The holiday season is a great time for friends and family from out of town to come visit the Hoboken and Jersey City area. With its proximity to New York City, there is an abundance of activities and holiday must-sees within a short distance — from seeing the Rockefeller Christmas tree to window shopping on Washington Street. Once a visitor’s plans to come visit are solidified, it can be overwhelming to come up with ideas of what to do during their stay. What might seem mundane and run-of-the-mill to us may be exciting and noteworthy to those just passing through. We’ve compiled a comprehensive list of places to bring your out-of-town visitors during the holiday season. Read on for some local holiday activity ideas in the Hudson County area.
Things to Do
Holiday Pop-Up Markets
Holiday markets offer unique finds alongside festive activities all season long — and there are so many to check out around Hudson County and greater North Jersey. For a full list of events and pop-ups in Hoboken, Jersey City, and beyond, read our article here.
^ Newport Skates (Photo credit: @newportskatesjc)
This quintessential wintertime activity can be enjoyed by almost all ages and is easily accessible in New Jersey — or it makes a great addition to a New York City day. Charlie Heger Ice Rink (807 Summit Avenue) or Newport Skates (95 River Drive South) in Jersey City are both must-visit locations. The Rink in the American Dream Mall (1 American Dream Way) in East Rutherford is also a great indoor spot to take visitors who are looking to escape the cold outdoors.
For Manhattan, Rockefeller Center (45 Rockefeller Plaza) and Bryant Park both have ice skating available to the public. Central Park also has ice skating at Wollman Rink (south — 830 5th Avenue) or Lasker Rink (north — 110 Lenox Avenue). Taking the ferry to Chelsea Piers or Brookfield Place (230 Vesey Street) is another great activity full of beautiful skyline views — not to mention the fun ice skating that’s there as well.
^ Radio City Music Hall
When visiting the New York area, Broadway shows are often at the top of the to-do list. If your visitor is a true out-of-towner or is just behind on their Broadway viewing, Wicked and The Lion King are long-running, must-see shows. The Tony Award-winning show, A Christmas Carol, will be back on Broadway this holiday season and tickets are already on sale and going quickly.
The Radio City Christmas Spectacular is great for any young ones who might be tagging along but is still truly amazing to see as an adult. For a classier vibe, there’s nothing like a trip to Lincoln Center to see The Nutcracker — a holiday classic.
For your artsy visitors, ARTECHOUSE’S Spectacular Factory (439 West 15th Street) is a truly one-of-a-kind experience for all ages. The immersive exhibit combines art and technology to bring the imaginary world of a gift factory to life, allowing guests to float among giant swinging bells, join a party with a thousand nutcrackers, take a train ride through holiday wreaths, and spin around a candy carousel.
Mile Square Theater in Hoboken (1400 Clinton Street) will also be putting on a production of Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol — a playful twist on Charles Dickens’ classic tale, as described on the website — from December 1st to December 24th for those looking to stay local for a theater show.
Things to See
Sometimes it’s an adventure just to walk around and see the sights, especially around the holiday season. New York City turns into a magical — even more lit-up than usual — place in the wintertime, and you won’t want your visitors to miss out on it.
See “The Tree”
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New Yorkers and Jersey residents alike know exactly what “the tree” is — obviously the tree at Rockefeller Center needs to be on the schedule for a holiday visit. Easily accessible via NJ Transit, Rockefeller Center puts on it’s Sunday Best for the entire winter. The giant tree from update New York is draped in thousands of lights and people come from all over just to take a peak. There is plenty to do at Rockefeller Center aside from seeing the tree — like ice skating, shopping, and great restaurants nearby.
HG Pro Tip: To avoid some of the crowds and get a closer look at an equally gorgeous tree, head over to Bryant Park at 42nd Street and get a great holiday photo with the whole family, and less strangers in the background.
See a Light Show or Display
^ New York Botanical Garden Glow (Photo credit: @nybg)
After taking in the beauty and enormity of the Rockefeller tree, head around the corner to Saks Fifth Avenue (125 East 57th Street) — but no need to take out that credit card. Saks puts on a public light show every year and it doesn’t cost a thing. Find on the side of the sidewalk and watch the dazzling 4-minute holiday light show play every 10 minutes from 5PM to 11PM daily starting November 22nd.
The infamous Dyker Heights Holiday Lights can be accessible by bus tour. This Brooklyn neighborhood doesn’t take their holiday decorating lightly — pun certainly intended. The entire neighborhood gets completely decked out in Christmas lights and passing through has become a New York Holiday tradition.
Taking a quick drive up to the Bronx, visitors will love the New York Botanical Garden Glow show (2900 Southern Boulevard), which is NYC’s largest outdoor holiday light experience. This is an exclusive opportunity to walk through the botanical garden and see it lit up like never before. After touring the garden, grab a drink at one of their outdoor bars or head to the Bronx Night Market Holiday Pop-Up.
For some local options when making plans to go to a light show, here’s an article from the archives that includes an array of light displays in New Jersey.
Places to Eat + Drink
^ Miracle on Mercer
Keep the good times rolling with festive restaurants and bars that embrace the holiday spirit. While in NYC, make sure to get a famous frozen hot chocolate from Serendipity 3 (225 East 60th Street). After spending the day ice skating at Bryant Park, grab a drink or snack at Refinery Rooftop (63 West 38th Street), only a few blocks away, and take in the perfect view of the Empire State Building. You can grab dinner at Rolf’s (281 3rd Avenue), and make sure to get some Instagram-worthy shots of the insane decor — which is actually up all year round!
Loreley Beer Garden’s Winter Wonderland (7 Rivington Street) serves up festive cocktails and warm winter drinks, alongside giant pretzels and bratwurst, bringing you to a cozy European winter paradise in downtown Manhattan. Lilian’s Victorian Establishment has locations in Times Square and Union Square, so it makes for a great stop post-holiday activities. The gorgeous Victorian Era decor is upgraded during the holiday season and transports guests to another time in history.
If choosing to stay in Hoboken for a nice meal or drink with guests, there are endless great options. Miracle on Mercer is located at Franklin Social in Jersey City (292 Barrow Street) and includes lots of holiday-inspired drinks starting on November 21st. Some articles from the archives that can help you pick a Hoboken spot for a meal include a roundup of Italian restaurants as well as where to take your parents out to eat in the Mile Square.
Places to Shop
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^ Bryant Park Winter Village
Of course, walking up and down Washington Street in Hoboken is a perfect pastime, even in the winter. Beat the cold by finding the perfect cup of hot chocolate at one of the numerous coffee shops in town and check out the gorgeous window displays. Holiday shopping is easy at the many small businesses and boutiques lining the avenue.
Speaking of holiday shopping — the Main Street Pops Holiday Markets will be taking place under the 14th Street viaduct and are a great way to support local artisans and businesses.
If staying in NYC to shop, there is plenty to check out nearby all the other holiday action. Rockefeller Center has high-class fashion options, and even some spots for kids. There are the classics, like the Lego Store (636 5th Avenue) and the Nintendo Store (10 Rockefeller Plaza), which are great options for any young ones looking for gift ideas. Let holiday dreams come true by taking kids to the FAO Schwarz store in midtown (30 Rockefeller Plaza), or you can go to Macy’s on 34th Street to see the “real” Santa Claus.
There are several winter villages that get set up around NYC for easy holiday shopping, but the one that can’t be missed is Bryant Park’s Winter Village (42nd Street + 6th Avenue). Local businesses and artists set up shop and sell art, gifts, homewares, and clothes, all in one spot.
Whether hoping to stay in New Jersey or taking the adventure across the river to NYC, there are countless great ways to spend the holiday season with your visiting loved ones. We hope this guide lessens the burden of planning the perfect holiday in Hudson County + New York City and makes more time for new memories and holiday cheer.