There is nothing more magical than the streets of New York City during Christmas and the holidays. It kicks off with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and ends with the ball drop in Times Square. Look anywhere and everywhere to find winter wonderlands with a festive NYC touch.
Classic holiday events in New York City are a favorite tradition that families enjoy time and time again. Here are some our favorite Christmas activities in NYC. Updated for 2020!
The Best Christmas Events NYC for Families
See a Show
New York City is home to some of the best plays anywhere. Start a holiday tradition by heading to Broadway to see a show!
Looking for something Christmas themed? You can’t go wrong with the classic Radio City Christmas Spectacular at world-famous Radio City Music Hall where the Rockettes will dazzle with their stunning dance numbers. Be sure to arrive early to allow time to seek out fun photo opportunities with a Rockette located on the first mezzanine and Santa located in the Grande Lounge. Cancelled for 2020.
Families may also enjoy a show at The Theater at Madison Square Garden. One of the hottest holiday tickets in town is George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker™ performed by the New York City Ballet. Cancelled for 2020.
Kids and adults alike will enjoy entering the world of toy soldiers, mice kings, and sugar plum fairies. Nothing says Christmas in New York City like one of these classics!
Lincoln Center routinely boasts some of the Big Apple’s most spectacular shows as well. These are all cancelled for 2020.
Stroll Fifth Avenue
Strolling down Fifth Avenue between 59th and 34th streets will treat you to some of the best sights in the city, namely the decorated department stores and their lovely holiday-themed windows.
Some of the most famous windows you can find are at the department stores of Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord and Taylor, Bloomingdales, Bergdorf Goodman, and Macy’s.
Continue your walking tour by taking a stop at Macy’s in Herald Square will not only treat you to wonderful window displays, but you can also have your own Miracle on 34th Street moment while visiting Santa in Santaland.
In November and December, kids can also enjoy the Puppet Theater on the 8th floor. The holiday shopping is, of course, an added treat. These events at Macy’s are likely cancelled in 2020 due to Covid-19.
For the epitome of a Christmas in New York City experience, visit Rockefeller Center to see the world-famous Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree.
Take in the decorations, the famous tree, sip some hot chocolate, or lace up your ice skates and step onto the ice skating rink to soak in the holiday decorations and ambiance. There are also a variety of great stores to browse in and pick up some holiday gifts.
Take a Tour
Gray Line Bus Tours are available all year round but during the holiday season you can hop aboard for a holiday lights tour and see all the festive sites around the city. Times Square, the laser show at Grand Central Station, Rockefeller Center, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral are just some of the highlights on this bus tour.
For something a bit different, try The Christmas Lights Tour from A Slice of Brooklyn guided bus tours. Fun from the time your family steps onto the bus until you hop off filled with cool local knowledge – and a bit more of the holiday spirit, this is one fun family activity that you’ll be talking about long after the ride is complete.
Check for hotel availability in New York.
Additional Holiday Delights
The tree lighting at Rockefeller Center is certainly something special to do this time of year. Christmas in New York City really begins when this tree is lit. The huge Norway Spruce will be illuminated every evening throughout the holiday season.
The Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Gardens features model trains traveling around miniature replicas of famous New York City landmarks.
Throughout the season, visitors enjoy special events featuring puppet shows and visits with Thomas the Train. The Botanical Garden has other fun programs such as Holiday Adventures where kids can enjoy a variety of activities.
A New York staple, Central Park, is the perfect place for a wintertime stroll or a carriage ride. For a fun, traditional wintertime activity, take the family ice skating at Wollman Rink! The kids will love the puppet theater at The Swedish Cottage. The theater creates family-friendly holiday favorites every year that are sure to delight boys and girls of all ages.
Stop by Bryant Park and visit the Winter Village. Take a twirl on the ice at Citi Pond, the only place in the city where you can skate for free!
Afterward, ride the Le Carrousel which will be sure to delight the kids. During the holiday season, visitors can enjoy the Holiday Markets at Bryant Park, more than 100 boutique style shops are available for your shopping pleasure to get that perfect “Christmas in New York City” gift.
Additional holiday markets can be found at Columbus Circle and European Union Square.
Where to Stay
Note: Most hotels have adjusted their holiday programming due to Covid-19. Check with hotels directly for the most up-to-date information.
There are so many hotels to choose from in New York City! During this time of year, many offer fun holiday-themed packages during your stay. The Omni Berkshire Place is located just steps from some of the city’s best shopping! For a splurge, consider a stay at one of NYC’s oldest gems, family-friendly Sherry Netherland.
Stays at the centrally-located Westin New York at Times Square will also get you a room at the center of the action. Check their website for specific holiday specials and rates and enjoy breathtaking views of the city. Chelsea’s Hyatt House is a great choice for families who want a kitchen to cook in.
Check out our top picks for family-friendly lodging in NYC.
Look for the best hotel prices in New York.
Find more Christmas events near you! Trekaroo has guides for dozens of cities across the country.
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