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Best Christmas things to do in NYC

Make the most of the holidays with our list of Christmas things to do in NYC, including tree-lightings, gigs and more

Wollman Rink in Central Park
Photograph: Shutterstock
By Tim Lowery and Jennifer Picht |
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Embrace the merriest time of year and start checking these Christmas things to do in NYC off your wish list. The city boasts stalwarts like the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, not to mention festive concerts in NYC, sweet screenings and the best holiday markets NYC has to offer. Not matter how you feel during NYC's most wonderful season (like a grinch, a cheery elf or someone in between), we've got you covered.  

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to Christmas in NYC

Check out our Winter Village video: 

Best Christmas things to do in NYC

1
Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes
Photograph: Paul Kolnik for MSG Entertainment
Theater, Musicals

Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes

You’ll get a kick out of this holiday stalwart, which still features Santa, wooden soldiers and the leggy, dazzling Rockettes. In recent years, new music, more eye-catching costumes and advanced technology have been introduced to bring audience members closer to the performance. Whatever faults one may find with this awesomely lavish annual pageant—it's basically a celebration of the virtues of shopping—this show has legs. 

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Things to do, Performances

Nutcracker Rouge

Company XIV returns with its ribald spin on Tchaikovsky, a dazzling spectacle featuring a top-tier cast of opera singers, aerialists, circus performers and burlesque artists. Keep an eye out for whoever (and whatever) comes crawling out from under Mother Ginger’s dress.

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best christmas lights nyc
Photograph: Filip Wolak
Things to do

The Rockefeller Christmas Tree

The Rockefeller Christmas Tree (NYC’s pride and joy) is a beaming and brilliant symbol of the holiday season. Tourists and even native New Yorkers sure do love this Norway spruce. The trees change, but the annual sense of wonder remains the same. A chance to see the tree light up for the first time this year is well worth fighting the crowds. Read more about the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree lighting including this year's set of performers during the ceremony. 

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<p>Lord &amp; Taylor</p>
Things to do

Holiday Window Displays

The city is filled with elaborate decorations and events, like the extravagant Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree or the many ice-skating spots. But if New York is famous for anything around Christmas time, it might just be its ornate holiday window displays. As always, stores like Barneys, Bloomingdale's, Macy's, Saks Fifth Avenue and more join in to show off their holiday spirit and latest merchandise.

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5
All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914
Photograph: Courtesy Allen Weeks
Theater, Musicals

All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914

Writer-director Peter Rothstein draws from patriotic anthems, war songs, Christmas carols and madieval ballads from multiple countries—as well as texts written by World War I soldiers—in his original musical about the 1914 ceasefires between British and German troops that brought temporary yuletide goodwill to the Great War. Having played in more than 50 cities throughout the U.S. and Canada since its 2007 premiere, the show now makes its Off Broadway debut.

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Viator
Things to do, Walks and tours

Christmas Walking Tour

Take in some of the city's most beautiful holiday decorations on this one-hour trek. After scoping out the tree at Rockefeller Center, you'll make your way toward iconic Radio City Music Hall and other sights.

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Dyker Heights Lights
Photograph: Teddy Wolff
Things to do

Dyker Heights Holiday Lights

Dyker Heights residents take the holidays very seriously: The houses in this nabe are decked out with thousands of lights, life-size toy soldiers, inflatable Santas and more. Take in all the best displays on this 3.5-hour bus tour. 

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Bryant Park Winter Village
Photograph: Courtesy Angelito Jusay
Things to do, Markets and fairs

Bryant Park Winter Village

Out of all the things to do in the fall in NYC, no other event or holiday market receives as much hype as the Bryant Park Winter Village. Why? Because once the 17,000-square-foot ice-skating rink and more than 170 shopping kiosks and food vendors open for business, this means that Christmas in New York has officially arrived.

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9
A Christmas Carol at the Merchant's House
Photograph: Courtesy Joey Stocks
Things to do, Performances

A Christmas Carol at the Merchant's House

In late 1867, Charles Dickens trekked across the Atlantic to spend a month performing his Christmas classic here in NYC. The Merchant’s House Museum reenacts this one-hour performance for modern-day audiences in its old-fashioned museum. If you think A Christmas Carol is enchanting now, just wait until you see it performed by candlelight in a 19th-century home by Dickens—or rather an actor playing the part of the British author. (Bonus: Come early for mulled wine and tasty snacks!)

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Photograph: Courtesy Picasa/Central Par
Things to do

Central Park Holiday Lighting

It just wouldn’t be the holidays if the city weren’t using up enough electricity in a month to power a small country for a decade. For more than 20 years, the Central Park Conservancy has been draping the Charles A. Dana Center in holiday lights and ringing in the season alongside a hot-cocoa-bearing Santa. Families can listen or open a songbook to join in with the Mistletones for some holiday carols. Ice carvers from Okamoto Studios will be carving a nutcracker and a polar bear on site and everyone can watch while they much on some cookies and cocoa.

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11
Holiday Markets
Photograph: Erin Kestenbaum
Shopping

Holiday Markets

If department stores with their holiday windows leave you cold, spend your winter at a holiday market. NYC’s best holiday shopping spots have everything from ice skating to vintage goods for one-of-a-kind presents. 

Want to go ice-skating?

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