Christmas in New York – A NYC Holiday Guide

Christmas already?!!! I know, I know. But for those of you planning a trip in December to experience Christmas in New York (and I know at least a couple of you are) it’s the perfect time to start your planning.

*If it is your first time to New York I recommend reading through my New York City Guide for First-timers here and if you are traveling with kids I have more suggestions here!



If you’re looking for inspiration before you go, there are several great movies to watch to get you in the spirit and even more excited for your trip. Here are a few of my favorites: Elf, Miracle on 34th Street, When Harry Met Sally, Home Alone – Lost in New York, Serendipity, Scrooged, and You’ve Got Mail.



Most restaurants, bars, and bakeries in NYC get festive over the holidays, but some are better than others. Here are a few of my favorites to scope out:

  • Hot chocolate and homemade marshmallows at The City Bakery are THE BEST! Put this on your must stop at list. The second runner up is Jacques Torres for their wicked hot chocolate and peppermint bark.
  • Head into Rolf’s for a pre-dinner drink and if you love the décor stay for dinner (keep in mind they’re not known for their food) This German restaurant is so festive it would even make Clark Griswold proud. Here are a few photos if you’re interested.
  • Have a cozy dinner at the Spotted Pig (Jay-Z is part owner) or pop into Freeman’s for a meal with a New England cabin feel
  • Drinks at Shoolbred’s for the cozy fireplace, neighborhood feel, and holiday décor
  • Grab a few holiday themed macarons at Dana’s Bakery
  • Serendipity for the frozen hot chocolate
  • Swing through L.A. Burdick and sample a chocolate penguin or snowman



  • Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center (the tree lighting ceremony is in early December). If Christmas trees are your thing you can also check out the Met Museum Angel tree, Madison Square Park, the tree inside the Plaza Hotel, the tree in the courtyard of the Palace Hotel (one of my favs!), and the origami tree at the American Museum of Natural History
  • Macy’s windows and Santaland (the crowds will be insane, consider yourself warned!!)
  • Walk along 5th Avenue from Rockefeller Center to Central Park
    • See the tree and the ice skaters at Rockefeller Center
    • Enjoy the window displays (Saks, Bergdorfs (usually my personal favorite), Tiffanys, Barneys, and Bloomingdales). Macy’s and Lord & Taylor also have window displays, but check them out when you are in Midtown.
    • Giant snowflake (5th Ave. & 57th)
    • The courtyard of the Palace Hotel
    • The Lobby of the Plaza Hotel (channel your inner Kevin McCallister)
    • The world’s largest Hanukkah menorah (Grand Army Plaza 5th Ave and W 59th Street – across from the Plaza Hotel)
  • Check out the over-sized Christmas lights on 6th Avenue.



  • Radio City Music Hall for The Radio City Christmas Spectacular which stars the Rockettes
  • NYC Ballet for a performance of The Nutcracker
  • Peruse the holiday markets (Union Square, Bryant Park, and Columbus Circle)
  • Ice Skating – If you’d like to skate in the middle of a city block check out Bryant Park (you can reserve ahead of time to avoid the line) if that’s not your thing then rent skates in Central Park. I wouldn’t recommend Rockefeller Center as the rink is pretty small and it’s a bit pricey
  • Visit Santa at Macy’s – If you really hate lines there is apparently a Santa at ABC Carpet & Home
  • Holiday displays at the Botanical Gardens and Grand Central Station

Looking for more New York tips? Check out my New York Itinerary here and my New York with Kids guide here!

Happy Travels!




29 thoughts on “Christmas in New York – A NYC Holiday Guide

      1. ms Kitty

        Check out the Baroque Christmas tree and Nativity at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It is fantastic!

  1. Rachel

    I LOVE NYC at Christmas! I miss living up there for the sole reason of being able to be around the Christmas festivities! I defintiely need to get back up soon.

  2. Rebecca

    This is a lovely concise list of things that are up to date! I’m flying out next week and I’m so excited! I’ve been to the city before and love it dearly, but this time my mum is coming with – I can’t wait to show her around!

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  6. Roxanne Lucero

    We went to NYC last summer, it was very hot and humid but we still enjoyed our trip. We’ll definitely consider going to NYC at Christmas. We saved a lot on accommodation since we stayed in a hostel. We also had city pass so we were able to see a lot of attractions. New York City may be known as the most expensive city in USA, but there’s also no shortage of free things to do. I already visited some museums, Time Square and Statue of Liberty. We also went to a lot of diners and clubs and I watched free concerts at Central Park after checking out the NYC Parks website. By the way, I found a website listing free events in New York which is great because I didn’t have much of a budget. I think might be useful to people also visiting New York who are looking for free things to do.

  7. Rochelle

    I’m going to NYC for the first time in December with my boyfriend. This post has really helped and given me inspiration on what to do. My to do list is now even longer! Thanks!

  8. Neal

    So I’m a hybrid of two of your posts about NYC, in that I’m going for the first time AND it’s at the holidays. My wife turns 40 in December, and we will have a list of things to do and see while there (Broadway show or 2, Rockefeller Center, etc.), however my question more so centers around where to stay. I think we will want to be located near TImes Square or Central Park. I’ve got enough Hilton points to cover our 3 night stay at pretty much any Hilton Garden Inn or Doubletree. I’m just wondering if there are any areas there that are safer than others, or are we going to be good pretty much anywhere in that part of Manhattan? Thanks!!

    1. Jill M

      I’ve visited NYC several times, and I’ve always felt safe in Manhattan. The key is to stay in areas with a lot of people. I’ve stayed at the Hilton at 53rd ? At Ave of Americas, and it’s very nice, convenient location. I will be back in the city in mid November, and I’m staying at The Belvedere Hotel for the first time. A friend of mine has stayed there several times, and she liked it a lot.

      Every time I visit NYC, I make sure to get a chocolate babka and chocolate rugelach from Breads Bakery near Union Sq, and I get a pepperoni pizza from John’s Pizza on 44th. (I got a chocolate babka from the Breads Bakery kiosk in Bryant Park last time, but it was stale.)

      I hope that you have a fun trip.

    2. Traveling Chic

      Hi Neal! Lucky you–New York is the best in December! Times Square and Central park are both great locations to stay. I think you’ll find both of those areas equally as safe. I’ve really never felt unsafe in Manhattan because there are so many people around at all hours of the day.

      1. Iqra

        Hi we r going to NYC for Christmas and new year this year but I have 3 kids along 10,7 and 3. I have neva experienced extreme cold whether as we have very light winters in our country. Plz someone suggest if we will be able to walk outdoors and enjoy holiday lights or we should cancel the plan?

        1. Wendy

          Hi iqra, just read your post. We are going this December and was wondering how you went with the weather, clothing, walking . Any tips. Where I live we don’t have real cold winters either . Thanks Wendy

  9. Coleen

    Hello Jenny! Great read! I took notes of all your suggestions! My mom and I are planning a trip to NYC this Christmas and hopefully it will push through. I was pondering on taking a New York Pass. I wanna ask if it’s worth it? We’re planning to stay for 5 days and maybe I’ll take a 3- day pass? Will it be worth it?

    Thank you!

  10. Cody

    Wife and I are going first weekend in December cant wait, first time for both us. Will they have all the decorations up.

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  12. Kelsey

    Are all the decorations up the last week of November, first of December? My husband and I are planning a trip for this year and would appreciate the feedback!

  13. Chelsea

    I have always wanted to go to NYC for the holidays 🙂 When do they start decorating? I am trying to pick a couple weekend options for November or December.

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