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!
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 “Lump of Coal” made with mezcal, oloroso sherry, fig leaf, and verjus or the “Candy Cane Colada” with absinthe, Branca Menta, coconut, and pineapple
4. Shop at a Christmas Market
Winter Village at Bryant Park: This Christmas village has it all -- ice skating, food stalls, drinks, and shopping.
Union Square Holiday Market: This holiday market features many local spots to shop and eat in the middle of Union Square
Columbus Circle Holiday Market: Conveniently located at the Columbus Circle entrance of Central Park, this market has several food and craft options
Grand Central Holiday Fair: Looking for a holiday market that is not outside to warm up during the winter? This indoor market is located inside of Grand Central Station.
Grand Holiday Bazaar: Operating since 1982, this Upper West Side market sells items from 150+ local artisans as well as delicious food and treats! The best part is that 100% of the profits go to four public schools
3rd and B’zaar: located in the East Village at 191 E. Third St. between Avenue A and Avenue B. and 3rd Street, this holiday market offers unique, vintage, and affordable gifts for the holiday season from local merchants, artists, and designers! Great place to shop for records, home goods, artwork, clothing, jewelry, and more!
The Market at Westfield: Located in the World Trade Center Oculus, this market has over 20 specialty shops as well as areas you can take cute holiday photos
Brooklyn Flea + Smorgasburg Winter Market: Although this exists all year, during the holidays, they offer more holiday-themed decorations and gifts
Brooklyn Navy Yard Annual Holiday Market: This is the perfect place to find unique Brooklyn-made gifts from over 30 vendors ranging from fashion, art and design, and home goods. There are even ornament engraving and screen-printed bags and prints
I Am Caribbeing Holiday Market: this annual holiday market (4th year now!) features Caribbean and LatinX brands from NYC and “Back Home” selling a range of food, beauty, jewelry, and hand-crafted good. This year it is in Prospect Park.
Oasis Market Holiday Pop Up: Looking for another Black-Owned market, check this curated 3-week Holiday boutique, featuring goods from 20+ Black-Owned businesses to shop from! Find everything from clothing, jewelry, candles, skincare, home goods, teas, snacks, and more, while supporting some amazing, local, Black-owned brands.
Holiday Market at City Point: Taking place on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays throughout the holiday season, this market features local craftspeople, artisans and entrepreneurs with a special goal to amplify the voices of BIPOC and LGBTQIA entrepreneurs
Holiday Village at MetroTech Commons: The open-air holiday market’s focus is on local artisans, accessories, home goods, beauty products, jewelry, plants, and artisanal distillers, and is located directly in front of the Metro Tech Commons Christmas tree. It is open from Thursdays- Sundays.
Astoria Market: Located at the Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden, you can shop for art, jewelry, chocolates, toys, clothing, and more as gifts and then head downstairs for drinks and goulash.
Queens County Farm Museum: Although this is quite far from most of the other things on this list, it is worth it if you want a change of scenery. This is worth stopping at if you are coming from or heading to JFK Airport. Throughout the month of December, there is usually a holiday market to buy Christmas trees, poinsettias, and wreaths. You can even take a wreath-making class. They also have cider and crafts for kids.
5. Rock around a Christmas Tree
The most popular Christmas tree to visit is at Rockefeller Center. However, there are many others worth visiting as well. The cool part is that many Christmas trees have a special tree lighting events. There are so many options of Christmas trees to visit that I created a whole separate post about it! Check out: 15 Must-See Christmas trees in NYC. You will literally be rocking around a Christmas tree!
6. Gaze at Holiday Window Displays
The tradition of holiday window displays started in the 1800s when Macy’s was the first to decorate their windows. Isn’t it crazy that this tradition still continues today? If you are looking to be time-efficient, just walk along Fifth Avenue in Manhattan to check out window displays from designer stores! Here are some of the most stunning window displays to check out:
Macy’s (151 W 34th St): This is the GOAT of windows decor as they started the trend and are still here! You must take the time to enjoy each window, as they each have their own storyline and moving parts. Inside is usually decked out too!
Saks 5th Avenue (611 5th Ave): This brings huge crowds of people with their time window light shows -- yes, it is not just a display, but a whole show with moving lights and music. Each year brings a different theme. They also do different vignettes with their window displays
Cartier (653 5th Ave): They keep it classic, wrapping the store like a present with a huge red bow! They also have charming window displays as well
Bergdorf Goodman (754 5th Ave): They go ALL out with their decorations. A production team works for nearly a year to bring their themes to life.
Bloomingdale’s (Lexington and 59th): Looking for more themed window displays? This is another spot to go to! In 2019, their theme was “An Out of This World Holiday Windows” inspired by the 50th anniversary of the first lunar landing and featured futuristic fashion
American Girl: Using 15,000 lights, the window displays are brainstormed from the middle of the summer with a combination of graphic designers, copywriters, and visual managers from the three flagship stores (Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles) to work together to come up with a concept. Their display always feature their American Girl dolls
Tiffany & Co: The outside of Tiffany & Co. is decked out with oversized jewels, which fits perfectly with the store’s theme
Hudson Yards: The holiday decor is spectacular this year! In addition to illuminating the existing trees in the Plaza, a forest of 725 additional trees are being added and decorated. There will be more than 2 million glistening lights inviting guests to celebrate the season - that’s 610,000 feet / 115 miles of string lights! On The Plaza, there are five illuminated hot air balloons that are each 16' tall and the 32' masterpiece hot air balloon is suspended proudly in The Great Room at The Shops.
7. Ice skate in one of the major skating rinks
Rockefeller Center: This is considered to be the most iconic skating rink in the city. It is pretty epic to skate with the Rockefeller Christmas tree in your background. However, this is definitely one of the pricier rinks costing around $50 between admission price and skate rental.
Bryant Park: The Bryant Park Winter Village rink is also a classic. This rink is free -- you just need to rent skates or bring your own. In fact, it is New York City’s only ice skating rink with free admission. Afterward, you can then check out the Christmas village for the markets.
Winterland Rink at Pier 17: This rooftop skating rink offers AMAZING views. It is also conveniently located near the winter market where you can sip on some hot cocoa and holiday shop
Wollman Rink in Central Park: Another famous spot is Wollman Rink, located very near the Central Park Zoo. In the summertime, this turns into a roller skating rink. This is a perfect spot as you are surrounded by stunning views of The Plaza Hotel and Gapstow Bridge in the background. It’s also within walking distance from many of the high-end designer stores with amazing Christmas decor
Laser Rink in Central Park: This is Central Park’s other ice rink, which isn’t as popular or picturesque. Hence, it is not as crowded and expensive either. This is located in the northern section of the Park, next to the North Meadow.
The Rink at Brookfield Place: Named #1 rink by Curbed NY and Thrillist, this is run by the U.S. Olympians Melissa Gregory and Denis Petukhov. If you don’t want to skate, you can come watch performances with different figure skaters and acrobats during “Red Hot Holidays.” This rink is part of Brookfield Place Mall, so you can go shopping afterward. Located in Battery Park City, there are great views of the Hudson River.
LeFrak Center in Prospect Park: Looking for an option that is not in Manhattan? Check out this center which is actually two outdoor ice skating rinks in Brooklyn. You can enjoy picturesque views of Prospect Park Lake!
WWII Veterans Memorial Ice Skating Rink: There are options if you live in Staten Island and don’t want to trek to Manhattan. This is a public skating rink located within Clove Lakes Park that is run by the NYC Parks Department
Staten Island Skating Pavilion: This is another option for those who live in or closer to Staten Island. This ice rink is open year-round and open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays
8. Explore a Holiday Light Display
Please Note: For most of the following places, you need to pay for and reserve a ticket ahead of time!
Massive Light Display:
LuminoCity Festival: Located on Randall’s Island, this is an outdoor light festival based on the tradition of Chinese lantern festivals. There are food trucks to purchase bites and beverages. There will be buses running from the East 125th Street 4,5,6 subway station every 30 minutes to help get you there
Bronx Zoo Holiday Lights: Returning last year after a 10-year hiatus, this light display features creatures from Asia, Africa, and under the sea. In addition to lighted animals, there is holiday-themed music, ice carving demonstrations, costumed characters, stilt walkers, souvenirs, and seasonal treats like hot chocolate and s’mores.
GLOW at New York Botanical Gardens: This is a new outdoor experience designed as a result of limiting their annual Holiday Train show to members only in response to the pandemic. The garden’s landscape will be illuminated with light and color. There will also be artistic ice carving displays, dancers and musicians, and outdoor fun.
NYC Winter Lantern Festival: Occurring at the Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Gardens in Staten Island, this features 1,200 lanterns following the Chinese lantern tradition. This started in 2018 but did not return in 2020, so I am unsure if this will be brought back in 2021!
Alternative, smaller free light displays:
Luminaries at Brookfield Place: Every hour daily from 8 am-10 pm, there is a light show accompanied by four Christmas songs. There are also wishing stations that allow visitors to send a motion-activated wish that will illuminate. The money will be donated to ROAR (Relief Opportunities for All Restaurants)
Holiday Under the Stars at Columbus Circle: Located at The Shops at Columbus Circle in Time Warner Center, this is a holiday light show featuring twelve 14-foot stars that hang from the ceiling of the 150-foot Great Room overlooking Central Park. The show occurs every half hour daily from 4:00 pm until 7:00 pm. You can also check out the Astolat Dollhouse Castle, a display with 29 rooms filled with 10,000 miniature pieces, including elaborate furniture, oil paintings, mirrors, fireplaces, gold miniature jewelry, rare-mini books more than 100 years old, and fine rugs. This is the first-ever public viewing of the famous dollhouse.
Saks Fifth Avenue: Yearly, there is a ten-story-tall theatrical light show to a specific theme at its New York flagship location
"Make it Bright" Holiday Sculptures on 5th Avenue: There are 10 installations of illuminated toys along 5th Avenue from 51st-59th Streets to help New Yorkers get into the Holiday spirit. Each sculpture has a QR code that visitors can scan to read a story of the toy
9. Wander around Holiday Decorated Home or Neighborhood
Dyker Heights (between 11th to 13th Avenues from 83rd to 86th Streets): Although this is really far out in Brooklyn and near Staten Island, the trek is well worth it. Yearly, over 100,000 people -- both New Yorkers and tourists -- flock to Dyker Heights to check out the over the top house displays spread throughout the neighborhood. In addition to displays, some houses have performers and sell/give away sweet treats
Seddio House in Canarsie (Flatlands Avenue and East 93rd Street): Since 1963, Brooklyn Democratic Party Chairman and 59th Assembly District Leader Frank Seddio annually decorates his family house -- it has become known as Canarsie’s Christmas house. Typically there are over 50,000 lights, 200 animated figures, and numerous other decorations costing around $350,000. Last year, there were musical performances by the chorus of a local public school and choir of a local church. Every year, the event honors a different member of the community.
Santa's Corner in Whitestone (166-04 23rd Avenue): Owner Kevin Lynch’s house has become known as Santa’s Corner -- a tradition that he started over two decades over to compete with this neighbor. This home is usually wrapped in thousands of lights, covered with lawn figures, and even has a glass display case with moving toys. The second-floor windows display holiday movies. Decorations take about three months to put up, beginning in September and ending around Thanksgiving! The display stays up until Three Kings Day. They take donations for a local children’s charity.
Little North Pole in Rockaway (144-03 Neponsit Avenue): Owner Joe Mure, a criminal attorney, decks out his home yearly to put a smile on visitors' faces and raise money for children with juvenile diabetes. He has been decorating his home, located near the beach, for more than 20 years
Christmas in Jamaica Estates in Jamaica (185-07 80th Drive ): Anthony Gurino and his grandson yearly decorate their house, the fence around the property, and the large tree, which can be seen from blocks away. There's a Nativity scene, as well as a few menorahs. They use this as an opportunity to raise money for the charity Toys for Tots.
Howard Beach's Musical House in Old Howard Beach (white house at the corner of 97th Street and 165th Avenue): They install lights timed to music played on speakers outside. There are dozens of other decked out homes along Cross Bay Boulevard
Krieger's Village in Glendale (corner of 77th Street and 76th Avenue): Owner Charlie Krieger takes three weeks to set up Christmas decorations and an elaborate miniature village inside his garage. There is also a singing Christmas tree, multiple singing Santas, and two massive inflatables. He started this tradition about 20 years ago.
Christmas Lights 4 Life in Charleston (107 Sharrotts Road): Annually, Joe DiMartino and his family have transformed their house into a Christmas wonderland to honor his wife, Debra Ann, who was killed on 9/11. Usually, there is a walk-through experience as every square inch is covered in decorations. Donations are collected for Staten Island University Hospital's Pediatric Cancer Unit in memory of his wife.
Garabedian Family's Christmas House in Pelham Gardens (1605 Pelham Parkway North at Westervelt Avenue): The Garabedian family's home has become known to many as the Christmas House. Each year, since 1973, they set up a traditional nativity scene with nearly 200 mannequins glammed up in Hollywood style gowns that they outfit themselves, as they are in the fabric-trimming business. There is also holiday music blasting from multiple speakers. People visit from the tri-state area to check this out. A few other homes nearby are also decorated. It is reported they give the money to nearby Immaculate Conception Catholic Church.
10. Attend Christmas Mass
Many churches have midnight mass (the night of Christmas Eve). I have never attended midnight mass in New York, but had a great experience in New Orleans so would love to do this someday. Here are some places worth checking out:
St. Patrick’s Cathedral (Fifth Avenue between 50th and 51st streets): It does not get any more iconic than this! However, you have to fill out a request for tickets form online. Typically, spots run out in October. You can also live stream it online. They have masses at other times during Christmas Eve and Christmas Day; which do not require tickets
Cathedral of Saint John the Divine (1047 Amsterdam Ave., Morningside Heights): The service includes carols from the Cathedral Choristers. At 4 pm, there are Christmas Eve Lessons and Carols featuring larger-than-life puppets telling the story of Christmas, which is great for kids. Beginning at 10 pm, they have music before the mass. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis, though a select number of reserved seating passes are available early in the season. Email email@example.com to request.
Church of Saint Paul the Apostle (405 W. 59th St., Upper West Side): One of the oldest churches in the city, the Church of Saint Paul the Apostle is a beautiful church to hear midnight Mass. A Christmas concert starts at 11 pm.
St. Paul's Chapel, Trinity Church (209 Broadway, Lower Manhattan): Located by Wall Street, they do an annual candlelight Christmas Eve Mass, which features carols by Trinity Wall Street's choir. Tickets are not required, but you need to get there early as space fills up very quickly
The Basilica of St. Patrick's Old Cathedral ( 263 Mulberry St, Little Italy): The basilica offers Christmas carols starting at 10:30 p.m., followed by a Christmas Eve Mass at 11 p.m.
Eglise St. Jean Baptiste (184 E. 76th St., Upper East Side): This church has a full day of Christmas Eve services, starting with a Christmas vigil mass at 5:30 p.m., and choral carols at 11:30 p.m. At midnight, the church has a choral liturgy.
11. Participate in a Holiday Tour
Dyker Heights Tour: Dyker Heights has become such a tourist attraction that there are several companies that offer a tour! For example, you can book a bus tour that will take you from Union Square in Manhattan to Dyker Heights. You can also book a walking tour with Free Tours by Foot, which will guide you to the best spots to see decorations.
Holly Tour -Holiday Historic House Tour: For over thirty years, this annual Holly Tour consists of an afternoon of arts and crafts, musical performances, and historic tours. Using a shuttle, it takes you to six historic sites in Queens. Each one is decorated for the holidays and offers refreshments. One of the sites is the Lewis Latimer House Museum, which was the home of the African American inventor. Another one is the Friends Meeting House, which is thought to be New York’s oldest place of worship. Quakers still worship here every Sunday.
Holiday Lights & Movie Tour: This tour takes you to see the filming locations from several new and classic holiday films such as Home Alone and Elf. You are able to get out and take pictures at most of them, including many iconic NYC sites that are decorated for the holidays.
Winter Tree Tour: This one hour tour by Queens Botanic Gardens will explore the beauty of trees in winter, from the collection of conifer trees to learning how to identify different trees by their bark, cones, and needles.
Free Tours by Foot: Every year, they offer a walking pay-as-you-wish New York Holiday Lights Tour, which explores different sites in Manhattan well known for their Christmas decor and celebrations. They also offer paid walking tours of Dyker Heights.
Candlelight Tour in Historic Richmond Town (441 Clarke Avenue): During the Christmas season, Historic Richmond Town offers a few evening tours with candlelight showcasing yuletide traditions throughout the centuries. It will feel like you stepped back in time as they include old-fashioned carriage rides, an annual tree lighting, a classic bell choir, and more.
12. Take a photo with Santa
Santaland at Macy’s: Lines to see NYC’s most popular Santa have historically been hours long. Therefore, a reservation system was implemented last year where you can reserve a time to join the line. Admission is free. However, photo packages start at $20.99.
Winter Wonderland at the Apollo Theater: There are several holiday activities such as pictures with Santa and performances from local choirs. The event is free! They also collect toys and books for their drive.
Santa’s Corner on the Upper Terrace in Bryant Park (across from the Bryant Park Grill restaurant): It is free! You can take your own pictures or download one of theirs from Flickr. You can also take photos in Santa’s chair when Santa is not there.
Santa Claus at Bloomingdale’s Holiday Shop: Photo packages start at $22.
Santa at The Plaza: You can take photos with Santa (packages start at $40) or upgrade to tea with Santa.
Hudson Yards Virtual Santa: Visit the Santa Station on Level 3, next to Lululemon. Jingle with the elves, take a selfie with the Polar Bear or a walk down the candy cane lane. Snap a pic with Rudolph and get lost in the forest of holiday trees but before you do all that, be sure to download the free Membit App. to video chat with Mr. Claus inside the phone booth.
Kings Plaza Mall: You can schedule in advance an appointment to meet with Santa located on Level 2 near Zara daily through Christmas Eve. Meeting Santa is free!
13. Participate in a holiday music event
Merry Tuba Christmas: This event features hundreds of tuba players from around the country performing Christmas music. It takes place in more than 200 cities worldwide.
Jackson Heights Winter Holiday Sing-a-Long: During this annual outdoor caroling event (now in its 12th year), you’ll sing winter and holiday songs from all faiths, languages, and cultures while walking through Jackson Heights.
Unsilent Night: At this unique event, a composer leads a massive chorus of boomboxes from Washington Square in the West Village to Tompkins Square Park in the East Village. Bring your own boombox, if you have one. This event takes place in cities throughout the US, as well as in Germany, Quebec, and New Zealand
Christmas Eve Caroling in Washington Square Park: You’ll be accompanied by the Rob Susman Brass Quartet. Free; songbooks are provided.
Gramercy Park Christmas eve caroling: This private park is locked all year except for one hour to the public on Christmas Eve for caroling. Hosted by The Gramercy Park Block Association, this annual Christmas Eve event draws more than 1,000 people to Gramercy Park.
Holiday Joy: A Gospel Celebration: The Apollo Theater hosts an afternoon of holiday gospel music often featuring a Grammy award-winning artist
Sing for Hope at Hudson Yards: Hudson Yards and SAP join together for an exciting partnership with Sing For Hope, the New York City non-profit organization that mobilizes thousands of artists in creative service to give back to communities across the US and around the world. From December 1st-31st, seven pianos and one Baby Grand piano will be displayed throughout The Shops at Hudson Yards featuring performances by Broadway musicians and The Juilliard School creating a festive atmosphere for visitors. Each piano is decorated by a local artist, inspired by the art, architecture and experiences of Hudson Yards to create one-of-a-kind designs painted on each piano.
Big Band Holidays: Featuring soulful, big band versions of classics like “Jingle Bells,” “Joy to the World,” and “Brazilian Sleigh Ride,” Big Band Holidays is an uplifting holiday program that plays to sold-out audiences every December in Lincoln Center
14. Sip some hot chocolate
Blue Stripes (28 East 13th St, Union Square): Brenner’s new chocolate shop has unique items such as Cake & Shake, which includes a classic individual cake resting on a Bretagne biscuit above a matching milkshake and Chocolate Clouds, a frozen hot chocolate foam made from 100% pure chocolate. There is also a “Cacao Lab.”
Max Brenner (841 Broadway, Union Square): This is a restaurant dedicated to chocolate. They sell 9 types of hot chocolate including peanut butter, hazelnut, Mexican spicy hot chocolate, Italian thick, and salted caramel.
The Chocolate Room (51 Fifth Ave, Park Slope and 269 Court St., Cobble Hill): They serve several rich chocolate treats using different variations of Chocolate. I love coming here to grab a cup of their Mexican spicy hot chocolate!
MarieBelle (484 Broome St, SoHo): This chocolate shop has a cacao bar where you can sip on any hot chocolate you’d like from dark, Aztec hot chocolate to milk chocolate; allowing you to experience the pure taste of chocolate. They even have a sweet white hot chocolate option!
Maman (22 W 25th St, Nomad): They offer unique hot chocolates such as lavender hot chocolate (which is made with dried lavender leaves).
Martha’s Country Bakery (263 Bedford Ave, Williamsburg): They have some amazing pastries. What better way to enjoy them than pairing it with hot chocolate! They have several hot chocolate options including Red Velvet, peanut butter, and Mexican hot chocolate.
Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain (513 Henry St, Carroll Gardens): Their hot chocolate is specially made with their own blend of cocoa. You can top yours off with house-made marshmallow fluff, fresh whipped cream, or flavor it with caramel.
15. Participate in a unique holiday event
Holiday Train Show at New York Botanical Gardens: Dating nearly 30 years, this exhibit contains nearly replicas of some of the city’s most famed landmarks, from the Empire State Building to the Brooklyn Bridge to Central Park structures. They are all created from natural materials like lotus pods and cinnamon sticks! Each year, there is a model train that rides past the model of New York’s iconic sites. On select nights known as Bar Car Nights, there are spiked warm drinks, musical performances, and food bites from Bronx Night Market for adults 21+
Holiday Nostalgia Train Rides: Hosted by the New York Transit Museum, you can ride on a vintage 1930’s subway car or bus.
Kremas Making Class: Hosted by Creme and Cocoa Creamery, during several days in December, they are offering a Haitian Kremas Caribbean holiday drink-making class and a Kremas Ice Cream making class.
The Winter Escape: Organized by the Floral Escape, there are elaborate holiday-themed multi-sensory floral experiences set up for endless photo ops such as The Gingerbread Village and Candy Cane Rose Garden. This is all set up at the Queens County Farm Museum.
NYC Holiday Cookie Crawl: This is a new tradition where you can Cookie-taste your way through SoHo and Little Italy on a festive Holiday Cookie Crawl. You will learn how to properly experience your cookie with a guided tasting led by your host and get to know neighborhood shops while supporting small businesses hurting from the lack of tourists during COVID-19. You pay as you go so you only buy what you want to try.
Tips Before Visiting for Christmas Holidays
Dress in Layers: Winter in New York City is usually in the 30s-40s. Therefore, you will want to dress warmly since most of these trees are outside. However, NYC weather is also erratic, so sometimes it is warmer than normal.
Explore Midtown: If you are looking for the most concentration of Christmas holiday displays or things to do, exploring Midtown Manhattan from 34th Street to 50th Streets and from Madison Avenue to 6th Avenue is your best bet!
Be Patient -- New York City is typically crowded. During the holidays, New York City experiences a new level of crowded, which will mean harder to walk around, more people bumping into you, and more people photobombing your picture. A little patience goes a long way!
Be Ready to Move in a Herd: Because it is so crowded, especially by Rockefeller Center and Times Square, be ready to move in a herd with people and follow the flow of traffic.
Give yourself more time for everything. Because of the huge crowds, it will naturally take longer to walk or get a picture. It is best to build in buffer time for each stop you will make.
Make reservations when possible: For any restaurant that you wish to go to, check to see if reservations are an option. This will be a huge help as very often restaurants will have a 1-2 hour wait and sometimes will be booked for the evening. Some restaurants will not allow you to reserve on weekend. Therefore, if you are able to go on a weekday, you will have a better chance.
Get creative for photos: If you do not want people in your photos, you may need to get up during the crack of dawn or explore very late at night. Otherwise, have lots of patience -- whether it is waiting for someone to quickly move or finding a unique angle to take a photo!
Have a plan: You will end up wasting a lot of time and most likely not see everything you want to see without a plan. You should map out all of the places you want to check out so that you can figure out which is closer in proximity -- that will determine the order you see things; hence, saving you time.
Take advantage of restrooms when you see them: You will be doing a lot of walking and potentially eating/drinking. As a result, there will come moments when you need to use the restroom. Sadly, New York City does not have a lot of public restrooms, and the number of clean ones is more limited. Your best option is to go to the bathroom when you stop to eat at a restaurant or visit a museum as it is likely to be clean and have fewer people on line. Otherwise, your next best bet is a Starbucks or Mcdonald’s, but cleanliness will be questionable. Other options include Grand Central Station, Rockefeller Center’s Concourse, the Time Warner Center in Columbus Circle, Macy’s at 34th St and 6th Ave., and the Occulus downtown.
Don’t try to do everything!: There is an endless list of things to check out in New York for the holidays, let alone New York City periodt. It can be very overwhelming. Therefore, create a list of your must-sees and do’s and then list extra things just in case you have time. Remember, what you do not do now is a good excuse to come back next year!
Other Christmas Holiday Blog Posts
For other blog posts to help plan your Christmas Holiday in NYC, check these out: