A Guide to Christmas in New York City

Spending Christmas in New York City is such a popular thing to do that it’s almost become a cliché – and yet it’s popular with very good reason. Simply put, the Big Apple is one of the most magical places in the world to enjoy the festive season. Few cities go all-out for Christmas the way this one does. Everywhere you turn you’ll find twinkling lights, sparkling Christmas trees, and heart-warming winter window displays. Being good at Christmas is an integral part of New York City’s identity. 

With so much to take in, it can be hard to know where to start, but our New York City Hop-On, Hop-Off bus tours hit the most unmissable highlights, so you don’t have to decide. And because we offer both 48-hour tickets and 72-hour tickets, you’ll have plenty of time to see everything at your own pace.  

Below are just a few of the festive activities you can enjoy through our tours. Mix and match for the idyllic New York City Christmas of your dreams. 

Ice Skating in New York City

Possibly one of New York City’s most famous Christmas offerings, the Rink at Rockefeller is the place to take to the ice. Join the thousands of people who flock here each year to don rented skates and glide through the chill winter air, overlooked by the vast, brightly lit Rockefeller Christmas tree.

A slightly less hectic – but equally atmospheric – alternative is the Wollman Rink at Central Park. And this option has an added bonus: if you get lucky with the timing of your visit, you’ll get to walk through a snow-covered Central Park to reach the rink. This is an unforgettable New York City Christmas experience in itself. 

Christmas Window Displays in New York City

The big-name department stores put on incredible shows in the run-up to Christmas, with each trying to outdo the others with lavish festive window displays that are bigger, brighter, and more ambitious. 

A stroll down Fifth Avenue will take you past many of the must-sees, with others in the adjacent streets. Highlights include Bloomingdales, Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue, Barneys and Macy’s. Many offer Christmas fun in-store, too. For example, Macy’s Santaland, which offers a chance to meet the guy in red himself, is a bit of a New York City institution.  

Christmas Shows in New York City

Taking in a show in New York City is a delight at any time of the year, but at Christmas, it’s even more exciting. Probably the best-known – and one of the most in-demand – shows is The Nutcracker, performed each year by the New York City Ballet in their home theatre, the David H. Koch Theater.  An impressive show is guaranteed here, but there are also many other wonderful versions of the ballet performed throughout the city in winter.

Another annual highlight of the New York City events calendar is the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. This grand variety show, featuring the Rockettes dance troupe, is hosted in the Rockefeller Center – so you can hit the ice rink outside before the show begins.  

Christmas Lights in New York City

From simple white fairy lights in trees to elaborate light displays, there are enough lights in New York City at Christmas to keep you well and truly dazzled. 

Ride the hop-on-hop-off bus over the Brooklyn Bridge from Manhattan and you’ll be well placed to jump off and head to Dyker Heights. This wealthy neighborhood is known for the incredible Christmas decoration efforts made by its residents each year. Think giant Santas, light-up candy canes taller than you are, and entire regiments of angels, nutcrackers, and reindeer. 

The Empire State Building illuminated with red, green and white lights is another unique Christmas spectacle. Stop off at the building itself to look up at it from the ground, or head to the Rockefeller Center to see it set against that iconic New York City skyline from the 70th-floor Top of the Rock observation deck. 

Holiday Markets in New York City

Holiday markets are a fantastic place to pick up some mementos of your Christmas in New York City, but even if you’re not in the market for any souvenirs, the jolly atmosphere can be pretty intoxicating. 

Wrap up warm and head to Times Square to browse Christmas tree ornaments while sipping on mulled wine. There’s a novelty here in being surrounded by those famous flashing billboards, though it’s worth keeping in mind that when you go to Times Square, you get Times Square crowds. More laid-back alternatives include the markets at Union Square and Columbus Circle, both bursting with festive cheer. 

See all our New York City tours and start planning your perfect Christmas trip today. 

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