Holiday attractions in New York City
From the fairytale-inspired display at Saks Fifth Avenue to the avant-garde ode to New York landmarks at Bergdorf Goodman, the holiday windows along Fifth Avenue are truly something special to behold. It wouldn’t be Christmas in New York without them. Stroll the famed shopping avenue solo, or join a group walking tour to learn some behind-the-scenes information.
The enormous 18th-century Spanish choir screen is usually the showstopper in the Medieval Sculpture Hall, but for two months of the year, it has to give up the spotlight to the spectacular 20-foot blue spruce Christmas tree decorated with gorgeous angel ornaments robed in real silk. An 18th-century Neapolitan nativity scene at the base of the tree completes the scene. Time your visit to the Met to the daily tree lighting ceremony at 4:30pm for an even better experience.
Forget the Empire State Building or Rockefeller Center: The light displays in this South Brooklyn neighborhood put every Manhattan landmark to shame. Residents go all out with 15-foot-tall Santas, lights synchronized to music, life-sized reindeer and more. It’s no wonder why nearly 100,000 sightseers flock to Dyker Heights each year.
Botanical gardens don’t usually seem like festive places to go to get into the Christmas spirit; They’re usually filled with more tropical plants and exotic blooms than holly or ivy. The New York Botanical Garden’s beloved Holiday Train Show might be the one exception to the rule. Every year, visitors queue to watch tiny trains chug down a track lined with 150 plant-based scale models of New York landmarks. This year’s display puts the spotlight on classic Midtown skyscrapers like the Empire State Building and St. Bartholomew's Church.
The first Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center went up in 1931, starting a holiday tradition that is still going strong more than eight decades later. This year’s 78-foot, 10-ton Norway Spruce at Rockefeller Center is certainly the biggest Christmas tree in the five boroughs, if not the country. Spend a chilly December afternoon skating around the rink and taking in its majestic branches draped with decorations.
Cliché as it might be, there’s something special about gliding around an ice rink in the middle of Central Park. From Wollman Rink, you get a view of Midtown skyscrapers in one direction and the park’s trees in the other. Rom-com fans will also appreciate the chance to skate on the rink featured in Serendipity.
You haven’t fully celebrated Christmas in New York until you see the high-kicking Rockettes in the aptly named Christmas Spectacular. With live animals, countless Santas and the legendary toy soldiers number, the show should be at the top of your must-see list. Don’t forget to check out the cute tree-shaped light display on top of the marquee before you leave Radio City Music Hall.
Like many New York landmarks, the American Museum of Natural History has its own holiday tree. Instead of glass baubles and colorful ribbons, this 13-foot tree is decorated entirely with paper origami ornaments folded by hand. This year’s tree features models inspired by the new exhibit on the five senses, such as hands, eyes, balancing figures and optical illusions. Volunteers started folding the ornaments (more than 1,000!) in March.
In addition to their always-fun animated holiday window displays, Macy’s continues the holiday cheer inside its flagship store at Herald Square. Shoppers can slip inside Santaland, a 13,000–square foot Christmas Village, on the 8th floor and shop for all kinds of festive goodies at Holiday Lane on the 9th floor. Families with little ones will also want to make a reservation to meet Santa. As everyone knows from Miracle on 34th Street, the real Santa is the one at Macy’s in Herald Square.
Looking for more festive things to do in NYC?
When the temperature drops, that means it’s time to go ice-skating in NYC