New York at Christmas: Things to do in NYC in December

New York at Christmas is the most magical place and time to visit. With spectacular lights, enchanting shows, amazing displays, and fun activities all over the state, a Christmas in New York should be on your must-do list.

When you visit the state and get the perfect time to be there during Christmas, immerse yourself in the delightful Christmas tradition by doing memorable activities.

Here are just some of the many wonderful things to do in New York during December:

10. Visit the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree in New York

Location: Rockefeller Center, Midtown Manhattan

There’s no better way to start that Christmasy feeling other than being in front of a magnificent Christmas Tree. The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is your fairy-tale-like symbol of Christmas with a height of between 69 and 100 feet tall.

The lighting of the Christmas NYC tree is even such a special event for New York that there is an accompanying live broadcast.

Because Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is one of the main attractions during Christmas in New York, expect a huge flock of people around this area of New York at Christmas time.

The best visiting time if you’d like to see the magnificent tree with less crowd would be early in the morning or late at night.

9. Ice Skating in New York

New York at Christmas - Ice Skating

Another unforgettable activity to fully experience an unforgettable New York City Christmas time is to skate at the well-known ice skating rinks.

Worry not if ever you find some skating rinks congested as there are a lot of great options for skating rinks to choose from. Visit any of the following rinks and ice skate with your friends, family, or special someone:

Wollman Rink

Wollman Rink NY

Location: Central Park, Manhattan

Spend your Christmas at Central Park by visiting this most popular skating rink. If you’re looking for a large skating rink then this is your best choice.

Bryant Park Rink

Bryant Park Rink New York

Location: Between 40th and 42nd Streets & Fifth and Sixth Avenue

If you’re looking for free ice skating as part of your things to do on Christmas day, then Bryant Park is for you as admission to the rink is free and you only have to pay for the rental.

The Rink at Rockefeller Center

The Rink at Rockefeller Center

Location: Rockefeller Center, Midtown Manhattan

Skating in front of a magnificent Christmas tree in NYC during Christmas is a special place to be but the place tends to be packed with people and can be expensive. Try to book in advance to not wait in line.

The Rink at Brookfield Place

The Rink at Brookfield Place in New York

Location: 230 Vesey Street

A skating rink with fantastic views of the Hudson River and a winter garden in NYC at Christmas time.

Pier 17 Ice Rink

Pier 17 Ice Rink on South Street

Location: 89 South St.

Another skating rink with magnificent views for your stuff to do on Christmas. You can see the impressive views of Skyline and the iconic Brooklyn Bridge from this skating rink

8. Shop at the Union Square Holiday Market

Union Square Holiday Market in New York

Location: 201 Park Avenue S

Union Square Holiday Market is one of the Christmas markets in New York if not the largest Christmas market where you should stop by to shop. If you’re confused about what to do in New York in December, this activity should be on your top list.

With the hustle and bustle of the crowds along and the Christmas displays, you will feel a shared Christmas feeling.

Union Square Holiday Market is an outdoor market with over 150 vendors that sells an array of goods. You should also not miss seeing all the marvelous displays and get yourself or your family some of the remarkable handmade gifts in this one of the best New York City Christmas markets.

This market in NYC at Christmas is usually open from November 18th – to December 24th of the year.

7. Get a Treat from Dominique Ansel Bakery

Dominique Ansel Bakery Spring St. NY

Location: 189 Spring St.

What’s a Christmas in New York City without the delicious treats? Dominique Ansel bakery is a famous place in New York at Christmas where you can get freshly baked delicious cookies, donuts, tarts, eclairs, and other delightful treats.

You can even step up your NY Christmas visit at this bakery by staying at the enclosed Jardin behind the place but never get your hopes up as the place attracts large crowds.

The other exciting thing that is worth your NYC Christmas time is that you can even watch through a glass wall while the delicious treats are being prepared.

If you want to taste the shop’s specialty, then you should get Dominique’s Kouign Amann, the chef’s signature item, as one of the memorable things to do at Christmas.

6. Take a Carriage Ride Through Central Park

Carriage Ride Through Central Park NY

Location: 59 Central Park W

One of the things to do in New York City at Christmas that you should experience is a Christmas in Central Park with a carriage ride. In New York City, horses and buggies are allowed to operate in Central Park only.

Central Park at Christmas is filled with fairy lights dazzling through the blankets of snow. Relaxing inside a carriage for your Central Park Christmas experience while you are surrounded by scenic lights is a magical and fun way to explore the surrounding areas.

The horse carriages are available from different pickup zones and can accommodate up to four people. The best place to find a carriage ride is along Central Park South between Fifth and Sixth Avenues.

Can it get any more romantic than a trip to New York during winter and riding in a carriage?

5. New York City Cocoa and Carols Holiday Cruise

New York City Cocoa and Carols Holiday Cruise

Location: 62 Chelsea Piers, Pier 62 (Departure)

New York on Christmas time is filled with carols on every street. Step up listening to these Christmas songs that bring the season’s warmth by going on a wonderful cruise with your family, friends, or partner for your things to do in New York at Christmas.

Your Christmas time in New York will be superb aboard a lovely Christmas yacht with a view of the New York skyline and other breathtaking scenic spots such as the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge, and the Manhattan skyline.

For this one of the most marvelous things to do for Christmas, you will be aboard the lovely yacht’s bar, you can enjoy some delicious Christmas cookies, drink spiked hot cocoa, and even listen to live jazz.

There are several departure times to choose from that will fit your “Things to do in New York for Christmas” schedule.

4. Go on a trip to Dyker Heights to view the Breathtaking Holiday Decorations

Dyker Heights at Christmas

Location: Brooklyn

Dyker Heights is the best place to go on Christmas with all the picturesque lights and decors. Dyker Heights Christmas lights will make you feel like you are in a New York Christmas movie as you walk along the streets surrounded by all the splendid lights. Be sure to list this as part of your things to do in New York on Christmas.

Dyker Heights Christmas lights and decors attraction is so popular that you might be overwhelmed by the number of people visiting the place. If you like to have fewer people during your visit, try to avoid weekends.

The lights are turned on the day after sunset and up until ten in the evening and the neighborhood starts this Christmas tradition after Thanksgiving until New Year’s Eve.

3. Join a Walking Tour to Visit Landmarks

NY walking tour during Christmas

New York City at Christmas time is filled with unforgettable spots that are just walking distance away. If you are up for a healthy walk as part of your things to do in New York City during Christmas, there are small group walking tours that you can join to cover all the iconic places in New York.

Some of the places that you can visit without the hassle of a map in your New York Christmas time are as follows:

  • St. Patrick’s Cathedral – popular catholic church
  • Fifth Avenue – shopping district with incredible window displays
  • The Rockefeller Center -popular New York complex
  • Bryant Park market – winter market attraction
  • Macy’s Herald Square – largest department store in the world

2. Explore More Christmas Lights and Window Displays in NYC

Dyker Heights Christmas Lights

Aside from the Dyker Heights Christmas Lights trip that you can take, there are extravagant shows for your things to do in New York Christmas list where you will be filled with the wondrous Christmas mood.

Here are the light shows to go to for your Christmas in NY:

Saks Fifth Avenue Light Show and Window Displays

Saks Fifth Avenue Light Show and Window Displays

Location: 611 5th Avenue

New York at Christmas time will not be complete without the Light Show and Window Displays at 5th Avenue as your things to do in New York City for Christmas. The dazzling holiday-themed lights and dazzling window displays will surround you with that holiday Christmas glow.

The show starts from 5:00 PM to 11:00 PM with a holiday tune played from the Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.

Empire State Building Light Show

Empire State Building Light Show

Location: 20 W 2th St.

One of the Christmassy things to do in NYC that you should not miss out on is the marvelous Empire State Building light show that only takes place for a week.

The magnificent 102 story building will light up with vibrant colors of red and green along with songs from famous stars such as Ed Sheeran, John, Legend, and Maria Carey, and absolutely a must-see place if you’re looking into where to go on Christmas.

You can view the building from 230 & 5th Avenue.

1. Watch New York Christmas Shows

New York Christmas Shows - Rockettes

Watching Christmas New York shows will heighten your festive mood. Here are the shows that you can watch as part of your things to do in NYC at Christmas:

The Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall

The Rockettes show in Christmas

Location: 1260 Avenue of the Americans, New York City

This is a must-watch Christmas Spectacular show in Radio City Music Hall and has become part of the classic NYC Christmas activities and traditions. Within one hour and thirty minutes, you’ll be captivated by dancers dancing in perfect synchrony.

The Nutcracker

The Nutcracker Balet show

Location: 20 Lincoln Center Plaza

Your NYC holidays would not be complete without this magical show telling the iconic story of little Clara who receives the Nutcracker as a Christmas gift.

New York Botanical Gardens Train Show

Train show at the New York Botanical Gardens

Location: 2900 Southern Blvd, Bronx

One of the most fantastic things to do in New York at Christmas is going to New York Botanical Gardens Train Show. Over 25 G-scale awesome model trains and trolleys grace the half-mile track that is surely worth your holidays in NYC. The model trains and trolleys go through 75 miniature landmarks like Brooklyn Bridge and Yankee Stadium.

Additional Christmas Events

If you plan to spend more time in New York then you should not miss these events that are part of the holiday season:

Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade

Macy's Thanksgiving Parade

With floats, balloons, and the Santa Claus parade at the end, this event which is one of the famous Christmas events in NY signals the beginning of the Christmas season and celebrations in NYC.

Times Square Ball Drop on New Year’s Eve

Times Square NYE Ball Drop

After having a Times Square Christmas, complete the experience not just by visiting the place but also by joining the Times Square Ball Drop on New Year’s Eve.

This is a famous event that’s even broadcasted on Television. Aside from spending your Christmas in Times Square, if you have the time to be in New York, be part of the iconic New Year’s Eve ball drop in Times Square that signals the end of the holiday season.

Your ‘what to do in Christmas’ question is now replaced by unforgettable activities with all the things and places to visit during Christmas in NYC as listed above.

Enjoy a New York Christmas vacation and make your Christmas time extra special by making sure you join in all the best things to do in New York during Christmas.

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Article by Kyle

Digital nomad since 2010. I spend my time traveling around the world learning about new cultures and languages. I've lived in 4 continents and still have a lot left to explore!