Things to do during Christmas in New York
Travel Tips
Tessa Winkelman Travel Writer and Content Creator
Travel Tips
13 min

Christmas in New York: 8 Best things to do in NYC

13 min

Christmas in New York City is a dream come true for anyone seeking a magical Christmas experience. There's a reason why New York City consistently ranks as one of the best destinations to visit during the holiday season. The air is filled with excitement, the streets are adorned with twinkling lights, and a festive spirit envelops the entire city. Despite the hustle and bustle that comes with this time of the year, there's something undeniably special about experiencing Christmas in New York.

Christmas holiday in New York City

In this blog, we're sharing the absolute best places to visit, the must-see attractions, and the best things to do in New York at Christmas including recommendations for NYC Christmas Tours and advice on where to book your tickets.

With so many incredible Christmas activities to choose from, we've narrowed it down to the top 8 things to do in NYC you absolutely can't miss:

1 See the world-famous New York Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center

Rockefeller Christmas Tree Lighting New York City

Rockefeller Center, a large complex with 19 buildings and open spaces located between Fifth and Seventh Avenues and 48th and 51st Streets, is a significant attraction in New York City. During the holiday season, it becomes a focal point for celebrations.

The famous Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, adorned with thousands of bright lights, is probably the most famous Christmas tree in the world. More than 50,000 lights illuminate the enormous tree at Rockefeller Center in New York City. This tree is at least twenty meters tall and about eight meters wide every year.

Christmas Tree Lighting Rockefeller Center NYC

Rockefeller Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony NYC

The annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony is a popular event. The tree is lit for the first time on the Wednesday after Thanksgiving at around 9 p.m. It's open to the public without needing tickets, but to secure a good spot for the ceremony, it's best to arrive early about 3 pm.

When does the Christmas Tree go up in New York? In 2023, the Rockefeller Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony will be November 29. That's the official date the big Christmas Tree at Rockefeller shows its beautiful twinkling Christmas lights.

Ice Skating at famous Christmas Tree Rockefeller Center

The enchanting lights of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree will continue to shine bright until early January. While you're there, don't miss enjoying some ice skating on the famous rink, with the towering Christmas tree and the city's skyline as your backdrop.

Christmas Rockefeller Center Christmas Light Show

Beyond the tree lighting ceremony and ice skating, there's a plethora of festive activities to enjoy in and around Rockefeller Center during the holiday season, like exploring the holiday markets to buy souvenirs in New York for Christmas and taking a stroll through the beautifully decorated Channel Gardens.

Christmas New York: Rockefeller activities

2 Discover the New York Christmas Window Decorations

Macy's Christmas Shopping New York City

Christmas Shopping Rockefeller Center

Experiencing New York in Christmas season is something special. Make sure to visit Macy's, BVLGARI, Bergdorf Goodman, and Bloomingdale's, and walk along Fifth Avenue to find the most beautifully decorated store windows. It's almost an annual competition in New York for Christmas to see who has the most beautiful display, and especially the high-end brands go all out.

Christmas shopping at Macy's New York City

One of the most renowned displays is undoubtedly Macy's storefront on 34th Street. This is also where the iconic Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade comes to an end.

Bloomingdales Christmas Windows in New York City

The most extensive "window showcase" can be experienced at Saks on Fifth Avenue. Every year, the ten-story facade is adorned with more than 700,000 LED lights.

The high-end stores and boutiques surrounding Rockefeller Center, such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Tiffany & Co., create elaborate and artistic Christmas holiday window displays; a feast for the eyes and a beloved Christmas tradition for both New Yorkers and visitors of the Big Apple.

Fifth Avenue Christmas Lights at the Peninsula NYC

As night falls, the store's façade comes alive with a breathtaking light and sound performance, set to a Christmas fairytale of New York lyrics. It's a dazzling spectacle that embodies the magic of Christmas in New York.

3 Experience Times Square at Christmas in NYC

Also don't forget to visit Times Square at Christmas. During Christmas, Times Square becomes a beautiful winter wonderland with enchanting festive displays. The area features an abundance of seasonal decorations and can encounter live performances. Both shops and restaurants offer special holiday-themed experiences, and the anticipation of the iconic Time Square New Year's Eve celebrations adds an extra layer of excitement to the bustling holiday spirit.

4 Visit New York Christmas markets

Christmas markets in New York City

Christmas in New York is a shopper's paradise. From November to January, there are Christmas markets In various places around the city, where you can shop for local art, unique Christmas gifts, and delicious treats.

New York Yankees Christmas Balls

the Christmas markets in New York City offer a blend of holiday traditions, cultural diversity, and festive experiences that make them truly special and a must-visit during the holiday season in NYC. Even if you don't intend to shop, the atmosphere in New York for Christmas is enjoyable, and many markets serve delightful food and hot beverages.

Christmas Markets in New York City

The Union Square Market hosts the largest NYC Christmas market with an impressive array of 150 stalls. In Midtown Manhattan, you can shop, enjoy delicious treats, and go ice skating at the Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park.

I love NYC Christmas souvenirs

Just a ten-minute walk from Bryant Park, you'll find one of New York's most famous train stations: Grand Central Station. At the southwestern corner of Central Park, you will find the famous Columbus Circle Holiday Market.

Explore the festive stalls, and find the perfect Christmas gifts for your loved ones.

5 Wander around Central Park

Christmas in Central Park New York City

Who doesn’t love snow around Christmas time in New York? Enjoy the magic of a snowy Christmas by wandering around Central Park. The serene white landscape created by freshly fallen snow is picture-perfect, but even without snow Central Park in Manhattan is worth visiting.

Central Park from Empire State Building

Central Park at Christmas offers beautiful spots and hidden gems waiting to be explored. Consider taking one of the year-round or seasonal tours to discover its secrets, like the historic or nature-themed tours. If you've seen the famous Christmas movie Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, go and see the Gapstow Bridge, one of the most iconic bridges in Central Park.

Bridge from Home Alone Central Park

Don't forget to grab a cup of hot cocoa for warmth and comfort as you take in the Central Park's winter wonderland and take a moment to listen to the delightful holiday tunes played by the enchanting Delacorte Clock.

Winter in Central Park Manhattan

When the sun sets, be sure to experience the Central Park Holiday Lighting, which transforms the park into a magical wonderland of twinkling lights and festive decorations. And while you're there, make sure to visit the famous Central Park Carousel with its 57 horses and calliope music – it's been delighting visitors since 1871 and is one of the largest carousels in the United States. Alternatively, you can book a pedicab tour through Central Park.

6 Go ice skating in New York for Christmas

Ice rink rockefeller center christmas tree

Ice skating during the Christmas season in New York City is an activity that simply cannot be missed.

Ice Skating at Rockefeller Center

Some of the best places to go ice skating in NYC during the Christmas season include the world-famous ice rink at Rockefeller Center, where you can skate beneath the towering Christmas tree. Book your ticket for ice-skating at Rockefeller Center in advance.

Ice Skating Bryant Park Christmas in New York

Bryant Park's Winter Village also offers a delightful skating experience in NYC at Christmas. it’s less crowded,  the rink is larger and free (you only pay for skate rental).

Ice Skating during Christmas Holiday in New York City

Central Park Ice Skating at Wollman Rink

Central Park's Wollman Rink and The Rink at Brookfield Place in the financial district are equally charming options. Each of these rinks offers a unique ambiance, but all share in the excitement and merriment of the NYC Christmas season.

The Wollman Rink in Central Park has been featured in famous movies like Home Alone 2, Night at the Museum and Love Story. New York Travel Tip: I highly recommend booking a timed ticket for ice skating at the Central Park Wollman Rink to escape the queue and be sure of a ticket before they sell out. You can rent your skates on site or bring your own.

Best places for Ice Skating in New York City during Christmas time

For the best view, head to the Sky Rink at Chelsea Piers. This indoor ice rink is open year-round, not just during the holiday season, and is particularly notable for its breathtaking views of the Hudson River.

If you find yourself in Brooklyn, make your way to the Industry City Ice Rink. This outdoor ice skating rink offers a fantastic winter experience starting in mid-November. After skating, you can warm up with delicious waffles and hot cocoa.

For both experienced and beginner skaters, ice skating in New York City during Christmas is a joyful activity that captures the holiday spirit like no other.

7 Visit a New York Christmas Show

Christmas Show Radio City Music Hall New York City

No trip to New York during the holidays is complete without experiencing the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. This world-famous NYC Christmas show, featuring the legendary Rockettes, is a mesmerizing blend of stunning dance performances, elaborate costumes, and beloved holiday tunes. This magical show at Radio City Music Hall has been running for over 75 years and is an experience never to be forgotten. Book a ticket for this Christmas Show starring the Radio City Rockettes to be sure of a spot.

Christmas shows Radio City Music Hall NYC

Another classic is The Nutcracker by the New York City Ballet. George Balanchine's choreography, Tchaikovsky's music, and the talent of the ballet dancers will enchant you. If you're a fan of Charles Dickens, don't miss the opportunity to see and hear a magical new interpretation of A Christmas Carol on Broadway. For an hour and a half, you'll enjoy the heartwarming story and twelve Christmas songs.

8 Explore magical NYC Christmas lights

Dyker Heights Christmas Lights New York

Christmas Lights Dyker Heights New York

Experience New York in Christmas light magic! You'll likely find the most beautiful displays of twinkling Christmas lights in Dyker Heights, located in the southwest of Brooklyn. Join the Dyker Heights Christmas Lights tour and be amazed by dozens of beautifully decorated houses. Christmas lights, nativity scenes, giant Santa Clauses, snowmen, nutcrackers... you'll find it all here!

Houses Dyker Heights full of Christmas Lights

Magical Christmas Lights New York

Another must-see is the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) Glow in the Bronx. This light show is the largest outdoor display during Christmas New York and showcases beautifully illuminated buildings and landscapes. You can complete your visit with a glimpse of the Holiday Train Show. And if you can't get enough of the twinkling lights, head to Lightscape at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. A magical stroll lit by over a million lights awaits you.

Best things to do in New York at Christmas

Christmas in New York City

Christmas Holiday in New York is a time when the city truly sparkles with holiday cheer. From the colorful lights of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree to the enchanting NYC Christmas markets, ice skating rinks, and world-class holiday shows, the Big Apple offers an unforgettable Christmas holiday experience.

Want to immerse yourself in the festivities in New York on Christmas Day? Or are you seeking for that ultimate Christmas adventure? Plan a Christmas City Trip to New York, the city that never sleeps.

What to do in New York at Christmas? In summary, here are the 8 best things to do during Christmas in New York City:

  1.  See the New York Christmas Tree at Rockefeller
  2.  Discover New York Christmas Window Decorations
  3.  Experience Time Square at Christmas in NYC
  4.  Visit New York Christmas Markets
  5.  Wander around Central Park
  6.  Go Ice Skating in New York for Christmas
  7.  Visit a New York Christmas Show
  8.  Admire Dyker Heights Christmas Lights

Christmas holiday in New York City

We hope this blog has provided you with valuable insights into the best places to visit and the magical experiences that await you during Christmas in New York.

Wishing you a joyful and memorable holiday season in the city that never sleeps!

And if you visit NYC anyway, don't forget to visit the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge, Empire State Building, Chelsea Market, The High Line, the Vessel and the 9/11 Memorial and Museum plus the One World Trace Center tower. To get the best value for money, it's worth buying the New York City Pass that will save you up to 40%!