Best Things to do in NYC During the Holidays

New York City is a vibrant city any time of year but it seems to have a special energy during the holiday season. If you are visiting the Big Apple with kids here are some of the best things to do in NYC during the holidays.

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
If you are in NYC over Thanksgiving then your whole family will be thankful to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade! There are giant balloons in the shapes of classic characters like Mickey Mouse and the Pillsbury Dough Boy and live performers marching by or riding in floats.

Tip: The best way to see the parade is to stay in a hotel on the parade route like New York Hilton Midtown.

Best things to do in NYC Christmas - Elf at Thanksgiving Day Parade
Elf on the Shelf is one of the festive balloons at Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in NYC.

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree
The New York Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center is a nationwide symbol of the holiday. It stands 70-100 feet tall and is covered with brilliant lights. It is the tallest tree our family has seen and makes for a great photo opportunity with the kids.

Tip: The tree is usually lit the first Wednesday after Thanksgiving but is standing without lights earlier in November.

Ice Skating
Ice Skating at Rockefeller Center is a memorable holiday activity for kids of all ages. There are not many things more festive than practicing your twirls underneath the enormous Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. Wear warm clothes and gloves, be prepared for lines during the busiest times, rent your skates when you get there and get ready for an exhilarating experience at an iconic rink!

Tip: To avoid a long wait during busy times you can pay a premium price for a visit with Santa and a reserved skating time.

Best things to do in NYC Christmas - Rockefeller Center Ice Skating Rink
Ice Skating at Rockefeller Center is one of the best things to do in NYC during the holidays.

Radio City Christmas Spectacular
The extravagant theater, the lively Christmas songs and of course the synchronized dancers at the Radio City Christmas Spectacular create the perfect Christmas atmosphere. With their high kicks and coordinated moves, the Rockettes never disappoint and the 3-D Santa is a fun treat for high-tech kids. Sitting in the audience was like being a part of a long-standing New York Christmas tradition.

Tip: At 1 1/2 hours and with no intermission this Radio City Christmas Spectacular is suitable even for younger kids.

Visiting Santaland
You may have visited with Santa before, but you have probably never been to Santaland! Located at Macy’s Herald Square on West 34th Street in NYC, Santaland takes up 13,000 square feet on the 8th floor. Besides talking to Santa, visitors will see live elves, an enchanted forest, giant toy soldiers, decorated trees and a train display. It is open from the day after Thanksgiving until Christmas Eve when Santa Claus returns to the North Pole.

Tip: If you download the Macy’s app on a smart phone you can avoid the long lines by making an appointment for a specific time for a visit and photos with Santa. You will not get the experience of walking through the Winter Wonderland but you could save yourself up to three hours of waiting!

Store Windows
The elaborate designs, music and light shows at the major department stores in New York City are truly a sight to see. Some tell a story and others have more general themes but they all offer a stunning visual delight. There are roped off lines and usually a starting and ending point if you want to follow the full story at a particular store.

Tip: Currently Saks Fifth Avenue has a full light show set to music that runs every 10 minutes later in the day.

Best things to do in NYC Christmas - Window Display
The department store window displays are colorful and elaborate during the holiday season.

City Decorations
Simply walking around the city and seeing the building decorations and enormous Christmas sculptures is a fun activity for kids. From trains to Christmas ornaments to stars hanging in the sky there is something to look at everywhere you turn.

There is so much to do in New York City during the winter holidays and hopefully this list will help you and your family make the most of a special holiday trip!

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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!

This post was written by Hilton Suggests Team Member, Susan K. Are you interested in traveling to New York City? Let us know if we can help you with any other recommendations. Tweet us for more great local travel tips!

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