New York City is the top destination in the U.S. for holiday travel. It’s a favorite anytime of the year, though it’s utterly magical during the Holidays from Thanksgiving until New Years. If NYC is on your list, then here are the top things to do in NYC for the Holidays.
Top Things to do in NYC for the Holidays
Bryant Park Winter Village
With its ice rink and a holiday market, Bryant Park is one of the top things to do in NYC for the Holidays. The jewel box, glass-enclosed shops sell unique gifts from around the world along with artisan-made items. Visitors might even see Santa in the morning as he visits with kids from 10 a.m. to noon.
Additionally there are bistro tables and lots of quick-service food outlets serving holiday favorites. The Lodge Bar and Food Hall is another area that offers cocktails and rink-side seating. For a chance to pick up a new sport, reserve a spot at the Curling Cafe and Bar.
For kids, take a ride on the carousel ($4 a ride, open daily from 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.). Or reserve a time slot for a ice skating session on the outdoor 17,000-foot rink. And after New Years, the bumper cars return to the ice for a super fun activity.
Located between 5th and 6th Ave. between 40th and 42nd Streets. Open Monday to Friday from 11 a.m. – 8 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. . The ice skating rink is open Monday to Wednesday from 8 a.m. – 10 p.m., Thursday to Sunday from 8 a.m. – midnight. Reservations required.
Macy’s Herald Square Store
As the Macy’s Flagship Store, the legendary Macy’s Holiday windows are a must for any trip to NYC during the holidays. A tradition since 1889, the animated windows are revealed the week before Thanksgiving and up until New Years Day.
“America’s largest department store” is a must for those in NYC for shopping with 11 levels and it covers the entire city block. This location was built in 1902 and included the first escalator at the time. To experience the wooden escalator, built in the 1920s and 1930s, head to the upper floors.
Santaland is located on the Eighth floor. To visit Santa, make a reservation five days in advance. Unfortunately, no walk-ups.
Located at 151 W. 34th St. Open daily with extended holiday hours.
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Walk through Rockefeller Plaza to see its Christmas tree, ice skating rink along with its holiday decorations. To ice skate, a reservation is required and prices start at $21 for adults and $11 for kids (5 and younger).
Prometheus statue is another must during your visit to Rockefeller Plaza.
The LEGO Store windows feature NYC landmarks built in LEGOs, a must for all ages. Also find popular chain clothing stores in the immediate area.
Rockefeller Center offers lots of dining options for coffee and donuts to fine dining across its property.
Top of the Rock is another top thing to do in New York City. I recommend going at dusk to see the lights of the city twinkle on at the sun sets. Adult admission is $40 and kids are $34.
Located at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. Plaza. Open 24 hours a day. Free
Saks Fifth Avenue Light Show
With a synchronized light show and stunning window displays, Saks Fifth Avenue is another Top Things to do in NYC for the Holidays. With LED lights climbing up the sides of the building, even during the day it’s impressive.
For the nightly shows, head across the street from the legendary store for the best view. At 5 p.m. and every 10 minutes after, the shows goes on until 11 p.m. from Thanksgiving to New Years.
Located at 611 Fifth Avenue. Free
The legendary toy retailer now lives at Rockefeller Center with life-sized stuff animals, games, toys and even candy. It’s a must even for big kids and particularly magical during the Holidays.
Located at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, Open daily 10 a.m. – 9 p.m. with extended holiday hours. Free to enter.
See a Holiday Show
The Christmas Spectacular Starting the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes
If it’s your first trip to NYC, then get tickets to the Rockettes. The show is a fantastical, glittery holiday production perfect for families along with couples. The high kicking troupe of dancers make it look effortless and the costuming is dazzling.
The Radio City Music Hall is an Art Deco masterpiece and features rich architectural details from a bygone era. Though traveling shows are good, seeing a production in NYC can’t be beat.
Located at 1260 6th Ave. Advance tickets required.
A holiday classic, The New York City Ballet’s George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker is a treat with is exquisite costuming and swoony sets. This is a holiday tradition for many NYC families.
Performed in the David H. Kock Theater in the Lincoln Center at 20 Lincoln Center Plaza. Shows run from Thanksgiving until News Years. Advance tickets required.
Christmas Concert at John the Divine
St. John the Divine is a Gothic Revival Cathedral, completed in 1899. With its stunning acoustics, its annual holiday performance is a favorite with its traditional carols.
Located at 1047 Amsterdam Avenue. Usually held the second week of December. Advance tickets required.
Christmas Concert at St. Patrick’s Cathedral
As the Neo Gothic Cathedral in the center of midtown, St. Patrick’s Cathedral is right across the street from Rockefeller Plaza. Open to all, the space is decorated for Christmas. Its annual A City Singing at Christmas showcases the building’s unbelievable acoustics.
Located at Fifth Ave. Between 50th & 51 St. Open daily from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. The annual Christmas Concert is usually in the third week of December. Free to enter, though donations accepted.
Top Holiday Markets in NYC
Holiday Markets are a thing in NYC. Here’s the top ones to visit.
Bryant Park Winter Village
This is the top holiday market and as a bonus, it continues through the winter. Located between 5th and 6th Ave. between 40th and 42nd Streets.
Columbus Circle Holiday Market
With location close to Central Park, this holiday market is another favorite with visitors and locals alike. Located at Central Park South, Central Park West, Broadway and 8th Ave.
Grand Central Holiday Fair
Walk through the Beaux Arts Masterpiece and the largest train terminal in the world. The ceiling of the main concourse features an astronomical ceiling, a four-sided brass clock and Tennessee marble was used for the stairs and the floors. The Holiday Fair is located in the Vanderbilt Hall, located off the main concourse. Located at 89 E. 42nd St.
Union Square Holiday Market
Another popular outdoor market, Union Square is transformed into a holiday shopping destination. Located at Broadway and Park Ave. South at 17th St.
Holiday Lights in NYC
See the City Lights from the Ferry
For the Wall Street Ferry Port, you can catch a ferry to popular spots like DUMBO, Governors Island and even Midtown and the Upper East Side along with several locations in Queens and Brooklyn. With open air decks, it’s a run ride with exceptional views of Lower Manhattan and Mid Town.
Located at South Street at Pier 11. Ferries run from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. It’s $2.75 to ride one way and tickets (or the app) are available at the ferry dock.
Holiday Harbor Lights Cruise
See the glittering lights of lower Manhattan including the Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges in this guided tour. Decorated for the holidays, the City Line boats offer indoor and outdoor seating along with seasonal cocktails, beer and wine available for purchase.
Departs from Pier 83 at W 42nd St. First Cruise at 7 p.m. Admission based on age.
Amaze Light Festival
With over 1 million lights, the Amaze Light Festival is the largest light show in the U.S. and offers a storybook theme. This outdoor experience covers 500,000-square-feet and located at Citi Field. Additionally guests will find a holiday market and food vendors.
Located at 41 Seaver Way in Queens. Open daily from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. until early January. Advance admission required.
Washington Square Tree Park
In addtion to the Rockefeller Tree, the Washington Square Tree is a must. The 45-foot tree is illuminated from 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. daily.
Located at 5th Ave between Waverly Place and W. 4th St. Free
If strolling through Central Park, visitors can stop by Tavern on the Green to see its tree and holiday decorations.
Located at 67th St. and Central Park West.
Ice Skating around NYC
The top spots are Rockefeller Plaza rink and the Bryant Park rink, though find over a dozen rinks across NYC. The Wollman Rink in Central Park is another picturesque spot to skate.
If the weather outside if frightful, then head to the indoor rink at Chelsea Piers. Riverbank State Park is outdoors with a roof and overlooking the Hudson River.
Another rink in lower Manhattan is The Rink at Brookfield Place. Close to Penn Station, the Rink at Manhattan West is another outdoor rink.
Additionally find rinks in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island.
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