Christmas in New York – 10 Best Things to do in NYC for the Holidays

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 it happen.

Christmas in NYC

Christmas in New York The best things to do

Christmas in New York: the best things to do.

Dave and I had big plans for our Christmas in New York City. We asked all our Manhattan friends what to do during the holidays 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.

Our Christmas in New York

"It's Christmas time in the city." So the Holiday Inn Times Square made the most sense for our IHG© Rewards Club Stay.

If you don't know the reference, there's a classic movie with Bing Crosby called Holiday Inn. How could we not stay at a Holiday Inn during the holidays?

Rent the movie Holiday Inn, this Christmas and let me know if it gets you in the mood for all things St. Nick.

For deep discounts buy your New York City Pass.

With the city pass you save up to 70% on admission to New Yorks most famous attractions.

  • Get access to 80 New York attractions
  • Choose a 1-10 day package
  • Explore New York at your own pace
  • Receive discounts at shops, shows and restaurants
  • Skip-the line at many of the busiest attractions
  • Free use of Big Bus Hop-on Hop-off tours
christmas in new york holiday Inn room

Our room at the Holiday Inn Times Square

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.

That's what we love about the IHG brand: there's something to suit every budget or situation.

The Holiday Inn is definitely the more affordable of the two properties and is only a couple of blocks farther out of Times Square, which makes it an excellent choice for the family.

The rooms at the Holiday Inn were upscale and well appointed.

Even though our room was a bit small, it had all the amenities we needed and a fantastic view of Manhattan.

Christmas in New York our view

Our View of Manhattan during our Christmas in New York

Once we checked in, we were back outside on the town.

That's something we like to point out about New York - you are not going to be spending a lot of time in your room. The best thing to think about when booking a hotel is the location and affordability.

You are, after all, in the city that never sleeps!

10 Fun Things to do in New York City at Christmas

Bundle up with your favourite hat, scarf, and mittens.

Pack your comfortable and warm winter boots, and get ready to explore our Christmas in New York.

#1. The Rockettes Christmas Extravaganza

When putting the question out on Facebook as to whether or not we should see the Rockettes, I was sure my New York friends were going to tell me I was nuts.

Christmas in New York Rockettes

Radio City Music Hall - A dream come true

It turned out that everyone said "Go see the Rockettes!"

rockettes in new york city at christmas

Rockettes Christmas Show

It's a New York City institution dating back to 1932. If you are going to catch a show during the holidays, this is the one to see.

Book your night at Radio City Music Hall with Get Your Guide a great place for guides, tickets and tours.

christmas in new york rockettes show

More than just dancing, there's singing, skating and more!

I was expecting to see 90 minutes of women kicking their legs high in the air Chorus Line style, but there's a ton of thought that goes into the show.

Christmas in New York at the holidays

Rockettes in the Christmas Spirit

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.

#2 The Nutcracker

Christmas in New York the nutcracker

See the Nutcracker at the Lincoln Center

If you want to see another Christmas Show, the Nutcracker is performed by the New York City Ballet at the Lincoln Centre.

I have seen so many shows on TV starting with the Lincoln Centre that I felt giddy stepping foot on the complex.

Christmas in New York Lincoln Center

So many things to see at the Lincoln Center

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.

#3 Christmas Markets

new york christmas markets

Visit the many Christmas Markets

You can't have a proper Christmas in New York without visiting the Christmas Markets. 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.

Christmas in New York Markets

Christmas Market Columbus Circle

New York City has markets all over town from uptown to downtown.

christmas markets in new york city

Union Square Christmas Markets

We visited several holiday markets from the indoor market at Grand Central Station (a New York City tourist attraction unto itself) to the lovely stalls at Union Square, Columbus Circle.

And our personal favourite, Bryant Park.

#4 Bryant Park

Why was Bryant Park our favourite? Well, for one, you can skate here for free!

Christmas in New York Skating Rink

Free Skating Rink at Bryant Park

Bring your hockey or figure skates along and you can go skating at Bryant Park. If you don't have your own skates, rentals are $20.

Christmas in New York shopping Bryant Park

Christmas Markets at Bryant Park

The arena is surrounded by Christmas stalls selling ornaments, arts and crafts, and of course, apple cider to keep you warm.

christmas tree in new york

Bryant Park Christmas Tree

There's a great Christmas tree here as well, which we actually enjoyed more than the tree at the Rockefeller Centre.

#5 The Tree At Rockefeller Center

Crowds are out of this world at Rockefeller Center because everyone's trying to grab a photograph in front of the Christmas tree.

Christmas Tree at New York's Rockefeller Center

Rockefeller Tree decorated for Christmas in New York

If you go in the morning or later at night, they will die down a bit and you can see the lights displayed on the tree overlooking the famous skating rink.

Christmas in New York Rockefeller Center

Rockefeller Center ornaments

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 and to pop into the Rockefeller Center to use the free public washrooms, have a seat, and warm up with a cup of coffee in the concourse.

Book your tickets to the Top of the Rock to visit the Rockefeller Center

Plus, you can take a walk through the halls and maybe see Jimmy Fallon or someone famous that works at 30 Rock.

#6 Saks Fifth Avenue Light Show

New York City is known for its holiday window displays but Saks Fifth Avenue takes the holiday spirit to new heights.

saks fifth avenue Christmas in New York

Light Show at Saks Fifth Avenue

If you time it right, you could be standing at the viewpoint of the Warner Brother's Tree at Rockefeller Center to watch the show.

saks Christmas in New York

Stop to watch the light show choreographed to music at Saks

If you do a complete 180-degree turn from the rink, you'll see 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.

#7 Window Displays

Speaking of Saks, the best way to check out the New York window displays is to walk down Fifth Avenue from Central Park.

Christmas in New York City Window Displays

Window Displays are amazing in New York at Christmas

All the storefronts are decorated to the nines. We have heard that there are lineups for Saks to see their displays.

We didn't stand in line ourselves. Instead, we made our way to Macy's to check out their adorable Christmas window displays.

christmas in new york city ornaments

Ornaments near Times Square

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.

Tour the Christmas Lights at Dyker Heights - We didn't do this, but our native New York friends say it's an amazing display.

#8 Central Park

There is nothing more romantic than strolling through Central Park during the holidays.

There's a skating rink in the park where you can strap on a pair of skates, but Dave and I chose not to since it is owned by Donald Trump.

central park New York city at Christmas

Central Park in New York City at Christmas

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

nyc christmas horses and carriage

Do the research before you take that carriage ride

We have heard that the horses are kept in tiny stalls. They don't get to go out to pasture and they have to stand on concrete 24 hours a day.

But we have also heard that the 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.

This quote from animal right's activist Jane Velez-Mitchell made us think twice and forego the horse and buggy and instead explore by foot. “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,” says, The NYSVMS has 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.”

#9 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.

tavern on the green New York at Christmas

Tavern on the Green - the most romantic Christmas stop

But we made the mistake of not making reservations, and 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.

Tavern on the Green New York City at Christmas

This is a romantic destination and the setting is beautiful, but do yourself a favour 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.

Don't make the mistake we made.

Book your reservations for Tavern on the Green with this exclusive tour from Get Your Guide. 

#10 A View from Brooklyn

There are many places to get a great view of the New York City skyline, but our favourite 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.

Christmas in New York the Skyline

Christmas in New York: New York City Skyline

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.

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.

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.

Our New York City Christmas was made possible by IHG© Rewards Club. To learn more visit the IHG© Rewards website. This post is in partnership with IHG Rewards, but as usual, all views of our experience are our own.

Read More:

6 Tips to make the most of your New York City Photography

3 Perfect Hotels in Times Square for all your budgets

The Very Best Things to do in Brooklyn

 Intercontinental Times Square 

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