Things to Do in New York in Winter 2016 – December Holidays & More

Winter in New York City is full of white lights, window displays, shopping, and more.

From outdoor skating to seasonal festivals, there’s fun for everyone this time of year. So if you’re looking for things to do in New York in Winter 2016, check out our list of the best holiday activities and attractions.

Save on Attraction Admission

Regular admission to a number of these attractions are available on the New York City Explorer Pass®.

Choose as you go from dozens of top attractions and save up to 50% on combined admission vs paying at the gate.

See all available New York passes, attractions & prices.

Please note, some of these special Winter events may be separately ticketed and not available on the Explorer Pass.

Go Ice Skating

New  York City has a few places to enjoy the popular winter sport, so you have a few options to choose from:

ice skating rockefeller center

Ice skating at the Ice Rink at Rockefeller Center might be the most quintessential winter New York City activity and it’s one of the most iconic places in the world to skate.

After some laps around the rink, warm up with a cup of hot cocoa at any of the nearby coffee shops or cafes; we like Rock Center Cafe for its prime views of the rink.

Snap a holiday card-worthy pic with the famous tree in Rockefeller Square, tour the center, and take a trip to the top of the building for sweeping winter views of the New York City skyline.

Image credit: Bryant Park Facebook page.

Image credit: Bryant Park Facebook page.

If you’d rather avoid the hard-to-navigate crowds that are sure to be at Rockefeller Center, head to the Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park for free admission for ice skating every day, through January.

At Winter Village, you can get quality Skate rentals, sharpening, lessons, and there are bag checks and lockers available. Afterwards, stop in Celsius for a bite to eat and festive drinks while you warm back up.

Head to Wollman Rink in Central Park for skating with a picturesque background and a convenient location close to lots of attractions, including the Museum of Modern Art, Lincoln Center, the American Natural History Museum, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, to name a few.

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

When: 

  • Tree lighting: November 30, 2016
  • Tree on display: November 30, 2016-January 7, 2017 at 9:00 pm

rock treeIf skating isn’t your thing, Rockefeller Center Plaza is still worth checking out for its iconic Christmas tree scene.

The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree is carefully selected each year among candidates from across the country, this world-famous tree is the best of the best.

Lights go on in early December, and the tree is available on display for all to see for the entire month. It’s worth a visit to Rockefeller Center for even just a glimpse of this tree.

Take a tour of Rockefeller Center for the full effect.

Visit a World Class Museum

When-Harry-Met-Seinfeld-5 - Copy

Want to get in a little culture during your visit to New York? Head to one of New York City’s top museums.

Whether you’re looking to experience the emotional tour of the 9/11 Tribute Center, explore all things weird at Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, or want to experience a Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece (the Guggenheim Museum) in person, you’re bound to find a museum that suits your interests.

For a more traditional museum experience, some of our top picks are the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York’s most renowned art museum, with its special exhibitions during the winter months and the American Museum of Natural History which explores all things earth science and natural history.

Winter Jazzfest

When: January 5-10, 2017

What started as a one day event has evolved into a full, four-day annual festival.

Jazzfest features some of the best established and up-and-coming jazz artists to make for an unforgettable event that celebrates the history and culture of all things jazz.

Check online for tickets, lineup information, and more.

Check Out Yankee Stadium

Yankee Stadium Tour in NYC is a great winter time activity

For a taste of real New Yorker life, be sure to check out the legendary Yankee Stadium with a behind the scenes tour.

You’ll learn some of the unique history that makes the stadium great (at least in the hearts of Yankee fans).

Under the Radar Festival

When: January 4-15, 2017

Under the Radar Festival in New York City

Photo credit: Under the Radar Festival’s Official Facebook Page

The Under the Radar Festival at The Public Theater is one of the most exciting ways to experience New York City’s famous theater culture.

The annual event features diverse comedy troupes from around the world performing over a dozen shows. These performances provide high-quality cultural entertainment at a fraction of the price you’d pay to see a show on Broadway.

Check online for tickets and more information.

Empire State Building Run-Up

When: February 1, 2017

If one of your New Year’s resolutions was to work out more, consider heading to the Empire State Building for a totally unique and totally challenging workout: the annual Empire State Building Run-Up (ESBRU), sponsored by Marmot

While only a quarter-mile in distance, a sprint to the top of the 86th floor is no easy feat.

The trip to the top takes visitors under a minute by elevator, and the fastest runners can do all 86 floors in 10 minutes. Start training now for this February 1st event.

Check online for more information.

Go to the Dog Show

When:

  • Meet & Compete: Saturday, February 11, 2017
  • 141st Annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show: Monday & Tuesday, February 13-14, 2017
Go to the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York City

Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Photo: Joe Buglewicz

See some of the most talented K9s compete for best in show this year at the annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

The show is always entertaining and dog lovers will enjoy the chance to meet their favorite breeds at the event on Saturday before the big show.

Check online for tickets and more information.

Beer, Bourbon, and BBQ Festival

When: January 28, 2017 (3 timed sessions)

Head to New York City's annual Beer, Bourbon, & BBQ festival for some good eats and festive fun

Photo credit: Beer, Bourbon, & BBQ Official Facebook Page

This traveling festival is scheduled to land in NYC in January. Admission comes with a souvenir sampling glass for unlimited bourbon and beer so you can sample your way through the day. Be sure to try the barbecue samples spread throughout the venue and there will be samples and larger portions available for purchase.

Insider tip: save room for the bacon eating contest. (Nope, we’re not making that up.)

Check online for tickets and additional information.

Radio City Christmas Spectacular

Where: Radio City Music Hall

When: November 11, 2016-January 2, 2017

Attending the Radio City Christmas Spectacular is a popular NYC bucket list activity for visitors and residents alike.

The show is always a little bit different each year, making it a fun tradition for those who’ve even already seen it. It’s got nutcrackers, dancing animals, flying presents, amazing special effects, and the world-famous Rockettes® – best way to get in the holiday spirit!

Can’t make the show? Take a tour of Radio City and go behind the scenes of the famous show.

George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker®

Where: New York City Ballet
When: November 25 December 31, 2016

Image credit: New York City Ballet.

Image credit: New York City Ballet.

This holiday tradition is a classic for a reason. Brought to life by the genius of George Balanchine, this year’s rendition of this Christmas favorite will have shinier sets, higher leaping ballerinas, a grander tree, and even more magic to go around.

Tickets can be quite pricey, so be sure to purchase in advance or look out for discounts online.

Remember to Save on Attraction Admission

So there you have it. Our list of a few things to do in New York in the winter, including holiday events, other seasonal activities in December, and more.

Remember, many of these options are available on the New York City Explorer Pass, where you can save up to 50% on combined admission vs paying at the gate.

Please note, the Winter events taking place at some of these attractions may be separately ticketed and not available on the Explorer Pass.

We hope you plan to add a few of these fun options to your winter vacation itinerary.

New York City Explorer Pass

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