10 NYC Holiday Activities You Can't Miss

Miracle on 34th Street. Home Alone. Elf. There’s a reason these blockbuster holiday hits all take place in New York City: to put it simply, it’s magical. While you may have to battle the biting winds or seek reprieve from the frigid cold, it’s New York’s winter weather that gives the city its hard-nosed grit and lovable charm year-round.

Even if it’s just illusion, it feels like the city gets a little smaller come November, as everyone huddles closer to stay warm.

Bookending New York’s holiday traditions are the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on one side and the New Year’s fireworks in Times Square on the other. But nestled in between these highly televised events are plenty of smaller affairs that pack all the punch of holiday cheer with an added dose of New York wonder.

During the holidays, locals and visitors can opt to recreate romantic movie moments by ice skating in Bryant Park, or ordering up frozen hot chocolates at Serendipity III. If it’s not nostalgia that tickles your fancy, head to Dyker Heights and take in the lights, or take in the views and snap a pic with Santa at One World Observatory

It must be said, however, that the real holiday magic of New York lies in the unknown, buried in the memories and energy of a million wintery wonderlands gone by. Something changes in the air when the first snowflake falls – an indescribable sense that anything is possible. Give in to this feeling and suddenly you’ll realize that the city becomes your oyster, a playground where hidden gems and long-lost secrets present themselves to you at every turn. 

New Year's Day Polar Bear Plunge
Photo courtesy of @Chennai


Are all of these holiday activities making you feel a little too warm and cuddly? Cool way down by starting your new year off with an icy dip at Coney Island. The New Year's Day challenge is free for swimmers, though a voluntary donation of $25...  Read More



For many children around the country, The Nutcracker was not only their first introduction to ballet, but also a shining symbol of the holiday season. The Nutcracker in New York, which debuted in February 1954, pays homage to that tradition with...  Read More



Make the trek over the bridge and into Brooklyn's Dyker Heights to see a dizzying display of Christmas lights. Each year, the neighborhood comes alive with decorations and displays that can only be described as over-the-top. For optimal viewing,...  Read More



While we advise steering clear of Rockefeller Center for ice-skating, we're more than happy to recommend that you visit for a show. Specifically, the Radio City Christmas Spectacular starring The Rockettes. Founded in 1925, The Rockettes are a...  Read More



Romantic movie fanatics will remember this restaurant from the 2001 John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale film, Serendipity. In the movie, the two stars share a dessert that kick starts their love affair and consequently cements this spot in lover's...  Read More



Ice-skating in Rockefeller Center sounds perfect in theory, but the reality of the situation is that it's often a madhouse with a steep admission fee. Instead, toss on some skate in the shadow of the New York Public Library at The Rink at Bryant...  Read More



Once you've overcome the sticker shock on 5th Avenue, make your way a little further south to Union Square. Usually home of the city's largest green market, radishes and rhubarb are replaced during the holidays with a bevy of gifts made by local...  Read More



Every year, millions of New Yorkers and visitors walk down 5th Avenue to peruse the windows of Bloomingdale's, Macy's, Saks, Barneys and countless others that pull out all the stops for their annual displays. While it's true that you'll find...  Read More



Not so fast there, parade-goer. Instead, we recommend turning your attention away from parade day for just a moment. On Thanksgiving Eve, the night before the big show, a not-so-secret tradition has been taking place since 1927. Taking up two...  Read More

Financial District
One World Observatory
Photo courtesy of One World Observatory


If you're looking for stunning views alongside your holiday cheer, look no further than One World Observatory, the indoor observatory at the top of One World Trade Center. With panoramic, 360-degree views of the Big Apple, you'll have your head...  Read More


Meet Andrea Wien

Andrea Wien was bitten by the travel bug from an early age, and has lived in New York, Seattle, Cleveland and Sydney, Australia since 2007.

When she's not traveling or planning a trip, you'll...  More About Andrea