Come the merry season, New York City is a hive of holiday activity. And whether you’re planning your own personal adventures or thrive on bulleted itineraries, there’s no right way to enjoy this festive time of year.
We know the city never sleeps, but we’re fairly certain you do. So, before you pull out your planner and lace up your walking shoes, here are our picks for six things you just can’t miss in NYC this December.
Hit Rockefeller Center
Come for the tree, stay for the ice skating, shopping, restaurants, sightseeing, and entertainment – it's hard to think of the holidays in New York without Christmas at Rockerfeller Center. The iconic Tree Lighting Ceremony will take place on December 4 this year, but you can see it beautifully lit and decorated any time of the day or night until early 2020. And once you’ve gawked at your leisure, you may want to strap on ice skates and join the legions of revelers overlooked by a watchful Prometheus on The Rink or purchase tickets, preferably beforehand, to head to the Top of the Rock for stunning views of the five boroughs.
Of course, if you’d rather relax on terra firma, there is a diverse shopping concourse, including restaurants and cafes—many rinkside—for meals and snacks, as well as the 12 sparkling angels lining the serene Channel Gardens. Kids will appreciate a quick (or not so quick) visit to the Lego Store and Nintendo NY, and the whole family will enjoy the NBC Studios and Behind-the Scenes tours at 30 Rock. Looking for a special adult-only moment? Consider reserving time for hand-crafted cocktails at the Rainbow Room’s elevated Bar SixtyFive.
Chinese Food on Christmas Eve
If you’re in the city without a home base, finding the right place for a special holiday dinner can seem daunting. Though many restaurants are closed on Christmas eve, allowing owners and staff spend time with their own families, you can follow the footsteps of throngs of Jewish New Yorkers and make a reservation at one of the city’s many Chinese restaurants. Chinatown is the most obvious choice to dine, and you can choose from favorites like the more contemporary Chinese Tuxedo, the group-friendly, dim sum palace Golden Unicorn, or the BYOB cult darling Peking Duck House.
If, however, you’re feeling a little more adventurous, hop on the subway or grab a carshare to Flushing, Queens, where you’ll find a plentitude of street food, three indoor centers full of hawker stands and of course, many full-service restaurants. Dumpling Galaxy, housed in a shiny mall on Main St., is a must for dumpling lovers, with 100 different varieties sharing space on the long form menu, while Canton Gourmet serves up golden friend rice and specializes in beautifully served fresh seafood.
Visit a Themed Pop Up Bar
Nothing says holiday like a festive cocktail, and many bars in the city take advantage of this mirth by setting up a fun and fanciful winter-themed pop-up. Miracle and Sippin Santa, which started six years ago in the East Village and has ballooned to over 100 locations worldwide, will start on November 25 and last until December 31st, letting visitors enjoy signature cocktails like the Snowball Old-Fashioned and Ginger Bread Flip at the three Miracle locations, and tiki cocktails like Kris Kringle Colada and Jingle Bowl at the Sippin Santa downtown pop-up at Boilermaker.
Vintage holiday decorations, classic, themed barware and an eclectic soundtrack of holiday tunes will be on hand, along with Ugly Sweater contests and, of course, an abundance of yuletide cheer. If you’re looking for something a little less kitschy, the Snow Globe in the Sky at Ophelia NYC, teetering on the top of the Beekman Tower, will be enclosed in glass and decorated with sparkling crystals and snowflakes. Along with a stunning view and plush, decadent setting, you can gorge on desserts and sip cocktail like the Rising Star and Fireside. Visit Miracle at (649 East) 9th St. and (505 East) 12th St.; Sippin Santa at 13 First Ave.; and Ophelia NYC at 49th and 1st Ave.
Don’t Forget the Window Dressing
Don’t feel like joining all those shoppers inside the stores? Why not do a circuit of NYC’s famous holiday windows to while away the hours. From fantastical adventures to fashionable follies, nothing compares to these spectacularly creative displays. We suggest you start uptown and swing by Bergdorf Goodman to see a dazzling array of otherworldly colors and patterns, Barneys for a more modern display, and the renowned eight, elegant windows at Bloomingdales—then swing by luxury jewelers Tiffany and Cartier just a few blocks down to eyeball the jaw-dropping bling draped in lights, bows and ribbons.
On to Saks Fifth Avenue, where though we don’t yet know the 2019 theme, the centrally located, 5th Avenue department store will be revealing its displays on November 25 with a starry performance by Frozen’s own Idina Menzel and a ten-story tall light show. Next, make your way to Macy’s Herald Square for the six family friendly Broadway windows which open November 21 and are titled Believe in Wonder starring the magical Santa Girl.
Get Tickets to Peter & the Wolf
The Rockettes surely have their charm and Broadway is always a boon, but if you want to catch something special this season, grab your tickets now to Isaac Mizrahi’s reimagined classic Peter & the Wolf. Along with narrating and directing the show, the famed designer was also in charge of costumes for the sprawling cast. Performed at the Peter B. Lewis Theater inside the renowned Guggenheim Museum, this special, 30-minute performance is perfect for kids of all ages.
Hit a Holiday Market
Filled with fun, food, kids’ activities and, of course, shopping, the holiday market experience is a much nicer way to fulfill your shopping needs in a city full of crowded stores. The Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park, opening October 31, features a skating rink, and pop-up restaurant and bar, as well as over 175 boutiques to peruse.
The tree lighting happens December 5 and Santa’s Corner is open for the kids from December 14 to the 22nd. Other markets to visit include the European-style Urban Space Union Square Holiday Market and food vendors, and Deck the Stalls at the Fulton Market in the Seaport District—which also provides access to ice rink and warming hut at The Rooftop at Pier 17.