Winter and the Holidays in NYC During COVID: The Best Things to Do
- Dec 15, 2020
We may be facing a challenging winter and holiday season, but there’s still no place to be like New York City this time of year. In true New York fashion, the city is making the best of it, and nearly every holiday activity is still available to do – albeit in safe, COVID-adapted ways. It may require a little more planning than usual, but on the bright side, there will be less crowding and pandemonium when you get there!
If you’re comfortable, head out there and celebrate with these 2020-approved holiday happenings in NYC.
Holiday store windows
“Window shopping” takes on a whole new meaning every holiday season in New York City, as famous flagship stores fill their window displays with elaborate decorations. Even if you don’t plan on doing any shopping, 2020’s holiday windows are a gift in and of themselves:
This year’s theme of Give, Love, Believe pays tribute to the first responders, essential workers and protestors who showed “grit, good humor and hopeful spirit during a tumultuous year.”
Saks Fifth Avenue
The 2020 Saks window display at its Fifth Avenue flagship is called This is How We Celebrate, in addition to the annual 10-story-tall theatrical light show. The windows emphasize the importance of spending time with loved ones, and the different ways people celebrate across the world.
Check out Bergdorf Goodness, a series of windows resembling stained glass. The windows feature single words such as love, goodness, peace, joy and equity, brilliantly shiny and glowing.
Inspired by its Give Happy campaign, Bloomingdales’ 2020 windows incorporate cheerful hues in a color block design across five of its Lexington Avenue windows, plus an “entry window” that brings all the colors together in a neon mixture.
Empire State Building
NYC’s most famous building has an all-Star Wars window display full of LEGO models, set in a winter wonderland with dazzling LED lights.
Embrace a new tradition this holiday season and Shine Bright at Hudson Yards. You’re sure to be dazzled by the over two million lights illuminating the attraction.
Others worth a visit:
- Louis Vuitton
- Tiffany & Co.
- Hudson Yards
- David Yurman
The Winter Village at Bryant Park
This annual attraction offers all of your favorite winter and holiday activities in one place. Sponsored by Bank of America, the Winter Village at Bryant Park contains the city’s only free admission ice skating rink; the Holiday Shops; and festive food and drinks at The Lodge Deck by Urbanspace.
This year, you can also cozy up in the Cozy Igloos with friends and family, or curl up to the Curling Café for iceless curling!
Holiday shopping can be stressful, so you might as well make the best of it while giving your credit card a workout. While the eye-catching window displays are enticing, these holiday markets are more than just a local tradition. Support small businesses this year and make your loved ones feel special with homemade treats, unique finds, handmade goods and more!
The Holiday Shops at Bryant Park – Part of the Winter Village at Bryant Park, this is always a hotspot. Be sure to bring your mask given the new health and safety protocols, but expect tons of handmade, unique, NYC-specific treasures.
Grand Central Virtual Holiday Fair – Grand Central Terminal has gone virtual this year for its holiday fair. Shop 60+ artisans and retailers online, all offering direct shipping to the United States.
The Makers Show at City Point – This inaugural market is being held at City Point, Brooklyn’s largest shopping and dining location. Curated by NYC Pride and Da Spot, the market features the works of BIPOC and LGBTQIA creatives.
Brooklyn Flea Dumbo – This holiday season, watch the Brooklyn neighborhood of Dumbo turn into a full-blown holly, jolly shopping district. Check out 40+ vintage and handmade vendors selling an assortment of antiques, furniture, clothing, artwork and jewelry. There’s something for everyone!
Turnstyle Underground Market – Your subway commute just got a bit more exciting this holiday season. Reopening at the 59th St. Columbus Circle station, this pop-up market is completely underground, and has everything you need from late-night treats to an early morning cup of coffee. No MetroCard required!
The Rink at Bank of America Winter Village – Located in the heart of Bryant Park, it is the only FREE ice skating rink in NYC. But don’t let that fool you – the skate rental price is much higher than other rinks. This year you must book in advance, and masks are a must.
The Rink at Rockefeller Center – Soak in the views and holiday cheer right under the iconic Rockefeller Christmas Tree. The Rink is open and offering socially-distant ice skating at reduced capacity now through January 17.
Lasker Rink – This outdoor rink is located on the northern end of Central Park. The rink is considered to be more of a local hotspot, as it doesn’t draw major crowds. They also offer skating lessons!
Wollman Rink – You may recognize this iconic skating rink from the move Serendipity! The rink is accessed from the entrance at 59th Street and Fifth Avenue in Central Park. Make sure you bring your wallet, as this is a cash-only venue.
LeFrak Center at Lakeside – Brooklyn’s beloved Prospect Park features a picturesque rink, offering even more winter activities like hockey and curling.
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 get to 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.
Christmas trees and menorahs
Nothing says the holidays are here like seeing illuminated Christmas trees and menorahs almost everywhere you go in the city. Below are a few points of interest where you can feast your senses upon one. COVID-19 restrictions are likely to be in place, so be sure to plan accordingly.
- Rockefeller Center
- New York Stock Exchange
- The Plaza Hotel
- Madison Square Park
- Bryant Park
- New York Public Library
- Radio City Music Hall
- Washington Square Park
- Lincoln Center
- South Street Seaport
- World’s Largest Menorah
- Brooklyn’s Largest Menorah
Holiday-themed bars and restaurants
The city’s bars and restaurants have been through a lot this year, but many are still getting in the holiday spirit. With indoor dining suspended, they’re also getting creative with their outdoor setups, keeping things festive, cozy and warm inside makeshift igloos, yurts, mini cabins and more. Bundle up and show these establishments your support.
SERRA Stellata – In the Woods – This rooftop restaurant at Eataly NYC Flatiron is inspired by starry nights in the Italian forest.
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 two NYC locations: one on West 8th Street (Greenwich Village) and another on East 9th Street (Alphabet City).
The Winter Garden at The Standard, East Village – Cozy up in a private alpine yurts, or outside (with heaters!) among the twinkling evergreens, and enjoy raclette burgers, fresh oysters, brick chicken, spiked hot chocolate, gooey fondue, freshly baked gingerbread cookies and more. Just be willing to meet the minimum spend of $100 per person.
The Forest at The Standard, High Line – Drink and dine in this lush enclave of evergreens, with an outdoor movie theater screening holiday classics and a full winter menu of hot drinks and bites.
Igloo Bar at 230 Fifth Rooftop – Drink in a heated, transparent igloo on a rooftop with spectacular views of the city. The igloos are first come, first served and each can accommodate up to 10 guests at a time. As you wait for one to become available, keep warm in one of their complimentary red robes.
The Pink Snow Lodge at Magic Hour Rooftop Bar & Lounge at Moxy Times Square – Live the après-ski life in NYC at The Pink Snow Lodge, a rooftop outdoor dining experience, complete with floor-to-ceiling pink log walls, faux-pink taxidermy, a pink electric fireplace, a ski lift “carousel” and pink hot cocoa. Stay warm with 15 outdoor heaters.
Haven Rooftop – Stay warm at this picturesque rooftop retreat with heat lamps, fleece blankets, buffalo plaid pillows and archways decked out in frosted branches and twinkling fairy lights.
Arlo SoHo – You’ll feel like you’re on an upstate NY getaway without leaving downtown at this seasonal pop-up in the courtyard of the Arlo Soho hotel. Reserve a private, heated cedar cabin for small group dining, each decorated with ribbons, wreaths, garland and trees galore. Warm up even more with truffle pizza and mulled wine.
Industry Kitchen – Hunker down in your own private, heated greenhouse at this waterfront spot, spruced up with red and green lights, frosted wreaths, gold-trimmed ribbons and holiday tunes.