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A woman at Rockefeller Center in NYC - one of the top 40 things to do in NYC

One of the most fascinating places to experience all of the Christmas magic is in New York City. From Rockefeller Center to Dyker Heights, there are over 40 things to do and see in NYC during the holidays!

Ever since I was a baby, my parents would take me into New York City to see the Tree at Rockefeller Center as well as all of the 5th Avenue store windows. Even at a very young age, there was always a special feeling that ran through me when I visited NYC during Christmastime.

A woman standing in front of the Christmas lights - one of the top 40 things to do in NYC

From admiring the city skyline and all of its lights from across the Hudson River in New Jersey to taking the Ferry, the entire journey into NYC was always so exciting!

A lot has changed over the years and so many amazing new Christmas trees, shows, ice skating rinks, decorations and pop-ups have emerged throughout the five boroughs. Because of that, traveling to New York City during the month of December should totally be on your bucket list!

In this article, discover 40 things to do in NYC during the holiday season.

**Please note that this blog post uses affiliate links meaning that if you make a purchase via my affiliate link, I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. I only promote and talk about products and services that I have used and like. During my time exploring the holiday magic in NYC, Sonder hosted me in one of their Battery Park apartments for two nights.


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40 Things to do in NYC during Christmas

Traveling to and Around NYC:

A woman standing on the subway platform in NYC

There are countless ways to travel into New York City as well as around it. Even though the city looks very small when you look on a map, it is HUGE in reality!

In Manhattan alone there are 262 blocks. Then you have Brooklyn, which is even bigger; then Queens, which is even larger than that as well as The Bronx and Staten Island.

The most affordable and convenient way to travel around New York City is by taking the New York City Subway, which is run by MTA. Discover how to navigate the NYC Subway! (There is also a city bus that is run by MTA.)

Other ways to get around is by taxi, Uber or Lyft. You could also take your own vehicle into New York City (or rent a car), but embrace yourself for that journey since there is a lot of traffic and parking is expensive. (It is easier to find free parking outside of Manhattan. Please also note that parking officials do not play around; if you park illegally anywhere in NYC, your vehicle will get towed and the ticket isn’t cheap.)

New York City is a HUGE international hub, so you definitely won’t have trouble finding flights to and from the “Big Apple”. The three major airports in New York City are John F. Kennedy International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport and Laguardia Airport.

(Click here if you are planning to road trip around the United States and want to rent an RV.)

If you are traveling locally, it is most convenient to take public transportation to see all of the Christmas decorations in New York City.

A woman standing in Grand Central Terminal in NYC

The train is one of the most popular ways locals from the tri-state area travel into New York City.

The Metro-North (run by MTA), which travels from the Hudson Valley and West Chester, New York, along with Connecticut, goes into Grand Central Terminal on 42nd Street.

NJ Transit, which travels from New Jersey, and the Long Island Railroad, which travels from Long Island, New York, goes into Penn Station on 34th Street.

(If you are traveling from Jersey City, Hoboken, Newark or Harrison, NJ, you could also take the PATH train (run by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey) from Newark-Penn Station, Harrison Station and Hoboken Station as well as Journal Square, Grove Street, Newport and Exchange Place in Jersey City into World Trade Center, Christopher Street, 9th Street, 14th Street, 23rd Street and 33rd Street in Manhattan.)

In addition, for those traveling by train from farther destinations and other major cities like Washington D.C., Boston, etc. it is best to take the Amtrak train into Penn Station in Midtown.

A Holiday Installation in Midtown NYC

If you plan to take the bus into New York City, you could take the Lakeland, Martz Trailways, Megabus, Newark Airport Express (Coach USA), NJ Transit, Peter Pan, Rockland Coaches (Coach USA), ShortLine (Coach USA), Suburban Transit (Coach USA) and Trans-Bridge Lines buses into Port Authority Bus Terminal on 42nd Street, just outside of Times Square.

My personal favorite way to travel into NYC is by taking the ferry! From Weehawken, NJ, I enjoy taking the NY Waterway into either Midtown, West 39th Street or Downtown, Pier 11 Wall Street. The NY Waterway also has terminals in Edgewater, Hoboken and Jersey City in New Jersey as well as Battery Park in Downtown Manhattan. When you purchase a NY Waterway ticket, you also have access to their bus service that goes all around Manhattan.

NYC during Christmas

There is also a NYC Ferry that travels between Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and The Bronx and there is a separate ferry for Staten Island.

Other ferries that go to and from Manhattan are the Trust for Governors Island (to and from Governors Island), Liberty Landing Ferry (to and from Jersey City), NY Water Taxi (a hop-on-hop-off water taxi), Seastreak (to and from Monmouth County beaches as well as Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket) as well as Statue Cruises (to and from the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island Immigration Museum).  

Staying at Sonder in NYC:

A Christmas tree at a Sonder in NYC

In early December 2020, my mom and I stayed overnight for two nights in New York City to explore all of the amazing Christmas decorations around Manhattan.

We decided to stay overnight because of the weird year that 2020 ended up being! Also, due to the worldly events going on, it was the perfect year for locals to enjoy all of the holiday decorations around NYC without crowds.

The living room in a Sonder apartment in NYC

During our two nights, we stayed at a Sonder in New York City’s Battery Park area in the Financial District. There was nothing better than coming back to this cozy Sonder apartment after a full day of exploring. It was clean, cozy and beautiful!

A Sonder bedroom in NYC

Sonder apartments feature a modern design, contact-free service and check in as well as exceptional comfort with extra space to live, work and play!

A woman eating pizza at her Sonder apartment

Not only did my Sonder have this amazing pizza sign (there was an Artichoke Basille’s Pizza around the corner from this place), my apartment also had one bedroom with a comfy full-size bed, a flat screen television, a cozy living room with a sleeper sofa, closet space, a full-size kitchen, dining area and one full bathroom.

The lounge area at the Sonder in Battery Park

The apartment was also professionally cleaned when I checked in and there was 24/7 support. My Sonder building also had a lounge area, rooftop and fitness center.

A woman on a Sonder rooftop in NYC

Sonder is located in 32 cities worldwide that include major U.S. cities, Dubai, Dublin, Edinburgh, London, Mexico City, Montreal, Rome, Toronto and Vancouver.  

40 Things to do in NYC During Christmas

The Rockefeller Center Tree in NYC

Visit the Tree at Rockefeller Center and Go Ice Skating:

A woman at the Tree at Rockefeller Center - one of the top 40 things to do in NYC

Location (Midtown) – 5th Avenue Between West 50th and West 51st Streets

The number one, out of 40 things to do, in NYC during the month of December is to see the famous Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center.

In fact, if you’re in New York during the first week of the month, you could actually see the annual tree light ceremony by NBC that has live performances from famous music artists and celebrities. The annual Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting takes place on the first Wednesday in December.

In addition to seeing the beautiful Christmas tree that is surrounded by beautiful angels, you could also go ice skating at the iconic Rink at Rockefeller Center. This famous ice skating rink is also where the Radio City Rockettes perform during the tree lighting.

See the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall:

A woman standing outside of Radio City Music Hall - one of the top 40 things to do in NYC

Location (Midtown) – 6th Avenue (Avenue of the Americas) Between West 50th and West 51st Streets

Another one of the top 40 things to do in New York City during the Christmas season is to see the Radio City Christmas Spectacular that features the Rockettes. As a former competitive dancer, I always love seeing the Rockettes perform whether it be in the Christmas Spectacular show that I’ve seen a few times or in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which I usually watch on Thanksgiving morning from my home television.

The Radio City Christmas Spectacular is truly a show to see and you should not miss out on attending when you visit New York City during the holidays.

Take Photos of the Giant Red Ornaments, Lights & Candy Canes:

A woman standing in front of the red ornaments on 6th Avenue - one of the top 40 things to do in NYC

Location (Midtown) – 6th Avenue (Avenue of the Americas) Between West 48th to West 50th Streets

During your time exploring all of the holiday magic in Midtown, you cannot miss out on seeing the Giant Red Ornaments and Christmas Lights in front of the Exxon Building, across from Radio City Music Hall. In 2020, NYC also added Giant Candy Canes and they are super cute!

These beautiful decorations are one of the most photographed Christmas décor in New York City and they are truly fascinating to see in person!

Warm Up to Mulled Wine at City Winery Igloos:

City Winery igloos at Rockefeller Center

Location (Midtown) – Rockefeller Plaza on West 51st Street

One of the best places to sit down, relax and warm up at Rockefeller Center is at City Winery’s Outdoor Wine Garden and Private Winter Domes (igloos) that overlook the beautiful Christmas tree!

City Winery‘s main location is situated downtown in Tribeca, but every December, they set up their holiday wine experience in Midtown. The Outdoor Wine Garden offers first-come, first-serve seating in an open-air space with outdoor heaters.

The Private Winter Domes that are heated and intimate have to be reserved in advanced. During lunchtime (1pm to 3:45pm), there is a $150 USD minimum spend per dome and for dinner (4pm onwards), there is a $250 USD minimum spend. Please note that reservations are for 90 minutes and it sits up to eight people.

At City Winery’s Outdoor Wine Garden and Private Winter Domes, you could enjoy mulled wine and cider as well as hot chocolate, coffee, regular wines from the winery itself as well as local beer on tap.

In regard to food, there are light snacks, hummus platters, charcuterie boards and Caprese salad that you could order.  

Enjoy the Saks Fifth Avenue Windows and Theatrical Light Show:

A woman enjoying Saks Fifth Avenue Show

Location (Midtown) – 5th Avenue between East 49th and East 50th Streets

Every year, Saks Fifth Avenue does an amazing job decorating their storefront windows with their holiday apparel. These windows pay tribute to the talent of those within the fashion industry.

In addition, Saks also does an amazing 10-story light show every year that starts at the end of November and goes through the beginning of January. It goes on every night between 4:30 to 11:35pm, every 10 minutes. This show is absolutely brilliant and will leave you awestruck!

(This show should most definitely be on your top 40 things to do in NYC during Christmas!)

Tune into the Real Meaning of Christmas at St. Patrick’s Cathedral:

St. Patrick's Cathedral during Christmastime - one of the top 40 things to do in NYC

Location (Midtown)  – 5th Avenue between East 50th and East 51st Streets

For all of us who celebrate, it is important to remember the true meaning of Christmas. St. Patrick’s Cathedral, located across from Rockefeller Center, is a beautiful neo-gothic Catholic cathedral to walk through during the holiday season in NYC.

During the month of December, anyone could visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral to view all of the beautiful nativity scenes, attend a Christmas mass or even enjoy a Cathedral Concert. While you explore Rockefeller Center, try not to skip out on visiting St. Patrick’s Cathedral!

Admire the Holiday Décor at Lotte New York Palace:

A woman in front of the Christmas tree at Lotte New York Palace - one of the top 40 things to do in NYC

Location (Midtown East) – Madison Avenue between East 50th and East 51st Streets

Not only is Lotte New York Palace one of the most beautiful hotels to stay in during your Christmas trip to NYC, admiring the stunning Christmas tree in the courtyard along with the lobby decorations should most definitely be on your list of top 40 things to do.

What is great about Lotte New York Palace, is that it is across the street from the back of St. Patrick’s Cathedral and it is steps away from Rockefeller Center, the Theater District and all of the other fun activities Midtown offers.

View the Talented Window Displays on the 5th Avenue Storefronts:

A woman enjoying the holiday decorations on 5th Avenue in NYC - one of the top 40 things to do

Location (Midtown) – 5th Avenue in Midtown from 34th Street to the Start of Central Park

Fifth Avenue is where all of New York City’s high-end fashion shops and famous department stores are located. It is similar to Paris’ Champs-Élysées, Los Angeles’ Rodeo Drive, etc.

During Christmastime in New York City, most of the stores along 5th Avenue decorate their storefront windows beautifully to showcase their fashion items while celebrating the holiday magic!

The best holiday window displays on 5th Avenue in NYC are Saks and Bergdorf Goodman. Other 5th Avenue stores that have beautiful Christmas decorations are Cartier, Louis Vuitton, Bulgari, Tiffany and Co., Coach and Harry Winston to name a few.

Experience the Magical Decorations at The Peninsula Hotel’s Lobby:

Location (Midtown) – On the Corner of 5th Avenue and West 55th Street

The magic of the holiday season in NYC is brought to life with The Peninsula Hotel’s “Stories from the Tree”. At The Peninsula Hotel along 5th Avenue, you could enjoy the six colorful character ornaments, a Christmas tree and so much more.

Staying at The Peninsula Hotel during a NYC Christmas is extra special since they offer holiday packages to make your family’s getaway a special one.

Get the Christmas at The Plaza Hotel Experience:

A woman in front of The Plaza Hotel in NYC

Location (Midtown) – 5th Avenue between West 58th and West 59th Streets (at the start of Central Park)

The Plaza Hotel is one of the most famous hotels in NYC and visiting it should totally be on your top 40 things to do during your holiday vacation. A few famous movies that were filmed at The Plaza were Christmas at The Plaza, Home Alone 2, Plaza Suite and Eloise at The Plaza to name a few.

You could enjoy an English high tea experience at The Plaza Hotel as well as admire the gorgeous holiday décor. The Plaza Hotel also has Christmas dinners and a New Year’s Eve celebration.

Go Back in Time in Central Park:

A woman walking in Central Park

Location (Uptown) – 59th to 110th Streets

No matter what time of the year you decide to visit New York City’s grandest park, it is always so beautiful! Between spring blooms, summer greens, fall foliage and a winter wonderland, there is always something to do in Central Park.

During a Christmas trip to New York City, I highly recommend going ice skating at Wollman Rink, taking a horse and carriage ride around the park and see all the beautiful holiday lighting. If you are lucky to be in New York City during a snowstorm, Central Park is absolutely breathtaking!

Discover the most Instagrammable spots in Central Park.

Attend the New York Botanical Garden’s Light Show:

Location (The Bronx) – 2900 Southern Boulevard in The Bronx

Every year, New York Botanical Gardens in The Bronx (located near Fordham University’s campus) has a dazzling light experience for the holiday season.

During an experience here, you could enjoy brilliant colors, sparkly lights and cool installations surrounding all the gardens. You could also see ice sculptures and enjoy live performances.

Watch the New York City Ballet Perform The Nutcracker at Lincoln Center:

Location (Upper West Side) – Columbus Avenue between West 62nd and West 63rd Streets

Lincoln Center is one of the leading performance venues in New York City and one of the best shows to see there during Christmas in the city is The Nutcracker, which is performed by the New York City Ballet.

I saw The Nutcracker when I was in high school and it was absolutely amazing watching all of the strong and talented ballerinas perform.

Stroll Around the Columbus Circle Holiday Market:

The holiday market at Columbus Circle in NYC

Location (Midtown) – Columbus Circle at Central Park

Known as one of the most elegant and beautiful places for holiday shopping in New York City, the Columbus Circle Holiday Markets should totally be on your list of 40 things to do during your NYC December trip!

At these holiday markets, you could find everything from art to jewelry as well as food to clothing.

See Frozen on Broadway:

Location (Midtown) – St. James Theater, West 44th Street between 8th and 7th Avenues

We all know the beloved Disney movie Frozen; well it is on BROADWAY! I absolutely love going to Broadway shows in New York City and have seen so many of them throughout the years.

Frozen is a timeless tale of two sisters who are pulled apart by a mysterious secret. One of the sisters (Elsa) struggles to find her voice and harness her powers within, while the other (Anna) embarks on an adventure to bring her family together. Unlike the traditional Disney classics, where every princess finds her true love through a prince charming, the two sisters find true love within each other as family. It is an amazing show for all to enjoy!

Frozen isn’t necessarily a Christmas story, but it takes place during the winter, so this Broadway play is perfect to see even after the holidays.

Watch A Christmas Carol on Broadway:

Location (Midtown) – Lyceum Theatre, West 46th Street between 7th and 6th Avenues

A Christmas Carol is an old time Charles Dickens’ classic and a Broadway play during the holiday season in New York. If you are looking for an incredible Christmas play to see during your time in New York City, I couldn’t recommend this show more!

(Another Christmas play I saw in the past was How the Grinch Stole Christmas, but they no longer have it on Broadway. Keep an eye out for when and if it comes back.)

Stroll Around Bryant Park’s Winter Village:

A woman enjoying a hot Christmas drink at Bryant Park's Winter Village - one of the top 40 things to do in NYC

Location (Midtown) – 6th and 5th Avenues, between 42nd and 40th Streets

Bryant Park is such a magical place to enjoy all of the wonderful holiday fun in Midtown. It should totally be on your top 40 things to do in NYC!

During the month of December, Bryant Park is transformed into a Winter Village that includes a Christmas market with holiday shops, eateries and more.

In addition to the market, Bryant Park has an ice-skating rink, a beautiful Christmas tree, carousel and more. They also have heated igloos called Curling Café and there is even a (non-iced) curling lane!

Also located at Bryant Park during the holidays is Fever-Tree Porch, a restaurant that includes swings and lounge furniture as well as fire pits!

Visit the Empire State Building:

Location (Midtown) – 5th Avenue between West 34th and West 33rd Streets

The Empire State Building is probably the most iconic building in New York City. Starting this year in 2020, the Empire State Building is now celebrating the holidays with technicolor lights and seasonal sounds.

Overall, the Empire State Building is an amazing landmark to visit regardless of when you visit New York City, but seeing it during the holidays is extra special.

Empire State Building teamed up with iHeartMedia to give an extra yuletide pizzaz during the Christmas season. If you have time, definitely put the Empire State Building on your top 40 things to do in NYC bucket list!

Enjoy all the Holiday Décor at Macy’s Herald Square:

A woman in front of Macy's Believe Sign in Herald Square NYC

Location (Midtown) – West 34th Street between 7th and 6th Avenues

Macy’s Herald Square is the perfect reminder to BELIEVE – in yourself, in faith, in miracles and so much more! There is a beautiful “Believe” sign that lights up on Macy’s building façade on 34th Street. Macy’s also has amazing window displays like the stores on 5th Avenue.

In addition, Macy’s also has Santaland, where you and your little one could meet Santa!!!

Take in all of the Magic at Hudson Yards:

A woman experiencing the holiday magic at Hudson Yards - one of the top 40 things to do in NYC

Location (Midtown West) – Between 10th and 12th Avenues from West 30th to West 34th Streets

Paying a visit to Hudson Yards during the Christmas season should most definitely be on your top 40 things to do in NYC agenda! This place is DECKED OUT in stunning gold lights.

2020 was the first year I experienced all the holiday magic at Hudson Yards and I seriously felt like I was in a dream. Not only is the mall covered with dreamy lights, so is the iconic Vessel!

This stunning new neighborhood in New York (which is right across from the Jacob Javits Center) is amazing to explore and it is also great for holiday shopping and good food! (Definitely make your way to Mercado Little Spain, which is an incredible Spanish market within Hudson Yards.)

Cozy Up in a Rooftop Igloo at 230 Fifth:

Location (Flatiron) – Fifth Avenue between West 27th and West 26th Streets

230 Fifth Rooftop Bar will always be a fun place for me to visit. I celebrated my 23rd birthday at 230 Fifth Rooftop back in June 2014 and it was so much fun! I also had the opportunity to revisit their rooftop igloos during the Christmas season in 2018 and had so much fun.

The igloos at 230 Fifth are available through reservation and they also take walk ins based on availability. (When I visited with friends in 2018, we got an igloo as a walk in, but we shared it with other people.) The views there are phenomenal!

At 230 Fifth, you could enjoy different types of boozy and non-alcoholic hot chocolate, coffee and mulled ciders. It should definitely be added to your top 40 things to do in NYC list!

Spot the Madison Square Holiday Tree:

Location (Flatiron) – Madison Square Park, 5th and Madison Avenues between East 26th and East 23rd Streets

In December 1912, Madison Square Park was the site of the country’s first public Christmas tree lighting. To this day, Madison Square’s Christmas tree shines bright amongst New York City’s lights. It is so beautiful!

Get a Taste of the Italian Alps at SERRA by Birreria at Eataly:

A woman enjoying the holiday decorations at Eataly. One of the top 40 things to do in NYC

Location (Flatiron) – 5th Avenue between West 24th and West 23rd Streets

Eataly is an Italian marketplace that is comprised of restaurants, pizzerias, bakeries, bars, retail stores, markets and a cooking school. You could find Eataly in various cities around the world and there are two locations within New York – the Flatiron and Financial District.

The Eataly at the Flatiron location has a seasonal rooftop restaurant and bar called SERRA by Birreria. Meaning “greenhouse” in Italian, SERRA offers a seasonal, rustic menu that reflects the Italian countryside and Alps. The decorations are absolutely beautiful for Christmas!

During your time at SERRA, you could enjoy warm Italian cocktails as well as wine and beer. (They also have mocktails!)

In addition, SERRA also has delicious food such as risotto, pasta, meat and antipasti dishes.

Definitely visit here during Christmastime, you will not be disappointed! I try to go every season to see all of the decorations and you should add it to your top 40 things to do in NYC itinerary.

Pretend You’re in the Victoria Era at Lillie’s Victorian Establishment and Oscar Wilde:

Lillie’s Location (Union Square) – East 17th Street between 5th Avenue and Broadway; Oscar Wilde Location (Flatiron) – West 27th Street between 6th Avenue and Broadway

Not only will you feel like you went back in time to the late 1800s, early 1900s, Lillie’s Victorian Establishment has some of the most beautiful decorations in New York City.

There are two Lillie’s Victorian locations – Times Square and Union Square. I had the opportunity to visit Lillie’s Victorian Establishment for brunch in Times Square when my college friend came to New York in February 2017 and it was lovely! The Union Square location has all of the great holiday décor though!

Another amazing NYC restaurant with a Victorian vibe is Oscar Wilde in the Flatiron District. Just like at Lillie‘s, Oscar Wilde has Christmas decorations all throughout the restaurant and they offer delicious food and beverages.

Wander Around Union Square Holiday Market:

Location (Union Square) – Union Square Park between East 17th and East 14th Streets

The Union Square Holiday Market is an internationally renowned market that sells unique gifts made my local New Yorkers. You could find so many beautiful trinkets here for your home and it is one of the best places in New York City to get Christmas gifts for loved ones. It is definitely one of the top 40 things to do in NYC during the holidays!

Pretend You’re at a German Christkindlmarkt at Rolf’s:

Location (Grammercy) – 3rd Avenue between East 22nd and East 21st Streets

One of the most magical places that cannot be excluded from your top 40 things to do in NYC during Christmas list is Rolf’s German Restaurant.

This beautiful restaurant is decked out in ornaments, Christmas lights, wreaths and dolls year-round! It features both Bavarian and Alsatian dishes and their drink menu includes cozy holiday beverages that we all love such as glühwein (German mulled wine), hot apple cider, spiced eggnog, holiday martinis and so much more! I absolutely adore the warmth that Rolf’s offers.

Watch NYC’s 2nd Longest Running Tree Lighting in Washington Square Park:

Location (Washington Square Park) – Washington Square outside of New York University (NYU)

Right next to the iconic Washington Square Arch is a beautiful Christmas tree that gets lit every year. It is a beautiful park to visit during a holiday getaway to New York City and they also have Christmas Caroling on Christmas Eve, which has been a tradition for many years.

Have Some Fun at a Christmas Pop-Up Bar:

A woman enjoying a glass of red wine in NYC

Every year, New York City has a few pop-up bars that bring out the Christmas spirit. These bars are usually decorated beautifully with Christmas lights, Santa Clauses, wooden nutcrackers and more.

As I write this article in December 2020, there is currently a New York City pop-up bar called Miracle that has two locations; one in the West Village on West 8th Street between 6th and 5th Avenues and the other in Alphabet City on East 9th Street between Avenue B and C.

If you have extra time, definitely add these spots to your 40 things to do in NYC Christmas list.

Savor a Treat at Dominique Ansel Bakery:

Location (SoHo) – Spring Street between Sullivan and Thompson Streets

If you’re looking for a lovely bakery to warm up to during your NYC Christmas adventure, definitely head to Dominique Ansel Bakery for a hot chocolate, chocolate chip cookie shot (with milk), a cronut (croissant and donut mixed together) or Christmas Morning Cereal on Christmas Eve.

I used to work around the corner from Dominique Ansel and it definitely does not disappoint!

Admire the Decorations and Go Shopping at Sezane:

Location (SoHo) – Elizabeth Street between East Houston and Prince Streets

L’Appartement Sézane is a French clothing store that specializes in women’s fashion. Their storefront location in SoHo is decorated beautifully for Christmas and they also offer stunning apparel for your holiday celebration.

Attend Sippin’ Santa at Boilermaker:

Location (NoHo) – Corner of East 1st Street and 1st Avenue

Sippin’ Santa is a tropical Christmas pop-up bar with locations all throughout the United States. The Sippin’ Santa located in New York City is at Boilermaker in NoHo. The second closest pop-up bar to NYC is on the New Jersey side at The Vanguard in Harrison.

Cozy up in the Heated Chalets at Mr. Purple:

Location (Lower East Side) – Orchard Street between East Houston and Stanton Streets

Known as one of the top 20 rooftop bars in New York City, Mr. Purple, located on the 15th floor of Hotel Indigo offers a ski chalet and lodge experience in downtown Manhattan.

Mr. Purple’s après ski theme offers heated bubbles to reserve, a Champagne bar and stunning views of NYC! If you have extra time, add this spot to your top 40 things to do in NYC during Christmas.

Explore the Holiday Magic at the Oculus:

The Oculus at World Trade Center during Christmastime

Location (Financial District) – World Trade Center between Greenwich and Church Streets

The Oculus is a shopping mall owned by Westfield that offers beautiful holiday décor all throughout. It is the perfect place to go Christmas shopping and they sometimes have a holiday market in the mall.

Admire the Beautiful Tree and Décor at the New York Stock Exchange:

A woman enjoying the holiday decorations at the New York Stock Exchange - one of the top 40 things to do in NYC

Location (Financial District) – Wall Street and Broad Street

Another one of the top 40 things to do in NYC is to see the stunning Christmas tree at the New York Stock Exchange. Not only is the tree absolutely beautiful, but so are the decorations on the Stock Exchange building itself.

A few days after the Rockefeller Center tree is lit, the New York Stock Exchange will have its own lighting ceremony where you could enjoy live performances by the Opera, Broadway stars and local NYC performance groups.

Walk through the Dreamy Zuccotti Park:

A woman admiring the Christmas light display in Zuccotti Park

Location (Financial District) – Between Church Street and Broadway along with Cedar and Thames Streets

One of the most beautiful Christmas light displays in Manhattan is in Zuccotti Park in the Financial District. Walking through this park will leave you amazed!

Experience the Holiday Magic in South Street Seaport:

A woman at the Pier 17 rooftop cabins in South Street Seaport - one of the top 40 things to do in NYC

Location – South Street Seaport

Another dazzling place to experience NYC Christmas magic is in South Street Seaport. There is a beautiful Christmas tree (that also has a lighting ceremony) as well as stunning decorations, a snowflake light show and restaurants that are dressed in holiday décor.

Located on Pier 17 in the Seaport area are The Greens’ rooftop cabins. The intent for these glass-covered cabins was to bring the cozy winter charm of Upstate New York to the city.

In order for you to enjoy one of these heated cabins, you will need to make a reservation for $50 USD on the weekends and $5 USD during weekdays way in advance. You could enjoy delicious food, treats and warm alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages at these rooftop cabins.

The food that is sold at these amazing cabins are from Dante‘s and no matter what, this experience should be on your list of 40 things to do in NYC!

Enjoy the Annual Holiday Market at Brooklyn Navy Yard:

Location (Brooklyn Navy Yard) – Flushing Avenue

A wonderful holiday market to enjoy in Brooklyn is the one at the Navy Yard. At this market, you could decorate Christmas cookies, ornaments and bags. You could also enjoy delicious food and mulled wine, shop for home goods, fashion and accessories. There are also plenty of stalls that sell wellness and skincare products.

Get Lost in a Christmas Light Heaven at Dyker Heights:

A woman seeing Christmas lights at Dyker Heights in Brooklyn

Location (Dyker Heights, Brooklyn) – 11th to 13th Avenues in Brooklyn

Known as one of the best New York City attractions during the month of December, Dyker Heights most definitely has to be on your top 40 things to do in NYC list when you visit.

This Brooklyn neighborhood plays homage to the most over-the-top Christmas light decorations with life-size Santa’s, nutcrackers, snowmen, Christmas village houses and more. There will even be Christmas carolers in the neighborhood and some homes will sell hot chocolate and baked goods for visitors.

Get an Immersive Experience at LuminoCity Festival:

Location (Randalls Island) – Randall’s Island Park

A cool light art installation to see during the holidays in New York is LuminoCity Festival. Located on Randall’s Island Park, these light installations feature beautiful sculptures that are inspired by nature, history and magic!

LuminoCity Festival happens year-round, but during the Christmas season, they have a wonderful winter display called Let it Glow!

Sail on a Statue and Skyline Holiday Cocoa Cruise:

Location – Hudson and East Rivers

If you are visiting New York City for the first time (or even if you’re a local), I HIGHLY recommend doing a sunset and holiday cruise on the Manhattan or Manhattan II.

During this cruise, you can experience a stunning sunset as well as an illuminated cityscape. (The best view of the NYC skyline is on the East River!)

The Manhattan Yachts are decorated beautifully for the holidays and you could enjoy amazing Christmas beverages!

Click here to discover 101 things to do in NYC!


A woman enjoying the holiday decorations at South Street Seaport

I hope you all enjoyed discovering the top 40 things to do in NYC during the Christmas season.

A woman admiring the candy canes in NYC

If you have any questions, please email me at [email protected] Happy Holidays!

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30 Comments

  1. Kimberly Deer on December 10, 2020 at 9:51 pm

    This is one of my favorite blogs of yours ~ maybe because NYC is our home away from home! The most beautiful city -especially around the holidays. So glad I got to spend a few days with you in that lovely apartment in the Business District @Sonder ~ what a great experience being in the heart of downtown NYC. I also loved touring all the famous holiday spots and great restaurants. NYC is the best place to visit during this time of the year. Loved all your stunning photos ~ Brought these iconic places to life ~ Love you, mom xoxo <3

    • Taylor Deer on December 11, 2020 at 12:07 pm

      It really is so magical during this time of the year! We had such a great time. Love you too! <3

  2. Lina on December 11, 2020 at 9:16 am

    NYC during Christmas must be absolutely magical! The decoration looks so festive and it’s always been my dream to see the huge Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center. Hopefully ome day I’ll be able to see it with my own eyes 🙂 Great post!

    • Taylor Deer on December 11, 2020 at 12:06 pm

      Thank you Alina! I really hope you get to go one day. NYC truly is spectacular during the holiday season! Let me know when you do come here 🙂

  3. Elena Pappalardo on December 11, 2020 at 6:46 pm

    What a fantastic blog post, Taylor! This was so informative as I plan my little day trip to the city and all of your photos are gorgeous!

    • Taylor Deer on December 11, 2020 at 8:36 pm

      Thank you so much Elena! You’re going to enjoy taking content in the city this year!

  4. MacKenzie on December 11, 2020 at 9:55 pm

    A NYC Christmas is my mom’s absolute DREAM. Every year we have tried going there has been one obstacle after another, but there are several things on here I don’t think she had on her radar! LuminoCity Festival especially – she loves lights, so I can’t wait to show her – hopefully next year she can actually make it.

    • Taylor Deer on December 11, 2020 at 10:27 pm

      Ah yes, she will definitely LOVE NYC during Christmas time. Definitely try to go next year. 🙂

  5. Courtney on December 11, 2020 at 10:03 pm

    This is such a fun post! I’m sure that touring NYC this year was way different, but also nice to have so much space from all the usual tourist.
    Also, your photos are GORGEOUS! I love every single one of your outfits.

    • Taylor Deer on December 11, 2020 at 10:27 pm

      Thank you so much Courtney! Yes, NYC was definitely a different vibe this holiday season, but it was still magical! 🙂

  6. Linnea on December 11, 2020 at 10:39 pm

    I love how visiting NYC was a tradition for you growing up for Christmas! I would love to go back next year for a few days! Your pics at Lotte were so cute too. It’s been forever since I stayed there!

    • Taylor Deer on December 12, 2020 at 8:17 pm

      Yes, it was always such a nice day! We usually go in the night before Christmas Eve. Also, yes, you totally have to come next year! 🙂

  7. Jenny on December 12, 2020 at 1:04 am

    Wow so many amazing things to do in New York for Christmas. I hope I can make it there one day. Those winery igloos are such a good idea and I would love to see Frozen on Broadway 🙂

    • Taylor Deer on December 12, 2020 at 8:17 pm

      It is seriously so amazing in NYC during Christmas! I love it. 🙂

  8. Emma on December 12, 2020 at 1:58 am

    New York is such a great city, and I would absolutely love to visit during the holidays one year. The closest I got was January when some of the activities were still happening and the tree was still up, but being around in December would be magical. Love all the displays you saw and I would really like to see the Christmas markets and drink at the wine igloo

    • Taylor Deer on December 12, 2020 at 8:18 pm

      You totally should come next year. It is so beautiful! Also, it really is nice enjoying NYC in December vs. January. 🙂

  9. Sarah on December 12, 2020 at 7:51 am

    This is so incredible! Your photos are amazing – how festive! I’m so envious there are this many awesome things to do in NYC. I haven’t been since I was a kid – hopefully I can get back during the holidays!! And your outfits are adoooooorable!!!!!!!!

    • Taylor Deer on December 12, 2020 at 8:19 pm

      Thank you so much Sarah! You should totally go next year! 🙂

  10. Paula Martinelli on December 12, 2020 at 8:09 am

    Awesome guide idea! I go every year to NYC for business but I still need to plan a trip around Christmas time – it is so magical! I love your pictures and all the tips. Saving for when I get to visit again, hopefully during Christmas.

    • Taylor Deer on December 12, 2020 at 8:20 pm

      Thank you so much Paula! You should totally revisit next year. 🙂

  11. Catherine on December 12, 2020 at 11:38 am

    I used to live in NYC and even I haven’t done most of these New York Christmas activities. Thanks for all the ideas!

    • Taylor Deer on December 12, 2020 at 8:22 pm

      Yes, it is so much fun! I honestly didn’t start exploring all of these spots until the past few years. 🙂

  12. Helena on December 12, 2020 at 3:39 pm

    wow the Sonder apartment looks incredible! I’ve always wanted to visit NYC during the holidays so this is a super handy guide!

    • Taylor Deer on December 12, 2020 at 8:23 pm

      It really is Helena! You should totally go next year. 🙂

  13. Mona on December 12, 2020 at 8:45 pm

    The Sondor looks amazing! I’ll have to check it out next time. Hoping to check some of these recommendations off my list next year!

    • Taylor Deer on December 13, 2020 at 1:05 am

      Yes, I really hope you get to go next year! 🙂

  14. cosette on December 13, 2020 at 1:01 am

    NYC during the holidays looks and sounds amazing. Still on my bucket list to visit in December one time.

    • Taylor Deer on December 13, 2020 at 1:05 am

      It really is Cosette! I loved it during this time of the year! Hope you could go next year. 🙂

  15. Shalzmojo on December 16, 2020 at 2:25 am

    OMG your blog posts are such a delight to go through. I simply love the pictures you so carefully plan and shoot – they bring about the best of the place and look absolutely spectacular. I just love your blog Taylor 🙂

    • Taylor Deer on December 16, 2020 at 10:11 pm

      Thank you so much, I really appreciate that! 🙂

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Taylor-Ornaments

A woman at Rockefeller Center in NYC - one of the top 40 things to do in NYC

One of the most fascinating places to experience all of the Christmas magic is in New York City. From Rockefeller Center to Dyker Heights, there are over 40 things to do and see in NYC during the holidays!

Ever since I was a baby, my parents would take me into New York City to see the Tree at Rockefeller Center as well as all of the 5th Avenue store windows. Even at a very young age, there was always a special feeling that ran through me when I visited NYC during Christmastime.

A woman standing in front of the Christmas lights - one of the top 40 things to do in NYC

From admiring the city skyline and all of its lights from across the Hudson River in New Jersey to taking the Ferry, the entire journey into NYC was always so exciting!

A lot has changed over the years and so many amazing new Christmas trees, shows, ice skating rinks, decorations and pop-ups have emerged throughout the five boroughs. Because of that, traveling to New York City during the month of December should totally be on your bucket list!

In this article, discover 40 things to do in NYC during the holiday season.

**Please note that this blog post uses affiliate links meaning that if you make a purchase via my affiliate link, I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. I only promote and talk about products and services that I have used and like. During my time exploring the holiday magic in NYC, Sonder hosted me in one of their Battery Park apartments for two nights.


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40 Things to do in NYC during Christmas

Traveling to and Around NYC:

A woman standing on the subway platform in NYC

There are countless ways to travel into New York City as well as around it. Even though the city looks very small when you look on a map, it is HUGE in reality!

In Manhattan alone there are 262 blocks. Then you have Brooklyn, which is even bigger; then Queens, which is even larger than that as well as The Bronx and Staten Island.

The most affordable and convenient way to travel around New York City is by taking the New York City Subway, which is run by MTA. Discover how to navigate the NYC Subway! (There is also a city bus that is run by MTA.)

Other ways to get around is by taxi, Uber or Lyft. You could also take your own vehicle into New York City (or rent a car), but embrace yourself for that journey since there is a lot of traffic and parking is expensive. (It is easier to find free parking outside of Manhattan. Please also note that parking officials do not play around; if you park illegally anywhere in NYC, your vehicle will get towed and the ticket isn’t cheap.)

New York City is a HUGE international hub, so you definitely won’t have trouble finding flights to and from the “Big Apple”. The three major airports in New York City are John F. Kennedy International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport and Laguardia Airport.

(Click here if you are planning to road trip around the United States and want to rent an RV.)

If you are traveling locally, it is most convenient to take public transportation to see all of the Christmas decorations in New York City.

A woman standing in Grand Central Terminal in NYC

The train is one of the most popular ways locals from the tri-state area travel into New York City.

The Metro-North (run by MTA), which travels from the Hudson Valley and West Chester, New York, along with Connecticut, goes into Grand Central Terminal on 42nd Street.

NJ Transit, which travels from New Jersey, and the Long Island Railroad, which travels from Long Island, New York, goes into Penn Station on 34th Street.

(If you are traveling from Jersey City, Hoboken, Newark or Harrison, NJ, you could also take the PATH train (run by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey) from Newark-Penn Station, Harrison Station and Hoboken Station as well as Journal Square, Grove Street, Newport and Exchange Place in Jersey City into World Trade Center, Christopher Street, 9th Street, 14th Street, 23rd Street and 33rd Street in Manhattan.)

In addition, for those traveling by train from farther destinations and other major cities like Washington D.C., Boston, etc. it is best to take the Amtrak train into Penn Station in Midtown.

A Holiday Installation in Midtown NYC

If you plan to take the bus into New York City, you could take the Lakeland, Martz Trailways, Megabus, Newark Airport Express (Coach USA), NJ Transit, Peter Pan, Rockland Coaches (Coach USA), ShortLine (Coach USA), Suburban Transit (Coach USA) and Trans-Bridge Lines buses into Port Authority Bus Terminal on 42nd Street, just outside of Times Square.

My personal favorite way to travel into NYC is by taking the ferry! From Weehawken, NJ, I enjoy taking the NY Waterway into either Midtown, West 39th Street or Downtown, Pier 11 Wall Street. The NY Waterway also has terminals in Edgewater, Hoboken and Jersey City in New Jersey as well as Battery Park in Downtown Manhattan. When you purchase a NY Waterway ticket, you also have access to their bus service that goes all around Manhattan.

NYC during Christmas

There is also a NYC Ferry that travels between Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and The Bronx and there is a separate ferry for Staten Island.

Other ferries that go to and from Manhattan are the Trust for Governors Island (to and from Governors Island), Liberty Landing Ferry (to and from Jersey City), NY Water Taxi (a hop-on-hop-off water taxi), Seastreak (to and from Monmouth County beaches as well as Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket) as well as Statue Cruises (to and from the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island Immigration Museum).  

Staying at Sonder in NYC:

A Christmas tree at a Sonder in NYC

In early December 2020, my mom and I stayed overnight for two nights in New York City to explore all of the amazing Christmas decorations around Manhattan.

We decided to stay overnight because of the weird year that 2020 ended up being! Also, due to the worldly events going on, it was the perfect year for locals to enjoy all of the holiday decorations around NYC without crowds.

The living room in a Sonder apartment in NYC

During our two nights, we stayed at a Sonder in New York City’s Battery Park area in the Financial District. There was nothing better than coming back to this cozy Sonder apartment after a full day of exploring. It was clean, cozy and beautiful!

A Sonder bedroom in NYC

Sonder apartments feature a modern design, contact-free service and check in as well as exceptional comfort with extra space to live, work and play!

A woman eating pizza at her Sonder apartment

Not only did my Sonder have this amazing pizza sign (there was an Artichoke Basille’s Pizza around the corner from this place), my apartment also had one bedroom with a comfy full-size bed, a flat screen television, a cozy living room with a sleeper sofa, closet space, a full-size kitchen, dining area and one full bathroom.

The lounge area at the Sonder in Battery Park

The apartment was also professionally cleaned when I checked in and there was 24/7 support. My Sonder building also had a lounge area, rooftop and fitness center.

A woman on a Sonder rooftop in NYC

Sonder is located in 32 cities worldwide that include major U.S. cities, Dubai, Dublin, Edinburgh, London, Mexico City, Montreal, Rome, Toronto and Vancouver.  

40 Things to do in NYC During Christmas

The Rockefeller Center Tree in NYC

Visit the Tree at Rockefeller Center and Go Ice Skating:

A woman at the Tree at Rockefeller Center - one of the top 40 things to do in NYC

Location (Midtown) – 5th Avenue Between West 50th and West 51st Streets

The number one, out of 40 things to do, in NYC during the month of December is to see the famous Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center.

In fact, if you’re in New York during the first week of the month, you could actually see the annual tree light ceremony by NBC that has live performances from famous music artists and celebrities. The annual Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting takes place on the first Wednesday in December.

In addition to seeing the beautiful Christmas tree that is surrounded by beautiful angels, you could also go ice skating at the iconic Rink at Rockefeller Center. This famous ice skating rink is also where the Radio City Rockettes perform during the tree lighting.

See the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall:

A woman standing outside of Radio City Music Hall - one of the top 40 things to do in NYC

Location (Midtown) – 6th Avenue (Avenue of the Americas) Between West 50th and West 51st Streets

Another one of the top 40 things to do in New York City during the Christmas season is to see the Radio City Christmas Spectacular that features the Rockettes. As a former competitive dancer, I always love seeing the Rockettes perform whether it be in the Christmas Spectacular show that I’ve seen a few times or in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which I usually watch on Thanksgiving morning from my home television.

The Radio City Christmas Spectacular is truly a show to see and you should not miss out on attending when you visit New York City during the holidays.

Take Photos of the Giant Red Ornaments, Lights & Candy Canes:

A woman standing in front of the red ornaments on 6th Avenue - one of the top 40 things to do in NYC

Location (Midtown) – 6th Avenue (Avenue of the Americas) Between West 48th to West 50th Streets

During your time exploring all of the holiday magic in Midtown, you cannot miss out on seeing the Giant Red Ornaments and Christmas Lights in front of the Exxon Building, across from Radio City Music Hall. In 2020, NYC also added Giant Candy Canes and they are super cute!

These beautiful decorations are one of the most photographed Christmas décor in New York City and they are truly fascinating to see in person!

Warm Up to Mulled Wine at City Winery Igloos:

City Winery igloos at Rockefeller Center

Location (Midtown) – Rockefeller Plaza on West 51st Street

One of the best places to sit down, relax and warm up at Rockefeller Center is at City Winery’s Outdoor Wine Garden and Private Winter Domes (igloos) that overlook the beautiful Christmas tree!

City Winery‘s main location is situated downtown in Tribeca, but every December, they set up their holiday wine experience in Midtown. The Outdoor Wine Garden offers first-come, first-serve seating in an open-air space with outdoor heaters.

The Private Winter Domes that are heated and intimate have to be reserved in advanced. During lunchtime (1pm to 3:45pm), there is a $150 USD minimum spend per dome and for dinner (4pm onwards), there is a $250 USD minimum spend. Please note that reservations are for 90 minutes and it sits up to eight people.

At City Winery’s Outdoor Wine Garden and Private Winter Domes, you could enjoy mulled wine and cider as well as hot chocolate, coffee, regular wines from the winery itself as well as local beer on tap.

In regard to food, there are light snacks, hummus platters, charcuterie boards and Caprese salad that you could order.  

Enjoy the Saks Fifth Avenue Windows and Theatrical Light Show:

A woman enjoying Saks Fifth Avenue Show

Location (Midtown) – 5th Avenue between East 49th and East 50th Streets

Every year, Saks Fifth Avenue does an amazing job decorating their storefront windows with their holiday apparel. These windows pay tribute to the talent of those within the fashion industry.

In addition, Saks also does an amazing 10-story light show every year that starts at the end of November and goes through the beginning of January. It goes on every night between 4:30 to 11:35pm, every 10 minutes. This show is absolutely brilliant and will leave you awestruck!

(This show should most definitely be on your top 40 things to do in NYC during Christmas!)

Tune into the Real Meaning of Christmas at St. Patrick’s Cathedral:

St. Patrick's Cathedral during Christmastime - one of the top 40 things to do in NYC

Location (Midtown)  – 5th Avenue between East 50th and East 51st Streets

For all of us who celebrate, it is important to remember the true meaning of Christmas. St. Patrick’s Cathedral, located across from Rockefeller Center, is a beautiful neo-gothic Catholic cathedral to walk through during the holiday season in NYC.

During the month of December, anyone could visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral to view all of the beautiful nativity scenes, attend a Christmas mass or even enjoy a Cathedral Concert. While you explore Rockefeller Center, try not to skip out on visiting St. Patrick’s Cathedral!

Admire the Holiday Décor at Lotte New York Palace:

A woman in front of the Christmas tree at Lotte New York Palace - one of the top 40 things to do in NYC

Location (Midtown East) – Madison Avenue between East 50th and East 51st Streets

Not only is Lotte New York Palace one of the most beautiful hotels to stay in during your Christmas trip to NYC, admiring the stunning Christmas tree in the courtyard along with the lobby decorations should most definitely be on your list of top 40 things to do.

What is great about Lotte New York Palace, is that it is across the street from the back of St. Patrick’s Cathedral and it is steps away from Rockefeller Center, the Theater District and all of the other fun activities Midtown offers.

View the Talented Window Displays on the 5th Avenue Storefronts:

A woman enjoying the holiday decorations on 5th Avenue in NYC - one of the top 40 things to do

Location (Midtown) – 5th Avenue in Midtown from 34th Street to the Start of Central Park

Fifth Avenue is where all of New York City’s high-end fashion shops and famous department stores are located. It is similar to Paris’ Champs-Élysées, Los Angeles’ Rodeo Drive, etc.

During Christmastime in New York City, most of the stores along 5th Avenue decorate their storefront windows beautifully to showcase their fashion items while celebrating the holiday magic!

The best holiday window displays on 5th Avenue in NYC are Saks and Bergdorf Goodman. Other 5th Avenue stores that have beautiful Christmas decorations are Cartier, Louis Vuitton, Bulgari, Tiffany and Co., Coach and Harry Winston to name a few.

Experience the Magical Decorations at The Peninsula Hotel’s Lobby:

Location (Midtown) – On the Corner of 5th Avenue and West 55th Street

The magic of the holiday season in NYC is brought to life with The Peninsula Hotel’s “Stories from the Tree”. At The Peninsula Hotel along 5th Avenue, you could enjoy the six colorful character ornaments, a Christmas tree and so much more.

Staying at The Peninsula Hotel during a NYC Christmas is extra special since they offer holiday packages to make your family’s getaway a special one.

Get the Christmas at The Plaza Hotel Experience:

A woman in front of The Plaza Hotel in NYC

Location (Midtown) – 5th Avenue between West 58th and West 59th Streets (at the start of Central Park)

The Plaza Hotel is one of the most famous hotels in NYC and visiting it should totally be on your top 40 things to do during your holiday vacation. A few famous movies that were filmed at The Plaza were Christmas at The Plaza, Home Alone 2, Plaza Suite and Eloise at The Plaza to name a few.

You could enjoy an English high tea experience at The Plaza Hotel as well as admire the gorgeous holiday décor. The Plaza Hotel also has Christmas dinners and a New Year’s Eve celebration.

Go Back in Time in Central Park:

A woman walking in Central Park

Location (Uptown) – 59th to 110th Streets

No matter what time of the year you decide to visit New York City’s grandest park, it is always so beautiful! Between spring blooms, summer greens, fall foliage and a winter wonderland, there is always something to do in Central Park.

During a Christmas trip to New York City, I highly recommend going ice skating at Wollman Rink, taking a horse and carriage ride around the park and see all the beautiful holiday lighting. If you are lucky to be in New York City during a snowstorm, Central Park is absolutely breathtaking!

Discover the most Instagrammable spots in Central Park.

Attend the New York Botanical Garden’s Light Show:

Location (The Bronx) – 2900 Southern Boulevard in The Bronx

Every year, New York Botanical Gardens in The Bronx (located near Fordham University’s campus) has a dazzling light experience for the holiday season.

During an experience here, you could enjoy brilliant colors, sparkly lights and cool installations surrounding all the gardens. You could also see ice sculptures and enjoy live performances.

Watch the New York City Ballet Perform The Nutcracker at Lincoln Center:

Location (Upper West Side) – Columbus Avenue between West 62nd and West 63rd Streets

Lincoln Center is one of the leading performance venues in New York City and one of the best shows to see there during Christmas in the city is The Nutcracker, which is performed by the New York City Ballet.

I saw The Nutcracker when I was in high school and it was absolutely amazing watching all of the strong and talented ballerinas perform.

Stroll Around the Columbus Circle Holiday Market:

The holiday market at Columbus Circle in NYC

Location (Midtown) – Columbus Circle at Central Park

Known as one of the most elegant and beautiful places for holiday shopping in New York City, the Columbus Circle Holiday Markets should totally be on your list of 40 things to do during your NYC December trip!

At these holiday markets, you could find everything from art to jewelry as well as food to clothing.

See Frozen on Broadway:

Location (Midtown) – St. James Theater, West 44th Street between 8th and 7th Avenues

We all know the beloved Disney movie Frozen; well it is on BROADWAY! I absolutely love going to Broadway shows in New York City and have seen so many of them throughout the years.

Frozen is a timeless tale of two sisters who are pulled apart by a mysterious secret. One of the sisters (Elsa) struggles to find her voice and harness her powers within, while the other (Anna) embarks on an adventure to bring her family together. Unlike the traditional Disney classics, where every princess finds her true love through a prince charming, the two sisters find true love within each other as family. It is an amazing show for all to enjoy!

Frozen isn’t necessarily a Christmas story, but it takes place during the winter, so this Broadway play is perfect to see even after the holidays.

Watch A Christmas Carol on Broadway:

Location (Midtown) – Lyceum Theatre, West 46th Street between 7th and 6th Avenues

A Christmas Carol is an old time Charles Dickens’ classic and a Broadway play during the holiday season in New York. If you are looking for an incredible Christmas play to see during your time in New York City, I couldn’t recommend this show more!

(Another Christmas play I saw in the past was How the Grinch Stole Christmas, but they no longer have it on Broadway. Keep an eye out for when and if it comes back.)

Stroll Around Bryant Park’s Winter Village:

A woman enjoying a hot Christmas drink at Bryant Park's Winter Village - one of the top 40 things to do in NYC

Location (Midtown) – 6th and 5th Avenues, between 42nd and 40th Streets

Bryant Park is such a magical place to enjoy all of the wonderful holiday fun in Midtown. It should totally be on your top 40 things to do in NYC!

During the month of December, Bryant Park is transformed into a Winter Village that includes a Christmas market with holiday shops, eateries and more.

In addition to the market, Bryant Park has an ice-skating rink, a beautiful Christmas tree, carousel and more. They also have heated igloos called Curling Café and there is even a (non-iced) curling lane!

Also located at Bryant Park during the holidays is Fever-Tree Porch, a restaurant that includes swings and lounge furniture as well as fire pits!

Visit the Empire State Building:

Location (Midtown) – 5th Avenue between West 34th and West 33rd Streets

The Empire State Building is probably the most iconic building in New York City. Starting this year in 2020, the Empire State Building is now celebrating the holidays with technicolor lights and seasonal sounds.

Overall, the Empire State Building is an amazing landmark to visit regardless of when you visit New York City, but seeing it during the holidays is extra special.

Empire State Building teamed up with iHeartMedia to give an extra yuletide pizzaz during the Christmas season. If you have time, definitely put the Empire State Building on your top 40 things to do in NYC bucket list!

Enjoy all the Holiday Décor at Macy’s Herald Square:

A woman in front of Macy's Believe Sign in Herald Square NYC

Location (Midtown) – West 34th Street between 7th and 6th Avenues

Macy’s Herald Square is the perfect reminder to BELIEVE – in yourself, in faith, in miracles and so much more! There is a beautiful “Believe” sign that lights up on Macy’s building façade on 34th Street. Macy’s also has amazing window displays like the stores on 5th Avenue.

In addition, Macy’s also has Santaland, where you and your little one could meet Santa!!!

Take in all of the Magic at Hudson Yards:

A woman experiencing the holiday magic at Hudson Yards - one of the top 40 things to do in NYC

Location (Midtown West) – Between 10th and 12th Avenues from West 30th to West 34th Streets

Paying a visit to Hudson Yards during the Christmas season should most definitely be on your top 40 things to do in NYC agenda! This place is DECKED OUT in stunning gold lights.

2020 was the first year I experienced all the holiday magic at Hudson Yards and I seriously felt like I was in a dream. Not only is the mall covered with dreamy lights, so is the iconic Vessel!

This stunning new neighborhood in New York (which is right across from the Jacob Javits Center) is amazing to explore and it is also great for holiday shopping and good food! (Definitely make your way to Mercado Little Spain, which is an incredible Spanish market within Hudson Yards.)

Cozy Up in a Rooftop Igloo at 230 Fifth:

Location (Flatiron) – Fifth Avenue between West 27th and West 26th Streets

230 Fifth Rooftop Bar will always be a fun place for me to visit. I celebrated my 23rd birthday at 230 Fifth Rooftop back in June 2014 and it was so much fun! I also had the opportunity to revisit their rooftop igloos during the Christmas season in 2018 and had so much fun.

The igloos at 230 Fifth are available through reservation and they also take walk ins based on availability. (When I visited with friends in 2018, we got an igloo as a walk in, but we shared it with other people.) The views there are phenomenal!

At 230 Fifth, you could enjoy different types of boozy and non-alcoholic hot chocolate, coffee and mulled ciders. It should definitely be added to your top 40 things to do in NYC list!

Spot the Madison Square Holiday Tree:

Location (Flatiron) – Madison Square Park, 5th and Madison Avenues between East 26th and East 23rd Streets

In December 1912, Madison Square Park was the site of the country’s first public Christmas tree lighting. To this day, Madison Square’s Christmas tree shines bright amongst New York City’s lights. It is so beautiful!

Get a Taste of the Italian Alps at SERRA by Birreria at Eataly:

A woman enjoying the holiday decorations at Eataly. One of the top 40 things to do in NYC

Location (Flatiron) – 5th Avenue between West 24th and West 23rd Streets

Eataly is an Italian marketplace that is comprised of restaurants, pizzerias, bakeries, bars, retail stores, markets and a cooking school. You could find Eataly in various cities around the world and there are two locations within New York – the Flatiron and Financial District.

The Eataly at the Flatiron location has a seasonal rooftop restaurant and bar called SERRA by Birreria. Meaning “greenhouse” in Italian, SERRA offers a seasonal, rustic menu that reflects the Italian countryside and Alps. The decorations are absolutely beautiful for Christmas!

During your time at SERRA, you could enjoy warm Italian cocktails as well as wine and beer. (They also have mocktails!)

In addition, SERRA also has delicious food such as risotto, pasta, meat and antipasti dishes.

Definitely visit here during Christmastime, you will not be disappointed! I try to go every season to see all of the decorations and you should add it to your top 40 things to do in NYC itinerary.

Pretend You’re in the Victoria Era at Lillie’s Victorian Establishment and Oscar Wilde:

Lillie’s Location (Union Square) – East 17th Street between 5th Avenue and Broadway; Oscar Wilde Location (Flatiron) – West 27th Street between 6th Avenue and Broadway

Not only will you feel like you went back in time to the late 1800s, early 1900s, Lillie’s Victorian Establishment has some of the most beautiful decorations in New York City.

There are two Lillie’s Victorian locations – Times Square and Union Square. I had the opportunity to visit Lillie’s Victorian Establishment for brunch in Times Square when my college friend came to New York in February 2017 and it was lovely! The Union Square location has all of the great holiday décor though!

Another amazing NYC restaurant with a Victorian vibe is Oscar Wilde in the Flatiron District. Just like at Lillie‘s, Oscar Wilde has Christmas decorations all throughout the restaurant and they offer delicious food and beverages.

Wander Around Union Square Holiday Market:

Location (Union Square) – Union Square Park between East 17th and East 14th Streets

The Union Square Holiday Market is an internationally renowned market that sells unique gifts made my local New Yorkers. You could find so many beautiful trinkets here for your home and it is one of the best places in New York City to get Christmas gifts for loved ones. It is definitely one of the top 40 things to do in NYC during the holidays!

Pretend You’re at a German Christkindlmarkt at Rolf’s:

Location (Grammercy) – 3rd Avenue between East 22nd and East 21st Streets

One of the most magical places that cannot be excluded from your top 40 things to do in NYC during Christmas list is Rolf’s German Restaurant.

This beautiful restaurant is decked out in ornaments, Christmas lights, wreaths and dolls year-round! It features both Bavarian and Alsatian dishes and their drink menu includes cozy holiday beverages that we all love such as glühwein (German mulled wine), hot apple cider, spiced eggnog, holiday martinis and so much more! I absolutely adore the warmth that Rolf’s offers.

Watch NYC’s 2nd Longest Running Tree Lighting in Washington Square Park:

Location (Washington Square Park) – Washington Square outside of New York University (NYU)

Right next to the iconic Washington Square Arch is a beautiful Christmas tree that gets lit every year. It is a beautiful park to visit during a holiday getaway to New York City and they also have Christmas Caroling on Christmas Eve, which has been a tradition for many years.

Have Some Fun at a Christmas Pop-Up Bar:

A woman enjoying a glass of red wine in NYC

Every year, New York City has a few pop-up bars that bring out the Christmas spirit. These bars are usually decorated beautifully with Christmas lights, Santa Clauses, wooden nutcrackers and more.

As I write this article in December 2020, there is currently a New York City pop-up bar called Miracle that has two locations; one in the West Village on West 8th Street between 6th and 5th Avenues and the other in Alphabet City on East 9th Street between Avenue B and C.

If you have extra time, definitely add these spots to your 40 things to do in NYC Christmas list.

Savor a Treat at Dominique Ansel Bakery:

Location (SoHo) – Spring Street between Sullivan and Thompson Streets

If you’re looking for a lovely bakery to warm up to during your NYC Christmas adventure, definitely head to Dominique Ansel Bakery for a hot chocolate, chocolate chip cookie shot (with milk), a cronut (croissant and donut mixed together) or Christmas Morning Cereal on Christmas Eve.

I used to work around the corner from Dominique Ansel and it definitely does not disappoint!

Admire the Decorations and Go Shopping at Sezane:

Location (SoHo) – Elizabeth Street between East Houston and Prince Streets

L’Appartement Sézane is a French clothing store that specializes in women’s fashion. Their storefront location in SoHo is decorated beautifully for Christmas and they also offer stunning apparel for your holiday celebration.

Attend Sippin’ Santa at Boilermaker:

Location (NoHo) – Corner of East 1st Street and 1st Avenue

Sippin’ Santa is a tropical Christmas pop-up bar with locations all throughout the United States. The Sippin’ Santa located in New York City is at Boilermaker in NoHo. The second closest pop-up bar to NYC is on the New Jersey side at The Vanguard in Harrison.

Cozy up in the Heated Chalets at Mr. Purple:

Location (Lower East Side) – Orchard Street between East Houston and Stanton Streets

Known as one of the top 20 rooftop bars in New York City, Mr. Purple, located on the 15th floor of Hotel Indigo offers a ski chalet and lodge experience in downtown Manhattan.

Mr. Purple’s après ski theme offers heated bubbles to reserve, a Champagne bar and stunning views of NYC! If you have extra time, add this spot to your top 40 things to do in NYC during Christmas.

Explore the Holiday Magic at the Oculus:

The Oculus at World Trade Center during Christmastime

Location (Financial District) – World Trade Center between Greenwich and Church Streets

The Oculus is a shopping mall owned by Westfield that offers beautiful holiday décor all throughout. It is the perfect place to go Christmas shopping and they sometimes have a holiday market in the mall.

Admire the Beautiful Tree and Décor at the New York Stock Exchange:

A woman enjoying the holiday decorations at the New York Stock Exchange - one of the top 40 things to do in NYC

Location (Financial District) – Wall Street and Broad Street

Another one of the top 40 things to do in NYC is to see the stunning Christmas tree at the New York Stock Exchange. Not only is the tree absolutely beautiful, but so are the decorations on the Stock Exchange building itself.

A few days after the Rockefeller Center tree is lit, the New York Stock Exchange will have its own lighting ceremony where you could enjoy live performances by the Opera, Broadway stars and local NYC performance groups.

Walk through the Dreamy Zuccotti Park:

A woman admiring the Christmas light display in Zuccotti Park

Location (Financial District) – Between Church Street and Broadway along with Cedar and Thames Streets

One of the most beautiful Christmas light displays in Manhattan is in Zuccotti Park in the Financial District. Walking through this park will leave you amazed!

Experience the Holiday Magic in South Street Seaport:

A woman at the Pier 17 rooftop cabins in South Street Seaport - one of the top 40 things to do in NYC

Location – South Street Seaport

Another dazzling place to experience NYC Christmas magic is in South Street Seaport. There is a beautiful Christmas tree (that also has a lighting ceremony) as well as stunning decorations, a snowflake light show and restaurants that are dressed in holiday décor.

Located on Pier 17 in the Seaport area are The Greens’ rooftop cabins. The intent for these glass-covered cabins was to bring the cozy winter charm of Upstate New York to the city.

In order for you to enjoy one of these heated cabins, you will need to make a reservation for $50 USD on the weekends and $5 USD during weekdays way in advance. You could enjoy delicious food, treats and warm alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages at these rooftop cabins.

The food that is sold at these amazing cabins are from Dante‘s and no matter what, this experience should be on your list of 40 things to do in NYC!

Enjoy the Annual Holiday Market at Brooklyn Navy Yard:

Location (Brooklyn Navy Yard) – Flushing Avenue

A wonderful holiday market to enjoy in Brooklyn is the one at the Navy Yard. At this market, you could decorate Christmas cookies, ornaments and bags. You could also enjoy delicious food and mulled wine, shop for home goods, fashion and accessories. There are also plenty of stalls that sell wellness and skincare products.

Get Lost in a Christmas Light Heaven at Dyker Heights:

A woman seeing Christmas lights at Dyker Heights in Brooklyn

Location (Dyker Heights, Brooklyn) – 11th to 13th Avenues in Brooklyn

Known as one of the best New York City attractions during the month of December, Dyker Heights most definitely has to be on your top 40 things to do in NYC list when you visit.

This Brooklyn neighborhood plays homage to the most over-the-top Christmas light decorations with life-size Santa’s, nutcrackers, snowmen, Christmas village houses and more. There will even be Christmas carolers in the neighborhood and some homes will sell hot chocolate and baked goods for visitors.

Get an Immersive Experience at LuminoCity Festival:

Location (Randalls Island) – Randall’s Island Park

A cool light art installation to see during the holidays in New York is LuminoCity Festival. Located on Randall’s Island Park, these light installations feature beautiful sculptures that are inspired by nature, history and magic!

LuminoCity Festival happens year-round, but during the Christmas season, they have a wonderful winter display called Let it Glow!

Sail on a Statue and Skyline Holiday Cocoa Cruise:

Location – Hudson and East Rivers

If you are visiting New York City for the first time (or even if you’re a local), I HIGHLY recommend doing a sunset and holiday cruise on the Manhattan or Manhattan II.

During this cruise, you can experience a stunning sunset as well as an illuminated cityscape. (The best view of the NYC skyline is on the East River!)

The Manhattan Yachts are decorated beautifully for the holidays and you could enjoy amazing Christmas beverages!

Click here to discover 101 things to do in NYC!


A woman enjoying the holiday decorations at South Street Seaport

I hope you all enjoyed discovering the top 40 things to do in NYC during the Christmas season.

A woman admiring the candy canes in NYC

If you have any questions, please email me at [email protected] Happy Holidays!

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Currency: United States Dollar, Capital: Washington D.C., NY State Capital: Albany, Time Zone: Eastern Standard Time

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30 Comments

  1. Kimberly Deer on December 10, 2020 at 9:51 pm

    This is one of my favorite blogs of yours ~ maybe because NYC is our home away from home! The most beautiful city -especially around the holidays. So glad I got to spend a few days with you in that lovely apartment in the Business District @Sonder ~ what a great experience being in the heart of downtown NYC. I also loved touring all the famous holiday spots and great restaurants. NYC is the best place to visit during this time of the year. Loved all your stunning photos ~ Brought these iconic places to life ~ Love you, mom xoxo <3

    • Taylor Deer on December 11, 2020 at 12:07 pm

      It really is so magical during this time of the year! We had such a great time. Love you too! <3

  2. Lina on December 11, 2020 at 9:16 am

    NYC during Christmas must be absolutely magical! The decoration looks so festive and it’s always been my dream to see the huge Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center. Hopefully ome day I’ll be able to see it with my own eyes 🙂 Great post!

    • Taylor Deer on December 11, 2020 at 12:06 pm

      Thank you Alina! I really hope you get to go one day. NYC truly is spectacular during the holiday season! Let me know when you do come here 🙂

  3. Elena Pappalardo on December 11, 2020 at 6:46 pm

    What a fantastic blog post, Taylor! This was so informative as I plan my little day trip to the city and all of your photos are gorgeous!

    • Taylor Deer on December 11, 2020 at 8:36 pm

      Thank you so much Elena! You’re going to enjoy taking content in the city this year!

  4. MacKenzie on December 11, 2020 at 9:55 pm

    A NYC Christmas is my mom’s absolute DREAM. Every year we have tried going there has been one obstacle after another, but there are several things on here I don’t think she had on her radar! LuminoCity Festival especially – she loves lights, so I can’t wait to show her – hopefully next year she can actually make it.

    • Taylor Deer on December 11, 2020 at 10:27 pm

      Ah yes, she will definitely LOVE NYC during Christmas time. Definitely try to go next year. 🙂

  5. Courtney on December 11, 2020 at 10:03 pm

    This is such a fun post! I’m sure that touring NYC this year was way different, but also nice to have so much space from all the usual tourist.
    Also, your photos are GORGEOUS! I love every single one of your outfits.

    • Taylor Deer on December 11, 2020 at 10:27 pm

      Thank you so much Courtney! Yes, NYC was definitely a different vibe this holiday season, but it was still magical! 🙂

  6. Linnea on December 11, 2020 at 10:39 pm

    I love how visiting NYC was a tradition for you growing up for Christmas! I would love to go back next year for a few days! Your pics at Lotte were so cute too. It’s been forever since I stayed there!

    • Taylor Deer on December 12, 2020 at 8:17 pm

      Yes, it was always such a nice day! We usually go in the night before Christmas Eve. Also, yes, you totally have to come next year! 🙂

  7. Jenny on December 12, 2020 at 1:04 am

    Wow so many amazing things to do in New York for Christmas. I hope I can make it there one day. Those winery igloos are such a good idea and I would love to see Frozen on Broadway 🙂

    • Taylor Deer on December 12, 2020 at 8:17 pm

      It is seriously so amazing in NYC during Christmas! I love it. 🙂

  8. Emma on December 12, 2020 at 1:58 am

    New York is such a great city, and I would absolutely love to visit during the holidays one year. The closest I got was January when some of the activities were still happening and the tree was still up, but being around in December would be magical. Love all the displays you saw and I would really like to see the Christmas markets and drink at the wine igloo

    • Taylor Deer on December 12, 2020 at 8:18 pm

      You totally should come next year. It is so beautiful! Also, it really is nice enjoying NYC in December vs. January. 🙂

  9. Sarah on December 12, 2020 at 7:51 am

    This is so incredible! Your photos are amazing – how festive! I’m so envious there are this many awesome things to do in NYC. I haven’t been since I was a kid – hopefully I can get back during the holidays!! And your outfits are adoooooorable!!!!!!!!

    • Taylor Deer on December 12, 2020 at 8:19 pm

      Thank you so much Sarah! You should totally go next year! 🙂

  10. Paula Martinelli on December 12, 2020 at 8:09 am

    Awesome guide idea! I go every year to NYC for business but I still need to plan a trip around Christmas time – it is so magical! I love your pictures and all the tips. Saving for when I get to visit again, hopefully during Christmas.

    • Taylor Deer on December 12, 2020 at 8:20 pm

      Thank you so much Paula! You should totally revisit next year. 🙂

  11. Catherine on December 12, 2020 at 11:38 am

    I used to live in NYC and even I haven’t done most of these New York Christmas activities. Thanks for all the ideas!

    • Taylor Deer on December 12, 2020 at 8:22 pm

      Yes, it is so much fun! I honestly didn’t start exploring all of these spots until the past few years. 🙂

  12. Helena on December 12, 2020 at 3:39 pm

    wow the Sonder apartment looks incredible! I’ve always wanted to visit NYC during the holidays so this is a super handy guide!

    • Taylor Deer on December 12, 2020 at 8:23 pm

      It really is Helena! You should totally go next year. 🙂

  13. Mona on December 12, 2020 at 8:45 pm

    The Sondor looks amazing! I’ll have to check it out next time. Hoping to check some of these recommendations off my list next year!

    • Taylor Deer on December 13, 2020 at 1:05 am

      Yes, I really hope you get to go next year! 🙂

  14. cosette on December 13, 2020 at 1:01 am

    NYC during the holidays looks and sounds amazing. Still on my bucket list to visit in December one time.

    • Taylor Deer on December 13, 2020 at 1:05 am

      It really is Cosette! I loved it during this time of the year! Hope you could go next year. 🙂

  15. Shalzmojo on December 16, 2020 at 2:25 am

    OMG your blog posts are such a delight to go through. I simply love the pictures you so carefully plan and shoot – they bring about the best of the place and look absolutely spectacular. I just love your blog Taylor 🙂

    • Taylor Deer on December 16, 2020 at 10:11 pm

      Thank you so much, I really appreciate that! 🙂

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