Christmas in New York: The Best Things to Do in NYC for the Holidays

Christmas in New York

Experiencing Christmas in New York City is truly incomparable! The festive season transforms the city into a magical wonderland, brimming with holiday spirit that everyone should witness at least once.

However, it’s crucial to recognize that the holiday season in New York City is the most bustling and costly of the year. Remember this as you plan your Christmas celebration in the Big Apple.

Optimal Timing for a Christmas Visit to New York City

Choosing the earliest possible dates for your visit is advisable to sidestep the bustling crowds during the holiday season in NYC. Aim for early December, and if you plan to explore nighttime attractions, arrive just before sundown to secure a prime spot. Weekends tend to be significantly busier, so plan your visit on weekdays to enjoy a more relaxed experience!

Top Christmas Activities in New York City

If you’re eager to embrace the holiday spirit in NYC, I’ve covered you with the ultimate list of Christmas activities to enjoy in New York City throughout December!


The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is one of New York City’s most iconic Christmas symbols. Soaring over 80 feet above Rockefeller Center, it dazzles with a brilliant display of lights and ornaments, casting a festive glow over the lively streets below. While you’re there, indulge in the enchantment of ice skating at the renowned Rockefeller Center rink, explore nearby holiday markets, or ascend to The Top of The Rock (the summit of the Rockefeller Center Tower) for panoramic views of the city skyline – a truly unforgettable experience and among the best activities to enjoy in NYC!


For those unfazed by crowds, the annual tree-lighting ceremony is a beautiful tradition to be noticed. Taking place on the first Wednesday after Thanksgiving, the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony remains a captivating spectacle for about a month.

Ice skating in New York City

Ice skating in New York City during Christmas is a quintessential winter activity that enhances the festive ambiance of the holiday season. The city boasts several iconic ice skating rinks, each offering a unique and enchanting experience:

  • The Rink at Rockefeller Center: Arguably the most famous ice skating rink globally, It is situated beneath the majestic Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center. Skating here provides an unmatched view of the city’s surrounding holiday decorations and skyline.
  • Wollman Rink in Central Park: Skating in Central Park is a magical experience, particularly during Christmastime when the park often wears a light dusting of snow. Wollman Rink offers a picturesque setting with views of the park’s trees and landmarks.
  • Lasker Rink in Central Park: Another Central Park option, Lasker Rink, is less crowded than Wollman Rink, providing a quieter and more intimate skating experience.
  • Bryant Park Winter Village: The ice skating rink at Bryant Park’s Winter Village offers free skating if you bring your skates (rental prices are relatively high). After skating, warm up with hot cocoa and explore the nearby holiday market shops and vendors.
  • Winterland at Pier 17: This rooftop rink at South Street Seaport offers picturesque views of the Brooklyn Bridge, adding a unique and memorable dimension to your skating experience.


The NYC Saks Fifth Avenue Christmas Light Show is a captivating holiday spectacle that transforms the iconic store’s facade into a mesmerizing canvas of light and music. Against the backdrop of Fifth Avenue’s lively atmosphere, the show’s intricate projections dance in harmony with a synchronized soundtrack, creating a spellbinding narrative of holiday wonder. As the lights twinkle and vibrant images come to life, spectators are transported into a world of festive magic, making the Saks Fifth Avenue Light Show a must-see destination for those looking to embrace the joy and beauty of the holiday season in the heart of New York City.

The light show starts at 5 pm and lasts 10-15 minutes. It’s important to note that attempting to navigate this area while the show is ongoing can be challenging, as people tend to stop in the middle of the sidewalk and even spill into the streets. It’s advisable to wait until the show concludes before attempting to move through the area. Learn from our experience – we tried to cut through on our way back from the ice skating rink and found ourselves caught in a massive, immovable crowd! Haha.



Sixth Avenue comes alive during Christmas with a captivating array of holiday decorations illuminating the bustling thoroughfare. Adorned with festive lights, towering Christmas trees, and intricate ornaments, the avenue transforms into a corridor of seasonal enchantment. Taking a stroll along Sixth Avenue amidst these dazzling decorations provides an excellent opportunity to fully immerse yourself in the magic of New York City’s holiday ambiance.


The Rockettes Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall.

The Rockettes Christmas Spectacular is a dazzling and iconic holiday show, delivering joy and entertainment to audiences of all ages. Hosted at the renowned Radio City Music Hall, this cherished tradition showcases the world-famous Rockettes, who dazzle with synchronized dance routines, intricate choreography, and stunning costumes. This is set against a backdrop of festive music and captivating visual effects. The show’s blend of precision dance, festive spirit, and elaborate production numbers solidifies the Rockettes Christmas Spectacular as a quintessential part of the holiday season in New York City.

Even if attending the show isn’t on your agenda, explore the Radio City Music Hall Christmas tree and decor – they provide an excellent opportunity for a memorable photo!

The Rockettes Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall.
New York City Christmas


The Nutcracker is a timeless holiday tradition that seamlessly melds the enchantment of dance and music, bringing Tchaikovsky’s beloved story to vibrant life. Set against the magical backdrop of New York City during the Christmas season, the production invites audiences to embark on a journey through a young girl’s dream. In this dream, toy soldiers, dancing snowflakes, and the iconic Sugar Plum Fairy captivate with their graceful movements. Meticulously choreographed performances, elaborate costumes, and breathtaking sets craft a world of fantasy and elegance. This captivating spectacle has delighted generations of families, solidifying The Nutcracker as a cherished annual event that beautifully captures the spirit of the holiday season.


If you have a penchant for holiday decorations, include the Cartier building in your NYC Christmas itinerary! The Cartier Holiday Decorations exude elegance and charm, embellishing the iconic Fifth Avenue boutique with a delightful touch of festive enchantment. Annually, the store’s façade transforms into a canvas for artistic expression, featuring intricate and shimmering ornaments that come together in a symphony of lights and luxury — creating an ideal holiday photo spot!

These decorations not only celebrate the holiday season but also pay homage to Cartier’s rich heritage of craftsmanship and style. Passersby are treated to a visual spectacle that captures the essence of the season and the brand’s timeless glamour, making the Cartier Holiday Decorations a captivating addition to the holiday ambiance of New York City.


Bryant Park Winter Village turns the park into an enchanting winter wonderland in the heart of New York City. The ice skating rink takes center stage, surrounded by a delightful holiday market offering diverse gifts and treats. The village provides a quintessential holiday experience, whether you’re gracefully gliding on the ice, indulging in hot cocoa, cozying up inside an igloo, or exploring the offerings of the holiday vendors. Bryant Park Winter Village perfectly encapsulates the festive spirit, creating enduring memories for all who partake in its seasonal magic.

USA – New York city – bryant park in December with its famous Christmas ice rink


The NYC Holiday Window Displays are an annual artistic spectacle that transforms the city’s iconic department stores into enchanting scenes of holiday magic. With meticulous attention to detail, these displays narrate captivating stories through intricate props, moving figures, and mesmerizing lights.

Christmas shop window

Some of the best NYC Holiday Window Displays can be found at the following iconic department stores and locations:

  • Macy’s Herald Square: Macy’s is renowned for its elaborate and imaginative holiday window displays that often convey heartwarming stories and feature impressive animations.
  • Saks Fifth Avenue: Saks Fifth Avenue’s window displays are celebrated for their luxury and creativity. The store’s facade transforms into a dazzling light show, with windows showcasing high-fashion designs and captivating themes.
  • Bergdorf Goodman: This luxury department store is famous for its over-the-top and artistic window displays that showcase intricate details and unique concepts.
  • Bloomingdale’s: Bloomingdale’s offers creative and dynamic holiday windows that capture the season’s spirit with whimsy.
  • Barneys New York: Although Barneys has closed its doors, it was known for its avant-garde and artistic holiday window displays that pushed creative boundaries.
  • Lord & Taylor: While Lord & Taylor’s flagship store on Fifth Avenue has closed, its holiday window displays were once a cherished tradition, known for their elegant and classic designs.
  • Tiffany & Co.: Known for its iconic jewelry, Tiffany & Co. often presents sleek and minimalist holiday window displays that reflect the brand’s timeless sophistication.
  • Bryant Park Winter Village: Besides its ice skating rink and holiday market, it features charming holiday window displays that complement the festive atmosphere.


Central Park offers a magical retreat during Christmas in NYC, providing a serene and festive backdrop for a variety of activities:

  • Ice Skating: Wollman Rink and Lasker Rink are popular ice skating destinations within the park. Gliding across the ice amidst the park’s winter landscape is a quintessential holiday experience.
  • Sledding: If there’s snow, several areas in the park, such as Pilgrim Hill, provide perfect slopes for sledding and tubing.
  • Winter Photography: Capture the park’s beauty draped in snow. For stunning winter photos, please take advantage of its iconic bridges, open meadows, and charming pathways.
  • Horse-Drawn Carriage Rides: Enjoy a cozy ride through the park, enjoying the serene winter scenery.
  • Bethesda Terrace: Admire the grandeur of Bethesda Terrace, often adorned with holiday lights, and revel in the lake and Bow Bridge views.


Washington Square Park takes on a cozy and festive charm during Christmas, offering a unique blend of holiday spirit and local culture. The park’s iconic arch is often adorned with holiday decorations, creating a picturesque backdrop for visitors seeking a seasonal atmosphere. Amidst the city’s vibrant energy, Washington Square Park provides a tranquil escape where individuals can enjoy the enchantment of the holiday season. Surrounded by the park’s historic landmarks and the warmth of community gatherings, it offers a distinctive and inviting experience during this festive time of the year.



The Wall Street Stock Exchange embraces the Christmas season with grandeur! Featuring a massive tree and festive decorations adorning the exterior of the building, the Stock Exchange transforms into a holiday spectacle. The celebration starts with a significant event, including a tree-lighting ceremony, music, and more, marking the commencement of the holiday season. In 2023, the festival holds special significance as it commemorates the 100th year, promising an event that will undoubtedly be remembered for its historical and festive significance.


The Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden.

The Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden is a captivating annual tradition that seamlessly blends the fascination of model trains with the beauty of nature. Intricately crafted model trains traverse miniature landscapes, showcasing iconic New York landmarks such as the Brooklyn Bridge and the Empire State Building. These detailed landscapes are meticulously constructed from natural materials like leaves, twigs, and bark. This enchanting exhibit harmoniously combines the joy of the holiday season, the artistry of craftsmanship, and the allure of the botanical garden’s lush surroundings. It is a cherished, must-do NYC Christmas experience for visitors of all ages.

The St. Patrick’s Cathedral Annual Christmas Concert

The St. Patrick’s Cathedral Annual Christmas Concert is a harmonious tradition that merges the sacred beauty of the cathedral with the joyous melodies of the holiday season. In the awe-inspiring setting of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the concert features enchanting performances by choirs, orchestras, and soloists. Audiences are captivated by timeless carols and classical compositions, creating a serene and uplifting experience that beautifully captures the true essence of Christmas in the heart of New York City.

Hudson Yards

Hudson Yards, a contemporary urban oasis, undergoes a magical transformation during Christmas as it embellishes its striking architecture with festive decorations. The Vessel, a distinctive centerpiece, is adorned with twinkling lights, adding to the holiday ambiance. The Shops at Hudson Yards provide a festive haven for shopping, dining experiences, and numerous holiday-themed photo opportunities. With its sleek design and seasonal cheer, Hudson Yards beckons visitors to immerse themselves in the holiday spirit while savoring this cutting-edge development’s innovative and dynamic atmosphere.

Hudson Yards

The Columbus Circle Holiday Market 

The Columbus Circle Holiday Market is a charming and festive marketplace that contributes to the holiday magic of New York City. Located at the entrance of Central Park, this market highlights a diverse array of artisanal gifts, handcrafted goods, and delicious treats. With its picturesque setting, unique vendors, and cozy atmosphere, the Columbus Circle Holiday Market provides a delightful opportunity for visitors to explore and shop for one-of-a-kind treasures while immersing themselves in the spirit of the season.

The SantaCon Parade

The SantaCon Parade is a merry and whimsical holiday tradition where participants don Santa Claus costumes and spread cheer throughout New York City. This festive event combines elements of a pub crawl and a parade, as attendees dressed as Santa, Mrs. Claus, and various holiday characters visit bars, landmarks, and iconic locations, creating a playful and joyful spectacle. The SantaCon Parade transforms the city into a jolly celebration, fostering a sense of camaraderie and merriment among its participants.

The SantaCon Parade


Indulging in Serendipity’s frozen hot chocolate during Christmas is a delightful treat that captures the magic of the holiday season. This iconic New York dessert destination puts a whimsical twist on a classic favorite, blending the richness of hot chocolate with the refreshing chill of a frozen delight. The frozen hot chocolate is a must-try, and be sure to explore their other delectable treats!


And with that, we conclude your ultimate guide to experiencing NYC during Christmas! From Rockefeller Center’s dazzling lights to Central Park’s cozy vibes, this city truly knows how to celebrate the holidays in style. Whether you’re gliding on the ice, shopping for festive treasures, or simply strolling through the sparkling streets, Christmas in New York City is an experience that will linger in your memory. So, bundle up, grab a cup of hot cocoa, and relish in the festive spirit of Christmas time in NYC. Wishing you a joyous holiday season!

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