Arts and Entertainment

A New Yorker’s Guide to Christmas

A New Yorker’s Guide to Christmas

Reading Time: 4 minutes

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By Emma Donnelly

NYC goes big for the holidays. And Christmas, one of the most significant holidays of the entire year, is just around the corner. You don’t have to celebrate Christmas to feel the holiday spirit, filled with wintery vibes, feeling good about giving and receiving gifts, and spending time with loved ones. Even if you’re not traveling anywhere, seeing any family, or doing anything special over winter break, there are plenty of ways to get out and feel magical in the city.


The most well-known holiday attraction around Christmastime is the huge, decorated tree in Rockefeller Center, a classic symbol of the holidays in NYC. The tradition was first started in 1931 and has not gone down in popularity. The tree is usually a Norway spruce, 70 to 100 feet tall, bedazzled with colorful ornaments and lights. It can be quite crowded at times, but if you’re in the area, be sure to check it out: it’ll be the coolest tree you ever see.

Another great way to feel one with winter is to go sledding or ice skating. There are plenty of hills around the city, especially in Central Park, to sled on. There are several ice skating rinks, including ones in Central Park, Bryant Park, and Prospect Park. Some rinks, like LeFrak (Prospect Park), cost money to skate, but others like the Bryant Park Rink charge money to rent skates. These rinks turn on bright lights when the sun starts to set, making for a picturesque winter wonderland. Having fun in the snow or on the ice and not having to think about school is a great stress-reliever.

Another way to get in the holiday spirit is simply by walking around. Plenty of places around NYC have brilliant Christmas decorations. One of the most famous neighborhoods to display them is Dyker Heights, which even has bus tours during the holiday weeks due to the popularity. Fifth Avenue in Manhattan is another popular spot with magnificent window displays, ranging from dolls to snowmen to trees. Light shows around the city such as the Winter Lantern Festival in Staten Island or LuminoCity at Randalls Island also feature some beautiful dazzling structures. And, of course, your own block may have some pretty cool houses with decorations too (ours definitely do!).

If you want a warm, indoor place to visit during the winter season, New York’s many museums are great destinations. The MET and MoMA are great starters, but if you want to visit some lesser-known destinations, The Museum on Eldridge Street, The Transit Museum, and the Whitney Museum are great options. These museums have a variety of arts from different time periods and special holiday exhibits. The Museum on Eldridge Street, for example, has a Chanukah exhibit filled with artsy menorahs, while the Transit Museum has a holiday train show. Learning about the past in a relaxed environment is a great way to jumpstart the holiday spirit and the new year.


New York City is one of the most diverse cities in the world. We all know what that means… a great selection of food! From small bites to large meals, NYC will definitely have something to fill your tastebuds and get you feeling warm and excited for Christmas. Here are some of the top places we recommend:

Industry City in Brooklyn is a creative hub that hosts a diverse selection of vendors. Besides art galleries and hip stores, there is a food court that serves savory and delicious food from all over the world. Around the holidays, a special holiday market is featured with special food, decor, and gifts! Industry City helps represent the diversity of the city while also offering the convenience to experience it all.

Rosemary’s in the West Village is decorated very festively for the holidays, with lit-up trees with large ornaments. With a rooftop garden and house-made pasta, it is guaranteed that these dishes will be fresh. They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner, so there is a great variety of food ranging from focaccia, pasta, to gelato. Prices here are usually $10-$20 per dish. This beautiful, farmhouse-inspired restaurant allows for a great get-together meal with friends and family.

The Asian cuisine of Flushing Main Street in Queens and Chinatown in Manhattan is definitely a highlight. Cheap, good eats line the streets of these areas and showcase the different types of foods you’ll find there. From huge meals of noodles, fried rice, and soups to lighter options of fish balls, cakes, and bubble tea, you are guaranteed to find something you’ll enjoy. Here, you can come to enjoy a great meal and celebrate your culture. Keep in mind that you can be part of any culture to celebrate the holidays.


Christmas is all about giving. Whether you need to buy a last-minute gift for a friend or you just want to look around, NYC has plenty of shops that deliver in terms of holiday spirit. NYC holiday markets are popular around the holidays, especially for tourists. They are usually set out on the street and sell small goods like mugs, ornaments, other small essentials. They look like farmers’ markets if you’ve ever seen those.

The Bank of America Winter Village is located in Bryant Park, Manhattan. As mentioned before, there is an ice skating rink, as well as several shops and eateries. Another great place to buy last-minute gifts is the Columbus Circle Holiday Market, which is located at 59th Street and the entrance to Central Park. There are plenty of pop-up shops and places to get a quick bite. Lastly, The European Union Square Holiday Market is located in the middle of Union Square Park near 14th Street and Broadway. There are a plethora of other holiday markets in New York City, and you will most likely find one near you.

It’s clear that you don’t have to celebrate Christmas to get into the holiday spirit. There are plenty of things you can do with friends or family in the city and still feel magical. Spend time outside, go look at some decorations, or eat a lovely meal. Enjoy yourselves over winter break!