Big City Family Fun

Top Things to do in NYC for the Holidays 

ice rink at Bryant Park
Bryant Park is a top thing to do in NYC for the Holidays. credit: Catherine Parker

A trip at the Holidays is a personal favorite, especially when paired with Holiday Shopping and Celebrating.  For those reasons and its vibrant energy, New York City is the top destination in the U.S. for holiday travel. From Thanksgiving until the New Year, it is utterly magical. From special holiday performances to ice skating to outdoor markets,  NYC needs to be on your list. 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 
Rockefeller Plaza and Ice Rink
Macy’s Herald Square Windows

Saks Fifth Avenue Light Show

FAO Schwartz

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 and glass-enclosed shops sell unique gifts from around the world, along with artisan-made items. Additional to the amble shopping, there are bistro tables and lots of quick-service food outlets serving holiday favorites.

Visitors might even see Santa in the morning as he visits with kids from 10 a.m. to noon the week before Christmas. The Lodge Bar and Food Hall offers cocktails and rink-side seating. For a chance to pick up a new sport, reserve a spot at the Curling Cafe and Bar. 

Reserve a time slot for an ice skating session on the outdoor 17,000-foot rink. For kids, take a ride on the carousel ($4 a ride, open daily from 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.). After New Year’s, 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 Thursday from 8 a.m. – 10 p.m., Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. – midnight until the end of the year. Reservations required. 

45 Places to Discover with This NYC Itinerary
Rockefeller Plaza Tree
Rockefeller Plaza Tree in Midtown. credit: Catherine Parker

Rockefeller Plaza

A walk through Rockefeller Plaza to see its Christmas tree, ice skating rink along with its holiday decorations is a must. 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 for Holiday Shopping.

Rockefeller Center offers lots of dining options, from coffee and donuts to fine dining across its property. To ice skate, a reservation is required, and prices start at $21 for adults and $11 for kids (5 and younger).

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 as the sun sets. Adult admission is $40, and kids are $34.

Located at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. Plaza. Open 24 hours a day. Free to enter.

50 Places to Feed a Teen in NYC
Window Display at Macy's
One of the window displays at Macy’s Herald Square. credit: Catherine Parker

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 Year’s 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. 

Museum Musts for New York City 
Saks Fifth Avenue Store
Saks Fifth Avenue Store offers a light show. credit: Catherine Parker

Saks Fifth Avenue Light Show

With a synchronized light show and stunning window displays, Saks Fifth Avenue is another one of the 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. From 4:35 p.m. and every 10 minutes after, the shows go on until 10:35 p.m. from Thanksgiving to New Year’s. 

Located at 611 Fifth Avenue. Free 

FAO Schwartz

The legendary toy retailer now lives at Rockefeller Center with life-sized stuffed 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. 

Mid Town Musts for NYC
The exterior of the Radio City Music Hall. credit: Catherine Parker

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 makes 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 are required.

The Nutcracker 

A holiday classic, The New York City Ballet’s George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker is a treat with its 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 New Year’s. Advance tickets are 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 are required.

Best Things to Do in Lower Manhattan
Tour St. Patrick's Cathedral during your 4 day NYC itinerary.
Walk through St. Patrick’s Cathedral for one of the top architectural sites in NYC. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

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 are accepted. 

Top Things to Do in Central Park

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 a 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 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. 

Top 70 Places to See in New York City 
Amaze Light Festival in NYC
Amaze Light Festival at Citi Field in New York City. Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Amaze Light Festival

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 fun ride with exceptional views of Lower Manhattan and Midtown.

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, and 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 is 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 is 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. Advanced admission is required.

Washington Square Tree Park

In addition 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

Central Park

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.

National Park sites in NYC

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.

Where to Stay in Manhattan

New York City is a top U.S. destination during the Holidays and for good reason. It offers Holiday Markets, outdoor ice skating and some amazaing trees. Here's the top 25 things to do in NYC during the Holidays. Where to go in New CIty in Winter | Top Places to get in the Spirit for Christmas in New York #HolidayTravel #NYC

Catherine Parker has a passion for travel and seen all 50 U.S. States. As a former flight attendant with one of the largest airlines, there isn't a North American airport that she hasn't landed in at least once. Since clipping her professional wings after 9/11, she combines her love of the open road with visiting architectural and cultural icons. She is based out of Central Texas dividing her time between writing and restoring a pair of 100-year-old houses. She shares her life with her three kids and her husband.

Comments are closed.