Christmas Activities in New York For Your Most Magical Holiday Yet

Although the Big Apple has a rep for being hectic all the time, there’s no better time to see it come alive than during the Christmas season! Witness as the holiday fever transforms every corner of the city into a delightful feast for your senses, from the gigantic tree lighting ceremonies and freshly-baked gingerbread houses to the nostalgic carols you probably know by heart.

New York City’s outrageously grand holiday events and top-notch attractions around the 5th make it a must-visit for any traveler’s list—including yours. Don’t miss out on the most wonderful time of year to ‘treat yo’self’ and take a bite out of the Big Apple. Read on below for the best things to do this Christmas in NYC!

Discover the Christmas Spirit in NYC:

Seasonal Shows That’ll Warm Your Heart:

The Nutcracker Ballet at the Lincoln Center

The Nutcracker (image via Pixabay)

Christmas is all about enjoying tradition with our loved ones. What better way to experience an NYC Christmas than to The Nutcracker, a famous fairytale ballet that local families have been attending for their holiday run since the 50s! Gaze in wide-eyed wonder as toy soldiers and evil mice battle, while beautiful snowflakes and flowers whirl around to celebrate the victory.

Nothing sets the Christmas mood quite like the whimsical tunes of Tchaikovsky’s “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” and “Waltz of The Flowers.” Admire the elegant movements of the Russian ballet style performed by the New York City Ballet, set to the best of classical music and vividly painted backdrops.  

Holidays with the Philharmonic

The Philharmonic at Avery Fisher Hall (Image via Jun Seita, Wikimedia Commons)

Every Thanksgiving and Christmas, the New York Philharmonic, one of America’s premier orchestras, lines up a medley of fun classics.

Sit back and reminisce hits on the big screen while the renowned orchestra plays hits from the famous movie, Home Alone, as well as “Winter Wonderland,” “Happy Holiday,” and “White Christmas”. Best of all, the audience can sing along to carols!

Carolers at Carnegie Hall

Carnegie Hall (Image via Tdorante10, Wikimedia Commons)

Seeking a more contemporary set? This December 21, catch the New York Pops (the largest independent modern orchestra) perform a series of modern carols with Broadway performer, Ashley Brown.

This historical landmark boasts rich music heritage and showcases a whole season of holiday tunes from only the best performers, in various genres from jazz to pop to rock. Playing in Carnegie Hall is a dream come true for most artists with a wonderful gift to share to their listeners.

Sights To Behold in NYC:

Rockefeller Christmas Tree 2018

(Image via Shutterstock)

Admittedly cliche but worth braving the crowds for—125 million visitors in fact!—the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree 2018 kicks off the holiday season this Wednesday, November 28, at 7pm.

The lighting ceremony is broadcast live to millions on NBC each year, and will be illuminated every 9pm until January 7. Join the community and gaze in wonder as the massive, 24 meters tall Norway Spruce dazzles the world with 18,000 lights!

5th Avenue Window Displays

Lord & Taylor’s Enchanted Forest holiday window display (Image via Lorie Shaull, Flickr)

A mundane activity like window shopping takes on a whole level of meaning whenever holiday season rolls around. Just walking around the 5th, known for several years as the world’s most expensive street, will leave you utter disbelief of how over the top everything can be.

Gape at magnificent department store windows, such as Bloomingdales, Barneys, and Bergdorf Goodmans, all dressed up in gold, tinsel, and sparkling baubles, each of them proudly displaying the all the creativity they’ve been saving up for the whole year. From world-famous artists contributing to displays to new product lines limited to seasonal charity, 5th has got it all covered in glitter.

Decked Out Hotel Lobbies

The Palace, New York City (Image via, Flickr)

Another bewitching sight to watch out for, major NYC hotels join in the fun and spirit of Christmas decorating! Grand hotels like The Plaza, Waldorf Astoria, and Four Seasons all transform into a winter wonderland, complete with towering trees, extravagant ornaments and lights, and even heated yurts! Stop by these hotels for a glass of mulled wine and simply revel in the merry atmosphere.

Here’s a detailed list of festive drinks to try

Skating and Shopping at Bank of America Bryant Park Winter Village

(Image via Pixabay)

This much-awaited magical spectacle is NYC’s very own version of an open-air European market. There are tons of things to do like figure skating, shopping for tasty local food and artisanal handicrafts, and joining the annual tree-lighting ceremony on the first week of December! Note that shops open as early as 11am and close around 8pm until January 2, 2019. 

Imagine as a 55-foot-tall Norway spruce dazzles viewers with over 30,000 LED lights and 3,000 charming ornaments. All this in contrast with vivid fireworks over the Manhattan skyline, another spectacular sight. As a result, it’s easy to spend 5 – 6 hours spreading the holiday cheer with the lively crowds.

Keep posted for a celebrity guest as they read a holiday tale aloud. Above all, it’s reenacted by renowned skaters who perfect their skills and bring these colorful characters to life. It can’t get any more Christmassy than this!

Taste Gingerbread Houses

(Image via Shutterstock)

Fancy gingerbread houses certainly add to the magic in the air. Layers of brown sugar, ginger, cinnamon gumdrops, candy canes, royal icing come together to create a wondrous image straight out of a fairytale. For most beautifully crafted ones, head to William Poll on 1051 Lexington Avenue and bring one home for the kids!

Visit Santa Claus at Macy’s Santaland

Santa Claus arriving at Macy’s! (Image via slgckgc, Flickr)

Mark the beginning of the countdown right after Thanksgiving, ’cause Santa Claus is coming to town! He’ll be parading at Macy’s on the 6th (Street). If you missed it, fear not! He’ll be present on Macy’s Santaland shortly after to let the kids sit on his lap and playfully determine if they’ve been naughty or nice. Because you need to reserve a spot days in advance, book your tickets here.  

Winter Tips for NYC Visitors

  • Don’t wear shorts: It gets frigid, with temperatures predicted to drop to -3°C during snowy nights! Pack scarfs, coats, touchscreen gloves, hats, thick wool socks, and snow boots—you’ll thank us later
  • Beat the crowds: Try to go to most attractions in the morning and on a weekday. It gets hella crowded in Rockefeller Center especially  
  • Traffic: Don’t be surprised to be caught in a gridlock during rush hours in NYC or have to weave through hoards of people. Just accept the reality that New York is the place to be for everyone whenever ‘Ber months hit
  • For first-timers in the city, get a New York CityPASS to tick the boxes on visiting all iconic attractions

Make new memories in winter wonderlands and smell the cinnamon wafting through the air. Or simply listen Philharmonic playing the heartrending tunes that take you back to your childhood years. There are so many ways to enjoy the holidays in this ever-popular city—it’s impossible to list them all! 

May the magic of spending the holidays in New York City bring you a merry little Christmas that lingers in your heart. 

Seasonal Suggestions

How about daring yourself to do something different for your winter vacay? Check out our guides below: