80 Magical Things To Do In New York City This December

Justine Golata Justine Golata

80 Magical Things To Do In New York City This December

It’s officially December and that means holiday mania!

There’s simply no better place than NYC to get in the spirit of the season and as 2021 comes to a close, New York City is bustling with activities.

From bar transformations, dazzling light displays, and all the icy fun and shopping in between—here are 80 magically festive things to do in NYC this month.

1. Visit SUMMIT One Vanderbilt to experience AIR at Night during the holidays

The world’s most immersive observatory, SUMMIT One Vanderbilt, is the place to be in NYC this holiday season. From the gasp-worthy light and sound show “AIR at Night” (pictured above), to experiencing what it’s like to be in your own snow globe over 1,000 feet above NYC when it flurries, to cozying up with a cup of cocoa in the Après bar and café, you must add SUMMIT One Vanderbilt to your NYC holiday bucket list! Due to demand, hours have been extended for the holiday season. Click here to get your tickets before they sell out. ⭐️ Sponsored⭐

2. Go on an aerial adventure with RiseNY

Rediscover your favorite city from new heights at NYC’s one-of-a-kind attraction opening on December 15th. This uplifting experience pairs a soaring theme park style ride with seven distinctly themed galleries that explore the most iconic aspects of NYC. See everything from a re-creation of NYC’s first subway station at City Hall circa 1904, Madonna’s custom Keith Haring jacket, to Central Park from a birds-eye view! Buy your tickets now to experience this exciting new attraction. :star:Sponsored:star:

3. Get your pulse racing at NYC’s ‘Money Heist’ Experience

Opening on December 9th, the infamous masked bandits are planning their newest attack on the landmarked skyscraper and bank hall Skylight One Hanson, formerly the Williamsburg Savings Bank Clocktower. Do you have what it takes to join them on their heist of the Big Apple? Expect endless surprises, special effects, and live action as you break into one of NYC’s most emblematic buildings! Get your tickets now.

4-7. Watch one of the city’s stunning tree lighting ceremonies

Winter Village at Bryant Park

Is there anything more quintessential Christmas than the giant trees all around NYC? Here are festive tree lightings you can check out!

  • Holiday on the Hudson: Saturday, December 4, 2021, 4:30 p.m.–6 p.m.
  • Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park: Monday, December 6, 2021 at 6 p.m.
  • Washington Square Park: Wednesday, December 8 at 6 p.m.
  • Madison Square Park: Thursday, December 9 from 4-5:30 p.m

8. Be dazzled by the Dyker Heights Christmas lights

Photo Modified: Flickr / Philipp Alexander / CC by 2.0

The Dyker Heights home are now lit up and ready to be seen! The stunning lights and endless decorations have become increasingly more famous over the years. Dyker Heights’ impressive light display has been a tradition for more than 30 years and spans three avenues and several streets. A few less houses are participating this year, but there will still be plenty to see!

9-11. Enjoy a beautiful candlelit concert with a spectacular holiday twist

Enjoy everything from enchanting performances of holiday classics inside a breathtaking NYC church, Nutcracker-inspired tunes, to a romantic dinner experience, all bathed in candlelight. Each concert makes for a stunning evening where you can simply sit back and savor the stunning holiday pieces you’ll hear. Get tickets here.

12-16. Relax at the best winter rooftops in NYC with fire pits, blankets and glass houses

Mr. Purple

Just because temperatures have dropped does not mean that rooftop season has to come to an end! From winter chalets to tropical-themed installations, here are some of our favorite winter spots:

17. Take advantage of your last chance to explore Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience

Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience

See iconic works from post-impressionist painter Vincent Van Gogh come to life around you at the transformative Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience. Located in Lower Manhattan, see every vibrant color come to life. Follow a timeline of his life and legacy, read letters to his brother Theo, see his sketches & handwriting, learn secrets about his work, and step into his world with a mind-blowing virtual reality journey that will take you through the settings that inspired his most famous works. But hurry quick, because the experience is almost coming to an end in NYC. Scoop up your tickets today!

18-20. Check out the holiday window displays

Don’t worry if you can’t afford anything at those luxurious shops up and down 5th Avenue (we can’t either). What we can afford though is some nice window shopping! Make your way over to experience the light show and elaborate decorations for yourself:

  • Saks 5th Avenue: 611 5th Ave
  • Bloomingdale’s: 1000 Third Avenue 59th Street and, Lexington Ave
  • Macy’s: Once you’re done on 5th Ave, be sure to head over to Herald Square to marvel at the Macy’s display too – this year visitors will follow an an adorable tale about Tiptoe the reindeer!

21-24. Cozy up inside your own private igloo

If New York learned one thing over the past year, it’s how to keep outdoor dining going all year-round! From rooftops with fully heated, floor-to-dome panoramic views of Manhattan, curling cafés, to winter wonderlands in the heart of Rockefeller Center, NYC has tons of igloo dining options during the winter months.

25. Head to the ultimate Christmas town near NYC

Craig Roberts

Less than 2 hours away, “Christmas City U.S.A” (a.k.a. Bethlehem, PA) is the ultimate holiday town, perfect for a quick festive getaway. Expect everything from a window decorating competition to a magical Christmas village lining its very streets! Read more here.

26. Discover authentic works at the one-of-a-kind Banksy exhibit

See sculptures, videos, photos, original works and limited edition screen prints by one of the most famous (yet enigmatic) street artists of our time. Better understand Banksy and his work as you explore two-floors of authenticated pieces. Travel to streets around the world at the end of the exhibit with a mesmerizing VR experience that lets you see Banksy’s work “in person” and even come to life in whimsical animations. Buy tickets now!

27-30. Enjoy the ultimate boozy holiday drinks

Instagram/ @loreleynyc

Stay warm with the yummiest, most festive cocktails you’ve ever seen! Whether they’re served in adorable holiday-themed glassware or are made with warming seasonal spices, here are some standouts that you must try:

  • Boozy Bourbon Black & White Hot Chocolate from Loreley Beer Garden
  • Bad Krampus from Snowday in Brooklyn
  • Christmas Carol Barrel from Miracle on 9th Street
  • A Lump of Coal from Feliz Coctelería

31-33. Or lose the alcohol and sip on some soul-warming hot chocolate

Snowdays NYC

There’s something so romantic about sipping on a steaming cup of hot chocolate on a chilly winter’s day! With no shortage of places to try in the city, here are some of our top recommendations that will keep you cozy all season long:

34-36. Lace up your skates and hit the ice rinks

Bryant Park / Bank of America Winter Village

Winter is practically here, and there are a handful of outdoor ice rinks that are already open! The Wollman Ice Rink in Central Park is open daily from 10 a.m., the Rink at Rockefeller Center is open daily from 9 a.m., and the rink at Bryant Park is open from 8 a.m. See additional ice rinks here.

37-39. Get your shopping done early at all of the Holiday Markets

Holiday Shops at Bryant Park

What would the holidays be in NYC without our enchanting holiday markets? Get your shopping done early this year at all the returning markets below:

40. Or support your local businesses if you leave it to the last minute

Instagram / @fishseddynyc

Admit it, every year we make plans to get our holiday shopping out of the way early and every year we leave it to the last minute. That’s okay, we’re all guilty of it! So if you get caught up in all the seasonal madness and still don’t have your gifts ready, you can find the perfect last minute goodies at these local businesses listed here.

41. Light up the world’s largest Menorah


New York City is home to the world’s largest menorah, which stands at a height of 32 feet and weighs a whopping 4,000 pounds. The sculpture will be up at Grand Army Plaza in Manhattan, from Sunday, November 28th through Sunday, December 5th. Lightings will take place most evenings at 5:30 p.m. Find out more here.

42-46. Visit the Rockefeller Christmas Tree — and others that are just as beautiful

Admire the NYC’s most iconic Christmas tree standing 79-feet tall in Rockefeller Center Plaza, but don’t forget the plenty of others decorating the city. Our other favorite Christmas trees around the city include:

  • Rockefeller Christmas Tree: 45 Rockefeller Plaza
  • Brookfield Place: 230 Vesey St.
  • New York Public Library Flagship: 476 5th Ave.
  • The Peninsula Hotel: 700 5th Ave.
  • Zucotti Park: At Liberty St. between Broadway & Church St.

47. Or, deck out your apartment with your own colorful Christmas tree

Facebook / Wyckoff’s Tree Farm

At Wyckoff’s Tree Farm in Belvidere, New Jersey they sell trees in a rainbow of colors using a technique of latex-based colorants that are specifically created for painting Christmas trees. The farm has been selling these colorful trees for several years now, and their uniqueness is certainly a draw. Find out how to get one here.

48. Check out the NYBG Holiday Train Show


This year marks the 30th annual holiday train show at the New York Botanical Gardens and the features include “nearly a half-mile of track hosting over 25 G-scale model trains and trolleys ” traveling around miniature models of the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, Yankee Stadium, Brooklyn Bridge, Rockefeller Center. After last year’s member only rule, this year the annual show is back open to the entire public.

49. Swing and stroll through Flatiron’s new holiday light installation

Martin Seck / Flatiron 23rd Street Partnership

The Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership and Van Alen Institute recently announced its eighth year selection for the Flatiron Public Plaza Design Installation. This year’s piece titled Interwoven made of a vibrant series of arches that you can walk and climb through is “inspired by New York’s tapestry of cultures and people” and “celebrates the joys of reconnecting in public space.” Answer prompts at the “interactive story wall” or swing on the hammocks as you look up and view all of the landmarks in the Flatiron district in a much different light (literally!).

50-54. Snap pics at these over-the-top spots that go all-out with holiday decorations

Facebook/ Oscar Wilde

You’re sure to get into the holiday spirit at these festively decorated spots across NYC. Admire enormous bows, glowing trees, and larger-than-life ornaments. With so many places that go crazy for the season, these are just some of the many bringing merriment to the city:

  • Papillon Bistro
  • Rolf’s
  • Oscar Wilde
  • Watermark Bar
  • Lillie’s Victorian Establishment

55-58. And make sure to stop by all the festive holiday pop-ups as well

Front of House

All of these pop-ups are only here for a limited time but they most definitely deserve a spot on your winter bucket list before the new year hits! Whether you’re looking to enjoy some holiday cheer this season, trying to find the next venue for your holiday party, or just want to check out a new space, here some of our favorite holiday pop-up bars:

59. Binge SATC’s reboot ‘And Just Like That…”

Instagram/ @justlikethatmax

We couldn’t help but wonder…what could be a better holiday gift than the release of SATC’s highly-anticipated reboot “And Just Like That…?!” Coming to HBO Max on December 9th, prepare to catch up on all the goss of Carrie Bradshaw’s life that we’ve all been curious about. It’s sure to be one fabulous adventure!

60-64. Bite into crispy, golden latkes

Facebook/ Russ & Daughters

NYC has no lack of mouthwatering latkes, it simply comes down to what places offer the best. And with Hanukkah coming early this month, there’s nothing like celebrating by stuffing your face with as many potato pancakes as you can stomach. Here’s a quick look at some standouts:

  • Russ & Daughters
  • Shelsky’s of Brookyln
  • Edith’s
  • Kat’z Delicatessen
  • B&H Dairy

65. Cross country ski on the longest single-state, multi-use trail in the nation


As we transition into the colder months, it’s time for our favorite winter activities! The Empire State Trail is the perfect place to walk, snowshoe, or cross country ski. This 750 mile trail is open year-round and runs all the way from NYC to Canada. Read more here.

66-70. Slurp down delicious ramen

Nothing’s quite as comforting as a steamy bowl of ramen with chewy noodles and flavorful broth. Lucky for us, NYC has some of the best ramen to slurp down. Try these spots that will surely impress:

  • Ichiran
  • Ippudo
  • Zurutto
  • Chuko

71. Indulge in Magnolia Bakery’s holiday flavors

Instagram/ @magnoliabakery

Always keeping us on our toes for the newest flavor combinations and comebacks, Magnolia Bakery is ringing in the holidays with three festive flavors. Try from their classic banana pudding, red velvet banana pudding, and chocolate hazelnut banana pudding or ship any of them to friends and family for a tasty gift!

72. Listen to the best of Frank Sinatra’s holiday tunes at a NYC rooftop

Facebook/ 74Wythe

Take in the Manhattan skyline for Sinatra Under the Stars. Join American Jazz Singer, Rich DiMare for a magical night that will leave you humming along. See here for tickets.

73-77. Admire all of the dazzling lights illuminating the city

Courtesy Hudson Yards

Covered from uptown to downtown, borough to borough, NYC is one glowing spectacle all season long. Explore the millions of twinkling lights shining bright all across the city here with our holiday lights list!

78. Throw axes and drink cocktails at Live Axe bar in SoHo

Facebook/ Live Axe

We know the holidays can be one of the most stressful times of the year, so why not take your frustrations out at Manhattan’s first and only elevated axe throwing bar?! Eat, drink, and throw your seasonal stress away at this unforgettable gem in SoHo. Find out more here.

79. Try all the mouthwatering treats at Bryant Park’s Winter Village

Instagram / @feedyourgirlfriend

Sure Bryant Park’s Winter Village is perfect for ice skating and holiday shopping, but let’s not forget that it’s a foodie’s paradise. Feast outrageously flavored hot cocoa, piping hot pork buns, or Nutella-drenched bombolones.

80. And of course, watch the ball drop on NYE!

In-person spectators are once again welcome back in Times Square for NYE with proof of vaccination and a valid photo ID. Don’t miss the iconic event and ring in a very welcome 2022!

Also published on Medium.

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