10 Festive Things to do in NYC

With the days getting darker and colder, it’s nice to know that Christmas in New York is a magical time when everything transforms into the most festive winter wonderlands. You’ll spot Christmas lights and trees in every borough, pop-up holidays markets, Christmas movie screenings and concerts and even restaurants that take on a festive vibe. No matter if you feel like a grinch, a cheery elf or somewhere in between this holiday season, I’ve got you covered.

WHERE TO SIGHT-SEE:

The holiday inspired window displays are probably the most magical part of Madison and Fifth Avenue. You can check out the Barneys and Hermes windows on Madison and Bergdorf’s, Tiffany’s, Cartier, Harry Winston, and Saks Fifth Avenue on Fifth. Make a day out of it. Pier 17 will also be opening up a brand new attraction this holiday season on December 14th—Winterland, featuring NYC’s first-ever outdoor rooftop ice rink. Enjoy panoramic views of the glittering New York City skyline as you take a spin on the ice and warm up with seasonal drinks and casual bites at Tank, The Rooftop at Pier 17’s cozy warming hut, or R17, the new rooftop restaurant and lounge. Kids also skate for free and Pier 17 offers skate lessons, curling, broomball and fitness classes.

What you need to know:

Pier 17

Pier 17 Address: 89 South St.

Hours: Monday-Thursday 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Friday 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.-11 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m.-9 p.m.

Saks Fifth Ave light show

Saks Fifth Avenue: 611 5th Ave.

Tickets cost between $17-$40 depending if you get general admission or VIP, so be sure to buy your tickets soon!

WHERE TO ENJOY SEASONAL ART:

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is the crown jewel of New York City’s Museum Mile any time of the year, but it takes on a dusting of Christmas magic all of its own around the holidays. Every day at 4:30, it lights its spectacular 20-foot blue spruce and has an 18th century Neapolitan nativity scene displayed at its foot.

What you need to know:

The Met Christmas tree

There are tree-lighting encores at 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on weekends and admission is pay-what-you-like for New York state residents.

WHERE TO STAY:

New York City hotels tend to go all out around the holidays and each one has its own distinct “decor personality.” Lotte New York Palace is also only minutes from some of New York’s best holiday sightseeing spots, including Rockefeller Center, Radio City Music Hall, and Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. The Palace is known for its 30-foot Christmas tree that glows in the courtyard and a lobby full of elegantly festive decorations.

What you need to know:

Lotte New York

Children are welcome to send their wish lists off to Santa in their “Santa Mail” box—much less crowded than Macy’s Santaland.

WHERE TO SHOP:

The Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park showcases rows of artisanal shops selling jewelry, decor, local food, clothing, and one-of-a-kind gifts. You can also skate in the village rink, check out the giant Christmas tree or sip on hot cider and extravagant treats at the Bryant Park food kiosks.

What you need to know:

Bryant Park winter village

The funds from every purchase helps support the park’s maintenance, letting you nix any guilt from seasonal splurges.

WHERE TO SKATE:

The Wollman Rink at Central Park is the perfect place to ice skate with tourists and natives alike. The rink offers ice hockey, a skating school, party facilities and skate rentals. You might also recognize this rink from Home Alone 2, where crooks Marv and Harry attempt to ice skate and plot their scheme. Instead of getting up to no good, you can stroll through the park afterwards and stop for a holiday weekend brunch at the famed Tavern on the Green or head to Central Park Zoo.

What you need to know:

Wollman Rink

Skating hours: Monday-Tuesday: 10 am-2:30 pm, Wednesday-Thursday: 10 a.m.-10 p.m., Friday-Saturday: 10 a.m.-11 p.m., Sunday: 10 a.m.- 9 p.m.

Admission fees: Monday-Thursday: Adults: $12, Children (11 & under): $6, Seniors: $5, Friday-Sunday & Holidays: Adults: $19, Children: $6, Seniors: $9. Rentals: Skates: $9, Locks: $5 + $6 refundable deposit

WHERE TO EAT:

If being surrounded by hundreds of dazzling decorations as you dine is up your alley, Lillie’s Victorian is a must during the holidays. There are two locations in Times Square and Union Square (which I recommend since it’s also near the Union Square Holiday Market). It’s a hidden gem decked out in lights and decor for the holidays which offers comfort eats and a full bar. If you’re looking for something more cozy, Eataly Flatiron’s roof is transformed into greenhouse pop-up called SERRA ALPINA by Birreria. With the temperature dropping, the chefs have come up with a variety of warming dishes, from rich pasta to hearty braised meats. SERRA ALPINA will stay true to the greenhouse concept and all ingredients will continue to be sourced from local U.S. farms as well as high-quality Italian producers. The menu also offers a set of craft cocktails infused with mountain herbs as well as housemade Vin Brule’– the Italian version of mulled wine.

What you need to know:

Restaurant

Lillie’s Victorian address: 13 E 17th St., Hours: Monday-Friday (11 a.m.-4 a.m.)

Restaurant

Eataly Address: 200 5th Ave., Hours: daily 7 a.m.-11 p.m.

Make sure to book a table for both as NYC gets busier!

WHERE TO SEE THE BEST PERFORMANCES:

If you want something different than the Rockettes, look no further than the Nutcracker Rouge in Bushwick. It’s a spectacle featuring a top-tier cast of opera singers, aerialists, circus performers, and burlesque artists. Housing Works Thrift in Soho store is also welcoming musicians, writers and performers on December 15th to recreate Ebenezer Scrooge and his ghosts. The event begins at noon with caroling from the New York City Master Chorale, followed by a reading with writers giving their take on the infamous Scrooge. Hot chocolate and mulled wine will be available at the cafe, plus store items will be 10% off. And for my fellow Potterheads, the annual themed Yule Ball will transform the Bell House in Gowanus into Hogsmeade’s raviest tavern with live performances, loads of cosplay and plenty of flowing butterbeer also on the 15th. Hosted by Harry and the Potters, you can also catch wizard-rock bands like the Whomping Willows or Tonks and the Aurors over the course of the magic night.

What you need to know:

Nutcracker Rogue

Nutcracker Rouge address: Theatre XIV 383 Troutman St., Tickets: $65.

Housing Works address: 130 Crosby St., December 15th 12 p.m.-4:30 p.m.

Yule Ball, The Bell House: 149 7th St., Brooklyn, Doors: 5 p.m., Tickets: $22

WHERE TO SEE CHRISTMAS LIGHTS:

Think “The Great Christmas Light Fight”—Brooklyn version. The Dyker Heights neighborhood has an “unspoken” competition in which every house tries to outshine and out-decorate the other, making the neighborhood a destination for walking tours and cars rolling by. It supposedly all started in the ‘80s when one woman put Christmas decorations all over her house. Her neighbors weren’t happy about it, so they started to do it too as a competition, and now 30 years later, it’s an event. Just imagine those Con Ed bills! Snug Harbor Cultural Center is showcasing its NYC Lantern Festival with over 40 LED installations that will decorate 7 acres. The lanterns will feature a variety of designs and themes– expect to see flamingos, lions, flowers, sea creatures, Christmas decorations, Chinese dragons and more.

What you need to know:

Dyker Heights

Dyker Heights: the best displays are from 84rd to 86th St., about a 10-minute walk from the D train.

Laterns

Snug Harbor Cultural Center address: 1000 Richmond Terrace, Staten Island and the hours are Wednesdays, Thursdays & Sundays 5 p.m.-10 p.m. and Fridays & Saturdays 5 p.m.-11 p.m. Price: $23 but check Groupon for deals.

WHERE TO GET A GREAT PHOTO OP: 

The Standard Highline entrance is lined with neon trees and candy canes galore to spice up your Instagram feed. Take a seat underneath the heat lamps after getting hot chocolate and food from the gingerbread house. Industry City is celebrating the holidays with a giant mural of the Grinch inside an elevator and a photography exhibit called “Christmas in America” by artist Jesse Riesser. The exhibit includes photos across eight years and depicts different traditions and ways Americans celebrate the holiday season around the country.

What you need to know:

The Standard High Line

The Standard High Line address: 834 Washington St.

Grinch elevator

Industry City address: 241 37th St., Brooklyn, Free from 9 a.m.-6 p.m.

WHERE TO END YOUR YEAR ON THE RIGHT NOTE:

Avoid the chaos (and tourists) of Times Square and enjoy the holiday from a calmer perspective. The Brooklyn Bridge Walk Into the New Year is guided by a trained historian and tour guide, who will share tidbits about the bridge and where fireworks will light up the city skyline and ring in 2019. Grand Army Plaza in Prospect Park will also come alive this year with live music starting around 10:30 p.m. At midnight, fireworks will go off at Long Meadow.

What you need to know:

fireworks

The Brooklyn Bridge Walk: Begins at 10:30 p.m. and meets at 160 Broadways and concludes on the Brooklyn Bridge.

New Years Eve fireworks

Prospect Park: The best vantage points are at Grand Army Plaza, inside the park on West Drive and along Prospect Park West between Grand Army Plaza and 9th St.

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