A Guide to Christmas in New York
Christmas is arguably the most magical, wonderful time of the year in New York. During the holiday period, New York transforms into a fairytale-like winter wonderland filled with exciting places to visit, performances to take in, and festive places to eat. Our guide will help you plan a visit to the big apple during this merriest time of year.
Theater and Performances
Visitors and locals alike get a kick out of holiday favorite, Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes. Mixing classic features like wooden soldiers, Santa Claus, and the fabulous Rockettes with modern technology, updated music, and contemporary costumes, this beloved show manages to stay fresh and mesmerizing. Partake in the festivities from November 8 through January 5.
See Tchaikovsky’s beloved ballet as you’ve never seen it before at Nutcracker Rouge with a sensual vibe. Famed choreographer Austin McCormick has reimagined the Nutcracker story featuring circus performers, opera singers, burlesque acts, and aerialists. The performance runs from October 14 through January 26.
For the PG version of The Nutcracker, head over to David H. Koch Theater for George Balanchine’s interpretation. Tchaikovsky’s Christmas ballet is performed by 90 dancers, 62 musicians, 40 stagehands, and more than 125 children from the School of American Ballet for much holiday cheer.
Places to Visit
The holidays wouldn’t be the same in New York without a visit to the magical Rockefeller Christmas Tree. From December 4, when the tree is lit, through the holidays, a visit to see the giant spruce is a must. Rockefeller Center Plaza also welcomes tourists and Big Apple residents at the Rink at Rockefeller Center from October 12 through the holiday season and beyond to Easter.
For the most breathtaking views of all of Midtown’s holiday decorations and lights, be sure to make your way to Top of the Rock. From 70 stories above ground, visitors can view snowy Central Park, the twinkling lights of 5th Avenue, the majestic aforementioned Rockefeller Christmas Tree, and all the way to New Jersey and the outer boroughs.
Holiday window displays are part of New York’s Christmas DNA, and stores like Barneys, Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, and others unofficially compete with each other to put on the glitziest, cheeriest displays showing true holiday spirit while showcasing their latest merchandise.
Holiday markets are all the rage in Manhattan during the holidays, and the one that receives the most hype is the Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park. The market features a 17,000-square-foot ice skating rink and over 150 shopping and food kiosks. Celebrations will take place from October 26 through January 2.
Other holiday market favorites are the Columbus Circle Holiday Market with its festive atmosphere and 100+ holiday booths that will run December 4 through December 24. For those visiting the downtown area, the European Union Square Holiday Market with 150+ vendors has a traditional European marketing vibe reminiscent of the holiday markets in Germany and runs from November 21 through December 24.
This New York landmark, Tavern on the Green, is the perfect place to stop for a libation and for viewing the Christmas tree, holiday lights, and live jazz. Spiced cider anyone?
Steak lovers should head to Keen’s Steakhouse where the dark-wooded interior is adorned by festive wreaths and ribbons.
For over-the-top Christmas decorations, head over to Rolf’s German Restaurant, the kitschy Gramercy Park German restaurant.
Gotham Bar & Grill’s classy creamed-colored interior is dressed up in shades of white and with brightly lit Christmas trees during the holidays.
Get in the holiday spirit at Industry Kitchen with its chalet atmosphere and extreme decorations, including life-size reindeer families, giant nutcrackers, Christmas trees, and wreaths.
Expect a ceiling is covered in bright lights, a variety of wreaths, ornaments, and garlands peppering the restaurant at Pete’s Tavern, a landmark NYC bar founded in 1864. Don’t miss the impressive holiday window display.
Whatever the mood, budget, and preferred activity, Christmas in New York is certain to put visitors in the holiday spirit. From viewing festive window displays along 5th Avenue to shopping at one of the Christmas markets to seeing the Rockettes show at Radio City Music Hall, the Big Apple offers something for everyone.
Know Before You Go
- Opt for walking tours instead of bus tours if you want to eliminate the issue of traffic – just make sure to pack comfortable shoes!
- If you bring your own ice skates, Bryant Park allows you to ice skate for free in the winter.
- The Bronx Zoo is pay-what-you-wish on Wednesdays.
- Utilize the New York Subway to travel like a local – it’s also a great way to avoid traffic!