during the season definitely add their own charm at night!

Address: 93 Bowery, New York, NY 10002, United States

Hours: Monday and Tuesday closed, Wednesday and Thursday: 5pm – 12am, Friday and Saturday: 5pm – 1am and Sunday 5pm – 11pm

How To Get There: Take the bus to Bowery/Hester St. It is just a stone’s throw away from there.

10. Enjoy the Christmas Decor at Rolf’s

By: Stephanie of Wandering Why Traveler

Rolfs Nyc

Rolf’s combines both whimsical ambiance and hearty, decadent food to create a stellar Christmas experience.

Because If Santa Claus owned a restaurant, he would decorate it like Rolf’s. However, even though this place is reminiscent of the North Pole, it’s actually located in the Gramercy section of Manhattan.

And once guests step inside, they are completely engulfed by garland, twinkling lights, hanging icicles, and gigantic ornaments.

Sure, over-the-top holiday decorations can run the risk of being ‘tacky’, but Rolf’s decor has an elegant air about it that brings a sense of child-like wonder to even the most Scrooge-like patrons.

However, it’s not just the glitter and ornate decorations that create an intense holiday spirit here. Charming wood paneling, close-knit tables, and warm colors expertly intertwine to give this restaurant a cozy feel.

So, start off with a high-octane (read high alcohol content), holiday-themed cocktail that is sure to knock you off your feet, like the vanilla spiced eggnog with bourbon, the warm apple cider, or the Christmas smoothie.

Trust me, after a few of those, and your face will be redder than Old St Nick’s.

What, feeling a bit too merry? Then be sure to order one of the many German delicacies on offer, including many varieties of schnitzel or the German potato salad.

Address: 281 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10010

Hours: Open daily from 12:00 pm to 9:00 pm.

Price: Entrees start at $25.00 each.

How to Get There: Take the 6/R/W train to 23rd Street Station and walk from there.

11. Sip on the Best Hot Chocolate in the City

Hot Chocolate

When the weather outside is frightful, a giant mug full of hot chocolate tastes so delightful. That’s why one of the best things to do this Christmas in NYC is to suck up a cup full of delicious, molten hot chocolate.

Sure, most visitors this Christmas in New York City will flock to Serendipity 3 and inhale their iconic “frozen hot chocolate”.

Personally, though, I find this place to be a giant tourist trap that is best avoided at all costs since their frozen hot chocolate is mediocre at best (IMHO, and that’s being generous).

Plus, there are now a ton of Serendipity franchises set up all across the country. Therefore, you could easily go to just about any major city to find this famous treat.

So, if you want to try some truly authentic, totally delicious NYC hot chocolate that you won’t be able to find anywhere else, then here are my personal picks.

  • Bar Pisellino– Located in the West Village, this place oozes old-world italian charm and whips up some of the best hot chocolate in NYC. It’s rich though so if you have a giant sweet tooth and love the idea of drinking brownie batter than this is the perfect place for you. Fresh panna also comes on top of thise decadent delight and helps cut some of the sweetness.
  • Daily Provisions – This bakery/cafe in the Faltiron Distirct is operated by culinary giant, Danny Meyer, and churns out a delicious hot chocolate made with Guanaja dark chocolate, Bahibe milk chocolate, and Guittard chocolate ganache. Add whipped cream and a homemade vanilla marshmallow on top and you have a front runner for the best hot chocolate in NYC.
  • Dominique Ansel Bakery – No trip to NYC is complete without a stop at this NYC institution. After all, the baking wizards here are known for their legendary cronut and serve up a totally unique hot chocolate too. In fact, it even features a marshmallow flower that “blooms” to uncover a hidden chocolate truffle as soon as hot liquid is added to the cup.
  • Squish Marshmallows – Renowned for their next-level awesome marshmallows, this East Village eatery crafts truly unique flavored treats like smores and banana pudding. Therefore, order their hot chocolate and satisfy any and all marshmallow cravings since the two desserts here perfectly compliment one another.
  • Mah-Ze-Dahr Bakery – Finally, head to the West Village and see what pastry chef Umber Ahmad has to offer when it comes to hot chocolate. Because their supremely classic drink is made with Velrhona chocolate, steamed milk and a homemade vanilla bean marshmallow on top.

12. Explore Central Park

By: Mark and Kristen of Where Are Those Morgans?

Central Park covered in snow over Christmas in New York City.

New York City is filled with iconic Christmas locations you have seen in the movies and read about in books. But, none of those Christmas in NYC destinations are quite as magical as a Central Park Winter snow day.

So, if you get lucky and find that NYC is covered in a fresh blanket of snow, change course and head directly for Central Park, along with everyone else in the city.

Just follow Fifth Avenue and pass by a wealth of swanky shops to enter Central Park. Next, start your Christmas in New York City with a trip to Wollman Ice Rink.

Simply take to the ice yourself or watch others as they glide by. Be sure to have a steaming cup of hot chocolate in hand to help keep you warm while you admire the views of Manhattan’s 59th street skyline.

Heading northwest, make your way through ‘The Mall”, an incredibly photogenic, one-mile promenade that is lined with picturesque benches and beautiful statues.

At the end of The Mall, descend a set of stone steps and enter Bethesda Terrace with its stunning, orange tiled ceiling.

Chances are you’ll encounter a proposal, a wedding shoot, or both since the fountain here is exceptionally beautiful in the snow.

Next, cross the Bow Bridge and blaze a trail through ‘The Ramble’. Continue west through this narrow, twisting maze and pass under a series of ornate stone arches.

Finally, finish at John Lennon’s “Believe” memorial and enjoy a stunning view of an ice pond and Wagner Cove.

13. Shop At FAO Schwarz

You can’t think of New York and Christmas together without the name FAO Schwarz coming up. This store specializes in Christmas toys and it is the go to place if you want to shop for Christmas gifts for kids (and for adults who never grew up like me!)

Here you can find teddy bears in all different sizes, toys from all locations across the world and almost any kind of toy that your heart desires. It is paradise! But closer to Christmas the rush starts picking up with all the last minute shoppers heading to the store. It is also the best place to buy NYC souvenirs at this time of the year.

If you heard that the store closed then you’ve heard wrong. Well partially wrong because they closed shop in 2015 only to reopen in a new location in 2018. 

Pro tip: The new location is swankier, more modern and is just a short distance away from the famous Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center. So you can catch a glimpse of the famous spot and a few pictures before heading out to FAO Schwarz.

Address: 30 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10111, United States

Hours: Open everyday from 11am – 7pm except Fridays and Saturdays when it closes at 8pm.

How To Get There: Take the subway to 47-50 Sts-Rockefeller Ctr. It is just round the corner from there.

14. Enjoy a Christmas Carol at the Merchant’s House Museum

Garden behind the Merchant's House Museum

Back in the day, Madison Square Garden used to play host to a fun, kid-friendly version of Charles Dickens’s immortal holiday classic, “A Christmas Carol”.

However, because of recent world events (aka the pandemic) and the fact that Broadway just opened back up, there aren’t too many holiday-themed shows currently available to the public this Christmas in NYC.

Thankfully though, the Merchant’s House Museum comes through in the clutch with a supremely awesome production of A Christmas Carol by the Summoners Ensemble Theatre.

With shows held once a day from December 1st through December 31st (except Mondays), visitors to the area this Christmas in New York City can marvel at a classic retelling of this beautiful story amidst the historic grandeur of the Greek Revival-style parlor of this home from 1832.

Yeah, it’s really a highly underrated historic residence in NYC that you should 100% visit even if you don’t end up going to the show.

Plus, add in some authentic, 19th-century holiday decor, flickering candles, and vibrant period piece furniture and you have the perfect setting for this one-hour play.

Added bonus? During select shows, you’ll also get to enjoy a Christmas reception with “Mr. Dickens” that includes a cup of “Smoking Bishop” (or mulled wine) and a private performance of “A Visit from Sir Nicholas”.

Address: 29 East 4th Street, New York, NY, 10003

Hours: Shows are one-hour long and held Tuesday/Wednesday through Sunday at either 5:30 pm, 7:00 pm, or 8:00 pm. So, please check their website for more information.

Price: Tickets are $55-$125 per person.

How to Get There: Take the N/R train to 8th Street station, the 6 train to Astor Place station, or the B/D/F/M to Broadway/Lafayette station and walk to the museum from there.

15. Enjoy the Luminaries at Brookfield Place

Vibrant luminaries at Brookfield Place, one of the best things to do this Christmas in NYC

Easily one of the best free things to do this Christmas in NYC, the luminaries at Brookfield Place are a stunning canopy of hundreds of lanterns that seamlessly change color on the ceiling of the mall.

With various palm trees in the background and beautiful Christmas trees placed all throughout the ground floor of this retail center, this awe-inspiring light show is brought to you by the LAD at Rockwell Group and makes for the perfect addition to any Christmas in New York City itinerary.

Plus, while you’re here, visit one of two touchless wishing stations and send a motion-activated wish to the kaleidoscope of colorful lanterns that sit just above you.

So, what are you waiting for? Stop by any time between November 27h and January 10th and see this mesmerizing light display for yourself.

And afterward, go for a skate on the awesome outdoor rink that overlooks the always lovely Hudson River.

Pro Tip: Brookfield Place is right near the Statue of Liberty so you could easily see both in the same day.

Address: 230 Vesey Street, New York, NY 10281

Hours: Open daily from 8:00 am to 10:00 pm.

Price: Free

How to Get There: Take the 1/2/3 train to Chambers Street and walk to the shopping mall from there.

16. Enjoy a Holiday Themed Afternoon Tea

Cute holiday mugs with cinnamon and gingerbread cookies.

Love a luxurious afternoon tea experience? If so then enjoy an enchanting, holiday-themed afternoon tea at the luxurious Peninsula Hotel in New York City.

Starting on November 26th and ending on December the 31st, the posh, townhouse-style Gotham Lounge here is bedazzled with all sorts of vibrant Christmas decorations that everyone will adore.

Add in a wonderfully modern menu full of classic afternoon tea selections like warm scones, premium teas, finger sandwiches, bread, and petits fours, and this is the perfect place to warm up after a long day spent outside.

Plus, if you’d like to partake in an afternoon tea that the whole family will love, you can also book a special Children’s Afternoon Tea that includes bottomless local apple cider, as well as an assortment of classic sweet and savory delights that any child will love.

Pro Tip: You can also book fun, holiday-themed afternoon teas at the Russian Tea Room (it’s well decorated with giant toy soldiers everywhere) and, my personal fave, the King’s Carriage House (great price and the food is excellent).

Address: 700 Fifth Avenue at 55th Street

Hours: Open daily from 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm.

Price: $95 per person for traditional afternoon tea and $125 per person for champagne afternoon tea.

How to Get There: Take the N/R/W train to 57th street station and walk to the hotel from there.

17. See the Holiday Lights at the Bronx Zoo

Historic Zoo Center Building in the Bronx Zoo.

Take a walk on the wild side and celebrate your love for the animal world during the Bronx Zoo’s annual holiday lights show.

Starting on November 19th and extending through to January 9th, the grounds of the Bronx Zoo will come alive every evening with immersive light displays, vivid animal lanterns, and enchanting light shows that are sure to captivate children and adults alike.

Trust me, it’s a truly fun and festive experience that includes holiday treats, live entertainment, a holiday train, ice carving competitions/demonstrations, stilt walkers, costumed characters, a wildlife theater, and so much more!

So, get in on all the Christmas in NYC fun as you listen to holiday music, walk through colorful tunnels, and take in animated sculptures scattered throughout the park.

Because in total, 260+ lanterns will be on display that represent almost 70 different animal and plant species – an experience that will help reconnect you to the natural world all around you this Christmas in New York City.

Pro Tip: This event is entirely outdoors so be sure to dress warmly and keep an eye on the weather before you visit.

Address: 2300 Southern Boulevard Bronx, New York,10460

Hours: Holiday lights come on at 4:30 pm but tickets can be purchased for 3:00 pm (great if you want to see the animals), 5:00 pm, 6:00 pm, 7:00 pm, and 8:00 pm time slots.

Price: $39.95 for adults, $24.95 for kids (3-12), and $34.95 for seniors (65+).

How to Get There: Take the 2 train to the Pelham Parkway station and then catch an uber from there.

18. Enjoy Magical Holiday Window Displays

Holiday Window Display at Saks Fifth Avenue

Without a doubt, seeing the vivacious holiday window displays that pop up all across the city is one of my favorite things to do during Christmas in NYC.

Because you name it and that store probably has an amazing window display for you to enjoy – particularly iconic retailers like Macy’s, Barney’s, Bloomingdale’s, Tiffany’s, Bergdorf Goodman’s, Henri Bendel, and Lord and Taylor.

However, my absolute favorite holiday window has to be the most famous one of them all – the display at Saks Fifth Avenue.

Not only is it completely different every single year, but it’s always wonderfully detailed and features an elaborate set of six windows that work together to tell a complex story using animatronic figures.

Whatever you do though, do not cut the line when visiting during Christmas in New York City since queues get hella long and patrons have no patience for people who try and beeline it to the front.

But, if you’re not a fan of long lines (who is?) then you can always catch Sak’s famous ten-story light show. It typically happens every 10-minutes between 5:00 pm and 11:00 pm daily.

Address: 611 5th Ave, New York, NY 10022

Hours: The window display is open twenty-four hours a day.

Price: Free

How to Get There: It’s only a half-mile away from Times Square so you could walk for 10-minutes or take the M-50 bus.

19. See the Empire State Building’s Holiday Light Show

The Empire State Building is always awesome, but even more so during the holiday season when the structure oozes holiday cheer from its amazing red and green lights.

However, just in case that’s not quite enough holiday spirit for you, this architectural wonder recently (as of 2020) started broadcasting a special light and sound display that was synced to Carrie Underwood’s rendition of “Hallelujah”.

So, if you want to see what this incredible show has in store for you, tune into either Z100 or LiteFm at 8:00 pm – between December 19th and December 25th- and see what sound and light displays await you atop one of the most famous buildings in the city.

Address: 20 W 34th St, New York, NY 10001

Hours: 8:00 pm

Price: Free

How to Get There: Take the N/R/W train to Herald Square and walk from there.

20. See the Nutcracker Ballet at Lincoln Center

This is an evening view of the the Lincoln Center of Performing Arts in Manhattan

You can’t very well spend Christmas in NYC without seeing The Nutcracker at Lincoln Center, now can you?

Good, glad we agree on the important things in life.

Because this iconic show has been thrilling children all across the globe since ye olde 1892 and is performed pretty much every holiday season by the New York Ballet Company inside the David Hi. Koch Theater.

So, grab your tickets today to become mesmerized by a phenomenal ballet performance that features a dazzling array of dancers and characters that we all know and love.

Especially since 62 musicians, 90 dancers, and 125 children all come together to bring Tschaikovsky’s immortal ballet to life right before your eyes.

Other highlights include a Christmas Tree that grows to a whopping 41 feet, the Kingdom of the Sugarplum Fairy sequence, Mother Ginger (the costume alone weighs 85 pounds), the Snowflake Waltz, etc.

Pro Tip: For a great meal before or after the show, try P.J. Clarke’s (great burgers), The Smith, Lincoln Restaurante (Italian place right in Lincoln Center), Cafe Fiorello (try the pizza bolognese), and Rosa’s Mexicana (orde the guacamole/queso fundido).

Address: David H. Koch Theater, 20 Lincoln Center Plaza, New York, NY 10023, United States

Hours: From the end of November through the beginning of January and performances are held almost daily at either 1:00 pm, 2:00 pm, 5:00 pm, 7:00 pm, or 8:00 pm. The first act is roughly 49 minutes while the second act is 41 minutes.

Price: Tickets are between $89 and $280 per person.

How to Get There: Take the 1 train to 66th street and Lincoln Center station and walk from there.

21. Grand Central Holiday Fair

Holiday decor surrounding the elevators in Grand Central terminal.

Easily one of the best Christmas markets in NYC, the Grand Central Holiday Fair typically takes over Vanderbilt Hall around November 18th and doesn’t end until right before Christmas.

Therefore, you have plenty of time to shop til you drop at this super snazzy indoor market and experience one of the best things to do this Christmas in NYC.

Because even though this holiday market is relatively small and doesn’t typically feature a ton of food vendors, it’s packed with amazing boutiques that sell some supremely awesome holiday gifts.

Trust me, I’ve gotten more than one amazing gift here and my friends absolutely loved them since they are anything but generic.

Besides, more than one-million shoppers pass through here per day so, yeah, you know it has to be something extra special.

Address: Grand Central Terminal

Hours: Open Friday 10:00 am to 8:00 pm, Saturday 10:00 am to 7:00 pm, and Sunday 11:00 am to 6:00 pm.

Price: Free

How to Get There: Take the S train (aka the shuttle) from Times Square to Grand Central and you’ll find this market upstairs.

22. Turnstyle Underground Market

Open throughout the year, Turnstyle Underground Market transforms into a vibrant holiday extravaganza every year between November 18th and December 31st.

It’s also a great shopping spot for anyone who hates the cold since it’s actually underground, right by the subway entrance near Columbus Circle – hence the name.

In total, it’s home to more than 39 different eateries and several epic holiday boutiques that seem to pop up seasonally.

So, stop by, enjoy the festive feels, and warm up while enjoying one of the best things to do during Christmas in New York City.

There are also seven different entrances to the market, so just follow the signs and you should be able to find it no problem. You also don’t need a MetroCard to step inside this epic place.

Pro Tip: The Columbus Circle Holiday Market is right across the street so you should 100% stop by either before or after your trip here.

Address: 1000 S 8th Ave, New York, NY 10019

Hours: Varies by store.

Price: Free

How to Get Here: Take the 1 train to Columbus Circle and walk from here.

23. Check Out St. Patrick’s Cathedral

The exterior of St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City.

Even if you’re not religious, visiting St. Patrick’s Cathedral is easily one of the best things to do during Christmas in NYC.

After all, it’s the single largest Catholic Church in the USA and was first built for the ridiculous sum of $2 million back in 1878.

So, as you can probably already imagine, this neo-Gothic style church is insanely beautiful, and attending mass here over the holidays is truly awe-inspiring since you’ll get to sit with thousands of parishioners and listen to Christmas songs being blasted out on the giant, 7,000 pipe organ.

It’s also one of those Christmas in New York City activities that is easy to find since the church is on Fifth Avenue, right across the street from Rockefeller Center.

Therefore, definitely swing by to check out the Louis Tiffany altar and the Charles Connick’s Rose Window here before you leave.

Heck, there’s even a full-on basement-level crypt that is the final resting place of people like Pierre Toussaint, a famous advocate for the poor and the first African American to become eligible for sainthood.

Now, while there are some not-so-frequent guided tours of the church available, I suggest doing this joint tour of 5th Avenue and St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

I mean, tickets are only $35 per person, and include a personal, hour-long tour of Fifth Avenue and Rockefeller Center, with Fastpass admission to the church and a self-guided tour of the building included.

So, book your tour today and enjoy one of the best things to do this Christmas in New York City.

Address: 5th Ave, New York, NY 10022

Hours: Open daily from 7:00 am to 8:30 pm.

Price: Free

How to Get There: Take the M train to 53rd Street station and walk from there.

24. Enjoy The Santa’s Secret Immersive Holiday Experience

You can really immerse yourself into the Christmas theme at the Santa’s Secret Immersive Holiday experience. It allows you to come dashing through the snow and pretend that you are at the North Pole with Santa. It has loads of naughty performances so this isn’t kid compliant but it is definitely appropriate for people who have an inner child that loves Christmas.

The speakeasy has a whole vintage theme going for it. You can even get Christmas themed cocktails, shake up some themed snow globes and enjoy the shows. You better not tell Mrs Claus though or everyone will be in trouble! Hahaha!

Seriously, this is one of the best kept secrets when it comes to Christmas in NYC!

Pro Tip: The show timings are always updated at the mid to end of November. Check out the shows and book your ticket in advance.

Address: The Shops at Hudson Yards – 20 Hudson Yards, 5th Floor, New York, NY 10001

Hours: Depending on the shows.

How To Get There: Take the A train to 34 St Penn Station and walk from there 

25. Visit The Spectacular Factory

One of the top things to do during the Christmas season in NYC is to head to the ARTECHOUSE. Every year they have a holiday installment that is opened to the public and it is a pretty cool way to enjoy the holiday décor. 

The best part about the Spectacular factory Christmas installment is that it has rides for all ages. Think about candy cane carousels, nutcracker displays, tinkling bells and even a holiday express train. The huge nutcrackers are a big hit because they make such a great backdrop for photographs.

Intriguingly the displays are a mix of both art and technology which makes them so immersive that you feel as if you’ve left NYC behind. The idea is to stimulate people’s imagination. I have to say that the exhibits totally exceed expectations.

Address: 439 W 15th St, New York, NY 10011, United States

Hours: Open everyday from 10am to 10pm

How To Get There: Take Train A or C to 14 St /8 av

Christmas In NYC FAQ

Is NYC fun During Christmas?

NYC is one of the most popular destinations in the country during the Christmas season. This is because the city transforms into a winter wonderland. There are Christmas shows and themed bars, Broadway transforms with numerous shows and lets not forget about all the Christmas markets that pop up all around the city.

So is NYC fun during Christmas? I would say yes! The only downside is that it is expensive and crowded because almost everyone has the same idea.

Is NYC Busy During Christmas?

NYC is super busy during Christmas. The streets are full with both locals and tourists. NYC is known to be busy throughout the year but during Christmas time the crowds really peak. There is usually a shortage of reasonably priced accommodation and everything in general gets uber costly.

Is It Worth Visiting NYC During Christmas?

NYC is popular during Christmas for a good reason. The city really comes alive with the festive spirit. So if you don’t mind the cost associated with high season in NYC then definitely make the trip. The city has something for everybody during the Christmas season and you are bound to have loads of fun!

🎅 Looking for some amazing experiences for Christmas in NYC? I highly recommend checking out the Dyker Heights Christmas Lights. It is one of the top attractions at this time of the year! 🎄


Sign up for my bi-weekly e-mail list and get a free, compact New York Packing List from a local now!

This way, you’ll get insider tips delivered right to your inbox and will never forget anything again!

    We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at any time.

    Map of the Best Things to do During Christmas in NYC

    Click here for the full map.

    Additional Christmas NYC Resources You’ll Love

    There you have it! That just about wraps up this guide to Christmas in NYC!

    Tell me, did your favorite Christmas in New York City activities make the list? If not then let me know in the comments below!

    And if you found this post useful, don’t forget to join our email list before pinning this post now so that you can read it again later!