The Holidays in NYC: Everything to See and Do


Gabriel Rodríguez from Sevilla, Spain [CC BY-SA]

Powdery snow. Christmas trees and menorahs all over the city. Elaborately decorated store windows. Ice skating rinks. Holiday markets. The Rockettes.

There’s no time like the holidays in NYC. Year after year, everyone from first-time visitors to the most jaded longtime residents are captivated by this magical season. It only comes once a year and passes by in the blink of an eye, so if you want to take advantage of all there is to see and do, use the following list to guide your holiday excursions.

Holiday store windows

Window shopping takes on a whole new meaning during the holidays in NYC, as store after store adorn their windows with holiday decorations that are a gift in and of themselves. Even if you don’t plan on buying anything, the following holiday store windows are worth a glance:

  • Bergdorf Goodman
  • Bloomingdale’s
  • Saks Fifth Avenue
  • Macy’s Herald Square
  • Nordstrom
  • Louis Vuitton
  • Cartier (also a popular Instagram photo-op)
  • Tiffany & Co.

Holiday markets

Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park

Looking to eat, drink and be merry while buying one-of-a-kind holiday gifts for your loved ones – or perhaps yourself? Look no further than NYC’s numerous pop-up holiday markets throughout the city. These markets sell anything from handmade crafts to custom clothing to gourmet hot chocolate. Our favorites include:

  • Turnstyle Underground Holiday Market – 39 eateries, shops and pop-ups, 19 food vendors, 10 retail stores and 10 kiosks, all connected to the 59th St-Columbus Circle subway station.
  • Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park – Widely considered the best holiday market in the city. Browse the Holiday Shops and buy some gifts, or visit The Lodge by Urbanspace for festive food and drinks.
  • Grand Central Holiday Fair – One of the longest-running indoor holiday fairs in NYC. Marvel at Grand Central’s beautiful architecture as you browse 40 vendors selling artwork, clothing, accessories, toys and home goods.
  • Grand Holiday Bazaar – Through December 30, drop by this Upper West Side marketplace any Sunday to shop gifts and eats from 150+ rotating local merchants. The market also supports the community by donating 100% of its profits to four of the neighborhood’s public schools.
  • Union Square Holiday Market – You can’t beat the location, abundance and originality of this European-style winter market. Hop off the subway at Union Square and enter a winter wonderland of more than 150 local and national vendors, plus holiday comfort food purveyors like Veselka Pierogi Bar, Arancini Bros and Sigmund’s Pretzels. 
  • Columbus Circle Holiday Market – Right at the southwest entrance to Central Park, you’ll find over 100 booths selling art, jewelry, home goods and delicious eats from local artisans and designers.

Ice skating

U.S. Tourist Attractions

Think the only place to go ice skating in NYC this time of year is at Rockefeller Center? In actuality, there are over a dozen indoor and outdoor rinks available for lacing up your skates and hitting the ice, such as:

  • The Rink at Rockefeller Center – We just had to include this one – it’s only perhaps the most well-known outdoor ice skating rink in the country. Skate in front of the glorious Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, then warm up with some hot chocolate at one of the on-site cafes as you watch the other skaters.
  • The Rink at Brookfield Place – This lesser-known seasonal skating rink is located right on the Hudson River waterfront in Lower Manhattan, with views of the Statue of Liberty. It also holds special events like ice concerts starring Olympic figure skaters.
  • Wollman Rink – It doesn’t get any more quintessential New York than ice skating in Central Park. Glide across the ice with winter foliage and the NYC skyline in the backdrop.
  • The Rink at Bryant Park – In addition to the Winter Village, Bryant Park also boasts an outdoor ice rink during the holiday season. The 17,000-square-foot rink features free admission ice skating, skate rentals and free skating shows, events and activities. You can even ride bumper cars on the ice!
  • LeFrak Center at Lakeside – Brooklyn’s beloved Prospect Park features a picturesque rink offering ice skating, figure skating, curling, hockey and broomball in the winter.

The Dyker Heights Christmas lights

In search of some good old-fashioned suburban Christmas lights? Look no further than the residential Brooklyn neighborhood of Dyker Heights, which goes all out with its holiday decorations each year. The entire community participates, creating what the New York Times famously called the “undisputed capital of Christmas pageantry.”

To reach Dyker Heights by subway, take the Brooklyn-bound D train to the 79th Street station. From there, walk about 15 minutes to the area between 11th and 13th Avenue and 83rd to 86th Street. You can also take a guided bus tour departing from Union Square in Manhattan courtesy of A Slice of Brooklyn.

Christmas trees and menorahs

Nothing says the holidays are here like seeing illuminated Christmas trees and menorahs almost everywhere you go in the city. Here are a few points of interest where you can feast your eyes (and nose) upon one:

  • Rockefeller Center
  • New York Stock Exchange
  • The Plaza Hotel
  • Lotte New York Palace
  • Madison Square Park
  • Bryant Park
  • New York Public Library
  • Radio City Music Hall
  • Washington Square Park
  • Lincoln Center
  • South Street Seaport
  • Tavern on the Green
  • World’s Largest Menorah
  • Brooklyn’s Largest Menorah

The Radio City Rockettes

Rockettes Christmas Spectacular at Radio City

A memorable and iconic way to kick off your holiday celebrations – literally – is by seeing the Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes. Shows run two to five times daily through January 5 at Radio City Music Hall, including on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Ticket prices vary based on day, time and seating, but cost anywhere from $25 to $300+. If you’re a Chase cardholder, you can access reserved seats and some of the best showtimes.

Model train shows

The Holiday Train Show at The New York Botanical Garden

This miniature holiday wonderland at the NYBG features model trains zipping through a display of more than 175 famous New York landmarks, each crafted from natural materials such as birch bark, acorns and cinnamon sticks. 2019’s show focuses on Central Park’s beautiful landscape fashioned in mosses and hollies, including architectural treasures like Belvedere Castle. Attend on select dates and times for Bar Car Nights, reserved exclusively for adults 21 and over to grab a drink and get an after-dark viewing of the exhibit.

Holiday Train Show at Grand Central Terminal

Each year the New York Transit Museum’s Grand Central Gallery, located in Grand Central Terminal, creates a city within a city through its miniature electric railroad making its way past New York’s most magnificent landmarks. The 2019 exhibit is set against a mural designed by cartoonist Julia Wertz. Departing from a miniature replica of Grand Central Terminal, the collection of model Lionel trains includes the Metro-North, the Polar Express and vintage subway cars.

Holiday-themed bars and restaurants

The holidays in NYC aren’t just for the kiddos. Adults can have their fun too, thanks to an array of bars and restaurants that get decked out for the season and serve festive food and drinks. Plenty of winter “pop-ups” are also available for a limited time and offer one-of-a-kind experiences. Hit up one or more of these establishments this year before they’re gone or take the decorations down:

  • Rolf’s – Around 100,000 lights, 15,000 ornaments and 800 dolls fill every inch of this small German restaurant every holiday season. Lines get quite long, so make a reservation or be prepared to wait.
  • SERRA by Birreria – This rooftop restaurant at Eataly NYC Flatiron will transport you to the Italian Alps.
  • Miracle – “With kitschy holiday décor, professionally-developed cocktails and the nostalgic energy of the best office party you’ve ever been to, Miracle is sure to get even the grouchiest grinch in the holiday spirit,” says Miracle’s website. This year, the pop-up has three NYC locations: one in Downtown Brooklyn and two in the East Village.
  • Winter Garden at The Standard, East Village – Cozy up with hot cider, mulled wine and fondue in an alpine yurt. Just be willing to meet the minimum spend of $100 per person.
  • Igloo Bar at 230 Fifth Rooftop – Drink in a heated, transparent igloo on a rooftop with spectacular views of the city. Igloo space is first come, first served, with no minimum spend or entrance fee. As you wait for one, keep warm in one of their complimentary red robes.

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