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Dyker Heights Christmas Lights
Photograph: Teddy Wolff

9 New York attractions you have to visit during the holidays

Get in the holiday spirit by visiting festive New York attractions with spectacular Christmas displays

By Annalise Mantz

‘Tis the season for Christmas trees, blinking lights and seasonal sparkle at all of New York City’s holiday attractions. This time of year, all of the landmarks, museums and iconic New York attractions get decked out in their red and green finery. Whether you want to see the most over-the-top light displays, fanciest department store windows or tallest tree, New York City’s festive decorations will put you in the holiday spirit before you know it. Check out all of the spectacular decorations on Christmas tours in NYC or just stroll through Midtown to marvel at all the splendor. Since most holiday attractions remain up until the first week of January, you’ll have plenty of time to see every landmark on your list.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to Christmas in New York

Holiday attractions in New York City

Saks Fifth Avenue and Disney unveil “Once Upon a Holiday”, 2017 Holiday Windows and Light Show

Fifth Avenue

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.

Metropolitan Museum of Art Christmas Tree
Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Museums Art and design Central Park

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.

Dyker Heights Lights
Photograph: Teddy Wolff

Dyker Heights

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.

New York Botanical Garden

Attractions Parks and gardens The Bronx

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.


Rockefeller Center

Things to do Midtown West

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.

Photograph: Andrew Fladeboe

Central Park

Attractions Parks and gardens Central Park

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.

best christmas lights nyc
Photograph: Marianna O'Leary

Radio City Music Hall

Theater Midtown West

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.

AMNH Origami Tree
Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

American Museum of Natural History

Museums Science and technology Upper West Side

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.

New York attractions
Photograph: Jessica Lin

Macy’s Herald Square

Shopping Department stores Midtown West

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.

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