There is no denying that New York City sparkles during the holiday season. The parks where people stroll and jog are reimagined as quaint Christmas villages; landmark attractions and hotels transform into winter getaways; and the bustling streets shine a bit brighter with twinkling lights. Christmas in the Big Apple is simply magical.
The city hosts a number of world-renowned holiday events and shows—the tree-lighting at Rockefeller Center, the Rockettes beaming in Radio City Music Hall, FAO Schwarz’s extravagant toy displays—but what truly makes the New York burst with seasonal flair are the lesser-known sights.
From brilliantly decorated homes in Brooklyn to an indoor winter market brimming with joy, there are endless ways to celebrate Christmas in New York. Whether you’re a proud New Yorker looking for a night of yuletide fun or traveling to the city for the holidays, this list of activities and attractions will make you feel jolly. Now bundle up and get exploring!
Where to Stay: Lotte New York Palace
No hotel quite embraces the holiday cheer of New York City like the Lotte New York Palace. Located in Midtown, the famed landmark opened in 1981 as the first luxury hotel in the city. Each holiday season, the Palace’s courtyard transforms into a winter wonderland with an awe-striking 30-foot Christmas tree, a feast of lights, and a “Santa Mailbox” in which children may drop their wish lists. The hotel is even the official partner of the Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes, which means guests can get a discount on tickets for the classic holiday show.
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Where to Sight-See: Fifth Avenue Holiday Windows
From Rockefeller Center to the magical Christmas villages, NYC is famous for its extravagant decorations and high-spirited traditions during the season. However, no tradition may be as iconic as the fanciful window displays on Fifth Avenue. Stores such as Bergdorf Goodman, Macy’s, and Tiffany & Co. reveal their themed-windows in November in elaborate lighting shows. This year, Saks Fifth Avenue revealed they are partnering with Disney and kicking off their theatrical light show with a performance starring Idina Menzel.
Where to See Spectacularly Decorated Homes: Dyker Heights Holiday Lights
What’s the holidays without a little bit of friendly competition? Every year, the residents of Dyker Heights deck out their homes in elaborate Christmas light decorations in hopes to be the brightest home on their block. Thousands of people flock to the Brooklyn neighborhood to see what life-size toy soldiers and Santas, snowmen, and exquisite light displays illuminate the streets each season. While guided bus tours are available, our favorite way to enjoy the lights is by walking the neighborhood with a cannoli and cup of hot chocolate from Panino Rustico or Villabate Alba in hand.
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Where to Get Your Art Fix: The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
New York boasts an impressive amount of world-class museums and smaller galleries which makes it easy to be swept into the city’s dazzling arts and culture scene. Luckily, countless institutions gussy up their exhibitions and halls with hints of Christmas cheer, making them the perfect holiday and art destinations. Throughout the month of December, the Guggenheim Museum hosts a number of holiday events including the musical performance of Peter & the Wolf with costume design by Isaac Mizrahi, a holiday concert dinner, and specially curated exhibits.
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Where to Hear the Sweet Sounds of the Season: Holidays with the Philharmonic
Founded in 1842 by conductor Ureli Corelli Hill, the New York Philharmonic is one of the oldest musical institutions in the United States and considered one of the most revered in the world. The orchestra closes their season with festive collection of concerts as a apart of Holidays with the Philharmonic. This year, the holiday lineup includes a stirring performance of Handel’s Messiah, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in Concert, and the family-favorite New York Philharmonic Brass and Percussion concert.
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Where to Shop for One-of-a-Kind Antiques and Gifts: Brooklyn Flea + Smorgasburg Winter Market
Two summertime favorites of Brooklynites, the Brooklyn Flea and Smorgasburg, come together during the colder months to host a massive indoor winter market. Guests can explore the packed market at 25 Kent for unique works of art and furniture while picking up a few savory treats. Sixty vendors, comprised of antiques dealers, local artisans, designers, jewelers, and furniture dealers, make the Brooklyn Flea section of the market, whereas Smorgasburg highlights around 20 speciality food vendors like Blue Chicken, Mao’s Bao, Leitao, and Vayalo! Cocina.
Where to Pick Up Sweet Stocking Stuffers: Union Square Christmas Market
Squares and streets all throughout New York start to look like mini North Poles at the beginning of December as local craftsmen and artists set up stalls at magical Christmas markets. Located at the heart of the city, the Union Square Christmas Market has over a 100 booths with homemade ornaments and decadent sweets that make for the perfect stocking stuffers.
Where to Stop with the Kids: Bryant Park Winter Village
With over 170 shopping kiosks and a 17,000-square-foot rink, the Bryant Park Winter Village has something the entire family will love. Stroll along Bryant Park’s allées to find radiant cocktail rings, hand-painted cards, and artisanal soaps before heading over to the rinkside bar and food hall, The Lodge, for festive mixers and a range of staple New York eateries. If you are looking to hit the free rink, make sure to reserve time and a pair of skates beforehand.
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Where to Enjoy a Classic Christmas Meal: Ginny’s Supper Club
Not up for cooking up this year for Christmas? Ginny’s Supper Club has got you covered. Right underneath Marcus Samuelsson’s acclaimed Red Rooster Harlem lies the smooth speakeasy that brings in jazz artists to perform live music for guest. On Christmas day, Ginny’s hosts brunch that includes a fun mix of soul food favorites and holiday classics.
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Where to Eat a Not-so-Classic Christmas Meal: Gupshup
Celebrating the cuisine and lifestyle of Bombay, Gupshup celebrates the holidays with innovative dishes and colorful artwork adorning the walls. Each year, the Gramercy shop serves a range of Indian classics and fun fusion dishes like like chicken tikka, black makhani, and grilled lobster tail in moilee sauce.
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Where to Toast the Season: Serra Alpina by Birreria
Located on the rooftop of Eataly NYC Flatiron, Serra Alpina by Birreria evokes the Italian Alps with it’s snow-covered decor and rustic menu. The “winter greenhouse” boasts an extensive cocktail menu and seasonal dishes that showcases the flavors of the Italian countryside. Pair that with the dreamy trees and fairy lights, and you’ll never want to leave the pop-up bar.
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