Home Best of Guides 14 Essential New York City Holiday Activities for December

14 Essential New York City Holiday Activities for December

by Erin
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While we adore our beloved Hudson County, we’d be remiss to not head across the Hudson and into New York City at least once this holiday season for some good, ol’ fashioned holiday fun. There are literally tons of things to do, see, and experience – and we’ve rounded up our favorites. Here are a few essential NYC holiday activities that prove being a tourist {in December} is totally acceptable.

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This {delicious} German restaurant and bar has tons of charm and literally glows inside. Located in Gramercy Park {22nd Street and 3rd Avenue}, their Christmas décor may be what initially draws you in, but their festive spirits and delicious schnitzels, chops, and sides will have you coming back for more.

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Bryant Park Winter Village

Surrounding the {free} ice skating rink in Bryant Park are tons of shops to help you cross off everyone on your list. From homemade soaps and candles to innovative artwork and everything in between, you can shop ‘til you drop and then head to the Bryant Park Grill for a bite to eat and some well-deserved cocktails. And speaking of food, there are also a bunch of unique food vendors that feature everything from fried pickles to truffle cheesesteaks.

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Yes, it is possible to make the most of a rooftop during the winter months. Magically heated bubble tents on said rooftops in the winter are what can keep us warm when outdoors.  These heated, igloo/snowglobe-ish type tents will keep you warm and toasty as you sip on specialty cocktails including spiked ciders and a variety of winter martinis. Tip: head there on non-peak times to ensure you get a cozy tent of your own.

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The Radio City Christmas Spectacular

Nothing is more festive, or quintessential New York City than the Rockettes. The Christmas Spectacular may have changed quite a bit over the years, but it’s still as magical and spirited as it was when it debuted in 1933. Running through early January, they perform up to SIX shows a day, so you’re bound to find a date and time to experience the thrill of the famous Rockettes.

Serendipity 3

Known for their famous frozen hot chocolate {+ most popular because of the movie, Serendipity} this NYC staple goes all out for the holidays. During Christmas time, you’ll find that the tiny space inside is decked out in whimsical Christmas decor, including an upside down Christmas tree that you can sit right under. This place gets crowded, and reservations are always tricky, so definitely plan ahead and plan on waiting 2+ hours if going on a weekend for dinner. Tip: if you do have to wait long, Dylan’s Candy Bar is down the block {they have a full bar, too!} as well as plenty of spots to shop and grab a drink. 

See More: These Local Bars Seriously Decked the Halls in Hoboken + Jersey City

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George Balanshine’s The Nutcracker

This performance is quite literally tons of little girl’s ballerina dreams come true. The New York City Ballet’s performance of The Nutcracker stars 90 classically trained dancers and 62 live musicians as they perform the classic tale to Tschaikovsky’s infamous score. There are tons of options and plenty of tickets still available to get your Nutcracker fix before the holidays.

The Columbus Circle Holiday Market

You could spend an entire day here shopping and strolling, marveling at the unique vendors and items up for grabs {and gifts}. Also offering socially conscious items {at all booths with the Artisan Pledge symbol}, the market is the perfect place to peruse the incredible selection of accessories, home goods, unique cooking items, handcrafted jewelry, and more.

The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

Okay, so it may get a bit {A LOT} crowded, especially after sunset, but everyone has got to see the tree live at least once. But with over 45,000 gleaming rainbow LED lights, this tree has enough cheer to put even the Grinch himself in the holiday spirit.

Ice Skating in Central Park

Wollman Rink is a staple in Central Park, and tons of local residents and tourists alike tend to flock to the rink around the holidays. Romantic and festive, you can skate around the heart of the city among the glimmering skyline {while working off some holiday cals, too}.

Window Wonderlands

NYC is famed for its festive window displays this time of year, and nothing tops our list of favorites as the shops along 5th Avenue and the major department stores’ decor. Grab your favorite festive hot beverage and hold on tight to your wallets as you peruse these twinkling, ornate works of art outside of Saks, Macy’s, Lord & Taylor, Bloomies, and beyond.

Union Square Holiday Market

Over 100 pop-up booths comprise the Union Square Holiday market that runs through Christmas Eve. Featuring live music, activities for kids, and tons of unique items with creations by artists, crafters and more – you’ll get lost in the aisles of this market while experiencing some of the best, one-of-a-kind shopping selections the city has to offer.

One Of The Largest Menorahs

Across from the iconic Plaza Hotel in NYC at 5th Avenue and 59th Street stands {at 32 feet tall!} one of the world’s largest menorahs. Piping hot latkes and live music add to the festive feature as it’s lit each night of Hanukkah. Lightings take place each evening, with exceptions on various days due to the Sabbath. After the lighting, stroll around Central Park and take in the sights and sounds of the best time of year in the heart of Manhattan. Go ahead and splurge on the roasted street nuts while you’re at it — you KNOW you want to.

Santaland at Macy’s

Whether you’ve seen Miracle On 34th Street {if not – you must!} or just have a thing for jolly fellas in red suits, you just have to see Santa in New York City. Santaland at Macy’s only takes reservations now, but it’s super quick and easy to make one. Click here to learn more and to make a reservation. 

See More: Hot Chocolate in Hoboken: A List of the Best Spots

The RIDE Holiday Edition

You may have seen these funky, all-windowed busses cruising around Manhattan, and they now offer an even more unique experience – the Holiday Edition. Assuming the role of a classic sleigh-ride, holiday-themed music and fun hosts narrate a four-mile ride around town, with the star of the show being New York City itself. Forty LCD television screens, surround sound, and more turn an already innovative sightseeing experience into a unique holiday memory for all onboard.

Those are just a few of our favorite festivities in NYC for this time of year. What is your go-to holiday tradition?

Have you joined our Facebook group yet? Request here to gain access to even more local tips, and connect with fellow Hudson County residents.

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