TOP 10 Free Things to Do in NYC For Christmas

What are free things to do in New York City at Christmas?

Ah, the joys of Christmas: the season of broken budgets and excess spending. It’s fast approaching that time of the year again when New York City transforms into a mecca of extravagant affairs and costly events. Though this is what many people think, it’s not always the case!

Christmas in NYC is filled with amazing opportunities that allow you to enjoy the magic of Christmas without breaking the bank. In fact, if you know where to look, there are tons of free things to do in NYC for Christmas. Check out my favorites:

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    #1 Free Things to Do in NYC For Christmas: Visit Santa!

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    NYC is home to so many flagship stores and squares that offer their own version of Santaland. Of course, you can always visit the one that’s hosted by Macy’s, or you can find the man in red in other areas of the city as well. Be sure to check out Bryant Park, The Plaza, Bloomingdale’s, and Rockefeller Center. Most of these venues incorporate Santa with other fun such as games, prizes, rides, and more.

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    #2 Free Things to Do in NYC For Christmas: Browse Department Store Holiday Windows

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    Dyker Heights is a Brooklyn neighborhood that’s renowned for its Christmas lights display each year. Stop by this community and enjoy the over-the-top Christmas decor that includes lights, life-size Santas, snowmen, sleighs, and wonderful Christmas carols bumping out the loudspeakers. What’s not to love about all the razzle-dazzle to put you in the holiday mood? 

    Crowds of people of all ages and backgrounds gather in this Kings County neighborhood to peruse the multiple avenues and blocks that are decked out in their best holiday decor. The entire experience is free, with the only cost being the transportation to get there. 

  3. 03

    #3 Free Things to Do in NYC For Christmas: Enjoy the Holiday Lights of Dyker Heights

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    One of the Best Dyker Heights Christmas Lights Tours : The 4-Hour Dyker Heights Holiday Lights Bus Tour
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    Dyker Heights is a Brooklyn neighborhood that’s renowned for its Christmas lights display each year. Stop by this community and enjoy the over-the-top Christmas decor that includes lights, life-size Santas, snowmen, sleighs, and wonderful Christmas carols bumping out the loudspeakers. What’s not to love about all the razzle-dazzle to put you in the holiday mood?

    You can do this by yourself (it is free!) or you can choose a guided tour – here you find the best Dyker Heights Holiday Lights Tours.

  4. 04

    #4 Free Things to Do in NYC For Christmas: Visit a Winter Market or Holiday Market

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    NYC does not have a shortage of holiday markets. From the Union Square Holiday Market and Bank of America’s Bryant Park Winter Village to the Columbus Circle Holiday Market, there are many from which you can choose. The holiday markets usually partner with Urbanspace to ensure that aside from excellent shopping, there’s also a curated food experience in store for you too.

    At Bryant Park’s Winter Village, you can ice skate for a fee or visit the second-story observation deck for free. Just keep in mind that while the Bryant Park observation deck is free, you will still have to wait in line where you pay to ice skate and get a wristband for entry. After all of this fun, be sure to stop by the carousel, where you may find a story time or a magic show happening.

    My tip: These are the best holiday markets in NYC.

  5. 05

    #5 Free Things to Do in NYC For Christmas: Warm Up at a Museum

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    NYC is home to some of the nation’s best museums, so when you’re looking for something free to do in NYC for Christmas, don’t discredit these institutions. The MOMA or Museum of Modern Art offers free entry on Fridays from 4 pm until 8 pm, and it’s always free for college students and kids under 16.

    However, you also have the American Museum of Natural History, the Guggenheim Museum, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, which all feature a system where you just pay what you can to enter at specific times. Some of them may include holiday exhibits or decor outside.

  6. 06

    #6 Free Things to Do in NYC For Christmas: Enjoy The Mall at Hudson Yards

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    Hudson Yards is a vast mall that sits adjacent to the famed Vessel. The mall is home to many high-end restaurants and shops that are fun to explore any time of the year. However, during Christmas, it’s definitely worth a visit with the family to see a Christmas light show that features over two million lights.

    Hudson Yards’ holiday celebration is called Shine On, and it’s a unique experience that spans the entire holiday season. This is an excellent time for kids and adults alike, so don’t miss it!

  7. 07

    #7 Free Things to Do in NYC For Christmas: Explore Central Park

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    Central Park is one of NYC’s most popular destinations and is a magical place to visit anytime, but during Christmas, words can’t describe the emotion of this fantastic experience. Whether you’re visiting the city alone and decide to put some earbuds in and wander around by yourself, or plan to visit with the entire family, Central Park around the Holidays is a magical and peaceful experience.

  8. 08

    #8 Free Things to Do in NYC For Christmas: Christmas Caroling

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    If visiting the Rockefeller Tree isn’t enough to get you in the holiday spirit, perhaps some Christmas carols may do the trick. Join local NYC families on Christmas Eve for caroling to help warm hearts and spread goodwill throughout the community. If you’re unsure where to find local families, head over to Gramercy Park or Washington Square Park for caroling events, where you can sing the night away.

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    #9 Free Things to Do in NYC For Christmas: Take photos of the famous Rockefeller Tree

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    Of course, no list of free things to do in NYC at Christmas is complete without mentioning the holiday and tree display at Rockefeller Center. This event is iconic, and nothing like you’ve seen on television.

    Just keep in mind that while this event is free and open to the public, space fills up fast, so be sure to get there early and secure a good spot. Once the lighting event is over, you can ice skate for a small fee or simply wander around checking out the magical displays.

  10. 10

    #10 Free Things to Do in NYC For Christmas: Ice skating at The Rink

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    Watching visitors skate on the famous rink at Bryant Park Winter Village is fun – but you can do your laps for free if you bring your own skates! Please be sure to reserve an entry time ahead of your visit here.


FAQs

What should you not miss in New York at Christmas?

There are so many things to do in New York at Christmas, but if you aren’t in the city long enough to enjoy everything, be sure not to miss Central Park, Rockefeller Center, the Winter Village at Bryant Park, Saks Fifth Avenue Light Show, and the rest of the Midtown department store holiday windows.

What is there to do in Central Park at Christmas?

Central Park at Christmastime has so many wonderful things to do. Be sure to check out the bridge from Home Alone 2, ice skating, a carriage tour of the park, or just take in the sights and sounds of the holiday decor.

Is NYC crowded during Christmas?

When isn’t NYC crowded? But to be honest, Christmas is one of the busiest times in the city, so it’s worth setting the alarm and getting an early start each day to beat the crowds.

How cold is New York at Christmas?

Though Christmas in NYC isn’t as cold as January or February, the highs usually hover around 43 degrees Fahrenheit, while the lows dip down into the low 30s. Be sure to pack plenty of warm clothes, a coat, and boots.

Is New York Magical at Christmas?

Yes! NYC is magical all year long, but it’s a whole new experience at Christmas. In fact, most people would agree that you’ve never actually seen the magic of the season until you’ve spent time in NYC celebrating!

About the author
Steffen

I'm a true New York fan! Not only have I visited the city over 20 times but also have I spent several months here at a time. On my blog I show you the best and most beautiful spots of the city, so that you have a really good time! You can also find lots of insider tips in our New York travel guide. Also check out my hotel finder for New York!

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