Planning for the Holiday Season in New York City
Enjoy the festive annual holiday season in New York City – from the iconic Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade—which officially kicks off the holiday season—to the Christmas Tree Lighting at Rockefeller Center and the New Year’s Eve ball drop in Times Square, New York City offers unparalleled experiences for all.
NYC hosts classic and surprising ways to celebrate the holidays with vibrant performances, tours, lightings and more – taking place from early November into January, including the awe-inspiring window displays at stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy’s Herald Square and the new Nordstrom Women’s Store, and the return of the NYC Winter Lantern Festival in Staten Island.
Following are 25 things to see and do across the boroughs this holiday season in New York City:
1. Radio City Christmas Spectacular Starring the Rockettes
November 8–January 5
The Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes returns to Radio City Music Hall, dazzling audiences of all ages. The production sparkles with incredible costumes, festive songs and the iconic synchronised high kicks.
2. The Origami Holiday Tree at the American Museum of Natural History
November 25–January 12
Upper West Side, Manhattan
One of New York’s beloved traditions includes a 13-foot tree and 1,000 origami models. Hosted at the American Museum of Natural History, the signature Origami Holiday Tree has been an annual tradition for over 40 years. Volunteers, including local, national and international origami artists, fold year-round. Each year, the tree features a different theme relating to special exhibitions or collections at the museum.
3. NYC Winter Lantern Festival
November 20–January 12
Randall Manor, Staten Island
The NYC Winter Lantern Festival is returning for a second year to Staten Island. Sponsored by Empire Outlets and venue partner Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden, eight acres at Snug Harbor will be lit up by more than 50 LED installations. The LED lanterns will be accompanied by live performances of traditional Chinese dance and art.
4. Holiday Lights at the Bronx Zoo
November 21–January 5
Fordham, the Bronx
Returning for the first time since 2007, the stunning light displays at the Bronx Zoo will cover several acres in a walk-through experience with wildlife-themed LED displays, custom Asian lanterns and animated light shows on Astor Court. Entertainment will include holiday-themed music, performances, ice carving, train rides, seasonal treats and souvenirs.
5. New York Botanical Garden Holiday Train Show
November 23–January 26
Fordham, the Bronx
Head to the New York Botanical Garden to be enchanted by model trains zipping through a display of more than 175 New York landmarks, each re-created with bark, leaves and other natural materials. The New York Botanical Garden is conveniently accessible via the Metro-North Railroad from Grand Central Terminal.
6. Gingerbread Lane at New York Hall of Science
November 23–January 13
Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens
Holding the record for the largest gingerbread village, Gingerbread Lane at the New York Hall of Science is back and more edible than ever. Visitors are invited to witness the vast collection of gingerbread structures which are embellished with candy canes, chocolate and frosting.
7. Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade
The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is a classic New York City celebration of the holidays, featuring larger-than-life helium balloons, Broadway musical performances, celebrity appearances and more. The parade begins at 9 am on 77th Street and Central Park West and makes its way to 34th Street and Seventh Avenue.
8. Empire Outlets
St. George, Staten Island
As New York City’s first-ever outlet destination, Empire Outlets will ring in the holiday season starting with a special Black Friday sale and their first annual festive tree lighting ceremony. The outlets, easily accessible by the free Staten Island Ferry from Lower Manhattan, will be adorned with thousands of lights, garland wraps and a 40-foot tree. Holiday revelry will be available for all visitors and families with live music, caroling, in-store shopping deals and promotions.
9. See the Holiday Classic A Christmas Carol
Greenwich Village, Manhattan; Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens
Throughout New York City, theaters bring Charles Dickens’ timeless tale of Ebenezer Scrooge and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future alive onstage.
For a unique venue, head to the 1832 Merchant’s House Museum in Greenwich Village as an actor portrays Charles Dickens and shares this memorable Christmas story in the Greek Revival double parlour November 29–January 4.
The Players Theatre will present their 11th annual A Christmas Carol the Musical December 1–30 in Greenwich Village. Select performances include a free family workshop before the show.
A Christmas Carol at Queens Theatre brings back their fresh and fast-paced musical production December 6–22. The cast transports the audience to Victorian England to experience Scrooge’s iconic journey.
10. Belmont BID Arthur Avenue Tree Lighting Ceremony
Belmont, the Bronx
Experience Christmas in the Bronx’s Little Italy at the Belmont BID Arthur Avenue Tree Lighting. The annual event features a visit from Santa, cookies and hot chocolate among the twinkling lights. Explore the neighbourhood following the lighting and warm up with an authentic Italian dinner.
11. A Slice of Brooklyn’s Christmas Lights Tour of Dyker Heights
Dyker Heights, Brooklyn
Considered one of Brooklyn’s most popular holiday attractions, the Christmas Lights Tour of Dyker Heights is home to the most extravagant and glamorous display of Christmas lights across New York City. A Slice of Brooklyn Tours gives an insider look at these bright and cheerful neighbourhoods.
12. 23 Days of Flatiron Cheer
Flatiron District, Manhattan
23 Days of Flatiron Cheer will include free, holiday-themed events showcasing the intersection of shopping, dining and culture in this vibrant neighborhood.
13. Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony
The Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center has been a tradition for more than eight decades. Lighting up Rockefeller Plaza, the tree lighting ceremony features performances and classic Christmas songs. Visitors can enjoy the tree through early to mid-January, and can ice-skate at The Rink at Rockefeller Center beginning in October 2019.
14. Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at New York City Center
December 4–January 5
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s holiday season opens with premieres, new productions and repertory favorites, including the masterpiece Revelations. The performances feature the Theater’s incredible 32 dancers led by artistic director Robert Battle.
15. Los Nutcrackers: A Christmas Carajo
Westchester Square, the Bronx
During December, the Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance presents its annual Los Nutcrackers: A Christmas Carajo! This gay, Latino comedic play intertwines two holiday classics: The Nutcracker and A Christmas Carol.
16. Holiday Workshop Weekend at Wave Hill
Riverdale, the Bronx
Create one-of-a-kind holiday decorations by the gorgeous gardens and galleries at Wave Hill during their Holiday Workshop Weekend. The interactive workshop is bound to fuel everyone’s creative spirit—whether you’re interested in miniature tree arrangements or multicultural decor.
17. A Holiday Doo Wop Spectacular at the St. George Theatre
St. George, Staten Island
The famous St. George Theatre presents its annual Holiday Doo Wop Spectacular featuring rhythm and blues. Audiences can enjoy the soulful presence of critically acclaimed performers such as: The Vogues, The Crystals, Eddie Holman and the Fireflies.
18. Three Extraordinary Versions of The Nutcracker in Three Boroughs
Upper West Side, Manhattan; Flushing, Queens; Flatbush, Brooklyn
George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker at the Lincoln Center Plaza brings the classic Christmas Eve tale to life with breathtaking music and choreography. Visitors are invited to experience the magic in Manhattan from November 29 to January 21.
The Nutcracker at the Salzburg Marionette Theatre is coming to Flushing, Queens on December 4 with a twist on the original characters. A historical puppet cast that is hand carved and traditionally painted is bound to entertain children and adults alike.
The Brooklyn Nutcracker at Kings Theatre is a re-imagined holiday classic opening its doors on December 14. The production transforms familiar Nutcracker characters and scenes to represent the diverse traditions and vibrant culture of melting pot Brooklyn.
19. Holiday Performances at the World Famous Apollo Theater
The iconic Apollo Theater, celebrating its 85th anniversary in 2019, hosts a variety of holiday events at the iconic Harlem theater this winter. On December 14, gospel choirs from the Harlem community will perform for free under the theater’s famed marquee in the return of holiday favorite Coca-Cola Winter Wonderland followed by theAmateur Night Holiday Special showcasing recent winners of the show’s “Apollo Stars of Tomorrow.” Gospel legends Yolanda Adams and Donald Lawrence headline the return of the theater’s annual concert Holiday Joy: A Gospel Celebration on December 21. As a grand finale, the Apollo Theater celebrates its annual Kwanzaa Celebration on December 28 featuring the renowned dance company Abdel Salaam’s Forces of Nature Dance Theatre and guest performances.
20. Candlelight Tours
Richmond Town, Staten Island
This Christmas season experience the taste, smell and touch of centuries past at Historic Richmond Town. Step back in time while touring the unique New York town which is illuminated by candles and oil lamps. Reservations are not required, but they are recommended.
21. 11th Annual Latke Festival at the Brooklyn Museum
Prospect Heights, Brooklyn
One of New York City’s most unique and delicious holiday tasting events, the Latke Festival is a charity event that celebrates the best and most creative potato pancakes in New York City.
22. Melrose Holiday Parranda
Melrose, the Bronx
The Melrose Holiday Parranda follows in the footsteps of Puerto Rican holiday caroling with a procession based on plena music and other holiday songs from the island. The festive parade will be led by members of the Bronx’s music and cultural community and is co-sponsored by the Bronx Council on the Arts, Bronx Music Heritage Center and We Stay/Nos Quedamos Committee.
23. Lighting of the Largest Menorah in Brooklyn and Lighting of the World’s Largest Menorah: Manhattan
Prospect Heights, Brooklyn; Grand Army Plaza, Manhattan
Both the Manhattan and Brooklyn Grand Army Plazas host competitors in the race for the World’s Largest Hanukkah Menorah. The Largest Menorah in Brooklyn has been lit since 1985, and the annual concert to kick off the holiday will be held on December 22.
24. New Year’s Eve Times Square Ball Drop
December 31–January 1
Times Square, Manhattan
Each year, millions of viewers watch the Times Square Ball Drop from New York City and around the globe. The Waterford Crystal Times Square New Year’s Eve Ball sparkles in Times Square for visitors to see all season, but its descent on December 31 is a specular, once-in-a-lifetime way to ring in the New Year.
25. New Year’s Eve Fireworks at Prospect Park
December 31–January 1
Prospect Park, Brooklyn
Tucked far away from Central Park’s frenzy is the Grand Army Plaza’s iconic New Year’s Eve Fireworks at Prospect Park. This spectacular celebration includes live music, followed by a fireworks show at midnight.
“New York City’s celebratory spirit and excitement are palpable during the annual holiday season. From iconic attractions and events to hidden-gem activities in all five boroughs, there’s an endless roster of memorable programming to enjoy from November to January. Because of the season’s incredible popularity, we encourage travellers to book their visits now to ensure optimum availability,” said NYC & Company president and CEO Fred Dixon.
For additional holiday celebrations and ideas, visit nycgo.com/holidays.
Source = NYC & Company