13 Cool Things to Do in NYC During Holiday Season

13 Cool Things to Do in NYC During Holiday Season

If you’re spending your holiday season in The Big Apple, there are many things you can do to have a magical time! New York City boasts wonderful holiday offerings across the city from light festivals to holiday markets, the Rockefeller Centre, ice skating and even enjoying the snow at the Parks for those who wish to get away from the crowds.

  1. Santacon!

“This would be a Santa Claus convention although there’s nothing official about it. Santacon takes place every December around Manhattan and bars encourage this event by providing various drinks and special discounts. It can be an all-day drinking fest with hundreds of people dressed up in Santa suits, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t join in on the fun! While this is no doubt an interesting sight to see, it can get slightly rowdy so be ready for that. This event starts around noon and usually goes on until early evening.” (Jenna Lofton)

  1. Sleigh Bells at Madison Square Park

“This event has been getting bigger every year so there’s a possibility you might have to wait in line. But trust me, once you get inside the park, you’ll be able to take beautiful pictures with this holiday season’s most popular decorations along with plenty of Christmas lights! One thing I also love about this place is how it feels like you’re in a different world when you cross the main entrance into the actual park. There are lighted deer sculptures all over and unique trees that look like they’ve been carefully wrapped up for the season.” (Jenna Lofton)

  1. Christmas Tree Lighting at Rockefeller Center

“This will be the biggest Christmas tree you’ll ever see! The ceremony starts at around 8:00 pm so you can catch it while having dinner but make sure to arrive early as people start queuing up hours beforehand. It’s a free event though, and it usually involves some celebrity performances. But I think the best part of this whole ceremony is how they light up all those Swarovski crystals on top of the tree. At night, under the beautiful lights, everything looks magical!” (Jenna Lofton)

  1. Santo Market

“Similar to Santacon, this is an event for grown-ups that are into holiday drinking sprees. There were hundreds of Santas a year roaming around Manhattan with their own personalized Santa caps (and of course, plenty of bottles to share) but this is a non-sanctioned event. Still, if you’re feeling adventurous or just want to have some fun in New York during the holidays, joining Santo Market is definitely worth checking out!” (Jenna Lofton)

  1. Holiday Celebrations at Bryant Park

“This is certainly one of my most favorite places to spend Christmas because there are so many things happening all around! First, they have an ice skating rink that turns into a winter wonderland once it snows which looks absolutely amazing. During nighttime, they have these cute twinkling lights and decors everywhere which makes for great picture spots. There’s also an artificial fireplace where people like taking photos as if they were actually warming themselves up. And the best part is, all of these events are free!”

Jenna Lofton is a Certified Financial Advisor, stock trader, and small business owner currently living in New York City; Stockhitter.com 

  1. Ice Skating

“One of my favorite things to do in NYC during the holidays is go ice skating. There are three classic rinks and all are different. The Wollman Rink in Central Park has iconic views of the Plaza Hotel and Midtown behind Central Park. The Rockefeller Center rink is small, but is directly below the famous Rockefeller Christmas tree and next to the sound and light show on Saks Fifth Avenue’s facade. The rink at Bryant Park is free if you have your own skates, and has the holiday market and places to drink hot chocolate and get a seasonal snack.”

James Ian has been to 82 countries, but calls NYC and the Hudson Valley home. His websites Travel Collecting and Parks Collecting help people have fun and interactive vacation experiences.

  1. Do a Christmas Market Crawl

“One of my favorite parts of the holiday season is all of the holiday markets that pop up around the city. These quaint markets offer mulled cider, hot chocolate, waffles, hand-knit scarves, and tons of other unique shops hosted by small businesses around New York. If you want to take a stroll through a snowy Central Park, go to the Columbus Circle market. If you’d rather do some ice skating right in the middle of all the action, check out Bryant Park. But my personal favorite is the Union Square market.

“I usually visit all three over the holiday season, but if you’re just visiting New York, you could do a market crawl and visit all of them in one day!”

Daniel Caughill, Co-Founder The Dog Tale

  1. Broadway!

“The re-opening of Broadway and Broadway Inbound’s The Broadway Collection, comprising more than 20 shows that are known hits with travelers, is huge for the performing arts industry and is also a big draw for tourism and travel to New York City. The Broadway Collection is re-launching with the new addition of The Music Man, alongside some of Broadway’s most popular shows such as Company, Dear Evan Hansen, Moulin Rouge, Wicked, and many more.

“An instant smash hit when it first premiered on Broadway in 1957, the long-awaited The Music Man revival starring two-time Tony, Grammy, and Emmy Award-winner Hugh Jackman is sure to delight travelers from near and far once again when it begins previews at the Winter Garden Theatre on December 20, 2021.”

BaileyDisler, at Imagine PR

  1. Park Bryant

“Why did we choose Bryant Park as our favorite? For starters, there is an ice skating rink where you can skate for free! Bring your hockey or figure skates and head to Bryant Park for some ice skating. If you do not possess skates, renting is available for $20. Christmas shops surround the stadium, selling ornaments, arts and crafts, and, of course, apple cider to keep you warm.” (Cindy Corpis)

  1. The Holiday Musical Light Spectacular On The Empire State Building

“Each night leading up to Christmas—from Saturday, December 19 to Friday, December 25—New Yorkers were treated to a spectacular song and light display designed to get them in the holiday spirit. This light show, created by lighting artist Marc Brickman, was timed to Carrie Underwood’s first-ever Christmas album My Gift, and the melodies were broadcast at 8 p.m. on iHeartRadio’s Z100 and LiteFM. Keep an eye out for what 2021 has in store.” (Cindy Corpis)

  1. Holiday Market at Grand Central Station

“The Grand Central Holiday Fair, which runs from late November to Christmas Eve, invites vendors to Vanderbilt Hall at Grand Central Terminal for an unforgettably festive one-stop shopping experience. From men’s and women’s apparel and jewelry to home furnishings and seasonal ornaments, you’ll find it all here.”

Cindy Corpis, CEO SearchPeopleFree

  1. Snowball Fights and Sledding

“For people who want to avoid the crowds that gather downtown in Manhattan, I highly recommend going to either Riverside Park or Central Park to have some winter fun when we get a big snowfall. In particular, both parks offer numerous opportunities for sledding, snowball fights and even cross-country skiing depending on snow conditions. 

“At Central Park, a lot of people go sledding on the Great Hill, and I’ve seen a lot of people doing the same on the Riverside Park hill on the side of the patch that goes through Morningside Heights and the Upper West Side. I’ve also seen people doing some cross-country skiing with their own gear after big snowfalls on the flat portion of Riverside Park, and it honestly looked like a lot of fun! 

“Those are particularly interesting options for families or groups of friends who want to have some fun outside in compliance with CDC guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic while also avoiding crowds and premium costs. Plus, both parks look incredible right after they get some snow!” (Bárbara Cruvinel Santiago)

  1. Low-Cost Ice-Skating

“If you’re more into ice skating during the winter, but you don’t want to pay the premium prices at the Rockefeller Center or Bryant Park, there are a few options around NYC. One pretty obvious option is bringing your own skates to Bryant Park, since the entrance to the rink itself is free. Other cheaper options are skating at Prospect Park in Brooklyn or Riverbank State Park in Harlem right on top of Riverside Park. All of these offer ice rinks all throughout the winter and required advanced online booking during the pandemic last year, so they might do the same in 2021.”

Bárbara Cruvinel Santiago, Physics Ph.D. Student; TheBrokePathFinder.com