Things To Do in New York in December

What is there to do in December in New York?

Image of author Selwyn
Selwyn
6. January 2020
428 ratings

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.

Contents

Our Recommendations for New York In December

Our Favorite

NYC Sightseeing FLEX Pass

One World Observatory

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

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

Celebrate the new year aboard a dinner cruise!

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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. Visit the Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Plaza

December in New York: Christmas Tree

New York in December lights up the famous Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Plaza in light in November, 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)

Rockefeller Christmas Tree

2. Santaland at Macy’s

Where is Santa in NYCDuring 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.

Santaland in NYC

3. Lighting the World’s Largest Hanukkah Menorahs

In Manhattan and Brooklyn, there is a small competition for the world’s largest Hanukkah Menorah. On December 22nd, 2019, 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.

4. Visit the Winter and Holiday Markets in NYC (free)

December in New York: Union Square Holiday MarketMake 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.

The Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park is one of the most popular markets in the city. They mainly sell handmade goods and accessories. (Address: Sixth Ave, between 40th and 42nd street)

The Columbus Circle Holiday Market offers a romantic atmosphere with over 100-holiday booths and offers a great atmosphere. (Address / Entrance: Central Park South at Central Park West)

The European Union Square Holiday Market has more of a European feel to it. Besides the 150 food vendors, New York artists are also stationed here and show off their skills. Immerse yourself in this awesome market. Here, you will surely find a very special Christmas present for your loved ones. (address: 14th Street to 17th Street, between Broadway and the southern Park Avenue)

Another great spot to get into the holiday spirit is in the Grand Central Terminal. Every year there are up to 100-holiday vendors.

NYC Holiday Markets

5. Holiday Window Decorations in NYC

December in New York: Holiday windowsDuring New York in December, we highly recommend taking a walk along 5th Avenue and Herald Square. Retail stores are setting up their windows with holiday decorations that tell stories to the viewer and convey messages. We definitely suggest checking out Macy’s windows invites the little visitors of New York (but of course the adults) to the legendary Santa Land at Christmas time.

The 8th floor of the New York department store giant will be turned into the Christmas department par excellence at Christmas time. This is something you only really know from TV. In the middle of it, of course? Santa Claus, his elves and many children telling their Christmas wish to the man with the white beard. Great to look at! (Address: 5th Avenue & Herald Square)

Holiday windows in nyc

6. Radio City Christmas Spectacular

December in New YorkFor 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. For more information, please take a look here.

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7. Ice Skating in New York City


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.

new york ice rinks

8. New Years Eve 2020/2021 in Times Square

 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.

New Year’s Eve in NYC

The Most Popular Things to do in December!

These are the most popular tickets! 

9. Check out the most popular tickets in New York in December

If you are looking for the best ways to explore the city and discover what NYC in December has to offer, you have come to the right place. Below we have detailed the most popular things to do around this time of year as we want to show you the variety of amazing things to do the Big Apple has to offer. Check out the top 5 best selling tickets in December.

Sports events in nyc

Best NYC Attractions and Tours in NYC in December

  • Looking for something unique and awesome? 

10. Christmas Lights Tour of New York City – Private Tour with Free Christmas Drink

With the holiday season unofficially underway, this tour is for you. Explore NYC and check out the amazing decorations and Christmas lights on your very own private tour. It also comes with a free Christmas drink as well!

CHECK PRICES & AVAILABILITY

11. NYC One World Observatory Skip-the-Line Ticket

If you want to go to the top of the One World Observatory, chances are you’ll probably be waiting for a good amount of time. This ticket will give you VIP access to the VIP line and elevator making your waiting times shorter.

CHECK PRICES & AVAILABILITY

12. Christmas Lights in Dyker Heights 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.

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Sports events in NYC in December

What teams, are playing where?

13. Check out a sporting event

January
February
March
April
May
June
July
August
September
October
November
December
Football
Baseball
Basketball
Hockey
Soccer
  • Check Out Some NFL Matchups

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?

  • The NBA is Well Underway

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.

  • The NHL is in Action

If you’re a fan of hockey then New York City has two professional teams. One of them plays at the infamous Madison Square Garden and the other plays at the more recent Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The teams are the New York Rangers and New York Islanders, respectively.

14. Santa Con in New York City

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 takes places on 

15. Broadway Under the Stars

 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. 2019 will mark the fourth 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.

Broadway Under the Stars

16. The 20 Numeral at Times Square

On December 11th the 20 Numeral arrives at Times Square. It will be accessible to the public through December 19th before it’s lifted up to the famous ball that drops on New Year’s Eve. It’s a great opportunity for photos.

17. Holiday Nostalgia Rides on Sundays

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.

18. The Westside Story debuts on Broadway

The musical masterpiece debuts in NYC on December 10th before it officially opens on February 6th, 2020. Some original cast members include Isaac Powell and Shereen Pimentel. Tickets will be available soon!

About the author
Selwyn Tungol

Being a photographer and creative in general, New York City, I think is the perfect place to be. I moved to NYC from Boston in 2013 and never looked back. Loving New York has given me the opportunity to do what I love and share those images with you all.

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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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