Christmas Season Highlights in New York City

Holiday happenings in the Big Apple

Illuminated Christmas trees at the ice skating rink at the Rockefeller Center, Manhattan, New York City, USA, America
Getty Images/Franz Marc Frei/LOOK-foto

The holiday season is arguably the most exciting time to visit New York City and definitely a time with popular family appeal. Beginning in late November, the Big Apple is transformed into a festive holiday destination, from the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center and the beautifully decorated storefronts along Fifth Avenue to the Chrlstmas light displays in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn. 

Here's a lineup of don't-miss events and activities in NYC happening during the holiday season. It's highly recommended to book your hotel and attraction tickets months in advance. For more information about visiting NYC during the holidays, visit

Christmas in NYC 2017

Radio City Christmas Spectacular: (Nov. 10, 2017-Jan. 1, 2018) This New York City musical tradition takes place in the iconic Radio City Music Hall and features the high-kicking Rockettes. Advance booking is highly recommended.

New York Botanical Garden’s Holiday Train Show: (Nov. 22, 2017–Jan. 15, 2018) This ideal family outing features model trains that zip through replicas of New York City landmarks made of natural materials.

THE RIDE’s Holiday Edition: (Nov. 16, 2017–Jan. 7, 2018) Families can witness New York City’s holiday festivities and cheer through floor-to-ceiling windows from the comfort of a multi-million dollar motor coach. The experience is hosted by two on-board New York City experts and features live street performers.

Origami Holiday Tree at the American Museum of Natural History: (Nov. 22, 2017-Jan. 7, 2018) The museum's famous Origami Holiday Tree is a staple of the holiday season. 

91st Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade(Nov. 22-23, 2017) This televised tradition kicks off at 9am on Thanksgiving Day but families can also attend a fun event on the afternoon before, to watch the famously oversized helium balloons getting inflated on the Upper West Side. Then on Thanksgiving Day, grab a good viewing spot to see the procession of fantasy-filled floats, marching bands, performance groups and clowns.

The Nutcracker performed by the New York City Ballet: (Nov. 24-Dec. 31, 2017) One of the season’s favorite annual productions, George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker is a holiday feast complete with marching toy soldiers, a one-ton Christmas tree that grows before the audience’s eyes and crystalline snowflakes.

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree: (Nov 29, 2017-Jan 7, 2018) The iconic tree on Rockefeller Plaza will be lit for the first time on November 29, with live performances from 7–9 pm. Tens of thousands crowd the sidewalks and hundreds of millions will watch it live on TV. The tree will remain lit through the first week of January.

Iconic toy stores: Every holiday season, the biggest and best toy stores in the Big Apple become magnets for wide-eyed kids of all ages. Here are a few you won't want to miss:

Holiday markets: Each year, holiday markets pop up across the city, selling homemade goods, holiday treats, and many crafts and artisan goods that make great gifts. Annual favorites include: 

A Slice of Brooklyn’s Christmas Lights: (Dec. 1–31, 2017) Now in its eighth year, this holiday bus tour offers families the opportunity to see the famed Dyker Heights Christmas lights, most recently seen on TLC’s Crazy Christmas Lights. Every year the neighborhood is ablaze with illuminating exhibitions complete with 30-foot toy soldiers and nativity scenes. The bus also offers festive holiday music and old-time Christmas television variety specials, topped off with a taste of Brooklyn’s best cannolis and hot chocolate.

Holiday Tours at the Louis Armstrong House Museum(throughout December) The 40-minute guided tours of the house, a National Historic and New York City landmark, offer a look into the life of a jazz legend and feature Louis Armstrong’s voice recording of “Twas the Night Before Christmas and other seasonal favorites.

Elf! The Musical: (Dec. 13-29, 2017) The humorous holiday tale comes to life in this blockbuster musical production at The Theater at Madison Square Garden.

31st annual Miracle on Madison Avenue(Dec. 2, 2017) During this annual philanthropic shopping event, retailers and businesses located on Madison Avenue between 57th and 86th streets will donate 20 percent of sales that day to The Society of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

Candlelight Tours of Historic Richmond Town: (Dec. 9 and 16, 2017) This historic community on Staten Island will hold its annual holiday favorite candlelight tour. Candles, oil lamps and flickering fireplaces light up the town, and families can attend a “wassail bowl” reception in the Courthouse. Prepaid reservations are required.

Holiday Open House at the Queens County Farm Museum: (Dec. 26–28, 2017) After families tour the decorated Adriance farmhouse in Floral Park, Queens, children can join in a crafts activity while everyone enjoys a cup of fresh mulled cider.

New Year's Eve in Times Square: (Dec. 31, 2017) Families brave enough to face the crowds can attend one of the world’s most spectacular New Year's Eve celebrations in Times Square. The annual ball drop attracts an estimated million people each year, with over a billion additional viewers watching from around the globe.