NYC in December is amazing as preparations for the Holiday season begins. With countless things to do, concerts to attend, and events happening throughout the city, one thing is for sure – your trip won’t be boring! Below we have summarized all of our favorite things to do in New York in December.
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My 19 Absolute Best Things to Do in New York In December
It’s the holiday season and NYC in December is a romantic and beautiful time. Snow can potentially blanket the city and gives off this holiday cheer and spirit. The winter markets are open, the ice rinks invite you to skate and the Christmas Tree at the Rockefeller Center shines in all its glory. Christmas in New York is ahead of you which is why the city is decorated with Christmas decorations and beautiful Christmas lights.
Visit the Christmas Tree at Rockefeller PlazaOther Attraction in Midtown ManhattanAdd to myNY added
New York in December lights up the famous Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Plaza in light on December 1st, but that doesn’t mean you can’t experience this magical tree. The tree is decorated with 45,000 LED bulbs and countless Swarovski crystals. This place will definitely get you into the holiday spirit and you can also ice skate here as well. The tree will be up all month. (Address: 30 Rockefeller Plaza)
Visit the Winter and Holiday Markets in NYC (free)Christmas Market in GramercyAdd to myNY added
Make sure to take note of these locations for Winter and Holiday Markets in New York that you can check out while you’re in New York in December. There’s a lot to choose from – my favorite spots are the one in Union Square and the Bryant Park Winter Village Christmas Market.
Recommended: The 12 Best Holiday Markets in NYC
Enjoy the Holiday Window Decorations in NYCOther Shopping in Midtown ManhattanAdd to myNY added
Between Rockefeller Center and Central Park you will find the long-established American luxury department store chain Saks Fifth Avenue. Here the well-stocked purse will find high-priced clothing, shoes, jewelry, accessories and cosmetics for women, men and children as well as delicatessen, gifts, home textiles and upscale furnishings.
Recommended: The Best Holiday Window Decorations in NYC
Radio City Christmas SpectacularBroadway Show in Midtown ManhattanAdd to myNY added
For many New Yorkers, watching the Radio City Christmas Spectacular is a goal. Over 140 sensational dancers perform in the popular Christmas Spectacular. Sparkling costumes, unique set design and a lot of Christmas songs thrill the audience every year. The stars of the show are the female dance group “The Rockettes” and perform next to Santa Claus and his elves.
From November to early January, you can watch the dance performance and Christmas show at Radio City Music Hall. There are up to three performances per day, so there should be a time slot for you.
Ice Skating in New York CityChristmas Market in Midtown ManhattanOur HighlightAdd to myNY added
Ice skating in this urban mecca is one of the best things to do in NYC in December. The rinks are fully functional and have been open since October. Bank of America’s Winter Village at Bryant Park (behind the Public Library), the famed Rink at Rockefeller Center and the Woolman in Central Park are just three of New York City’s finest ice rinks.
Recommended: The Best Ice Rinks in NYC
From Manhattan: 4-Hour Dyker Heights Holiday Lights Bus TourBus Tour in Dyker HeightsOur HighlightAdd to myNY added
This tour through the Christmas Dyker Heights and Bay Ridge in Brooklyn is one of the most popular and most booked tours at Christmas time in New York. In front of the Row NYC Hotel (45th Street and 8th Avenue) you will be picked up by a bus and drive over one of New York’s bridges to Brooklyn – you will have a wonderful view of the New York skyline. Once in Dyker Heights, you will be guided by a guide through the main streets with the most beautiful Christmas lights. The next stop is the Brooklyn Bridge in DUMBO (about 25 minutes) – the tour ends at Bryant Park Winter Village with the famous ice skating rink. The Dyker Heights tour is guaranteed to get you in the Christmas spirit!
Broadway Under The StarsBroadway Show in Hell's KitchenAdd to myNY added
December is for the holidays and how could you celebrate the most wonderful time of the year better than attending one of the Broadway Under the Stars shows at the Shops at Columbus Circle.
Broadway Under The Stars is a five-week series of FREE indoor Broadway performances. 2021 will mark the fifth year of Broadway and the Shops at Columbus Circle teaming up to host Broadway Under The Stars. The performances will take place on the second floor of the Time Warner Center.
New York City Cocoa & Carols Holiday CruiseCruise in ChelseaOur HighlightAdd to myNY added
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.
My favorite holiday cruise is the New York City Cocoa and Carols Holiday Cruise. The Jazz Band on board is fun and so talented which makes the New York City Cocoa and Carols Holiday Cruise even more entertaining. Relax in the heated main observation cabin, join in the caroling, and admire the city through the glassed-in observatory on the 1920s style yacht.
New York Christmas Markets and Lights Walking TourWalking Tour in Hell's KitchenAdd to myNY added
You will get to know four different Christmas markets on this walking tour. In a small group, you’ll learn all kinds of interesting facts about the buildings and attractions from a guide and walk past many of the decorated shop windows. The starting point is the information desk under the Holiday Under the Stars display in the stores at Columbus Circle.
See a Broadway ShowBroadway Show in Theatre DistrictAdd to myNY added
Especially in the off-season you can often get great bargains for one of the Broadway shows in New York. We have already seen many of the really worthwhile musicals and can only recommend the experience. Every dollar is well invested – it is guaranteed to be an unforgettable evening!
So check out our Complete Guide to Broadway Shows in NYC
Numeral Arrival at Times SquareOther Events in Theatre DistrictAdd to myNY added
Everyone knows the famous illuminated year on the top of Times Square. But few know that you can take photos of it while standing in front of it! Every December at the “Numeral Arrival”, it is placed in Times Square for a few days before it is lifted up to the famous ball that drops on New Year’s Eve. This is a great opportunity for photos!
- When? from Dezember 21st
The NBA is Well UnderwaySports Tickets in Midtown Manhattan
New Year's Eve in Times SquareOther Events in Theatre DistrictAdd to myNY added
People from all over the world fly to NYC in December, especially during New Year’s Eve. They come here to experience the popular ball drop live while standing in the frigid December temperatures in the middle of Times Square. Live performances by famous artists are part of the outstanding program in Times Square every year. It’s pretty much a big party.
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.
Photo: Countdown Entertainment, LLC
Lighting the World's Largest Hanukkah MenorahsOther Events in Prospect HeightsAdd to myNY added
In Manhattan and Brooklyn, there is a small competition for the world’s largest Hanukkah Menorah. On December 22nd, the Jewish “Festival of Lights” begins and this starts with the lighting of the largest Menorah in the world. The gold, 400-pound, 32-foot steel structure can be admired both in front of the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan and at the Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn.
The lighting of the Menorah is one of the great events in NYC in December. Music is played and food is offered as well. In Manhattan, the event begins at 5:30 pm, on Fridays at 3:30 pm and Saturdays at 8:00 pm. In Brooklyn, the lights will be on at 6:00 pm, on Friday at 3:30 pm and on Saturday at 7:00 pm.
Plunge Rooftop Bar & LoungeRooftop Bar in Meatpacking DistrictAdd to myNY added
As you probably already know, one of the best things in New York for me all year round is the rooftop bars! Even in winter the season is not over yet, because with radiant heaters, free blankets and warm rooftop lounges you can make yourself comfortable there even in icy temperatures. The great view will warm your heart.
At 230 Fifth near the Flatiron building, you can even sit in a heated igloo while enjoying a breathtaking view of the skyline – how cool is that!
For more tips, check out our article on the best fall & winter rooftop bars in New York.
Warm up in one of New York's museumsMuseum in Upper West Side
Macy’s SantalandOther Events in Midtown ManhattanAdd to myNY added
During December in New York, Santa Claus is in town. Make sure to set up a date with Santa to tell him your Christmas wishes. Santa is welcoming his guests at Macy’s at Herald Square in Midtown Manhattan. Make a reservation online to avoid long waiting times.
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Santa ConOther Events in Theatre DistrictAdd to myNY added
Don’t miss out on that one Saturday in December when half of the city dresses up as Santa Claus and other Christmas Characters to hop from bar to bar in Manhattan. You will be surprised how many New Yorkers show up looking like the big guy from the Northpole. Santa Con is free to attend, however, to get into all the big venues you must make a charitable contribution of $13.
- When? Not officially announced, yet
Holiday Nostalgia Rides on SundaysMuseum in DumboAdd to myNY added
Every Sunday in December, the New York Transit Museum brings back vintage trains in New York City. For just one MetroCard swipe, you can be on it and ride back to the past. Check the holiday nostalgia train ride schedule so you know when and where to start your journey.
New York for First Time Visitors: Everything You Need to Know for Your Trip (70+ pages)
Here you’ll find everything you need for your New York trip: the most important checklists, travel and visa questions, everything you need to know about the boroughs, airport transfers and our money-saving tips.
It’s packed with all the things you need to consider when preparing for your trip. And we provide you several free tools that will make your time in New York unforgettable. Starting with our travel planner myNY, over the Hotel Finder for New York, the Transfer Hero and the New York Pass Advisor, which simply and quickly save your travel money. It is also available here:
Weather in December in New York City
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The best tours in December
Marvel at New York's most beautiful holiday lights display!
Get unobstructed views of the Rockefeller Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony!
Watch the must-see Christmas show at Radio City Music Hall!
Save 50% on all attraction tickets with this discount pass for NYC!
Explore New York's highest observation deck, regardless of the weather!
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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 this blog, I want to share everything I have learned and discovered, so you can have the best time in the greatest city in the world. By the way: Did you like my article? Then think about becoming a supporter of us on Patreon!