Top 10 Classic NYC Christmas Activities
While many of you may still be figuring out what you're going to dress up as for Halloween, some of us have already moved on to counting down the days until Christmas! For those of you in the New York City area, or coming to visit this holiday season, we've compiled a list of 10 activities that everyone should do at least once. Enjoy!
1. Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree
While it may just be one of the busiest and biggest tourist traps during the Christmas Season in New York City, the Rockefeller Christmas Tree is a must see if you are in New York City. The 2016 tree lighting will be on November 30 this year with live performances from 7 - 9 p.m. to celebrate the occasion. You can view the tree all the way until January 7 at 9 p.m. After making the time to go for viewing the tree, skip the skating here because of the long line and head over to Central Park for skating on the Wollman Rink.
2. Ice Skating at Central Park
As mentioned above, while Rokefeller is an iconic skating rink, it's much better to skip that long line and head to the Wollman Rink at Central Park or even better, head to Prospect Park in Brooklyn where the price for skating is about half what it is in Manhattan, and the crowds are smaller. The Wollman Rink in Central park opens on October 22 (weather permitting), and Prospect Park's rink opens on October 29 (weather permitting).
3. 5th Avenue Holiday Windows
One of our favorite (and FREE) things to do is to marvel at all the festive and creative window decorations in all of the department stores. It's a good idea to map out your route before you go. To help you out, we've drafted a map marking the main windows that you should check out. While Lord & Taylor and Macy's are a bit of a distance from the others, they are certainly not to be missed! The windows are generally revealed mid to late November. If you can stay up late, one of the best time's I had looking at the windows was late a night, around 12 a.m. when there are the swarms of people that generally flock to the windows.
4. Christmas Markets
Another fun way to enjoy the holiday season in New York City is to visit some of the Christmas Markets! The most popular ones are the Union Square Holiday Market and the Bryant Park Winter Village. If you go to the Winter Village at Bryant Park you can go ice skating, too, while you're there. That said, if you're looking for something a little more "off the beaten path," then check out "Jingle - a holiday pop up" in Chelsea Market. Here's a list of the dates for Holiday Market's to visit this Holiday Season:
- Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park (Opens October 29)
- Brooklyn Flea - Winter Market at Skylight One Hanson (Opens November 5)
- Grand Central Holiday Fair (Opens November 14)
- Union Square Holiday Market (Opens November 17)
- Columbus Circle Holiday Market (Opens November 29)
- Fort Hamilton Holiday Market (Opens December 2)
- Astoria Market Holiday Markets (December 4, 11, & 18)
- Grand Holiday Bazaar (December 3-4, 10-11, 17-18, 24)
- Jingle - A Holiday Pop Up (December 13-18)
5. Christmas Tree at the Met
Another much loved Christmas Tradition in New York City is to visit the 20-foot tall Christmas Tree at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Visitors come from all over the world to marvel at the 18th Century Neapolitan angels and cherubs that grace the boughs of the magnificent tree, as well as, the realistic crèche figures around the base of the tree. The tree is usually set in front of an 18th century choir screen that comes from the Cathedral of Valladolid. To add to the holiday atmosphere, the exhibit plays Christmas music in the background and holds daily lighting ceremonies. This tree is a work of art in and of itself, and it's definitely worth a visit, at least once.
This extraordinary exhibit brings out the child in everyone. While in New York City, definitely make time to hop on the Metro North and head to the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx. At this annual exhibit everyone can marvel at the model trains as they zip through 100s of New York City Landmarks that are all made out of natural materials such as bark and leaves. For the adults they even have special evening events at the show where you can sip cocktails as you meander through the various train stops!
The train show happens November 19, 2016 - January 16, 2017.
The 21+ over "Bar Car Nights" happen on: November 19 & 26, December 2,3,16,23,& 30 and January 7 & 14
Advanced reservations are strongly recommended.
7. Handel's Messiah
It wouldn't be the Christmas Season without seeing or participating in a performance of Handel's Messiah! In New York City there are so many wonderful options for those looking to see performance and for those searching for a sing-a-long. Personally, I like to attend sing-a-longs because it brings me back to my high school choir days when we sang it every year before Christmas.
Why not join in on the 49th anniversary Handel's Messiah Sing-In with the National Chorale? On December 20th this year over 3000 people will join together in Lincoln Center to share their lover for singing Handel's Messiah. Be sure to bring your own score if you do go! If you'd rather sing than participate, then perhaps you want to check out the New York Philharmonic's performance this year on either December 13, 14, 15, 16, or 17.
8. Radio City Christmas Spectacular
A Classic, New York City Christmas Experience that begins as soon as you enter the Radio City Music Hall. As you make your way to your seat, you might pause briefly to take in the beautiful Art Deco Lobby. As soon as the curtain rises, the music will swell and Rockettes appear dancing in perfect unison. Before you know it, you are transported to another world filled with prancing reindeer, rag dolls, wooden soldiers, and the man himself - Santa. For an hour and a half the rest of the world melts away and you are washed over by the Christmas Season Spirit. You might just walk out of the hall thinking - is it Christmas Day?
9. Paul Winter's Annual Winter Solstice Celebration
Another event that will transport you to another realm is the Annual Winter Solstice Celebration that happens at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. This year, the annual event celebrate's it's 37th anniversary. This year's show will be held on December 15, 16 and 17. The glorious acoustics of the cathedral are enough to make anyone want to go. It's certainly a fascinating, modern take on traditional solstice rituals through dance and music. The winter solstice was traditionally when people would gather on the longest night of the year to welcome the return of the sun and the beginning of a new year. If you're not really into shows like the Rockette's Christmas Spectacular or the Nutcracker, then this show might just be what you're looking for.
There are more than enough Christmas lights here to make Clark Griswold beyond jealous. The residents of Dyker Heights, Brooklyn take their Christmas Lights very seriously. Some people spend up to $20,000 on lighting displays, that's how serious this light show extravaganza is. There is no set schedule for when people put their lights up, so plan to visit sometime between Thanksgiving weekend and December 31. You can take the Subway, Bus or Drive. Definitely a fun way to get into the holiday spirit!
Article by Rajmani Sinclair
December 2, 2016