How to Have the Perfect Christmas in New York — Holiday Markets, Epic Light Displays, and Festive Hotels Included

If Santa had a favorite stop, it would be New York City.

The Holiday Market in Bryant Park, New York

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'Tis the season to be jolly, and outside of the North Pole, the place that embodies the spirit of the holidays the most is New York City. Here's your ultimate guide to spending Christmas in New York.

Why Christmas in New York Is So Special

New York is a dazzling display of holiday joy over the Christmas season. From its plentiful window displays at famous department stores to its towering Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center and numerous holiday markets, it's a place where festive fun can be found at every turn. Though New York City is always magical, it shines just a little brighter (literally and figuratively) all December long — and ends with a bang thanks to its lively New Year's Eve celebration in Times Square.

What to Expect for Weather

The weather in New York City during the Christmas season (Dec. 1 to Dec. 31) will be chilly. According to Weather Spark, daily high temperatures in New York dip to 42 degrees Fahrenheit, though they rarely fall below 30 degrees. But really, the chill only adds to the fun and allows you to bundle up in your favorite hat, scarf, and holiday sweater. 

What to Do in New York for the Christmas Season

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lit in New York City

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New York City is filled with attractions worthy of a visit over the holidays. Here's a small selection of must-see happenings.

Visit the New York Botanical Garden.

The New York Botanical Garden becomes a winter wonderland during the holidays, thanks to its glittering tree displays and famed train show. For more than three decades, the latter has delighted visitors, and this year, it's expected to showcase 190 replicas of New York landmarks throughout its miniature version of the city. 

See the Radio City Rockettes.

For almost 100 years, New York City has marked the season with a few high-kicking Rockettes. The show is high energy and delightfully fun, thanks to both the performers and thumping holiday tunes, but be warned, the shows do sell out, so get your tickets ASAP

Catch a showing of "The Nutcracker" at Lincoln Center. 

If you're looking for even more song and dance, head to Lincoln Center for the annual performance of "The Nutcracker," put on by the New York City Ballet. It's as classic a show as they come and one that will leave you with visions of sugar plum fairies dancing in your head. 

People ice skating at Central Park, New York

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Lace up your skates at Winter Village at Bryant Park. 

Want to experience New York City Christmas all in one place? Head to Winter Village at Bryant Park. Here, you'll find holiday shopping, flowing hot cocoa, and ice skating at its 17,000-square-foot rink. Bring your own skates or rent some at the park, and reserve your time on the ice here.  

Shop at a holiday market.

Searching for something special for the most important people in your life? Shop through one (or several) of New York City's holiday markets. Browse trinkets at the Winter Village, Columbus Circle Holiday Market, Union Square Holiday Market, Grand Central Holiday Fair, and many more. You can find a complete map of holiday markets here

Or, window shop outside the city's best department stores.

Even if you're not looking to buy something, visiting the shops is a great idea so you can see the spectacular window displays. Seek out the awe-inspiring windows up and down Fifth Avenue at places like Barneys, Bloomingdale's, Macy's, and Saks Fifth Avenue. Yes, it's a little friendly competition to see who has the best displays, but really, we're all winners in this age-old retail battle. Need help? Here's a handy NYC holiday window map

Christmas decorations on Fifth Avenue of New York City

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Walk through Dyker Heights. 

If you're hunting for more DIY-style lights, head to Dyker Heights, a Brooklyn neighborhood that takes its holiday displays very seriously. Most homeowners hang their lights right after Thanksgiving and keep them up all December long passersby to enjoy. And just in case you want a little guidance on where to look, there are free tours available.

See the Rockefeller Christmas tree.

Christmas in New York just isn't complete without a visit to the Rockefeller Christmas tree. In a tradition that started more than 80 years ago, the city finds the biggest and best tree to light up Midtown. In 2022, the tree will be lit on Nov. 30, and then light up daily between 6 a.m. and midnight. The only exception is on Christmas Day, when it's lit for 24 hours straight. 

Where to Stay for a Perfect Christmas in New York 

There are plenty of excellent hotels in New York, but these five get more festive than most. 

The Plaza 

With a privileged location on Fifth Avenue, The Plaza sits within the center of all the Christmas action in New York City. During the season, the hotel decks the halls (and then some), offering seasonal packages like its "Home Alone 2": Escape to New York experience and holiday-specific dining. 

Lotte New York Palace 

Lotte New York Palace is another hotel with a very special address, especially for the holidays. The property sits just a few feet from Rockefeller Center, making viewing the famed Christmas tree an easy feat. Throughout the season, it also offers festive treats for guests and even has a very special mailbox in its lobby so children can mail their letters to Santa. 

St. Regis New York

For more than 100 years, The St. Regis has been a New York institution, making a stay here a two-for-one deal. Not only do you get to honor one of New York's best hotels, but you also get to dive deep into the holiday spirit, thanks to its over-the-top festive decor found in rooms and common spaces. 

Winter in Central Park, New York

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Ritz-Carlton Central Park

Indulge in another luxurious holiday offering at The Ritz-Carlton. It, too, comes with plenty of twinkling lights and festive meals, with the added bonus of holiday packages for the season. Check its website for upcoming offerings, which typically include welcome gifts and more. 

The Langham

Modern hotel lovers will adore The Langham during the holidays. The property, also located on Fifth Avenue, is close to the best Christmas happenings, and it also typically offers holiday packages to remember. Previous examples include the "Very Vintage Christmas" package, which included a full-size tree, tickets to the Rockettes, a carriage ride around Central Park, and more, with a portion of the proceeds going toward the Food Bank for New York City. Stay tuned to the hotel's website for this year's offerings. 

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