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How to Spend Christmas in New York in 2022

  • By Christopher da Costa
  • Published 28 July 2022
  • Revised 14 June 2023
How to Spend Christmas in New York in 2022
  • By Christopher da Costa
  • Published 28 July 2022
  • Revised 14 June 2023
How to Spend Christmas in New York in 2022
  • By Christopher da Costa
  • Published 28 July 2022
  • Revised 14 June 2023
What’s Christmas like in New York? We’ve narrowed down the best festive finds for families.

Home Alone II, Miracle on 34th Street, Elf – there’s a reason why New York’s been a backdrop for so many festive films. But there’s a lot at stake when planning a break during the popular holiday season, so you might be wondering, "is Christmas in New York worth it?" From open-air markets and ice rinks to family-friendly shows and shop displays, we’re here to tell you why it is. Let us help you plan your fairytale of New York this Christmas… 

What is there to do in New York at Christmas?

Admire the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree 

Visiting New York at Christmas and not seeing the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is like coming to London and not posing for a selfie outside Buckingham Palace. The lights, decorations and star change every year, but it remains one of the biggest and brightest Norway spruces in the city.

A lighting ceremony is held on the 1st December, when you’ll be treated to special musical performances – previous guests have included Norah Junes, Carrie Underwood and the Radio City Rockettes. If you want to see the tree in all its glory without the crowds, we’d recommend visiting early in the morning or later at night. The tree’s lit daily from 6am to midnight. 

Stroll along Fifth Avenue 

New York shopping is legendary. But at Christmastime, Fifth Avenue’s not just for shopping. The shops go all out with their festive displays, so the window shopping’s almost as good as going inside. Department stores like Barneys, Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s are all decked to the nines in dazzling lights. Saks Fifth Avenue, in particular, is famous for its holiday light show, which plays Christmas music at regular intervals. To give you some idea of what to expect – last year, their show was opened by none other than Michelle Obama and the display featured over 700,000 LED lights. Plus, some of the displays get your little ones involved with levers and buttons for them to pull and press. 

Take a festive stroll through Central Park 

Walk in the footsteps of Kevin McCallister – AKA Macaulay Culkin from Home Alone – with a wintry walk in Central Park. First on the list is the world-famous ice rink, which opens mid-November. This is a must-do New York Christmas experience, with scenic Central Park for a backdrop. There’s a rinkside café for when you’ve worked up an appetite, too. After, visit Central Park Carousel – one of the biggest carousels in the States. 

Central Park Zoo is another family-friendly festive option. It’s open all year round, and its children’s zoo is home to the only cow in Manhattan – how’s that for amoosement? And, if you strike lucky with snow, head to Pilgrim Hill or Cedar Hill. These popular sledding spots are open to the public when there’s more than six inches of snow on the ground. Activities aside, you can just grab some hot chocolate and take a leisurely stroll – there’s plenty to keep everyone entertained en route.

Watch the Radio City Christmas Extravaganza 

This Christmas spectacular has been wowing audiences since 1933. Get ready to “ooh” and “aah” at the singers, ice skaters and super-synchronised dancing Rockettes. The whole 90-minute show’s set to a festive musical score. So, even the biggest grinch will leave with a grin on their face, and full of holiday spirit. 

Shop, skate and slurp at Byrant Park Winter Village 

The 17,000-square-foot ice skating rink is the main attraction at Byrant Park’s Winter Village. That’s because it’s free if you’ve managed to pack your own skates. If not, all you need to pay for is skate hire. You can warm up after your skating session with a hot chocolate at The Lodge – an après-themed restaurant and bar. There are over 170 shops and eateries to work your way around, too. And the best bit? Byrant Park Winter Village is open from October to March, so you don’t even have to visit in December to get your festive fix. 

Shop ‘til you drop at a Christmas market 

Christmas markets aren’t just a European thing. In November and December, New York’s parks are packed to the brim with festive stalls. Plus, if you need to escape the chill, you’ll even find one inside Grand Central Station, so you can combine sightseeing with shopping. Union Square Park’s market is one of the most popular. Here, more than 100 red-and-white stalls spread out among the greenery, selling everything from ornaments and European eats to steamy cups of cider. 

Venture out to Dyker Heights 

Nowhere does Christmas lights quite like America. And Dyker Heights, in Brooklyn, is home to the most over-the-top lights around. We’re talking life-sized Santas, sleighs, snowmen, animals – the lot. Some houses even play Christmas carols from loudspeakers, so it really is worth the long subway ride out to Brooklyn with the family. Make sure to head to the neighbourhood before 9pm, as that’s when lots of the houses turn off their displays – who can blame them with energy prices at the minute? If you’re after exact addresses for your sat nav, you’ll find the best displays from 83rd to 86th Streets between 11th and 13th Avenue. 

Marvel at model trains in New York Botanical Gardens 

Any other time, New York Botanical Gardens probably wouldn’t be top of your must-visit list. But that’s a different story come Christmas. It’s worth venturing out to the Bronx to see its Holiday Train Show. Get your little ones to spot more than 175 miniature New York landmarks, as model trains zip around the half-a-mile-long track. Spoiler alert – the Chrysler Building, Yankee Stadium and the Statue of Liberty are just some of the mini masterpieces you can expect. 

Ready for a magical New York Christmas? Book your New York holiday today. 

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