Christmas in NYC is one of those experiences you’ll never forget, for a variety of reasons. From the beautiful light shows to the mass crowds — it’s definitely a time that the city comes to life, even more so than it usually is. There’s definitely some highlights that you’ll want to add to your list if you are visiting NYC during Christmastime.
From iconic attractions to charming neighborhoods, there’s no shortage of holiday cheer in the Big Apple. If you’re planning to spend Christmas here, then this is my list of things to do, how long to stay, best places to stay and safety tips while in NYC at Christmastime!
Recommended length of stay
In order to get the maximum experience of Christmas in NYC, my recommendation is to stay anywhere between 4-7 days. IF it’s your first time in NYC, I’d recommend a longer amount. so you don’t wear yourself out. If you’ve been before, then you could hit all of the highlights pretty easily in just a few days…
There is SO much to see and do at Christmastime, so you’ll definitely want to make the most of your time there, but there’s no need in running yourself ragged. Pace yourself and if you can afford to do so, spend a little longer so you’re not running around crazily.
If you’re flying into the city, use Skyscanner for the best flight deals — I used to work for them and am still a loyal user to this day. I always find the BEST flight deals through them.
Things to See
1. Rockefeller Center Tree + Lighting
The annual lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is a quintessential New York City experience. The towering tree, adorned with thousands of sparkling lights and a magnificent Swarovski crystal star, is a sight to behold. If you’re able to make it in time, be sure to catch the live tree lighting ceremony, which typically takes place in late November. Arrive early to secure a good spot among the crowds.
If you aren’t able to make the lighting ceremony, that’s OK, you’ll see the tree in all it’s glory the rest of the year. With ice skating underneath, igloos to have hot coco in, and shops around — there’s plenty to see and do near the tree and it’s just on the backside of Saks Fifth Avenue (which you’ll want to see their light show, trust me!)
Knock out two birds with one stone and experience 5th avenue + the Rockefeller tree in one night!
2. Marvel at the Extravagant Fifth Avenue Holiday Lights
Fifth Avenue transforms into a winter wonderland during the holiday season, with extravagant light displays adorning the storefronts of renowned department stores like Saks Fifth Avenue and Tiffany & Co. Stroll along this iconic avenue in the evening, and you will be in awe of the displays that they come up with — we couldn’t stop looking at them. So over the top and detailed. Then watch the roughly 3 minute light show that Saks Fifth Avenue puts on — so good!
3. Glide Across the Ice at Central Park
Ice skating in Central Park is a beloved winter tradition for both locals and visitors. The Wollman Rink, situated in the heart of the park, offers a picturesque setting with the city skyline as your backdrop. Lace up your skates and glide across the ice, surrounded by the beauty of Central Park. Don’t forget to grab a cup of hot cocoa from the nearby vendors to complete the experience.
4. Take a Christmas Lights Tour in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn
Venture out to Dyker Heights in Brooklyn, where the residents go all out with their Christmas decorations. This neighborhood is renowned for its extravagant light displays and over-the-top decorations, earning it the nickname “Dyker Lights.” Join the Brooklyn Bus Tour of Dyker Heights to witness this magical spectacle and marvel at the creative and festive displays that adorn the houses. This is the one we did and it was fantastic! We got so much information and also got to see SO many houses. I genuinely would’ve done it twice, it’s that fun/good. Highly recommend!
5. Visit Hudson Yards + Mall to see the Christmas Lights
Hudson Yards has to be one of my favorite spots to see Christmas Lights. Fifth Avenue + the rest of NYC are stunning, but there’s something extravagant about Hudson Yards… when we walked into the mall, I was stunned at how many lights they had in there. The hot air balloons hanging from the ceiling were also a fun touch. Genuinely visited it like 3 times because I just loved all the lights.
If you’re in the mood for shopping or even a quick drink, or if you plan on visiting the Edge while you’re in NYC, then you’ll want to visit Hudson Yards!
6. Christmas Markets in NYC
Be sure to check the dates of the markets because they don’t run for the entire month except for Bryant Park’s market. We went towards the end of December, after Christmas, so that’s the only one we were able to attend. A comprehensive list can be found here, but just to name a few:
- Bryant Park Village
- Union Square Holiday Market
- Grand Central Holiday Fair
- and more!
Safety Tips for Navigating NYC during the Holidays
- Dress warmly: New York City winters can be chilly, so be sure to layer up with appropriate clothing to stay comfortable during your holiday adventures.
- Plan ahead: With the holiday season attracting a significant number of tourists, plan your itinerary in advance, especially for popular attractions and events.
- Use public transportation: NYC’s subway system and buses are efficient and convenient ways to get around the city, especially during the busy holiday season when traffic can be heavy.
- Stay aware of your belongings: As with any major city, be mindful of your belongings and keep them secure to avoid any mishaps during your visit.
Best Areas to Stay in NYC for the Christmas Season
There’s a myriad of places that you could stay when in NYC, let’s be honest, but these are my top recommendations to look into for your trip. Please note that hotel prices are higher during this period, so if you’re staying for upwards of a week, be prepared to pay $1,000+ for a hotel (easily).
- Midtown Manhattan: Stay in the heart of the action, close to attractions like Rockefeller Center, Times Square, and Fifth Avenue. It’s the perfect location for immersing yourself in the holiday spirit. Here’s a few of my favorite hotels in that area:
- Upper West Side: This charming neighborhood offers a more relaxed atmosphere, with easy access to Central Park and the holiday markets at Columbus Circle. Here’s a few of my favorite hotels in that area:
- Williamsburg, Brooklyn: Experience the hip and trendy side of NYC in Williamsburg, with its vibrant arts scene, cozy cafes, and lively nightlife, all with a touch of holiday magic. Here’s a few of my favorite hotels in that area.
- Greenwich Village: For a more bohemian and artistic vibe, Greenwich Village provides a delightful mix of boutique shops, cozy restaurants, and a unique holiday ambiance. Here’s a few of my favorite hotels in that area:
Spending Christmas in NYC is a dream come true for many, and with good reason. The city comes alive with holiday spirit, offering a plethora of festive activities and attractions to enjoy. From the iconic Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting to the dazzling Fifth Avenue lights, ice skating in Central Park, and the mesmerizing Dyker Heights Christmas lights, there’s something for everyone to be sure! Also, if you’re coffee obsessed like me, see my top 10 favorite coffee shops in NYC to add to your list!
So bundle up, explore the holiday magic, and create unforgettable memories in the city that never sleeps!