Have yourself a Merry Christmas in New York
Christmas is the most magical time of the year. And there is no place like New York around Christmas as the city transforms into the most festive winter wonderland. From ice skating to Broadway shows to shopping at vibrant holiday markets, or partaking in the New Year’s Eve countdown, there is something for everyone to do and see.
“Most wonderful time of the year best spent in the city that never sleeps!”
12 Best Things To Do for Christmas in New York
When putting this post together, I realized that I’ve never done a proper Christmas in New York guide. While I’ve posted a few photos here and there on my Instagram page, I’ve never put it together in one place that’s easy to find. Even though we’ve been dozens of times over the past couple of years, but the trip to New York around Christmas was absolutely magical. Here’s a roundup of some of best things to do and see around Christmas in New York.
Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree
I would suggest adding the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree to the top of your list as no holiday is complete without visiting New York’s famous Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree is a world-renowned symbol when it comes to holidays in New York. We have all seen it featured in endless holiday movies and TV shows.
The Christmas tree lighting ceremony usually takes place at the end of November or early December. The ceremony is free to the public that includes live performances.
The Rink at Rockefeller Center
Ice- skating under Rockefeller Center’s massive Christmas tree is one of the most popular activity. Even if you don’t skate like me, you can still sit on the edge of the rink, sip on a hot chocolate, watch people skate and listen to Christmas music. I loved the experience of watching people gliding on the ice. We even saw a gentleman got down on his knees and proposed.
Rink is open daily from 8:30am to midnight. The holiday peak admission is $32 and skate rental is $12. The place becomes very crowded, especially on the weekends.
Christmas Window Displays
New York’s spectacular Christmas window displays of various retail stores bring the holiday cheer in a big way. These window displays make the holiday shopping in the city extra fun and festive. Christmas in New York is definitely not complete without a lit bit of window shopping. The holiday windows with hundreds of Christmas lights and winter wonderland decor are pretty impressive. My personal favorite and the most famous is the Saks Fifth Avenue’s holiday window display. There is also a window animation light show every 10 minutes and runs for about 4-5 minutes.
It is a super magical activity for kids. So, if you are traveling with kids, be sure not to miss out on this activity. The display and light show continues through the beginning of January.
Christmas in New York wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Christmas markets. The outdoor Christmas markets pop-up all over New York City from mid-November through January. It is a shopper’s paradise. You can find all kinds of stalls selling jewelry, clothing, arts, and crafts, and so much more. Many markets offer fantastic food and warm drinks. We didn’t do much shopping but really enjoyed the festive atmosphere.
There are both indoor and outdoor Christmas markets in New York. One of the prettiest and most centrally-located holiday markets is Bryant Park’s Winter Village. If you are looking for an indoor market, the Grand Central Holiday Fair is a spectacular location.
I think visiting Central Park is the most romantic outing for couples and a fun activity for families on a winter day. The Central Park has a larger skating rink as compared to Bryant Park and Rockefeller. Sanjay and I had a lovely time strolling in Central Park, although it was a little too cold for me. So, be sure to bundle up in winter coats, gloves, and hats. We used hand warmers in our gloves to keep us warm and comfortable. After strolling through the park, we visited the Loeb Boathouse. If you are looking to spend a relaxing evening, Central Park’s Loeb Boathouse is an excellent choice for dining.
The cost for skating in Central Park Wollman rink is $12 for adults + $9 skate rental; $6 for kids skating and $9 rental. Prices for adults increase to $19 on the weekends, and there is also a $5 spectator fee. They only take cash, so be sure to carry cash. But, don’t worry too much, they also have an ATM on site.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
St. Patrick’s Cathedral is an enormous 13th-century-style gothic church on Madison Avenue. It is a prominent landmark of New York City, so it a must visit around Christmas time. You can always attend the Christmas concert or the Christmas masses at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. We didn’t get a chance to attend the Christmas concert, but that is definitely on my list for next time.
Due to its central location in Midtown Manhattan, St. Patrick’s Cathedral is very close to several other NYC attractions. Check here for the dates and timings if you are interested in attending the Christmas concert at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Empire State Building
The empire state building lights up with the colors of Christmas every year. The skyscraper and its brilliant lights have become an iconic part of the New York City skyline. We went all the way to the 86th Floor Observatory, and the view didn’t disappoint!
The entry to the Empire State Building is free with the New York City tourist discount pass. There are two viewing platforms; the most popular is on the 86th floor.
Flat Iron District
Looking for a relaxing day, then bundle up in your favorite hat, scarf, mittens, and head over to the historic Flat Iron District. We picked up coffee at one of the Starbucks and started our day at the Madison Square Park. The park was not very crowded, and we were able to take great photos in front of a giant Christmas tree without having to wait in line. Luckily, it was snowing that day, which made New York even more magical. Directly across the street from the Madison Square Park is the Flat Iron Building. What I loved most about the Flat iron district was that it has plenty of restaurants from high-end cuisine to delicious casual eatery. Be sure to check out some of the local restaurants.
The Flatiron District is centrally located on the island of Manhattan on the southern border of Midtown Manhattan. The best way to get around Flat Iron District is by walk.
If you have time, and looking to snap some great photos of the New York City skyline, then head over to Brooklyn Bridge. Access to the Brooklyn Bridge is 24 hours per day and it is beautiful at any time of day, but sunset is particularly nice.
It can get chilly up on the bridge. So, plan ahead and bring a jacket or sweater so that you can enjoy your walk.
Christmas Musicals & Shows
The outdoor Christmas markets pop-up all over New York City from mid-November through January. It is a shopper’s paradise. You can find all kinds of stalls selling jewelry, clothing, arts, and crafts, and so much more. Many markets offer fantastic food and warm drinks. We didn’t do much shopping but really enjoyed the festive atmosphere.
Many shows start in November and run until early January, so that should give you plenty of opportunities to see one of the best holiday spectaculars found only in New York.
Dyker Heights Christmas Lights
Visiting the Dyker Heights at Christmas time is an amazing experience. The local residents dress up their homes with over-the-top Christmas decorations. More than 100,000 tourists come to see this neighborhood every year. Not only are the area’s displays beautiful, but the experience is fun, memorable, and really worth a visit, especially if you have little kids.
Check out the dazzling holiday lights displays from 11th to 13th Avenues, and from 83rd to 86th Street. Note that 13th Avenue in this neighborhood is also called Dyker Heights Blvd.
Times Square is one of New York City’s most popular tourist attraction. For me, just walking through the area watching glowing billboards was pretty impressive. Times Square is home to many of New York City’s Broadway theaters. So, this is your chance to watch a real Broadway show.
The world’s biggest New Year’s Eve party takes place in New York’s Times Square. If you don’t mind the cold and the crowds, then it’s a bucket-list experience that everybody should try out at least once.