The 21 best things to do in New York this December

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The 21 best things to do in New York this December

If you're in New York during the holiday season, here are a bunch of activities that you can share with your loved ones.

Visit the Winter Lantern Festival 

Staten Island's Snug Harbor features seven acres lit up by more than 40 festive installments, combining traditional Christmastime decorations with Chinese lanterns. It is the perfect place to enjoy the holiday season and immerse in a bit of culture. In addition to the mesmerizing visuals, there’s also interactive exhibits and live cultural shows taking place throughout the season.

NOW-JAN 12, 2020

The Dyker Heights Christmas Lights are back!

Dyker Heights’ impressive light display has been a tradition for more than 30 years. The Kings County neighborhood in Brooklyn is home to the most over-the-top Christmas light decorations with life-size Santas, sleighs, snowmen and some houses even bump Christmas carols from loudspeakers. You’ll see breathtaking light displays from 11th to 13th Avenues (also known as Dyker Heights Blvd) from 83rd to 86th St in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn. The best time of day to visit is after 5 p.m


Visit the most stunning holiday window displays


Bloomingdale’s theme this year is “Out of This World” with a futuristic UFO theme.

Saks Fifth Avenue 

This year, Saks Fifth Avenue’s holiday window honor the new animated film "Frozen 2." The main six windows along Fifth Avenue show Elsa–the main character of Frozen–as she moves through the four spirits of nature (wind, fire, water and earth) Other favorite characters like Olaf, Kristoff and Anna appear in the windows as well.

Bergdorf Goodman 

This year’s theme is “Bergdorf Good Times,” which “evokes a time-honored spirit of a holiday fête but with a twist” according to the department store.


Macy’s showed off its legendary display titled "Believe in the Wonder." The Herald Square store's six windows tell the story of a girl who wishes to be Santa. Macy’s was the first department store to feature Christmas window displays and has been continuing the tradition since 1874.

Yayoi Kusama at David Zwirner Gallery

Titled "EVERY DAY I PRAY FOR LOVE," the exhibition of entirely new work by Yayoi Kusama, including paintings, sculptures, and a new Infinity Mirror Room. It will be on view until December 14th at the gallery’s 537 West 20th Street location.

LuminoCity Festival

Located in Randall's Island Park, LuminoCity is a massive wonderland of lights. It features three distinct theme parks across the 12 acres of land: The Winter Fantasy, The Wild Adventure, and The Sweet Dream. Tip: if you use the promo code 5SecretNYC you’ll get 5% off your tickets!

NOW-JAN 5, 2020

Ice Skating

Ice skating is without doubt one of the most anticipated and fun events of the season. Thankfully, there are many locations, including:

  • The Wollman Ice Rink in Central Park, open daily from 10 a.m.
  • The Rink at Rockefeller Center, open daily from 8:30am
  • The rink at Bryant Park, open from 8 a.m.
  • The city’s ONLY rooftop rink at Pier 17’s Winterland Rink
  • The Rink at Brookfield Place, Tribeca
  • LeFrak Center at Lakeside, Prospect Park
  • Lasker Rink, Central Park
  • WWII Veterans Memorial Ice Skating Rink, Staten Island
  • IC Ice Rink in Industry City

Holiday Markets

To get you in the merriest of moods, attend the holiday markets and experience their best decorations, food, and winter activities.

  • The Holiday Shops at Winter Village at Bryant Park 
  • The Grand Central Holiday Fair: Now-December 24
  • Union Square Holiday Market: Now-December 24
  • Astoria Market’s Holiday Shopping: December 1, 8, 15
  • Columbus Circle Holiday Market: Now – December 24

Santa Pub Crawls & Parties

  • Holly Jolly Santa Crawl Party at Bar 13: Saturday, December 14, 12 p.m. – 8 p.m.
  • Official Santa Pub Crawl 2019: Saturday, December 14, 12 p.m. – 3 p.m. 
  • Bad Santa Bash 2019 at Hidden Lane: Saturday, December 14, 9 p.m. – 2 a.m
  • Ugly Sweater Christmas Party at Stage 48: Saturday, December 21, 10 p.m. – 4 a.m.

NYBG holiday train show

Bring your inner child to the train show at the New York Botanical Garden. This year marks the 28th annual holiday train show and the focus will spotlight Central Park. Featuring its iconic landscape and replicas of park staples like the many gorgeous bridges, walkways, and even the Belvedere Castle and Bethesda Terrace. According to the New York Botanical Garden, each of the landmarks on display have been created using natural materials like birch bark, acorns, and cinnamon sticks. The show is located at the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory and will run through Sunday, January 26.

The Candlelight concert series

Experience classical music with these sensational concerts by candlelight in some of NYC’s most beautiful churches. This event–with countless flickering candles illuminating each unique space–invites you to relive the greatest works of classical music, from Vivaldi to Mozart and Bach. Some of the enchanting performances are taking place at the 127-year-old Middle Collegiate Church in the East Village, while others are taking place at Corpus Christi Catholic Church on the Upper West Side.

The world’s biggest Gingerbread Village 

Make the most of the holiday season by checking out Gingerbread Lane at The New York Hall of Science in Queens. It consistently holds the Guinness Book of World Records ranking for the largest gingerbread village in the world. The village counts with hundreds of entirely edible gingerbread houses, banks, schools, and store fronts as well as a firehouse and police station. you can stay for a workshop and learn how to make your own gingerbread house or train on certain weekends.For more information about GingerBread Lane, you can visit the NYC Hall of Science website.

Light up the world’s largest Menorah

New York City is home to the world’s largest menorah, which stands at a height of 32 feet and weighs 4,000 pounds. The sculpture this year will be up at Grand Army Plaza, south of Central Park, from Sunday, December 22 through Sunday, December 29. The menorah will be lit each night at 5:30 p.m., and at 3:30 p.m. on Friday and 8 p.m. on Saturday.

Decorate the origami tree at the Museum of Natural History

The origami tree at the Museum of Natural History has been a NYC treasure for more than 40 years. With over 1,000 folded-paper ornaments on the 13-foot tree. This year’s theme is “T. rex: The Ultimate Predator” and will be on display until January 12, 2020.

Make your way through Macy’s Santaland

One of the most beloved events for kids, Macy's Santaland, is a 13,000-square-foot Christmas village holiday display and indoor landscape that families can walk through. You’ll find reindeer, elves, trees and a bunch of photo ops for you and the whole family! This annual tradition takes place on the eighth floor of Macy's Herald Square. It is open now, until December 24th.

Check out the bumper cars on ice!

Regardless of the weather outside, you can now go and enjoy bumping into your friends–or strangers–at Brooklyn’s Aviator Sports Center! Taking place from Friday through Sunday every week, each session runs for 15 minutes and costs $13. You can reserve your bumper car by booking online, but be sure to do so with time because reservations close at midnight the night before your visit.

Experience 250 Years of Beethoven Celebrated at Carnegie Hall

On December 16th is Beethoven’s birthday and marks the beginning of Beethoven’s 250th Anniversary Celebration. On that day, acclaimed conductor, Maestro Jiang Jin Yi, Music Director and Principal Conductor of the China National Symphony Orchestra, joins with an international cast of artists, including renowned pianist Tian Jiang and Met Opera Star Kevin Short, to perform three of Beethoven’s most important works. For more info and tickets, click here.

Enjoy the holiday transformations at NYC’s bars and restaurants!

Each year the city as a whole transforms into a winter wonderland, and that includes a number of bars and restaurants, like:

  • 230 Fifth Rooftop Igloo Bar
  • The Lodge at Gallow Green
  • Ophelia Rooftop
  • East Village Tavern
  • Miracle’s Enchanting Holiday Bars

Bronx Zoo’s sensational holiday lights

For the first time in 10 years, the Bronx Zoo is lighting up for the holidays! Using LED lights, you’ll find all sorts of wildlife lanterns, animated sculptures, and colorful designs will light your way throughout the park.

See the Radio City Rockettes Christmas Spectacular Show

The Rockettes are an absolute must see Christmas time tradition. The first show debuted in 1933 and since then, they have made up an integral part of holiday life in NYC.

Celebrate Kwanzaa at the American Museum of Natural History

Take part in celebrating Kwanzaa and African-American heritage on Saturday, December 28, 2019 from noon until 5 p.m. on December 29 at the Museum of Natural History. This celebration features African dance, spoken word and live musical performances, and a local artisan marketplace.

And last but not least, watch the ball drop on New Year's Eve!

Here are some places to watch the clock strike midnight and begin a new decade:

  • Point Break NYE 2020: Open Bar Party
  • Crawl Til the Ball Falls
  • NYE Ball Drop Party at Haven Rooftop

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