Last Updated on December 5, 2023
There’s no doubt about it: New York City is one of the most popular destinations in the entire world for a Christmas trip! The Big Apple is just magical in December, when the Christmas decorations light up the streets, the windows of the department stores look festive, Christmas bars pop up all over town, Holiday markets and ice rinks are open and the Rockettes perform their annual Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Hall. There are so many Christmas activities in New York City that it is almost impossible not to get into the Holiday spirit!
To help you hit up as many Christmas-themed events as possible, I put together a comprehensive list of all the things that you can do in NYC in December to put a little jingle bell in your step or make you hum a Christmas tune while walking down Fifth Avenue. Read on for all the free things to do in NYC to get you excited for the Holidays, ranging from the best holiday windows, Christmas markets, and decorated houses you can visit. If you want to spend some money, there is ice skating on several ice rinks, there are Holiday-themed bars and rooftop bars, Christmas pop-ups, tree-lightening ceremonies and Christmas-themed tours in NYC.
The Ultimate Guide to Christmas in New York City
The best Christmas-themed bars and restaurants
Rolf’s is a German restaurant in Gramercy (Manhattan) that is known for its insane Christmas decorations. Reservations are essential, or you’ll wait 60 – 90 minutes in line.
- Address: 281 Third Avenue, Manhattan
- Opening Hours: Noon – 10pm daily
Miracle on 9th
A Christmas-themed pop-up bar in Manhattan’s East Village. They serve delicious seasonal cocktails in festive cups.
- Address: 649 E 9th St
- Opening Hours: Monday – Thursday: 4pm-1am; Friday & Saturday: 2pm-1am; Sunday 2pm-midnight
- Reservations necessary.
Lillie’s Victorian Establishment
Lillie’s is a fabulous bar & restaurant known for their extravagant seasonal ornaments – there’s no way you will NOT get feel cheerful here! There are two locations in Manhattan, one near Times Square and one near Union Square. In addition to the magnificent decorations, several unique Christmas-themed cocktails have been added to the menu.
- Address: Lillie’s Times Square: 249 West 49th Street; Lillie’s Union Square: 13 East 17th Street
- Opening Times:
- Times Square: Monday 4pm-1am; Tuesday – Thursday: noon-3pm and 4pm-1am. Friday: 12-3pm and 4pm-2am; Saturdays and Sundays 10.30am-3pm for brunch; 4pm-1pm
- Union Square: Monday – Wednesday: 4pm-1am; Thursdays and Fridays: 4pm-1am; Saturday: 11.30am-2am; Sunday: 11.30am-1am
Grinchy’s at Roberta’s
Iconic Brooklyn pizzeria Roberta’s in Bushwick turned its tiki bar into a Christmas-themed wonderland named Grinchy’s. Worth the trip if you love Neapolitan-style artisan pizza.
- Address: 6 Grand St, Brooklyn
- Opening Hours: Sunday – Thursday: 12pm-10pm; Friday & Saturday: 12pm-11pm
- Reservations only for parties over 10 people.
Miracle on Union
Known as Thief for the rest of the year, this bar turns itself into a fabulous winter wonderland every December. No reservations necessary.
- Address: 595 Union Ave, Brooklyn
- Opening Hours: Monday – Wednesday 5pm- 2am; Thursday & Friday 3pm-2am; Saturday & Sunday 12pm-2pm.
Loreley is tranforming from a German beer garden into a Winter Wonderland from 16 November 2023 – 7 January 2023. This German restaurant on the Lower East Side has not only delightful Christmas decorations, but also tasty German beers and specialties such as sausage platters and of course soft pretzels. And if beer’s not your thing: there are a number of special winter cocktails, including spiked eggnog, gluhwein, boozy hot chocolate and hot bourbon apple cider. Reservations recommended, especially on weekends and around the holidays.
- Address: 7 Rivington Street, Manhattan
- Opening Hours: Monday & Tuesday: 5pm-midnight; Wednesday: 5pm-1am; Thursday: 5pm-2am; Friday & Saturday: Noon-4am; Sunday: Noon-midnight.
This bar, which pays homage one of the most prolific writers of the 19th century, has been around since 1933 and feels like a bar from a bygone era – Victorian décor, high ceilings, a plethora of oil paintings and clocks adorning the walls, and it also has New York City’s longest bar at 118.5 feet (36 meters!). For the Holidays, it adds dazzling Christmas decorations and makes this an essential stop on any NYC Christmas bar crawl.
- Address: 45 West 27th Street, NoMad, Manhattan
- Opening Hours: Monday – Wednesday: 4pm-1am; Thursday & Friday: 4pm-2am; Saturday 11am-2am; Sunday 11am-1am
The Santa Clauses’ Winter Wonderland @ Pier 15
The Watermark Restaurant at Pier 15 is stunning was transformed into a Winter Wonderland with a giant snow globe, Santa’s Sleigh, Santa’s Workshop and a Gingerbread Bar. Cocktails and food can be purchased, and there’s an enclosed waterfront cocktail chalet. There are also heated glasses houses.
- Address: 78 South Street Pier 15
- Tip: There’s off-peak pricing Monday – Thursday, and from Monday to Friday, there are Happy Hour Specials (4pm – 6pm).
- Tickets: Starting at $25 (includes a cup of hot cocoa), Premium Express Entry $30 (includes a pair of hand warmers & a souvenir Santa hat). Purchase tickets here.
- Meet Santa! Santa will be visiting every Friday through Sunday in December.
Holly Jolly Holiday Bar at Mad Morton
This holiday pop-up bar charges $27 admission, which includes a holiday-themed cocktail. They also have a Boozy Christmas Brunch (starting at $49, including an entrée and a holiday cocktail, and the option to upgrade to bottomless mimosa with your brunch).
- Tip: On Fridays and Saturdays at 11pm, admission is $15 (including a welcome shot).
- Address: 47 7th Ave, West Village, Manhattan
- Opening Hours: 11th November 2022 – 8th January 2023. Wednesday through Sunday. Several sittings per night: 5pm-6.30pm; 5.30pm-7pm, 7pm-8.30pm, 7.30pm-9pm; 9pm – 10.30pm.
- Reservations can be made here.
Frosty’s Restaurant and Bar is New York’s biggest Christmas pop-up, right around the corner from Times Square. Frosty’s has taken over Bacall’s & Blue Midtown and transformed their restaurant and bar specas across four bars and three levels into the ultimate Christmas Experience. There are seasonal cocktails, photo opps, live music and food.
- Note: This is a 21+ Experience.
- Tickets: General admission starts at $30 – prices vary depending on time of the day and weekday / weekend. Up to $60 per ticket. Buy tickets here.
- Address: 220 West 44th Street, Manhattan
- Opening Hours: 1 – 31 December 2023. Open daily from 4pm – midnight.
Christmas Rooftops in NYC
Magic Hour is a gorgeous rooftop (on the 18th floor) year-round, but in December, the decorations are changed to make the bar look like a “Pink Winter Lodge – Neon Frost Edition”. Expect hanging snowy branches, a sparkling white gondola, a winter white fireplace flocked with icy garland, a frosted white Christmas tree – all set to the backdrop of the Empire State building. There’s also a winter-themed cocktail and food menu. Reservations are essential.
- Opening hours: Monday – Wednesday 3pm-midnight; Thursday 3pm-2am; Friday 3pm-4am; Saturday 11.30am-4am; Sunday 11.30am-midnight. There’s a Sunday brunch from 11.30am-3.30pm.
- Address: 485 7th Ave (Midtown Manhattan)
230 Fifth’s Rooftop Igloo Bar
230 Fifth, named after its address on Fifth Avenue, is another rooftop bar with splendid views of the Empire State Building, and every winter, it transforms itself into an igloo village with wood cabins and see-through domes (which are heated). There are several seasonal hot drinks on the menu, like a Mint Boozy Hot Chocolate, a Pumpkin Pie Hot Chocolate (with pumpkin liqueur) and mulled wine.
- Note: If your party is bigger than six people, it’s recommended to make a reservation. Reservations are also needed for the Bottomless Brunch (Saturdays and Sundays from 11am – 4pm $45 for an entrée, bottomless champagne and coffee). They also have a $49 prix fixe dinner (reservations necessary).
- Opening hours: Monday – Thursday: 2pm-2am; Friday: 2pm-4am; Saturday: 11am-4am; Sunday 11am-2am
- Address: 230 Fifth Avenue, Manhattan
Ophelia Lounge, atop the historic Beekman Tower in Midtown East, close to the East River, is another stunning rooftop bar that transforms into a winter-themed cocktail lounge. Ophelia is less opulent than Magic Hour (the theme is “snow globe in the sky”) but the winter cocktails and the views make it a great place for a couple of holiday drinks. I recommend the Polaris Express with two different types of rum, Kalani, cinnamon, homemade horchata and vanilla. Yum!
- Opening Hours: Sunday – Wednesday: 5pm-11pm, Thursday: 5pm-midnight, Friday & Saturday: 5pm-2am
- Address: The Beekman Tower, 3 Mitchell Place, Manhattan
A Holiday-themed NYC Observatory
The highest indoor observatory in New York City, One World Observatory offers better panoramic vistas over NYC than any of the rooftop bars – and the best thing is, that while this is not a bar per se, you can still enjoy a glass of bubbly with these breathtaking views! Since One World Observatory is much further south than the Empire State Building, the Edge and the other observation decks, it offers a unique bird’s eye view over the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty and the Bay Of New York.
For Christmas, One World Observatory created ONEDERLAND, a magical mountaintop-inspired experience with cheer-filled moments at every turn. ONEDERLAND happens between 21st November 2022 and 7th January 2023.
Standard Tickets start at $43 ($37 for children 6-12, free for kids 5 and under). VIP Tickets start at $53 ($47 for children 6-12). They include PRIORITY ACCESS for admission, a Holiday postcard pack, and a few other perks.
Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremonies in New York City
The most famous tree lighting ceremony is obviously the Rockefeller Tree Lighting, which is even televised nationwide and has celebrity guests, but did you know that there are a bunch of other tree lighting ceremonies around town that are worth visiting?
Here are all of NYC’s tree lighting ceremonies in 2022
- 28 November, 6pm-7pm: South Street Sea Port Christmas Tree
- 28 November, 6pm: Bryant Park Christmas Tree
- 29 November, 2pm-6pm: New York Stock Exchange Christmas Tree
- 29 November, 7pm-10pm: Rockefeller Christmas Tree
- 30 November, 5.30pm-7.30pm: Central Park Holiday Lights at the Harlem Meer
- 7 December, 4-7pm: Dumbo Christmas Tree (Pearl Street, right on the waterfront)
- 6 December, 4.30pm – 6pm: Madison Square Park Christmas Tree
- 6 December, 6pm-7pm: Washington Square Park Christmas Tree
- 10 December, 4pm – 5pm: Tompkins Square Park Christmas Tree
The best Christmas Decorations in New York City
The area around the Rockefeller Center has some fantastic Christmas decorations. Use this address as a starting point: 1221 Sixth Avenue between 48th and 49th Streets, or 1260 Sixth Avenue between 50th and 51st Streets
The Fountain in front of the Plaza Hotel
Right across from The Plaza Hotel and southeastern corner of Central Park, Pulitzer Fountain is decorated for the Holidays. Go out night for the full effect.
Upper East Side
- There is a beautifully decorated townhouse on East 76th Street between Madison and Fifth Avenue
- East 73rd Street between 2nd and 3rd Ave has lovely Holiday lights wrapped around the trees
Brooklyn’s Dyker Heights neighborhood
This neighborhood in South Brooklyn is known for their over-the-top decorated houses, which are well worth the 75-minute trip from Midtown Manhattan (by subway). The decorations are mainly between 83rd and 86th Streets, between 11th and 13th Avenue. Expect to spend about two hours walking around the neighborhood to take in all the Holiday lights.
How to get there: It takes about an hour to get to Dyker Heights from Midtown Manhattan. Take the R to 86th Street. From there, you can walk to the Christmas Lights (about 15 minutes) or take the B1 bus for 5 stops (6 minutes) and get off at 86th Street and 11th Ave. Alternatively, you can take the D to 79th Street and walk over to 83rd and 13th Street from there (about 15 mins).
Tip: There are also guided tours to Dyker Heights, if you don’t want to figure out public transportation in NYC. Scroll down to “Christmas-themed Tours in NYC” for more information.
Note: It gets very crowded on weekends in Dyker Heights. If you want less people, go on a weekday, later in the evening. You can combine it with a dinner in Bay Ridge, for example at the old-school Chadwick (8822 3rd Ave), the fantastic Palestinian restaurant Ayat (8504 3rd Avenue), brick-oven pizza at Mancini’s (8504 5th Ave) or American bistro dishes at Cebu (8801 3rd Ave. This article has more recommendations for places to check out in Dyker Heights beyond the Christmas Lights.
Zuccotti Park, the Oculus & the Stock Exchange Christmas Tree
If you’re planning to visit Wall Street and the Financial District, there are several good Christmas photo spots. Zuccotti Park is beautiful to see at night, when the trees and holiday lights are turned on. There’s also the Liberty Street Holiday Pop Up with several vendors selling artisan gifts, and the Christmas Tree in front of the New York Stock Exchange is only a 4-minute walk away. Also just a short walk (3 minutes) away is the Oculus, beautifully decorated for the Holidays and with an indoor Holiday Market (open from 25th November 2022 – 2nd January 2023; Monday to Saturday: 10am – 8pm; Sunday: 11am – 7pm)
The Best Holiday Markets in New York City
Bryant Park Holiday Shops
170 artisanal vendors will make it easy for you to find a gift or two!
- Market Dates / Opening Times: 28th October 2022 – 2nd January 2023. Monday – Friday: 11am – 8pm, Saturday and Sunday: 10am – 8pm.
- Closest subway station: Bryant Park 42 Street. Subway lines: B, D, F, M
Union Square Holiday Market
A popular Holiday market with 185 vendors in Union Square
- Market Dates / Opening Hours: 16th November – 24th December 2023. Monday – Friday: 11am – 8pm, Saturdays: 10am – 8pm, Sundays: 11am – 7pm. Closed on Thanksgiving Day.
- Closest subway station: 14th Street / Union Square. Subway lines: L, N, Q, R, W, 4, 5, 6
Columbus Circle Holiday Market
At this market you can find art, jewelry, home goods and delicious food from independent vendors and small businesses.
- Market Dates / Opening Hours: 28th November – 31st December 2022. Monday – Friday: 11am – 8pm. Saturday: 10am – 8pm. Sunday: 11am – 7pm
- Closest subway station: Columbus Circle / 59th Street. Subway lines: A, C, B, D, 1
Grand Central Holiday Fair
Since the Holiday Fair at Grand Central Terminal is indoors, it’s a great place to browse the shops on a rainy or super cold day. The market takes place in the Vanderbilt Hall wing of Grand Central Terminal.
- Market Dates / Opening Hours: 13th November – 24th December 2023. Monday – Saturday 10am – 7pm; Sunday 11am – 6pm
- Closest Subway Station: Grand Central 42nd Street. Subway lines: S, 4, 5, 6, 7
Christmas Shows in New York City
Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes
See New York City’s most iconic Christmas Show at Radio City Music Hall: the Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes. The legendary group dance started performing in NYC in 1932 and there’s nothing quite like this mesmerizing performance. There are up to five performances a day, and the last show is on 4th January.
Tickets start at a $52 for the cheapest seats, but you can also splurge on front row seats for $392.
For the entire Holiday Season, The Nutcracker will take you into a marvelous land of twirling snowflakes, candy canes, and so much more! 90 dancers, 62 musicians, 40 stagehands and over 125 children join for each show, making it one of the most complex ballet performances. This production, along with Tchaikovsky’s magnificent score, will leave you in awe for sure.
Tickets start at $95.
A Christmas Carol
From London’s West End to New York’s Broadway: Charles Dickens’ timeless tale of Ebenezer Scrooge is now on Broadway for a limited time! Performances every evening through 1 January.
Pop-Up Holiday Experiences in New York City
Amaze Light Festival
The Amaze Light Festival is a fully immersive holiday light show, with live characters and hundreds of lighted Christmas decorations. There’s also a toboggan hill and a train ride, a holiday market shopping area and a candy store. Beverage and food stalls onsite.
New York Botanical Garden’s Holiday Train Show & GLOW Light Experience
The Holiday Train Show has wowed visitors for over 30 years now! The model trains that whiz through 190 model replicas over New York City landmarks are a delight for grown-up and children alike. In addition to the trains, you can visit NYBG Glow, the largest holiday light experience in New York City, illuminating the Botanical Gardens. Tip: If you’re not interested in the model trains, you can also purchase tickets just for NYBG Glow. There are also special events throughout the season – check the calendar for that.
- Tickets: $35 for the Holiday Train Show All-Garden Pass ($20 children under 12); $54 Holiday Train Show + GLOW ($39 for children under 12); $39 for just the NYBG Glow light experience ($24 children). Children under 2 visit for free.
- Address: 2900 Southern Boulevard, Bronx
- Opening hours: Tuesdays – Sundays 10am – 6pm. On 24 December the NYBG closes at 3pm. On 25 December, the NYBG is closed.
- NYBG Glow takes place between 5pm and 10pm, on select dates from 18 November 2022 – 14 January 2023: 18/19 November, 23, 25 & 26 November, 2/3 December; 9, 10, 11 December, 15, 16 ,17 December, 22 / 23 December; 26, 27, 28, 29, 30 December 2022; 1, 7, 14 January 2023.
Santa’s Secret Immersive Holiday Experience
This event combines winter wonderland and a Christmas-themed speakeasy. The bar offers Christmas-themed cocktails, there’s live music, and there are dazzling acts, cabaret-style! It is a 2-hour Experience.
- Note: This Experience is 18+ (21+ to drink)
- Tickets can be purchased via this link, and start at $58
- Address: The Shops at Hudson Yards (5th Floor)
- Opening Hours: 27 November – 31 December 2022. Thursdays – Saturdays 6pm – 9pm, Sundays 4pm – 7pm. Closed December 21st, 25th and 28th
Tinseltown is another Christmas-themed pop-up – think elves, trees, Santa, tinsel, Christmas cocktails and Holiday music.
- Note: This Experience is 21+, however, family-friendly sessions are available for those under drinking age.
- Tickets: $22 (includes a themed welcome drink)
- Address: 594 Amsterdam Ave, Upper West Side, Manhattan
- Opening Hours: 30th November 2022 – 14th January 2023. Wednesdays through Sundays. Time slots vary: 5.30pm – 7pm, 7.30pm – 9pm, 9.30pm – 11pm
- Buy tickets here
NYC Winter Lantern Festival: Illuminate The Farm
The Lantern Festival at the Queens County Farm Museum is an incredible display of shiny, sparkling lights and handmade lanterns that will wow grown-ups and kids alike! Of course, there are plenty of photo opps, rideable swings, illuminated tunnels, and there’s food for sale, too.
- Tickets: $26.99 per adult / $17.99 per kid. Buy tickets here.
- Address: Queens Country Farm Museum, 73-50 Little Neck Parkway, Queens (about 75 mins by subway and bus from Manhattan; car takes about the same time, depending on traffic)
- Opening Hours: 11th December 2022 – 8th January 2023. 5pm – 9pm. Fridays through Sundays
The Best Ice Rinks in NYC
Ice skating is one of my personal favorites when it comes to Christmas activities in New York City! Most people want to ice skate in front of the iconic Rockefeller Christmas Tree, but I personally find that ice rink to be very small (and crowded) and prefer other ice rinks. Here are the best ice rinks in New York City, and how much they cost:
Rockefeller Ice Rink, Midtown Manhattan
The Rockefeller Ice Rink is NYC’s most famed Christmas ice rink, and for many people a must-do Christmas activity in New York City. Because it is so popular, I recommend making your reservation early – especially if you’re visiting on a weekend.
- Opening hours: 5th November 2022 – March 2023. Daily 7am – midnight.
- Costs: Prices vary depending on what time of day you visit, and weekday or weekend. $51 per hour / $25 children 5 and under (peak) / / $38 per hour / $19 children 5 and under (offpeak before 9am). The highest tier pricing is $65 per hour. Skate rental is an additional $11. A $57 peak ticket plus skate rentals will cost you $68.
- Tip: In January, after the Holidays, it is easier to find tickets in the $21 – $28 range.
- Tickets: Reserve your tickets here
Wollman Ice Rink, Central Park, Manhattan
The Wollman Ice Rink is another well-known ice rink – made famous through its appearance in Home Alone 2. Ice skating in Central Park is one of the most “New York” things to do during the Holidays, and the backdrop of the Manhattan skyscrapers is striking! Make your reservation early, because slots at this iconic ice rink do fill up.
- Opening hours: The Wollman Ice Rink is open from 24 October 2022 – 15 March 2023. Mondays & Tuesdays: 10am – 2.30pm; Wednesdays & Thursdays: 10am – 9pm; Fridays & Saturdays: 10am – 9pm
- Cost: $25 (off-peak) / $35 (peak) for adults, $10 for kids 12 and under; plus $10 for the skate rental. That means that the total price for skate rental and admission during peak hours is $45.
- Tickets: Buy your tickets here
Bryant Park Ice Rink, Midtown Manhattan
The Bryant Park Ice Rink has a spectacular setting: surrounded by the imposing high rises and skyscrapers of Midtown Manhattan! What makes this ice rink stand out is that is completely free! You only have to pay for the skate rental (or bring your own). The Bryant Park Winter Village is the perfect place to warm up with a hot chocolate after your ice skating session.
- Cost: FREE! Skate rentals vary in pricing, depending on day & time of the rental. They range from $15 – $50. Make a reservation early and expect to pay around $21 in the mornings, $30 around noon, and $48 in the afternoon / evening.
- Opening Hours: The ice rink is open from 28th October 2022 till 5th March 2023. Mondays – Wednesdays: 8am – 10pm; Thursday – Sunday & Holidays: 8am – midnight
- Tickets: Reserve your tickets here. Note that even if you have your own skates, you’ll have to reserve a time slot.
Seaport Ice Rink, Downtown Manhattan
This ice rink is located in Downtown Manhattan, right on the East River (Pier 17). The ice rink used to be on the rooftop of Pier 17, but has been built on the ground floor between Pier 16 and Pier 17 this year. The great thing about it is that it is free – you only have to pay for the skate rental.
- Cost: FREE! Skate rentals are $23 on weekdays (Mondays – Thursdays) and $26 Fridays – Sundays.
- Opening Hours: Monday – Thursday: 3pm – 10pm; Friday: 12pm – 11pm; Saturday & Holidays: 10am – 11pm; Sunday: 10am – 10pm
- Tickets: Book your tickets here
Prospect Park Ice Rink, Brooklyn
If you want to check out an ice rink outside of Manhattan, the ice rink in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park is a solid choice. The outdoor ice rink is at LeFrak Center on the southeastern corner of the park (the closest subway stations are Prospect Park and Parkside Ave) and Prospect Park makes for a scenic backdrop. This ice rink is less busy than Central Park’s Wollman Rink, making for a more relaxed ice skating experience. It is also considerably cheaper!
- Cost: $11.19 for a 90-minute session; plus $11.19 for the skate rental, $16.47 on weekends (plus $11.19 for the skate rental) Bundles: $38.27 for the 4-person Family weekday admission; $24.99 for the 1-person Weekday Admission + Skate Rental + Hot Chocolate; $29.77 weekend admission + Skate Rental + Hot Chocolate; $91.98 for the 4-person family weekend admission including skate rental.
- LeFrak Center Ice Rink Hours: Daily from 9am to 7pm
- Tickets: Reserve your tickets here
The Vale Rooftop, Brooklyn
This is a tiny ice rink, and it’s not even real ice – it’s actually “glice” – but it’s set on a rooftop, and it has a terrific view over the Manhattan skyline, which is why I am including it in this list.
Note that this is not real ice!
- Cost: $20 + taxes (adults 13 and above); $12 + taxes for children 12 and below. The price includes the Glice skate rental and locker use.
- Hours: Wednesday – Friday: 2pm – 10pm; Saturday & Sunday: 12pm – 10pm
- Tickets: Buy tickets here
Free Christmas activities in New York City
Visit the Rockefeller Christmas Tree
The Rockefeller Christmas Tree is best enjoyed after 11pm, when the crowds aren’t as crazy. If you go in the early evening, expect mad crowds.
Note: The Christmas Tree is only lit up from 6pm till midnight. On Christmas Day, the Tree is lit for 24 hours.
Saks Fifth Avenue Holiday Light Show
Right across from the Christmas Tree on Fifth Avenue is the SAKS FIFTH AVENUE department store, where you can see the dazzling light show between 27th November and 3rd January 2023. The show takes place every 10 minutes between 5pm and 11pm and is 3 – 4 minutes long.
Admire the Holiday Windows
Don’t stop at Saks Fifth Avenue – stroll up and down Fifth Avenue to see many other festively decorated shops and windows. Must See’s include Cartier, Bergdorf Goodman, Louis Vitton, Harry Winston and Macy’s at Herald Square. Tip: Make sure to head to the top floor at Macy’s for the full Christmas experience! Bloomingdale’s in Midtown East (3rd Ave & 59th Street) also has superb Holiday windows. The Shops at Hudson Yards are also worth a visit – the luxury mall is glowing with thousands of twinkling lights!
Car-free Sundays on Fifth Avenue
To take in the famous tree and the Saks light show without any cars, head there on any Sunday in December (before Christmas) between noon and 6pm. Fifth Avenue is closed for cars between 48th and 57th Streets, a roughly ten-block stretch of New York’s most iconic shopping street.
Bryant Park Winter Village
It doesn’t get more “Christmas” than this: The Bryant Park Winter Village combines a beautiful Christmas tree, the ice rink, and the Holiday Market to get some gifts or for some “window shopping”. Grab a Hot Chocolate and watch the skaters – or join them! Ice skating here is free, you just have to pay for the skate rental (or bring your own.)
Stroll around the best-decorated shopping malls and markets
This is a great activity for the especially cold (or rainy!) days: wander around the shopping malls and markets of NYC, which are all decked out for the Holidays. Chelsea Market has great lights, Brookfield Place is stunning and has the below-mentioned Luminaries light show, the Shops At Columbus Circle look very festive and the Oculus has a holiday market in addition to the Christmas decorations.
The LUMINARIES Light Show at Brookfield Place
Luminaries is a display of 640 lanterns that change in color. The light show takes place daily, every hour, between 8am and 10pm. You can also illuminate your holiday wish by sending a motion-activated wish or conducting the canopy of glowing lanterns above.
Dyker Heights Holiday Decorations
The above-mentioned decorated homes in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, are a great free Christmas activity. The only cost you’ll have is the subway ticket ($2.75) to get to South Brooklyn (see above for directions). It is a bit of a trek to get there (over an hour on the subway, plus a 15 min walk into the neighborhood), but seeing the Dyker Heights lights is among my favorite Christmas activities in New York City. Scroll up to the “Best Christmas Decorations in New York City” section to find out how to get there and where to eat around Dyker Heights.
Go on a Christmas Tree Crawl
If you love walking, why not go on a “Christmas Tree” crawl around Manhattan? Start in the south of the island in the Financial District with the Christmas Trees in Zuccotti Park and at the New York Stock Exchange, head over to South Street Seaport from there, then walk up to Washington Square Park via Chinatown and SoHo. From Washington Square Park, walk up Fifth Avenue, which brings you to Madison Square Park, where you’ll find another exquisite Christmas Tree. Stay on Fifth Avenue, walk past Macy’s on 34th Street, and eventually you’ll arrive at the Rockefeller Christmas Tree – the grand finale of your Christmas Tree Crawl! This walk would take you around 2 hours without any stops.
The Best Christmas-Themed Tours in NYC
If you don’t want to figure out how to get to the best Christmas lights and the Rockefeller Christmas Tree, consider taking a Christmas-themed tour!
Manhattan Christmas Lights Tour – pay as you wish!
Free Tours by Foot offers a 2-hour Christmas Lights Tour every day at 7pm, and it is pay as you wish. The tour includes all the must-see holiday sights: the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, Saks Fifth Avenue, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Barneys, Bergdorf Goodman, Macy’s, Tiffany and Co., and more.
NYC Christmas Movies Walking Tour – pay as you wish!
Free Tours by Foot also offers a new 2-hour NYC Christmas Movies walking tour through Midtown Manhattan, showing you film locations of iconic Christmas movies such as Home Alone 2, Serendipity, Scrooged, Elf and Miracle on 34th Street. You’ll also walk past some of NYC’s most famous landmarks: Macy’s, Radio City Music Hall, the Plaza Hotel, Central Park’s Gapstow Bridge and the Wollman Ice Rink, and more. This tour runs three times a week: Sunday, Monday and Friday at 2pm.
Holiday Lights & Movie Sites Tour
On Location Tours offers a 2.5-hour bus tour that combines Holiday Lights and the sites of famous movies. The tour includes the Holiday windows at Bloomingdales, Bergdorf Goodman and Macy’s, the Rockefeller Christmas Tree, Central Park, and many movie locations that you’ll recognize from your favorite movies.
Tickets: $58 for adults / $32 children
4-Hour Dyker Heights Holiday Lights Bus Tour
This four-hour bus tour starts in Hell’s Kitchen, just a few blocks west of Times Square. There, you hop on a bus that brings you down to South Brooklyn where you can marvel at the famed holiday lights from the comfort of a bus. After a tour of the neighborhood, the bus brings you back to Manhattan. The tour ends at the Winter Village in Bryant Park, perfect for you to continue your holiday-themed NYC trip!
Tickets start at $55 – Book your ticket here
1.5-Hour Dyker Heights Christmas Lights Walking Tour
If you don’t mind organizing your trip to Dyker Heights yourself (60 – 75 minutes from Manhattan, $2.75 for a subway ticket), you can opt for a walking tour. The meeting point is near the closest subway station to Dyker Heights in South Brooklyn, and you’ll get to hear some interesting commentary while marveling at the most festive houses in all of New York City. You’ll learn about the story behind the Dyker Heights holiday lights, and learn about the unwritten code that everyone in the neighborhood follows religiously. Expect to walk about 2 miles (3 kilometers) on this tour.
Tickets start at $21 – Book your tickets here
NYC: Holiday Yacht Cruise with Jazz, Cocoa & Carols
Is there a more fabulous way to ring in the Holidays than on a 1920s style yacht, cruising around Manhattan and taking in the sights while sipping on a complimentary glass of champagne, listening to Christmas carols and enjoying the decorated boat? This cruise is 90 mins long and goes past the Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge, and lets you take in all of New York City’s sights from a unique angle. It includes Christmas cookies and one complimentary beverage.
The Most Festive Hotels to stay in during your Christmas Trip to NYC
If you’re looking to have the full “Christmas in New York” experience in addition to doing all the New York City Christmas activities, you’ll have to stay in a hotel that takes the festive season serious as you do!
The following hotels are known for their gorgeous Christmas decorations:
The Plaza Hotel
This is not just one of the most famous luxury hotels in NYC, but it’s also where Kevin stayed in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. Can it get more Christmas-y than that?!
Not only is the renowned Peninsula decked out for the Holidays, but they also have a couple of special Christmas Packages: The Night Before Christmas Package includes an in-room candy cane scavenger hunt, a gingerbread cookie decorating kit, an in-room Christmas tree (if you book a deluxe suite) and daily breakfast. The Holly Jolly Holiday Package includes a range of VIP holiday experiences in NYC, including a holiday window walking tour, admission to the Top Of The Rock, welcome drinks and a rooftop bar experience.
The Lotte Palace Hotel is known for its pretty Christmas tree and stunning courtyard decorations. It’s also very conveniently located between Park Ave and Madison Ave, just a couple of blocks from the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree and the shopping amenities of Fifth Avenue.
The Mark Hotel
The Mark Hotel is an opulent 5-star hotel on the Upper East Side, just a minute away from Central Park, and they take Christmas serious here. The decorations are spectacular, and they offer an aptly named “Holiday Penthouse Spectacular” which includes a private rendition of The Nutcracker or a private VIP visit to Bergdorf Goodman. There’s a customizable Holiday Wish List with Christmas activities that can be tailored to your needs and no costs will be spared to make your New York City Christmas dreams come true.