If you’re planning to celebrate Christmas in New York, you’re in for an unforgettable holiday experience. The city comes alive with beautiful Christmas decorations and cherished traditions that create an enchanting atmosphere. Throughout the month of December, New York exudes a heartwarming festive spirit, offering many joyful activities. From admiring the iconic Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center to gliding across the ice in Central Park, and exploring the extravagant holiday displays in Dyker Heights, your Christmas in New York promises to be truly magical.
Here’s your guide to the best ways to make the most of Christmas in New York. Let’s dive into the list!
1. See the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree
Witnessing the lighting of the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center is a classic New York Christmas experience. The tree lighting ceremony, often featuring performances by famous artists, is a must if you can make it. This year, mark your calendar for November 29, 2023, around 9:00 PM when the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree will shine in all its glory. Even if you can’t make it for the lighting, a visit to Rockefeller Center during the holidays is a visual treat, with the entire area covered in Christmas decor.
2. Visit Christmas Markets in New York
For a true taste of Christmas in New York, exploring the city’s Christmas markets is a must. Three of the best are found at Bryant Park, Columbus Circle, and Union Square. These markets kick off in November and remain open through Christmas. At these markets, you can shop for unique Christmas decorations, handcrafted goods, enjoy some holiday-season treats, and sip on a delicious hot chocolate. While shopping here isn’t always budget-friendly, the joy and holiday spirit make it worth going.
3. Go Ice Skating
Ice skating in Central Park
If you find yourself near Central Park, don’t miss the opportunity to glide across the ice at Wollman Rink. Ice skating in Central Park is a magical experience that’s been featured in countless holiday movies and TV shows. It’ll cost you around $15, with an extra fee for skate rentals.
Ice Skating in Bryant Park
Ice skating at Bryant Park is another fantastic way to immerse yourself in the Christmas spirit. It’s conveniently located right next to the Winter Village Christmas market, creating a perfect holiday atmosphere. Grab your friends or family, hit the ice, and cap off your visit with delicious food or some holiday shopping. Skating is free, but be sure to book your spot in advance, and skate rentals usually cost around $15.
Ice Skating at Rockefeller Center
One of the most iconic Christmas activities in New York City is ice skating beneath the dazzling lights of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. The ice rink is open from November to March and typically costs around $20, plus a fee for skate rental.
4. Eat at a Christmas-Themed Restaurant
To dine out during Christmas in New York, make early reservations, especially if you plan to visit a Christmas-themed restaurant. Rolfs, Tiny’s, Waverly Inn, One If By Land, and the Miracle pop-up bar are known for their festive decorations and delightful holiday ambiance.
5. See the Nutcracker at Lincoln Center
Don’t miss the chance to witness George Balanchine’s timeless classic, ‘The Nutcracker,’ performed by the New York City Ballet at Lincoln Center. The ballet runs from November to January, making it a perfect family activity for your New York Christmas experience.
6. See The Christmas Spectacular with the Rockettes
Indulge in the enchanting Christmas Spectacular with the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall. This iconic show has been a New York tradition since 1932. The dancing and dazzling performances will definitely get you in the holiday spirit.
7. Go Meet Santa at Macy’s
If you’re visiting New York with kids during Christmas, make a stop at Macy’s Santaland in Herald Square. Here, you can meet Santa, share your wish list, and enter a whimsical fantasy world spanning 1,200 square meters. The experience is free, but be sure to book in advance to secure a spot.
8. See the Saks Fifth Avenue Holiday Light Show
Immerse yourself in the wonder of the Saks Fifth Avenue Holiday Light Show, an amazing outdoor display with nearly 600,000 lights choreographed to classic Christmas tunes. The show typically runs from 5:00 PM to 11:00 PM every ten minutes. Don’t forget to explore the spectacular holiday-themed window displays well.
9. Walk Around Dyker Heights
Dyker Heights in Brooklyn is famous for its over-the-top Christmas decorations and dazzling displays of holiday lights. Residents have been participating in this tradition since the 1980s, and the competition for the most elaborate decorations is fierce. A visit to Dyker Heights in December is a jaw-dropping experience, with inflatable Santas, reindeers, and synchronized Christmas lights. You can normally find cocoa and food vendors around the blocks if you go on the weekend.
10. See Macy’s Window Displays
Macy’s in Herald Square is known for its beautiful window displays during Christmas. It’s a fantastic outdoor activity for families, as each window tells a unique holiday story set to music. If you’re keen on exploring more Christmas-themed window displays, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman are excellent options.
11. Experience Santa Con
SantaCon is a unique New York experience where people dress up as Santa Claus, reindeers, and other festive characters and take to the streets and bars of the city. This annual event usually occurs in mid-December.
12. Enjoy a Cup of Hot Chocolate
Take a break from the chilly weather by enjoying cup of hot chocolate at some of New York’s top spots:
- Employees Only, 510 Hudson St
- Jacques Torres Chocolate, multiple locations
- Lavazza Cafe in Eataly, 200 5th Ave
- MarieBelle, 484 Broome St
- Max Brenner, 841 Broadway
- Roni-Sue’s Chocolates, 148 Forsyth Stree
- Sant Ambroeus, multiple locations
- Serendipity + they have a cold version, 225 E 60th St
Common Questions About New York During Christmas
Can I eat out in New York during Christmas?
Yes, you can eat out during Christmas in New York, but be sure to make reservations well in advance, especially for restaurants with holiday themes like Rolfs.
Are stores open during Christmas in New York?
Most stores and department stores are closed on Christmas Day (December 25th), but they should be open as usual on other days.
When is the best time to visit New York during Christmas?
To experience the full magic of Christmas in New York, plan your visit for the month of December. The city’s holiday spirit is in full swing, and you’ll witness unforgettable celebrations.