There’s nothing more magical than New York City during the holidays: trees are strung with twinkling lights, doors are decorated with glittering bows, snow gently falls across the night sky. The only downside is that while it can be breathtakingly beautiful, it can also be frustratingly busy. While ice skating under the Rockefeller tree might seem magical, it’s really just crowded with families yelling at one another with a lot of pushing and impatience. Enjoy a more authentic and relaxing NYC holiday this year by partaking in these outings.
When most people think of Christmas in New York, more often than not, they imagine Manhattan. They dream of a snow-covered Central Park or even the Christmas market at Bryant Park, but to take a break from the crowds, head to Brooklyn. Down in Dyker Heights, the ultimate Christmas light show is displayed down several streets. While walking the streets works just fine, taking a bus tour is often suggested by returning guests. Prices vary. Tickets available for purchase here.
NYC Winter Lantern Festival in Staten Island
Decorated with hundreds of festive lanterns, eight acres of Staten Island is made into an entire holiday light display. This event is inspired by Chinese lantern festivals, pulling from different cultural inspirations and can include animals, flowers and candy – oh my. Every night, there are performances ranging from circus acts to magic shows. Prices vary. Tickets available for purchase here.
Watch the World’s Largest Hanukkah Menorah Lighting
Witness a larger-than-life menorah lighting held by Manhattan and Brooklyn Grand Army Plazas from December 22 to December 30. The 32-foot tall, golden icon will be lit across the street from the Plaza Hotel. Over in Prospect Park, this rival menorah will also be lit for celebrators in Brooklyn following a kickoff concert and potato pancakes. You can learn more about it here.
Let your dreams run wild and enter the dreamland that is the Nutcracker. Filled with nostalgia and beauty, the art that is this ballet will build memories that will last a lifetime not just for your children but for you too. Follow along with Clara as she classically dances her way through a land of toys, terror, and triumph, but this time, over in Queens. Tickets are just $5 and are available for purchase here.
Skate Your Way in Central Park
While ice skating in Rockefeller Center or Bryant Park may seem convenient, it can be less than enjoyable when the crowds become unbearable. While rinks limit the number of skaters on the ice at a time, fighting your way on blades isn’t exactly a dreamy movie scene. In good news, you don’t have to leave Manhattan to go ice skating – just head further north. Up in Central Park, there are several rinks that are less packed but just as beautiful. Check out Wollman Rink or Lasker Rink to stay somewhat closer to all the action. Prices vary.
To anyone else, this might seem like one of the most boring holiday activities to ever exist. However, if you’ve been to NYC before, you know that window displays in the city aren’t lamely dressed, they become miniature sights all in themselves. While the Macy’s window displays are the most popular around, plenty of other department stores decorate beyond the mannequins, including Barneys on Madison Avenue, Bloomingdale’s on Lexington Avenue, Saks on Fifth Avenue and Lord & Taylor on Fifth Avenue. All it takes is some walking and looking away from your phone and toward your surroundings. One of the best parts: it’s free.
Watch a Christmas Movie Set in NY While in NY
While being meta may be cheesy, the holiday season is all about being as cheesy as possible. After a full day of festivities with your little ones, kicking back and watching a movie is the best way to wind down while also staying in the holiday spirit. IFC is playing It’s A Wonderful Life through the month of December, which is a perfect film for all ages. Prices vary. Tickets available for purchase here.
Home Alone-It at Hotels
After ice skating in Central Park and window shopping in Manhattan, pop into some hotel lobbies to see how they’ve decorated for the holidays. Although the Plaza Hotel is the most popular, there are countless hotels around the city that are magnificently ornamented with plush garland, twinkling tinsel and larger-than-life Christmas trees. It’s a great way to get out of the cold and sightsee for free.
Find Your Christmas Gifts in Little Italy
With a year-round Christmas store, you’re set to find all your extended family members the perfect Christmas ornament for the year. Whether you want something New York-themed or something specific to their personality, you’re bound to find the perfect present. Children can enjoy seeing Santa’s in every shape or form there, and once you’re done, you can grab a hearty, warm meal nearby at any of the Italian restaurants to warm up from the winter weather. Prices vary.
Christmas Cookies in the City
Whether you’re in need of a mid-afternoon snack or dessert after a long day of activities, there are plenty of bakeries in NY that are carrying cookies specifically for the holiday season. From sugar cookies to snickerdoodle, there’s something for everyone. Eli’s Market, Magnolia Bakery, and Eleni’s are only some examples of where you can grab a sugary treat not just in Manhattan but also in Brooklyn and Queens. You can buy single cookies or enough to last you the rest of your trip (or through the weekend if you’re a local). Prices vary.