Things to do

20 Christmas Things To Do NYC This Year

Rockefeller Center with the holiday decorations. (Photo By: Ibrahim Boran)
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NYC gets super busy during the holiday season for the right reasons. It is magical, beautiful, and unlike anything you have ever seen. The holiday season charm in NYC is magical.

There is something so heartwarming about drinking hot chocolate, exploring the city, admiring the Christmas tree, and looking at all the twinkling lights. Let's not forget the fantastic shows at Radio City and enchanting markets all over the city. Here is a guide for the 20 best things to do during Christmas in NYC.

1. Meet Santa Claus At Santaland

Santa all suited up for Macy's Santaland.
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New York City during Christmas is incomplete without Santa Claus. There are a couple of places to see Santa, but nothing compares to Macy's Santaland. After the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Parade ends, Santa arrives, ringing at the beginning of the holiday season.

Children of any age will love this place because of the lights, model trains, electronic animals, toys, and yes of course Santa. They get to meet elves and Mrs. Claus as well. This free annual winter village takes over at Macy's Herald Square's eighth floor.

2. Admire The Christmas Tree At Rockefeller Center

Holiday season at Rockefeller Center. (Photo By: Kaydn Ito)
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Christmas and Rockefeller Center are like two sides of the coin; one is incomplete without the other. Rockefeller Center has that legendary Christmas tree along with some of the best decorations and lighting.

The tree, which is 80 feet tall has more than 50,000 colorful lights and ornaments. The best place to see the tree is between West 48th Street and West 51st Street and Fifth and Sixth Avenues. Fully decked out in holiday decors and lights, enjoy an evening skating across the rink at Rockefeller Plaza.

3. Adore The Animal Lanterns At Bronx Zoo's Winter Wonderland

Lights display at Bronx Zoo's Winter Wonderland.
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New York City Christmas activities include seeing the lights at Bronx Zoo's Winter Wonderland. The annual holiday lights show stars in mid to late November and last till early January.

Some of the highlights here include live entertainment, a holiday train, enchanting light shows, vivid animal lanterns, and more. Lantern safaris are not to be missed as you can see many illuminated animals such as polar bears, giraffes, and sea turtles.

4. Shop Some Goodies At Holiday Pop-up Shop

Nutckrackers Galore at the Christmas Cottage.
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New York City Christmas things to do list is incomplete without shopping at pop-up shops. With plenty of options in the city, make sure to pick up some gifts during the visit.

With holiday decorations and displays in the store windows and beautiful night markets, every place in NYC is dolled up during Christmas. Some of the best pop-up shops include LTD by Lizzie Tisch, Christmas Cottage, and Christmas in the City.

5. Visit Dyker Heights To See The Holiday Lights

Christmas decorations at Dyker Heights, Brooklyn. (Photo By: Gautam Krishnan)
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Christmas tree lighting in New York City at Dyker Heights in Brooklyn is as magical and beautiful as it can be. It is one of the best things to do in Brooklyn during the holidays. You can also book one of the four Holiday Light Tours.

The lights display has life-sized Santas, snowmen, sleighs, giant inflatable lawn animals, nutcrackers, well-decorated trees, Christmas carols, and so much more. Some blocks you should be viewing include 11th to 13th Avenues from 83rd to 86th Streets. 

6. Watch Shows At Radio City Music Hall

Holiday vibes at Radio City Music Hall. (Photo By: Johnell Pannell)
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Christmas shows in New York City are unmissable. Buying a ticket to the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall should be on your NYC bucket list. Christmas Spectacular has dance lights and energy that is so nostalgic.

The 90-minute performance will impress people of any age. They perform with such a spirit and synchronism that you will be in full awe while watching the performance.

7. Enjoy The NYC Winter Lantern Festival

The beautiful Winter Lantern Festival.
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Want to see some of the best Christmas lights? Head over to the NYC Winter Lantern Festival, which takes place across three venues; Nassau Country Museum of Art at Long Island, Snug Harbor Cultural Center in Staten Island, and Queens County Farm Museum in Queens.

Staten Island and Queens events are walk-throughs, whereas Long Island is a drive-thru. Each of these appeals takes about 15-45 minutes. You will find lanterns shaped like your favorite animals, such as dragons, dinosaurs, marine animals, and iconic Christmas toys.

8. Watch The Holiday Train Show At New York Botanical Gardens

Grab tickets to the Holiday Train Show at New York Botanical Gardens.
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Things to do in New York during Christmas have to include the New York Botanical Gardens Garden Glow and the holiday train show. The train at Haupt Conservatory set chugs through pictures of New York City along with landmarks made of pinecones and acorns.

Think of the already gorgeous gardens and add gazillion lights, digital installations, life-sized ornaments, and Christmas magic; it is exactly what the whole vibe is here. You will find whimsical decorations, lights, and trees all along the landscaped lawns, gazebos, and walking paths.

9. Go Ice Skating At Central Park

Happy Holidays from Central Park. (Photo By: Ihor Dvoretskyi)
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Ice Skating in Central Park is a must-do when visiting NYC during the winter. The park becomes whimsical during the holiday season, with the perfect amount of snow and happiness.

Skating at Wollman Rink (located inside Central Park) is an unmissable one. It has been featured in several movies, such as Home Alone 2, Night at the Museum, Love Story, and many more.

10. Be A Part Of The Bryant Park Winter Village

Cocoa and cookies at Bryant Park Winter Village.
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A perfect attraction in Manhattan during Christmas, Bryant Park is transformed into a European-style holiday market. It has 100 vendors and a really good ice skating rink. This market is one of the nicest and largest Christmas markets in the city.

It sells many things including good food, unique and vintage jewelry, Christmas decorations, and handmade crafts. The free ice rink (yes, completely free) is 17000 square feet; however, the ice skate rentals are about $20-$36 per person.

11. Get On Board The Classic Harbor Line Holiday Cruise

 Classic Harbor Line Holiday Cruise
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The Classic Harbor Line Holiday Cruise is an unmissable Christmas activity for anyone visiting New York City during the holiday season. It takes visitors on an unforgettable journey past some of the city's most iconic landmarks, all while relishing festive décor, tasty food, and live music.

The company offers a variety of different cruise options such as Sunset & Holiday Cocoa Cruise, Holiday Jazz Cruise, Holiday Brunch Cruise, and Cocoa & Carols Cruise. Also, enjoy the complimentary hot cocoa, tea, coffee, and a wide selection of snacks and desserts.

12. Admire The Holiday Window Displays

 Holiday Window Displays
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New York City holiday window displays are elaborate and created by some of the world's top designers. They feature everything from animated characters to whimsical scenes.

Some of the most popular holiday window displays in NYC include Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman, Bloomingdale's, Lord & Taylor, and Macy's. In addition to these big brands, several other retailers also put up holiday window displays.

13. Look For The Best Hot Chocolate In The City

Hot Chocolate In NYC
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A delicious cup of hot chocolate, especially during the chilly winter months, is the best way to keep yourself warm. From a rich and thick European-style hot chocolate or a lighter, more traditional American version, NYC has some of the best ones to try during the holiday season.

L.A. Burdick Chocolate, Daily Provisions, Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain, City Bakery, MarieBelle New York, Birch Coffee, Max Brenner, Jacques Torres Chocolate, Eataly, Maman, and Serendipity 3 have the best hot chocolate in town.

14. Explore The Mall at Hudson Yards

The Mall at Hudson Yards
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Looking for things to do in Hudson Yards during the holidays? Visit the Mall at Hudson Yards, as it is decorated with over two million twinkling lights during the holiday season. It is also a perfect place to find gifts for Christmas.

There are a variety of festive events and activities taking place throughout this time at this upscale shopping center. Some of them are The Shine Bright Holiday Display, The Holiday Train Show, Ice Skating at The Rink, and Santa's Workshop.

15. Dine At The Rolf's Restaurant

Rolf's Restaurant
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Rolf's Restaurant is an iconic establishment, particularly during the holiday season. It is famous for its elaborately ornamented interior, which transforms into a winter wonderland every single year.

This NYC restaurant is decorated and adorned with an extravagant display of Christmas ornaments, lights, garlands, and thousands of icicles hanging from the ceiling. They serve traditional German cuisine, with dishes such as schnitzel, sausages, sauerbraten, and a variety of German beers.

16. Be Part Of The "Elf" Screening At Empire State Building

 Empire State Building
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The Empire State Building will be hosting a special screening of the holiday classic "Elf." It will take place on December 8, 2023, at 7:00 PM on the 86th-floor observation deck. One can enjoy the stunning views of the NYC skyline and the movie.

Tickets for the screening are $135, and tickets can be purchased online. Some of the other holiday events the Empire State Building will be hosting include the Holiday Light Show and Holiday Crafts. 

17. Take The Ferry To See The City Views

Views of NYC from the ferry
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The NYC Ferry offers a special and joyful way to celebrate the Christmas season. The ferry offers a variety of Christmas-themed cruises, including the Christmas Holiday Cruise, Christmas Lights Cruise, and Christmas Caroling Cruise.

Besides they also offer other cruises throughout the year, including sightseeing cruises, sunset cruises, and ferry service to Staten Island.

18. Enjoy The New York City Ballet: George Balanchine's The Nutcracker

New York City Ballet
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"George Balanchine's The Nutcracker" which is performed by the New York City Ballet is known for its exquisite choreography, beautiful sets, and stunning costumes. It is a magical experience for audiences of all ages.

It is set at the David H. Koch Theater, located in Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. Attending this ballet production has become a cherished holiday tradition for many. Do book your tickets in advance because this act is very high in demand.

19. Explore The Union Square Holiday Market

Union Square Holiday Market
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The Union Square Holiday Market is an open-air seasonal market that features over 150 vendors. They sell everything from unique and handcrafted gifts to jewelry, clothing, home décor, and food.

Not only is it a great place to find unique and thoughtful gifts for everyone on your list, but you can also find artisanal food products, hand-knitted scarves, and handmade jewelry. The market also has a variety of food vendors to try out, so grab a bite to eat while you shop.

20. Explore Central Park During The Snow

Central Park During Winter
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Central Park during the holiday season is charming and enchanting; the lush landscapes and iconic landmarks along with holiday decorations and lights add to the festive charm.

It hosts a Christmas tree lighting ceremony, and the tree is located at the Charles A. Dana Discovery Center in the northern part of the park. The Wollman Rink along with the Lasker Rink are also transformed into a winter wonderland and make for a perfect place for ice skating in NYC.