Are you looking for the 15 best things to put on your New York City Christmas itinerary?
As a former New Yorker and a lifelong New York fanatic, I absolutely love spending the holidays in New York City. If it’s your first trip or your fifty first, you can soak up the festivities all over Manhattan.
There is a lot to see and do , so I’ve narrowed down the 15 best things for you to do in New York City this Christmas season.
Spend the most wonderful time of the year in the most wonderful city of New York! Day or night, the city is lit up and exciting!
This is a guide to help you make the most of your New York City Christmas holiday season.
Here are the 15 best things to do in New York City during Christmas.
#1 The Iconic Christmas Tree
At Rockefeller Center
Between 48th & 51st Streets at Fifth Avenue
The one and only tree lighting ceremony at Rockefeller Center is on the Wednesday after Thanksgiving.
The ceremony begins about 6:00 PM and the tree is lit at about 9:00 PM.
Enjoy the festivities with thousands of proud New Yorkers who love their tree!
For the whole season, you can find the tree at Rockefeller Center towering over the famous ice skating rink. Check out all the lights and music to skate by.
Rockefeller Center, which opened in 1939, is actually 22 acres of 19 buildings, but the iconic spots are its Top Of The Rock viewing area, the famous ice skating rink, Radio City Music Hall, and the Rainbow Room on the 65th floor.
Go for a skate, for the views, for the mosaics and statues, or for pics by the Christmas tree – just go!
PRO TIP: If you go to the Top Of The Rock, you can see the Empire State Building and its lights!
You can buy tickets to skate, take tours, and go to the observation deck at rockefellercenter.com.
#2 The Empire State Building During The Holiday Season
The Empire State Building
20 West 34th Street
The Empire State Building is open 365 days per year from
8AM – 2 AM. And during the holiday season you’ll see beautiful decorations and the famous light show.
Enjoy a glass of bubbly and see the whole city lit up for the holidays.
There are heating lamps and the famous viewing binoculars.
I promise it’ll be one of the most memorable things you’ll do on your Christmas holiday visit to NYC.
Spend $44 p/adult, $38 p/child, and $42 p/senior for the 86th floor.
Don’t feel compelled to spend $77 p/adult, $71 p/child. $75 p/senior for the 102 floor.
#3 The Christmas Spectacular Starring
The Radio City
Music Hall Rockettes
Radio City Music Hall
1260 Sixth Avenue
You may have seen them on TV for the Thanksgiving Parade, but to see these gals live in the famous theater of Radio City Music Hall is quite another thing entirely!
Since the 1930’s The Rockettes have been performing in the famed theater for the holiday season.
Watch the kick line! It’s fun for the whole family.
Get your tickets early because it’s a very popular show.
Most days there are 4 shows, so you have plenty of choices.
#4 Walk and Shop 5th Avenue During the Christmas Holiday Season
A day not to be missed includes the fabulous stroll from Central Park down 5th Avenue to see all the holiday window displays.
Pass The Plaza and the dancing Polar Bears and continue on to experience the lights and decorations in all the stores.
Look for the window displays at Bergdorf’s, Bloomingdales, and Saks.
When you get to the Empire State Building at 34th St, then head west for a block to arrive at the magical Macy’s at Herald Square (34th St).
Plan on some time to stop in to say hello to Santa at Macy’s Santaland, a true winter wonderland. It’s legendary!
Back to 5th Ave, keep walking down to the Flatiron Building (22nd St) and Union Square (17th St) to find the festive Holiday Markets at Union Square.
#5 Chinatown At Christmas
Looking for somewhere to eat on Christmas? Head down to Lower Manhattan.
Go to Chinatown and find lanterns, lights, and food. Stroll on Mott Street between Bleecker and Chatham Square or Canal Street and you will be in the pulse of Chinatown.
Enjoy the best Chinese food and all the NYC souvenirs your family wants for the holidays.
#6 Little Italy At Christmas
Little Italy loves the holidays!
New York’s large Italian population thrives in this neighborhood. Great restaurants and bakeries are just north of Chinatown.
You’ll be in the center of Little Italy on Mulberry Street.
Mulberry Street is famous for its celebrations during the holidays. Go there hungry and eat your way through the the holidays.
#7 Central Park During
Lighting shows, carole singing, ice skating, horse and buggies; its all possible in Central Park in winter.
The Wollman Ice Skating Rink has been a favorite spot in the winter since 1949. Get tickets online that include skate rentals.
#8 Metropolitan Museum
Of Art During The Holidays
1000 5th Avenue and Central Park
The Met is the gem of Museum Mile any time of the year, but during the holidays, it’s particularly special.
Check the schedule for the Met’s spectacular tree and its daily light show.
You can just imagine that one of the world’s best art museums will have the most gorgeous decorations.
There will be long lines at popular times, so get your tickets in advance and plan on grabbing a pretzel or hot chocolate while you wait to get in!
#9 Hudson Yards At Christmas
10th and 12th Avenues from West 30th to West 34th Streets
Hudson Yards is a massive hub of shops and cultural spectacles.
Visit during the holidays and you’lll be struck by the amount of sparkling lights and the eating and shopping opportunities!
Look at the schedule for all the holiday events and celebrations.
#10 New Years Eve Ball Drop
At Times Square
42nd Street and Broadway
Warning! This activity is not for the faint of heart!
The traffic to Times Sq.is closed by 3PM, the festivities begin at 6PM and the performances begin at 8PM.
Recommendations are that you arrive by noon!
The earlier you get there, the better your chances are of getting a spot and seeing the ball drop.
However, that does mean you will be standing in the cold for at least 12 hours!
The New Years Eve Ball has dropped from the One Times Square Building since 1907. The current Times Square Ball weighs six tons with 32,256 LEDs.
Times Square used to see about 60,000 people for the famous ball drop festivities.
Since the pandemic, the crowd is now capped at 15,000 on a first come first serve basis.
Some say its worth it to experience at least once in your life. Tell me what you think!
#11 Dyker Heights Christmas Lights
Dyker Heights is a beautiful neighborhood in the southwest corner of Brooklyn. Known for its large single family homes and tree lined streets, Dyker Heights has become most famous for its Christmas decorations.
The residents of Dyker Heights have taken holiday decorations to a whole new level. Its kind of like Christmas at Disneyland, except it’s in Brooklyn!
You’ll find the best decorations between 11th Ave. and 13th Ave./Dyker Heights Blvd.and from 83rd St. to 86th St.
Generally speaking the lights go on around 5PM and viewing lasts until 11PM each night leading up to Christmas and on through New Year Day.
The best way to get to Dyker Heights by Subway is:
Take the D train to 79th St. Station in Brooklyn.
Walk northwest on 79th St.
Turn Left onto Dyker Heights Blvd.
12. New York Botanical Gardens (NYBT)
The New York Botanical Gardens
2900 Southern Blvd. Bronx
The gardens were established in 1891 and is now a 250 acre garden that has been awarded a National Historical Landmark status.
While the NYBG is worth visiting all year round, it is especially worth of a holiday adventure. There are several holiday events hosted by the NYBG from Nov. 17 – Jan 15 from 5PM -10PM.
The Holiday Train Show is a Christmas favorite with model trains riding by 200 of New York’s most famous landmarks in a spectacular miniature New York.
The NYBG GLOW show is a1.5 mile light show within the gardens that illuminates all the gardens and historic buildings surrounding.
Tickets for the Train Show and GLOW are $54 adults and $39 children ages 2 -12. (Under 2 are free.)
If you are 21 or over, you can enjoy the Bar Car Nights on Dec 7 & 14 or Jan 5, which treats you with signature cocktails as you watch the train show and see the GLOW show around the park. Tickets ar $54 adults.
How to get to the NYBG in the Bronx by subway?Take the B, D, or 4 train to the Bedford Park Blvd Station
Walk 8 blocks down the hill on Bedford Park Blvd.
Left on Southern Blvd.
One block to the Mosholu Entrance to the garden.
#13 See The NYC Ballet’s Nutcracker
If you have never seen Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece choreographed by George Balanchine and performed by the world renowned New York City Ballet, you simply have not really lived in my opinion!
Visit the iconic David Koch Theater in New York’s own Lincoln Center to experience a holiday tradition that you’ll never forget! Tickets go quickly, so I recommend you purchase your tickets early!
#14 Take a Holiday Cruise
Enjoy holiday brunches or night time cruises on one of New York’s premeier yacht excursions. You can be guaranteed festive decorations, music, food and drink and some of the best views of Manhattan that you’ll ever see.
#15 Visit Macy’s Santaland
151 West 34th St.
As a visitor to NYC, you might not consider going into Macy’s when there is so much to see and do outdoors, all around the city.
However, NYC’s Macy’s of Herald Square is not your average department store! It is home of the famous Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the world’s favorite Santa sits in Macy’s Santaland listening to children tell him their secret wishes for Christmas.
Nov. 4 – Xmas Eve you’ll find Santa and his elves greeting all visitors. While admission is free, you will need reservations available on the Macy’s website.
Where is the best place to stay in
New York City at Christmas?
You’ll be out and about and not spending much time in the room.
From the upper west side to the lower east side, you can easily walk to the spots on this list and will fall in love with the charm and vibe of whichever part of town you choose.
A big part of the New York City experience is the neighborhood culture, the local coffee shops, markets, and street venders, so embrace the holiday spirit and get outside!
Here are some great choices:
Arlo Soho is in the heart of Greenwich Village, has a rooftop bar, and views of the river. This spot can cost you $292 and up.
The Hotel Beacon is a historic building on the Upper West Side with apartment style rooms near Central Park. This hotel can cost you $479 and up.
Lotte New York Palace was formerly the historic Villard Mansion, on Madison Avenue. This grand, 5 star hotel can cost you $595 and up.
What is the best way to get around
New York City in the winter?
~ Load ApplePay on your phone and you can scan in at subway station turnstiles, OR Purchase a Metrocard at subway stations and use it on the buses as well.
~ Each ride costs $2.75, but a 7 day, unlimited ride card is $33 for one person use.
~ The Regular Pay Per Ride cards allow you to swipe through the turnstile and pass the card to your travel partner behind you. It’s actually legit to do that with up to 4 people.
~ Buy one unlimited card for the trip or load up a regular card and use it for the whole family!
~ Bring good winter walking boots because walking is what New Yorkers do and you can see so much more!
~ Taxi and ride apps are also always available.
Where to eat in New York City at Christmastime
Here are some favorite places to enjoy the holidays. They all have Gluten Free options. Angelina Paris, Serendipity 3, and Sant Ambroeus are famous for their hot chocolate!
Make Reservations in advance!!!
Angelina Paris – Bryant Park bakery from Paris
Serendipity 3 – famous for desserts in mid town
Sant Ambroeus – lovely bakery with many locations
Dante – historic Italian cafe in Greenwich Village
Jack’s Wife Freida – American/Mediterranean in several locations
Katz’s Deli – famous Jewish deli on the Lower East Side
Modern Bread & Bagel – the best gluten free bakery in the world on the Upper West Side
La Pecora Bianca – Italian in several locations
Lola Taverna – Greek in Soho
Lure Fishbar – Japanese in Soho
The Waverly Inn – American comfort food in Greenwich Village
Via Carota – Seasonal Italian in Greenwich Village
Now you’re ready to have the best
New York City Christmas!
In a nutshell…
New York is magical all year long, but it is especially brilliant during the holidays. The city celebrates the sparkling season in so many iconic ways – you’ll want to be a part of the festivities all over Manhattan. Happy Holidays!