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Taking an NYC Christmas Trip is the perfect way to usher in that holiday spirit! Bright lights and festive ornaments decorate the ever-bustling metropolis. An undeniable sense of merriment simmers in the crisp December air. With our top tips you will discover the very Best Things To Do in New York during Christmas!
On our wintertime visit, 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 all the classic holiday attractions. We meticulously planned out our time – 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 all the amazing things to do in NYC for Christmas!
Plus, we share honest advice for visitors planning a trip to New York for Christmas. Not only do we highlight the NYC Christmas must-do attractions, we wrap them into an excellent day-by-day trip plan for experiencing Xmas in New York.
NYC Christmas FAQs
Before we dive into our list of what to do in New York at Christmas, we want to answer 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 holiday lights and attractions sprinkled throughout Manhattan – and beyond. We detail where to find all the prime NYC Christmas decorations on our list.
Are there Free New York City Christmas Events?
New York is an expensive destination, 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. Travelers can plan to visit New York City at Christmas on a budget and still feel the spirit!
One of the things 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. We will highlight which Christmas attractions in NYC are free.
Top Tip: Planning affordable trips to NYC at Christmas – or anytime – can be trying. Be sure to also use our guide to Visiting New York City on a Budget for your vacation.
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 – draw 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 NYC’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 famous tree at Rockefeller Center).
What is the Weather like in NYC at Christmas?
The weather in NYC during Christmas time can be frigid! The average high temperature in the month of December is about 44-degrees Fahrenheit – with average lows that dip below freezing.
Still, there are fantastic things to do in NYC in December outdoors. When you plan your Christmas trip to New York City, be sure to pack warm clothes…and maybe a travel umbrella. We share many more packing tips for winter in New York at the end of the article.
When Do New York Christmas Attractions Open?
The top 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 begin the day after Thanksgiving – and stay open until the end of December or through the first week of January.
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 early 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. 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.
Save, Pin or Bookmark our New York Christmas Travel Guide to plan your visit to the Big Apple!
10 BEST THINGS FOR YOUR 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 itinerary and 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 Christmastime 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 New York, there are a few you don’t want to miss! Make room in your New York Christmas Trip Itinerary to ensure you make it to these iconic Xmas trees in NYC.
The Famous Rockefeller Christmas Tree
If you are wondering, Where is the Christmas Tree in NYC?, the one you’re looking for is at Rockefeller Center!
The Rockefeller New York Christmas Tree stands astoundingly tall (80 feet for 2023) and is illuminated with more than 50,000 multi-colored lights. The Norway Spruce 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 (November 29th in 2023). 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 5 in the morning until midnight (and for 24 hours on Christmas Day).
We think it is best to enter Rockefeller Plaza from 5th Avenue for the most phenomenal view of the Christmas 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
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 in front of the 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 typically takes place during the first week of December and usually includes musical performances. On Christmas Eve in New York, revelers gather around the Washington Square Park Xmas tree for singalong Christmas carols beginning at 5pm (and tree is lit daily from 4pm to 1am).
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 festive event features kid-friendly activities – like sipping hot cocoa and writing letters to Santa – and will take place on November 30th, 2023 from 3-6pm.
New York Public Library Christmas Tree
Christmas trips to New York City are not complete without popping into the New York Public Library to see their gorgeous Christmas tree. The tree decorates the flagship branch of the NYPL, which is located at 5th Avenue and 42nd Street and is also known as the Stephen A Schwarzman Building.
In addition to the dazzling tree, classy garlands hang from the building and the two lions that protect the entrance don festive wreaths. Furthermore, the library has hosts festive holiday events, so be sure to check out their current holiday program during your trip to New York at Christmas. UPDATE: It appears the NYPL will not be displaying a tree in 2023 and other programs are TBD.
Christmas Tree Lighting NYC
Tree lightings are one of the best NYC Christmas events…and they happen all over the city at different times. Research which tree lighting ceremonies are taking place during 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 New York City holiday trees!
#2 Go Ice Skating: NYC Christmas Classic
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 others on the ice, we think spending time at the ice-skating rinks ranks as one of the epic Christmas activities in 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 a very picturesque place to go ice skating in NYC and one of the top things to do in New York for Christmas. 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 in the next section). 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 twirl around the ice. We share our top packing tips for New York Christmas trips at the end of the article.
#3 Visit Fun NYC Christmas Markets
If you are wondering what to do in NYC at Christmas to get into a festive mood, then route yourself directly to the fun NY City Christmas Markets! Featuring boutique shops selling unique gifts and warm Christmastime sweet treats, the New York holiday markets are certain to evoke a Christmassy feeling.
The Best Christmas Markets NYC
These markets are absolutely magical – and one of the best Christmas things to do in New York! We are featuring the best NYC Xmas markets from our visit.
Winter Village at Bryant Park
Ranked as one of the absolute best Christmas markets in NYC, the Winter Village in Bryant Park is a must-see and a highlight of New York Christmas vacations!
The NYC Christmas village features an open-air European-style market, an ice-skating rink, cozy igloos, ice curling and a buzzing lodge where merrymakers can sip warm wintery drinks and feast on holiday market fare. The Winter Village at Bryant Park for 2023 opened on October 27 and the rink and lodge will operate until the beginning of March 2024! (The shops will close on January 2nd, 2024.)
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. Columbus Circle Holiday Market dates for this year are November 28th to December 31st, 2023 (closed Christmas Day).
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. The USQ Holiday Market dates for 2023 are November 16 – December 24 (closed on Thanksgiving).
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. Perhaps best of all, the market is held indoors – so it can be a great escape from the cold wintery weather. The Grand Central Holiday Fair 2023 dates are from November 13th to December 24th (but it will be closed on Thanksgiving Day).
Pro Tip: Looking for other great US destinations for Christmas markets? Boston and Philadelphia – both of which can be reached from NYC on a day trip – host spectacular Christmas markets during the month of December!
#4 Gaze at Beautifully Decorated NYC Christmas Windows
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. 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 street from 59th Street to 42nd Street gazing at the phenomenal window displays during the holidays. That said, there are a few stores you should seek out that are not on 5th Avenue.
Saks Fifth Avenue
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 façade of the building, it’s one of the best light shows in New York. The performance happens about every 10 minutes from 5pm until 11:30pm and is best viewed from across the street in front of Rockefeller Center.
Macy’s NYC Christmas Decor
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 (34th Street and 6th Ave) are used to tell a holiday story – complete with memorable characters, reindeer, snowmen and of course, Santa!
Bloomingdale’s NYC Christmas Windows
The flagship Bloomindale’s store on 59th and Lexington ranks as another one of the top 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 that is wrapped up like a present with a big, beautiful red bow that we found the most impressive.
#5 Spend a Day Christmas Shopping 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!
One of the great 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…there is no other place like it in New York City at Christmas time!
Holiday decorations brighten the aisles – and shoppers shouldn’t miss Macy’s Santaland New York. The NYC Santaland Christmas store at Macy’s is located on the 8th floor, just make reservations in advance – especially if you have little ones that want to visit with Santa!
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 absolute wonderland of toys.
Shops at Columbus Circle
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 at Columbus Circle during Christmas trips to New York, take in the elevated view of Central Park and the NYC Skyline.
Hudson Yards Shopping Mall
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 displays.
The mall is illuminated with 2 million twinkling white lights – an impressive sight, which we think ranks as one of the Best Christmas Lights in New York. 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!
Widely known as a fun and trendy food hall, Chelsea Market is always a lively place featuring boutique retailers and culinary shops. During trips to New York for Christmas, it is an ideal spot to pick up foodie gifts and bask in the glow of sparkling lights and merry holiday décor.
The Oculus Shopping Mall at the World Trade Center
The Westfield Shops at The Oculus are a great place to go shopping for Christmas presents in NYC. The modern Oculus structure was created to look like a dove taking flight out of an open hand and the architecture is undeniably cool. Although the design itself is minimalist, the holiday decor is delightful!
In addition to shopping in the festively decorated space, the Oculus Center also hosts a small and incredibly picturesque, pop up NYC Xmas market!
Christmas Cottage NYC
The Christmas Cottage Shop in New York is a fabulous store for holiday shopping. The charming Cottage Christmas Shop NYC is a family-owned business that opened their doors in 1985 and specializes in ornaments, decorations and holiday souvenirs!
New York Times Square Christmas Shopping
NY Times Square has always been a destination for shopping. 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 décor. UPDATE: Sadly, the Christmas in NY Store on Times Square has closed.
Christmas in New York Little Italy
The flagship Christmas in New York store is located in Little Italy on Mulberry Street and is a top destination for visitors on trips to NYC for Christmas. The Little Italy location boasts an enormous holiday gift selection, a Christmas museum and a holiday-themed café – and it’s the perfect place to pick up personalized NYC Christmas ornaments.
Pro Tip: On Christmas shopping trips to New York, you can expand your experience with an insider’s tour to the best vintage shops. Get the details!
#6 Enjoy Festive Meals and Holiday Cocktails in NYC during Christmas
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 top restaurants in NYC for Christmas can enhance your holiday experience. Advance reservations at these NYC Xmas restaurants is highly recommended – as they get fully booked for the holiday season very early.
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 Restaurant in NYC. The landmark establishment also displays one of the most beautifully decorated Christmas trees in NYC in their courtyard. Guests will find popular 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.
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 along 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 New York. Expect the best over-the-top Christmas decorations in NYC at these fun bars!
Sippin’ Santa NYC at Thief LES Christmas Bar
For the month of December, Thief hosts the Sippin’ Santa Holiday Pop-Up Cocktail Bar on the Lower East Side. Beachy cocktails with a Christmas twist are highlights of the menu. Find out more on Sippin Santa website.
Snow Globe at Ophelia Christmas-Themed Bar NYC
Does it get any more Christmassy than sipping cocktails in a winter wonderland rooftop Snow Globe in the sky? We think not! Perched atop the Beekman Tower, Ophelia Lounge NYC 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 regional wine and craft beer in the heart of the New York City merriment.
Miracle on 9th Street NYC Christmas Bar
With elaborate kitschy holiday décor and a fun list of holiday libations, it’s hard not to feel the spirit(s) at Miracle on 9th at The Cabinet!
Pro Tip: If our recommended restaurants and bars are already booked during your Christmas trip to NYC, don’t fret! Nearly every establishment in New York City is decorated for the holidays, ensuring you will be wrapped in merriment wherever you end up.
#7 Attend Christmas Shows in 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 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 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 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 popular things to do in NYC at Christmas, so tickets can be difficult to come by and 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 essential 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 a few more of the favorite classic NYC Christmas decorations that you can find around the city!
Red Ornament Manhattan Christmas Decorations
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.
The Pulitzer Fountain
Sitting in front of The Plaza Hotel in Grand Army Plaza Central Park, the Pulitzer Fountain is adorned in Christmas décor 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 fun 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 Find the Best NYC Hotels for Christmas Decorations
Taking a look inside (and outside) 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: Top 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 that stand out for their stunning holiday décor. Put the following lavishly decorated hotels on your list of places to see!
The Plaza Hotel New York: Christmas Time
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 have a look!
The Peninsula New York Christmas Decorations
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 have a peek.
Pro Tip: These hotels also rank as a few of the best places to stay in New York during Christmas – but they are pricey! We have advice for the top 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 most famous attractions in the world. Incredible architecture, amazing cultural institutions and remarkable neighborhoods dot the 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 during New York Xmas trips to see these celebrated sights.
Empire State Building Christmas Decor
The Art Deco Empire State Building is the most famous landmark in NYC – but it is even better 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 NYC must-do!
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 their 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 of The Met 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 decorations
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, especially if there has been recent snow, explore the winter landscapes in the North Woods.
Bethesda Terrace and the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir are 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.
More Christmas in New York Things To Do
We’ve shared our experiences for what to do in NYC at Christmas time, focusing on events and attractions in Manhattan. Now here’s a few suggestions for some of the best Christmas things to do in NYC beyond Midtown and Manhattan.
New York Botanical Garden Christmas Time
The New York Botanical Gardens in the Bronx have 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 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.
Christmas Lights in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, New York
Looking for the most over-the-top Christmas lights in NYC? Look no further than Dyker Heights! The neighborhood in Brooklyn is renowned for their extravagant holiday decorations beginning the week after Thanksgiving.
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. 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 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 NYC light displays and will lead the way to the best streets and houses. It’s recommended to book in advance because they 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 decorations! On the 2-hour tour, participants are led to the most magical holiday displays. During the tour, the guide shares history, stories and insider secrets. Get the details!
NYC Christmas Bus Tours
A fantastic way to experience the sights of New York and Christmas attractions is on a bus tour. Save your feet and relax in a comfortable coach bus straight to the top sights of the season!
THE RIDE Holiday Edition
THE RIDE Christmas Edition is one of the best New York Christmas tours. Actually, it’s a theater-on-wheels experience – complete with entertaining guides as you ride through NYC to see the top Christmas lights.
Luxury Holiday Bus Tour
Hop aboard a luxury bus to see the best of NY in Christmas decor. The Holiday Bus makes stop at Bryant Park, Macy’s, Times Square, 5th Avenue, Rockefeller Center and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Plus, the 3.5-hour tour includes live on-board commentary from a fun and engaging guide. Book your seat here!
New York City Holiday Cruise: Cocoa and Carol Singing
Cruise along the shoreline while soaking in the stunning NYC skyline view on a holiday boat trip. Passengers board the decorated ship, sip hot cocoa and sing along with the band to favorite Christmas time tunes. Find out more!
Map of Christmas Attractions NYC
Use this link to Google Maps for an interactive version of our Map of NYC Christmas Attractions.
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 confess, planning a succinct New York Christmas trip is not an easy task. We reworked our rundown several times to ensure we included everything we wanted to see and do. It is best to go in with a strong plan but leave room for flexibility in your New York Christmas Vacation!
Travel Planner for your Christmas New York Trip
As you make your New York Christmas Trip plans, staying organized is key. Use our Printable Travel Planner to keep track of all your New York City Christmas Trip details!
Christmas Time in New York: A Day-by-Day Plan
We are sharing our New York Christmas Itinerary to help you prepare your perfect vacation.
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, budget and allotted time for your New York Christmas vacation.
Day 1: New York Christmas Holiday Must-See Sights
When you visit NYC during the holidays, start your trip at the Columbus Circle Holiday Market. Then go inside the Shops at Columbus Circle for more shopping and to see the holiday decorations.
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 prime window displays and hotel decorations – use this Google Map for walking directions. Start at The Plaza Hotel, see the décor at the Pulitzer Fountain and check out the Bergdorf Goodman window displays.
Make a quick detour to see the Bloomingdale’s Xmas window displays, then head back to 5th Avenue to see the The Peninsula Hotel, Cartier and St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Before going to 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! Keep in mind that in the winter months, it starts to get dark around 4pm.
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 Ice Rink.
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 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
After your morning bagel (we recommend Liberty Bagels), begin your second day with one of the great things to do in NYC at Christmas time: Go shopping at Hudson Yards. Then stop by for a look at The Vessel, and hop 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 in Lower Manhattan and 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 Shopping Mall to see the Christmas decorations and pop-up market.
Next, spend more time in Central Park to continue your exploration of the top 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. 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 of the North Woods.
In the evening, 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 rinks are open too, 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 holiday markets are closed).
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 closed for the holiday, there are still plenty of places to eat a classic NYC Christmas dinner.
You can use this list of places that will be open and make reservations far in advance for your Christmas Dinner in NYC.
Alternatively, visitors can book a unique dining experience aboard a boat. The Dine and Cruise New York Christmas packages include a 3-course meal for brunch or dinner on Christmas Day – plus live music, fine wine and stunning views. Get ticket prices here!
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 additional tips that will help you plan your trip.
How To Get to NYC
New York City can be reached by plane, train or car.
Generally speaking, we do not recommend driving in NYC; not only is traffic horrendous but parking your car in Manhattan can cost a bundle.
Flying to NYC
There are three major airports in NYC: John F Kennedy International Airport (JFK), LaGuardia Airport (LGA) and Newark International Airport (EWR).
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 at a range of price points – which can feel overwhelming when deciding where to stay in New York for Christmas. 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 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 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 $2000 a night for the experience.
Mid-Range NYC Hotels Christmas Time
Visitors who want a nice place to stay in New York 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 NYC 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 NYC standards), the beds are comfortable 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 a budget place to stay in NYC for Christmas.
First, we highly recommend booking early. The top 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 are close to public transportation to get 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. The centrally located Nap York Central Park Sleep Station offers pod bunks at affordable prices and gets good reviews.
What to Pack to Have a Merry Christmas in New York
What’s left to do before visiting New York around Christmastime? Pack! As nomads, we are packing pro’s and share our top tips on our dedicated Travel Packing page. Still, we have a few specific ideas for your backpack or suitcase when you travel to New York for Christmas.
Pro Tip: Get your FREE Packing Checklist here!
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, I wore my favorite travel sneakers and Kris trekked around in his Merrell trail shoes.
Top Tip: Use our tips for finding the Best Travel Shoes for your trip!
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 in New York can change throughout the day – and you will be in and out of shopping malls – be prepared by wearing layered clothing.
Packing a Capsule Wardrobe for your trip is one of our top Packing Hacks – and it can seriously cut it down to carry-on only.
Day Pack for your NYC Trip
As you seek out the greatest places to visit in NYC at Christmas time, you will want to do it with a great 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.
Pro Tip: Read our reviews on the Best Day Packs for Travel to choose the one 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 behold. Don’t rely on your phone to capture the sights – use a real travel camera for high quality photos.
Top Tips: Read our guide to the Best Travel Cameras for the price.
Trip Insurance for New York Trips at Christmas
New York Christmas travel can bring a lot of uncertainty. Between inclement weather, lost luggage and seasonal illnesses, plans can go awry. With the right travel insurance plan, however, those costs might be covered.
Extending your NYC Christmas Vacation into the New Year? 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? Check out our list of the Top US Winter Destinations!
We Want To Know: What are your favorite things to do in NYC during the holidays? Share with us in the comments below!
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