NYC in December: 12 Top Tips for New York at Christmas in 2024

Here are all the best things to do in NYC in December if you’re planning a Christmas in New York this year. Christmas in NYC is magical!

I’m just back from 5 days in New York. Guys, it was awesome. I’ll admit, it wasn’t all the dreamy ‘Christmas in New York’ experience I imagined, but with my help, yours can be.

December Christmas

I didn’t manage to meet Santa in Macy’s like on Miracle on 34th Street, I didn’t sing carols in the street a la Elf, and I definitely didn’t go ice skating in Central Park, as in Home Alone.

Nope, turns out those cliche New York Christmassy experiences are kind of exaggerated in the movies. NYC in December is busy, hectic, exciting and colder than you’d imagine. But oh so totally worth it.

Top Tips for New York at Christmas

Remember these tips for a December NYC when your turn comes around, you’ll thank me for it!

NYC at Christmas

1. Pack carefully for a freezing cold city

It was freezing in New York in December.


Central Park at Christmas

One day it was -8C and the wind made it feel even worse. I’d packed so poorly for Christmas in NYC, I ended up wearing pretty much the same thing every day I was there.

Two pairs of tights, socks, jeans, a vest top, a t shirt, a long sleeved top, a jumper, a coat, a scarf, hat and gloves. Layered up AF. And still, the top part of my cheeks (on my face) felt like they were being stabbed by icicles as I walked from sight to sight.

It was so cold in NY for Christmas my phone kept turning itself off (yeah, cheers for that, Apple). It snowed, it iced and it turned to slush.

I’d strongly recommend packing your thermals, and layering up for NYC at Christmastime. It starts with some great city walking boots – if your feet are warm, you’ll be right.

The first thing on your list of things to do in NYC in December, is to pack enough clothes to stay warm and have a bag to peel off the layers into when you go into the shops.

2. Christmas is busy in NYC, get up early

Christmas in NYC is one of the busiest times you can visit the city. I’d strongly recommend setting up an alarm clock to get up early to see the best sights without the crazy crowds.

I was in New York by myself, meeting a friend on a few days, so it my Christmas in NYC was more about the day time than the evening anyway. I was fine to get up early to explore New York in December.

New York Empire State Building

I strolled up to the Rockefeller Tree, to the bottom of the Chrysler Building and to get that view of the Empire State Building. I’m lucky enough to say I’ve been up twice before, so to save myself the $56 entrance fee, I admired from below.

Christmas in New York
New York at Christmas

For free entertainment, I walked the Brooklyn Bridge, enjoying the views of the New York skyline and the Statue of Liberty as I went. I also went to the New York Public Library, which looked just like something from Harry Potter.

3. You HAVE to see Central Park in the snow

If you’re in New York in December, you must see snowy Central Park. Have you really seen a Manhattan Christmas if you don’t?

I headed straight to Central Park as soon as I saw the ten inches of snow on waking up one morning. I wanted to photograph those famous wintry scenes with the skyscrapers in the background.

I layered up, ventured out, saw Central Park, and then had to seek warmth ten minutes later when no matter how many layers I had on, they were no match for the freezing cold.

Snow in Central Park
Central Park cold
Christmas in New York

As my seventh time in New York (crazy hey!) I’d already done a lot of the sights – the High Line, the Statue of Liberty, MoMA, Top of the Rock, Times Square – and so it was a chance to just walk around, relax and enjoy what I saw. Darting into shops as I needed to warm up as I went.

Christmas in New York

4. Go to Museums for warmth

We spent a whole afternoon at the 9/11 Memorial Museum – so much to see and so much to learn. It was so interesting to learn more about what happened, and how the survivors survived. There were 1000s of exhibits there from phone calls between the the plane passengers and their loved ones, to photos that had been made famous around the world and the symbolic Last Column of the trade centers.

I’d definitely recommend going to this in New York. It was interesting to read about their version of events since too. If you’re in Manhattan at Christmas you should definitely check this out.

There are so many museums in New York that are great to seek warmth from the cold, but you might want to book in advance to make sure you get in, and go early too. December in NYC and the museums will be your saviour!

6. Drinking warms you up

Although the cold meant I didn’t experience all the attractions I’d expected (still sad about it being too cold for ice skating), it did mean I had a lovely time exploring some of the bars with my friend Andrea in New York in December. My friend from university, she moved to New York six months ago.

New York at Christmas

We went to The Whiskey in Williamsburg, right next to the Brooklyn Brewery, and one of those bars you could imagine spending the whole day in. It was like a cellar, all cosy, and with no notion of time or the craziness of outside Manhattan just across the water. Just two, super strong, cocktails later (for me, a Spicy Margarita and Grandma Joan’s Special Lemonade) and we decided to go to The (fancy) Wythe Hotel next door to take in the views of the skyline and have a mulled wine.

A few days later and I met Andrea again at The Keg Room in Manhattan – an Irish-American sports bar, where we had no interest in the sports, just the Riesling. And then we went to try and get into Rolf’s. Big mistake. Every year they spend $60k on decorations (why don’t they use the same ones I’m wondering?) making it the number one place for New Yorkers to go to feel Christmassy. It was 4pm on a Friday and the people at the front of said queue, outside, had been there for an hour.

Did I mention it was freezing?

Metro in New York

So we went to Molly’s Irish Bar, a few doors up, obviously picking up the passing trade for Rolf’s. They looked like they invested 10% of the $60k, at a push, yet it was full and the sawdust floor hinted to me that things might get a little crazy later on.

And so a bottle of Malbec later and we went on to Eataly. A huge warehouse that’s been turned into a food store of everything Italy inspired. On the roof they’ve set up a terrace, ski-style, serving food and drink. We spent the next five hours eating lasagne, drinking red wine, mulled wine and the free Prosecco they offered us to get off the table and drink at the bar. It’s a great spot to be in New York during Christmas.

Rounding up my drinking recommendations for New York at Christmas. Expect to pay from $12 / £10 per drink, plus tax, plus tip, at 20%. Yeah, it gets expensive.

Here are some non-touristy things to do in NYC to help keep you warm.

7. Keep your energy up with eating

If I listed what I ate in New York I’d be embarrassed… so here goes.

I kept getting to a stage where I was absolutely ravenous – could have something to do with the cold and the 20k+ steps I was doing a day – and anything would do. The fanciest meal I had was that one at Eataly, where a 10cm x 10cm piece of spinach lasagne cost $25 / £20.

Eating in new york

– Didn’t take one picture of my food in New York, 
here are some massive baubles instead

Food is exp-en-sive in New York, even cheap food. And if you’re visiting New York at Christmas, then even more so.

Every day for breakfast I had some variation of and egg and / or bacon and / or cheese from Hana Food, a hipster organic food shop, by Jefferson Avenue Metro stop in Williamsburg where I was staying. They were $3, and a coffee was $1 – the cheapest I found in the city by far (expect around $6 at Starbucks). And actually nice, Colombian, in fact.

Christmas in New York

Other food devoured over my 5 day trip to New York in December included delicious pizza from Rays (chain, all over, I highly recommend, $7 a slice), tacos from La Chula inside Grand Central Station (3 = $17), pizza from Prova ($6), also in Grand Central, and a Kansas style Hot Dog from Zaro’s Family Bakery ($6) .

Every day I seemed to be at Grand Central Station for one reason or another. The food options in there were good for someone on a budget, and, as I was for those meals, by myself.

Christmas in New York

I also had Wasabi sushi one day ($13), pumpkin soup and a bagel from Pret a Manger ($12) and actually missed two dinners thanks to the shows I went to. Although one of those nights I did pick up a hot dog from a street seller for $4. Grim, to the highest degree.

But, the best for last, the burger at Alls Well in Williamsburg was without a doubt, on a par with Honest Burger in London as one of the best I’ve ever had.

Yeah, I’m probably not the person to ask for foodie recommendations in New York in December, unless Grand Central Station and Alls Well are enough for you.

– If you’re looking for kid-friendly restaurants in NYC, check this post out – 

8. Go to as many Christmassy shows as possible

Some of the absolute MUST things to do in NYC in December include going to see the festive shows.

You can’t go to New York without watching a show right?

Randomly my friend Kelly – who I went to Wilderness Festival with – and her sister arrived in New York the same day I did. On the Tuesday we decided to get tickets for The Rockettes, apparently the best Christmas show in New York around.

The Radio City Spectacular is so good. So good.

Christmas in New York
Christmas in New York

And then the next night Andrea had tickets to The Nutcracker Rouge – a burlesque take on The Nutcracker. The dancing, the storyline, the singing – it was all absolutely incredible. I know I keep saying things are the best, but this was honestly one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. My favourite part was when the dancer was high up in a hoop, singing Sia’s Chandelier operatically and in French, as glitter fell on her.

New life goals right there.

There are lots of fun, festive shows in New York in December to make the most of at Christmas. Just have a look at the listings for the time you’re there, and you can also head to Times Square for cheap tickets too.

While you’re in Times Square, you can’t help but do a little detour for the Christmas tree at Times Square at the Rockefeller Centre.

9. Take time for shopping in New York

New York at Christmas

Shopping: the ultimate on the list of things to do in NYC in December, hey?

To manage expectations though, shopping in New York is no cheaper than in the UK. I think maybe once upon a time it was, but with the ££ being so low, not any more.

It didn’t stop the window shopping though and as long as you treat every shop as a museum – where you can look but don’t touch – you’ll be alright. And of course, being Christmas, some of the shop window displays were awesome.

New York for Christmas

The highlight of my shopping experiences was walking up Broadway with a hot cider from Union Square – as there were so many pretty and unique shops to look at.

I also walked round Chelsea Market picking up a few presents as I went and I filled my basket in Century 21 with gifts for others, but mostly for myself. I actually had to buy a new bag to fit all my new possessions in.


Whether you like shopping or not, the window displays on the main streets of NYC are just magical. And this is the perfect opportunity to pick up some great New York souvenirs to take home too.

READ MORE: All my USA travel blogs are here!

10. Give yourself time to get around

Christmas in NYC

As we’ve said, Christmas in NYC can be hectic. You need to give yourself enough time to get from A to B, especially if you have timed tickets. The NYC Subway is easy to navigate, and there are buses and Ubers too.

Don’t get yourself in a flap by not leaving enough time to move.

11. Visit an NYC Christmas Market

New York now has quite a few Christmas markets dotted around the city. You can buy food, clothes, artwork, novelty crafts and gifts with a festive theme. Great place for a mulled wine and a chocolatey treat if you’re in New York in December.

This is one of the best things to do at Christmas in New York – and a great way to pick up some NYC souvenirs too.

NYC in December

The best ones are Bryant Park Holiday Market (with ice rink), the Union Square Holiday Market, Grand Central Holiday Market and Columbus Circle Holiday Market too.

12. 5th Avenue at Christmas

Fifth Avenue in New York City transforms into a dazzling winter wonderland during Christmas. Adorned with extravagant holiday decorations and shimmering lights, this iconic avenue becomes a magnet for visitors and locals alike. The centerpiece is the magnificent Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, a symbol of the season’s grandeur.

Luxurious department stores like Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman compete with opulent window displays that tell enchanting holiday stories. Strolling along Fifth Avenue at Christmas is an enchanting experience that captures the essence of holiday magic in the heart of Manhattan. All this enchanting holiday spirit in New York City is thanks to a few professional Christmas decoration companies like this one that make all the magic happen.

The downsides of Christmas in NYC

I’ve had a brilliant few days, but the reality of Christmas in New York is that the shops are super busy, the bars full and the weather outside, literally, frightful. It was too cold to even contemplate the ice skating, and I had a quick peep in Macy’s, wanting to buy a Christmas decoration, but recoiling at the minimum $40 for pretty much any piece of hanging tat. Yes, this, was $40.

Christmas in New York

If you’re happy to hot drink crawl the avenues and streets, as I did, make sure you dress warm, bring some fur lined boots – or buy some at Century 21 – and be prepared for the cold and the people traffic, then Christmas in New York can be a brilliant (probably) once in a lifetime experience.

If you do go, keep an eye on Company XIV to see if they’re performing, the Nutcracker Rouge was the absolute highlight of my December in NYC.

There’s lots more to see in the city too, check out my guide to 4 days in New York here.

New York in December

New York City in December is a magical experience that totally embodies the holiday spirit. The city comes alive with festive decorations, dazzling lights, and excitement. Iconic landmarks like Rockefeller Center’s towering Christmas tree and the ice skating rink draw crowds of visitors.

Holiday markets, such as Bryant Park’s Winter Village, offer unique gifts and tasty treats. There are just so many great things to do at Christmas in NYC. You’re definitely going to need a few days for this adventure but a New York City holiday is always a great idea.

The city’s Broadway theatres showcase special holiday-themed performances, and department store windows feature elaborate displays. Central Park turns into a winter wonderland with snow-covered landscapes.

Despite the cold, the atmosphere is warm, making New York in December a must-visit destination for anyone looking for that iconic place to spend Christmas this year.

How cold is NYC in December, really?

Anecdotally, blummin freezing. Or at least it was when I went.

Let’s look at the actual scientific info for New York in December though…

According to the Met Office the weather in New York City in December is 0 to 7C – I’d agree (if not colder!).

“The start of December in New York can be fairly mild, but by the end it will be very cold with temperatures struggling to get much above freezing, so plenty of winter gear is essential. On average temperatures will reach highs of 6.7°C. Some snow is likely at some point, with around 3 days of snowfall during the month.

Winds will start to pick up into December in NYC, though the buildings can provide some shelter. Normally there I around 87mm of cold rain throughout the month, but there will be decent sunny spells around at times with 5 hours of sunshine a month.”


New York in Christmas movies

New York City serves as an enchanting backdrop for countless Christmas movies. Some iconic locations have become synonymous with these beloved films:

  1. Central Park: This sprawling urban oasis provides a picturesque setting for ice skating and heartwarming moments in movies like ‘Elf’ and ‘Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.’
  2. Rockefeller Center: The towering Christmas tree and ice skating rink at Rockefeller Center are featured prominently in classics like the aforementioned ‘Home Alone 2’ and ‘Elf’. The annual tree lighting ceremony is a real-life event that draws thousands.
  3. Times Square: The bright lights and bustling energy of Times Square are showcased in films like ‘The Muppets Take Manhattan’ and ‘Scrooged’, adding a unique New York flair to their holiday narratives.
  4. Empire State Building: This iconic skyscraper often makes cameo appearances in holiday movies, including the romantic comedy ‘Sleepless in Seattle’, where it plays a pivotal role in a touching Christmas Eve rendezvous.
  5. Central Park Zoo: ‘Madagascar’ features the lovable zoo animals embarking on a Christmas adventure that begins at the Central Park Zoo.
  6. The Plaza Hotel: This luxury hotel is a favorite setting for holiday movies, such as ‘Home Alone 2’ and ‘Eloise at Christmastime’, where its opulence and festive decor add charm to the stories.
  7. Brooklyn Bridge: ‘The Family Man’ showcases the beauty of the Brooklyn Bridge during the holiday season, capturing the city’s charm from a different perspective.
  8. Wollman Rink: Located in Central Park, this ice skating rink is featured in various movies, including ‘Serendipity’, where it sets the scene for a magical romantic encounter.

These New York locations in Christmas movies not only serve as stunning backdrops but also contribute to the enduring charm and enchantment of these beloved holiday classics, making them an integral part of the cinematic Christmas experience.

3 Best Hotels in NYC for Christmas

The world renowned hotels are known for their exceptional holiday experiences. If you’re wondering where to stay in NYC at Christmas, these three hotels are your best options (kinda spendy though!).

1. The Ritz-Carlton New York, Central Park: Located right by Central Park, this luxury hotel offers a festive atmosphere during the holiday season. Its elegant décor, holiday-themed afternoon teas, and proximity to iconic Christmas attractions like the Rockefeller Center Tree and Fifth Avenue shopping make it a top choice for those seeking a luxurious Christmas experience.

2. The St. Regis New York: This historic hotel, with its Beaux-Arts architecture and timeless elegance, is transformed into a winter wonderland during Christmas. Guests can enjoy the holiday-themed decorations, festive dining experiences, and the famous King Cole Bar, home of the original Bloody Mary cocktail.

3. The Peninsula New York: Nestled in the heart of Midtown Manhattan, The Peninsula exudes holiday charm with its lavish decorations and festive offerings. Their Winter Solstice Afternoon Tea and The Peninsula SnowPage are highly anticipated seasonal treats, and the hotel’s proximity to holiday attractions like Bryant Park’s Winter Village and Fifth Avenue shopping makes it a prime location.

These hotels offer exceptional service, stunning holiday décor, and convenient access to New York City’s most iconic Christmas festivities. However, book well in advance, as these top-tier establishments tend to fill up quickly during the holiday season. And if you’re looking for a hotel in NYC a little more in your price range, check out the NYC hotels selection on

FAQs about New York Christmas

1. What best things to do on a New York Christmas?

You will be overwhelmed with all the things you could do on a New York Christmas because it’s literally too many. A piece of advice: you better start your day early.

Head over the streets and experience broadway shows (Rockettes Christmas Spectacular), spectate light shows (Saks, Randall’s Island), check out Christmas markets and shops, (Chelsea Market, Macy’s, Columbus Square, Union Square, Bryant Park), stroll around spectacular parks (Central Park) dine in restaurants with holiday treats, drink up to bars, and tree and skating at Rockefeller Center, of course!

2. What’s New York like at Christmas?

It’s MAGICAL. That’s what New York is like during Christmas. It’s like everybody’s dream place. The streets may be busy but around you, your eyes will be filled with nothing but amazing sights of lights, displays, and performances.

New York during Christmas is just a truly magical time to be there – do it!

3. Is Christmas in New York worth it?

A hundred percent! It’s the liveliest, grandest, and best Christmas vacation that you’ll ever experience. And I attest that it’s one of the time of the year to visit the place. Nothing compares.

4. When does New York put the Christmas tree up?

The famous tree at Rockefeller Center in New York will be put up on November 20, 2022 and will run until the first week of January 2023. It will be lit daily from 5:30 pm – 12 am. Since its tradition way back in 1931, the tree gave everyone a free amazing sight to enjoy watching on every Christmas holiday in NY.

5. When does New York take their Christmas decorations down?

Christmas spirit dies down in New York City around the first week of January (usually around the 5th-7th day) when decorations are taken down. This is also along whenever the feast of the Epiphany is held.

6. How do New York locals celebrate Christmas?

Well, New York locals are no different from tourists when celebrating Christmas. They get together with their families, do the usual exchanging of gifts, share thanksgiving, and the other usual Christmas traditions. Of course, they crash the streets of New York to do fun holiday activities.

7. Are there New York Christmas restaurants?

Not only do the streets of New York show off the Christmas spirit but restaurants as well make an effort to have Christmas in full effect. Around this time of the year, many will be putting up lights and popups to resonate more with the vibes of the special holiday. There are exclusive dishes too in relation to the holiday that every customer can choose from.

Some of the best spots to dine and enjoy Christmas decorations are Rolf’s, Tavern On the Green, Sunday In Brooklyn / Williamsburg, Bell Book & Candle, Temple Court, Lillie’s Victorian Establishment, Oscar Wilde, and Haven Rooftop.

There are plenty of Christmas restaurants New York City has to offer.

8. Should you go to NYC at Christmas?

Oh, absolutely definitely. Visiting NYC at Christmas was an absolute dream of mine and I’m so glad I’ve done it. Despite the cold and the hectic streets just being there was everything.

New York Christmas

The streets, the NYC landmarks, the sidewalks, the people, the accents and the excited buzz in the air just made an extra special trip that I’ll remember forever.

New York in December? Go for it!

If you want to warm up after a Christmas in New York, how about driving to Miami from NYC on an awesome road trip? You can thaw out!



  1. Thanks for sharing such useful information. I think this is really a very nice post. Thanks for the great content!

  2. GREAT photos and advice. I really enjoyed it. I lived in NYC for 33 yrs..I now live in California, the Bay area… I miss it a LOT!

  3. Do you still have your fingertips?? That looked so cold! Going to NYC during Christmas time is definitely on our bucket list! Now I know to bring gloves though:)

    1. Vicky

      The Real Person!

      Author Vicky acts as a real person and passed all tests against spambots. Anti-Spam by CleanTalk.


      Ah they were! Made the trip actually. Yeah it was way too cold – sorry to say I wouldn’t do it again. Need my sun!

    1. Vicky

      The Real Person!

      Author Vicky acts as a real person and passed all tests against spambots. Anti-Spam by CleanTalk.


      Ha, it was fun, just a bit chilly! Glad I went and saw it 🙂

  4. Vicky

    The Real Person!

    Author Vicky acts as a real person and passed all tests against spambots. Anti-Spam by CleanTalk.


    So cold FiFor, so cold. Had to have some sort of hot drink on the go at all times to try and warm up from the inside. Brrrr. x

  5. I went to New York for 5 days back in February 2011 and I FROZZZZEEEE! Would not recommend. I def. want to visit again when it’s not 6ft in snow but tbh, if you’ve lived in a big city like London, it’s not that special, although I did enjoy a cold march around Central Park and took those cool wintery pictures with the buildings behind 😉

    1. Vicky

      The Real Person!

      Author Vicky acts as a real person and passed all tests against spambots. Anti-Spam by CleanTalk.


      Ah yikes. I remember going in April one year and it was still pretty cold. I think May to October is probably best. It’s not nice being uncomfortably cold when you’re on holiday. Yeah, I’d go again, but definitely in the summer. I think a break for a few days is great, but it can definitely get expensive if you go for any longer.

  6. I am really fascinated with the NY library! It looks super cool 😛 It’s incredible what the cold can do to your travel plans.. I was in Germany a couple of days ago and it was just 0 degrees but I still thought it was way too cold to enjoy.! The joys of winter traveling..

    1. Vicky

      The Real Person!

      Author Vicky acts as a real person and passed all tests against spambots. Anti-Spam by CleanTalk.


      Yeah, the cold and snow looks all pretty on the photos and you think you’ll be alright if you wrap up, but this was colder than a ski holiday! Even the thought of leaving to go from place to place ruined it a bit. It’s annoying because it limited what I could do, but I mean, bar hopping wasn’t too bad 🙂 I got through it :).

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