The 26 Best Things To Do in New York in December 2021

What to do in New York in December? We've got you covered!

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.

My 26 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.

  1. 01

    Visit the Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Plaza

    Other Attraction in Midtown Manhattan
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    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)

  2. 02

    Visit the Winter and Holiday Markets in NYC (free)

    Christmas Market in Gramercy
    Best Christmas Markets NYC
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    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

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  4. 03

    Enjoy the Holiday Window Decorations in NYC

    Other Shopping in Midtown Manhattan
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    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

  5. 04

    Radio City Christmas Spectacular

    Broadway Show in Midtown Manhattan
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    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.

  6. 05

    Ice Skating in New York City

    Christmas Market in Midtown Manhattan
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    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

  7. 06

    From Manhattan: 4-Hour Dyker Heights Holiday Lights Bus Tour

    Bus Tour in 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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    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!

  8. 07

    Broadway Under The Stars

    Broadway Show in Hell's Kitchen
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    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 7th 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.

  9. 08

    New York City Cocoa & Carols Holiday Cruise

    Cruise in Chelsea
    Our Highlight
    Best Christmas Dinner Cruises NYC
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    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.

  10. 09

    New York Christmas Markets and Lights Walking Tour

    Walking Tour in Hell's Kitchen
    New York Christmas Markets and Lights Walking Tour
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    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.

  11. 10

    See the Broadway Performances at Hudson Yards (December 5 and December 13, 2021)

    Broadway Show in Hudson Yards
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    Similar to Broadway Under The Stars, Broadway Performances at Hudson Yards is a free event where you can see the cast of many famous Broadway shows perform live. There are several dates throughout November and December, starting at 5 p.m.

    For one hour, you can experience a true Broadway feeling in the area called The Stage on the 4th floor. Because the free tickets are limited, you should book them as soon as possible. After all, the Broadway Performances at Hudson Yards are only available during the Holiday Season!

  12. 11

    See a Broadway Show

    Broadway Show in Theatre District
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    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

  13. 12

    Numeral Arrival at Times Square

    Other Events in Theatre District
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    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
  14. 13

    The NBA is Well Underway

    Sports Tickets in Chelsea
    Our Highlight
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    Basketball fans, this month is for you. The NBA is in its second month. Check out either the New York Knicks or the Brooklyn Nets at either the Madison Square Garden or Barclays Center, respectively.

  15. 14

    New Year's Eve in Times Square

    Other Events in Theatre District
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    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

  16. 15

    Classic Harbor Line: Holiday Jazz Cruise Aboard Classic Motor Yacht

    Cruise in Chelsea
    Our Highlight
    Holiday Jazz Cruise Aboard Classic Motor Yacht
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    This Holiday Jazz Cruise aboard a 1920’s style luxury yacht is one of my absolute favorite tours in New York. The ship has a wonderful charm and cannot be compared to the big sightseeing ships. Holiday Jazz Cruise starts at the Chelsea Piers and takes you along the Hudson River to the Statue of Liberty and the harbor of New York. On the way you can enjoy a wonderful view of the New York skyline and smooth jazz at the same time.

  17. 16

    Visit one of New York's Amazing Art Exhibitions at MoMa PS1

    Museum in Long Island City
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    Check out the local art scene in the MoMa Ps1 art exhibit, featuring work from 47 local, contemporary artists. This exhibit explores art-making in New York history, the resilience of artists, and the feelings connected with art. You’ll see a huge emphasis on foreign-born artists, their work full of Egyptian, Iranian, Tunisian, Nigerian, Mexican, Argentinian, and Indian influences. There is also an abundance of Native American artists to enjoy.

    My tip: Here you find the Best Art Exhibitions in New York City.

  18. 17

    The Nutcracker

    Other Events in Upper East Side
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    The Nutcracker is one of the world’s most famous ballets and enjoys great popularity among visitors and locals. A true holiday tradition!

  19. 18

    Enjoy NYE in NYC on a boat

    Cruise in Chelsea
    Our Highlight
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    This New Year’s Eve Fireworks Cruise in NYC offers a limited amount of tickets making sure that the experience is exclusive for those who want to celebrate in style and comfort. Throughout the evening, enjoy a large selection of hors d’oeuvres, an open bar, live Jazz music and stunning views of the New York City skyline. The cruise departs from Pier 62.

    My tip: These are the Best NYE Cruises in NYC

  20. 19

    Lighting the World's Largest Hanukkah Menorahs

    Other Events in Prospect Heights
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    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.

  21. 20

    Plunge Rooftop Bar & Lounge

    Rooftop Bar in Meatpacking District
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    As you probably already know, one of the best things in New York for me all year round are the rooftops of NYC! 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.

  22. 21

    Warm up in one of New York's museums

    Museum in Upper West Side
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    There will be days when it will be really cold and you don’t really want to be outside. Such days can be wonderfully spent in one of the many museums.

    One of our favorite museums is the Museum of National History. Even those who don’t like museums can easily spend a whole day here.

  23. 22

    Macy’s Santaland

    Other Events in Midtown Manhattan
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    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.

  24. 23

    Check Out Some NFL Matchups

    Sports Tickets in Outside of New York City
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    Arguably the most popular sport in the US is about three months into their season. That means the New York Giants and the New York Jets are in action! Which team will you root for?

  25. 24

    Santa Con 2021 (December 11)

    Other Events in Theatre District
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    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? December 11
  26. 25

    Holiday Nostalgia Rides on Sundays

    Museum in Dumbo
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    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.

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Weather in December in New York City

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The best tours in December

Christmas Tree New York Rockefeller Center

Fireworks over Manhattan

Cocoa and Carols Holiday Cruise

One World Observatory

Marvel at New York's most beautiful holiday lights display!

Get unobstructed views of the Rockefeller Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony!

Enjoy the NYE fireworks with this superb dinner cruise

Watch the must-see Christmas show at Radio City Music Hall!

Feel the Holiday spirit on the yacht

Explore New York's highest observation deck, regardless of the weather!

$59

$549

from $432

from $51

from $69

$38

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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6 Comments

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Lisa Bonanni

What to do in New York in December with my 15 year old son.

Maureen Steinert

Hi Lisa,

there a lot of cool things you two can do together:
– see Macy’s holiday windows
– see the Radio City Christmas Spectacular
– see Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree
– go to the interactive SPYSCAPE museum
– visit Dyker Heights
and much more!
– you can even visit rooftop bars together, just not in the evening!

If you’re looking for some more specific advice, let us know what the two of you are interested in and we’re happy to help 🙂

Best,
Maureen

MG

Hi Maureen

We are first time NY guests.
What would be great to do vis a vis sights shows dining and shopping.
We are flying in December.

Love your website
MG

Maureen Steinert

Hi MG,

when it comes to shows in December, the Radio City Christmas Spectacular is a must!
You should definitely see the holiday windows at Macy’s and if you’re enthusiastic about the holidays, I recommend the Dyker Heights Holiday Lights Tour. It’s magical! These are all very specific recommendations for December.
If you sign up for our newsletter, you’ll receive weekly information about what’s new in the city. Some cool events and attractions will be there for the holiday season. It was just announced that there will be free Broadway performances in November/December, so I will be sure to include the info, too!

Maureen

Pete

You can also check out “Story Portraits of U.S. Veterans: World War II ~ Today” at the Historic Flatiron Building on Broadway between 22nd and 23rd Streets.

More info: https://gothamtogo.com/story-portraits-of-u-s-veterans-world-war-ii-today-opens-at-historic-flatiron-building/

Maureen Steinert

Hi Pete,

thanks for your recommendation!

Maureen

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