Travel Guides

14 Magical Christmas Things to Do in New York City

Come on Christmas Day, visiting New York is a gift in itself. From timeless Christmas traditions to superbly bright light shows and just plain weird winter events, there’s a lot to celebrate this holiday season in New York. Consider this our gift to you – here are 14 Christmas things to do in New York.

14 Magical Christmas Things to Do in New York City

Winter Village at Bryant Park

Visiting Bryant Park is one of the best things to do in New York for Chritmas. With the return of the Bank of America Winter Village, the charm of a small town comes to a big city. In this winter paradise in Bryant Park, there is a towering Christmas tree and an open-air skating rink (admission is free!) Frame the pop-up village with unique handmade gifts and classic Christmas treats such as hot chocolate and cider.

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Bustling Winter Village in Bryant Park with a large, decorated Christmas tree in the background, surrounded by holiday shops and visitors, capturing the essence of Christmas things to do in New York.
Holiday Shoppers and Skaters Enjoy the Festive Atmosphere at the Winter Village in Bryant Park

Radio City's Christmas Pageant

The Radio City Christmas Spectacular Christmas show is a sweet seasonal tradition that even locals can't resist - healthy holiday entertainment never goes out of fashion. Watch 36 American Rockettes idols take the stage with three-foot hats, winter-themed props, and other impressive surprises." If you were being nice rather than naughty, old Chris Krinkle might even show up as a guest.

Union Square Holiday Market

The Union Square Holiday Market, an urban oasis with a wintry atmosphere, is Manhattan's must things to do for Christmas. Here you will find original gifts ranging from small batches of jams to framed prints, warming products such as hot Persian soup and Italian arancini, as well as unique features such as a market heating station and a "Little Brooklyn" section.

Visitors browsing through charming holiday market stalls adorned with twinkling lights in Bryant Park, exemplifying the vibrant Christmas things to do in New York City

For more informationa about Square Holiday Market.

  • Address: E 14th St, New York, NY 10011, United States
  • Hours: Monday to Friday: 11 AM–8 PM. Saturday: 10 AM–8 PM. Sunday: 11 AM–7 PM

Rockefeller Center's Iconic Christmas Tree

Go to the Rockefeller Center (or simply Capital, as this place is called at Christmas) which, by the way, has appeared here every winter since 1933. The Rockefeller Center one of the best Christmas things to do in New York and the Christmas tree has had as much significance in the city as hot chocolate, ice skating outdoors and (you love to hate it) crowded shops.

The iconic Rockefeller Center Christmas tree aglow with thousands of lights, surrounded by onlookers and flanked by the golden Prometheus statue, epitomizing the festive Christmas things to do in New York City.
The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting

Towering over the city at an altitude of 69 to 100 feet and decorated with about 45,000 LED lamps, the tree makes you feel cozy even in a big bad city. To push through closer, show your tongue to a couple of not so dodgy tourists, take a photo, get into the Christmas spirit and proudly march to the exit

A breathtaking nighttime overview of Rockefeller Center during Christmas, with the radiant Christmas tree at its heart and snowflake projections on surrounding buildings, showcasing a top holiday activity in New York.
Aerial View of Rockefeller Center at Christmas

Don't stay here for the sake of skating. A tiny, crammed to overflowing with lazy figure skaters and a very expensive ice rink (27 USD entrance + 11 USD rent), the queue for which will have to wait at least 1.5 hours. Come here in January, there are much fewer people here this month and the cost surprisingly melts by 3-5 USD. Or go to Central Park, to the Wollman Rink, which is incomparably larger in size, with a wonderful atmosphere and adequate prices (18 admission + 8 USD rent).

  • Address: 45 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10111, United States
  • Hours: Open 24 hours

Take a look at the famous Christmas lights in Dyker Heights

Take a walk in Dyker Heights, a Brooklyn neighborhood famous for its Christmas lights and decorations. What began in the 1980s as a friendly competition between neighbors turned into a blinding storm enjoyed by people from all over the city.

A residential street in Dyker Heights, New York, festooned with elaborate Christmas lights and decorations, showcasing a popular Christmas activity in the city.
Dyker Heights Christmas Lights Display - A Dazzling Winter Tradition in New York.

Ask any local where to find the best Christmas lights in New York City and they will guide you from the main attractions to Brooklyn's Dyker Heights. This remote place has become a winter vacation destination thanks to the unusual light screens of its residents, some of which are professionally made and cost more than $ 20,000.

Enjoy a Festive Dinner at Rolf's: A New York Christmas Highlight

Visitors come to Rolf's for schnitzel, but stay for dazzling (or should I say dizzying?) Christmas decorations that include hundreds of lights and decorative items that will be on display starting in September. Over the past 40-plus years, the German diner in Gramercy Park has become the most amazing place for Christmas celebrations in New York. Although, given the choice of imported beer Rolf, Wiener, jagger and paprika schnitzels and an unpretentious atmosphere, the success of the establishment is not so surprising.

Snow blankets Central Park and a stone bridge at night, providing a peaceful contrast to the bright lights of nearby skyscrapers, reflecting the quieter side of Christmas things to do in New York.
Central Park in Winter
  • Address: 281 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10010, United States
  • Hours: Daily 12–10 PM

Admire the windows of the holidays

Come winter, while the rest of the country is doing holiday shopping, New Yorkers are finding time for shop windows. Festive storefronts are an integral part of the city's Christmas culture, turning a snowy stroll down Fifth Avenue into the most magical walk of the season. Although many stores adhere to this tradition, we especially recommend the famous Bergdorf Goodman, Barneys, Macy's, Bloomingdales and Saks Fifth Avenue. Indeed, taking your time to admire these enchanting window is one of the magical Christmas things to do in New York City.

 A row of Christmas trees lit with colorful lights lining an old cobblestone street in New York at dusk, embodying the quaint and festive activities available during the holiday season.
New York's Cobblestone Streets Come Alive with the Warm Glow of Christmas Trees, Offering a Timeless Holiday Charm.

Festive train show at the New York Botanical Garden

Children (and children at heart) will love this vintage attraction that places the "miracle" in a "winter wonderland". At the "Holiday Train" exhibition at the New York Botanical Garden, models of trains are swept through the nearly half-mile exhibition, which includes 150 attractions such as the Brooklyn Bridge, Rockefeller Center and the Empire State Building. Even more magical? All these figurines are made of bark, leaves and other materials found in nature.

A clear spring day at the New York Botanical Garden with the grand conservatory dome in the background and cherry blossoms in full bloom, a place of natural beauty not just for Christmas but year-round.
The New York Botanical Garden's Conservatory
  • Address: 2900 Southern Blvd, Bronx, NY 10458, United States
  • Hours: Monday: Closed. Tuesday to Sunday: 10 AM–6 PM

Find decorations on Sixth Avenue

As you may have already guessed, Christmas in the Big Apple requires a lot of decorations. One of the city's most famous (and photographed) holiday decorations is the ornamental installation on Sixth Avenue. Every year, huge Christmas decorations find their way outside Rockefeller Center and other Midtown addresses, much to the delight of tourists, photographers and Instagram enthusiasts.

A typical New York scene with a stream of yellow taxis on Sixth Avenue, set against a backdrop of towering buildings, capturing the city's dynamic atmosphere as part of the Christmas things to do in New York.
Sixth Avenue

The Brooklyn Flea

Do you want to know where a real New Yorker does his holiday shopping? For the answer (and some "New York only" finds), head to the Brooklyn Flea Holiday market in trendy Industry City. The winter version of the city's favorite flea market will feature 50 vendors, 10 eateries in Smorgasburg, beer, wine and cocktails, as well as the perfect gifts for everyone on your list.

Shoppers peruse an assortment of items at a bustling outdoor flea market, with tables laden with vintage goods, collectibles, and quirky finds, epitomizing the local shopping experience in New York.
Brooklyn Flea Holiday market
  • Brooklyn Flea Holiday market open every Saturday and Sunday.

Watch the Empire State Building light Show

The Empire State Building in New York, which attracts attention all year round, can be seen in a new light (literally). And for that reason visiting Empire State Building would be another top Christmas things to do in New York City. Since 1976, the famous skyscraper has been changing the lights on the tower in recognition of various events throughout the year, such as the premiere of the Radio City Christmas Play. With its LED lighting system capable of displaying 16 million colors, the icon presents dazzling light shows that can be watched from all over New York City.

A striking projection on the Empire State Building at night, with the cityscape of New York lit up in the background, highlighting the innovative Christmas things to do in New York.
The Empire State Building Illuminates the Night Sky with a Special Projection.
  • Address: 20 W 34th St., New York, NY 10001, United States Hours:
  • Open Daily 10 AM–10 PM

SantaCon: Amazing Christmas Thing to Do in New York

This winter, enjoy a drink with Christmas notes in the most fun (and crazy) the bar of the season. Put on your best Santa Claus costume at SantaCon, a viral event blurring the lines between naughty and cute.

A crowded bar in New York City teems with festive party-goers in Santa outfits during SantaCon, embodying the spirited and unconventional Christmas things to do in New York.
Revelers Dressed as Santa Claus Celebrate at SantaCon

What is SantaCon? Every year in mid-December, just before Catholic Christmas, an exciting SantaCon festival takes place all over the world, in which anyone dressed in a bright red suit with a white edge can take part. For the first time, a large-scale street event was held in 1994 in San Francisco. On this favorite holiday, you'll have the opportunity to chat with other Kris Kringles as you march from bar to bar, lifting your spirits (and eyebrows) along the way.

Gingerbread Lane at the New York Science Hall

Do you think science is stuffy? This unusual Christmas tradition at the New York Hall of Science (NYSCI) will change your mind and whet your appetite. At the Gingerbread Lane exhibition at NYSCI, you will get acquainted with the gingerbread village (the largest from 2013 to 2015, according to the Guinness Book of World Records), consisting entirely of edible homemade gingerbread, royal icing and sweets. Expect a lot of pleasant photo shoots and difficulties in complying with the "do not touch" rule of the exhibition.

A detailed gingerbread village display featuring a lighted Christmas tree centerpiece, showcasing the creative and edible artistry that’s part of the Christmas things to do in New York
ntricate Gingerbread Village at the New York Hall of Science

Quiet night

This international holiday tradition is not about caroling your parents, but combining classic Christmas fun with modern technology to create the most stunning symphony of the season. Since 1992, Unsilent Night has brought its musical fun to 101 cities, including New York, Brussels and other cities.

This year, you can join the promenade of participants carrying boomboxes, smartphones and other music broadcasts, and they will all play one of four different compositions that together form a single Christmas piece.

A serene winter scene in Central Park at twilight with snow-covered grounds and a stone bridge, reflected in the still waters, with the city's illuminated skyline providing a stunning backdrop for Christmas activities in New York.
Central Park at Dusk | Christmas Things to Do in New York City

Important dos and don’ts in New York

Once you’re in New York, you should keep in mind a few important dos and don’ts:

Do visit the holiday show. For example, St. John the Divine's Winter Solstice with amazing musicians from Armenia, unique decorations and a bright festive mood. Or Radio City Music Hall's Christmas Spectacular, which at one time was seen by well, just every self-respecting child in New York. An equally interesting installation has traditionally opened in the Botanical Garden in the Bronx, namely: the Holiday Train Show with toy and very natural models of the Brooklyn Bridge, Yankee Stadium and St. Patrick's Cathedral.

Don't Forget about the rest of the productions. Especially Brooklyn's BAM, which does something terrible every year, like The Hard Nut.

Do with a cold head and shaking hands clutching a credit card, go to the most beloved shopping mall in New York, FAO Schwarz. Despite all the bright, juicy, alluring sweets and toys, strictly go to the 22-foot floor piano. What should I do with it? You'll see for yourself!

Don't come here during rush hours. The best time for a piano workshop is from 10 a.m., when the doors of the FAO are just opening.

A vibrant scene of ice skaters of all ages at Bryant Park's rink in New York City, with skyscrapers towering in the background, embodying the joy of Christmas things to do in New York.
Skaters Glide Across the Ice at Bryant Park, Reveling in One of New York's Cherished Winter Traditions.

Keep in mind also this important dos and don’ts:

Do Pay attention to the storefronts. They all dressed up for Christmas. It is here that you can meet hundreds of Santas, smiling deer and hardworking elves who wave affably from behind the glittering glass of one or another showcase. Marvel at the imagination of the designers, then treat yourself to several meters of completely unnecessary, yet wonderfully beautiful wrapping paper, and finally, with a clear conscience, proceed to the next item on your list.

Don't go to hipster downtown. Where you shouldn't go is in the so—called hipster downtown - a bohemian neighborhood with freaks of all sorts and ages. At this time of the year, you can hardly get into a festive mood here. It is better to walk along Fifth Avenue to the Rockefeller Center, to the FAO children's department store or to Madison Street.

Do Head to the unique Santaland that opened at the Macy's Mall. It is about such places that they say "made with love": Christmas trees, toy trains and almost real snowfalls will give kids a festive mood especially for Christmas. In addition, it is here that one of the "real official Santa Clauses" of New York arranges a kneeling reception (Santa's hotline number: +1-212-494-4495).

Don't pull Santa's beard at Macy's — it's real!