There are few places as magical in the wintertime as New York City. And when it comes to celebrating the Christmas holidays, you better believe that NYC has got plenty going on.
If you’re traveling to New York this holiday season, check out our list of the top things to do for Christmas in New York City 2018.
Save on attraction admission for the Holidays
Regular admission to a number of these attractions is available on the New York City Explorer Pass®.
Choose as you go from dozens of top attractions and save up to 50% on combined admission vs. paying at the gate.
Please note, some of these special Christmas & holiday events may be separately ticketed and not included on the New York City Explorer Pass.
Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree
We’re sure the first thing that comes to mind when you think New York City Christmas celebration is the iconic Rockefeller Plaza Christmas Tree. For over eight decades, the Tree Lighting Ceremony has been a classic New York tradition.
If you’re going to be in the city during the holiday season, you have to pay the gorgeous display a visit. Pose in front of the gigantic tree, watch from above as holiday visitors skate the rink, shop around the Rockefeller Plaza shops, and more.
Since you’ll already be at 30 Rock, you may as well take a trip up to the Top of the Rock Observatory. You can see the tree from the highest vantage point while taking in the views of the entire city below.
Getting in: Top of the Rock tickets are included on New York City Explorer Pass.
Bryant Park Winter Village presented by Bank of America
Bryant Park’s Winter Village as become one of the most popular holiday destinations in recent years. The popular greenspace has transformed into a Winter Wonderland for the past 16 years, and this year is no exception.
Complete with a collection of 170 holiday vendors, a 17,000-sq ft ice rink, and a delicious food hall made up of 12 vendors serving delicious holiday meals, it’s no surprise as to why it’s the best and biggest holiday market in the city.
Shop local at the boutiques, offering everything from fashionable sunglasses to hand-made sculptures of your favorite movie characters. It’s the perfect place to find a niche gift for that tricky loved one in your life. While you shop, make sure to try a few of the holiday treats too. Delicious craft cocoa and sugar cookies are not to be skipped.
Of course, the crown jewel of the Winter Village is the ice rink which serves as a centerpiece. The ice rink is always packed with visitors twirling about and is a fun experience no matter your skating skill level. You can rent skates and a locker on site and get right onto the ice. There are skating lessons and skate assistants available for kids as well.
*Please note, the Rink and the Lodge will be open through March 3rd, 2019. The Holiday Shops will only be open until January 2nd, 2019.
Getting in: Bryant Park Winter Village is free and open to the public. Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park Ice Rink tickets are included with New York City Explorer Pass.
New York Botanical Garden Holiday Train Show
Participate in another one of NYC’s most beloved holiday traditions with the visit to the New York Botanical Garden.
Their Holiday Train Show is a one-of-a-kind experience. You’ll see trains wind through replicas of over 150 different New York landmarks – all made of organic, botanical materials. Think tiny depots made of bark and acorns, bridges made of sticks and stones, and décor made of dried mosses and flowers.
It’s a truly inspiring work of artistic labor and a super fun thing for the whole family to see.
Getting in: New York Botanical Garden tickets included with New York City Explorer Pass.
Union Square Holiday Markets
Another great place to do some Christmas shopping is the Union Square Holiday Markets at Union Square Park.
Local crafters and artists come together to set up booths of home-made items, from jewelry, to scarves, to artwork. This year, the Union Square Market team has added new sections like Little Brooklyn and Urbanspace Provisions in addition to a Warming Station and Lounge.
There will be over 50 stalls to shop around and plenty of delicious food and drink available.
Getting in: the Union Square Holiday Markets are free and open to the public.
THE RIDE Holiday Edition
Take NYC’s most enjoyable bus tour with a special holiday twist! Now in its sixth year, it’s more fun and festive than ever, with a focus on holiday sights and sounds.
This is a great way to get to know NYC and soak up the Christmas spirit, all at the same time!
Getting in: THE RIDE tickets are available on the New York City Explorer Pass.
View the Holiday Lights from the Empire State Building
One good way to see the city’s best and brightest Christmas lights is with a trip to the top of this towering skyscraper – one of the city’s most famous skyscrapers, to boot!
The Empire State Building is an amazing experience any time of year, but when you build in the festive atmosphere and twinkling lights of the holiday season, it simply can’t be beaten. Explore the exhibition halls, enjoy the full Empire State Building Experience, and snap photos of the Winter Wonderland that is New York City.
Getting in: Empire State Building tickets are available on the New York City Explorer Pass.
Origami Holiday Tree at the American Museum of Natural History
If you’re in search of a unique spin on a Christmas tradition, pay a visit to the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH).
Their 30-year tradition of putting up an origami tree has inspired kids and adults alike for quite a long time, and it’s well worth your time to visit. The origami itself is made by volunteers throughout the preceding year who were inspired by some aspect of the museum’s collections. The origami takes all forms – from dinosaurs to sea creatures to figments of the imagination.
Explore the museum while you’re at it. AMNH is one of the largest museums in the world, featuring a 94-foot model of a whale, a famed collection of dinosaur fossils, a 563-carat Star of Indian sapphire, and plenty more intricate artifacts.
Getting In: American Museum of Natural History tickets are available on the New York City Explorer Pass.
Holiday Window Displays on Fifth Avenue
Embark on a self-guided tour down Fifth Avenue to take in all the intricately-designed holiday displays.
Each year, the displays get more and more ornate, with flashing lights, golden decorations, and gorgeous artwork calling for attention. The beautiful holiday ambiance it creates almost offsets the craziness of holiday shopping at department stores like Saks and Macy’s (almost).
The Metropolitan Museum of Art Christmas Tree and Neapolitan Baroque Crèche
The Metropolitan Museum of Art will continue their longstanding holiday tradition of erecting the 25-foot blue spruce. It serves as the perfect backdrop for their Neapolitan Nativity scene, complete with silk-robed angels hovering above.
The Met’s take on a Christmas display always shows the creativity and artistic nature of New York City’s art scene. After visiting the tree, make sure to explore as many of the exhibition halls as you can. The museum houses a variety of artworks in all mediums, covering art from each part of the globe.
Getting In: Metropolitan Museum of Art tickets are available on the New York City Explorer Pass.
Remember to save on attraction admission
So there’s our brief list of the top things to do in New York City during Christmastime and the holidays.
Remember, many of these options are included on the New York City Explorer Pass, which can save you up to 50% on combined admission vs. paying at the gate.
Please note, the Christmas events taking place at some of these attractions may be separately ticketed and not included with the New York City Explorer Pass.
We hope you plan to add a few of these fun options to your winter vacation itinerary!