Christmas in NYC: The ultimate guide to visiting NYC in December

June 6, 2021

Are you planning to spend Christmas in NYC? If so – keep reading for everything you need to know!

So, you’re spending Christmas in NYC. Well, first of all – YAY! There’s no better place to spend the festive season. There’s no place quite like NYC at Christmas, it’s one of the most amazing places to spend a few days, a week or even the whole month of December.

In this ultimate guide to spending Christmas in NYC, you’ll find recommendation on things to do in NYC at Christmas time, as well as what to pack, places to eat, and much more!


So what is Christmas in NYC like?

Expect the city to be glowing, festive, sparkling, magical and BUSY.

That’s basically how I’d describe it. If you love the hustle and budtle of the city, then visiting at Christmas is going to be amazing for you – because the energy of the city really comes alive at this time of year. Christmas in NYC is so beautiful and there is a real palpable energy throughout the entire city.

Read more: When does Christmas season start in NYC?


Is Christmas in NYC busy?

Yes, Christmas in NYC is one of the busiest tourism periods for the city. As you’d expect! The city comes alive at Christmas, so people love visiting in December and spending time there. Expect queues to be longer than normal, expect crowds to be a bit bigger than usual, and shops to be a little more busy.

December pulls a pretty frequent stream of visitors to NYC, so there isn’t really a ‘quiet time’ you can visit during the month of December. So be prepared for crowds and plenty of people, no matter which week or weekend of December you’ll be going. Christmas in NYC is busy and there’s no getting around it.

It’s always worth booking ahead for Christmas in NYC, for hotels, restaurant bookings, and tour / attractions. You can often buy skip-the-line tickets (see below!) and save yourself loads of time!


Does it snow in NYC at Christmas?

Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t! There’s no guarantee of snow in December (some winter’s can be cold and crisp with bright blue skies). Others might be snowy and stormy and windy. There’s not really any way to predict what kind of weather you’ll get until a week or so before.

One thing for certain though, is that it is going to be cold! Whether you get snow or no snow. December is one of the coldest months of the year in NYC, so your Christmas in NYC is bound to be a little chilly!


What should you pack for Christmas in NYC?

The main thing to consider when packing for Christmas in NYC, is the weather. Pack warm and pack well!

  • Make sure you have plenty of layers (this will be useful when moving inside into the warm, from outside in the cold!).
  • I would pack good and warm walking shoes or boots, for exploring the city.
  • Take lots of warm socks!
  • Take a waterproof coat (incase of heavy rain or snow storm).
  • Gloves / hats / scarves

One last piece of advice for spending Christmas in NYC… Make sure you leave a little bit of space in your case when packing, so that you have room to pack any souvenirs or Christmas gifts on the return journey! Or, pack yourself a small foldable hold-all, so you have an extra bag on the way home for all your shopping.


What to do during Christmas in NYC

There are plenty of things to do at Christmas in NYC! There are actually plenty of activities open during Christmas in NYC, that wouldn’t ordinarily be open in the city. These winter attractions make a great reason to visit at this time of year and spend some of your vacation days celebrating Christmas in NYC.

Rockefeller Christmas Tree

The Rockefeller Christmas Tree is a must-see when you’re spending Christmas in NYC. It’s one of the most iconic trees in the city – and it’s even been in some pretty famous Christmas movies (Home Alone for example!). It’s a beautiful sight to see, and it’s full of that festive magic.

Read more: The best Christmas trees in NYC

Radio City Christmas Spectacular

This famous festive show is extremely popular, and runs throughout the Christmas season. If you haven’t heard of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular before, take a watch of the video below to get a feeling for it! It’s one of the most festive things you can do when spending Christmas in NYC!

Dyker Heights Christmas Lights

The Dyker Heights neighbourhood is a selection of streets in Brooklyn, who compete each year to display the most wonderful, bright and festive lights on their houses. It’s pretty magical – and you won’t ever have seen anything like it before. There are several easy-to-book tours too, so it’s never been easier to visit them and admire all the hard work!

Read more about visiting Dyker Heights Christmas Lights.

Ice Skating in Central Park

Ice skating in central park is so much fun, and it’s a great activity to try out whilst spending Christmas in NYC. There’s nothing quite like it! Gliding around the famous ice rinks, with a snowy central park as your back drop! It’s really something!

Bank of America Winter Village (Bryant Park winter village)

This amazing winter village is one of my favorite things to do when spending Christmas in NYC. It’s a great little hub of winter-themed activities, and you can easily spend a few hours or a whole day making the most of everything. There is a wonderful winter market (with lots of lovely independent stores), a small ice rink, and lots of lovely food stalls and eateries.

Rockefeller Plaza

When you go to view the Rockefeller tree, make sure you explore the Rockefeller plaza too! It’ll be beautifully decorated, and there will be the famous ice rink to enjoy too!

Read more: What is the best observation deck in NYC?

Macy’s

Macy’s is another great place to visit when spending Christmas in NYC. It’s one of the best department stores in the city – and they go all-out at Christmas time. My favorite place to explore is the top floor where they house all their Christmas decorations – it’s like a winter wonderland!

Giant Christmas Ornaments

You’ll find giant Christmas ornaments scattered along some of NYC’s most frequented streets. The large vintage-style Christmas light bulbs in front of the McGraw-Hill building at 1221 6th Avenue are some of the most iconic and most photographed.

5th Avenue Window Displays

If you’re spending Christmas in NY so you can do a little bit of Christmas shopping – then you’re going to love exploring and admiring all the window displays up and down 5th Avenue. There are so many beautiful decorations!

Attend a Christmas service

St Patricks Cathedral is one of the most beautiful churches in the city, and whether you’re religious or not, attending a Christmas themed service will definitely get you feeling festive!

Admire all the amazing Christmas trees

There are so many incredible Christmas trees in NYC, so if you’re spending Christmas in NYC you absolutely need to explore and admire all of them! You could spend a festive day just visiting all of the beautiful trees and snapping up some cute photos of them too! My favorite Christmas trees in NYC are in Bryant Park and Rockefeller Centre!

Bronx Zoo’s Winter Wonderland

The Bronx Zoo‘s Winter Wonderland is a must-visit for spending Christmas in NYC. It’s a wonderful family-friendly activity, and it’ll make you feel so festive! The lantern safaris are the main attraction here, and they’re really something special!

Walk through Central Park in the snow

If you’re lucky enough to get snowfall whilst spending Christmas in NYC, then you absolutely must take a stroll through Central Park in the freshly fallen snow! There’s nowhere quite like Central Park in the snow, it’s wonderful and magical.

Read more: The best Centrsal Park photo spots!

Botanical Garden’s Holiday Train Show

This amazing Christmassy spectacular in the Botanical Gardens is well worth a trip up to the Bronx. It’s like a winter wonderland created out of natural plants and other beautiful things, with a minature train weaving through it.

Columbus Circle Holiday Market 

This is another lovely holiday market worth paying a trip to if you’re spending Christmas in NYC, it’s the Columbus Circle Holiday Market. It can be found at 59th street and Broadway, right at the entrance of Central Park. It’s a great place to visit before or after exploring the park, as it’s right next door!

Visit an observation deck

You can’t get much more festive than enjoying snowy views of the city from above! There are a few different observation decks to enjoy in NYC, from the Empire State, to the Rockefeller, and the new Edge observation deck! So you have plenty of choices to check out during Christmas in NYC. One piece of advice though, make sure you go on a clear day – so you can actually see the views!

Read more: What is the best observation deck in NYC?

Take in a Broadway show

There’s nothing quite so festive as enjoying a Broadway show. If you’re spending Christmas in NYC, then I definitely recommend booking yourself tickets to enjoy one! If you’re not sure which to go and see, take a read to my guide to broadway shows – it’ll help you pick the perfect one!


Where should you eat during Christmas in NYC?

OK, so now you have an epic list of things to do whilst you’re spending Christmas in NYC – you’ll want to make sure you’ve found some festive places to eat too! Here are some of my favorite places to eat in NYC at Christmas time!

  • Quality Meats – This is a classic high-end steakhouse, but it’s cosy and warm and just oozes festive charm during the winter.
  • Rolf’s – If you want to visit somewhere with amazing festive decorations, then you HAVE to go to Rolf’s. There’s nowhere quite like it!
  • The NoMad Bar – Every year, The NoMad Bar do Christmas themed cocktails and turn their bar into a kind of winter cocktail wonderland. I think you’ll love it!
  • Tavern On the Green – This classic bar in NYC is located in the heart of Central Park. It oozes festive loveliness in the winter, and it’s a proper little winter hideaway.
Christmas in NYC

If you want to indulge in some more delicious food during your time in NYC, then you should check out these other articles with lots of suggestions and recommendations!


I hope this ultimate guide to spending Christmas in NYC has been helpful!

Spending the Christmas season in NYC is amazing, so I hope you have fun and enjoy every second! Spending Christmas in NYC is magical!

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