Visiting New York City during the holiday season is a unique experience. The spirit of the season permeates through every inch of the city—around ice skating rinks, in the museums and the shops, and at tree lightings. On Thanksgiving Day, the holiday cheer literally parades down the street. From November through January, New York is bustling with celebratory events and activities. So, grab a hat and mittens and head to the city that never sleeps for these iconic holiday happenings.
The Ice Rink at Rockefeller Center
Ice skating is a great way to start the winter and Rockefeller Center is one of the most famous places to skate. You’ll find the whole area decorated for the holiday season and the rink packed with red-nosed New Yorkers (and tourists!) in skates and scarves. After you skate, enjoy warming up with a cup of hot cocoa at any of the nearby coffee shops or cafes.
Citi Pond at Bryant Park
Starts late October
Whether you prefer to skate during the day or under the stars, Citi Pond at Bryant Park offers free admission for ice skating everyday, through January. At Citi Pond, you’ll also enjoy quality rental skates, ice shows, and special events. Afterwards, stop in Celsius for a warm meal and festive drinks. This charming two-story restaurant overlooks the rink.
Radio City Christmas Spectacular
mid-November – early January
This festive extravaganza, a longstanding NYC holiday tradition, is a celebration of song and dance. This year’s show features new Rockettes dance numbers, a brand new 3DLIVE scene, and incredible special effects. Of course, old favorites like “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” and “New York at Christmas” won’t be forgotten!
Grand Central Holiday Gift Fair
mid-November – December 24
Can’t stand the cold but don’t want to miss out on the festivities? Head to the Grand Central Holiday Gift Fair, the most unique indoor event of its kind. Grand Central’s Vanderbilt Hall will be decked out in elegant holiday fair and filled with hand-picked vendors selling everything from handmade jewelry to treats for the kids. You’ll find something for everyone on your list without leaving the warmth of the Hall!
Origami Holiday Tree
late November – early January
Holiday visits to the American Museum of National History are extra special with the annual tradition of the Origami Holiday Tree. Marking the beginning of the holiday season, this magnificent and breathtaking tree is decorated with over 500 origami creations. This year’s tree pays tribute to the largest animals and inanimate objects in the museum, mainly the famous blue whale in the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life and The World’s Largest Dinosaurs. During the season, volunteers will be teaching visitors of all ages the art of origami folding. The museum is one choice with a New York Explorer Pass.
Annual Christmas Tree and Neapolitan Baroque Creche
late November – early January
A stop at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is at the heart of any New York City trip. This time of year, the Museum embraces the season with a traditional Christmas display. In the Medieval Sculpture Hall resides a tree surrounded by 18th century holiday decorations, including a detailed Neapolitan nativity scene. The display is beautiful, timeless, and a delight for all.
Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
The world-famous Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is celebrating over 85 years of specatular fun! As always, expect celebrities and musicians, Broadway performers and professional dancers, and the giant balloon characters that are the parade’s trademark. This year’s balloon creatures include Buzz Lightyear, Spider-Man, and Kung Fu Panda. Last but not least, you’ll witness the first Santa Claus appearance of the season!
George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker
late November – December 31
Performed annually by the New York City Ballet since 1954, George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker is a NYC holiday experience the whole family will enjoy. This performance of the classic story is a magical experience with some of the best and most beautiful dancing on earth. The visions of Sugarplum Fairies are likely to stay with you long after the show is over.
Winter’s Eve at Lincoln Square
For one night only, witness Lincoln Square’s transformation from New York neighborhood to magical winter wonderland. In its twelfth year, Winter’s Eve is widely recognized as the largest holiday festival in NYC. The event kicks off with a tree-lighting ceremony and continues with street performers, musicians, jugglers, food-tastings, holiday-themed crafts and games for kids, and much more. All of the area’s restaurants, shops, and public spaces will be brimming with festive displays and activities.
Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting
The annual lighting of the Christmas tree at Rockefeller center is a must-see event of the holiday season. The enormous tree, decked out in colorful lights, is a stunning sight. The lighting ceremony also features popular musicians, ice skaters, and a performance by the famed Radio City Rockettes.
Lighting of the World’s Largest Hanukkah Menorah
The lighting of the world’s largest menorah at Grand Army Plaza is a grand Hanukkah ritual in The Big Apple. Each evening during the holiday, a candle will be lit on the 32-foot-tall, four thousand pound steel menorah. The lighting ceremonies will be accompanied by folk dancing and sufganiyot (holiday jelly donuts).
Times Square Ball Drop
The holiday season may be coming to an end, but it’s time to usher in a new year of aspirations and adventures. Witness in person the event that millions of eyes all over the world are watching, the descent of the Waterford Crystal Times Square New Year’s Eve Ball. Count down the last seconds of this year before the ball finally drops and ushers in the new year! The beautiful crystal ball is a sight in itself, and the exhilaration of New Year’s Eve at Times Square is an absolutely unforgettable experience.