Hey there, fellow wanderlust seekers! Ready to dive into the magical winter wonderland that is Christmas in New York City?
This NYC Christmas bucket list includes everything you need to know for an awesome holiday vacation.
Trust me, you’re in for an unforgettable experience that’ll leave you with heartwarming memories and a camera roll full of Insta-worthy shots. Let’s break out the cozy scarves and dive into the ultimate NYC Christmas bucket list!
Famous Christmas Events
As a New Yorker, I can confidently say that Christmas in New York is a magical experience that everyone should witness at least once in their lifetime. From ice skating in Central Park to sipping hot cocoa while admiring the holiday window displays, there’s something for everyone during the most wonderful time of the year.
One of the most iconic Christmas events in New York is the annual Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting. Every year, thousands of people gather to watch the lighting of the enormous Christmas tree, which is typically adorned with over 50,000 LED lights and a Swarovski crystal star. The event is usually held in late November or early December and features live musical performances by top artists.
Another must-see Christmas event in New York is the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. This show features the world-famous Rockettes, who perform high-kicking dance routines in stunning costumes. The show also includes a visit from Santa Claus and a living nativity scene.
The Radio City Christmas Spectacular runs from November to January and is a beloved tradition for many New Yorkers.
One of my personal favorite Christmas events in New York is simply walking around the city and admiring the holiday window displays. Many of the city’s top department stores, such as Macy’s and Saks Fifth Avenue, create elaborate displays featuring intricate scenes and sparkling lights. It’s a great way to get into the holiday spirit and enjoy the festive atmosphere of the city.
In conclusion, New York City is a wonderful place to be during the Christmas season. Whether you’re a local or a visitor, there are plenty of events and activities to enjoy that will make your holiday season unforgettable.
One of the best things about Christmas in New York is the abundance of holiday markets that pop up all over the city. There’s something special about strolling through the festive stalls, sipping on hot cocoa, and browsing unique gifts and handmade crafts. Here are two of my favorite Christmas markets in the city:
Union Square Holiday Market
The Union Square Holiday Market is a must-visit during the holiday season. Located in the heart of Manhattan, this market features over 150 vendors selling everything from handcrafted jewelry to artisanal food. It’s a great place to find unique gifts for loved ones, and the festive atmosphere is sure to put you in the holiday spirit.
Some of my favorite vendors at the Union Square Holiday Market include:
- Brooklyn Candle Studio: Hand-poured soy candles in a variety of scents
- Wafels & Dinges: Belgian waffles with a variety of toppings
- The Jam Stand: Unique jams and spreads in flavors like Drunken Monkey (banana rum) and You’re My Boy BLUE-berry Bourbon
Another great Christmas market in New York is the Columbus Circle Holiday Market. Located at the entrance to Central Park, this market features over 100 vendors selling handmade gifts, jewelry, and artisanal food.
Some of my favorite vendors at the Columbus Circle Holiday Market include:
- The Doughnut Project: Gourmet doughnuts in flavors like Everything Bagel and Maple Bacon
- Brooklyn Made Natural: Handmade soaps, lotions, and candles using natural ingredients
- The Nut Box: Freshly roasted nuts in a variety of flavors, including cinnamon sugar and honey roasted
Both the Union Square and Columbus Circle Holiday Markets are open from late November through Christmas Eve, so be sure to add them to your holiday itinerary if you’re visiting New York City during the holiday season.
Let’s talk about the Grand Army Plaza Menorah Lighting – an epic Hanukkah bash in Brooklyn! Imagine a massive menorah decked out in twinkling lights, live music, and people dancing like nobody’s watching.
When the sun goes down, boom – the menorah comes to life in a blaze of light, filling the night sky with that awesome Hanukkah glow. After the lighting, it’s all about delicious food, laughs, and good times with friends and neighbors.
So, if you’re up for a Brooklyn-style Hanukkah party that’s all about light, music, and fun, this is the place to be.
One of my favorite places to go ice skating during the holidays is Bryant Park Winter Village. Located in Midtown Manhattan, this ice skating rink is surrounded by twinkling lights and festive holiday shops. The rink is free to use, but you’ll need to rent skates if you don’t have your own. The rental fee is reasonable, and there are plenty of benches and tables around the rink to take a break and warm up with some hot cocoa.
Another great spot for ice skating is the Wollman Rink in Central Park. This rink offers stunning views of the city skyline and is a bit larger than the one at Bryant Park. The rink is open from late October through early April, and there are plenty of skating sessions throughout the day. Admission and skate rentals are a bit pricier than other rinks, but the experience is well worth it.
Ice skating in New York City during the holidays is a must-do activity. Whether you choose to skate at Bryant Park Winter Village or Wollman Rink in Central Park, you’re sure to have a memorable time.
Holiday Dining in New York
New York City is a food lover’s paradise, and the holiday season is no exception. Whether you’re looking for a traditional Christmas dinner or a festive afternoon tea, the city has something to offer everyone.
Traditional Christmas Dinner
If you’re looking for a classic Christmas dinner, many restaurants in New York City offer special menus for the holiday. One popular option is the 21 Club, which serves a prix-fixe menu featuring dishes like roasted turkey and prime rib. Another great choice is the River Café, which offers stunning views of the Manhattan skyline along with a four-course holiday menu.
Festive Afternoon Teas
For a more relaxed holiday dining experience, consider indulging in a festive afternoon tea. The Palm Court at the Plaza Hotel is a classic choice, with a menu that includes finger sandwiches, scones, and pastries. The Russian Tea Room is another great option, with a holiday tea menu that features treats like gingerbread cookies and peppermint bark.
No matter what type of holiday dining experience you’re looking for, New York City has plenty of options to choose from. So why not treat yourself to a special meal this holiday season?
The holiday season in New York City is a culinary extravaganza! Here are some of the best places to indulge in delicious eats and treats while soaking up the festive atmosphere:
Rolf’s German Restaurant: This place takes holiday decorations to the next level with its over-the-top Christmas decor. Enjoy hearty German fare and festive drinks in a whimsical setting that feels like a holiday fairy tale.
The Standard Grill: Nestled in the heart of the Meatpacking District, this trendy spot serves up holiday classics with a modern twist. Think roasted meats, cozy sides, and delectable desserts, all in a chic and inviting atmosphere.
Max Brenner, Chocolate by the Bald Man: For the ultimate sweet tooth satisfaction, head to Max Brenner. Indulge in their famous hot chocolate, decadent chocolate desserts, and comforting savory dishes – it’s a chocoholic’s paradise.
Union Square Holiday Market Eats: While exploring the Union Square Holiday Market, be sure to savor the diverse array of street food vendors offering everything from gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches to mouthwatering international dishes.
Sant Ambroeus: Treat yourself to a luxurious Italian holiday meal at Sant Ambroeus. From freshly baked pastries to exquisite pasta dishes, this elegant spot offers a taste of European elegance in the heart of NYC.
Dominique Ansel Bakery: Famous for its inventive pastries, this bakery is the birthplace of the cronut. During the holidays, you’ll find special seasonal creations that are as beautiful as they are delicious.
Serendipity 3: A classic NYC establishment, Serendipity 3 is famous for its frozen hot chocolate and indulgent desserts. It’s the perfect place to satisfy your sweet cravings after a day of holiday exploring.
Head To A Christmas-Themed Bar
New York City’s bar scene gets even more magical during the holidays. Here are some of the best bars to visit for a festive and spirited experience:
Rolf’s: Yes, Rolf’s is not just a fantastic restaurant for the holidays, it’s also a legendary bar. The elaborate Christmas decorations, including thousands of ornaments and lights, create an enchanting atmosphere that’s perfect for enjoying holiday cocktails and drinks.
The Lodge at Gallow Green: Head to the rooftop of the McKittrick Hotel for a cozy and rustic winter experience. The Lodge at Gallow Green transforms into a winter wonderland with twinkling lights, fire pits, and warm cocktails that will make you feel like you’re at a mountain lodge.
Miracle Pop-Up Bars: Every holiday season, the Miracle pop-up bars take over multiple locations in NYC, transforming them into festive wonderlands. You’ll find over-the-top holiday decorations, themed cocktails, and a joyous atmosphere that’s perfect for celebrating.
The Dead Rabbit: This multi-level bar is known for its exceptional cocktails and historic ambiance. During the holidays, the bar is beautifully decorated, creating a cozy and inviting setting to enjoy their creative drinks.
Lillie’s Victorian Establishment: Step into a Victorian-era Christmas at Lillie’s, where elaborate holiday decor and vintage charm create a unique and festive atmosphere. Sip on classic cocktails in this cozy setting.
Sippin’ Santa’s Surf Shack: Another fantastic holiday pop-up, Sippin’ Santa’s Surf Shack brings a tropical twist to the holidays. Enjoy tiki-inspired cocktails and a playful beachy ambiance that’s a delightful contrast to the winter chill.
Get ready to dive into a shopper’s paradise like no other – NYC during the Christmas season. From iconic flagship stores to charming holiday markets, the city transforms into a retail wonderland that’ll have you feeling like a kid in a candy store (but with more coats and scarves!).
Fifth Avenue Extravaganza: Picture this: you’re strolling down Fifth Avenue, and it’s not just any street – it’s a holiday shopping haven. Major retailers like Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Bergdorf Goodman go all out with jaw-dropping window displays that tell festive stories and showcase cutting-edge fashion. Trust us, these windows are like miniature art installations that’ll leave you in awe.
Holiday Markets Galore: Brace yourselves for the ultimate holiday market experience. Bryant Park Winter Village and Union Square Holiday Market are two hotspots where you can find unique gifts, handmade crafts, and artisanal goodies. It’s not just shopping; it’s a full-on sensory adventure with the scent of warm pretzels in the air and twinkling lights all around.
Flagship Fabulousness: If you’re all about luxury and glamour, NYC’s flagship stores are your playground. Tiffany & Co., Apple, and FAO Schwarz are just a few iconic spots where you can shop till you drop, surrounded by opulent decor and an air of holiday extravagance.
Small Shop Treasures: Want to score unique finds and support local businesses? Head to neighborhoods like SoHo and the West Village, where charming boutiques and indie shops offer a diverse array of gifts that you won’t find anywhere else. Plus, you’ll get to explore NYC’s charming streets as a bonus!
Times Square Retail Therapy: Yes, even Times Square gets in on the action. The larger-than-life billboards and bright lights are the backdrop for stores like Hershey’s Chocolate World and the M&M’s Store, where you can indulge your sweet tooth and pick up some quirky gifts.
Lights, camera, holiday action! NYC’s Christmas season is not just about twinkling decorations – it’s also a stage for some of the most spectacular shows and performances that will leave you in awe and high spirits. Let’s dive into the world of entertainment and explore the must-see shows that will make your holiday in the Big Apple truly unforgettable:
Radio City Christmas Spectacular: Witness the iconic Rockettes kick up a storm in this dazzling show featuring synchronized dance routines, stunning costumes, and heartwarming holiday scenes.
The Nutcracker Ballet: Immerse yourself in the enchanting world of Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker” with performances by the New York City Ballet at Lincoln Center or other local productions that bring this timeless tale to life.
Broadway Holiday Shows: Enjoy the heartwarming classic “A Christmas Carol” at the Lyceum Theatre, catch the hilarious “Elf: The Musical” at the Theater at Madison Square Garden, or join in the holiday fun with “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” at the Hulu Theater.
Holiday Concerts: Experience the magic of holiday music at “Handel’s Messiah” performed by the New York Philharmonic at David Geffen Hall, or indulge in the festive melodies of the “Vienna Boys Choir Christmas in Vienna” at Carnegie Hall.
Holiday Jazz and Cabaret: Swing by Birdland Jazz Club for the annual “Jim Caruso’s Cast Party Christmas” featuring a variety of guest performers, or enjoy the sultry sounds of “Christmas in Chelsea – A Holiday Cabaret” at The Green Room 42.
Comedy Shows: Laugh your way into the holidays with “The Stand Comedy Club’s Holiday Spectacular” featuring top comedians delivering festive humor that’ll leave you in stitches.
Ice Shows: Be mesmerized by “New York Christmas Spectacular on Ice” at the Wollman Rink in Central Park, where world-class skaters perform breathtaking routines against a stunning winter backdrop.
Holiday Pops: Revel in the festive spirit at the New York Pops’ “Under the Mistletoe” concert at Carnegie Hall, featuring heartwarming holiday tunes and special guest performances.
If you’re spending Christmas in New York, there are plenty of activities to keep you entertained on the big day. Here are a few of my favorites:
Attending mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral is a wonderful way to celebrate Christmas Day. The cathedral is located in Midtown Manhattan and offers several masses throughout the day. The services are open to the public and are a great way to experience the holiday spirit in the heart of the city.
After mass, take a stroll through Central Park. The park is beautiful during the winter months and is a great place to enjoy the snow, ice-skating, and holiday decorations. You can also stop by the Central Park Zoo to see the animals and enjoy some hot cocoa.
If you’re looking for a more active way to explore the park, consider renting a bike or taking a horse-drawn carriage ride. Either way, Central Park is a must-visit destination on Christmas Day.
That’s it for my top Christmas Day activities in New York. Whether you’re a local or a visitor, these activities are sure to make your holiday season merry and bright.
Weather During Christmas In New York
NYC during the Christmas season brings a chilly embrace that’s part of the city’s unique charm. From cozy scarves to twinkling lights, let’s dive into what you can expect from the weather while wandering through the Big Apple’s winter wonderland.
So, what are we talking in terms of numbers? Expect daytime temperatures to hover around the mid-30s to low 40s Fahrenheit (about 1-5 degrees Celsius). As the sun dips, brace yourself for cooler evenings where the mercury can drop to the mid-20s Fahrenheit (-4 to -7 degrees Celsius). Of course, these are just averages. New York weather is pretty crazy, so it can always go up to 50s or down to the 10s!
While a white Christmas isn’t guaranteed, the chance of snow adds an element of excitement. Snowfall is possible, turning parks and sidewalks into serene winter wonderlands. Be sure to have those snow boots handy, just in case!
So, What Should You Wear?
The key to conquering NYC’s winter weather is layering. Start with a cozy base layer, add a warm sweater or two, and top it off with a stylish winter coat. Don’t forget a hat, gloves, and a scarf to keep those icy gusts at bay. Trust us, you’ll look like a fashionable snow globe, ready to take on the city.
Start with a stylish and eye-catching coat. Opt for a tailored wool coat in a classic color like camel or black, or go bold with a trendy puffer jacket in a vibrant hue or sleek metallic.
Pair a cozy turtleneck sweater with a tailored blazer or a stylish cardigan. Add an extra layer with a chic scarf in a complementary color or pattern.
Elevate your look with on-trend accessories. Consider adding a faux-fur collar or a chunky knit beanie for a touch of coziness and style.
A leather or faux leather skirt or pants can instantly add an edgy and trendy vibe to your ensemble and are super popular in NYC right now. Pair them with warm tights or leggings to stay cozy.
Opt for ankle boots or knee-high boots in sleek leather or suede. They not only keep you warm but also add a fashionable touch to your outfit. Consider chunky-heeled boots for a comfortable and trendy option.
Remember, the key is to dress edgy (at least if you want to fit in fashion-wise) but stay super warm with layers.
Photo Spots During Christmas In New York City
Calling all aspiring photographers and Instagram aficionados – NYC during the Christmas season is a visual feast that will have your camera clicking and your followers double-tapping in no time! Let’s explore some of the most iconic and picturesque photo spots that capture the magic of the holidays:
Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree: The star of the show, the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is a must-photograph landmark. Capture its towering grandeur, bedecked in thousands of twinkling lights, while also snapping shots of the ice skaters gliding around the rink below.
Times Square Lights: Neon lights, massive screens, and the electric energy of Times Square take on a festive twist during the holidays. Capture the vibrant chaos and snap a selfie in this world-famous hub of excitement.
Central Park in Snow: When the snow blankets Central Park, it transforms into a serene winter wonderland. Take photos of snow-covered bridges, charming footpaths, and the iconic Bow Bridge surrounded by frosted trees.
Holiday Window Displays: Fifth Avenue’s legendary department stores compete for the most spectacular holiday window displays. Each window is a work of art, telling a whimsical story that makes for a stunning photo backdrop.
Dyker Heights Christmas Lights: Venture to Brooklyn’s Dyker Heights for jaw-dropping displays of elaborate Christmas lights on residential homes. Your camera won’t know where to point first with the abundance of twinkling, colorful lights.
Washington Square Park Arch: Framed by the iconic Washington Square Park Arch, this spot takes on a magical ambiance during the holidays. Pose with the arch in the background and capture the surrounding lights.
Top of the Rock Observation Deck: Get a bird’s-eye view of the city adorned in holiday lights from the Top of the Rock. Capture the sprawling cityscape, including the glittering lights of the Empire State Building.
Flatiron Building: This architectural gem becomes even more charming when surrounded by holiday decorations and lights. Capture the iconic triangular shape and historic façade against a backdrop of seasonal splendor.
The High Line: Elevated above the streets, the High Line offers a unique perspective of the city’s holiday lights. Capture the juxtaposition of urban landscapes, twinkling lights, and the lush greenery of this elevated park.
So, charge up your camera, don your coziest scarf, and get ready to snap away at these picturesque photo spots that showcase the magical beauty of NYC during the Christmas season.
FAQs About Experiencing Christmas in New York
Here are some of the top questions you may have about New York City Christmas!
What are the top Christmas traditions in New York City?
As a New Yorker, I can tell you that some of the top Christmas traditions in the city include ice-skating at Rockefeller Center, seeing the holiday-themed windows at department stores like Macy’s and Saks Fifth Avenue, and visiting the famous Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center. Another popular tradition is attending the Radio City Christmas Spectacular featuring the Rockettes.
What are some free things to do in New York City during the holiday season?
There are plenty of free things to do in New York City during the holiday season. You can take a stroll through Central Park, visit the holiday markets in Union Square and Bryant Park, watch the holiday lights show at Brookfield Place, and visit the New York Public Library’s holiday train exhibit.
What are some romantic things to do in NYC during Christmas?
For a romantic Christmas experience in New York City, you can take a horse-drawn carriage ride through Central Park, visit the holiday lights display at the Bronx Zoo, or go ice-skating at Wollman Rink in Central Park. You can also enjoy a cozy dinner at one of the many restaurants with a fireplace.
What are some family-friendly activities for kids during the holidays?
NYC offers plenty of family-friendly activities. Take the little ones to meet Santa at Macy’s Santaland, enjoy the Children’s Museum of Manhattan’s holiday-themed exhibits, or embark on a carriage ride through Central Park adorned in winter splendor.
What events are happening in New York City for Christmas?
There are many events happening in New York City for Christmas, including the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting Ceremony, and the New Year’s Eve Ball Drop in Times Square. Other events include the Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden and the Winter Village at Bryant Park.
Is it worth visiting New York City during Christmas?
Yes, it is definitely worth visiting New York City during Christmas. The city is filled with holiday spirit and there are many festive activities to enjoy. However, keep in mind that it can be crowded and expensive during this time of year.
How do locals celebrate Christmas in New York City?
Locals celebrate Christmas in New York City by attending holiday markets, seeing the Christmas lights displays, and enjoying holiday-themed food and drinks. Many families also attend the Nutcracker ballet or other holiday shows. Some locals also volunteer their time to help those in need during the holiday season.
What are the best places to shop for holiday gifts in NYC?
Explore Fifth Avenue’s flagship stores, visit holiday markets like Bryant Park Winter Village and Union Square Holiday Market, and venture into neighborhoods like SoHo and the West Village for unique boutiques.
How can I get around the city during the holidays?
NYC has an extensive public transportation system, including subways and buses, which is a convenient and cost-effective way to travel. You can also use ride-sharing services or hop on iconic yellow taxis. Walking is a great option for exploring festive neighborhoods.
Are there any special dining options for the holiday season?
Yes, many restaurants offer festive menus and special holiday-themed dishes. Some places, like Rolf’s German Restaurant, go all out with holiday decorations, creating a unique dining experience.
Are there any off-the-beaten-path holiday activities to consider?
Explore local neighborhoods like Dyker Heights in Brooklyn for extravagant Christmas lights displays. Take a holiday-themed walking tour, visit lesser-known holiday markets, or attend intimate jazz performances for a unique holiday experience.
Can I take a holiday-themed tour of the city?
Absolutely! NYC offers a variety of holiday-themed tours that allow you to explore the city’s festive highlights. Consider a guided walking tour of holiday lights and decorations, a bus tour of famous movie locations set during the holidays, or a specialized food tour featuring seasonal treats.
Can I take a holiday-themed cruise or boat tour?
Yes, you can! Many cruise companies offer special holiday-themed cruises along the Hudson River, offering spectacular views of the city’s skyline adorned with holiday lights. These cruises often include dinner, live entertainment, and the chance to dance the night away.
Are there any rooftop bars or observation decks open during the winter?
While some rooftop bars and observation decks may have limited hours during the winter, many remain open with heated outdoor spaces. The Top of the Rock Observation Deck and the Empire State Building’s observation deck offer breathtaking views of the city adorned in holiday lights.
Or, experience winter wonderland vibes with heated outdoor seating at The Lodge at Gallow Green, cozy up by the fire pits at The Rooftop at Pier 17, or enjoy skyline views and creative cocktails at The Skylark’s enclosed terrace.
Where To Stay During Christmas In New York City:
If you hadn’t already noticed, NYC really comes alive during Christmas, so of course there are plenty of hotels with the New York City Christmas spirit! Here are some of my personal favorite hotels in each budget range.
Luxury Holiday Vibes:
- The Ritz-Carlton New York, Central Park: Experience opulent luxury with a festive touch overlooking Central Park. (Budget: High-End)
- The St. Regis New York: Immerse yourself in timeless elegance and holiday charm in the heart of Midtown Manhattan. (Budget: High-End)
- The Peninsula New York: Enjoy lavish accommodations and holiday-themed experiences at this 5-star gem. (Budget: High-End)
- The Evelyn: This stylish hotel in NoMad boasts a cozy ambiance, perfect for unwinding after holiday adventures. (Budget: Mid-Range)
- Arlo SoHo: Embrace the holiday spirit in the artsy SoHo neighborhood with a stay at this chic and budget-friendly option. (Budget: Mid-Range)
- The Paul Hotel: Nestled in the vibrant NoMad district, The Paul Hotel offers a festive atmosphere at an affordable price. (Budget: Mid-Range)
Cozy and Budget-Friendly:
- Pod Times Square: Experience holiday cheer just steps from Times Square without breaking the bank. (Budget: Budget-Friendly)
- HI NYC Hostel: Enjoy a wallet-friendly stay in a youthful and lively atmosphere, perfect for holiday adventurers on a budget. (Budget: Budget-Friendly)
- The Local NYC: Embrace the festive spirit in the Long Island City neighborhood at this budget-friendly gem. (Budget: Budget-Friendly)
Unique Boutique Charm:
- The Bowery Hotel: Discover rustic elegance and holiday charm in this boutique haven located in the heart of the Lower East Side. (Budget: Mid-Range to High-End)
- Library Hotel: Immerse yourself in a book-themed paradise adorned with holiday decorations, offering a unique and cozy experience. (Budget: Mid-Range)
- The NoMad Hotel: Indulge in luxurious comfort and a hint of holiday magic in this elegant boutique hotel. (Budget: Mid-Range to High-End)
As the snowflakes gently blanket the city, New York transforms into a mesmerizing winter wonderland, with twinkling lights, festive markets, and holiday cheer around every corner. Your ultimate NYC Christmas bucket list is now complete, packed with the most enchanting experiences that capture the magic of the season.
So, bundle up in your coziest scarf, put on your winter boots, and let the spirit of NYC guide you through a season of enchantment. Whether you’re skating, savoring, shopping, or simply soaking in the festive ambiance, your NYC Christmas adventure is bound to be a storybook experience that unfolds with every step. Merry Christmas!