If you’re looking for the best Christmas things to do in NYC, then why not stay at the most festive hotels? New York's elaborate Christmassy window displays may get all the attention in December, but hotels in Manhattan go all out in their holiday decor too. Whether you want to take in 30-foot Christmas trees or visit a pop-up winter wonderland (complete with bookable yurts), the city’s hotels deck their halls to get everyone, from the Grinch to Buddy the Elf, in the holiday spirit.
RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best hotels in NYC
Best Christmas hotels in NYC
Nowhere does Christmas quite like The Palace. First of all, the glowing 30-foot tree that stands proud behind the iron gates of the hotel's courtyard is an impressive sight to behold. Secondly, The Palace is an official partner of the world-renowned Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes. They even offer a special package if you're staying for more than two nights, which includes a popcorn & beverage voucher for the show and a Rockettes tote. For those just passing through, however, be sure to step into the lobby so you can also gaze upon the two smaller trees at the top of the mansion’s grand staircase, then we'd advise popping over to Saks Fifth Avenue’s light show, just one block away.
The team at The Plaza works overnight on Thanksgiving to dress up the entire hotel, so guests wake up surprised the next morning. Huge wreaths and garlands covered in ornaments and twinkling lights are strung up on every window surroudning the entrance, while at the Fifth Avenue entrance an 18-foot tree with 5,000 lights and 500 ornaments shows off proudly, giving the hotel's iconic crystal chandeliers a run for their money. The Plaza at Christmas is also a must-see for any fans of 'Home Alone 2', as one of the filming locations.
For such an eccentric hotel in the trendy Meatpacking District, we'd expect nothing less than quirky when it comes to their holiday decor. Last year they turned their rooftop bar into a 'Midwinter night's Dream', complete with a Christmas light tunnel and candy cane cocktails. Previous years have seen the lobby morph into an alpine lodge with a taxidermied polar bear and snow leopard, as well as an 'Outdoor Ice Bar' with life-sized moving penguins dressed in suits at an igloo bar.
During the holidays, the highlight of the Four Seasons’ Art Deco-inspired lobby, with its 33-foot ceilings and limestone walls, is a 25-foot artificial tree. Wrapped in 100 feet of custom-made garland and accented with 12,000 lights, red bows and large red, gold and silver ornaments, it takes 10 sets of hands and nine hours to assemble. The tree goes up every year on the day after Thanksgiving. The rest of the lobby gets subtly adorned with poinsettias and a gingerbread village created by executive pastry chef Jasmina Bojic. A team of six pastry chefs and carpenters spend three weeks baking, icing and building the village. Find it in the Garden restaurant.
The Parker's ornate marble lobby has always delighted—need we mention the secret, divey Burger Joint behind a burgundy curtain or the 'knights of the realm' styled cafe bar Knave. It’s no surprise then that the hotel’s holiday programming goes beyond trees and garlands. In the past, the Parker has hosted an annual “Gingerbread Extravaganza” showcasing cookie structures made by local bakeries and pastry chefs. But more recently the hotel has given over its 56th Street atrium (plus a little of outside) to a Christmas market, selling everything from food to jewelry to homeware.
The Peninsula’s holiday decor is perfect to gawp at from the street. The hotel goes all out on its exteriors, incorporating hundreds of feet of garland, ornaments, lights, small trees, poinsettias and winter flowers, and two reindeer statues. Inside, The Peninsula lights a tree on its East Terrace at Salon de Ning overlooking Fifth Avenue. Carollers regularly sing in the bedecked lobby (think: lots more garlands, reindeer and trees).
Like other New York hotels, the Waldorf adds a huge tree to its main Park Avenue lobby. The 16-foot wonder is made of gold Magnolia leaves with 3,000 lights. The same gilded leaves are used in garlands on banisters and wreaths, and the hotel’s signature bronze World’s Fair Clock gets trimmed with hand-blown glass ornaments. Outside, the Park Avenue facade features 6,000 lights spread across six, six-foot wreaths.
For the past few years The Standard, East Village has transformed its year-round garden into a winter wonderland from late November through to the following March. Visitors can take advantage of heated yurts – the perfect place to dine on gruyere fondues and fried apple pies, washed down with mulled wine and hot 'spiked' drinks. The Standard also host a Christmas tree market with Fraser firs provided by Williamsburg’s Crest Hardware.
Like the hotel itself, the St. Regis’s holiday decor is best described as timeless. Nutcrackers flank each side of the 55th Street entrance and, inside, garlands and ornaments are wrapped along banisters and walls. For the holidays, the hotel also hosts workshops for the little ones (like gingerbread decorating) and gives its Cognac Room a makeover – last year a giant twinkling tree and menorah stole the show.
Another hotel with a simple, classic take on its holiday design is the Gramercy. The lobby and Rose Bar, which both feel festive already thanks to the red rugs and velvet furniture used in both spaces, receive trees with gold paper-wrapped presents underneath.
Holiday trees and garlands pop up in every corner at The Pierre, but what makes the hotel special at Christmas time are the Enjoy some of the scrummiest hot chocolate at Two E, the hotel’s Art Deco bar and lounge for high tea in the afternoon and cocktails in the evening.
At Christmastime, the Ritz-Carlton’s trimmings are all about simplicity, with nods to the hotel’s proximity to Central Park. Wreaths and garland with blue ornaments and gold leaves are hung throughout the lobby. One tree stands in the Star Lounge, adorned in red and gold ornaments and small ice skates—a nod to the Wollman Ice Rink a few blocks away. For views of the skaters, book the hotel’s Park View rooms and suites.
The Carlyle’s elegant black-and-white-marbled lobby and Art Deco splendor already make us feel cozy in the winter. But add elegant garlands and trees—covered in silver, black and white ornaments, ribbons and lights—and we’ll linger longer in the lobby’s plush yellow arm chairs. If you happen to be there on Christmas Day, you'll even get a visit from Santa. It's also worth checking out the events programme at Cafe Carlyle, where their cabaret evenings get a little festive.