New York in December

By Suz Pathmanathan

Few cities know how to celebrate the holidays quite like New York. If you’re lucky enough to be in the city during December, you’ll notice New York’s most iconic landmarks transformed with lights, decorations and events in time for the holidays. Whatever you’re into, whether it’s festive Broadway shows, holiday markets, sightseeing or all three, it's easy to get into the spirit of the season with so many things to do in New York in December.

Tree Lighting Ceremony at Rockefeller Center

The sight of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree is as impressive as it is famous. A New York City icon, the tree reaches up to 100 feet tall and lighting it has been a NYC tradition since 1933. The ceremony usually takes place in either late November or early December, so if you’re travelling to New York around this time, you’ll enjoy a festive treat.

As well as this annual event, you can take advantage of the many shopping and dining options available nearby. Why not lace up a pair of rental skates and glide around the ice rink at Rockefeller Center?

Admission: viewing the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center is free and open to the public.
Address: 45 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10111
Opening times: open 24 hours
Website: https://www.rockefellercenter.com/

Holiday window displays

Every holiday season, world-famous New York City department stores compete to create the best holiday window display. This window display competition creates a great tourist activity that's apt for the holiday season, and it's free! There are five major department stores to check out: Bloomingdale's, Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom, and Macy's Herald Square. These department stores are all located fairly close to one another in the Midtown area, along Lexington Ave, Madison Ave, Fifth Ave and Broadway.

Radio City Music Hall

Radio City Music Hall is perhaps most famous for the Christmas Spectacular and the Rockettes. Ask any local and they’ll agree that no holiday season is complete without this high-energy and highly entertaining performance, with the Rockettes performing eye-high kicks to the beat of festive holiday music. After viewing the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall, continue the holiday festivities at the Bryant Park Holiday Market. Just head eight blocks downtown to check out the Market at 6th Ave and 42nd Street.

Address: 1260 6th Ave, New York, NY 10020
Opening times: the Apollo Theatre Box Office is open Monday to Saturday 10AM - 8PM

Empire State Building Lights

The celebration, which takes place throughout November and December, will include a seasonal Fifth Ave window display, holiday concerts and surprise appearances by celebrity guests.

Decorations in the building's signature Art Deco style adorn the 34th Street Observatory entrance and iconic Fifth Ave lobby, making the interior of the Empire State Building shine like its world-famous tower lights. From the ground floor to the sparkling antenna, ESB spreads holiday cheer throughout every corner of New York City and the world. Visitors can enjoy the attraction’s radiant heaters, which provide extra comfort on ESB's 86th floor exterior 360-degree viewing deck.

Address: 20 W 34th St, New York, NY 10001
Opening times: Open every day 3AM - 6PM

Dyker Heights Christmas lights

During the rest of the year, Dyker Heights is a small area of Brooklyn you might just wander through on your travels. But during the holidays, the area, especially the Kings County neighborhood, is transformed into an illumination-filled festive nightscape widely hailed as the best in NYC. Expect lifesize santas, sleighs, carols and a crowd of all ages. Take down a flask of eggnog and enjoy the festive atmosphere.

Address: displays from 11th to 13th Ave (also known as Dyker Heights Blvd) from 83rd to 86th St in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn.

Time Warner Center

If you find the Dyker Heights lights in Brooklyn mesmerizing, try the Time Warner Center lights display. The hanging stars change color every few seconds, and while it’s not as grand and elaborate as the ones in Dyker Heights - nothing is - it’s less crowded, it’s inside (although you can also see them from outside) and you can pop into Williams Sonoma to buy some Peppermint Bark.

And, if you’re still in need of more holiday shopping, check out the holiday market right across the street, as well as many others.

Address: 10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019
Opening times: display times vary

Central Park and Wollman Rink

The City of New York gets Central Park all decked out for the holidays. Decorations and lights are put up all over and you may hear Christmas carolers during a holiday visit - a walk through Central Park is especially festive when it’s snowing. The park also offers horse-drawn carriage rides that contribute some rustic charm to a wintertime ride through the park. One wintertime activity that you should definitely take advantage of when you’re in the city for the holidays is ice skating at the Wollman Rink. The rink offers ice skate rentals and it’s located only minutes from the Central Park Zoo.

Address: Wollman Rink: 830 5th Ave, New York, NY 10065
Opening times: Woolman Rink: 10AM - 11PM / Rockefeller Center: 8.30AM - midnight

Strasbourg-Alsace Holiday Market

After viewing the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall, continue the holiday festivities at the Bryant Park Holiday Market. Just head eight blocks downtown to check out the market at 6th Ave and 42nd Street. Or if you love shopping at the holiday markets but want to check out something new, try the Strasbourg-Alsace Holiday Market in Bowling Green Park. This is truly an under-the-radar holiday event.

The market features table linens from Colmar, pottery from Soufflenheim, ornaments from Strasbourg and more. You’ll also find such delicacies as Alsatian craft beer, hot chestnuts and sausages. For more holiday markets, check out our deep dive.

Opening times: these vary, but New York’s holiday markets are exclusively open from November - December.
Address: 26 Broadway, New York, New York 10004

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Places to Eat & Drink in New York

New York Restaurants & Dinner Cruises Known as one of the epicurean capitals of the world, New York City offers a tremendous diversity of restaurants. Nearly as famous are the NYC Dinner Cruises. Within the city of New York, one can find nearly every nationality's cuisine represented. If someone has cooked it up in style and with flair, you will find it in NYC. For dessert, New York City is home to Cold Stone Creamery. Want the best cheesecake you ever tasted? Then you have to visit Junior's Restaurant. If you enjoy movies and movie memorabilia, visit Planet Hollywood. And if you want to enjoy the incredible NY attractions from the water, Spirit Cruises offer both lunch and dinner cruises around the island of Manhattan. And for the ultimate in NYC Cuisine and elegant style, World Yacht Dining Cruises is the only option. Great places to eat with The New York Pass® Bond 45 At Bond 45, in the heart of Times Square, you’ll find yourself surrounded by New York City glamour and history. Buca di Beppo Buca di Beppo serves authentic Italian cuisine in an eclectic, vintage setting and is the perfect place for a great meal at a great value. Dave & Buster's Dave & Buster's is the ONLY place in Times Square to Eat, Drink, Play & Watch Sports! Eat the latest chef-crafted dishes. Drink with friends at one of our bars. Play the hottest interactive games. Hard Rock Café - Yankee Hard Rock International and the New York Yankees have joined to create the ultimate music and sports experience for fans – Hard Rock Cafe Yankee Stadium. Havana Central Havana Central presents a portal to Cuba’s golden era, when life on the island paradise was a continuous party. Hush Tours, Inc. Hush Tours are the world’s only hip hop experiences that use celebrity guides to show and tell the full story behind this 40 year ‘young’ music & cultural genre. John’s Pizzeria Located in a unique 19th-century church, the country’s largest pizzeria is the perfect budget-friendly location for small and large groups to enjoy NY’s mouth-watering, famous, thin-crust brick oven pizza. Le Relais de Venise L’Entrecote This French Steakhouse has a cult following around the world. Mangia Mangia is the original Italian farm-to-table eatery serving fresh foods, artfully presented. Planet Hollywood There’s no business like show business, and there’s no place like the Planet! Settepani Settepani, owned by Leah Abraham, is a full hospitality experience focusing on quality and over the past ten years, it has evolved into an eclectic and welcoming intersection for long-time residents, tourists and the new generation of Harlemites. Spirit Cruises Let the Spirit move you. Spirit Cruises offer lunch and dinner harbor cruises around Manhattan featuring the Statue of Liberty in addition to the dance revue, musical entertainment, and sumptuous buff
Shashia Mitchell
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Legoland Discovery Center Westchester Holiday Bricktacular

It’s always fun to check out the classic holiday happenings in and around the city. But it’s almost more fun to discover new ones that you can make part of your holiday tradition. And we’ve got a great new one for you--and we don't use the word "great” lightly. Imagine combining one of the world’s most popular (and truthfully, most fun) toys with an interactive experience and a holiday twist. Happily, someone has done that, and the result is the Legoland Discovery Center Westchester's Holiday Bricktacular. Huzzah! Why attend a holiday event where you have to stay seated? At the Legoland Discovery Center Westchester Holiday Bricktacular, you become part of the experience! The Bricktacular has a number of different elements: A Miniland scavenger hunt; a Creative Workshop where visitors can build holiday projects using mosaics; and minifigure trading with staff members. (Start collecting now, people, if you haven’t already.) Plus, visitors can see Miniland New York all gussied up as a winter wonderland, and also meet a Master Builder (just like The Lego Movie!) and help him create holiday-themed creations like snowmen and snowflakes. The experience is there through December 29, and, perhaps most important, dressing up in ugly Christmas sweaters is highly encouraged (you know you want to). Families love all the interactive activities, with one young visitor stating: “The most fun Christmas place. A hundred stars. You get to play with Legos!” Lego Facts Lego is one of the most popular toy brands in the world. The name comes from the Danish words “leg godt,” which means “play well.” The company started in the workshop of a carpenter named Ole Kirk Christiansen. He started making wooden toys in 1932; in 1947, Lego started making plastic toys. An early version of the interlocking bricks was introduced in 1949. They were originally called “automatic binding bricks.” (Not quite as catchy.) In May 2013, the largest model ever made—5 million bricks!—was displayed in New York City. Any guesses as to what it was? (If you said a Lego X-Wing fighter, you’d be correct.) The Lego Movie made more than 469 million dollars worldwide. Still looking for ways to get into the holiday spirit? Check out our tips for holiday shopping here.
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