Not only are these the top 12 things to do in NYC for Christmas, this list acts as a perfectly curated tour of a few of New York’s best neighborhoods. After living here for over three years I’ve gotten a pretty good lay of the holiday landscape. I’ve got you covered, whether you’re a first-timer basking in the glow of the Rockefeller Center tree or a seasoned veteran looking for something new this guide is a one-stop-shop for holiday cheer. Use it wisely and follow it in order to not waste travel time. Spread some holiday cheer from the top of Manhattan to the tip of Brooklyn.
New York Botanical Garden Train Show
This is one of my favorite places in New York, they have some of the best exhibits on the calendar and the train show is the crème de la crème of the year’s events. 175 famous New York landmarks are reimagined into perfect miniatures using bark, leaves and other greenery. This years show focuses on Lower Manhattan and is sure to amaze you.
Wollman Rink Ice Skating
In all honesty, I’ve never skated here but in NYC Cinema Wollman Rink is the quintessential Christmas experience. I skated a lot as a kid and after several broken bones and a sprain, I have a hard time taking part in any activity involving something between my feet and the ground. I’ve gone and watched the skaters many times to witness the rink that was featured in two of my favorite cinematic moments. Destiny brings John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale to the rink in Serendipity and Blair Waldorf trips her soon to be step-dad with skates during a particularly memorable episode of Gossip Girl. Even if you don’t make it onto the ice like me, there’s something so charming about just enjoying the show with a cup of hot cocoa
Bergdorf Goodman Window Displays
It is a well-known fact that Bergdorf Goodman has the best window displays in New York. Every New Yorker that I know, whether they’ve lived here over 20 years or only 4, makes a special trip to go see the sparkling, extravagant art on display. Many of the holiday displays sell-out for whatever production company is willing to pay the most to display their latest movie. Bergdorf Goodman is one of the last real department stores eminent of a time when femininity and talent shined.
Drinks at the Peninsula Hotel
As you walk into the glistening lobby of the Peninsula Hotel, holiday cheer immediately washes over you as Christmas trees surround you from every angle. Climb the stairs to the Bar at Clement which overlooks Fifth Avenue and provides a chic setting for the evening. Be prepared to pay top dollar for a cocktail but it’s worth it for the great service (some places in New York encourage staff to exude an air of superiority, these places are not worth your money and this is not one of them.) If you sit at the bar they serve you seasoned nuts, with olives and cheese on the house with your cocktails. A girlfriend and I spent a couple hours here laughing and joking about finding our second husbands.
Lotte New York Palace
This spot is most famously known for the penthouse where Serena Van Der Woodsen lived in the popular NYC series Gossip Girl. It’s also lesser known as the place I went to after Christmas Eve service to top of the night with a cocktail. Clearly, the latter isn’t quite as notable. The tree in the courtyard puts you in the holiday spirit and the cocktail from the downstairs bar, Trouble’s Trust, will warm you up when snowflakes chill your bones.
30 Rockefeller Plaza
I don’t think I really need to explain why to stop by this essential NYC Christmas hot spot. Most likely the first thing you thought of when holiday in the city came to mind was the Christmas tree which is the main draw for most people. Rockefeller plaza really acts as a one-stop-shop. Stop by Magnolia Bakery for some banana pudding, or grab a hot chocolate from Ralphs, a rink-side pop-up coffee truck. Show the world what you’re made of on the ice and watch the show light up the streets at Saks Fifth Avenue. Across the street from 30 Rock is also some famous giant ornaments that people like to take photos in front of, do it for the gram!
Possibly embarrassing but in the first two years living here I went to see The Rockettes on four separate occasions. It’s a magical Christmas spectacular, as labeled by them but it’s true. The Christmas scenes, the light shows, the floating orbs and dancing for days you will not want to miss this show. Although fair warning if you’ve been before the show doesn’t change much from year to year and it gets pretty religious towards the end. Although I will say seeing live camels and farm animals walk across a stage in NYC never gets old.
To get tickets check out rockettes.com!
Bryant Park Holiday Village
The amount of holiday villages in this city is overwhelming. I can promise you I’ve done the legwork so don’t waste your time trekking around to each one, it’s not worth it! Every single market has the exact same stalls from Brooklyn to Columbus Circle to Union Square. The absolute best holiday village in the city is Bryant Park, it has the largest selection of food and adorable stalls. With special events, drinks, and ice skating it’s more of a night out on the town than just a market.
To learn more about the Bryant Park Holiday Village head over here!
I have attempted several times to make my way into this extravagantly decorated Christmas wonderland. Tables often book up months in advance but if you’re willing to show up early and wait in an incredibly long line you may just be one of the lucky ones that make it in. If you’ve been here before please comment below and let me know how it was. I’ve heard the food isn’t outstanding but really you mainly go here for the views anyway.
Washington Square Park Christmas Tree Under The Arch
This is really an all year round favorite for me, if you come to the city and find yourself able to wake up early enough it’s a truly magical place to be. 7 am with that early morning light, before all the NYU students crowd the place and tourist ransack the park, you will find this magical quiet corner of the city. I know some people like to treat NYC like Vegas and morning might not be in the cards for you after one too many cocktails but that’s okay any time of day is a win. The tree isn’t overwhelmingly beautiful but the setting is. After a stop here, head over one block to find NYC’s most charming hidden alleyways, Washington Mews. Although technically a private drive, the fence is always open and I have never seen one person get kicked out.
Seaport Christmas Tree
This charming historic district at the tip of Manhattan has managed to maintain its allure as an escape from the rigid hard-lines of midtown’s skyscrapers. Restored early 19th-century commercial buildings line the cobblestoned streets filled with pubs and great shopping. Spend a couple hours at the outdoor bar perched in front of the Seaport Christmas tree. This is one of my favorite trees in the city, above the Rockefeller Plaza tree but just below Bryant Park.
Brooklyn’s, Dyker Heights for Christmas Lights
At Christmas, a certain level of cheesiness is not only expected it’s a must. Dyker Heights is a bit of a travel deep into Brooklyn but this is a classic New York event. Houses even pay professional decorators to adorn their homes in everything from wreaths to giant robotic nutcrackers. I was just as amused by the beautiful, historic homes as I was by the lights. To find the lights walk between 11th to 13th Avenues from 83rd to 86th st.
To find more inspiration for your next trip to NYC head over here!