There’s no doubt that Christmas is the most magical time of the year and that New York City is one of the best places to celebrate the holidays. In the city that has it all, there are plenty of things to do in New York at Christmas.
From the iconic festive features you’ve seen in the movies to the underrated Christmas things to do in NYC, we’ve created this extensive guide so you can plan and enjoy the most memorable Christmas getaway in the Big Apple.
Bronx Zoo’s Winter Wonderland
The Bronx Zoo is a constant NYC draw throughout the year but is even more appealing at Christmas. No matter which December evening you decide to stop by and visit, you’re sure to be dazzled by the festivities.
Come and join the monkeys and tigers at the Bronx Zoo Winter Wonderland. Every corner of the zoo has a beautifully-lit tree or a group of joyful carol singers. Make sure you check out the lantern safari, where illuminated lanterns in the shape of the zoo dance and wade through the zoo.
Ice Skating in Bryant Park
You’ll have no doubt seen this iconic ice rink before – it’s in almost every NYC-based Christmas movie you can think of. The Bryant Park Ice Rink is a notable stretch of ice that only grows in popularity every winter when local New Yorkers and tourists strap on their skates to glide across the glistening surface.
Admission to the rink is free if you have your own skates or just a small fee for rentals. However, you’ll need to purchase your tickets in advance online, as availability runs out fast. Don’t let that put you off, though – the rink is here to enjoy from late November through to New Year’s Eve, giving you ample opportunity to get involved.
Whether you’re planning to take the kids for their first time on the rink, gathering a group of pals, or are looking for a romantic date idea, there’s no better way to enjoy a magical winter evening than ice skating. There are plenty more festive activities to enjoy while you’re here too, with the Winter Village hosting a plethora of holiday shops and food venues. Spend some time racing around the rink, then warm up with a cup of hot cocoa.
Stroll through Central Park
For the sake of honesty, we’d probably recommend a visit to Central Park at any point in the year. But there’s something about the park that is even more spectacular at Christmas. Once the snows blow into the city, the park looks like a scene from Narnia. While you probably won’t stumble upon Mr. Tumnus, you’ll certainly have a splendid wintery walk.
Meander down as many winding paths as your legs can carry you and take in the frosted sights. Belvedere Castle looks to be plucked straight from a fairytale, and Bethesda Fountain has been known to freeze over when the temperature drops. If your feet begin to tire, why not enjoy the views from a horse-drawn carriage? You’ll feel as though you’ve stepped right into a Christmas story.
Dyker Heights Holiday Lights
Some neighborhoods prefer to keep their decorations inside their homes. That’s certainly not the case in Dyker Heights, however, where the community loves to have a bit of friendly competition to see who can make their house the brightest.
Dyker Heights Holiday Lights is a wonderfully outrageous (and free) holiday experience. From giant snowmen to dancing Santas, the brightness of this neighborhood could fool you into believing the sun hasn’t yet set. Come marvel at the creative genius that lights up Dyker Heights – you might even get inspiration for your own home.
Cirque du Soleil
Cirque du Soleil is a world-renowned circus arts group that travels the globe to showcase its impressive skills. You’ve no doubt heard of them before, and you can now buy tickets to see a live performance right here in NYC over the holidays.
The group will perform the Twas the Night Before Christmas tour at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden. Shows will be happening most days up until December 27th, with up to three shows a day on weekends. Watch as the performers leap through the air, tossing each other from one trapeze to another.
Rockefeller Christmas Tree
The Rockefeller Christmas Tree is an annual staple in NYC. The tree can stand anywhere between 70 and 100 feet, depending on the year, and completely dominates the Rockefeller Center.
The big Christmas switch-on usually happens right at the beginning of December, and it’s a spectacular sight to see a once dark-green tree come to life with a million twinkling lights. Even if you don’t catch the first night, it’s a real treat to see at any other time in December.
Christmas Book Buying
Did you know that gifting others a book on Christmas Eve is an Icelandic tradition? The idea is to cozy up in front of the fire and read throughout the night. If you’re interested in this tradition or know someone who would love a new book for Christmas, why not spend an afternoon browsing the shelves in one of New York’s most beloved bookstores.
McNally Jackson is one of the most beloved book store chains in NYC. Situated in downtown Brooklyn, book-lovers can come to browse every day from 10am until 8pm. Find bestsellers and staff picks to choose a wonderful story to gift a loved one this Christmas.
Stogies in the Cigar Lounge
Hide away from the blistering cold of December when you stop by the local cigar lounge. Casa de Montecristo is a sultry and warmly-decorated cigar lounge in Manhattan, serving as a wonderful retreat in the dead of winter. After you’ve done your Christmas shopping and spent a magical day exploring New York’s streets, this is the place to come with friends and wind down.
Regular cigar smokers will be impressed with this particular lounge, and newbies will be in for a fantastic first experience. One of the onsite experts will quickly come to take your cigar order, guiding you through their extensive menu of premium wraps. All stogies are stored in cedarwood humidified lockers to maintain their flavor, so you’re guaranteed the best smoking experience. Bring your pals and make it an annual tradition of Christmas celebration before heading back home to the family.