Holiday Events in NYC: The 10 Best Things to Do

New York City literally glows with festive spirit during the holiday season. Every street and alleyway shines brightly, festooned with shimmering lights and decorations. There’s a palpable feeling of joy and celebration in the air that makes the city a holiday destination unlike any other.

If you’re on the hunt for the best holiday sites and events in NYC, you’ll be pleased to know that there are countless seasonal attractions that deserve at least one visit.

10 Must-See Holiday Events in NYC

Here are 10 of the most popular and impressive holiday spectacles that the Big Apple has to offer:

1. Visit the Christmas Markets

It’s not unusual for tourists in NYC to visit some of the world’s most well-known museums, such as MoMa, the Guggenheim, the Whitney, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Nestled along Fifth Avenue and bordering Central Park, the Met includes artwork from around the globe, spanning geographical regions and cultures. Visitors to the Met who are unfamiliar with some or all of the works of a given artistic tradition have the opportunity to engage in a cultural exchange that’s largely independent of language.

An appreciation for other cultures allows for the breaking down of social and even political barriers. Accordingly, cultural institutions and attractions that curate art of varying cultures and perspectives in one place give visitors the opportunity to experience new world views, bring their own views to the table, and learn something new about the world — and themselves — without even saying a word. All of this is possible through the power of art.

2. Marvel at the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

Rockefeller Center has become synonymous with NYC’s holiday celebrations. Its famous tree lighting ceremony attracts thousands and is broadcast all around the country. Tall and radiant, the tree is easily one of the most photographed holiday sites in NYC. Its rich history and tradition have made it a symbol of hope and joy during the holidays.

3. Skate at Various Ice Rinks Throughout Manhattan

The ice rinks in Manhattan are classic attractions that make a visit to the borough a must-do winter activity in NYC. Whether you’re a seasoned skater or a beginner, soaring beneath the towering tree and golden Prometheus statue at Rockefeller Center is a magical experience. Wollman Rink, on the other hand, gives visitors the chance to skate in the peaceful atmosphere of Central Park, and the rink at Bryan Park lets you go directly from the ice to the seasonal market. Wherever you go, you can warm up with a cup of cocoa and enjoy the festive atmosphere when you’re done.

4. Explore Grand Central Terminal

Grand Central Terminal is much more than a transportation hub — it’s one of the essential holiday sites in NYC. This historic landmark transforms toward the end of the year. Locals and tourists alike can marvel at the holiday-themed light shows on its iconic celestial dome and shop for gifts at its seasonal market.

5. Go on a Christmas lights tour in NYC

There are dozens of spectacular Christmas lights tours that NYC offers. The Dyker Heights Christmas Lights Tour, for example, is renowned for its extravagant neighborhood displays in Brooklyn. Manhattan’s Holiday Lights Tours cover Fifth Avenue store windows, the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, and other iconic sites, while Central Park and midtown Manhattan walking tours provide an up-close view of festive decorations. Big Bus and private limousine tours offer a broader city perspective. For an especially unique experience, boat tours around Manhattan showcase the skyline’s holiday glow, making these tours a perfect way to explore NYC’s Christmas magic.

6. Take a Carriage Ride Through Central Park

Central Park offers a peaceful retreat from the city’s hustle and bustle. A horse-drawn carriage ride along its snow-covered pathways and frozen ponds provides a romantic and nostalgic way to experience its beauty, making it a top New York holiday activity.

7. Shop at Saks Fifth Avenue and Macy’s

Holiday shopping in NYC is an experience all in itself. In particular, Saks Fifth Avenue and Macy’s, two retail giants, are renowned for their extravagant holiday window displays. These stores are essential holiday sites in NYC, drawing crowds for their magnificent displays and seasonal sales.

8. Dine at Themed Restaurants

NYC’s restaurants embrace the holiday season wholeheartedly. From festive decorations to special holiday menus, dining out can be a delightful holiday event in NYC. Perhaps the quintessential example of holiday NYC dining is Rolf’s German Restaurant, which offers a unique dining atmosphere that transports diners to a winter wonderland.

9. Attend a Holiday Show

New York City lights up during the holidays with famous shows like the Radio City’s “Christmas Spectacular” featuring the Rockettes, the New York City Ballet’s performance of “The Nutcracker” at Lincoln Center, and seasonal Broadway productions like “A Christmas Carol.” There’s also the New York Philharmonic’s performance of Handel’s “Messiah” at Lincoln Center and dozens of festive concerts at Carnegie Hall.

10. Visit SUMMIT One Vanderbilt

Visitors to SUMMIT, a multisensory art and “observation deck” experience starting on the 91st floor of One Vanderbilt, are treated to an unparalleled view of the city. Located in the heart of midtown Manhattan, its design incorporates reflective surfaces and mirrors that create an immersive experience where visitors can see the city’s festive lights from multiple angles and perspectives. At dusk, the vastness of Central Park, the intricate patterns of the city streets, and the imposing silhouettes of iconic skyscrapers all come into view, bathed in the warm hues of the setting sun. It’s a great place for friends and family to visit during the holiday season.

NYC during the holidays is full of seasonal wonders. Whether it’s the iconic Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center or the serene beauty of Central Park, there are endless New York holiday activities to make lasting memories.

When you start your journey at SUMMIT, you get a bird’s-eye view of everything you want to see and a totally unique experience that will transform your perception of the city. Schedule your visit to SUMMIT today!