What to do at new York at Christmas ? It’s a unique time to visit the Big Apple: trees laden with glittering balls, lights illuminating the cold nights, shop windows spreading magic… If you’re visiting us in November or December, grab your scarf and take note!
If you’re heading there in November or December, pack your scarf and take note: here are 50 things to do in New York this Christmas!
WHAT TO DO IN NEW YORK AT CHRISTMAS?
- Grab a hot cider at Bryant’s Winter Village Park. Hot apple cider is so good on a cold night, isn’t it? And if it is accompanied by a walk to the Christmas market and a skating session, it’s even better!
- Admire the origami tree at the Natural History Museum. For more than 40 years, the American Museum of Natural History has decorated its Christmas tree with a sea of origami ornaments.
- Go ice skating at Central Park’s Wollman Rink. There are fewer lines than at the classic Rockefeller Center ice rink, and you’ll skate under the incomparable gaze of the Manhattan skyline.
- Enjoy the showcases and screenings at Saks. The Saks department store, located on Fifth Avenue, surprises every year with magical window displays and a Christmas projection on its facade, which repeats itself every few minutes and can be seen from Rockefeller Center.
- Stroll through a miniature New York at the Botanical Gardens. One of the most popular traditions in New York at Christmas is the Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden, a model of the Big Apple traversed by model trains.
A good excuse to visit the Bronx on your own!
- Explore the Brooklyn Botanical Garden the night. As the sun sets, these beautiful gardens light up with a myriad of colors thanks to the Lightscape experience.
Walk through the New York Botanical Garden at night. The New York Botanical Garden also hosts a light show, the NYBG Glow, which invites you to stroll through the gardens at night.
- Be wowed by the illuminated tree at Rockefeller Center. If we had to pick just one thing to do in New York this Christmas, the most traditional would definitely be to see the Rockefeller Center tree and its twinkling lights next to the ice rink.
Although the place is packed, you are sure to forget all your worries when you see it! Here’s how to attend to the lighting.
- Attend the lighting of a Christmas tree. The most classic is that of the Rockefeller Center, but it is also the busiest. The good news is that there are many other lighting ceremonies: in Bryant Park, Washington Square, Lincoln Center?
- Pick your favorite and experience this New York tradition ! Here are the most famous of them.
Warm up with a hot chocolate. Amid the holiday madness and freezing temperatures, there’s nothing more comforting than a nice cup of hot chocolate.
Go in search of the best hot chocolate in New York at one of these cafes or order it at any holiday market.
- Admire the decorations at Hudson Yards. Thousands of lights and fir trees illuminate the area around the Vaisseau and continue inside the mall. Which, by the way, is also a great place to warm up on a chilly evening!
- Get into the Christmas spirit at Winter’s Eve in Lincoln Square. For one night, Winter’s Eve, New York’s biggest Christmas festival, takes over several Upper West Side streets with food, music and entertainment.
- Walk through Grand Central Terminal. This time of year, New York’s prettiest train station hosts an artisan market. Don’t forget to stop by the lobby, decorated with huge Christmas wreaths.
- Marvel at the homes of Dyker Heights. In the Brooklyn neighborhood of Dyker Heights, locals decorate their homes with the most exaggerated figures and lights imaginable – visiting them is one of the most fun things to do in New York at Christmas!
Here’s how to see the lights of Dyker Heights for yourself, or how to book a neighborhood tour in Spanish.
- Buy Christmas decorations at a flea market. Are you looking for an original souvenir from New York? At every Christmas market, you’ll find everything from classic baubles to bright and wacky ornaments.
- Lose yourself among the toys from FAO Schwarz. Famous toy store FAO Schwarz is once again spreading magic for little ones at its Rockefeller Center store. Come and play the BIG piano or buy a unique Christmas gift.
You can also visit these other New York toy stores.
- Experience The Nutcracker at New York City Ballet. Transport yourself to a world of ballerinas and toy soldiers with a performance of The Nutcracker, one of the Big Apple’s most beloved Christmas traditions.
- Grab a bite amid thousands of balls and lights at these restaurantss. While many New York restaurants are dressing up for Christmas, some are opting for wacky decorations, with baubles, lights and ornaments cluttering every nook and cranny.
Some of the most famous include the German restaurant Rolf, the Oscar Wilde pub and the Victorian restaurant Lillie.
- Go on a Christmas cruise – can you imagine watching the sunset and the skyline while sipping a hot drink or listening to jazz? Classic Harbor Line Christmas cruises are a unique New York Christmas experience.
You can view all “holiday cruises” here and here we tell you about our favorite cruises in New York.
- Make a wish in the form of confetti that will fly over Times Square. Make a wish. Ready ? Now write it on the Times Square website: they’ll print it out and cut it into confetti that will fly over the square during the iconic New Year’s Eve celebration.
- Dress up as Santa Claus and go from bar to bar at SantaCon. New York at Christmas also has a rogue side: on one day in December, thousands of people dress up and follow the SantaCon bar crawl. The result is a town full of (very) drunk Santas.
- Attend a screening of It’s a Wonderful Life at the IFC Center. If you want to immerse yourself in the holiday season, buy tickets to see It’s a Wonderful Life at the IFC Center in the Village. It takes place throughout the month of December.
- See the Union Square Flea Market seen from above. After strolling through the Union Square Christmas Market, here’s a little advice: if you go up to one of the shops on the upper floors on the south side of the square (like Whole Foods, Burlington…) and approach from the window you can see the market from above.
- Enter Gramercy Park the only night of the year when it is open to the public. Gramercy Park is private and only a few residents have a key. But, on the night of December 24, they open it to sing Christmas carols around the tree.
It gets crowded, but that’s the only time of year it’s open to everyone.
- Walk among the colorful lanterns of Staten Island. Hop on the Staten Island Ferry to witness New York’s Winter Lantern Festival, a display of lanterns and light sculptures that fills the night with magic. Here is our guide to Staten Island.
- Visit the North Pole without leaving Macy’s. At Christmas, Macy’s Department Store hosts Santaland, a North Pole village where you can meet Santa Claus himself. It’s free, but you need to reserve a time, and don’t miss the beautiful Christmas window displays outside the store!
- Check out the less traditional decorations of the Oculus. The Flea Market and the Oculus Station Tree and the World Trade Center Mall are striking with their modern, minimalist design.
- Enjoy the light fixtures at Brookfield Place. Near the Oculus, in the Brookfield Place shopping center, the Luminaires light installation awaits you.
Inside the building you can shelter from the cold and outside there is an ice skating rink – a good plan for your visit to the World Trade Center!
- Stroll through the lobby of the Plaza Hotel. Feel like the protagonist of Home Alone 2 in the lobby of the Plaza Hotel, which is adorned with a magnificent Christmas tree. And, if you’re on a budget, take afternoon tea in the beautiful Palm Court Lounge.
- Start the New Year with a run in Central Park. Want to start the year off with a run? Central Park hosts the Midnight Run, a 4-mile race that takes place at midnight on December 31.
- See the tree at the Palace Hotel. One of New York’s most beautiful Christmas trees is the one at the New York Lotte Palace Hotel, which sits outdoors and overlooks St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Rockefeller Center. You can also contemplate it daily by booking a room at the hotel.
- Buy and send Christmas cards – can you imagine opening your mailbox and finding a Christmas card sent from New York? Buy them at stationery stores like Papyrus, Paper Source, or Michaels and send them from any USPS office.
- Discover the largest gingerbread village in the world at the NYC Hall of Science. At the Queens Museum of Science, they decorate hundreds of gingerbread houses with candies and sweets. The result is Gingerbread Lane, the largest gingerbread village in the world.
Don’t go with a full stomach! Here’s when New York’s museums are free.
- Feel the rhythm of the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall. This troupe of dancers is the star of the Christmas Spectacular, the Christmas spectacle par excellence in New York. Believe us: they will amaze you!
- Have a cocktail at a Christmas bar. For a few weeks, a number of New York bars are transformed into Christmas scenes where you can sip a festive cocktail amid Christmas lights and carols. Start at Miracle on 9th St or Sippin’ Santa, but get there early to find a spot.
- End the year with hot chocolate in Prospect Park. If you want to escape the crowds of Times Square, a great plan for New Year’s Eve in New York is the more relaxed, family-friendly party in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park – hot chocolate included!
- Photograph the decorations on 6th Avenue. Few Christmas decorations attract as much attention as those on 6th Avenue: between the huge red baubles and the fir tree on the facade of Radio City Music Hall, you will find it difficult to put away your camera!
- Attend a concert by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. In December, the New York Philharmonic Orchestra organizes several Christmas concerts. Buy tickets and come to Lincoln Center for an unforgettable evening.
- Sing Christmas carols on Washington Square. At 5 p.m. on the night of December 24, hundreds of people gather under the famous arch in Washington Square to sing Christmas carols, known as Christmas caroling.
- Grab an ice cold hot chocolate at Serendipity III. Do as the stars of the Serendipity movie and grab a giant cup of chocolate and cream at the Serendipity III restaurant.
It’s a classic in New York at Christmas and it’s packed, so we recommend going when it opens.
- Marathon These New York Movies This Christmas. If you’re watching one Christmas movie after another around this time of year, get your popcorn ready for those movies and TV shows that take place in the city over the holiday season.
- Buy Christmas sweets in a supermarket. Gingerbread houses to decorate at home, candy cane cookies?
- Stop at supermarkets like Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s and buy the most typical Christmas temptations.
- Admire the tree and menorah at the New York Public Library. A visit to this magnificent library is a must at any time of year, but at Christmas, with the Jewish Hanukkah tree and chandelier lit, it’s even more magical.
- Start the New Year with a swim at Coney Island. No, we haven’t gone mad: On the first day of January, hundreds of people bathe in the Atlantic waters at Coney Island.
A good way to cure your hangover… but you can also attend as a spectator! website.
- Stroll through the Columbus Circle Christmas Market. Food and craft stalls congregate at one of the entrances to Central Park.
- Admire the decorations at The Shops at Columbus Circle. After grabbing a bite to eat at the Christmas Market, head to The Shops at Columbus Circle mall to admire the classic color-changing Christmas decorations.
- A toast on a winter roof. On some New York rooftops, blinds are not lowered in cold weather, but closed structures are installed so that you can have a drink without freezing to death.
- You’ll find plenty of them, like the Gallow Green, La Birreria at Eataly, 230 Fifth… Here are some other good rooftops in New York.
- Take a stroll through Chelsea Market. This covered market changes scenery with each season of the year. Shelter from the cold in the shops, admire the Christmas decorations and find a gift at the Artists & Fleas craft market.
- See the tree and nativity scene at the Metropolitan Museum. The Met tree, adorned with dozens of figures from an 18th century nativity scene, will transport you to a classic Christmas. One more reason to visit this wonderful museum.