Christmas in New York City: A 12 Days Of Christmas Guide To NYC
Christmas in New York City: A 12 Days Of Christmas Guide To NYC
New York City is the gift that keeps on giving especially at Christmas time! If you’re looking to take a trip this holiday season, there is nothing quite comparable to the experience of Christmas in NYC. The city truly transforms into a different place during the holidays with fabulous shopping experiences, whimsical delights and breathtaking holiday decorations around every corner. There is always an endless list of things to do in NYC, but at this time of year, there are extra special holiday activities, entertainment at NYC taverns, timeless events, and a festive energy that takes over here unlike anywhere else in the world. We’ll cover a few family favorites later that we think you won’t want to miss.
Best Christmas Dinner in New York City
To put the icing on the cake (or the cherry on top), NYC is not only filled with wonderful holiday activities, but it is also one of the country’s premier food destinations and home of arguably the best Christmas restaurants NYC has to offer. No matter what your holiday craving, be it seasonal foods or goodies at the famous holiday markets that pop-up in the fall and winter, a Christmas vacation in New York City checks off all the boxes.
To break it all down and point you in the right direction of experiences you don’t want to miss, follow our guide to 12 days of Christmas-filled cheer and fun in New York City.
1 | First Day of Christmas | Day one is time enough for you to establish yourself in Westgate New York Grand Central. If you’re looking for a place that feels like home for the holidays, check out this spot. The historic hotel is in a great zip code, close to iconic landmarks like Grand Central Station, United Nations, Empire State Building – and that famous tree at Rockefeller Center. Here you will be pampered like a VIP in a luxurious room (many with balconies overlooking the city and breathtaking NYC skyline), so if you’re hoping to get a glimpse of Santa on his sleigh on Christmas Eve, here is your best bet.
2 | Second Day of Christmas | Head to Winter Village at Bryant Park. This is the perfect place to start getting into the Christmas spirit early in your trip. In fall and winter, one of NYC’s most beloved parks turns into a winter wonderland filled with pop-up shops, food vendors, and activities. Everything is centered around a 17,000-square-foot ice-skating rink that’s fun for the whole family.
After stocking up on Christmas gifts and hot cocoa from Winter Village, head indoors to warm up at the Chrysler Building. Enjoy the historic architecture of the 1930s building that was once the tallest in the world. You are free to enter the lobby during open hours to take in the large ceiling mural, clock, and art-deco elevators.
3 | Third Day of Christmas | Start your third day of Christmas in NYC by heading to bustling Times Square. The lights and action of Times Square will definitely get you into the Christmas spirit. Take festive family photos at the red stairs in the heart of the area. Get some Christmas retail in at nearby shops. Stop by the massive M&Ms store to pick up some seasonally themed candy.
After your big trip to Times Square, enjoy a cozy, warm dinner at the Tudor City Tavern. It’s the perfect place to unwind and relax after a long day of touring. Chow down on delicious comfort food and immerse yourself in the inviting atmosphere. Enjoy your favorite drink from the huge selection of exclusive Signature Drinks and curated selection of beers, spirits, and wine. The highly trained, friendly staff is sure to be able to make you your favorite holiday cocktail, or find you a new favorite! Tudor City Tavern is definitely a place where you can start a holiday tradition.
4 | Fourth Day of Christmas | Visit the spot at the Empire State Building where a lot of the beloved Christmas movie, Elf was filmed. Enjoy the signature art-deco architecture and embellishments, as well as holiday decorations for the season. Oh yeah, and enjoy the fantastic view that’s offered from the historic building’s observation deck on the 102nd floor.
Be sure to find a great viewing spot in the evening to catch the holiday musical light show put on at the Empire State Building every night from December 19th until Christmas Day. A light show displays every year on the building’s iconic tower and is synced to music for all to enjoy. Don't miss it!
5 | Fifth Day of Christmas | No Christmas in New York City is complete without a visit to the Macy’s NYC flagship store. The iconic department store was established in 1858 in Herald Square in the heart of the city’s Garment District. Every holiday season since 1874, Macy’s decorates its display windows with elaborate, festive, holiday-themed scenes. The famous display is a favorite for holiday visitors, attracting nearly 10,000 visitors daily during the holiday season.
As the store is in the heart of Fifth Avenue, it’s the perfect jumping off point to stroll through New York avenue known for its shopping. Not only can you enjoy the festive lights and decorations lining the streets and other shops, but you’ll also be able to cross off some additional items from your holiday shopping list.
6 | Sixth Day of Christmas | Chelsea Market is a great place to enjoy some seasonal foods from local vendors in the heart of one of Lower Manhattan’s most charming areas. It’s the perfect spot to try lots of flavors from the city while enjoying seasonal offerings and decorations. Stop into Posman Books to find some classic holiday titles and Artists & Fleas Chelsea for unique crafts, jewelry, antiques, and more.
Just a stone’s throw away is the Hudson River. Head to one of the Chelsea Piers for a special Holiday Cruise offered by Classic Harbor Line. During the season, you can set sail on beautiful 1920s style boats with gorgeous wood interiors for one of their holiday-themed cruises. Choose from Cocoa and Carols Holiday Cruise, Holiday Jazz, Sunset and Holiday Cocoa, and more.
7 | Seventh Day of Christmas | Any trip to NYC deserves a visit to the world-famous Grand Central Station, one of the most architecturally impressive transportation hubs. During the holiday season, going to Grand Central Station becomes even more of a must to enjoy the annual Holiday Fair. The Holiday Fair features local vendors and artists that you can browse and enjoy while taking in the breathtaking architecture of the building.
Next, take a trip to Little Italy to visit the city’s only year-round Christmas store, Christmas and City. While its presence may seem out of place in the summer, during the holiday season it becomes the festive destination of the area. Enjoy the larger-than-life, festive in-store displays and find the perfect ornaments to take home with you as a keepsake to enjoy for years to come.
8 | Eighth Day of Christmas | One of the best parts of Christmas is enjoying the outdoor winter scene. There’s no better place to do that than at the New York Botanical Gardens and the Bronx Zoo. First, enjoy the New York Botanical Garden’s Holiday Train Show. Charming, holiday-themed model train sets are added to its gardens so you can enjoy the foliage and intricate details of the trains and scenery. The train scenes are modeled after more than 175 of New York’s most famous places.
Next door is the Bronx Zoo which creates a fabulous Winter Wonderland of light shows, carolers, and ice sculptures. Stroll through the Winter Wonderland and enjoy all the sites. Keeping in the zoo spirit, the featured attractions are recreations of animals and their habitats using lanterns in all different colors. It’s a special experience perfect for adults and families alike.
9 | Ninth Day of Christmas | Some Christmas trees and decorations are so intricate that they seem like works of art. That is certainly the case at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which creates a 20-foot Christmas tree in its Medieval Sculpture Hall for the holiday season. Look closely and you’ll notice all of the intricate details that make it a true work of art, like a historic nativity scene and elements from historic cathedrals around the world.
Step out from arguably the greatest museum in the city and into the greatest park in the city, Central Park. You’ll come upon seasonal art vendors right outside the museum. Take a stroll through the park to savor the fall foliage, seasonal decorations, and maybe even some white snow. Head to Wollman Rink for one of the best ice skating experiences in the city and enjoy a horse and carriage ride around the park for a unique experience that’s perfect for the holiday. Whatever you choose, you’ll have a fabulous time.
10 | Tenth Day of Christmas | If you want a spectacular Christmas in New York City, then you really have to attend the famous Radio City Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall. It’s been a tradition since 1933 and features the Radio City Rockettes and their signature dances. The show is a truly festive combo of singing, dancing, original music, bright sets, and much more.
Before or after the show, head across the street from Radio City Music Hall to view the giant ornament sculptures that are displayed there every year. The ornaments are displayed on the plaza on 6th Avenue. While they’re too big to hang on any Christmas tree, they offer larger-than-life holiday cheer. Make sure to take pictures in front of them for the perfect holiday postcard!
11 | Eleventh Day of Christmas | The Columbus Circle Holiday Market is one of the best seasonal markets in the city. Sitting in an idyllic location at the corner of Central Park with over 100 vendors selling local goods and food, jewelry, crafts, art, accessories, and much more, there are a ton of great seasonal food options to enjoy.
When your feast is done, head into the Time Warner Center to warm up and enjoy a festive shopping experience. The interior is decorated for the holiday and each store glams itself up for the season. Look out for special shopping experiences, like a pop-up photo booth or holiday event.
12 | Twelfth Day of Christmas | Even if you do nothing else in NYC for Christmas, you have to take a trip to Rockefeller Center to see the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. Since 1933, raising this gigantic Christmas tree has been the ultimate holiday tradition of the city and beyond. It marks the start of the holiday season in New York City and serves as the epicenter of its Christmas spirit. Fun fact, the tree can be as large as 100 feet tall.
Just below the tree is the famous ice skating rink at Rockefeller Center. Ice skating under a gigantic Christmas tree in New York — what’s more festive than that? Many movies have filmed iconic scenes at this rink, including Elf, Autumn In New York, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, just to name a few...
More Tips On Things To Do For Christmas In New York City
Christmas in New York City doesn’t end with this list, with plenty of other fun activities, shops, events, and experiences for you to enjoy. The city truly comes alive during the holiday season and has a ton of unique experiences to offer. Plan your trip starting with a great, welcoming hotel and build out your magical Christmas trip from there. There’s nothing quite like Christmas in NYC!
Looking for a different experience? Check out the Travel Blog for vacation tips, tricks and so much more!
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* Westgate Resorts is in no way affiliated with the attractions featured in this article. Items or places listed are current as of the publishing date of this article. Please call or visit the respective website for the most up-to-date offerings and details.