Few would argue that New York City is among the world’s most magical and storied cities, full of experiences you’ll find nowhere else. From breathtaking Manhattan skylines to charming Brooklyn streets to the distinct heritage and culture of Queens, travelers can expect to find the best of everything in the Big Apple.
Whether you’ve been there before or are considering going for the first time, there’s no place quite like NYC at Christmas. Christmas in NYC is simply magical; an Elysian wonderland of snow, lights, and festive cheer. The city’s diversity and history shine during the winter months, with residents and tourists embracing the reason for the season. This collective sense of joy and hope will doubtless leave an impression long after you’ve returned home after your Christmas trip to NYC.
Places to See at Christmastime in NYC
Lights in Brooklyn’s Dyker Heights
Christmas scenes in Brooklyn’s Dyker Heights neighborhood are so popular, you’ll want to book them ahead of time. This attraction features guided walking tours led by professional tour guides who share the history of this tradition dating back to the 1980s. Plus, you’ll get details about each home’s lighting design, which typically numbers in the millions of lights each year! This legendary mile-long stretch is the perfect festive activity for the whole family, just make sure to bundle up! While the lights are different each year, some of Dyker Height’s most famous attractions–including a 15 foot tall Santa some boast is the largest in NYC–can be seen every year.
Downtown Manhattan From Above
Since completing construction in 2017, the new SUMMIT One Vanderbilt observation deck has already become a celebrated New York City attraction. Situated in the heart of downtown Manhattan, visitors flock to this location to watch the sunset over the Hudson River. But during the Christmas season, the time to go is at night. The views at SUMMIT are stunning and include Hudson Bay, Central Park, and miles of the Manhattan skyline illuminated by the glow of colored and white Christmas lights during the month of December.
Experiences to Have at Christmastime in NYC
Christmas Shows in Manhattan
Radio City Spectacular is the most popular but a bevy of shows for all ages are available in NYC this time of year. Check out classics like The Nutcracker and A Christmas Carol or try something new with a Broadway rendition of the popular Disney film, Frozen. The Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s holiday show is always a delight, with its creative renditions of classic Christmas tunes set to the Orchestra’s signature choreographed light shows.
Shopping in NYC’s outdoor and holiday markets turns the stress of holiday shopping into a highlight of your Christmas vacation. Popular holiday markets include those at Bryant Park, Union Square, and Columbus Circle. For small, independent sellers and black-owned shopping options, try Renegade Brooklyn Winter Marketplace and Brooklyn Navy Yard Annual Holiday Market for home goods, fashion, crafts, and unique art. Each location also features a range of activities like ice skating, cocktail sipping, and artisanal foods.
Things to Do at Christmastime in NYC
Watch the Rockefeller Plaza Tree Lighting
Since 1933, the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony has captivated audiences the world over. But to see it live and in person is truly special. The tree is typically a 60-100 foot tall Norway Spruce–a sight to behold even before it’s fully decorated. Each year, a nighttime lighting ceremony featuring the Radio City Rockettes, ice skating under the famous Prometheus Statue, and, of course, flipping the switch on over 50,000 multi-colored LED lights marks the start of the Christmas Season in NYC.
Hop Aboard a Holiday Cruise
1920’s style yachts. Gleaming cityscapes. Decked-out holiday decor both in the observatory and on the deck. This is just a taste of what the Classic Harbor Line’s slate of holiday cruises offers its guests. With both adult-themed and family-friendly options to choose from, enjoy the season in style and on the water with a themed voyage day or night featuring holiday jazz, NYC lights, or a visit to the Statue of Liberty.