25 Best Attractions & Things to Do in NYC at Christmas

Whether you’re celebrating Christmas in New York City as a guest or resident, rest assured that you can find lots of fun things to do to usher in the Christmas season.

From the Rockefeller tree lighting and Christmas light shows to fabulous stores and unforgettable shows, you can always find holiday cheer in New York City. 

25 Top-Rated Things to Do in NYC at Christmas

1. Bryant Park Ice Skating

The adorable Bryant Park, which has appeared in movies like “Spider-Man” and “Sex and the City,” is a great place to visit to keep your blood pumping during the New York winter. This ice skating rink in Midtown Manhattan is one of the best places in the city to have fun and see incredible holiday decorations. 

Plus, entering the rink at Bryant Park is totally free as long as you have your own skates. But, you do need to reserve tickets online, so the park doesn’t get overcrowded. 

Also, don’t forget to take advantage of the entire Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park. Here, you can also eat at The Lodge food hall or the Curling Café and Bar, stay at the Cozy Igloos, and shop at nearby stores. 

The site even has Christmas carols sung by the New York City Opera and other top-notch groups. 

2. Dyker Heights Christmas Lights 

Giving the Rockefeller Center’s Christmas tree and Manhattan’s holiday window displays a run for their money are the Christmas lights at Dyker Heights in Brooklyn. Every year, participants turn this New York neighborhood into a winter village, with some home displays costing more than $20,000. 

Every December, thousands of people come to this Brooklyn neighborhood to walk the streets and see how residents have decorated their homes. You can also take one of the available bus tours if you want to see the lights while keeping warm. 

3. Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree 

A tradition beginning all the way back in 1931, the NYC Christmas tree lighting ceremony kicks off the holiday season when the city lights this spectacular Christmas tree at the start of December. 

What makes it even better is that the Rockefeller Center tree is real. 2021’s tree was a 79 foot tall Norway Spruce, which was 46 feet wide and weighed 12 tons. 

Also, while you’re viewing the stunning Rockefeller Christmas tree, don’t forget to partake in other holiday events in the area, like shopping or dining at some of the greatest shops in New York. 

4. Wollman Rink 

Ice skating is one of the most popular activities in New York in the winter, and Wollman Rink in Central Park is one of the best places to do it. 

Also, the rink appeared in movies, such as “Love Story.” 

5. The Rockettes at the Radio City Music Hall 

Called the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, the holiday performance shows off the talent of New York’s most beloved dance company, the Rockettes. The dazzling show is the perfect Christmas adventure in the city with its original music score, dancing, and humor. 

6. George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker 

New York City is one of the theater capitals of the world, so why not watch the New York City Ballet perform “The Nutcracker” at the Lincoln Center. Premiering all the way back in 1954, “The Nutcracker” has been at the heart of New York City Christmas for decades. 

7. Saks Fifth Avenue Holiday Light Show 

Saks Fifth Avenue, just across from the Rockefeller Center, offers visitors a dazzling New York light show. Beginning at the end of November, the building comes to life with magnificent lights every evening. 

8. Horse-Drawn Carriage Rides at Central Park 

Whether you want to snuggle in close with your significant other or are looking for a fun experience with the kids, a horse-drawn carriage ride is a great way to experience Central Park in December. 

The ride even offers special romantic carriages perfect for wedding proposals or as a treat for your anniversary. 

9. Empire State Building Holiday Light Show 

Every Christmas, in Midtown Manhattan, the stunning Empire State Building lights up its upper portion using an LED light system. Often called the Tower Lights event, viewing the holiday lights as they shine way up in the sky is one of the staples of Christmas in New York. 

10. New York Botanical Garden Holiday Train Show 

A favorite with the old and young alike, the Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden is a perfect way to get anyone in the holiday spirit. Here, you can watch as the model trains venture through a miniature New York complete with scaled-down models of the Brooklyn Bridge and Statue of Liberty made from natural materials. 

11. FAO Schwarz 

Probably the most iconic toy store in the world, FAO Schwarz will be a place that kids will never forget. The store has all kinds of toys for children of all ages and particularly comes alive during the holiday season. 

12. The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine

Experience Christmas day mass at one of the most beautiful churches in New York. Come to celebrate and honor Jesus Christ with a service given by the renowned Bishop Clifton Daniel III. 

13. Get Some New York Hot Chocolate 

Of course, you can’t come to New York and not taste any of its excellent cuisines. And what better for the winter weather than some hot chocolate?

Some of the most fantastic places to grab hot cocoa include the Bar Pisellino, Daily Provisions, and the Mah-Ze-Dahr Bakery. 

14. Washington Square Arch Christmas Tree 

The second-largest Christmas tree in the Big Apple, watching the lighting of the tree at the beginning of December is a sure way to put you in the holiday mood. Or, if you can’t make it to the lighting, you can always come and see the magnificent 45-foot tree whenever you want during Christmas time. 

15. Union Square Holiday Market 

If you are spending Christmas in New York, you should definitely try out the Union Square Holiday Market for some great holiday shopping. The event has more than 100 vendors who sell well-made, unique items like jewelry, food, apparel, and gifts. 

16. Columbus Circle Holiday Market 

One of the classiest Christmas markets in the world, the market at Columbus Circle is a highlight of the holiday season. Visitors to the Christmas market can find lots of interesting crafts, jewelry, and food that represent cultures from all around the world. 

17. Lotte New York Palace 

Whether you are staying here during Christmas time or just walking by, the Lotte New York Palace is an excellent destination to view amazing Christmas decorations. The hotel’s courtyard shows off its 30-foot tree with 3,000 accompanying lights to make this beautiful hotel even more appealing. 

18. The Jewish Museum

If you want to experience Hanukkah on the Upper East Side, The Jewish Museum is the best place to do it. The museum explores all of Jewish history, but there are often events and holiday-themed exhibits for Hanukkah. 

19. Artist & Fleas 

If you are searching for a unique place to buy presents, look no further than the Artist & Flea shops in Brooklyn and Manhattan. These stores are half artist bazaars and half flea markets where creators and collectors come together to present an excellent gift shopping opportunity. 

20. Grand Central Holiday Fair 

The Grand Central Holiday Fair is a huge and lavish Christmas market in The Vanderbilt Hall at Grand Central Terminal. Here, you can find loads of American-made crafts, such as jewelry, home goods, and art. 

21. The Plaza Hotel 

If you are in New York during the holiday season, you ought to take a look at the festive decorations that light up The Plaza Hotel. Conveniently located at Central Park and Fifth Avenue, you can easily stop by while exploring New York at Christmas. 

There’s also a Santa Mailbox at this winter wonderland where children can drop off their letters to Santa Claus. 

Plus, this hotel was one of the central filming locations in “Home Alone 2”. 

22. Helicopter Tours 

One of the most exciting New York City Christmas activities is to take a helicopter tour of the lit city at night. You can find lots of helicopter tours in New York around the holidays, and plenty of them offer a bird’s eye view of gorgeous New York landmarks, like the Rockefeller Center, Times Square, and Central Park. 

23. New Year’s Eve Ball Drop at Times Square

If you’re still around the week after Christmas, you should stop by for one of the biggest events of the year in New York City. Here, you can see the famous ball drop in Times Square while watching performances by some of the best dancers and musicians in the world. 

24. Ginny’s Supper Club 

Every year on Christmas day, Ginny’s Supper Club, located in the basement of Red Rooster, hosts a buffet at brunch. The vibe here is reminiscent of a Harlem speakeasy with acclaimed jazz musicians playing live music for guests. 

25. Christmas Concert at St. Patrick’s Cathedral 

Every year, usually on Christmas Eve, St. Patrick’s Cathedral puts on a Christmas show that includes choirs, an orchestra, and the cathedral organs. Plus, this great concert has free General Seating, so everyone can come and watch the show and see the fabulous Christmas decorations. 

Conclusion 

New York City is one of the best places in the world to celebrate Christmas. Every December, the entire city comes alive, and guests can participate in lavish Christmas events while visiting some of New York’s most famous landmarks. 

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