There really is nothing quite like Christmas in New York City. There are so many iconic spots decorated to really radiate holiday magic. Here’s a round-up of my recommendations for what to see & do during Christmas in New York City.
When is the best time to visit New York during the holidays?
New York starts gearing up for the holidays just before Thanksgiving, but things really start to ramp up after the lighting of the Rockefeller Christmas Tree which takes place the Wednesday after Thanksgiving. If you’re looking to catch the city in all of its holiday splendor, the best time to visit is sometime between December 2nd and New Year’s Day.
What time of day is the best to visit the holiday sites?
I recommend visiting the sites first thing in the morning, or just around sunset. While it’s great to see everything lit up in the dark, these are often the most crowded times.
How much does it cost to see the holiday sites?
The great news is most are free to see! The only thing you’ll need to pay for are the ice skating rinks at Rockefeller Center and the Wollman Ice Skating Rink.
What to Do & See:
Radio City Music Hall
Located on the corner of 50th Street and 6th Avenue, Radio City Music Hall is an iconic entertainment venue open since 1932. The largest indoor theater in the world, Radio City Music Hall is home to the famous Rockettes who perform the cherished Christmas Spectacular every year. This year, stop by to take in the sites of this iconic spot and be sure to book a ticket to see the Rockettes in action!
Cost: Free / Rockettes: $50-200+
Giant Red Ornaments
Across the street from Radio City Music Hall, pop by the Giant Red Ornaments sitting in the fountain plaza of 1251 Avenue of the Americas.
Located at 34th Street and 11th Avenue, Hudson Yards is primarily a structure and shopping center but during the holidays, they install a dramatic indoor-outdoor light and music installation. The whole installation features over 2 million Christmas lights so it’s definitely worth a stop!
One of New York City’s most iconic Christmas sites is the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. Placed annually in Rockefeller Center, the tree lighting symbolizes the beginning of the holiday season in the city.
Saks Fifth Avenue
Located across the street from Rockefeller Center, Saks Fifth Avenue annually unveils their iconic holiday windows, along with their 10-story-tall theatrical light show. Each one is intricately designed so you could spend all afternoon browsing the windows on 5th Avenue. Be sure to also pop by at night to see the light show in all of its glory!
Lotte New York Palace
Located on Madison Avenue between 50th and 51st Streets, the Lotte New York Palace is one of Manhattan’s most iconic luxury properties. Every year the hotel displays its 35-foot ornate tree in their Madison Avenue courtyard so it’s quite a site to see!
Wollman Ice Skating Rink
A public ice rink in Central Park, Wollman is typically the least crowded of the ice skating rinks in Manhattan and offers beautiful views of the city.
Cost: Skate prices range from $21-36.
Dyker Heights Holiday Lights
A residential neighborhood in Brooklyn, Dyker Heights really brings the holiday spirit to life. Houses in the area are decked out with thousands of lights, all of which can be seen driving in your own car or hopping on a Dyker Heights Bus tour.
Cost: Free / Bus Tour: $75
Bryant Park Winter Village
Known as Manhattan’s town square, Bryant Park is among New York City’s most famous parks. Every year Bryant Park sets up their Winter Village complete with a free ice skating rink and outdoor holiday market. Spend an afternoon wandering the holiday market picking up local gifts and end it with a skate around the rink.
Union Square Holiday Market
One of the best holiday markets in the city, Union Square market is the best place to go if you’re looking for a unique gift. Dozens of stalls are set up with unique goods ranging from local hot sauce brands to jewelry and food.
Macy’s Holiday Windows
Located at Macy’s flagship location on 34th Street, the retailer’s holiday window displays have been a staple holiday landmark in New York City since 1874. In 2020, the holiday windows were a thank-you to essential workers, New Yorkers and first responders.
A German-themed restaurant located on 21st Street and 3rd Avenue, Rolf’s decks out their entire space with elaborate holiday decorations all year round. So, even if you’re visiting the city a little later in the season, you can still catch Rolf’s in all of it’s holiday glory.
Eataly SERRA by Birreria
Located on the Eataly Flatiron rooftop, Eataly’s SERRA by Bierreria regularly shifts its decor themes to fit the season. Around this time of year, it’s transformed into a cozy winter wonderland so you can find it lined with greens and twinkle lights. Plus, you can also order holiday themed drinks and Eataly-approved comfort foods, making it the perfect place to enjoy with friends or family.
Lillie’s Victorian Establishment
A bar found just off of Union Square, Lillie’s Victorian really goes all out for the holidays. Decked out in lights and traditional holiday decor, it’s the perfect spot to enjoy an afternoon drink.
Sunday in Brooklyn
Around this time, Sunday in Brooklyn transforms their bar space into ‘Snowday in Brooklyn,’ a seasonal holiday pop-up. Here you can find over-the-top decorations and holiday-themed cocktails. Be sure to make a reservation as it usually books up fast!
What are some of your favorite things to do and see during Christmas time in New York City? If you find yourself booking a trip soon, you can also check out my tips on what to know before visiting NYC, from a local.5