Must See and Do Activities in New York Over Christmas and New Year

New York City is a place worth visiting anytime of the year, but the special way that the city embraces the Christmas and New Year season is nothing short of magical. Whether you want to ice skate in midtown Manhattan, party in Times Square, or you’re just making a quick visit to do some last minute Christmas shopping in Macy’s, New York is truly the city that never sleeps. However long you plan to visit, we’ve put together a list of the must-see or do festive treats available in the Big Apple.

Rockefeller Centre Christmas Tree

ROCKEFELLER CENTER CHRISTMAS TREE / Skating ‘The Rink’ – Fifth Avenue, Manhattan NYC – 12/16/10 by
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There are a host of beautifully decorated Christmas trees located all over New York (honourable mentions should go to the trees at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and at the Plaza Hotel), but the king of Christmas trees has to be the one located at Rockefeller Centre. The Rockefeller Centre tree has been lit in this iconic location since 1931, and is the definitive festive photo opportunity for all tourists and locals. Be sure to stop by at night when the tree is lit up by now over 30,000 lights!

Rockefeller Centre Ice Rink

Located just below the iconic tree is New York’s very own outdoor ice rink, which perfectly complements this most festive scene at Rockefeller Centre. Skating at the rink has become so popular in recent years that it’s advisable to book your slot in advance, as queues can last hours just to hit the ice!

New Year’s Eve in Times Square

TIMES SQUARE NEW YEAR’S EVE 2011 – Times Square, Manhattan NYC – 12/31/10 & 01/01/2011 by
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There ‘ain’t nothin’ like New Year’s in New York. The centrepiece to the biggest party of the year has to be the annual ‘ball drop’ in the middle of Times Square. It’s estimated that over 1 million people show up every year to witness the Waterford Crystal ball lowering (or ‘dropping’!) as the countdown to the New Year takes place. As you might expect, New York doesn’t just stop there, oh no. When the clock strikes midnight on December 31st, cue a huge firework display to celebrate seeing in the New Year.


Shopping and New York go hand in hand, and during the lead up to Christmas the city’s retail stores pull out all the stops to get shoppers through the doors. None more so that the legendary Macy’s department store located on Herald Square, which is one of the biggest department stores on the planet. Macy’s knows how to do Christmas like no other – in 1862, the store became the first ever to have an ‘in-house’ Santa, and shortly thereafter was the first store to specially decorate it’s windows for Christmas. It’s famous annual ‘Santaland’ display is an impressive and elaborate Christmas scene of trees, elves and snow-covered wonder.

FAO Schwartz

New York’s most famous toy store is a must-visit for all the family during the festive season, if only to play FAO Schwartz’s legendary giant floor piano. The flagship store located on Fifth Avenue and 58th Street, even has its own concierge and personal shopping services in-house. Don’t forget your wallets, dads!

The Rockettes

The famous, synchronised dance group “The Rockettes” fill out New York’s famous Radio City Music Hall every December. During the festive season the group, perhaps known best for their eye-high leg kick in perfect unison in a chorus line, fill out the iconic venue 5 times a day, 7 days a week – that’s a lot of dancing! This much loved show is now a New York Christmas tradition, so if you’re planning on seeing one show or piece of theatre during your visit, you’ll do well to find top The Rockettes.

New Year’s Eve Harbour Cruise

If the heaving crowds and bright lights of Times Square don’t sound like your idea of fun for New Year’s Eve, there are plenty of alternatives in the metropolitan New York area. One popular choice is the New Year’s Eve cruises available in the waterways surrounding Manhattan. What’s not to like about this option? You get to sit back, relax and enjoy the fireworks display and a stunning view of New York City lit up in lights as you see in the New Year.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral Christmas Eve Mass

St. Patrick’s Cathedral -inside by Chris
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Not everything you do in New York at Christmas needs to involve shopping, shows and parties; the beauty of the city is that it offers countless opportunities to experience spiritual or religious services too. Christmas Eve Mass is a popular event for many locals and visitors, no more so than at the iconic St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan. This particular service is so popular that the midnight service requires tickets – arrive early to avoid disappointment!

Bronx Zoo Holiday Lights

Stepping off the island of Manhattan and exploring the outer boroughs of New York City is great way to experience another side to the city, and immerse yourself with real New York locals. The popular Bronx Zoo has a stunning annual Holiday Lights display which features over 150 animal sculptures decked out in festive lights. While you’re visiting, be sure to check out the special night-time sea lion feedings and live reindeer too!

Empire State Building

One of the most famous and storied buildings in the world boasts an 86th-floor observatory with spectacular views of New York City and beyond.  Beacuse of its popularity it is well worth purchasing your Empire State building tickets in advance.

New York Botanical Garden Holiday Train Show

Staying in the Bronx, you should certainly check out the always beautiful New York Botanical Garden, if not for its impeccably kept tropical plants and wildlife, for its traditional Holiday Train Show. This now cherished tradition delights families and people of all ages. Marvel at the charming model trains and New York landmark replicas while walking the spectacular grounds, all while eating gingersnaps and drinking hot chocolate!

Author bio:

This article was written by Simon Goddard of flight booking company Just The Flight. Find low cost flights to New York at online.