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Things to do in NYC in December

Traveling to New York in December is synonymous with living a movie Christmas. Here is a list of activities to do during this month to know how to make the most of your visit during this time of the year.

Carmen Navarro

Carmen Navarro

8 min read

Things to do in NYC in December

Christmas decorations in Manhattan | ©Jon Tyson

With New Year's Eve just around the corner, New York offers plenty to do and prepares for what is probably the most important time of the year for most New Yorkers. Holiday markets and colorful lights invade the city, creating the perfect atmosphere for all that shopping.

And even though the temperatures are low, it never hurts to grab a hot coffee to go while strolling through the streets lined with ice rinks. Despite being a time with a lot of tourism, without a doubt if you are a Christmas lover this is the best time of the year to travel to the Big Apple. Here we go!

1. Dazzle yourself with the illuminated houses of the Dyker Heights neighborhood.

Lighting of one of the houses in the Dyker Heights Neighborhood| ©Hellotickets
Lighting of one of the houses in the Dyker Heights Neighborhood| ©Hellotickets

If you want to experience Christmas in the purest American style, Dyker Heights is the neighborhood you can't miss. This is famous for its extravagant Christmas lights and at this time all the neighbors fill their houses with light, with all kinds of Christmas figures like reindeer, Santa Claus or elves, who move and sing Christmas carols.

If you want to approach this Brooklyn neighborhood you can do it on your own by subway, or if you are near the financial district, the bus can be a very good option. Otherwise, join one of the many tours of New York to see the Christmas lights.

Book the Dyker Heights Tour

2. Take a tour of the most spectacular storefronts and shop for the best in the city

Taking Advantage of New York Deals| ©Gustavo Fring
Taking Advantage of New York Deals| ©Gustavo Fring

It is always a good option to go shopping in New York, but December is undoubtedly one of the most amazing times to visit the stores. In this month the stores have the most spectacular window displays of the year (and probably the world).

No doubt it leaves no one indifferent, and in addition, at the end of this month they make the After Holiday Sales, a few days in which they take the opportunity to make sales and we can get many products at incredible prices. If you are looking for the best prices, do not hesitate to visit Woodbury Commons, the best outlet in New York.

In addition, you can take the opportunity to buy Christmas gifts or the most original souvenirs. Here is a guide to the best things to buy in New York.

Book a tour of New York's Christmas window displays

3. Attend the NBA's Christmas Special

NBA Fans| ©Seth Hoffman
NBA Fans| ©Seth Hoffman

The NBA is considered one of the most special sporting events in the world. Undoubtedly, watching a game is a plan that you cannot miss if you go to the United States. The fanaticism of the public and the rivalry between franchises will make you enjoy the stars of the parquet, which offer an extraordinary experience.

Can you imagine watching a game at a time as special as Christmas? They take care of every detail to the point of dressing up in special outfits for the occasion! It is undoubtedly one of the best plans to do in December, either visiting the famous Madison Square Garden or attending an NBA game (here I tell you how to buy NBA tickets at the best price).

Buy NBA tickets

4. Have a hot chocolate at Serendipity III

Serendipity 3 Restaurant in New York City| ©Can Pac Swire
Serendipity 3 Restaurant in New York City| ©Can Pac Swire

As you can imagine, cold weather abounds in New York this time of year. That's why it's common to see people bundled up with a glass of coffee to help warm their hands. We suggest something a little sweeter! Go and have a hot chocolate at Serenipity III, an extraordinary place and without a doubt, its extravagant decoration will not leave you indifferent. For the more indecisive, it is always a good idea to order their specialty, the Frozen Hot Chocolate.

And if in general you are one of those who enjoy gastronomy when traveling, I leave you this list with the best places to eat in New York.

Book a gastronomic tour of Manhattan

5. Visit the impressive tree at Rockefeller Center

The iconic Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center| ©Ibrahim Boran
The iconic Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center| ©Ibrahim Boran

Just a week after Thanksgiving, December 1 is the official opening day of Christmas. And it's tradition to attend Rockefeller Center's tree lighting ceremony, which is attended by music stars who sing Christmas carols and spread the holiday spirit to the plaza's audience.

You'll need a good angle lens on your camera to get the whole picture! You can visit it throughout the month and until the beginning of January. It is usually lit from dusk to midnight, with the exception of December 25 when we can enjoy its illumination all day long. While you're here, you can't miss going up to the Top of the Rock or going up to the Top of the Rock at night. Also don't miss the best Christmas trees in New York.

Book tickets to Top of the Rock

6. Enjoy one of the most famous shows in New York: The Rockettes.

The Rockettes at Radio City Hall| ©Kevin Poh
The Rockettes at Radio City Hall| ©Kevin Poh

If you visit New York in December, there's one show you can't miss: the Rockettes ' show at Radio City Music Hall: Christmas Spectacular. It is the quintessential New York Christmas show, since it began in 1933. The show is set in the North Pole and is performed by more than 130 artists with impressive choreographies in which we can enjoy ice skating and more than 1300 costumes, including Santa Claus!

This is another activity to enjoy without fail. If you are traveling with children, you can't miss the visit to Santa Claus who will be waiting at the end of the show to take pictures.

And if you'd like to spend a night at the movies, you can also check out the best Broadway musicals.

Buy tickets for Radio City Christmas Spectacular

7. Skate at one of the skating rinks throughout the city

Skating at Rockefeller Center| ©Peter Cruise
Skating at Rockefeller Center| ©Peter Cruise

When the winter season arrives, New Yorkers are in luck because one of their favorite activities is ice skating, and the city is full of ice rinks! The most famous, the first to be set up every year and the most emblematic is the one at Rockefeller Center at Christmas.

That's why, besides a good scarf and warm gloves, you will have to be prepared for a long queue. Of course, skating between skyscrapers is quite an experience. Another very typical and less crowded one is the ice rink in Central Park where you can glide through a dreamy winter landscape.

8. Get lost in the New York Public Library

New York Public Library| ©Joel Bernstein
New York Public Library| ©Joel Bernstein

Every year the New York Public Library takes on an intimate atmosphere. In addition to setting up one of the most visited trees in the city, the entire space is decorated with candles, lights and garlands. In addition, activities such as face painting workshops, arts and crafts, magic shows, Christmas storytelling and much more are created.

Highly recommended especially if you are visiting New York with children!

9. Discover the little train at the Botanical Garden

Holiday Train at the New York Botanical Garden| ©Daniel Berek
Holiday Train at the New York Botanical Garden| ©Daniel Berek

One of the most popular traditions in New York is the Holiday Train Show*. It is a little train that runs through a miniature model of the city. It is a good way to see all the tourist attractions from another point of view. A curiosity is that this model is created with sustainable materials, and most of them come from the Botanical Garden itself.

Seeing the little train surrounded by moss, branches, bark and many more natural elements is a tradition that you can only enjoy when December arrives and has become a New York tradition.

It is definitely a highly recommended experience, especially if you are traveling with children.

10. Celebrate New Year's Eve in Times Square

Ball drop in Time Square on New Year's Eve| ©Scott Lynch
Ball drop in Time Square on New Year's Eve| ©Scott Lynch

Celebrating New Year's Eve in New York is something you have to do once in a lifetime, whether in Times Square, the Empire State Building or Central Park. Since 1907, there is the tradition of celebrating New Year's Eve in Times Square with its famous ball drop, where a huge crystal ball descends to usher in the new year, and where up to a million people gather! Concerts are held with artists of the caliber of Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber.

Empire State Building

Another of the most famous parties that you can not miss is the one you will witness if you climb to the top of the Empire State Building, in which the building is illuminated and fireworks shows of the most spectacular.

Other interesting places to enjoy New Year's Eve

If you want to get away from the crowds and welcome the year with something a little quieter, you can always watch the fireworks in Central Park or on the Brooklyn Bridge.


The weather in New York in December

Snow in Battery Park| ©Will Hedington
Snow in Battery Park| ©Will Hedington

It is not uncommon to see images of New York City in winter covered with snow, because on December 21, winter officially begins and therefore it is necessary to be prepared to combat the low temperatures.

You can not miss in your suitcase warm clothes and raincoat to protect you from the cold, as temperatures range from 7 ° C maximum to 0 ° C minimum and we have an average of 8 days of rain per month.

It gets dark quite early, around 16:30, when the streets begin to light up and the Christmas atmosphere is discovered.
You may like the cold more or less, but if you go prepared, it will be the perfect friend to help you experience New York in the most magical way possible.

New York's New Year's Eve in December

Visiting New York| ©Samson Katt
Visiting New York| ©Samson Katt

December is probably the month in which the Big Apple receives more visitors. Christmas tourism is very striking and that's why I recommend you to book your accommodation and activities in advance, besides assuming that, being high season, prices will be quite high, both in accommodation, flights and even restaurant menus.

Even so, that should not stop you from visiting this wonderful city because at Christmas, you will see the city like at no other time of the year and you will be able to keep in your memory a totally unforgettable experience.