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How To Celebrate Christmas in New York City

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New York City is filled with opportunities to experience the holiday season. Whether you’re looking for something traditional, like seeing the famous Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, or want to mix things up, like taking a self-guided tour of some of the city’s most spectacular homes during the holidays.

New York has plenty of opportunities to get into the spirit of things. This article explores some of New York’s best Christmas events and activities. Read on for information about where you can celebrate this time-honored holiday in New York and how to make your visit more festive.

I have included everything you need to know about visiting New York, from where to stay to what to see and do. Plus, this Travel Itinerary Template is the perfect way to organize your trip. It comes with everything you need to plan your trip from start to finish – from a modern, minimal design to a classic and elegant look.

Read also: NYC at Christmas: 10 Mistakes to Avoid

Times Square and  The Rockefeller Center Ice Rink

The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

Perhaps the famous tree at Rockefeller Center is the most iconic image of New York City during the holiday season. This 80-foot Norway spruce is decked yearly with thousands of lights, ornaments, and other decorations.

This popular New York destination offers other holiday traditions as well, including a live broadcast of WNBC’s Today Show and a visit from Santa Claus and his helpers, as well as other special events, including a tree-lighting ceremony, the Rockefeller Center Caroling Festival, the Rockettes’ Christmas Spectacular, and a holiday ice skating rink.

The tree is in the middle of the iconic Rockefeller Plaza, between 48th and 51st Streets. The best way to get there is to take the B, D, F, or M trains to 47-50th Street/Rockefeller Center.

How to Celebrate Christmas in New York City

With all that New York offers at this time of year, it might be challenging to decide where to start. Here are a few ideas if you’re wondering how to celebrate Christmas in New York City. You could: Take a scenic helicopter ride over the city.

That’s a great way to see the city from a different perspective and will also get you in the holiday spirit as you’ll fly over the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree and other iconic landmarks. Explore the world-famous Metropolitan Museum of Art – The Met’s Christmas Spectacular exhibition is a must for anyone visiting New York during the holidays.

If you’re planning on visiting near the end of the year, you might want to reserve tickets in advance. Experience the magic of Times Square – New York Times Square is one of the most iconic locations in the world. It’s also a great place to experience the excitement and magic of the season.

Hot Chocolate Tour

The city’s annual Hot Chocolate Festival is a great way to add a touch of whimsy to your Christmas celebrations. This event is held on select dates in December and includes a self-guided walk through the city’s downtown area, where visitors can learn about and sample different types of hot chocolate.

This event is best for families with children, as there are various activities for kids, including a workshop where young visitors can make chocolate creations. When visiting the various vendors, you can sample a variety of hot chocolate flavors, from traditional to adventurous, and vote for your favorites.

You can also learn about the history of hot chocolate and how it’s made. The Hot Chocolate Festival’s route covers a few blocks along Broadway and Fifth Avenue, between West 35th and West 48th Streets. You can pick up a map at one of the event’s information hubs or download the event app.

Dwelling in Darkness: A Self-guided Halloween Tour of NYC

If you’re visiting the city during the Halloween season, you might also want to add a self-guided walking tour of some of New York’s most haunted houses and buildings to your itinerary.

This tour, called “Dwelling in Darkness: A Self-guided Halloween Tour of Haunted New York,” visits such spooky sites as the Dakota apartment building, where you can take a look inside and find out about the murder that took place there, and the Church of the Intercession, where you can see some very creepy stained glass windows. There are several other stops, and a route map is available to download.

Admire the Thanksgiving Day Parade 

Thanksgiving is a symbolic date in the United States. Celebrated on the 4th Thursday of November, this holiday gives thanks for the good harvest and the beautiful things that happened during the year. 

Usually celebrated with the family, Thanksgiving is the occasion of many celebrations in the United States, especially in New York. For the occasion, the department store Macy’s organizes a parade, now historic! Floats with the effigy of characters and celebrities parade in the streets of New York for 3 hours. This year, it will start near the American Museum of Natural History on November 24th at 9 am.

Radio City Christmas Show

If you want to see a spectacular show during your New York visit, you won’t find anything more festive than the Radio City Christmas Show. This musical production includes dance numbers and songs and is performed inside the famous Radio City Music Hall, a landmark building that is worth visiting in its own right.

This show has been performed every year since 1933 and has become a New York holiday tradition, so it’s best to book tickets in advance. The best way to get there is to take the subway to 50th Street and walk over to the corner of Sixth Avenue and 50th Street.

The New York Christmas Eve Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral

One of the most beautiful Christmas Eve Masses in New York takes place at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the world’s largest Catholic church. You can attend this mass and enjoy the grandeur of this historic building, which features ornate architecture and gorgeous stained glass windows.

You can also take advantage of the many restaurants and cafes near the cathedral, which open on Christmas Eve and offer special menus to celebrate the holiday. If you’re visiting during the Christmas season, you can attend a Christmas Eve Mass at St. Patrick’s, one of the year’s most beautiful services.

Read also: Christmas Markets in Europe, from Christmass tree to gingerbread and mulled wine

Walk in Central Park

Central Park, the gigantic park in the heart of Manhattan, covers 341 hectares! That leaves you plenty of room for long walks. Even during winter, Central Park has charm, and you will enjoy the footpaths, the lakes, or animal watching. Indeed, the park is home to many squirrels, fish, birds, rabbits, marmots, and raccoons. During your walk, don’t miss these must-sees: 

  • The Mall, also called The Promenade: is the large pedestrian avenue that crosses Central Park
  • Bethesda Fountain: the most famous fountain in Central Park, which leads to The Lake, one of the lakes of Central Park
  • Bow Bridge: one of the most romantic bridges in the park 
  • Sheep Meadow: the large grassy area with a view of the skyscrapers 
  • Belvedere Castle: the reconstruction of a medieval castle that offers a beautiful view of the park and its surroundings
  • The Pond, also called The Reservoir: is one of the lakes in Central Park, a favorite spot for joggers
  • Strawberry Fields: the memorial dedicated to John Lennon 

Harry Potter’s Holiday Feast at Carnegie Hall

If you’re a fan of Harry Potter, you won’t want to miss the Carnegie Hall Harry Potter’s Holiday Feast, a one-of-a-kind event in New York. This concert includes renditions of favorite songs from the Harry Potter series and snacks inspired by various magical creatures and items from the books.

You can also pick up a souvenir or two, as there are Harry Potter-themed items for sale at the event. That’s a very family-friendly event; you can expect to see plenty of kids in costumes.

Ice skating in one of the three most iconic rinks in New York 

  1. Bryant Park ice skating

The Bryant Park Ice Rink is the main attraction at the Bank of America Winter Village in the heart of Bryant Park. Access to the rink is free, but you must have a reservation to skate. In addition, there is a fee for skate and locker rentals. 

The rink is generally open from late November through March. 

Bryant Park ice skating
  1.  The Rockefeller Center Ice Rink

At the foot of the Rockefeller Center tree is the ice rink. Also very present in Christmas movies, this place has something magical at Christmas time. You will have to pay 20 USD per person to be able to skate there, but it is worth it! Of course, you can buy tickets on the website to avoid the lines. The Rockefeller Center ice rink is usually open from November to April. 

 The Rockefeller Center Ice Rink
  1. Dinner at a Christmas-themed restaurant 

Every year, more and more restaurants and bars decorate their establishments for the holidays. While strolling down the street and keeping your eyes open, you can see many of them. 

Some are known for their ambiance and impressive decorations. However, if you want to dine there, you’ll probably have to make reservations in advance! Eating at a restaurant on December 24, 25, or 31 is not something you can improvise, so reserve a few days or weeks in advance. 

Among them, Rolf’s German Restaurant remains an institution for Christmas. The decoration of this restaurant located in the Gramercy district is imposing. Reservations are required unless you want to wait for hours in the cold…! 

Otherwise, you can always opt for a restaurant or bar with a view of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, such as Morrel Wine & Café. Others like The Terrace Club or the Brasserie Ruhlmann are open in season. 

Rolf's German Restaurant
Rolf’s German Restaurant

Read also: The 15 most Festive Christmas Bars in New York City

Watch the Saks Holiday Light Show

This incredible light show takes place on the façade of the luxury department store Saks. Theatrical, even magical, this is a must-see activity during your stay in New York on Christmas and New Year’s Day.

The store is located between 49th Avenue and 5th Avenue. The show usually takes place from the end of November, around Thanksgiving, until the end of December, every 10 minutes between 4:35 and 11:35 pm. It lasts about 5 minutes. 

I will reveal to you the best spot to see the show. It is, of course, from Rockefeller Center! 

Saks Holiday Light Show

The Central Park skating rink: Wollman Rink

Located in the heart of Central Park, between the trees and the skyscrapers, the Wollman Ice Rink is also enchanting. This iconic rink has been open for over 70 years!

My favorite one is bigger than the two mentioned above, but it’s also less crowded. The ideal place to skate in peace! You will also have to buy the tickets online, so count 14 USD per person at off-peak hours and 23 USD per person at peak hours, especially on weekends. The Central Park ice rink is open from mid-November to April. 


There are many ways to celebrate Christmas in New York, from attending a beautiful Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral to taking a helicopter ride over the city and seeing it in a different light. Many spectacular events and activities take place during the Christmas season in New York, so you’re sure to find something festive and fun to do with your family and friends.

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Christmas in New York City

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