Christmas in New York is a very special time in the city and arguably the most wonderful time of the year. There’s so much to do and so many things you really shouldn’t miss. As locals, we know about the most interesting events, most exciting shows and places you have to visit while visiting New York during Christmas.
In this guide, you’ll get to know the best things to do at Christmas in New York, what you shouldn’t miss and what’s not worth doing from our perspective.
Is December a good time to go to New York?
If you don’t mind winter weather and are willing to bring a bunch of warm clothes and jackets with you, December in New York will be a great time for you to visit NYC. If you enjoy Christmas and everything that comes with it, New York is the place to be. There are Christmas decorations all over the city and there’s the Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center which attracts masses of visitors daily. So, is there anything else better to do than Christmas Shopping in New York City?
What is there to do in NYC at Christmas?
It’s the most wonderful time of the year. If you happen to be in New York City on Christmas, you’re not going to regret it. There is a reason why the city has been featured on endless TV shows and blockbusters during the holidays. Christmas in New York is magical and there are many different ways to get into the holiday spirit in NYC. Here is what we recommend doing on Christmas in New York:
Ice Skating In New York
Ice Skating is a big thing during Christmas time in New York. The most famous ice rinks are the ones in Bryant Park, the Rink at Rockefeller Center with the Christmas Tree in the backdrop and of course the famous Wollman Rink in Central Park. Here is more information about the best ice skating options in NYC and their different prices.
Check out a tour during Christmas in NYC
Christmas in New York can be overwhelming when you’re not familiar with the city too much. During Christmas time there are a couple of tours we can highly recommend doing to completely zone into the Christmas atmosphere in the Big Apple.
Holiday Markets during Christmas in New York
Depending on where you’re traveling from your experiences with holiday markets might be a little different compared to what you’re gonna see in New York City. As a German expat living in New York, I found it very interesting that there are no such things as “Glühwein” or anything like that on holiday markets in New York. Holiday markets in NYC mainly sell handmade goods, accessories and of course food. The Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park is one of the most famous markets in the city. More information about the winter village can be found here. (Address: Sixth Ave, between 40th and 42nd street).
Another great holiday market in the city is the Columbus Circle Holiday Market. This one offers a romantic atmosphere with over 100-holiday booths (Address / Entrance: Central Park South at Central Park West). A little more Downtown the European Union Square Holiday Market has more of a European feel to it. More of how I remember holiday markets in Germany. Besides the 150 food vendors, New York artists are also stationed here and show off their skills (Address: 14th Street to 17th Street, between Broadway and the southern Park Avenue).
During the fun Holiday Lights Tour in NYC you will visit one of the beautiful holiday markets as well.
Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center
This is something you can’t miss during the holiday season in New York City. The famous Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center is the highlight during Christmas in New York. What most of the visitors only know from pictures or movies comes to reality during that special time of the year.
Don’t miss the Tree Lighting Ceremony on November 28th, when the tree lights up for the first time.
Holiday Windows in New York
Right after Thanksgiving, the city is decorated with wreaths, holiday signs, and bright lights. Each year, New York City department stores design their entire window displays and usually has a theme. You can tell department stores put time and effort into these decorations. There is a lot of detail that goes into the Holiday Windows in New York.
Of course, this is not just something special for the New York tourists. Strolling through the streets of New York and admiring the beautifully decorated holiday windows is something you shouldn’t leave out during Christmas in New York.
Radio City Christmas Spectacular
Radio City Music Hall is a well-known concert and event hall located on Sixth Avenue and can be recognized from a distance by its striking exterior lighting. Throughout the year, concerts and events take place here such as the popular Radio City Christmas Spectacular. This is classic Christmas in New York. I’ve watched it before and it’s exactly what you would expect from a Christmas show in New York City.
Over 140 sensational dancers perform in pure Christmas spirit here for 90 minutes. Sparkling costumes, a unique stage set and loads of Christmas songs inspire audiences every year. The stars of the show are Santa Claus and his elves, “The Rockettes”. The Rockettes have the reputation of being one of the best dance groups in the world! Here is the link to find good deals on tickets for this year. Prices start at as low as $32.
Dyker Heights in Brooklyn
Check out the Brooklyn neighborhood of Dyker Heights and Bay Ridge. The houses there are decorated with thousands of Christmas lights, toy soldiers and candy canes. It’s become a tradition to light up the house after house. There is a great tour we can recommend doing during Christmas in New York to get the most of the area in Brooklyn.
Central Park, of course, is always a great destination to go to while visiting New York City no matter the season. But during Christmas, you might get lucky and get to see the park covered in snow. Central Park itself is already peaceful and magical, but when there’s snow, it almost can’t get any prettier. Make sure to visit Central Park during Christmas in New York.
Christmas Holiday Cruises in NYC
Why not spending time on a Christmas Holiday Cruise during Christmas in New York? Both locals and NYC visitors love the amazing Christmas Cruises New York City has to offer. Check out our favorite tours and special offers:
New Year’s Eve
New Year’s in New York City. For a lot of people around the globe a lifetime goal. Finishing up a great Christmas season in the city, New Year’s is the very last highlight that stands out. Visitors and some locals come to Time Square to experience the popular ball drop live while standing in the frigid December temperatures. Live performances by famous artists are part of the outstanding program in Times Square every year. It’s pretty much a big party you shouldn’t miss.
In order to get a decent spot a view, we recommend arriving no later than 3 PM. Many roads around the event are closed off and condensed foot traffic on the streets is inevitable. Definitely, plan on walking for a good amount of time. Being part of this tradition will be very special. We do have more recommendations for a great New Year’s Eve in New York City though. Make sure to check them out.
Christmas in New York FAQ’s
Is anything open in New York on Christmas Day?
There’s no reason to stay in on December 25—New York City has plenty going on for Christmas Day, from restaurants to theaters. Check out your favorite restaurant in the city, broadway shows and the main attractions in NYC to find out what to do on Christmas Day in NYC. Grocery stores are open but will close early on Christmas Day. Government buildings are closed on Christmas Day. The MTA runs on a weekend/holiday schedule so stay alert for changes in your transportation throughout the city.
Does it usually snow in New York at Christmas?
Even though we can’t predict the weather, it is a safe bet to state that it will snow at some point during the Christmas season in NYC. Regardless of the snow, NYC sure is a Winter Wonderland during the holiday season. It doesn’t matter if it snows or not.
What can I eat on Christmas Day in NYC?
Just like any other day in New York, the options are wide open. From fast food to high-class restaurants, Christmas in New York can be celebrated in style if you want. Not every restaurant opens for Christmas Day, so check their website to confirm in advance.