The best Christmas things to do in New York City

As the song goes, Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, and what better city to spend the winter holidays than the magical New York City.  From where to see the best holiday ligths to where to get the best hot chocolate in town, I have compiled a list of fun things to do in New York City this holiday season.

Where to see the Christmas lights

This sits at the top of my list as it is one of my favorite things that makes New York magical at this time of the year. Let’s explore some of the best places for seeing them.

1. Dyker Heights

This Brooklyn neighbourhood has the most stunning holiday lights I have ever seen. It’s those kind of lights and Christmas ornaments you’ve only seen in American movies when you were little. In my humble opinion it’s better than the Rockefeller Christmas tree and definitely worth a visit if you are in the city during the holiday season.
When: You can visit anytime after Thanksgiving until end December. Every year I go around mid December to make sure all the house lights are up.
Where: There are of course houses that are very famous and to see those make sure you walk around from 83rd to 86th Street and between 11th and 13th avenue.
How to get to: To get in the area take the R train to 86th Street or the D to 79th street. From there you will have to walk for around 15 minutes to the prime location. Check out detailed directions and a tour here.

2. Rockefeller Center Tree

This is the the most touristy and crowded place during winter time. Local tip: go after 11PM to avoid the crowds.
When: The lighting ceremony took place on 4th of December and you can see the tree lit up until early January 2020.
Where: 30 Rockefeller Plaza
Though not as famous, there are a few other New York Christmas trees that can easily live up to the hype: check out the Seaport tree or the Stock Exchange one right in front of the building with the same name.

3. Saks Fifth Avenue

Nearby the hyped Rockefeller tree, enjoy the less coveted experience of the Saks Fifth Avenue Christmas Lights show. There’s music, there’s Disney like light projection on the store facade all of whch will transport you to a winter wonderland. Once you get closer you will find that all the store’s windows are full of themed decorations. This years theme is the movie Frozen!

Live shows to watch

1. Christmas Spectacular, the Rockettes at Radio City Hall

One of the most popular and acclaimed Christmas shows, it features the Rockettes which are a group of precision dancers known for changing their costumes in 78 seconds and perfectly kicking their leg up 1200 times a day. The show is beautiful but not a must do in my opinion as it’s kind of dated at times.
Where: Radio City Hall
How much: You can get discounted tickets at the TKTS booth, right under the red stairs in Times Square ($40-100) or you can get the standard price tickets online here.

2. Nutcracker ballet

Haven’t seen this one yet, but a lot of friends recommend it. You can watch the enchanting show at Licoln Center until January 5th 2020. Get all the details here.
Where: David H. Koch Theater (at Lincoln Center)
How much: $55-$300

3. St. Patrick’s Cathedral

Go to one of the most famous cathedrals in New York City for traditional and contemporary Christmas hymns and carols. You can attend this for free on a first come first served basis.
When: 19th December, 7PM
Where: St. Patrick’s Cathedral, 5th Avenue between 50th/51st Streets

Check a comprehensive list of NYC winter shows here.

Christmas markets

1. Bryant Park Winter Village

This one is my favorite due to its location in a quite magical setting. It’s in a park, it includes an ice-skating ring and it’s near the spectacular New York Public Library and all surrounded by skyscrapers. It doesn’t get more New York-ish than this. Go there to shop from over 170 vendors and try out the famous S’mores Bar.

When: October 31 – January 5
Where: Bryant Park

2. Union Square Holiday Market

My other top favorite is very convenient as it’s located withing minutes from my office. I get the best hot apple cider here and my annual gifts for friends and family. Take a walk along this European style market, enjoy the food and encourage local artists by buying this year gifts from here.

When: November 21 – December 24
Where: Union Square Park

Check more holiday markets here.

The Christmas story of New York City doesn’t end here because there are so many more things to do and experience in the Big Apple. Just to name a few… you can try the Macy’s 8th floor experience called Santaland. Pick a date and time on this site and get ready for an unforgettable experience. You can watch the holiday train show at the New York Botanical Garden, take a Christmas walking tour (some of them are free or pay as you wish), try the best hot chocolate in town at Serendipy 3 or any of these other places.
If you love ice skating there are a quite a few options here with the three most important ones being: Bryant Park (the largest and very popular), Central Park (made famous by the Serendipity movie) and Rockefeller Center one (smaller compared to the other two and the most expensive).

And if you want to give back in a meaningful way there are so many volunteering opportunities in the city and so many people in need of a helping hand. Find plenty of options here and here.

 

 

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