Featured in countless movies and TV shows from generations past and present, the pure magic of Christmas in New York is world famous. However, there is nothing like experiencing New York at Christmastime firsthand; it’s even more magical than you can imagine!
From larger-than-life Christmas trees and incredible festivals of light to world-class window displays at department stores and delicious treats to warm your smile on a cold day, these are some of the best experiences to enjoy for a memorable and festive Christmas in New York.
15 Highlights of Christmas in New York
From off-the-beaten-path attractions and events to the city’s most iconic Christmas landmarks and celebrations, these are the New York City Christmas highlights guaranteed to make for a memorable holiday season.
1. Marvel at New York’s Most Iconic Christmas Destination
Home to the world’s most famous Christmas tree, Rockefeller Center is the best place to start any festive Christmas in New York City. Pictures simply don’t do justice to this iconic destination, complete with New York’s largest Christmas tree, twinkling lights, Christmas music, and ice skating.
Towering over the ice skating rink below, the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree evokes awe. Make sure to get your first glimpse of it from 5th Avenue, with twinkling angels lining a magical pathway towards the tree.
Start your evening at Rockefeller Center, and make sure to visit nearby destinations like FAO Schwarz, Radio City Music Hall, and Bryant Park. The whole neighborhood is lit with twinkling lights, and plenty of New York’s most iconic Christmas destinations are just steps away.
Read More: 9 Best Hotels for a Festive Christmas in New York City
2. Greet Santa Among Twinkling Lights at Hudson Yards
While the Christmas display and festive celebrations at Hudson Yards might be new to the scene compared to some of New York’s Christmas classics, Hudson Yards has quickly become one of the best places in the city to get into the Christmas spirit.
Hudson Yards takes holiday decorations to the next level. Highlights include 115 miles of twinkling Christmas lights and 725 evergreen trees, creating a festive forest you need to see to believe. Decorations also include 16′-tall illuminated set-pieces in the shape of hot air balloons arranged throughout the Public Square and Gardens.
Hudson Yards is also the perfect place to take the kids to meet Santa. This year, Santa’s sleigh will be making a pitstop on Level 4 of Hudson Yards from December 5-9th and 12-16th from 5:00 PM to 8:00 PM. Kids can meet Santa while parents snap photos or take a family shot courtesy of Santa’s Helpers.
The best news? It’s all free and open to the public! Whether you’re looking for a family-friendly activity or a romantic thing to do in New York City, this is a perfect option.
3. Enjoy Over-the-Top Christmas Decorations at Rolf’s
Located in Gramercy Park, Rolf’s German Restaurant is considered among the most festive restaurants in New York City. Every square inch of Rolf’s is covered with twinkling lights (over 200,000 in total!), sparkling ornaments, and Christmas trees. The decorations take almost three months to mount, and it’s easy to see why.
This cozy, festive restaurant and bar serves delicious German food and has a great selection of drinks, ensuring your visit is memorable for more than just the over-the-top decorations.
Visiting Rolfs around the holidays is so popular that it’s almost impossible to make it inside without a reservation during November and December, even just for a drink at the bar. Make sure to call well in advance to make a reservation, especially if you’d like to visit in the evenings or on the weekend.
4. Take Window Shopping To the Next Level at Saks
Glimpsing the over-the-top window displays is a must when experiencing Christmas in New York. From Macy’s and Bergdorf Goodman to Bloomingdale’s and the iconic Saks Fifth Avenue, New York’s holiday windowscapes are endless, always managing to top the previous years’ displays.
Looking for a delicious way to take your holiday window shopping to the next level? Head inside Saks to visitL’Avenue at Saks, an A-list favorite turned cozy escape with their holiday pop-up from the famous Parisian cafe, Angelina.
Choose from delicious favorites like macarons and madeleines or their signature pastry, the Mont-Blanc, complete with chestnut cream reminiscent of the roasted chestnuts so beloved during Christmas in New York. Of course, a visit wouldn’t be complete without Angelina’s famous old-fashioned hot chocolate. Pick up Angelina’s emblematic box set or chocolate mix for a holiday gift anyone is sure to love.
5. Visit FAO Schwarz
If you’re spending Christmas in New York with the kids, a visit to the iconic FAO Schwarz toy store is a must. Kids and adults alike will marvel at the over-the-top Christmas decor turning every inch of the store into a Christmas wonderland.
Located in Rockefeller Center, you’ll want to visit the world’s most famous toy store whether you have Christmas shopping to do or not. From soaring Christmas trees and life-sized nutcrackers to beautifully gift-wrapped boxes and festive, interactive displays, the store guarantees fun and enchantment, whether you make a quick visit or plan your whole day around the excursion.
During most of December, the store is open for extended Christmas hours, meaning it’s easier than ever to enjoy a visit. Whether you’re eight or eighty, FAO Schwarz is an iconic New York Christmas destination that will put a smile on your face.
6. Enjoy Winter Wonderland by the Water
Be transported to a winter wonderland among twinkling lights by the water at Watermark, a 10,000-square-foot outdoor bar and restaurant on Pier 15. Evening views from the pier towards Brooklyn are always spectacular, but Watermark’s Christmas display makes a visit truly magical.
This year’s display is inspired by the new Disney+ series, ‘The Santa Clauses,’ a throwback to the Christmas classic starring Tim Allen as Santa Claus. Visitors can explore candy-cane-lined corridors and cozy spaces like Santa’s Living Room and the Gingerbread House Bar with festive holiday drinks and bites.
Make sure to reserve a glass cabin for a Christmas party with Santa and all your friends. They’ll love exploring this Christmas wonderland inspired by holiday classics!
7. Shop at the Union Square Holiday Market
Transporting visitors to the festive Christmas markets of Europe for almost thirty years, the Union Square Holiday Market is considered among the best Christmas markets in the United States and is a must on any itinerary for travelers spending Christmas in New York.
With its red-and-white-striped cabins lined with garlands and Christmas lights, and delicious smells of roasted chestnuts and fresh pretzels wafting throughout the market, you’ll feel instantly transported to a winter wonderland.
Open every year from mid-November through Christmas Eve, the Union Square Holiday Market takes over the square’s entire southwest corner with more than 100 vendors selling handmade crafts, ornaments, and much more. Of course, hot chocolate, warm apple cider, and plenty of treats are at the ready to help you power through a shopping spree.
Whether you’re looking for the perfect place to complete your Christmas shopping or simply want to wander through one of the most festive corners of New York at Christmas, visiting the Union Square Holiday Market will be a memorable highlight of your holiday season.
8. Marvel at the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall
Starring the Radio City Rockettes, Radio City Music Hall’s annual Christmas Spectacular is an event that can’t be missed. Expect spectacular dance numbers portraying a variety of Christmas scenes, brought to life with original music scores, stunning costumes, and the event’s iconic finale, including a living nativity scene complete with a live camel.
This family-friendly Christmas highlight is popular with travelers of all ages and is guaranteed to put a smile on your face. Make sure to complete a memorable evening at Radio City Music Hall with a visit to Rockefeller Center, just around the block.
9. Take in the New York Botanical Garden’s Train Show
A favorite holiday tradition in New York for more than thirty years, the New York Botanical Garden’s Holiday Train Show is an iconic part of Christmas in New York. This festive event is a must for children and children at heart and delightfully recreates the most impressive features of the New York skyline in miniature, the backdrop for countless trains whizzing and huffing through the display.
The level of detail in these miniature displays, created out of natural materials, is truly breathtaking!
The show is made even better by the Botanical Garden’s incredible outdoor light display – one of the city’s largest – called NYBG GLOW. Explore the gardens after dark, with historic buildings impressively lit and seasonal displays that will transport you to the North Pole.
10. Enjoy a Festive Tea Service at Baccarat Hotel
Is there any better way to rest and recharge after exploring New York than with a full tea service, complete with festive bites and beverages? Head to Baccarat Hotel, steps away from the city’s most famous Christmas attractions, to enjoy a luxurious tea service, soon to be a highlight of your Christmas trip to the city.
With two unique holiday tea services – the Christmas Carol tea for adults and the Nutcracker tea for children – your experience at Baccarat Hotel is sure to be a hit with the whole family. You’ll enjoy an array of sweet and savory bites that include the classic flavors of the holidays with a twist. Plus, choose from an array of beverages, including decadent hot chocolate, a bottle of champagne, and of course, a curated selection of delicious teas.
Read More: 9 Best Hotels for a Festive Christmas in New York City
11. Experience the Winter Village at Bryant Park
Home to the New York Public Library, a massive outdoor ice skating rink, and the famed Winter Village, there is no better time to visit Bryant Park than when celebrating Christmas in New York. Whether you’re looking for unique gifts from dozens of vendors or simply perusing the park and taking in the spectacular Christmas decor, you’ll consider the Winter Village a highlight of your Christmas in New York.
If skating doesn’t sound like your thing, wave on skaters from the cozy rinkside bar and food hall, The Lodge. Inspired by European ski lodges and filled with all the festive decor you would expect, this is the perfect place to escape the cold and enjoy delicious food and drinks.
12. Marvel at a Festival of Lights
If you’re looking for a new family Christmas tradition, look no further than the Amaze Light Festival at Citi Field. This immersive celebration with millions of twinkling lights is poised to become a family tradition for locals and visitors alike looking for a memorable Christmas in New York.
Guests will immediately be impressed with the size of the light display as they explore five unique thematic worlds, all featuring 3D-lighted decor you must see to believe. Take your time exploring the displays, taking holiday photos, and getting into the Christmas spirit along the way.
Get some last-minute Christmas shopping done at the European Christmas market-inspired cottages, where vendors sell handmade crafts and delicious concessions as the kids enjoy the countless activities the Festival has to offer. With train rides, tubing down Zing’s Thrill Hill, and delicious holiday treats at Sparky’s Sweet Spot, kids of all ages are guaranteed to have an evening of fun.
13. Sip Drinks in a Christmassy Distillery
If you’re looking for a memorable way to get into the Christmas spirit, no pun intended, head to Manhattan’s first and only whiskey distillery since Prohibition for a festive pop-up you won’t want to miss.
With the new “Whiskey Wonderland” pop-up inside its beautiful speakeasy, Great Jones Distilling Co. transports guests to the North Pole with delicious craft cocktails, a winter-inspired menu, and beautiful holiday decor. This is the place to gather with friends for a memorable holiday celebration; you’ll feel right at home connecting over drinks in this cozy, Christmasy space.
Make sure to check out the rest of the distillery on your visit as well – the building is spectacular. Need a last-minute holiday gift? Any craft alcohol enthusiast would love a tour of the distillery, one of the unique experiences offered at Great Jones Distilling Co., or take home a bottle from among the extensive offerings in their showroom.
14. Take a Christmas Cruise Around the City
No matter the season, the views of New York City from the water are spectacular, though the twinkling lights of the New York skyline seem even more festive at Christmastime. Take it all in with one of the City Cruises offered by City Experiences for a perfect under-the-radar Christmas experience in New York.
A fully-enclosed glass deck makes the most of incredible city views, while festive Christmas programming and delicious bites get guests into the holiday spirit. From ugly sweater parties to gourmet meals aboard, you’re sure to find a cruise around the city that helps you create the perfect Christmas memories you’re looking for.
City Cruises also make for a memorable, stress-free holiday meal. Whether you’re a local looking to take the stress out of Christmas cooking or a visitor looking to make the most of the day, consider the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinner cruises. An annual favorite, the memorable Christmas Day Brunch Cruise is another highlight of a Christmas in New York.
15. Experience a One-Of-A-Kind Holiday Festival
Expanding to four different locations this year, the NYC Winter Lantern Festival is an excellent choice for those looking for a unique multi-cultural experience this holiday season, whether you celebrate Christmas or not. Featuring over 10,000 Chinese-inspired artisan lanterns stunningly illuminating all corners of the city, the Winter Lantern Festival is a unique addition to complete your New York Christmas itinerary.
At the festival, larger-than-life light installations highlight Chinese myths and legends as guests are transported through illuminated tunnels and unique lantern-lit worlds. Visiting the Winter Lantern Festival is a holiday season highlight for families and friends.
For those looking to get outside of the city, two alternative locations of the Lantern Festival can be found on Long Island: the Nassau County Museum of Art in Roslyn and the Smithtown Historical Society in Suffolk County.
Christmas in New York
Is there any better place to experience Christmas than New York City? With new events, festive pop-ups, and jaw-dropping displays of Christmas cheer every holiday season, visiting New York during the Christmas season is guaranteed to help visitors make memories you’ll never forget.
Christmas in New York City is such a delight to experience firsthand. It's truly the most magical time of the year. There's so much to see and do during the holiday season, but it's the Big Apple's epic skyline that takes everything to the next level.Is New York magical during Christmas? ›
Christmas in New York City is such a delight to experience firsthand. It's truly the most magical time of the year. There's so much to see and do during the holiday season, but it's the Big Apple's epic skyline that takes everything to the next level.Where to go in New York City at Christmas time? ›
- Rockefeller Center, the best Christmas tree lighting in New York City. ...
- Bryant Park Winter Village, a beautiful place to see Christmas lights in New York. ...
- Dyker Heights Holiday Lights, the best Christmas decor in New York City. ...
- Peruse the best Christmas window displays in NYC.
Rockefeller Center and its iconic Christmas Tree are the epicenter of holiday celebrations in New York.What is Santa's secret NYC? ›
An Immersive Winter Wonderland
Explore a series of eight immersive holiday installations as you make your way to Santa's secret speakeasy. On this winding path, you'll find everything from gingerbread girls and rugged lumberjacks to living snow globes.
For children, the magic of Christmas is that long-awaited time of the year when Santa Claus appears, when a list of desired toys is shared or letters sent to Santa. Instead of instant gratification, children have an opportunity, for a change, to wait for presents.Is there a Christmas town in New York? ›
The Christmas Village in NY is a walk-through exhibit of twenty-one fabulously decorated scenes, with audio-animatronic elves, animals, people, and machines operating throughout. There is nothing like it anywhere in The City.When should I watch Magical Christmas Village? ›
Hallmark is celebrating Countdown to Christmas with a movie you won't want to miss. Hallmark will premiere its newest holiday romance movie “A Magical Christmas Village” on Friday, November 4 (11/04/2022) at 8 p.m. ET.What does New York do during Christmas? ›
Christmas markets are open all around town, storefronts are decorated with colorful lights and special Christmas performances take place. New York is made for Christmas celebrations. Does it snow in New York at Christmas? It is cold in December in New York and it can snow.What can people do at Christmas at the Rockefeller Center? ›
The best Rockefeller Center Christmas activities are: New York City: Christmas Lights Horse Carriage Ride. From Manhattan: 4-Hour Christmas Lights Luxury Bus Tour. New York Holiday Lights and Movie Sites Bus Tour.
Is New York worth visiting in December? If you're interested in holiday events, such as ice skating at the Rockefeller Center or exploring Christmas markets, then December can be a fun and exciting time to visit New York City. This is also a great time to see the city lit up for the holidays.Is NYC crowded on Christmas Day? ›
Christmas is one of the most crowded times of year in New York. From the week of Thanksgiving until New Year's Day, the crowd levels in New York are extremely high.Do you have to buy tickets to see the Rockefeller Christmas tree? ›
The celebration is open to the public on a first-come, first-serve basis. You do not need a ticket. Aim to get there by 3 pm, and no later than 4 pm or you may not be able to find a spot to see the tree.Do you have to pay to see the Rockefeller tree lighting? ›
The Christmas tree in New York at Rockefeller Center is arguably the most famous Christmas tree in the city, and its lighting is celebrated at the free Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony in New York. After the ceremonial opening, the Christmas season in New York officially begins!What is the name of the famous Christmas tree in New York? ›
The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is a large Christmas tree placed annually in Rockefeller Center, in Midtown Manhattan, New York City. The tree is put in place in mid November and lit in a public ceremony on the Wednesday evening following Thanksgiving.What happens at Secret Santa? ›
Secret Santa is a Western Christmas tradition wherein the group's members agree to present one another with a gift. They are all randomly assigned an individual to buy a present. As the term implies, the identity of the gift sender must be kept secret and not disclosed within the group.What is Santa's secret address? ›
The letters had to be addressed to Santa's official US Postal Service address: 123 ELF ROAD, NORTH POLE 88888.What is Santa Magic? ›
The magic of generosity and sharing with others.
This guy flies around the world, giving, giving, and giving some more. Of course, anyone who has ever given anything selflessly knows that this is a special kind of magic. It feels SO good. It's no wonder that Santa is always so jolly.
- Start an advent calendar. ...
- Get an Elf on the Shelf. ...
- Go see the lights! ...
- Read The Polar Express. ...
- Grow a candy cane. ...
- Hold a holiday movie extravaganza. ...
- See a holiday parade. ...
- Write Santa a letter.
- Don't give up on tradition. When we're young, Christmas is all about traditions, such as writing letters to Santa Claus, baking Christmas treats and making decorations for the tree. ...
- Do something selfless. ...
- Be frivolous. ...
- Immerse yourself in the magic. ...
- Do something different.
Calling itself the Best Christmas Town in America, Colonial Williamsburg particularly shines at Christmastime. Traditions abound, such as caroling by torchlight, a gun-salute display, and every home in the historic area lighting a candle in their windows—dating back to the days of the Founding Fathers.Where is the most magical Christmas town? ›
Rovaniemi, Finland. Lapland, the northernmost region of Finland, has become synonymous with Christmas and Santa Claus. The town of Rovaniemi is known as "the official hometown of Santa Claus" and visitors to the charming Santa Claus Village can meet St.Where is the Christmas light show in New York? ›
Brooklyn Botanic Garden Lightscape
Founded in 1910 and hosting nearly a million visitors annually, Brooklyn Botanic Garden (BBG) is a spot you can't afford to miss, especially if you're in search of the best New York Christmas lights.
Bring the iconic small-town America that is so charmingly portrayed in Hallmark Channel Christmas movies into your own home with this delightful Christmas village set.Where can I see A Magical Christmas Village? ›
Watch A Magical Christmas Village (2022) Online for Free | The Roku Channel | Roku.Do people watch Harry Potter at Christmas? ›
Right around the time of the winter holidays, Harry Potter films are a favorite to be rewatched. Many will watch all eight films in a marathon, and even cable TV networks will put on the films weekly leading up to Christmas.Is everything open in New York at Christmas? ›
Are the shops open with Christmas in New York? Many shops, even large department stores, are closed on Christmas Day. This also applies to many attractions. Fun activities for Christmas include ice skating or taking a (dinner) cruise.How cold is it in New York at Christmas? ›
Weather in New York City in December
During the day the average highs are 43F (6C), at night the average temperature reaches 32F (0C). While not as cold as January and February, you should prepare for the cold! On average three days a month in December, the temperature will reach below 20F (-8 C).
So, what's the price tag? Estimates say it would cost more than $73,000, with all things considered, per Market Realist. While the tree itself is donated, saving a huge cost for a gift of that magnitude, there would be the added expense of transporting something that heavy all those 200 miles.How busy is Rockefeller Center during Christmas? ›
As many as 800,000 people visit the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree every day but there are some secrets that will let you visit without standing in a crowd. An estimated 125 million visitors flock to New York City every year to witness the most popular Christmas tree in the world.
- Take a Holiday Card Photo.
- Visit A Christmas Tree Farm.
- Decorate a Gingerbread House.
- Bake Unique Christmas Cookies.
- Plan a Family Photoshoot.
- Host A Holiday Game Night.
- Host a Christmas Craft Party.
- Write Letters to Santa.
If you're traveling to New York City in December, dress in warm layers for the cold weather. Wear jeans, a sweater or hoodie over a light base layer, a winter hat such as a beanie, a winter coat, and comfortable, warm walking shoes like high-top sneakers or boots.What week is best to visit New York in December? ›
However, the best time to visit NYC for Christmas would be the 2nd and 3rd weeks of December, when all decorations are up and the city is full of Christmas spirit. Hotel and flights are reasonably priced, at least compared to Christmas week to New Year's Eve.Why is New York so expensive in December? ›
Hotel prices and airfares are high, as this is peak travel time to the city and visitors flood the most popular attractions, the shopping fever is at its peak too, so plan your days out.Is it better to go to New York before or after Christmas? ›
New York in Winter
Mid November through early January is the best time to visit New York if you want to experience the Christmas season. I highly recommend visiting during this time of year, because Christmas in New York is something everyone should experience at least once.
I'd say 4 days is the minimum amount of time you need in NYC. With 4 days in NYC, you will be able to see the main attractions, but it will definitely have you wanting to come back for more. The city has so much to offer, especially as the seasons are changing.Does everything close on Christmas Day in NYC? ›
Just about every government building will be closed. City, state and federal offices are closed, as well as post offices, banks, libraries and National Monuments like that Statue of Liberty. After an eventful season, most NYC retailers take Christmas Day off.What day does NYC decorate for Christmas? ›
The lighting ceremony of the beautiful Rockefeller Center Christmas tree always takes place on the first Wednesday after Thanksgiving. So in 2023, the lighting ceremony of the iconic Rockefeller Center Christmas tree in New York will be on November 29.Is parking free in NYC on Christmas Day? ›
Stopping, standing, and parking is allowed on major legal holidays except in areas where these rules are in effect seven days a week (for example, “No Standing Anytime”). Parking meters are not in effect on major legal holidays.Is New York Subway open on Christmas Day? ›
Yes public transportation is always running unless any issues than they do have shuttle services as backup. However on Holidays, the public transportation schedule do differ from regular schedule.
On Christmas Day, subways will operate on a Sunday schedule. There will be no express service on the 6 and 7 lines. B trains will not run, but customers are encouraged to use the A, C, D and/or Q instead.
The city has been the backdrop to countless festive movies over the years, Miracle on 34th Street, Home Alone II, Serendipity, Scrooged and Elf to name a view. And there's something about the sight of the Big Apple all lit up and snow-covered that makes us feel all warm and fuzzy inside.What is the famous toy store in New York for Christmas? ›
Rockefeller Center, New York City, New York, U.S. FAO Schwarz claims to be the oldest toy store in the United States, first opening its doors in 1862 in Baltimore before moving to New York City, where it has moved between several locations since 1870.Is Central Park in New York decorated for Christmas? ›
Central Park Christmas Lights, Central Park
But there is something really special about it this time of the year — perhaps the luminous Central Park Christmas Lights. Come December, it is brimming with snow-capped winter markets, photo-worthy spots, and thousands of illuminating Christmas lights in NYC!
If you're planning a trip to New York City, you'll find that December is one of the most fun and exciting times to visit. With the coming of the holidays, you'll find a variety of special events, from ice skating, to holiday markets offering seasonal treats, or simply the incredible lighting displays.Is New York expensive at Christmas? ›
Is New York expensive at Christmas? Just like any major city, New York is expensive in general, but especially so at Christmas. Hotel prices and airfares are high, as this is peak travel time and visitors flood to the most popular attractions. Book your flights and accommodation in advance for the best prices.What date do the Christmas lights go on in New York 2023? ›
The Rockefeller Christmas tree is decorated with more than 50,000 LED lights and the electrical wiring is longer than 8 kilometres! Turning on the lights of the Christmas tree is a real spectacle that is great to experience. The tree lighting ceremony will take place November 29th 2023.What is the most famous toy store in New York City? ›
FAO Schwarz New York
The biggest toy store in New York is FAO Schwarz. The iconic store has been in the city since 1870 and is one of the oldest toy stores in the United States. The toy store offers extraordinary, unique toys for all ages from all over the world.
FAO Schwarz: Lucky for Kevin Duncan's Toy Chest, based on the famous toy store featured in Home Alone 2 FAO Schwarz (now closed), was just across Fifth Avenue from The Plaza. This was the oldest toy store in America and this larger-than-life shop certainly upheld its reputation.Is Mystic Village decorated for Christmas? ›
Over a half-million lights will decorate the Olde Mystic Village. The largest holiday light display in southern New England is FREE to the public. Parking is also free.
Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
This 1940's Christmas classic features many NYC sites and institutions including the New York Supreme Court, Central Park, and the Macy's Herald Square department store and Thanksgiving Day Parade.