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Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree 2013
Photograph: Filip Wolak Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

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

By Tim Lowery, Jennifer Picht and Collier Sutter

It's almost the merriest time of year and there are so many Christmas things to do in NYC to put on your list of festivities. From uptown to downtown, the city boasts holiday offerings like the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, light festivals, and the best holiday markets NYC has to offer. Whether you channel your inner grinch or cheery elf during NYC's most wonderful season, we've got you covered with activities.  

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to Christmas in NYC

Check out our Winter Village video: 

Best Christmas things to do in NYC

Bryant Park Winter Village
Photograph: Courtesy Angelito Jusay

1. The Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park

Things to do Markets and fairs

The Winter Village at Bryant Park is back this year in all it's holiday glory. On the grounds you can peruse about 60 shopping and food kiosks—all at one of the best NYC parks. This year will be slightly different given new health and safety protocols, but you can expect loads of handmade, unique and New York City-specific gifts for your family and friends. Work up an appetite at the free, 17,000-square-foot ice-skating rink and then fill up at the rinkside pop-up restaurant called The Lodge Deck for festive cocktails and hearty food.

Photograph: Teddy Wolff

2. Dyker Heights Holiday Lights

Things to do

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. 

best christmas lights nyc
Photograph: Filip Wolak

3. The Rockefeller Christmas Tree

Things to do

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. 

Dyker Heights Christmas Lights
Photograph: Time Out/Ali Garber

4. Stunning holiday lights in NYC

Things to do

New York City transforms into a magical wonderland with millions of holiday lights right after Thanksgiving, giving us over-the-top inflatable Santas and reindeer found at the Dyker Heights Christmas Lights in Brooklyn to more iconic New York displays, such as in Central Park, Rockefeller Center and at Saks Fifth Avenue. More than ever, we're in need of some magic, so take it all in and get ready to “ooh” and “ahh” at these landmarks, holiday markets and neighborhoods that create the most picturesque holiday light displays during the holiday season.

Lord and Taylor
Photograph: Luciana Golcman

5. Holiday Window Displays

Things to do

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.

empire state building skyline
Photograph: Shutterstock

6. The Empire State Building's holiday musical light show

News City Life

The Empire State Building is planning to celebrate the holiday season with technicolor lights and the seasonal sounds. While the world famous tower lights atop the Empire State Building routinely display combinations of colors to mark various occasions and holidays throughout the year, this December, the Empire State Realty Trust and iHeartMedia have teamed up to give it a little extra yuletide pizzaz. Every night leading up to Christmas day—Saturday, Dec 19 to Friday, Dec 25—New Yorkers can tune in for a special song and light display to get into the festive spirit. This light show, designed by lighting artist Marc Brickman, will be synced with Carrie Underwood’s new song “Hallelujah” with John Legend, from her first-ever Christmas album My Gift. The tunes will be broadcasted on iHeartRadio’s Z100 and LiteFM at 8pm.

holiday cruise nyc
Photograph: courtesy Classic Harbor Line

7. Statue & Skyline Holiday Cocoa Cruise

One of the best parts of strolling around holiday markets is sipping a cup of hot cocoa while you people watch. While you can’t do that at Union Square Market this year, instead, you can make for a new tradition: a Statue & Skyline Holiday Cocoa Cruise. The 1920s-vintage style motor yacht called Manhattan will be decked out with holiday decorations and steamy holiday beverages. On this cruise, you’ll be able to still listen to holiday jams, sip on hot cocoa and people watch the most famous New Yorker there is—Lady Liberty!

Grand Central
Photograph: Shutterstock

8. Grand Central's Virtual Holiday Fair

If you want to continue to support small businesses and local merchants while checking off your shopping list, hop over to Grand Central’s Holiday Fair that has gone virtual this year for the first time ever. The website, which is now open to shoppers, will showcase over 40 local artisan vendors using ethically sourced materials. You’ll find anything from men’s and women’s clothing and jewelry, to home accessories and holiday ornaments.

Turnstyle Undergorund Market, nyc, holiday market
Photograph: Courtesy Turnstyle Underground Market

9. Turnstyle Underground Market

News City Life

While you may normally associate a subway trip with commutes, you’re in for a change of pace this holiday season in NYC. The Turnstyle Underground Market has reoopned at the 59th St-Columbus Circle station. For the uninitiated, underground eateries, shops and kiosks inside the corridor sell everything from doughnuts, to natural wine, to ornaments. You don't even need to swipe a MetroCard to get inside the market!

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