The 10 Best NYC Christmas Experiences Plus How To Plan Your Trip

NYC Christmas: 10 Best Experiences and How To Plan Your Trip

Welcome to JetSetting Fools, here you will find our best travel tips for destinations worldwide. Some of the links on this site are Affiliate Links and if you use them to make a purchase, we may earn a commission. For more information, read our Disclosure Policy.


   

Taking an NYC Christmas trip is the perfect way to usher in the holiday spirit! Bright lights and festive ornaments decorate the ever-bustling city. An undeniable sense of merriment simmers in the crisp December air. With our tips on what to see, you can discover the very best things to do in New York during Christmas.

On our wintertime trip, we were dazzled by the displays and got caught up in the cheerfulness of New York Christmas events. Even on our quick Christmas New York City trip, we were intent on experiencing the city’s best and most classic holiday attractions. We meticulously planned our time in the city – and are sharing the details so that you can effortlessly plan your NYC Christmas trip, too.

From NYC Christmas markets to ice skating in Central Park to Macy’s New York Christmas displays, we have rounded up the absolute best things to do in NYC for Christmas!

Plus, we share top tips for visitors planning a trip to New York for Christmas. Not only do we highlight the NYC Christmas must-do attractions, but we also wrap them into the best day-by-day trip plan for experiencing Xmas in New York.

 

NYC at Christmas FAQs

Before we dive into our list of what to do in New York at Christmas, we want to answer a few of the most frequently asked questions. Knowing the basics will help you better plan your Xmas in NYC trip!

 

Where Can I See NYC Christmas Lights and Decorations?

Everywhere! Seriously, if you are looking for holiday decorations and Christmas lights, New York City will not disappoint!

Some of the best Christmas decorations in NYC are found in Midtown, but there are decorative NYC holiday lights and attractions sprinkled throughout Manhattan – and beyond. We detail where to find all the best Christmas decorations in NYC in our list.

 

Are there Free New York City Christmas Events?

New York is an expensive city, there is no doubt about it! That said, there are many New York City Christmas time events that are absolutely free! In fact, some of the very best Christmas events in NYC don’t cost at all!

One of the things to do that is always free is exploring on foot to gaze at the brilliant NYC Christmas decorations. That said, there are several planned Christmas events in NYC that are free, as well. We highlight which Christmas attractions in NYC are free in our list of things to do.

Planning affordable trips to NYC at Christmas – or anytime – can be trying. Use our guide to Visiting New York City on a Budget for our top tips.

 

Is it Crowded during Christmas in NYC?

Many visitors flock to New York for Christmas – and locals stick around for the holiday season, too. So, yes, it can feel very crowded in NYC at Christmas time. The most popular NY Christmas attractions – like Rockefeller Center and the Bryant Park NYC Christmas Village – see the biggest crowds.

If you are planning a Christmas in NY vacation, it is best to pack your patience! Expect crowds of people at the biggest sights and lines at the city’s most popular attractions.

You can avoid some crowds by visiting the beautiful Christmas sights in NYC in the early morning and late at night. Just be sure to check hours for top New York Xmas decorations – as most NYC Christmas trees do not stay lit overnight (including the tree at Rockefeller Center – which we discuss in detail in a minute).

 

What is the Weather like in NYC at Christmas?

The weather in NYC during Christmas time can be frigid! The average high temperature for the city in the month of December is about 44-degrees Fahrenheit – with average lows that dip below freezing.

Historically, December sees some precipitation, as well. As the temps are usually not cold enough for snow, that means rain could be in the forecast during your trip.

That all said, there are fantastic things to do in NYC in December in the outdoors. When you plan your Christmas trip to New York City, be sure to pack warm clothes…and maybe a travel umbrella. We share more packing tips at the end of the article. 

 

When Do New York Christmas Attractions Open?              

The best things to do in New York at Christmas will be open the entire month of December.

In fact, the best Christmas activities in NYC are usually open for visitors the day after Thanksgiving (which is always celebrated the fourth Thursday in November) – and they stay open through the end of December or through the first week of January.

However, some stores, restaurants and hotels get a jump on the holiday and start decorating their spaces in early November.

 

When is the Best Time to Visit New York Christmas Attractions?

Personally, we think the best time to plan a trip to NYC for Christmas is in early to mid-December.

By the first week of December, the most beautiful Christmas decorations in New York City are on display – and all holiday attractions are open. Crowds are lighter earlier in the month, as well.

Visitors to New York who aim to avoid the crowds should plan a weekday visit, rather than experiencing Christmas time in NYC on a weekend.


 

NYC CHRISTMAS TO-DO LIST

We are highlighting the absolute best things to do in NYC at Christmas! Use our list to help plan your NYC Christmas vacation. Don’t miss our day-by-day trip plan, travel tips and the helpful map of Christmas attractions in New York City at the end of the article.

 

#1 See the Famous NYC Christmas Tree

Seeing the beautifully decorated Christmas trees is an absolute must-do in New York at Christmas! While there is one famous Christmas tree in NYC, there are actually hundreds of decorated trees displayed around the city.

In fact, it would be nearly impossible to take a stroll around Manhattan at Christmas time and not see a tree decorated with twinkling lights and colorful ornaments.

 

Where to Find the Best Christmas Trees in NYC

Although there are plenty of trees on display around the city, there are a few you don’t want to miss! Make room in your trip plan to ensure you make it to these iconic Xmas trees in NYC.

 

The Famous Rockefeller Christmas Tree NY

Must see NYC at Christmas The Famous Rockefeller Christmas Tree NY

If you are wondering, Where is the Christmas Tree in NYC?, the tree you’re looking for is at Rockefeller Center.

The Rockefeller New York Christmas Tree stands at an astounding 70 feet tall (79 for 2021!) and is illuminated with more than 50,000 multi-colored lights. The Norway Spruce tree is topped with a Swarovski star that features more than 3 million crystals and weighs 90 pounds.

The NYC Christmas tree lighting in Rockefeller Center takes place on the Wednesday after Thanksgiving. Visitors can attend the tree lighting ceremony in person for free – but it is a first come, first serve event…so you need to get there early to stake out your spot.

The Christmas Tree in Rockefeller Center is lit daily from 6 in the morning until midnight (and for 24 hours on Christmas Day) – and it is free to see!

We think it is best to enter the plaza from 5th Avenue for the most phenomenal view of the tree. From this vantage point, you will see the horn-blowing Angels, the Rockefeller Tree and the golden statue of Prometheus hovering above the Rockefeller Center Ice Skating Rink.

 

The Classic Washington Square Park Xmas Tree

Christmas in Washington Square Park, NYC

Standing in front of the classic Washington Square Park Christmas tree is one of the best things to do in NYC during Christmas.

The 45-foot-tall tree sits under the ornate Washington Square Arch. From the park fountain, the view through the arch encompasses both the dazzling Christmas tree and the Empire State Building in the background.

The Washington Square Park Christmas tree lighting in NYC usually takes place during the second week of December in an event that includes musical performances. On Christmas Eve in New York, revelers gather around the Washington Square Park Xmas tree for singalong Christmas carols.

 

New York Stock Exchange Holiday Tree

The New York Stock Exchange tree is a Christmas New York tradition that has been going strong since 1923. The NYSE Christmas tree stands in front of the New York Stock Exchange building in Experience Square (at the intersection of Wall and Broad Streets).

The NYSE Xmas tree lighting is one of the best family Christmas activities in NYC. The event features kid-friendly activities – like sipping hot cocoa, writing letters to Santa and musical performances.

 

Christmas Tree Lighting NYC

Tree lightings are one of the best NYC Christmas events…and they happen all over at the city at different times! Research where to find out what tree lighting ceremonies are taking place during the dates of your trip if you want to include one of these events in your visit to NYC.

 

Pro Tip: These are just a few of the best NYC Christmas trees! Later, we detail more sights where you can see spectacular NYC holiday trees!

 

#2 Go Ice Skating: NYC Christmas Classic

Ice Skating in Central Park NYC

It’s difficult to imagine Christmastime in New York without thinking about the quintessential experience of ice skating. Whether you are actually putting on skates or just watching the skaters on the ice, we think spending time at the ice-skating rinks ranks as the most epic of all Christmas Activities NYC.

 

Where to Go Ice Skating in NYC

Ice skating is one of the best things to do in December in New York – and there are 3 incredible places to do it: Rockefeller Center, Central Park and at Bryant Park.

 

Ice Skating at Rockefeller Center

The Rink at Rockefeller Center is the most iconic outdoor ice-skating rink in the city. To be honest, it’s our favorite place to watch ice skaters. Visitors who want to glide across the ice can buy tickets and skate rentals online – but buy tickets in advance, because they do sell out!

 

Ice Skating in Central Park at Wollman Rink

Located in the southeast corner of Central Park, Wollman Rink sits under towering skyscrapers – making it the most picturesque place to go ice skating in the city. Skaters who want to take a spin around the rink with a backdrop of the New York City skyline can buy tickets online or in person.

 

Bryant Park Ice Skating

We love the ice-skating rink at the Bryant Park Winter Village (more about the Winter Village next). Not only is it an incredibly festive place to go ice skating in Manhattan, but it’s also free! Skaters still need to reserve a timed ticket and can rent skates on-site if needed.

 

Pro Tip: The ice-skating rinks in NYC are all outdoors – so be sure to bundle up for your skate around the rink!

 

#3 Visit Fun NYC Christmas Markets

If you are wondering what to do in NYC at Christmas to get into a festive mood, then visit the city’s fun holiday markets! Featuring boutique shops selling unique gifts and warm Christmastime sweet treats, the markets are certain to evoke a Christmassy feeling.

 

The Best Christmas Markets NYC

The holiday markets are absolutely magical – and one of the best Christmas things to do in New York! We are featuring the best NYC Xmas markets to visit.

 

Winter Village at Bryant Park

Christmas Market at Bryant Park, NYC

Ranked as one of the absolute best Christmas markets in NYC, the Winter Village in Bryant Park is a must-see! The NYC Christmas village features an open-air European-style market, an ice-skating rink, cozy igloos, and a buzzing lodge where merrymakers can sip warm wintery drinks and feast on holiday market fare.

 

Columbus Circle Christmas Market NYC

Visit the Columbus Circle Christmas Market NYC

One of the fun pop-up Christmas shops in NYC, the Columbus Circle Holiday Market is a fantastic place to pick up Christmas presents! Ideally located at the southwest entrance to Central Park, local vendors sell handcrafted wares, jewelry and artwork – as well as sweet treats and classic NYC eats.

 

Union Square Holiday Market Christmas Shops NYC

Another one of the best Christmas markets in NYC, the Union Square Holiday Market hosts more than 160 vendors. Shoppers can stroll along the festive aisles, shopping for unique holiday gifts in the cheerful atmosphere.

 

Grand Central Station Holiday Fair

Housed in Grand Central Terminal Vanderbilt Hall, the Grand Central Holiday Fair is one of the longest running NY Christmas events for shoppers. Established in 1993, the Grand Central Holiday Market features vendors selling locally crafted goods and handmade products. Best of all, the market is held indoors – so it can be a great escape from the cold wintery weather. Note: For 2021 the market is cancelled but the decorations a still worth a look!

 

Pro Tip: Looking for other great destinations for Christmas markets? Philadelphia – which you can reach from NYC on a day trip – hosts a spectacular German-style Christmas market during the month of December.

 

#4 Gaze at the Beautifully Decorated Christmas Windows NYC

Must see the Beautifully Decorated Christmas Windows NYC

There is nothing that adds more winter splendor to New York at Christmas than the exceptional department store window displays. The Christmas stores in New York go all out at the holidays to create engaging and unique New York holiday windows. In fact, we think they are some of the best things to see in New York at Christmas.

 

The Best Christmas Window Displays NYC

Many of the best Christmas windows in NYC are found on 5th Avenue – the most prestigious shopping street in the city. Visitors can simply stroll down the world-famous shopping street from 59th Street to 42nd Street gazing at the phenomenal window displays during the holidays. That said, there are a few stores you will want to be sure to seek out that are not on 5th Avenue.

 

Saks Fifth Avenue

Christmas Decorations at Saks 5th Ave, NYC

The six windows at Saks Fifth Avenue are a magnificent sight – and seeing them is a must-do in NYC in December. Even better is the Saks Fifth Avenue Christmas light show. Projected on the facade of the building, it’s one of the best light shows in New York. The light show happens about every 10 minutes from 4:30pm until 11:30pm and is best viewed from across the street at Rockefeller Center.

 

Macy’s NYC Christmas Decor

Christmas Decorations at Macys NYC

Since 1874, Macy’s has been decorating its windows for the holidays – and it gets our top pick for Best Holiday Windows NYC. The windows at Macy’s on Herald Square (at 34th Street and 6th Ave) are used to tell a holiday story – complete with memorable characters, reindeer, snowmen and Santa.

 

Bloomingdale’s NYC Christmas Windows

The flagship Bloomindale’s store on 59th and Lexington ranks as another one of the best Christmas windows in NYC. Taking on a new theme each year, the Bloomingdale’s NYC store window displays are always fascinating to see.

 

Bergdorf Goodman NYC Holiday Windows

The holiday windows at NYC Bergdorf Goodman on 5th Avenue are world famous for their artistic design and lavish layout. Somewhat quirky and perhaps even thought-provoking, the Bergdorf Goodman windows are one of the top places to visit in NYC during Christmas.

 

Pro Tip: Another not-to-miss store on 5th Avenue is Cartier. The Cartier NYC Christmas decorations are sophisticated and elegant; but it is the entire building is wrapped up like a present with a big, beautiful red bow that we like best.

 

#5 Spend a Day Christmas Shopping NYC

Christmas Shopping at Hudson Yards, NYC

Christmas shopping in New York is a top wintertime activity. Not only are the stores stocked with the hottest items and fashions of the season, but the best places to shop in New York City at Christmas are exquisitely decorated for the holidays.

 

The Best Christmas Stores NYC for Shopping

We have already mentioned the holiday markets as being fantastic places for Christmas shopping in NYC, but we have a few recommendations for the best Christmas stores in NYC, too!

 

Macy’s

One of the best places for New York Christmas time shopping is Macy’s on Herald Square. After viewing the marvelous window displays at Macy’s, step inside to shop at the department store for an equally enthralling experience.  

Holiday decorations brighten the aisles – and shoppers shouldn’t miss Macy’s Santaland New York. The Santaland Christmas store NYC at Macy’s is located on the 8th floor and is where you can find Santa (just make reservations if you have little ones that want to visit with Santa!).

 

FAO Schwarz

Perhaps the most famous toy store in the world, shopping at FAO Schwarz at Rockefeller Center is one of the top family things to do in New York at Christmas. Even adults will feel like kids again at FAO Schwarz!

Shoppers may encounter a line to enter the store, but it usually moves quickly and, once inside, guests can take their time as they discover the wonderland of toys.

 

Shops at Columbus Circle

Shop at Columbus Circle, NYC at Christmas

The Shops at Columbus Circle are an excellent destination for shopping in NYC. Boasting boutique stores, stylish shops and recognizable fashion brands, shoppers can find something for everyone on their list.

After perusing the goods at the Columbus Circle Holiday Market, stop in the Shops at Columbus Circle – and don’t miss the Holiday Under the Stars decorations. The illuminated stars dangle from the ceiling in the entryway of the Great Room. While shopping, take in the elevated view of Central Park and the NYC Skyline.

 

Hudson Yards Shopping Mall

Inside of Hudson Yards Xmas, NYC

The high-end shopping mall at Hudson Yards hosts luxury brand stores and celebrity chef restaurants. However, what makes shopping at Hudson Yards one of the best NYC Christmas things to do is the gorgeous light display.

The mall is illuminated with 2 million twinkling white lights – an impressive sight, which we think ranks as one of the Best Christmas Lights NYC. Additionally, Christmas events in NYC are held at the mall – like the evening Shine Bright Christmas Light Shows, musical and theatrical performances, kids’ activities and fun evening entertainment for all!  

 

Chelsea Market

Best known as a fun and tendy food hall, Chelsea Market is a lively marketplace featuring boutique retailers and culinary shops. An ideal spot to pick up foodie gifts, shoppers bask in the glow of sparkling lights and merry holiday decor.

 

Christmas Cottage NYC

The Christmas Cottage Christmas Shop New York is a fabulous store in NYC for holiday shopping. The charming Cottage Christmas Shop NYC is a family-owned business that opened their doors in 1985. The Christmas Cottage specializes in ornaments, decorations and holiday souvenirs.

 

New York Times Square Christmas Shopping

NY Times Square has always been a destination for shopping. At Christmas, Times Square is just as busy with tourists and shoppers as it always is! Not to be missed when in Times Square NYC Christmas shopping is the Christmas in New York store that sells collectible ornaments and personalized Christmas decor.

 

Christmas in New York Little Italy

The flagship Christmas in New York store in located in Little Italy on Mulberry Street. The Little Italy location boasts an enormous holiday gift selection, a Christmas museum and a holiday-themed cafe – and it’s the perfect place to pick up personalized NYC Christmas ornaments.

 

Pro Tip: On Christmas shopping trips to New York, you can elevate your experience with an insider’s tour of the famed Garment District. Get the details!

 

#6 Enjoy Festive Meals and Holiday Cocktails in NYC during Christmas

Christmas Tree at Tavern on the Green, NYC

Dining in New York City is always an experience – but eating and drinking in a Christmassy establishment that is decorated to the hilt is one of the best holiday things to do in NYC!

 

The Best Christmas Restaurants NYC

A meal at one of the best restaurants in NYC for Christmas can enhance your holiday experience in the city. Advance reservations at these NYC Xmas restaurants is highly recommended – as they get fully booked during the holiday season.

 

Rolf’s NYC Christmas Restaurant

Rolf’s NYC Christmas decorations are legendary. Regularly touted as one of the best NYC Christmas restaurants, Rolf’s German Restaurant is a complete feast for the senses! The ceiling drips with holiday decorations and twinkling lights, creating a sublime holiday atmosphere. Rolf’s New York Christmas menu features hearty German classics and holiday-inspired cocktails.

 

Tavern on the Green

The historic Tavern on the Green in Central Park gets our top pick as the Best Christmas Decorated Restaurants in NYC. The landmark restaurant also displays one of the best decorated Christmas trees in NYC in their courtyard. Guests will find classic holiday cocktails on the menu, as well as classic eats – and the signature weekend Holiday Brunch is a fantastic feast!

 

Serra Alpina at Eataly Christmas Restaurant NYC

One of the best Christmas themed restaurants in NYC, the Serra Alpina Eataly Flatiron rooftop bar transforms into a cozy ‘Winter in the Italian Countryside’ during the holidays. The menu focuses on in-season ingredients, rustic Italian dishes and melted cheese served alongside winter cocktails and delicious wines.

 

The Palm Court at The Plaza Hotel for Afternoon Holiday Tea

For an elegant NYC Christmas experience, nothing tops Afternoon Tea at The Plaza Hotel. The Plaza Signature Holiday Tea is served in the classy Palm Court. Miniature sandwiches, scones, pastries and sweet treats are on offer with tea and a glass of Champagne.

 

The Best Christmas Bars NYC

From classy to eclectic, we rounded up the best places to have a Christmas time drink in the city. Expect the best over-the-top Christmas decorations in NYC at these fun bars!

 

Sippin’ Santa at Boilermaker Christmas Bar NYC

For the month of December, the Boilermaker hosts the Sippin’ Santa Holiday Pop-Up Cocktail Bar. Beachy cocktails with a Christmas twist are highlights of the menu.

 

Snow Globe at Ophelia Christmas-Themed Bar NYC

It doesn’t get more Christmassy than sipping cocktails in the winter wonderland rooftop Snow Globe in the Sky at Ophelia. Perched atop the Beekman Tower, the space is illuminated with sparkling crystals and falling snowflakes.

 

Pop Up Christmas Bars at Rockefeller Center

We love the pop-up bars at Rockefeller Center where you can have a drink and enjoy a view of the Rockefeller Christmas tree. The outdoor bars offer local wine and craft beer in the heart of the city’s merriment.

 

Miracle on 9th Street NYC Christmas Bar

With elaborate kitschy holiday decor and a fun list of holiday libations, it’s hard not to feel the spirit at Miracle on 9th!

 

Pro Tip: If our recommended restaurants and bars are already booked during your Christmas trip to NYC, don’t fret! Nearly every eating and drinking establishment in the city is decorated for the holidays, ensuring you will feel the spirit while you dine.

 

#7 Attend Christmas Shows NYC

See a show at Radio City Music Hall, NYC

Attending Christmas shows in New York is a fabulous way to celebrate the holidays! The city hosts an array of holiday shows – from classic Christmas Broadway performances to fun Off Broadway parodies.

 

The Best NYC Christmas Shows

Going to the theater is one of the top things to do in NYC at Christmas. That said, the performances vary from year to year. We are highlighting a few of the best Christmas shows in NYC that will enhance your New York City Christmas vacation.

 

Christmas Spectacular New York at Radio City Music Hall with the Rockettes

The Christmas Spectacular NYC is a holiday tradition that dates to 1933 – and it still ranks as one of the top things to see in NYC at Christmas! The Rockettes entertain audiences with high kicks and choregraphed dances in an exhilarating 90-minute performance. There are multiple shows daily, but it’s best to get your NYC Christmas Spectacular tickets in advance – book them here!

 

Classic Christmas Shows in NYC

Throughout the month of December, there are several theatrical performances of holiday classics. Check theater calendars for shows, like A Christmas Carol and The Nutcracker New York City Ballet.

In addition to the classics, theatergoers will find plenty of concerts, modern performances and funny Christmas shows in NYC. Budget travelers can find free musical Christmas events in NYC, as well.

 

Christmas Shows for Kids NYC

If you are planning a New York family Christmas vacation, there are holiday theater performances that are great for kids! The Elf on the Shelf Musical and Grinch on Broadway are two shows you might want to attend during your trip to NYC with kids.

 

Pro Tip: Watching a holiday performance is one of the best things to do in NYC at Christmas – but tickets can be difficult to come by (and they often carry a hefty price tag!). If you can’t get tickets to a Christmas performance, consider attending a non-holiday Broadway (or Off Broadway) play during your trip.

 

#8 Seek Out More New York Christmas Decorations

Seeing the glittering Christmas trees, fascinating window displays and bright holiday lights are a few of the best things to do in New York at Christmas – but there are more iconic decorations to seek out!

 

Best Christmas Decorations in New York

We are highlighting just a few of the favorite classic NYC Christmas decorations that you can find around the city!

 

Red Ornament Manhattan Christmas Decorations

Red Ornament Manhattan Christmas Decorations, NYC Xmas

One of the best Christmas Displays NYC, the giant red ornaments sitting in the fountain at 49th Street and 6th Avenue are a must see – plus they are super fun for photo ops!

 

Radio City Music Hall

Radio City Music Hall is one of the best Christmas attractions in New York…and not just for the Rockettes! The classic neon signs become a jolly sight in December when a tall, slender tree stands on the corner between them.

 

5th Avenue Christmas Decorations New York City

When you stroll down 5th Avenue for shopping and window displays, be sure to keep an eye out for the brilliant holiday decorations that line the street. The Fifth Avenue Association goes all out with oversized presents, toys and even a classic NYC Yellow Taxi Cab – all of which are decorated in lights along the sidewalks.

 

The Pulitzer Fountain

Christmas Decorations at the The Pulitzer Fountain, NYC

Sitting in front of The Plaza Hotel in Grand Army Plaza Central Park, the Pulitzer Fountain is adorned in Christmas decor during the holiday season. During our trip, the fountain was transformed into a winter wonderland – complete with dancing polar bears, skating penguins and seals perched on icebergs.

 

Pro Tip: Seeking out public holiday decorations is one of the best things to do in NYC during Christmas. Many of the decorations change from year to year, so there is always something new to see!

 

#9 Take a Look inside the Best NYC Hotels for Christmas Decorations

Taking a look inside the city’s luxurious hotels is one of the top Christmas activities in NYC. The most beautiful hotels are extravagantly decorated for the holiday season – and visitors are welcome to step inside to take a peek.

 

NYC Christmas Time Hotels: The Best Places to Visit during Christmas in New York

Almost all hotels in NYC celebrate the season with a tree and garland, but there are a few hotels that stand out for their stunning holiday decor. Put the following lavishly decorated hotels on your list of places to see!

 

The Plaza Hotel New York: Christmas Time

Christmas Decorations at the Plaza Hotel, NYC

The distinguished Plaza Hotel is a gorgeous property – but Christmas at The Plaza New York is breathtaking. We already mentioned the New York Plaza Christmas Afternoon Tea as one of the best holiday dining experiences – but visitors don’t need a reservation for the upscale meal to view The Plaza Hotel NYC Christmas tree. Simply step inside and take a look at the famous tree.

 

The Peninsula New York Christmas Decorations

Christmas Decor outside the The Peninsula New York

The outside of The Peninsula Hotel in NYC features an abundance of colorful decorations, giving visitors an idea of what they will find inside the lobby. The grand stairway in The Peninsula Hotel is converted into a wintery wonderland of trees, lights and flowers in an elaborate ensemble.

 

Lotte New York Palace Christmas Tree

One of the city’s most stunning Christmas trees sits in the courtyard of the luxury Lotte New York Palace Hotel. Stylishly decorated in red and gold, the tree is easily accessible for visitors who want to see it. Returning for Christmas 2022!

 

Pro Tip: These hotels rank as a few of the best places to stay in New York during Christmas – but they are pricey! We have tips for the best places to stay in New York for Christmas for all budgets at the end of the article!

 

#10 Explore Iconic NYC at Christmastime

New York City is home to some of the best attractions in the world. Incredible architecture, amazing cultural institutions and remarkable neighborhoods dot the city landscape. While these iconic places should be on every New York Itinerary, they are some of the best places to visit in New York during Christmas, too.

 

What To See in Manhattan during Christmas

Celebrating Christmas in Manhattan isn’t just about trees and markets and ice skating – there is so much more to see! In addition to all of the Christmas activities in New York City Midtown, you will want to carve out time to see the most famous attractions.

 

Empire State Building Christmas Decor

The Art Deco Empire State Building is the most famous landmark in NYC – and it is an even better sight during the holidays! The outside windows are decorated for the festive season and the lobby features a beautiful Christmas tree. Throughout the season, the building plays host to musical performances and special events – and going to the top of the Empire State Building is a must!

 

St. Patrick’s Cathedral Manger

The historic St. Patrick’s Cathedral in midtown Manhattan is a top attraction in the city. During the holidays, however, visiting the beautiful manger at St. Patrick’s Cathedral is one of the best Christmas things to do in NYC.

 

Museums Decorated for the Holidays

The museums in New York are world class – and so are the museums’ holiday decorations!

At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a 20-foot-tall tree stands above a nativity scene that dates to the 18th-century. Guests will find the tree and nativity scene in the Medieval Sculpture Hall in front of another 18th-century artwork: a Choir Screen from the Cathedral of Valladolid.

Visitors to the American Museum of Natural History can see the famed Origami Holiday Tree. The tradition of the Origami Tree dates to the 1970s – and today there are more than 1,000 origami pieces that decorate the tree.

 

Greenwich Village Christmas Stroll

We love discovering neighborhoods on foot – and Greenwich Village is one of the best districts in NYC to explore. With quaint decorations and festive shops, visitors will definitely feel the spirit of Christmas in Greenwich Village.

 

Central Park New York Christmas

While ice skating at Wollman Rink is one of the fun things to do in NYC at Christmas, it is not the only reason to visit the famed park during the holidays.

Visit the north end of the park to see the beautiful floating Christmas Trees at Harlem Meer, which is a Central Park NYC Christmas tradition. Then, if there has been recent snow, explore the snowy landscapes in the wooded North Woods.

Bethesda Terrace is also beautiful in wintertime – and taking a stroll along The Mall and Literary Walk is a must! We share more tips for visiting Central Park in our NYC on a Budget Itinerary

Subscribe Packing Checklist by JetSettingFools.com


 

More Christmas in New York Things To Do

We have shared our top tips for what to do in NYC at Christmas time, focusing on events and attractions in Manhattan. We have a few suggestions for some of the best Christmas things to do in NYC…beyond Midtown and Manhattan, too.

 

New York Botanical Garden Christmas Time

The New York Botanical Gardens are located in the Bronx – and there are two reasons to visit during the holiday season: The train exhibit and holiday lights.

The NY Botanical Garden Christmas Holiday Train Show is a tradition that has been celebrated for 30 years. The model train exhibit features New York City landmarks made of natural materials.

A more recent addition to the New York Botanical Gardens Christmas events is the evening illumination event, GLOW. Visitors walk through a whimsical 1.5 miles of radiantly beautiful landscapes.

 

Best Christmas Lights NYC: Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, New York

Looking for the most over-the-top Christmas lights in NYC? Look no further than Dyker Heights NYC. The neighborhood in Brooklyn is renowned for their extravagant holiday decorations.

Most homeowners decorate their homes the weekend after Thanksgiving, and they are lit every night through the new year.

Getting to the Dyker Heights New York Christmas lights can be a little challenging – as it is about a 15-minute walk from the closest subway station (but it is not any easier finding parking in the neighborhood, either!). Instead, visitors can book a convenient tour – and we discuss some of the best NYC Christmas tours next!

 

Christmas Tours NYC

Enhance your New York Christmas experience with a festive holiday tour! Let a professional local guide lead the way to the top sights and attractions.

 

NYC Christmas Lights Tour Dyker Heights

The New York Dyker Heights Christmas lights are top attractions in New York during Christmas time– but getting there can be a little difficult. Instead of hassling with public transport and walking directions, join a highly rated tour!

Tour participants meet their guide in Times Square and are whisked to Brooklyn in a comfortable shuttle. The guides know where to find the dazzling displays and will show you the way to the best streets and houses. It’s best to book in advance because these tours do fill up – reserve your seat here

 

 

Walking Christmas Light Tour NYC Midtown

Don’t stress about what to do in NYC during Christmas – let a local guide show you the best sights and decorations! On the 2-hour tour, participants are led to the most magical holiday displays in the city. During the tour, the guide shares history, stories and insider secrets about the city. Get the details! 

 

 

NYC Christmas Bus Tours: THE RIDE Holiday Edition

THE RIDE is one of the top tours in the city – and the holiday edition is one of the best New York Christmas tours. The bus tour is a theater-on-wheels experience – complete with entertaining tour guides, a luxury bus and a ride through the city to the top Christmas lights. Book it now!

 


 

Map of Christmas Attractions NYC

Use this link to Google Maps for an interactive version of our Map of NYC Christmas Attractions.

Map of NYC Christmas Attractions by JetSettingFools.com

 


 

How To Plan a Christmas NYC Trip

Now that you have your list of Must-See in NYC at Christmas, we are going to help you put it all together in an ideal trip plan.

We will confess, planning a succinct New York Christmas trip is not an easy task! We reworked our plan several times to ensure we included everything we wanted to see and do – and, even then, we had to make adjustments, as rainy weather stuck a wrench in our plans.

It is best to go in with a strong plan but leave plenty of room for flexibility. With our tips, you can plan your perfect New York Christmas Vacation!

 

Christmas Time in New York: A Day-by-Day Plan

Our day-by-day trip plan of things to do in NYC around Christmas covers three full days of holiday festivities. Use it as is – or alter it to fit your interests, travel style, budget and allotted time for your trip.

 

Day 1: New York Christmas Holiday Must-See Sights

When you visit NYC during the holidays, start your trip at Columbus Circle. Visit the Columbus Circle Holiday Market and then go inside the Shops at Columbus Circle for more shopping (or at least to see the holiday decorations and take in the view).

Wander into Central Park and eat lunch at Tavern on the Green (be sure to make advanced reservations). After lunch, walk to Bethesda Terrace and then participate in one of the best things to do in NYC around Christmas: Go ice skating at Wollman Rink.

Next, set off in search of the best window displays and hotel decorations in the city – use this link to Google Maps for walking directions. Start at The Plaza Hotel, see the decor at the Pulitzer Fountain and check out the Bergdorf Goodman window displays.

Take a quick detour to see the Bloomingdale’s window displays, then head back to 5th Avenue to see the The Peninsula Hotel, Cartier and St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

Before going to see the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, stop by the Lotte New York Palace to see their courtyard tree and stop at the Saks Fifth Avenue holiday window displays.

 

Day 1: After Dark Christmas NYC Things To Do

By now, it is probably getting dark – which is ideal for many of the best New York things to do in December – like twinkling lights and colorfully decorated Christmas trees. (Keep in mind that in the winter months, it starts to get dark around 4:15pm.)

From Saks Fifth Avenue, cross the street to Rockefeller Center…and turn around to watch the Saks Fifth Avenue Light Show. When the show is over, walk toward the Rockefeller Tree and Rink to watch the ice skaters.

Circle around the block to see Radio City Music Hall and the Giant Red Ornaments – then complete your loop back to the Rockefeller Xmas tree and get in line to shop at FAO Schwarz.

Participate in an evening activity – like watching the famous Rockettes Radio City Christmas Spectacular show (book it now!) or joining a tour to see the Brooklyn Dyker Heights Holiday Lights (reserve your seat in advance!)

End your day at the Bryant Park Winter Village for a dinner of holiday market fare and warm winter drinks – or make advance reservations for dinner at a holiday-themed NYC restaurant.

 

Day 2: Things To Do NYC: Christmas Sightseeing

Begin your second day with one of the best things to do in NYC at Christmas time: Go shopping at Hudson Yards…or at least walk through the mall to see the lights. Stop by The Vessel, then jump on the High Line.

Walk to Chelsea Market to pick up a few more holiday gifts and a delicious lunch. You can’t go wrong with a meal at Chelsea Market, but sticking to the Christmas theme, we recommend indulging in a sausage from Berlin Currywurst, which is typical food served at the Best European Christmas markets.

From Chelsea Market, wander into Greenwich Village and on to Washington Square Park to see the Christmas tree under the arch.

Next, head north to the Union Square Holiday Market, where you can do some more shopping and eat sweet holiday treats (like Apple Cider Donuts) or savory eats (get the pierogies!). Stop by Rolf’s Christmas restaurant for a drink or meal (advance reservations are highly recommended!).

After Rolf’s, head for the Flatiron Building and continue making your way north along Broadway to the Empire State Building. See the holiday decorations in the lobby, then soar to the top for an epic view.

For the final sightseeing stop of the day, go to Macy’s at Herald Square to see the epic holiday windows and then go inside to see Santaland.

 

Day 3: More Christmas Things in NYC

Spend the morning of your third day in the city in Lower Manhattan. Go to the New York Stock Exchange to see the NYSE Christmas tree. While in the Financial District, consider eating lunch at the long-standing Fraunces Tavern and then pop over to One World Trade Center and go inside The Oculus to see the Christmas decorations.

In the afternoon, spend more time in Central Park to continue your exploration of the best places to visit in New York for Christmas. Start at the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Museum of Natural History (or both with a combo ticket!) – and be sure to check out their unique holiday trees while visiting the museums. Then, aim for the north end of Central Park to see the floating trees at Harlem Meer. If it is snowy, walk in the winter wonderland in the North Woods.

On the evening of your third day, make your way to the NY Botanical Gardens for two of the best New York Christmas things to do: The Holiday Train and Light Show at the Gardens.

 

Things To Do in New York on Christmas Day

Our list of holiday activities includes the best things to do in NYC in December. That said, visitors planning what to do on Christmas Day in New York need to consider what will be open. To help, we have a few tips on how to plan Christmas Day in NYC.

 

NYC Christmas Day Attractions

We think some of the best holiday activities are outdoors – like strolling through Central Park, looking at the decorative window displays and seeking out the best Christmas trees – and those are all things to do in NYC on Christmas Day, too!

The ice-skating rinks are open, as well, so ice skating is a fantastic Christmas Day NYC activity. Additionally, The Lodge and some shops at the Bryant Park Winter Village will be open for limited hours on Christmas (but the other city holiday markets are closed).

Furthermore, the city’s most famous observation decks – like the Empire State Building and Top of the Rock are open for business and they are one of the best things to do on Christmas Day in NYC.

 

What NYC Restaurants Open on Christmas Day?

One of the biggest questions is: What restaurants open on Christmas Day in NYC? While there are many restaurants that close for the holiday, there are still plenty of places in the city to eat a classic NYC Christmas dinner.

You can use this list of places that will be open – but keep in mind that it is best to make reservations far in advance for your Christmas Dinner in NYC.


 

Details for Visiting New York during Christmas

We have shared our top advice for things to do in NYC for the holidays – but we have a few final tips that will help you plan your trip.

 

How To Get to NYC

New York City can be reached by plane, train or car.

We like to fly – we are JetSetting Fools, after all – but a train ride can be just as convenient if traveling from nearby cities, like Boston or Washington DC

Generally speaking, we do not recommend driving in the city. Not only is traffic horrendous but parking your car in Manhattan can cost a bundle.

 

Flying to NYC

There are three major airports travelers can use to get to NYC: John F Kennedy International Airport (JFK), LaGuardia Airport (LGA) and Newark International Airport (EWR).

Find the best fares by starting your search early – and use our other tips for Getting the Best Deals on Flights.

 

Best Hotel in NYC for Christmas

Finding the best hotel to stay in New York for Christmas is not an easy task! We highly recommend staying in Midtown, close to the majority of holiday attractions.

There are hundreds of hotels in the city in a range of price points. When searching for a New York Christmas hotel, it is probably better to ask the question, What is the best hotel in New York for Christmas for my budget?

We are highlighting a few of the best places to stay in New York for Christmas the cover all types of budgets.

 

Christmas in New York Plaza Hotel

If you want to spend Christmas in New York in style – and you have the budget to do it – then there is no better place to stay than the famed New York Plaza Hotel. In addition to booking a room, guests can select Plaza New York Christmas Packages that include an in-room decorated Christmas tree and special holiday treats from the chef…but expect to pay more than $1000 a night for the experience. 

Looking for other luxury places to stay in New York for Christmas that are slightly less expensive? Check rates at the posh St. Regis Hotel or the stylish Peninsula Hotel.

 

Mid-Range NYC Hotels Christmas Time

Visitors who want a nice, clean place to stay at an affordable price have a few fantastic options. Prices of these hotels will vary based on day of week; weekday stays are cheaper than weekend nights.

 

W New York Times Square

The central location of W NY Times Square can’t be beat! The upscale hotel offers rooms at an affordable price (especially on weekdays) – plus they offer heaps of amenities (like a fitness center, bathrobes, luggage storage and use of umbrellas). Guests also love the rooms with a view of the city skyline. Check rates for your stay!

 

Hilton Garden Inn New York Times Square South

Located in Midtown, the Hilton Garden Inn NY Times Square South is where we opted to stay in New York during December. For us, it was the best place to stay in NYC at Christmas for a few reasons: Affordability, location, cleanliness.

The rooms are spacious (by New York standards), the beds are comfortable, the staff is pleasant and it is an easy walk to the top things to do in New York at Christmas – like Bryant Park, Rockefeller Center, Macy’s and Hudson Yards. Book it for your trip!

 

Budget Places to Stay in NYC during Christmas

If you are planning a New York City Christmas trip on a budget, finding an affordable place to stay will likely be your biggest challenge. That said, we have a few tips the will help you find your best place to stay in NYC for Christmas on a budget!

First, we highly recommend booking your accommodations early. The best value hotels get snapped up quickly! Second, you may want to branch away from Midtown to find a more affordable hotel or hostel. If you opt to stay outside of Midtown, make sure you book a place close to public transportation so that you can easily get around the city to the best things to do in New York at Christmas time.

Hostels can be a great option for solo travelers, but they often cost just as much as budget hotels when traveling with two or more people. Jazz on Columbus Circle Hostel gets good reviews, as does Chelsea International Hostel.

 

Pro Tip: Start your search for the best place to stay in New York City in December on Booking.com – but first, use our tips for Booking the Best Hotels.

 

What You Need to Pack to Have a Merry Christmas in New York

We have a few final tips for visiting New York around Christmas time: What to pack! As full-time travelers, we are pros at packing and we share our best packing tips on our dedicated Travel Packing page. That said, we have a few specific packing hacks for backpack or suitcase when you travel to New York for Christmas.

 

Walking Shoes for NYC

While our list of what to see in NYC at Christmas is mostly concentrated in Midtown, it still involves a ton of walking. It is imperative to pack comfortable walking shoes for your holiday trip. When we traveled to NYC for Christmas, the weather was warm enough for me to wear my favorite travel sneakers and Kris trekked around the city in his comfortable Merrell trail shoes.

Use our tips for finding the Best Travel Shoes for your trip!

 

Layered Clothing

There are so many things to see in NYC during Christmas that you will likely be on the go from morning until night! Because the weather can change throughout the day – and because you will be in and out of shopping malls – it is best to wear layered clothing.

Packing a Capsule Wardrobe for your trip is one of our top Packing Hacks – and it can seriously cut down on how much luggage you bring on your holiday!

 

NYC Day Pack

As you seek out the best places to visit in NYC at Christmas time, you will want to do it with a good day bag. We like to use lightweight and functional day packs by Osprey. They are perfect for stowing everything we need for long days of sightseeing…with extra room for our outer layers as we peel them off during the day.

Use our tips for the Best Day Packs for Travel to choose the right day bag for your trip!

 

Travel Camera for NYC Photos

NY at Christmas is undeniably beautiful! The trees, decorations, displays and millions of twinkling lights are an absolute sight to see. Don’t rely on your cell phone camera to capture the sights – use a real travel camera for quality photos.

We travel with a beginner’s budget camera, the DSLR Canon Rebel, and use an everyday 18-135mm lens. It’s sturdy, easy to use and comes with heaps of useful accessories when you buy the complete kit

Read our guide to the Best Travel Cameras for more tips!


 

Extending your NYC Christmas Vacation until New Year’s? Dive into our Top Places to Spend New Year’s Eve, because New York City is certainly one of them!

 

Looking for additional winter trip suggestions? Dive into our detailed list of the Top US Winter Destinations!

 

We Want To Know: What are your favorite things to do in NYC during the holidays? Give us your best tips and advice in the comments!

 

Start planning your trip to NYC! Search for the lowest airfares, the best accommodations and fun things to do…then start packing!  Want more travel planning tips? Head over to our Travel Planning page for more information and tips on traveling – and for country-specific information, take a look at our Travel Guides page!

 

Click here for a Free Vacation Budget Planner Banner by JetSettingFools.com

 

Pin it! See all of our travel pins on our JetSetting Fools Pinterest Board.

Best NYC Christmas Experiences Plus How To Plan Your Trip