The Best NYC Holiday Activities

Classic Harbor Line Holiday Cruise

By: Stefanie DiMartino

While this has certainly been an interesting and tough year to say the least, the holidays are finally upon us. And while even the holidays may look different this year, NYC always has plenty to offer and so many things to do and see that will get you in the festive spirit during the holiday season! Below are my top picks for the Best NYC Holiday Activities.


The Top 13 Best NYC Holiday Activities

NEW YORK BOTANICAL GARDEN GLOW

NowJanuary 9, 2021 | 5-10pm | $30+

2900 Southern Blvd, Bronx, NY 10458 

NYBG GLOW, an all-new nighttime outdoor experience, will illuminate the landmark landscape and Enid A. Haupt Conservatory at The New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) on select evenings (December 5, 12, 18, 19, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30 & January 1, 2, 9) this holiday season. With lots of room to spread out, visitors can explore a glowing world of color and light featuring the Haupt Conservatory as the centerpiece—its iconic exterior a glittering canvas. Washes of brilliant colors, thousands of dazzling, energy-efficient LED lights, and picture-perfect installations will fill the Visitor Center Reflecting Pool and enliven surrounding gardens and collections. Also part of the experience, visitors can also enjoy artistic ice sculptures, music, roving dancers, and more outdoor fun.” – NYBG

NYBG Glow/Haupt Conservatory
Photo By New York Botanical Garden

BRONX ZOO HOLIDAY LIGHTS

Now-January 10, 2021 | 3-8pm | $35+

2300 Southern Blvd, Bronx, NY 10460

The Bronx Zoo Holiday Lights are back this holiday season! “Join for a global safari in lights featuring illuminated animals from all over the world. Our five lantern safaris, spread out throughout the park each showcase a different wildlife region and will lead you on a fun, safe, and leisurely tour of the attractions. There will also be a holiday tree, stilt walkers, ice-carving demonstrations, seasonal treats, costumed characters, wildlife theater, and more!” – Bronx Zoo

LUMINOCITY FESTIVAL

Now-January 10, 2021 | 4-10pm | $29+ (Use code FUNKY15 to save 15%)

20 Randalls Island Park,  New York, NY 10035

Truly a unique and beautiful experience, it’s no wonder the Luminosity Festival is one of the best NYC holiday activities! If you’re looking for an immersive wonderland of lights, you cannot miss out on LuminoCity Festival. “Featuring all new light art installations that spans several acres. Each of the three parks illuminates the night with beautiful sculptures inspired by nature, history, and magic! Escape 2020 and together we can Light the Night.” – Luminocity Festival 

Luminocity Festival
Photo By Sarah Funk

BANK OF AMERICA WINTER VILLAGE AT BRYANT PARK

Holiday Shops: Now-January 3, 2021 | M-F, 11am-8pm, Saturday & Sunday, 10am-8pm

The Lodge Deck: Now-March 7, 2021 | 8am-10:30pm 

Bryant Park, 40th – 42nd Street, 5th – 6th Avenue, New York, NY 10018

The Winter Village at Bryant Park is the perfect place to visit to get into the holiday spirit. Truly, the Winter Village is a winter wonderland that offers something for everyone! There are shops, ice-skating, and dining available! Because of COVID-19, the winter village will be exclusively outdoors. There will be many safety measures in place and guidelines to be followed (social distancing and wearing masks) to ensure it is an enjoyable experience for all! The Lodge Deck, which was previously enclosed, will now be a completely outdoor experience where you can enjoy festive cocktails and tasty food while watching the ice skaters and gazing at the beautiful the Christmas tree. 

The Bryant Park ice rink is the only rink in NYC that’s free. But, if you don’t have your own skates, you will have to pay for skate rentals which range in price from $21-$36. 

bryant park winter
Photo by Johnell Pannell on Unsplash

Note: Be sure to dress warmly for the colder weather since the entire experience is outdoors

CLASSIC HARBOR LINE HOLIDAY CRUISE

Now-January 2021 | $62+

Chelsea Piers, Pier 62 (W. 22nd St.) New York, NY 10011

A festive holiday cruise with breathtaking views of the city? That’s exactly what you’ll get when you join any of Classic Harbor Line’s Manhattan yachts, decked out in holiday decor. Experience NYC’s beauty from the water while listening to classic holiday tunes. You can choose one or all of the following cruise offerings: 

  • Sunset & Holiday Cocoa Cruise
  • New York City Lights Holiday Cocoa Cruise
  • Around Manhattan Island Holiday Escape
  • Holiday Wine Tasting Cruise
Classic Harbor Line Holiday Cruise
Photo By Classic Harbor Line

SHINE BRIGHT AT HUDSON YARDS

10th and 12th Avenues from West 30th to West 34th Streets

“Embrace a new tradition this holiday season. Experience one of a kind set pieces and over 2 million lights illuminating all of Hudson Yards along with contactless holiday shopping, seasonal flavors and don’t forget to bring the kids to the Santa Station for a virtual visit at the North Pole.” – Hudson Yards

The Vessel at Hudson Yards during the holidays.
The Vessel at Hudson Yards during the holidays. Photo by Laura Peruchi.

LUMINARIES 

Now-January 3, 2021 | 8am-10pm | Free!

Brookfield Place Winter Garden, 230 Vesey Street, New York, NY 10281

“Brighten up the holidays with Brookfield Place! This season we’re keeping our annual Luminaries tradition alive with the interactive installation in the Winter Garden.

Luminaries is inspired by the season’s traditions of sharing, giving, and community. The installation features a canopy of colorful lights emanating from hundreds of lanterns suspended among the palms. Touchless wishing stations located on the ground allow visitors to send a motion-activated wish to the canopy of lanterns above, prompting a magical display of lights and colors.” – Brookfield Place

Luminaries at Brookfield Place
Photo By Brookfield Place

DYKER HEIGHTS CHRISTMAS LIGHTS

Now-January 2021 | 4-9pm | Free!

Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, NY 

Dyker Heights is easily one of the best NYC holiday activities. The tradition started in the 1980s and this Brooklyn neighborhood transforms into a sparkling winter wonderland with over-the-top Christmas lights and decorations. The spectacular light displays are best from 11th to 13th Avenues (Dyker Heights Blvd) and from 83rd to 86th Streets.

Note: Dress warmly and make sure to wear comfortable shoes as there is a bit of walking!

Dyker Heights Christmas lights
Photo by Jeffrey Blum on Unsplash

ROCKEFELLER CENTER CHRISTMAS TREE & ICE SKATING

Tree: Now-January 2021 | 6am-12am daily | Free!

Ice Skating: Sunday-Saturday | 9am-midnight | $15+

30 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10112

Visiting the iconic Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree will look a little different this year. 

“There will be special tree viewing entrances and traffic patterns, tree viewing time limits, and masks and social distancing will be required at all times. Virtual queuing will be utilized to help manage the flow of visitors viewing the Tree during busy times. Look out for QR codes around Rockefeller Center to begin virtually queueing when the lines are long. Once you have signed up, you will receive a wait time and SMS message when it is your time to return to view the tree. Once you have entered, you will follow social distancing markers as you proceed to the tree viewing zones on 49th and 50th streets. Center Plaza, where the tree is physically located, will be closed to the public.” – Rockefeller Center

Note: Tree viewing entrances will be located on 49th and 50th streets and 5th and 6th Avenues ONLY. Each distancing floor marker accommodates four people. There can be no more than four people in one pod (a six-foot diameter circle decal outlined on the ground.) Groups of more than four people will be separated into two or more pods.

Ice skating underneath the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is a quintessential NYC experience, and is one of the best NYC holiday activities! While visiting the tree, you can take advantage of smaller crowds and ice skate.

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree
Photo by Wesley Tingey on Unsplash

ORIGAMI HOLIDAY TREE

Now-January 10, 2021 | Free with admission – $23+

American Museum of Natural History, 200 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024

“Visit the American Museum of Natural History this holiday season to see one of New York’s most beloved displays, the Origami Holiday Tree—an annual tradition for more than 40 years.

The theme of this year’s 13-foot tree is Cranes and Colors, featuring 1,000 brilliantly colored origami cranes, presented as symbols of peace and good wishes as New York continues to endure the many challenges posed by COVID-19, and drawing inspiration from The Nature of Color special exhibition, which explores the role and power of color in the natural world.” – AMNH

NYC AMNH Holiday Origami Tree
Photo: D. Finnin/ © AMNH

PINKMAS

Now – January 10, 2021 | Thurs-Sun | $39+

Museum of Ice Cream, 558 Broadway, New York, NY, 10012

“Celebrate “Pinkmas” at Museum of Ice Cream this holiday season! Join us in celebrating Pinkmas, a special winter-scape where guests can gather, connect, and feel the magic of the season. Explore a wonderland of holiday- themed spaces and installations. Enjoy special treats, festive surprises, and visit our whimsical shop for exclusive holiday merchandise. You’ll dance, discover, play, and make special memories with friends and family.” – Museum of Ice Cream

Note: All safety precautions are being taken to ensure the health and safety of guests. Facial coverings/masks are MANDATORY AND REQUIRED upon entry due to State Mandate, and we reserve the right to refuse entry or remove guests from the premises who are not wearing facial coverings. Facial coverings must be worn for the entire duration of the experience, which also includes while taking photos.

Pink Christmas Tree
Photo by mela nie on Unsplash

A CHRISTMAS CAROL 2020 AT THE MERCHANT’S HOUSE

Online 

December 18-24 | 3pm, 5pm, 8pm | Free w/ suggested donation of $30 per viewer

“Join Mr. Dickens, portrayed by John Kevin Jones, as he tells his timeless Christmas tale in the elegant intact Greek Revival double parlor of the landmark 1832 Merchant’s House Museum. This December, one like no other, A Christmas Carol at the Merchant’s House returns for its 8th holiday season, virtually. Be transported back 150 years from the comfort of your home for this captivating one-hour performance filmed in the landmark Merchant’s House dressed for the joyous season with a table-top tree, boughs of holly, and flickering candles.” – MHM Christmas Carol

Note: This is a virtual event with registration required. Registrants will be emailed a link to view the performance 2 hours before the show.

Photo by Nadi Lindsay from Pexels

SAKS FIFTH AVENUE LIGHT SHOW

611 5th Ave, New York, NY 10022 & online 

The Saks’ Fifth Avenue iconic window display is synonymous with the holiday season in New York. This year’s theme is “This Is How We Celebrate” and the center six windows showcase how different people celebrate in iconic settings around the city.

Each over-the-top celebration scene bringing a different quintessential New York moment to life, such as a musical celebration on bustling Broadway in Times Square, a classic barber shop getting a visit from some adorable kids and their pets, wanting to look their best for the New Year celebration, a couple on their way to deliver gifts via the Roosevelt Island tram, an aspiring dancer getting an autograph from her ballerina idol, a celebration surrounding the neighborhood food truck at a holiday block party, and a friendly competition of holiday lights and decor at neighboring houses in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn. The light show is also new this year, with a dazzling display of LED lights on the front of the building. 

You can watch from the comfort of your home here.

NYC Saks Holiday Display
Photo by Sunil Carter on Unsplash

To sum up, these are some of the best NYC Holiday Activities. Have fun, stay safe, and have a Happy & Healthy Holiday season!

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2 Comments

  1. Tom on December 16, 2020 at 4:04 pm

    Hi Sarah,

    I’ve joined your bublup folder but I can’t find the Long Island City and the Midtown guides. Can you help me, please?

    Thanks, Tom

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