A Local’s Detailed NYC Guide to the Christmas Holidays

Updated: Dec 16, 2020

“It’s looking a lot like Christmas.”

The weather is getting all the more colder.

Streets and Christmas trees are being decked out in Christmas lights.

Christmas markets are springing up around the city.

Rockefeller Tree is being set up.

Stores are elaborately decorating their storefronts.

New York City is truly magical during the Christmas season, and I take that for granted as a native New Yorker. There is so much to love -- Christmas markets, decorations, the window decorations, and the sweets! 2020 has been the year of New York City appreciation because of the pandemic. Hence, I wanted to take the time to share the wealth of things there are to do in New York City, including both the typical “touristy” bucket list items as well as many local items too! Now more than ever, Christmas cheer is needed. Let’s embrace the holiday season -- which is typically from Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) to post New Years -- with this Comprehensive NYC Christmas Bucketlist, which will answer:

  • What is there to do in NYC on holidays?

  • Is Christmas a good time to visit New York?

  • What is there to do in NYC on Christmas Day?

  • What are things to do in New York at Christmas 2020?

NOTE: Please note some of these things are canceled for the 2020 season because of the pandemic, so make sure to check! For 2020, I highly recommend sticking to the Bucketlist items that are outside for your safety.

Table of Contents

1. Watch a Holiday Show
2. Grab a Drink at a Holiday Rooftop
3. Check out a Holiday Pop Up
4. Shop at a Christmas Market
5. Rock Around a Christmas Tree
6. Gaze at Holiday Window Displays 
7. Ice skate in one of the major rinks
8. Explore a Holiday Light Display
9. Walk around Holiday Decorated Home or Neighborhood
10. Attend Christmas Mass
11. Participate in a Holiday Tour
12. Take a Photo with Santa
13. Participate in a Holiday Music Event
14. Sip some hot chocolate
15. Participate in a unique holiday event

Tips Before Visiting for Christmas Holidays
Other Christmas Holiday Blog Posts

1. Watch a Holiday Show

  • The Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes: Did you really do a NYC Christmas right if you did not go to the Radio City Christmas show? The Rockettes first performed at Radio City in 1932 and continues to this day!

  • The New York City Ballet: The Nutcracker: The New York City Ballet at Lincoln Center puts on the Nutcracker annually

  • The Hip Hop Nutcracker: This is a modern version of the Nutcracker, incorporating hip-hop choreography at the historic Kings Theater. It's a great way to watch the Nutcracker without the traditional ballet if that is not your thing!

  • A Christmas Carol -- Merchant House Edition: Located in a 19th-century mansion, this rendition of the Christmas Carol occurs in a candlelight setting, providing the perfect setting for the show

  • A Christmas Carol on Broadway: There is now an additional version of “A Christmas Carol” from the same director as “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”

  • A Christmas Carol in Harlem: This version, which occurs at Aaron Davis Hall at City College is set in present-day Manhattan

  • Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol: This version of “A Christmas Carol” from the Staten Island Shakespeare Company Edition is told from the perspective of Ebenezer Scrooge’s departed business partner

  • ‘Twas the Night Before…by Cirque du Soleil: This is Cirque du Soleil’s first Christmas show, filled with acrobatics set to classic Christmas tunes.

  • A Brooklyn Tabernacle Show: Yearly, the Brooklyn Tabernacle puts on a yearly festive show for free. However, you need to get a hold of those free tickets from the church.

  • The Brooklyn Nutcracker in the Jewel Box: This offers nine opportunities for people to see a production that fuses ballett, hip-hop, and world dance genres to recreate the Nutcracker. This will be performed in the Brooklyn Ballet’s studio in their windows.

2. Grab a Drink at a Holiday Rooftop

  • SERRA by Birreria: For each season, the rooftop restaurant at the Eataly Flatiron’s location is transformed, which includes the Christmas holiday season. The menu is also inspired by the season as well!

  • Chalet at Mr. Purple: This is set up as a ski lodge on a rooftop. They offer seasonal cocktails and meals!

  • 230 Fifth Rooftop: Every year, they install their Rooftop Igloo Bar. Each igloo can accommodate 4-10 guests and they must be reserved in advance. You can even enjoy movies from the igloo!

  • PHD Terrace at Dream Midtown: This rooftop has been transformed into the setting of A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the winter using lots of lights and plants.

  • Haven Rooftop at Sanctuary Hotel: This rooftop changes its themes by the season. This winter, they created a wintery ski chalet look, making it very cozy.

  • The Rooftop at Pier 17, South Street Seaport: They install individual dining cabins that can sit up to 10 people. The cabins have winter decor, a virtual fireplace, heaters, and amazing NYC views.

  • Winterly Rooftop (at 'Summerly' at The Hoxton): Looking for a winter wonderland? Check this out! You can dine under starry lights while sipping on a warm winter cocktail

  • Electric Lemon at the Equinox Hotel of Hudson Yards: It doesn’t get better than gorgeous views of NYC, soulful food, and a massive fire pit

  • The Standard: The Standard has opened an enchanted forest with outdoor Christmas movie screening filled with fresh pine trees and twinkling lights, plus outdoor heaters and faux-fur throw blankets to keep you warm and cozy. The food-and-drink menu is holiday themed such as cheese fondue for two, fully loaded baked potatoes and hot cocktails like spiked cocoa and mulled cider.⠀

3. Check out a Holiday Pop Up

  • Rolf’s Restaurant: This traditional German restaurant is DECKED OUT in Christmas decorations each year. It is a little pricey and fairly small but always draws a crowd. The best way to enjoy is by grabbing eggnog or a seasonal cocktail You can also reserve a table to enjoy classic German food

  • Miracle: Since 2014, this is a Christmas-themed pop-up cocktail bar offering seasonal drinks with over the top Christmas decorations. It started in the East Village, but now there are several locations in NYC and even around the world

  • NoMad: On Sunday evenings, this holiday popup bar, which is located in a hotel offers seasonal drinks such as