I’ve spent three Christmases and New Year’s Eves in New York City and I’m about to spend my fourth there this year again.
I can’t describe it, but believe me, Christmas in New York is the most magical time to visit the city – without a doubt. Nowhere in the world comes close when it comes to Christmas.
You’ll feel like you’ve just stepped onto the set of Home Alone 2 (without the booby traps) or Elf when walking through the streets of New York in December.
Since I’ve been there (and lived there) during the holiday period, I thought I’d put a big list together of things to do in New York at Christmastime.
I’ll be vlogging my Christmas and New Year’s trip in New York again this year, but catch up on what I got up to in 2023 in my YouTube videos here and make sure to subscribe so you don’t miss the New York videos to come in January!
Related post: Five Things to do in New York at Christmas
1. Visit the Rockefeller Center
A visit to the Rockefeller Center during the holiday season is a quintessential New York City experience.
The annual lighting of the enormous Christmas tree is a grand spectacle that draws crowds from around the world. Skating on the ice rink beneath the beautifully illuminated tree is an iconic activity, allowing you to bask in the festive atmosphere.
The towering tree, adorned with thousands of sparkling lights, serves as a breathtaking backdrop for photos and creates an unforgettable holiday memory.
2. Window shopping
Stroll down Fifth Avenue to marvel at the elaborately decorated holiday window displays of renowned department stores. Stores like Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale’s, and Bergdorf Goodman go all out to create enchanting and artistic holiday scenes in their windows.
These displays are a creative blend of fashion, technology, and storytelling, making for a magical and free entertainment experience that captivates visitors of all ages.
3. Holiday markets
New York City’s holiday markets are the perfect place to find unique gifts and immerse yourself in the festive spirit.
Bryant Park’s Winter Village is a charming destination with boutique-style shops, an ice-skating rink, and a cozy atmosphere.
The Union Square Holiday Market is another favorite, offering a wide array of handcrafted goods, gourmet foods, and a vibrant holiday buzz.
4. See a holiday show
New York City is renowned for its entertainment, and during the holiday season, it offers a plethora of special shows to get you in the festive mood.
Enjoy a holiday-themed Broadway show for a memorable theatre experience. Alternatively, watch a performance of “The Nutcracker” at the New York City Ballet for a timeless and elegant holiday tradition that combines artistry and storytelling in a breathtaking way.
5. Dyker Heights lights
For a truly unique and magical holiday experience, venture to Dyker Heights in Brooklyn. This neighborhood is famous for its extravagant and over-the-top Christmas decorations.
Homes in Dyker Heights are adorned with elaborate light displays, towering inflatable characters, and themed decorations, transforming the streets into a winter wonderland.
Walking or driving through this neighbourhood is a delightful way to see the spirit of Christmas taken to a whole new level.
6. Hot chocolate tour
To keep warm and savour the holiday season, embark on a hot chocolate tour through the city. Visit the best chocolatiers, cafes, and dessert shops to sample a variety of hot chocolate concoctions.
From classic European-style hot chocolate to innovative and decadent variations, this tour provides a sweet and warming adventure as you explore the city’s diverse culinary offerings.
7. Holiday lights bus tour
Take a guided bus tour through the city to see the most spectacular holiday light displays and decorations. You’ll be whisked through neighbourhoods like Dyker Heights and Midtown Manhattan, where you can witness the city’s stunning transformation into a winter wonderland.
Expert guides share insights into the history and traditions of New York’s holiday lights, making for an informative and enchanting tour.
8. Ice skating
Enjoy ice skating in the heart of New York City by choosing one of the many ice rinks scattered throughout the city.
Locations like Central Park, Bryant Park, and The Rink at Rockefeller Center provide enchanting settings for this quintessential winter activity, allowing you to glide across the ice amidst the city’s beautiful holiday decorations.
9. Holiday art installations
New York City hosts various holiday-themed art installations that are both visually stunning and culturally enriching.
The Luminaries at Brookfield Place is a mesmerising light installation that combines art with interactive elements. The New York Botanical Garden’s Holiday Train Show features intricate model trains traveling through a miniature New York City surrounded by live plants.
These artistic experiences provide a unique blend of entertainment and culture, allowing you to engage with the city’s creative side.
10. New Year’s Eve in Times Square
If your visit extends into New Year’s, consider being part of the iconic Times Square ball drop. While it’s one of the busiest and most iconic New Year’s celebrations in the world, being part of this grand event is an unforgettable experience.
Arrive early to secure a good spot, enjoy the live music and entertainment, and join the excitement of the world-famous countdown as you welcome the new year with a sense of camaraderie and anticipation.