Who doesn’t want to celebrate Christmas in New York? It seems that every great Christmas movie or memory of ours is somehow associated with NYC. It has always been our dream to spend Christmas in NYC and we finally got the chance to make the holiday season happen in New York.
Dave and I had big plans for our Christmas in New York City. We asked all our Manhattan friends what to do during the holiday season and they gave us amazing suggestions. We made our list, we checked it twice, and off we went to New York City for the holidays
Fun Ideas For Christmas in New York
When staying in New York at Christmas we recommend choosing accommodation near Times Square. We’ve been to New York many times and have an excellent post rounding up the best neighborhoods to stay in New York City. You can also skip to the bottom of this post for our suggestions of where to stay in New York City during the Christmas holiday season.
Looking for more New York Inspiration? Read our favorite things to do in New York at any time of the year
Our Christmas Vacation in New York
Bundle up with your favorite hat, scarf, and mittens. Pack your comfortable and warm winter boots, layer up, and get ready to explore our Christmas in New York.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year to be in New York City. New York comes to life during the holidays and there are so many things to do in NYC at Christmas, that we had to give them all a try. We’ve rounded up the top attractions for holiday fun to help you decide where to start your New York City Christmas vacation. Let’s go!
1. The Rockettes Radio City Music Hall
I was sure my New York friends were going to tell me I was nuts when I told them we booked a ticket for the Radio City Christmas Extravaganza during the holiday season. It turned out that everyone said, “Go see the Rockettes!” New Yorkers like it, they really like it! And we liked it too!
Radio City Music Hall’s Christmas Celebration is a New York City institution dating back to 1932. If you are going to catch a show during the holidays in New York, this is the one to see.
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2. The Rockettes Christmas Spectacular
I was expecting to see 90 minutes of women kicking their legs high in the air “A Chorus Line” style, but there’s a ton of budget, thought, and fun energy that goes into the show.
There are singers, figure skaters, a 3D screen showing Santa’s adventure, and a group of shorter and more diverse male and female dancers backing up the actual Rockettes.
- Book your night at Radio City Music Hall Rockettes Christmas Spectacular today before it sells out!
- We have also booked a backstage tour included with our New York Pass of Radio City Music Hall which is awesome. You even get to meet a Rockette and see the secret room where Walt Disney and Judy Garland hung out.
3. The Nutcracker
If you want to see another Christmas Show in New York, the Nutcracker is performed by the New York City Ballet at the Lincoln Centre. Nothing rings in the holiday season quite like the Nutcracker. I have seen so many shows on TV starting with the Lincoln Centre that I felt giddy stepping foot on the complex.
Besides the ballet, you’ll find the Opera House and Geffen Hall where the New York City Philharmonic plays. Handel’s Messiah was being presented while we were there.
4. Christmas Markets
You can’t have a proper Christmas in New York without visiting the Christmas Markets. If you are looking for a guided experience to see the Christmas markets of New York, do not miss this Chrismas Lights and Markets Tour. We loved it!
We visited our first Christmas Markets during a river cruise of Europe a few years ago, and since that time, they have been sprouting up everywhere around the world. New York City has markets all over town from uptown to downtown during the holiday season.
We visited several holiday markets from the indoor market at Grand Central Station (a New York City tourist attraction unto itself).
The most popular is probably the Union Square Holiday Market where we ran into a friend randomly in this gigantic city! And the lovely Columbus Circle Holiday Market. We went to them all and loved each minute! But our personal favorite is the Bryant Park holiday market.
Check out our best Christmas Gift ideas for people who love to travel
5. Bryant Park
Why was Bryant Park our favorite place in New York for the holiday season? Well, for one, there is an ice skating rink and you can skate here for free!
Bring your hockey or figure skates along and you can go ice skating at Bryant Park. If you don’t have your own skates, rentals are $20. The arena is surrounded by Christmas stalls selling ornaments, arts and crafts, and of course, apple cider to keep you warm.
There’s a great Christmas tree here as well, which we actually enjoyed more than the tree at the Rockefeller Centre.
6. Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree
Even though it wasn’t one of our favorite of things to do in New York at Christmas, you can’t NOT go to the Rockefeller Christmas Tree. It’s would be like going to Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower.
If you go in the morning or later at night, crowds are much less and you can see the lights displayed on the tree overlooking the famous skating rink.
I wouldn’t recommend skating here. The fees are high and there is a long wait to get on the ice. But it’s worth stopping by to see the holiday display at the Rockefeller Center, and to use the free public washrooms, have a seat, and warm up with a cup of coffee in the concourse. Book Your Tickets to visit the Rockefeller Center
7. Saks Fifth Avenue Light Show
New York City is known for its holiday window displays during the Christmas holiday season, but Saks Fifth Avenue takes the holiday spirit to new heights.
If you time it right, you could be standing at the viewpoint of the Warner Brothers Tree at Rockefeller Center to watch the show. If you do a complete 180-degree turn from the rink, you’ll see a Saks storefront where their light show plays to dramatic Christmas music at regular intervals once the sun goes down. This is a must-do when you visit New York City at Christmas.
8. New York Christmas Window Displays
Speaking of Saks, the best way to check out the New York window displays is to walk along Fifth Avenue from Central Park. All the storefronts are decorated to the nines. Some were calling for children to interact with the display by hitting buttons and pulling levers.
Don’t forget to make a detour to Bloomingdales, a staple of New York located on Lexington Avenue.
9. Central Park
There is nothing more romantic than strolling through Central Park during the holidays.
It reminded me of Home Alone 2 Lost in New York and as we walked through the pathways, we reimagined all the places where Kevin got lost in this classic Christmas movie.
We also intended to take a carriage ride, but then a friend that lives in New York said people are working to get these rides banned.
A lot of movies were filmed in Central Park – A Great tour to take is the Holiday Lights and Movie Tour of NYC
10. Carriage Ride
We didn’t personally take a carriage ride in New York, but we do want to mention this option. We have heard that horses are treated humanely and are mostly rescue animals.
It is up to you if you want to take a carriage ride or not. We chose not to, but here are two sides to help you make a decision. Horses have historically been working animals, and that is exactly what they are here in New York. If people take a carriage ride in Central Park, they are supporting local businesses.
New York Horses – 2 Sides to Each Story
Animal rights activist Jane Velez-Mitchell says.
“Horses are flight animals. They’re also pasture animals. They go from being locked in a carriage horse to locked in a stall behind bars. They do not get to go into a pasture and they’re in the middle of one of the busiest cities in the entire world,” JaneUnchained.com.
The NYSVMS has been committed to ensuring the humane treatment of all animals throughout New York State for 125 years and writes that “Opponents of horse-drawn carriages are also misinformed about the conditions in the carriage industry, frequently claiming that the horses are forced to live and work under inhumane conditions.
A careful examination of the lives of these animals reveals the opposite. These horses, many of which are rescue animals themselves, live and work under the careful scrutiny of the veterinary profession, which follows stringent standards designed to ensure the animal’s welfare is of paramount importance.” Carriage.com
11. Tavern on the Green
We were excited to visit Tavern on the Green in Central Park. The top hat and tails-clad doorman greeted us with a smile as he let us into the city’s iconic landmark.
But we made the mistake of not making reservations, so only had the opportunity to browse the gift shop and check out the sitting area by the bar. When we arrived at 2 pm there was a 90-minute wait for a table.
This is a romantic destination and the setting is beautiful, but do yourself a favor and reserve a table for lunch. I want to go back and sit inside properly. Christmas in New York wouldn’t be complete without a visit here.
12. Empire State Building
The Empire State Building is open 365 days a year including Christmas Day! Be prepared for very long lines though. During the holiday season, the Empire State Building lights up in a festive red and green glow.
We love doing touristy things and we really loved going up to the Observation Deck. It really showcases a beautiful view of the skyline. Entrance to the Empire State Building is included with your New York City Pass gives you front-of-the-line access to New York Attractions. Or you can also purchase skip the line admission to the Empire State Building Observation Deck
13. New York Botanical Gardens Holiday Train Show
Located in the Bronx, The New York Botanical Gardens is worth a visit to see the Holiday Train Show. 150 miniature New York City Landmarks span a half a mile track that is meticulously lit with bright lights as model trains move through the miniature city.
There are plenty of things to keep you busy at the gardens during the holiday season including performances, acapella groups, concerts, and poetry readings. Click here to book tickets to the Holiday Train Show
14. A View from Brooklyn
There are many places to get a great view of the New York City skyline, but our favorite is definitely from Brooklyn Bridge Park in DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge). This is a spot you recognize from many a Hollywood movie, where historic buildings lead down narrow streets directly to the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges.
From the waterfront here you can snap several different views of the New York City skyline, but the most impressive picture comes from Pier 2 where wooden poles jut out of the water, making for an impressive foreground. Plus there is a carousel here that really puts you in the festive spirit.
15. Dyker Heights Christmas Lights
While in Brooklyn, make your way to Dyker Heights to view the Christmas lights display. The homes in this New York neighborhood get into the Festive spirit by having Christmas professionals design their lights starting the day after Thanksgiving.
It has become so popular, there are tours offered out to see the displays from 11th Avenue to Dyker Heights Blvd (aka 13th Avenues) from 83rd to 86th St in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn. Check out this highly-rated Manhattan to Brooklyn Christmas Magic Tour by Get Your Guide.
There are always so many things to do in New York at Christmas, so if you want to fulfill your Christmas in New York City dream like we did, start planning now. You won’t be disappointed.
- Get Your New York City Explorer Pass to 85 tours and attractions and Save 55% on general admissions to top NYC Attractions Check out more details here.
We loved every minute of our holiday; there’s no other place in the world where Christmas is embraced as much as New York City.
Where to Stay in New York at Christmas
The last time we stayed in New York, we lodged in the Intercontinental Times Square. It’s an amazing property that offers a different, more upscale choice. This time, we were on more of a budget. So when using our IHG Rewards, we choose the Holiday Inn Times Square. Even though our room was a bit small at the Holiday Inn Times Square, it had all the amenities we needed and a fantastic view of Manhattan. Armed with our New York Pass, we set out to do everything festive (twice!) in New York City.
- Read About these Times Square Hotels that we have stayed at. It is a great place to make a home base when visiting New York during the holidays.
- Check out more things to see in Times Square at Things to do in Times Square – A Walking Tour and Nearby Attractions
What we love about New York is that we don’t spend a lot of time in our room so the best thing to think about when booking a hotel is the location and affordability and the Holiday Inn is affordable. You are, after all, in the city that never sleeps! Staying in Times Square at Christmas keeps you close to all the Christmas attractions. We were within walking distance of many activities and Christmas attractions.
More on New York City Hotels
If you are wondering where to stay in New York during your Christmas holidays in the city, we have a comprehensive neighborhood guide breaking each is to help you plan your trip!
- SoHo / Tribeca – Gorgeous cast-iron warehouses, top-notch shopping, fantastic people-watching, and in the center of downtown.
- The Village – Quiet tree-lined streets with million-dollar townhouses, cute cafes and restaurants, fantastic bars, and a great music scene.
- Lower East Side / East Village / Nolita – Old punk rockers, hipsters, and the original center of immigrant life in New York.
- Upper West Side – An affordable and convenient neighborhood that has lots to do, particularly for families.
- Chelsea – Glitzy, trendy, new, and energetic, this neighborhood blurs the lines between cliched/touristy and glamorous.
- DUMBO – For those looking to escape Manhattan wonderful neighborhoods of the Outer Boroughs will allow you to explore further.
- Williamsburg – Trendy hipster neighborhood. One of the hottest spots in Brooklyn.
New York City Christmas Quick Tips
Christmas is definitely an amazing time to visit New York. Christmas markets are open all around town, storefronts are decorated with colorful lights and special Christmas performances take place. New York is made for Christmas celebrations.
It is cold in December in New York and it can snow. Pack your layers and be prepared for winter weather.
There are so many things to do in New York during the holidays like Radio City Christmas Spectacular, The Lights at Saks Fifth Avenue, Christmas Markets, carriage rides in Central Park and Christmas lights of Dyker Heights.
Plan more of your New York City travels:
Enjoy all these things to do in New York City at Christmas? Save it to Pinterest for future travel planning.
- 6 Tips to Make the Most of NYC Photography – by James
- Where to Stay in New York City – Top Places and Hotels For All Budgets
- 3 Perfect hotels in Times Square
- Fun Facts about New York
- Tips for Visiting The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
- 33 Best Things to Do in New York
- New York City Itinerary – 5 Days in New York
This post is in partnership with IHG Rewards, but as usual, all views of our experience are our own.
66 thoughts on “Christmas in New York – What to do in NYC for the Holidays”
Amazing blog, really well written, please keep on writing blogs like this.
I hope I can visit NY once in my life.
Thank you for this amazing article.
It is my dream to visit New York City, I hope this dream comes true in future.
Thanks for sharing this information.
The photographs are eye-catching. I will definitely visit New York at least once during Christmas.
Thank you for this amazing article.
What a amazing photography you shared. have a wonderful Christmas
Such an awesome article and especially the photo’s were awesome 😉 Can you travel to New York for London? I wanted to spend my Christmas in New York but due to this situation i couldn’t but looking forward for a 2021 Christmas in New York
All of these ideas are good! Thank you very much for that)
I get a bit homesick after reading blogs like this although I can’t complain when I am living in Bali. i want to thank you guys for posting so much stuff through the years. Stay safe while you’re in the Big Apple.
This year is not good for all of us, but we will always celebrate our holiday time. Merry Christmas
Previous year I was in New York but this year I really miss christmas celebration in new york. Mostly Central Park. Thanks for reminding this christmas
congratulations and merry christmas
Thank you so much for sharing the great celebration of new york city. I am enjoyed a lot so much.
Being a traveler I would love to have these gifts.These are absolutely great.There are many things in the list which are pretty useful while traveling.Thank you So Much for the wonderful Article and for sharing such beautiful pictures.
Thanks for sharing..
FYI for anyone going this weekend…the Rockefeller tree will not be lit until 12/4. I’m bummed I’m going to miss it!!
Thanks for sharing a great post!
Central park beautiful views of the city. Thanks for share
Thanks so much for the tips on a great Christmas trip to New York! Definitely putting it on the 2020 “Must-Do” List.
I spent last Christmas in NYC and I must say, it’s one of my favourite places to spend Christmas in! It’s everything I expected. Your list includes a few things I didn’t get to do, so this means I must go back for another Christmas and tick some more things off 🙂
Newyork is one of the best destinations to enjoy Christmas. There are so many things to do in New York during Christmas. Thanks for sharing.
very informative post, I just got many information abut New York City what can I do there in Christmas Day.
Really, interesting list. I would love to go on every one of them 🙂
I think yoga retreat would be a great addition to this awesome list
I love what I saw yes I’m planning a couple of trips and yes I feel good now that’s just the beginning……too much love in the air.9/17/2019
Quite remarkable indeed. Looking forward to more useful posts like this one.
I wish my city had all those decorations (christmas trees decorated in public and all the christmas lights and garlin) and all that type of fun (ice skating and other things). Too bad my city hates Christmas; (None of the people where I live have Christmas Spirit expect for me). Although I do get snow so yay :)?
Dozens of prominent veterinarians and equine experts have examined and affirm the safety, good health, contentment, and strictly followed regulations applied to New York City’s Central Park Carriage Horses. Over 140,000 unemployed, high maintenance, and unwanted American horses end up in Canadian and Mexican slaughterhouses every year. Even Buck Brannaman of the “Horse Whisperer” fame has studied the dynamics of the carriage wheels, the street surfaces, the horse’s shoes, etc, and asserts the comfort and safety of the carriage horses. A horse’s body language doesn’t lie, but some radical animal rights extremists do.
All great ideas but all of the misinformation about the carriage horses is disheartening. Don’t believe Radical Animal Rights wackadoodle and yes, that def includes PETA.
Because you listened to Jane Velez-Mitchell, you missed THE most historic NYC attraction: a carriage ride through Central Park. I doubt Jane has even been inside a carriage horse barn in NYC, but I have. The horses certainly have room to lie down and sleep, in a comfortable, secure setting. They are fed and have any medical needs (including dentistry and podiatry) checked on and cared for. The carriage rides are reasonable, since the price is not per person, but per carriage- 2,3,4 people. If you stay at the Plaza, you can arrange for the carriage to pick you up and even feed carrots to the carriage horses! Central Park was built in the 1800’s, meant to be seen from a carriage or from horseback. Do yourself a favor and treat yourself to a carriage ride. Don’t believe the lies spread by ignorant people.
It’s too bad this article had to fall for the biased ignorance of PETA apologist Jane Velez Mitchell concerning the Carriages in Central Park. (PETA’S single animal “shelter” has an 85+% kill rate, among the highest in the country) The carriage horses have one of the highest levels of oversight and legal protection in the world. They have nearly 150 pages of regulations governing them, are inspected hundreds of times a year, and are in daily contact with the NYPD mounted units. They are the safest ground transportation in the city. Those who actually know and understand working horses, including the American Veterinary Medicine Association, the American Association of Equine Practitioners, the New York State Veterinary Society and dozens of independent vets and horse people have endorsed the industry. And yes, the horses can lay down! Efforts to ban the carriage horses we’re laughed out of the city council for lack of evidence. PETA’s bizarre mission is to eliminate ALL domesticated animals (“Better dead than fed”) and cannot be trusted as an accurate source of information.
This is the best travel tips I ever read. I love traveling too
I would love to spend the holidays in New York at least one time.
Great discussions are happening here! NYC looks like a dream city for visitors from all over the world. This article definitely create holiday mood! Stunning! Appreciate and i would share it with my friends!
This is the best travel tips I ever read. I love traveling too
Que lugar maravilhoso!!
Wonderful Christmas……….Wow!! What a amazing photography you shared. Great article and blog post.
I just love this place in christmas
I went to NY last Christmas
Best christmas in the whole world
I love Christmas in NY!
New York is the best place to spend Christmas.
There is nothing better than spending Christmas in New York
I would love to spend the holidays in New York at least one time. Where would be the first thing to check out there?
I have heard that Christmas is celebration in New York was on it’s high and as I missed this year’s but I don’t want to miss it in the upcoming year. Thanks for sharing this post.
I would love to spend holidays in New York
Love New York wl always be. Stunning pictures. Very informative. Keep Sharing.
wow, nice blog… amazing Christmas.
I would love to spend the holidays in New York at least one time. Where would be the first thing to check out there?
I was also on christmas market this year but only in Hungarian capital the Budapest. There was also some nice things but here on the pictures I can see New York is another city as well.
New York city is one of the best destination of Europe to enjoy Christmas. its really amazing place to enjoy at this time and you shared best things to enjoy here and great photos you shared of that beautiful place.
It’s on my list to visit it 🙂
Christmas in New york city is always special. Each Christmas celebration goes on with excitement. I’m very excited for Christmas 2017 !
This picture is amazing!
Great photo of the skyline over the water is amazing!
Beautiful! Our goal is Thanksgiving and Christmas in NYC this year with our kids! We’ve just had our first ever cold Christmas in China, but without snow!!! 🙁 Fingers crossed we hit NYC in 2017
I love the photo of the skyline over the water is amazing!
This last photo is amazing!
Wonderful Christmas……….Wow!! What a amazing photography you shared. Great article and blog post. I am appreciate your time and efforts. Glad to find your post. Thanks for sharing it…
The picture of NYC from Brooklyn is amazing!
Makes me hungry for a real Christmas, unfortunately where I live it’s 20 degrees celsius during winter so no white Christmas for us ;(
Looks absolutely fabulous! I love the photo of the skyline over the water.
I won’t make it to NYC for Christmas, but I’ll be there in late January. NYC in winter is great cause you can avoid being outdoors and still have a million awesome things to do.