When it's the season to be jolly, where better to unleash your inner elf than in The Big Apple? New York City becomes a winter wonderland at Christmas time, so come and see what's merry and bright in the city that never sleeps. From the Christmas lights in New York up and down the avenues, to the Christmas Tree in New York at Rockefeller Center, there are so many iconic stops one should make if they're lucky enough to spend the holidays here.

Here's our list of the best things to do this time of year. If you're hoping to find somewhere to call home here for the holidays, learn more about how you can spend Christmas in New York with HomeExchange.

Discover How HomeExchange Works

1. Visit the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

christmas tree in new york

Kick off your festive Christmas in New York City adventure at Rockefeller Center, where the towering Christmas tree reigns supreme. Adorned with thousands of twinkling lights and crowned with a sparkling star, this iconic symbol of the season captures the hearts of locals and visitors alike. Bask in the glow of the tree's luminosity, take holiday photos. Seeing the most famous Christmas tree in New York will be a magical memory you'll never forget!

2. Go Ice Skating at Central Park

christmas new york city ice skating

Experience the magic of gliding across the ice amidst the picturesque backdrop of Central Park. Lace up your skates and twirl under the open sky at the Wollman Rink or the Lasker Rink. Surrounded by snow-covered trees and the distant skyline, this quintessential New York City activity invites you to create cherished memories with loved ones while enjoying the crisp winter air. As one of the most iconic things to do during Christmas in New York City, it really can't be missed even if you have to wait in line a bit!

3. Browse the Fifth Avenue Holiday Window Displays

christmas light new york 5th avenue

After taking a twirl around the ice at Central Park, make your way down 5th Avenue do enjoy the festive holiday window displays lighting up some of the most famous sidewalks in the world. 5th Avenue's world-renowned department stores unveil their magnificent holiday window displays just before Thanksgiving each year. These elaborate installations capture the imaginations of young and old with their creativity and craftsmanship. Marvel at the whimsical scenes, glittering lights, and intricate designs, as the windows transport you to a magical world of enchantment and holiday cheer.

4. See the New York Botanical Garden's Holiday Train Show

christmas new york city train show

Perhaps it's the Polar Express, but there is something just so magical about holiday Christmas Trains that capture a child's delight. Discover a miniature world of them at the New York Botanical Garden's Holiday Train Show. Intricate model trains wind their way through a meticulously crafted landscape, featuring replicas of New York City's iconic landmarks, all made from natural materials. The combination of artistry, botanical beauty, and holiday magic creates an unforgettable experience for visitors of all ages.

5. Marvel at the Dyker Heights Christmas Lights

christmas lights new york dyker heights

To see some of the most amazing Christmas lights in New York you'll have to venture out of Manhattan actually. But don't worry, they're not too far! Make your way over to to the neighborhood of Dyker Heights in Brooklyn, where residents go all out to create a holiday spectacle like no other. Lavishly decorated houses adorned with thousands of dazzling lights, towering inflatables, and festive decorations transform the streets into a mesmerizing display of holiday cheer. Bundle up and take a stroll through this brightly lit neighborhood and to be dazzled by the spirit of the season! The Dyker Height Christmas Lights in New York are considered the best in the city!

6. Sip Hot Chocolate at Serendipity 3

christmas new york hot chocolate

If you want to warm up after skating at Central Park or walking to watch the window displays of 5th Avenue we have the perfect address. Cozy up and thaw out that winter chill with a decadent cup of hot chocolate at Serendipity 3, a legendary dessert destination in New York City. Opt for a classic steaming cup of rich, velvety goodness or try their famous frozen hot chocolate for a holiday brain freeze. The cozy ambiance and delightful flavors make this a perfect pit stop to refuel and savor a sweet moment as you explore Christmas in New York.

7. Attend a Holiday Concert at Lincoln Center

christmas new york city licnoln centerr concert

It wouldn't be Christmas in New York City without the sounds of the season! Come to Lincoln Center to hear the harmonious melodies of the holidays by attending a Christmas concert at Lincoln Center. From the New York Philharmonic's annual performances to festive choral concerts, the world-renowned venues of Lincoln Center come alive with the sounds of holiday classics and seasonal favorites. Try to resist no singing along, and let the music stir your soul and fill your heart with the joy of Christmas.

8. See The Rockettes' Christmas Spectacular

christmas new york rockette

New York City is known for it's theatrical productions, with some of the best performances in the world to see on and off Broadway. So no Christmas in New York is complete without witnessing the dazzling precision and glamour of the Radio City Rockettes. The Rockettes' Christmas Spectacular is a beloved tradition, featuring high-kicking performances, dazzling costumes, and heartwarming holiday vignettes. You'll be blown away by the talent and artistry of this iconic dance troupe.

9. Explore New York City's Holiday Markets

christmas new york markets

Christmas calls for a bit of shopping, and holidays markets are the perfect place to find unique and festive ideas to decorate your home for the season, give on Christmas Day, or simply stroll and enjoy browsing as a Christmas outing. In New York City there are many to choose from, from the European-inspired Winter Village at Bryant Park to the charming Union Square Holiday Market. These bustling marketplaces offer a treasure trove of unique gifts, handcrafted goods, and delectable treats. Soak up the atmosphere, sip on spiced cider, and find the perfect presents to delight your loved ones.

10. Watch the Ball Drop at Times Square on New Year's Eve

christmas new york ball drop

Christmas in New York City may have come and gone, but the spirit of the holidays remains alive through New Year's! Conclude your Christmas journey in the heart of Times Square, where the world gathers to celebrate the arrival of the New Year for one of the most famous countdowns across the globe. Join the exhilarating crowd, watch the famous ball drop at midnight, and revel in the electrifying energy of this iconic celebration. As the confetti falls and fireworks light up the sky, toast to new beginnings and bid farewell to the holiday season in true New York style.

Spend Christmas in New York City with HomeExchange

christmas new york home exchange

Does our list have you convinced that New York City is the place to be for the holidays? With so much to see and do here this time of year, it's a high season for the city. If you want to lock down affordable and fabulous accommodations for Christmas 2023 in New York, consider HomeExchange. Not only does it help save on trips to The Big Apple, but it's also a great way to get a local's experience and get the coziness of home we crave at the holidays, even when we're miles away. Begin exploring HomeExchange's today in New York City to plan your perfect Christmas in this place like no other!

See homes in New York City