How to Spend the Holidays in New York City
It's the most wonderful time of year, and the reason for the spirit? Christmas in New York City is spectacular. So much so that Clement Moore Clarke's famous poem 'Twas the Night Before Christmas was inspired by all the magic that the city offers during the season.
The sights, the sounds and the smells are unlike that of any other city, and as one of the biggest holiday destinations in the world, sometimes it can seem overwhelming to choose what to do. If you're in New York City this holiday, here's our picks of the best—including several that are free—for you to enjoy.
Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree
Perhaps the most famous holiday attraction in New York City, the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is a sight. Standing at 78 feet, the iconic Norway spruce offers spectacular viewing if you're strolling by.
'Holiday Lights & Movie Sites' Bus Tour
Ever wondered where some of your favorite holiday movies were filmed in New York City? From peering in the holiday windows at Bloomingdale's in Miracle of 34th Street, to the exact location in front of the Rockefeller tree where Macaulay Culkin reunited with his mom in Home Alone 2, this tour gives you a fun, cinematic way to visit some of the city's top attractions.
New York Hall of Science Gingerbread Lane
What's synonymous with the holiday season? Gingerbread, of course. To create Gingerbread Lane, the New York Hall of Science constructs the world's largest gingerbread village, made entirely of edible gingerbread, peppermints, and icing. With more than 1,050 houses spread over 500 square feet, you can walk through it (or sneak a quick bite) for hours on end. Gingerbread workshops and holiday giveaways take place at the exhibit every day from now through January 9, though the village itself is closed on Christmas Day.
Radio City Christmas Spectacular
Nothing says "Christmas" quite like the Radio City Rockettes. The show, which has become a fan favorite, made its annual return on November 13, and runs through the New Year, ending on January 3. The 90-minute show includes some of our favorite numbers, including the "Parade of the Wooden Soldiers,' "Rag Dolls," and the world-famous kick line.
New York City Ballet
A night at George Balanchine's The Nutcracker is one you won't forget. The annual performance features some of the world's most elite dancers, and is complete with marching toy soldiers, a one-ton Christmas tree, and crystal white snowflakes. The show runs through January 3 and it's a guaranteed sell-out, so get tickets in advance.
Woolworth Building Lobby Tours
Once the tallest in the world, the Woolworth Building is one to be adored. Built by famed architect Cass Gilbert in 1913, its architecture boasts a similar style to that of Christian cathedrals, Medieval guild halls, and Italian Byzantine churches, and is set right in the middle of the city. Though usually closed to the public, guests can reserve a visit to the magnificent lobby, which features festive holiday décor and a Christmas tree underneath grand stairwell.
Holiday Nutcracker Tea at the Mandarin Oriental
After a day of shopping, sightseeing and family time, guests can head to the Mandarin Oriental for an afternoon of unwinding. Featuring an array of sandwiches, sweet treats, and of course tea, you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the views of Central Park from the lobby lounge. You can also try the seasonal cocktail: the Sugar Plum Fairy. The Nutcracker Tea is available daily from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. through December 25.
New York Botanical Garden's Holiday Train Show
The New York Botanical Garden's train show is an annual tradition for families, with more than 20 miniature model trains that ride past 150 iconic buildings in a city landscape that is a replica of the five boroughs. The show runs from through January 18; reserve tickets in advance.
Slice of Brooklyn's Christmas Lights Tour
Now in its 10th year, the Dyker Heights neighborhood become a state-of-the-art holiday exhibit, featuring 30-foot toy soldiers and nativity scenes. This illuminating scene will take your breath away. Tours run through the end of December, except for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Book your tour in advance.
Coney Island Holiday Market
If you're looking to escape the chaos of Fifth Avenue, head to Brooklyn this holiday season for the Coney Island holiday market, every weekend from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m., running through Christmas. There's festive décor, crafts, and collectibles, and kids can take their picture with Santa Claus.
Queens Historical Society's Historic Holiday House Tour
The Queens Historical Society's guided trolley tour stops at seven museums and historical sites in Queens. You'll visit the Kingsland Homestead, the Flushing Quaker Meeting House, Flushing Town Hall, the Voelker Orth Museum, Lewis H. Latimer House, Louis Armstrong House Museum, and the Bowne House (from $20).
The Louis Armstrong House Museum
Once the Queens home of famed jazz musician Louis Armstrong, the 40-minute guided tours here pay tribute to the life of Louis and his wife, Lucille. In addition to hosting its traditional holiday tours, the museum also plays Armstrong's voice recording of "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" for visitors.