There are so many amazing things to do in NYC at Christmas! Therefore, if I had to choose one city in the world to spend Christmas every year, it would definitely be New York City. I wanted to visit the American metropolis during the winter holidays since I was a child. Yes, Kevin is guilty of that, haha!
From the first viewing of the film “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York,” where Kevin McCallister introduced us to the warm atmosphere of the city and made us dream of the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center and the winter landscapes of Central Park, I’ve wanted to do a NYC Christmas tour.
Luckily, my Christmas in New York was marked off my wish list, which you can see here. Now it’s your turn to visit NYC in December. In this article, I will show you a list of the best things to do in NYC at Christmas:
What I use every time I travel:
- To book hotels: Booking.com
- To book tours: GetYourGuide.com
PIN IT FOR LATER ⇓
Things to do in NYC at Christmas
Where to stay in NYC:
Midtown Manhattan is the perfect area to stay in NYC at Christmas, featuring iconic landmarks like the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, Fifth Avenue storefront displays, and Bryant Park’s ice rink.
The city’s tranquil Central Park contrasts with the urban bustle, offering an immersive vacation with nearby shopping, boutiques, and cafes. These are the hotels I recommend to check in NYC in at Christmas:
- budget: Hotel Scherman – good location, terrace, great breakfast
- mid-range: Library Hotel by Library Hotel Collection – room service, restaurant, Wifi, great location
- luxury: The Whitby Hotel – great view, fitness center, room service, bar
Admire the giant decorations on 6th and Fifth Avenue
The big red Christmas globes placed on the reflective pool and the giant installations on 5th and 6th Avenue will make you feel like a dwarf in the Giant’s country or like Alice in Wonderland. In New York City, Christmas decorations are excellent.
Walking on the busy streets filled with curious tourists and hearing the carols in the speakers installed near the Rockefeller Center is enjoyable.
Even if you are not lucky enough to catch a white Christmas in Manhattan, you can fill the lack of snow with lights and colors.
During Christmas, Fifth Avenue in New York City transforms into a winter paradise with renowned stores and exquisite window decorations.
Saks Fifth Avenue offers an annual light show, while the Rockefeller Center’s Christmas tree and ice rink contribute to the festive ambiance. Carolers perform on the street, and merchants sell roasted chestnuts and hot cocoa.
The exquisite architecture of the avenue fosters a sense of joy and camaraderie, capturing the spirit of Christmas in the heart of New York City.
⇒ Find here the best hotels in NYC.
Visit The Charging Bull on Wall Street | Things to do in NYC at Christmas
The 3 tons bronze statue, sculpted by Arturo Di Modica, an artist of Italian origin, has become a symbol of the Financial District, representing wealth and power. The bull is also decorated with a festive fir wreath.
If you want to have some luck, it’s a must to come to Wall Street and shoot the bull by the horns, nose, and … testicles.
It’s one of the most photographed tourist attractions in New York, and you will have to sit in a queue to get a picture of the famous statue, especially during the festive season.
Explore the neighborhoods of Manhattan to see how new yorkers are decorating their houses
We all like to have our homes decorated for Christmas, no matter what part of the world we live in. However, New York residents bring the decorations to a higher level.
In fact, Americans across the country are obsessed with adorning houses, and their neighborhoods shine very nicely during the holidays.
To understand how it feels here, the magic of Christmas, you need to walk New York and admire the houses in the Upper East Side or even in Brooklyn.
I promise you will not be disappointed at all, and you’ll feel like you are on a movie set of American film production.
Let your imagination run wild and think you turned into Carrie from Sex and The City or Blair Waldorf from Gossip Girl.
New Yorkers are turning their houses into Christmas havens, with decorations ranging from glittering lights to spectacular light shows and life-sized Santas.
Minimalists prefer subtle elegance in popular places like SoHo. Fire escapes are decked out with lights, while apartment lobbies have beautiful Christmas trees.
Some New Yorkers make DIY decorations out of discarded items to promote sustainability. The city’s diverse population reflects the city’s tapestry of cultures, fusing traditional characteristics with a modern flair.
World Trade Center Memorial | Things to do in NYC at Christmas
Be better at Christmas! We all hear this urge in this period, and it has become so common that we seem to forget the deep meaning of it.
However, if we were to think about the true meaning of this holiday, we realize that we should try to be better at Christmas, more tolerant, and less selfish than in the rest of the year when problems and everyday stress assault us.
For this reason, last year, I chose to visit the memorial dedicated to the victims of 11 September 2001 and to remember that the lives of those people ended in a very tragic and sudden way and that they can not be present for the holidays anymore, next to their loved ones.
Therefore, we should learn to cherish these moments more and be grateful for what we have.
Although I had already seen it in pictures, I was very impressed by the structure’s design, which was selected from a list of no less than 5200 proposals from 63 countries.
The architects are Michael Arad and Peter Walker, and the project had assigned a suggestive name, Reflecting Absence.
The artificial waterfalls were constructed to blur the city’s noise and allow us to contemplate the tragic event, followed by 2983 names inscribed on the black walls.
Admire the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree
For over seven decades, people worldwide have come to admire the most lighted tree Manhattan offers, next to the Rockefeller Center.
Specifically, about half a million people come to admire the towering tree located above the rink, and the bronze Prometheus statue, daily.
The Christmas tree is decorated with about 50 000 LEDs in all colors, and a proudly placed Swarovski star on the top.
These are some interesting facts about the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree:
- The tradition began in 1931 during the Great Depression as a symbol of hope and joy.
- The tree is usually a Norway Spruce, chosen for its dense foliage and strong branches.
- It’s sourced from different parts of the United States and occasionally donated by individuals.
- The tree is typically around 75-90 feet tall, though it can be much larger.
- The star at the top weighs hundreds of pounds and is made with thousands of crystals.
- The ceremony includes live musical performances and celebrity appearances.
- After its time at Rockefeller Center, the tree’s wood is often repurposed for charitable causes.
- The tree-lighting event has been broadcast on television since the 1950s.
- It has served as a backdrop for various films, TV shows, and commercials.
- The first tree-lighting ceremony featured only a few lights; the grand displays developed later.
I’m curious, how many of these have you already known?
Feel the holidays right in the heart of Manhattan, Times Square | Things to do in NYC at Christmas
No visit to New York would be complete without at least a brief shift to the busiest intersection in Manhattan, namely, Times Square. Although it’s a must to come here at Christmas, Times Square has more importance on New Year’s Eve.
Then, a million people gather in the street and one billion in front of the TV to watch the live countdown, preceded by the fall of the ball and the fireworks. All of these are taking place right here.
During Christmas, Times Square in New York City is transformed into a festive enchantment, with giant LED screens flashing holiday commercials and towering structures filled with wreaths, lights, and decorations.
Street entertainers dress up in festive costumes, and carolers sing traditional melodies.
Skate on Wollman Rink in Central Park
Skating is probably the favorite activity of New Yorkers, also becoming an enshrined tradition.
Nor would it be surprising, given that New York benefits from some of the world’s most famous and beautiful rinks, whether we are talking about Wollman Rink in Central Park, Rockefeller Center rink, or Citipond of Bryant’s Park.
The largest and the one with the most incredible view of Manhattan’s skyline is the rink in Central Park, so that one pulled the winning ticket in our case.
Indeed, the rink has appeared in many famous movie productions that have had it as a film studio. Serendipity, Love Story, Home Alone 2, and My Sassy Girl are among them.
The rink was first opened in 1950 and now belongs to the businessman and future President of the United States, Donald Trump. Don’t forget to bring your Starbucks coffee with you.
Central Park at Christmas transforms into a serene winter wonderland, featuring snow-dusted pathways, frosted trees, and quiet meadows. The Wollman Rink and Conservatory Garden’s holiday decorations provide a peaceful escape, with occasional horse-drawn carriage rides and festive events.
Take a picture of the famous LOVE letters | Things to do in NYC in December
I don’t know exactly where the love letters are located, but they were on 6th Avenue last year for Christmas. You may find them in the same place.
They have become a symbol of the city, so if you are on a romantic getaway, do not hesitate to take a picture with your boyfriend; perfect for posting on Instagram 🙂
Visit one of the iconic Christmas markets in NYC
Like any big city that respects itself, New York has no shortage of Christmas markets. More than that, it will be difficult to choose because there are many and very beautiful.
We chose a smaller Christmas market near Battery Park, because it was in our way. But there are many other Christmas markets that you can add to your list of Things to do in NYC at Christmas:
- Manhattan’s Christmas markets offer a blend of holiday charm and shopping delight. Union Square’s Holiday Market features handcrafted jewelry, artisanal foods, and unique gifts.
- The Columbus Circle Holiday Market near Central Park is elegant and features a curated selection of goods.
- Bryant Park’s Winter Village transforms into a holiday oasis with a skating rink and a market offering handcrafted crafts, warm beverages, and treats.
- The Grand Central Holiday Fair showcases high-quality crafts and gourmet foods, while the Renegade Craft Fair caters to the indie and contemporary craft scene.
- The Chelsea Market in the city’s heart offers eclectic gifts, local treats, and culinary delights.
Enjoy a pretzel or a hot dog | NYC in December
Another thing I appreciate, especially when it comes to New York, is street food. Street vendors will capture your gaze with bagels with poppy or sesame seeds, hot dogs, shawarma, and other tasty foods from the fast food variety, incredibly fresh and hot.
Prices are more than acceptable, but it is likely to have to wait in a long queue. Don’t worry, things are moving very quickly, and as quickly as you say Yummy, the bagel will be in your hand, ready to gobble up. : D
The best NYC Christmas tours
Purchasing a tour in New York City during Christmas has various advantages. Professional tour guides know the city’s history, architecture, and holiday customs.
The tours are designed to highlight the finest of New York City, including landmark attractions, seasonal markets, and festive displays. They frequently provide first-class access to popular locations.
These trips guarantee a wonderful and enriching Christmas experience in New York City. These are the best-rated NYC Christmas tours and activities:
- 4-Hour Dyker Heights Holiday Lights Bus Tour
- Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes
- Holiday Yacht Cruise with Jazz, Cocoa & Carols
- 4-Hour Brooklyn Christmas Magic Tour
- Magical Christmas Lights Horse Carriage Ride
Things to know before visiting NYC in December
How is the weather in NYC at Christmas?
During Christmas in New York City, temperatures range from 30°F to 40°F, with occasional drops. Snowfall is possible but not guaranteed.
December is a drier month with low precipitation levels, with rain more common than snow. Chilly winds can make temperatures feel even colder.
Therefore, checking a reliable weather forecast is essential, and be prepared to dress in layers.
How crowded is NYC at Christmas?
New York City has a busy environment because of the massive volume of tourists during Christmas. Visitors from all around the world come to enjoy the New York Christmas decorations and special events. This can result in longer queues and more crowded areas.
How to get around NYC in December?
In December, New York City has several transit alternatives for exploring the city. The subway system is helpful because it’s open 24 hours a day and serves most neighborhoods.
Buses are also available for shorter distances and to destinations not well covered by the metro. Walking is an excellent way to get around the city, particularly in Midtown and Downtown.
Taxis and ridesharing services such as Uber are accessible; however, traffic congestion can be an issue during peak hours.
Ferries provide stunning sights and one-of-a-kind travel experiences. Due to traffic congestion and restricted parking, car rentals are not recommended.
Is Christmas a good time to go to New York City?
Christmas is a popular time to visit New York City due to its festive atmosphere, holiday decorations, and special events. However, visiting NYC in December has pros and cons; ultimately, it’s up to you and your decision.
Pros of visiting NYC at Christmas:
- festive atmosphere:
- special events
- Christmas shopping
- New York Christmas decorations
- Central Park
- the feeling of living your childhood dream
Cons of Visiting NYC at Christmas:
- higher prices
Is Christmas in NYC expensive?
Yes, Christmas in New York City may be costly due to the strong demand for accommodation, flights, restaurants, entertainment, and attractions. Hotel rates climb, airfare might be expensive, and restaurants may offer more expensive holiday menus.
Preparation, budgeting, and bargaining can all help you keep your spending under control over the Christmas season. Enjoying free or low-cost activities and properly selecting hotels can also help make the trip more inexpensive.
How many days do you need to spend in NYC at Christmas?
Plan on spending at least 3 to 4 days to have enough time for the things to do in NYC at Christmas.
If you want to spend more time exploring museums, galleries, and cultural activities, consider staying for a week.ChristmasChristmas in NYCCraciun in AmericaCraciun in NYCCraciun la New Yorkeast coasteast coast usaManhattanNew York CityNYCSingur Acasatop 10 Christmas NYCTRAVEL USAUSAwhat to do in New York for Christmas