December is a magical time to be in New York City. As the temperatures drop, the city warms up with holiday cheer. From iconic attractions to hidden gems, During the festive season, New York City offers a variety of activities for everyone to enjoy. Let’s explore the best activities to do in December while sipping on a warm cup of cocoa and bundled up.
1. Ice Skating at Rockefeller Center
Kickstart your December adventure by gliding across the ice at the world-famous Rockefeller Center ice skating rink. Nestled beneath the towering Christmas tree, this experience will transport you to a winter wonderland. Remember to snap some photos! Ice skating at Rockefeller Center is a quintessential New York City experience that draws visitors and locals alike.
December in New York City is synonymous with ice skating. Several iconic rinks open for the season, creating a picturesque winter atmosphere:
- The Rink at Rockefeller Center: Located beneath the famous Christmas tree, this rink is a must-visit for its iconic setting. Skate in the heart of Manhattan amidst holiday lights and decorations.
- Central Park Ice Rinks: Wollman Rink and Lasker Rink in Central Park offer a serene skating experience surrounded by nature’s beauty.
- Bryant Park Winter Village: This pop-up ice rink in Bryant Park is free to enter, but you can rent skates if needed. The surrounding holiday market and eateries add to the festive ambiance.
2. Witness the Lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree
Speaking of the iconic Christmas tree, be sure to attend the annual lighting ceremony. It’s a magical event that marks the official start of the holiday season in NYC. The tree’s dazzling lights and the surrounding decorations will leave you in awe. The lighting ceremony is usually held in late November or early December and features celebrity performances and a sense of excitement you will want to experience.
New York City’s streets and landmarks come alive with dazzling holiday lights and decorations in December:
- Fifth Avenue Window Displays: Stroll down Fifth Avenue to admire the elaborate holiday window displays at stores like Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy’s, and Bergdorf Goodman.
- Dyker Heights Christmas Lights: Take a trip to Brooklyn’s Dyker Heights neighborhood to witness extravagant Christmas light displays on residential homes.
- Christmas Tree Lighting: Attend one of the tree lighting ceremonies in the city, such as the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting or The Christmas Tree at Washington Square Park was lit up.
3. Shop at Holiday Markets
New York City boasts numerous holiday markets during December. Head to Bryant Park’s Winter Village, Union Square Holiday Market, or Columbus Circle Holiday Market to find unique gifts, delicious treats, and a festive atmosphere. These markets are perfect for holiday shopping, offering a wide range of handcrafted goods, artisanal foods, and unique souvenirs.
December is the perfect time to explore New York City’s holiday markets. You can find unique gifts, artisanal crafts, and delicious treats at these markets:
- Union Square Holiday Market: This market features over 150 vendors offering handmade crafts, artwork, and gourmet food items.
- Columbus Circle Holiday Market: Located at the southwest entrance of Central Park, this market is known for its elegant offerings, including jewelry, home goods, and gourmet treats.
- Bryant Park Winter Village: Beyond the ice rink, this market offers an array of boutique-style shops and a food hall with international cuisine.
- Grand Central Holiday Fair: Set within the stunning Grand Central Terminal, this market offers an upscale selection of gifts and artisanal products.
4. Catch a Broadway Show
Escape the winter chill by immersing yourself in the world of Broadway. December is a fantastic time to catch a show, with many theaters offering special holiday-themed performances. Classics like “The Nutcracker” and “A Christmas Carol” take center stage, and Broadway theaters are beautifully decorated for the season.
New York City offers an array of festive shows and performances to get you into the holiday spirit:
- Radio City Christmas Spectacular: Featuring the world-famous Rockettes, this show at Radio City Music Hall is a beloved tradition with its high-energy dance numbers and holiday cheer.
- The Nutcracker: Enjoy a performance of the classic holiday ballet “The Nutcracker” by the New York City Ballet.
- Holiday Concerts: Many renowned venues like Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center host special holiday concerts and performances featuring world-class musicians and artists.
5. Visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Explore one of the world’s most renowned museums, the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It’s an ideal indoor activity to appreciate art and history while staying warm during the colder days of December. The Met’s vast collection offers something for every art enthusiast, from ancient artifacts to contemporary masterpieces.
New York City’s museums and cultural institutions are worth exploring year-round, but in December, they often have special holiday-themed exhibits and events:
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Discover the extensive collection of “The Met” and indulge in the festive exhibits and displays during the holidays.
- American Museum of Natural History: This museum provides a range of educational and entertaining exhibits suitable for visitors of all ages, along with seasonal events.
6. Experience The Radio City Christmas Spectacular
A trip to New York in December would only be complete with attending the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. The Rockettes’ high-energy dance routines and dazzling costumes will leave you mesmerized. This iconic show has been a holiday tradition for generations and continues to enchant audiences with its stunning performances.
Discover Dyker Heights Christmas Lights
Take a journey to Brooklyn’s Dyker Heights to witness some of the most extravagant Christmas light displays in the city. The neighborhood transforms into a festive paradise, with houses adorned in dazzling lights and decorations. Dyker Heights Christmas lights have gained fame for their over-the-top displays, making it a must-see destination during December.
7. Attend New Year’s Eve Celebrations
If you’re in New York City on New Year’s Eve, take advantage of the iconic ball drop in Times Square. Join the lively crowds and welcome the new year with a bang. Times Square’s New Year’s Eve celebration is one of the most famous in the world, attracting revelers from all corners of the globe.
8. Indulge in Festive Dining
Savor seasonal delights at New York’s world-class restaurants. Many establishments offer special holiday menus that feature delectable dishes with a holiday twist. Whether you’re craving a traditional turkey dinner or gourmet fusion cuisine, you’ll find it in the city’s diverse culinary scene.
9. Attend a Hanukkah Celebration
Learn about the Festival of Lights by attending a Hanukkah celebration in the city. Many synagogues and cultural institutions host events that welcome everyone to partake in the festivities. Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday marked by menorah lighting, traditional food, and cultural events held throughout New York City.
10. Take a Holiday Lights Bus Tour
Sit back, relax, and enjoy a guided holiday lights bus tour. You’ll be taken to various neighborhoods to admire the city’s most dazzling holiday decorations. These tours provide a convenient way to see the best holiday light displays without worrying about navigation or parking.
Exploring New York City by taking guided tours can be an informative and enjoyable way to learn about the city’s history and holiday traditions:
- Holiday Lights Tour: Take a guided tour by bus or on foot to see the best holiday lights and decorations in the city.
- Holiday Markets Tour: Join a tour that explores the various holiday markets, giving you insider tips on the best finds.
New York City in December is a magical experience that combines festive traditions with the vibrant energy of the city. Whether you’re sipping hot cocoa in Central Park, watching a dazzling Broadway show, or witnessing the iconic tree lighting at Rockefeller Center, the Big Apple offers something for everyone during this enchanting season.