15 Things to Do for Christmas and New Year's in NYC

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    Intro to Christmas and New Year's in NYC

    things to do for the holidays in NYC
    ••• Noam Galai / Getty Images Entertainment

    In NYC for the holiday season? Lucky you! The city's positively brimming with festive goings-on and timeless traditions for Christmas and New Year's (and also Thanksgiving, for the record). Make the most of your merrymaking with this essential guide to all that's good and jolly during the holidays in New York City. Whether it's ice-skating under the stars (and skyscrapers), watching dancing nutcrackers flit about the stage, being wowed by sparkling store windows and holiday light displays, shopping at vibrant holiday markets, or partaking in the New Year's Eve countdown heard 'round the world, here are 15 of our favorite ways to experience NYC's one-of-a-kind holiday spirit.

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  • 02 of 16

    Take in the Holiday Lights

    things to do for the holidays in NYC
    ••• Time Warner Center

    Manhattan can't be beat for its wow-factor holiday light displays come Christmastime.  Rockefeller Center ranks tops for its towering illuminated tree and picture-perfect plaza set aglow with twinkling angels, toy soldiers, wreaths, and more. A stroll down nearby Fifth Avenue in Midtown will have you stopping in your tracks at any of the fantastical window displays at shops like Lord & Taylor, Tiffany & Co., Bergdorf Goodman, and Henri Bendel (not to mention the shimmering UNICEF snowflake hanging just overhead on 57th Street). Bryant Park proposes another winter wonderland scene, with the bright lights of the glass-enclosed Holiday Shops, a glimmering Christmas tree, and a well-used (and free!) ice-skating rink. We also love the Shops at Columbus Circle for its annual "Holidays Under the Stars" installation, featuring massive 14-feet-high stars hanging overhead, with a changing color and musical scheme.

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  • 03 of 16

    Shop at Holiday Markets

    things to do for the holidays in NYC
    ••• Bank of America Winter Village

    Love it or hate it, shopping for loved ones is a pillar of the holiday season. Make the most of checking off that list while perusing the unique and fun finds at one of New York City's cheery pop-up holiday markets. Make way for scenic outdoor locales like Bryant Park, Union Square, and Columbus Circle, where some of the city's best markets unfold, and shopping for wares can be paired with hot cocoa and seasonal nosh. Tip: If you prefer to stay nice and toasty, Grand Central Terminal offers an indoor market, too, in its atmospheric Vanderbilt Hall.

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  • 04 of 16

    See the Radio City Christmas Spectacular

    things to do for the holidays in NYC
    ••• Mike Pont / WireImage / Getty Images

    Get into the spirit of the season at this beloved and time-honored holiday show. The annual Radio City Christmas Spectacular is a joy to watch for kids of all ages, with plenty of classic acts anchored on those wonderfully entertaining, high-kicking Rockettes. Count on fun special effects, great choreography, and wow-factor segments like the "Living Nativity" (featuring live camels, sheep, and donkeys), on-stage ice skaters, and more. The 90-minute shows run through January 1, 2018.

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  • 05 of 16

    Catch More Iconic Holiday Shows

    things to do for the holidays in NYC
    ••• New York City Ballet / Manzi Brown

    The Radio City Christmas Spectacular might be the best-known holiday show in the city, but there's a whole wide calendar of festive holiday productions unfolding across the city, including special theatrical performances and concerts. Check out our picks for 5 Can't-Miss Christmas Shows and Concerts in NYC that are sure to get you into the holiday spirit, with popular annual offerings like The Nutcracker at Lincoln Center, Handel's Messiah (also at Lincoln Center), the New York Pops Holiday Concert at Carnegie Hall, and more.

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  • 06 of 16

    Attend Tree Lightings

    things to do for the holidays in NYC
    ••• Bryan Bedder / Getty Images Entertainment

    Everybody's heard of the famous Rockefeller Center tree-lighting ceremony for good reason, but truth be told: You'll get nowhere near the tree when they flip the switch if you don't have countless hours to spare to wait around in the cold to secure your spot. Happily, there are plenty of tree-lighting ceremonies scheduled around NYC each year touting much more navigable crowds, with Christmas card-cover-worthy trees perched in spots like Bryant Park, Lincoln Square, and the South Street Seaport. Of course, once the trees are lit they'll be on nightly through the season, so do swing by anytime thereafter to enjoy their pleasant glows.

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  • 07 of 16

    Go Ice-Skating

    things to do for the holidays in NYC
    ••• Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park

    New Yorkers love their ice-skating rinks come wintertime, with more than a half-dozen of them cropping up each season in Manhattan alone. Not only is skating on these rinks good fun all winter long, but several of them offer a terrific holiday atmosphere, to boot. For instance, have a whirl under the towering Rockefeller Center tree at The Rink at Rockefeller Center, or follow up your skating with some holiday shopping at Bryant Park's Winter Village (bonus: it's a free rink, though you'll have to pay for skate rentals). See our Best Ice-Skating Rinks in NYC for some more ideas on where to skate when the mood hits.

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  • 08 of 16

    Set Out on a Guided Holiday Tour

    things to do for the holidays in NYC
    ••• CitySights NY

    Prefer to sit back, relax, and let somebody else take the reindeer reins on all things holiday related in NYC? No problem. In a city that offers visitors just about anything, rest assured that there's a good selection of holiday-themed tours to choose from, too. From a bus tour that focuses on on-location movie scenes where famous Christmas-in-NYC films were shot, to a behind-the-scenes tour at Rockefeller Center, these Festive NYC Holiday Tours picks have got all your holiday guiding needs covered.

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  • 09 of 16

    Linger at Grand Central Terminal

    things to do for the holidays in NYC
    ••• Mario Tama / Getty Images News

    Hanging out at a train station might not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about the holiday season in NYC, but rest assured that Grand Central Terminal is no ordinary station come Christmastime. In fact, it's a veritable NYC epicenter for holiday fun each year, thanks to its annual holiday market featuring dozens of pop-up stands, as well as its beloved holiday train exhibit at the New York Transit Museum Gallery Annex, right on-site. Check out our mini-guide to the Holidays at Grand Central Terminal for all your planning needs.

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  • 10 of 16

    Seek Out Santa Claus

    things to do for the holidays in NYC
    ••• John Minchillo / AP Images for Macy's

    The season just wouldn't be complete without a visit with Old St. Nick! Happily, he manages to get around town quite a bit each year, with annual go-to stations for pictures with Santa at stores like Macy's, ABC Carpet & Home, Bloomingdale's, and more. See our feature on Where to See Santa in NYC  for the lowdown on Santa's planned Manhattan circuit this year. 

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  • 11 of 16

    Party Hearty for NYE in Times Square

    things to do for the holidays in NYC
    ••• Spencer Platt / Getty Images

    Surely one of the world's most famous parties, the ball drop in New Year's Eve is pretty much the most iconic way to ring in the New Year. While many New Yorkers shy away from the event, citing gripes like cold temps, crazy crowds, and the lack of bathrooms, it's a special rush nevertheless to experience that wild countdown with about a million fellow revelers gathered under the bright lights of Times Square. If you're going to do it, do it right, with our expert advice in this Ultimate Guide to New Year's Eve in Times Square.

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  • 12 of 16

    Party for NYE Everywhere but Times Square

    things to do for the holidays in NYC
    ••• Jeff Kravitz / FilmMagic / Getty Images

    If the madness of seeing the ball drop in Times Square just isn't your idea of a good time, NYC certainly isn't lacking alternatives for proper New Year's Eve revelry. Check out our Ultimate Guide to New Year's Eve in NYC for some inspiration, where you can scour through the list of the top New Year's Eve parties in Manhattan and see what's on the roster for some fun New Year's Eve concerts, too.

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  • 13 of 16

    Do Something Different for New Year's Eve

    things to do for the holidays in NYC
    ••• New York Road Runners

    If parties, bars, and concerts aren't quite your speed this year, you're in luck: New York City offers plenty of fun alternative New Year's Eve celebrations each and every year. From biking and running outings, to mindful meditations and yoga classes, to harbor cruises, check out these 7 Alternative New Year's Eve Celebrations in Manhattan that are sure to start your 2018 off right.

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  • 14 of 16

    Recoup on New Year's Day in NYC

    things to do for the holidays in NYC
    ••• Rob Kim / Getty Images Entertainment

    Don't waste a minute of your precious time in Manhattan–there's never a dull moment in the Big Apple, and there's way more to do on New Year's Day in NYC than sit around and nurse your hangover. Here, we round up fun ideas for Things to Do on New Year's Day in NYC (and, yeah, we're including a selection of boozy brunch spots, in case a little hair of the dog that bit you is what you're after).

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  • 15 of 16

    Get Cozy by a Fireplace

    things to do for the holidays in NYC
    ••• Shoolbred's

    There may be nothing cozier on a cold winter night during the holidays than sitting by a crackling fireplace, favorite drink in hand. These Great Manhattan Bars with Fireplaces are saving a seat just for you. Bonus: Most of these bars put up festive holiday decor, to boot.

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  • 16 of 16

    Warm Up with Some Hot Cocoa

    things to do for the holidays in NYC
    ••• The City Bakery

    In the culinary paradise of NYC, rest assured that delicious hot chocolate is no exception. Whether you're looking for a sugar rush to help fuel your holiday shopping spree, or are wanting to warm up after a whirl on the rink, don't miss these Great Spots for Hot Chocolate in NYC.