By Alex Van Buren
August 01, 2016
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Whether you have tiny tots in Santa sweaters or not, and whether you celebrate the holiday at all or not, Christmas is an excellent time to be in New York City. The city that never sleeps is lively on Christmas Day, so you can find great food and plenty to do if you know where to look. Here are a few favorites.

Eat lox and bagels

Two of the city’s best nosh stops for lox, schmear, and bagels are the outposts of Russ & Daughters, the hallowed sable shop on the Lower East Side. Both the Café and the original location will be open until 4 p.m. on December 25.

And then go to the Zoo

Wend your way northward, bagels in tow, because the beautiful Central Park Zoo is open Christmas Day from 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Whether you’re 4 or 64, the park has charm in spades, from the snow-capped trees on your way in to the dazzling snow leopard.

And then volunteer

Why not volunteer? NY Cares can often connect you with a feel-good opportunity near you—whether that's at a soup kitchen, rescuing vegetables from a farmer’s market to go to a homeless shelter, or doing office work for someplace that needs it. (‘Tis the season, after all!)

Eat Chinese food and catch a film

New York has fabulous Chinese food in every borough, including silky soup dumplings at Nan Xiang in Flushing, spicy mapo tofu at Café China in midtown Manhattan, and fantastic dim sum all over Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

Go sledding

If the weather outside has been frightful, the sledding should be downright delightful. The city’s parks are open and ready for you today, and if you poke your head into the 99-cent shops, hardware stores, and superstores right near your destination—Prospect Park is particularly gorgeous when it snows—you should luck out with a cheap sled.

Go to a museum

Not every museum will close today; The Jewish Museum will be open, with a stunning-sounding exhibit from American Impressionist John Singer Sargent and an exhibit devoted to the Jewish experience as seen on T.V., plus tons of activities for kids.

Go to church

Whether or not you celebrate the Christian holiday, there’s a certain grandeur to Manhattan’s grande dame cathedrals. St. John’s has soaring ceilings and beautiful stained glass; St. Peter’s has extraordinary architecture. Both churches go all out on Christmas Day.

Drink coffee and wander the Village

It should be fairly quiet on the city streets, making it all the better to wander them, cup of coffee in hand—especially in the West Village. Stop into Joe, which is open from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m., and ooh and aah over the old-school architecture. Get lost on those little side streets and wander up The High Line.

Go to a 'library' full of brandy

Finally. Time to take it easy. Brandy Library is as close to the luxe chill you saw in Masterpiece Theatre as you can get in this town: wide leather chairs, a super-relaxed vibe, and carpeted floors that make one wonder if she can BYO slippers. (Probably not.)

Now get merry; after such a full day, you deserve it.

Alex Van Buren is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @alexvanburen.