girl holding a snowflake decoration while under a christmas tree in bryant park winter village

Is Christmas in New York Worth It? (2023)

Wondering is Christmas in New York worth it as a tourist? You’ve come to the right place. 

There’s magic in the air during Christmas in New York City. I’ve seen it and want to go back.

Skyscrapers twinkle with holiday lights, stores display awe-inspiring festive windows, and you might get lucky to see NYC dusted in snow.

Central Park turns into a playground for winter sports like skating and the iconic Rockefeller Center becomes a hub for Christmas celebrations.

Every corner of the Big Apple fills with cheer, making a visit to NYC during the holiday season a bucket-list-worthy adventure.

Let’s get right into whether New York is worth visiting around Christmas and visiting tips for you to have the best time.

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Rockefeller Center Tree is a must-see, standing tall and beautifully lit, casting a magical glow on the ice skaters below.

Holiday markets, including the Union Square Holiday Market and the Winter Village at Bryant Park, are filled with unique gifts and delicious seasonal treats.

And, no Christmas in NYC would be complete without catching a performance of The Nutcracker by the New York City Ballet or the Radio City Christmas Spectacular.

The holiday spirit is alive and well in the Big Apple, making it a truly unforgettable experience.

There’s no shortage of things to see and do in NYC around Christmas time.

saks fifth avenue light display in new york at christmas

Top 10 Things to Do in New York During Christmas

1. Watch the Saks Fifth Avenue Lights Show

Beginning in late November, you can head to Saks Fifth Avenue in NYC for the nightly Christmas light show. The shows run every ten minutes from 5:00 PM to 11:00 PM, typically lasting around five minutes. Make sure to add this one to your New York winter itinerary. It’s short and worth watching at least once.

2. See Central Park Covered in Snow

Central Park is a must-visit NYC attraction, especially during winter when it’s covered in snow. The scene is very picturesque and looks straight out of a holiday movie. There was unfortunately no snow when I went, which made me sad but there were plenty of fun Christmas activities to make up for it.

3. Shop the Christmas Markets

Every December, the streets of NYC fill with markets selling baked goods, crafts, apparel, and more. Popular options include the Columbus Circle Holiday Market, Union Square Holiday Market, and Grand Central Holiday Market. Bryant Market was my favourite holiday market and had the most delicious hot chocolate.

music hall radio city at christmas in nyc

4. Catch a Radio City Christmas Spectacular Performance

The Rockettes Christmas Spectacular is a dazzling annual holiday performance at NYC’s iconic Radio City Music Hall. 

5. Visit the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

If you’re visiting New York at Christmas, make sure to stop by the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, one of the most famous NYC Christmas sights. Attend the Christmas tree lighting ceremony if you can—it’s unforgettable! I couldn’t believe how big it was!

skating rink in new york city

6. Go Ice Skating

You can’t plan a New York Christmas trip without ice skating at one of the city’s seasonal outdoor ice rinks. Bryant Park, Central Park, and Rockefeller are some of the most well-known in NYC. Nothing says Christmas in NYC more than ice skating in front of the Rockefeller Christmas tree.

7. Tour the New York Botanical Garden Holiday Train Show

The New York Botanical Garden is worth visiting any time of year, but especially shines during the Christmas season when it hosts the Holiday Train Show.

8. Explore the Dyker Heights Christmas Lights

Head to Brooklyn to take in the breathtaking Dyker Heights Christmas Lights display. Most of the neighbourhood participates, and the experience is magical.

seeing times square during christmas in new york is worth it

9. Check Out Times Square

While Times Square is often considered a tourist trap, the attraction is a great place to visit around Christmas when the entire city is decorated. See it day and night for the full experience, like I always do when I go to NYC.

10. Enjoy the Empire State Building Tower Lights

The Empire State Building is a famous NYC landmark and puts on a festive Tower Lights show every year to celebrate Christmas. It was lit up green and red during the holiday season on my trip.

girl standing in grand central station during christmas in nyc

Tips for Spending Christmas in New York City

  • Christmas is one of the busiest times of year for NYC, so book your flights, hotels, and activities early. You can find better rates, have a better selection, and not have to worry about things selling out.
  • NYC can get incredibly cold and windy during winter, so pack warm clothes. Bring plenty of layers and good outerwear and prepare for there to be some snow.
  • There’s no getting around it, NYC will be extra busy if you visit between November to January. Make the most of it and expect attractions to be more crowded than usual. 

Where to Stay in NYC at Christmas 

The Plaza Hotel – a 5-star NYC classic, especially around Christmas when the hotel is decorated to the nines and was featured in Home Alone 2

1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge – a conveniently located 5-star hotel in NYC’s famed Brooklyn neighbourhood

The Ritz-Carlton Central Park – a luxurious 5-star hotel in the heart of the city decorated for Christmas

night in central park in new york city during the holidays

NYC Weather in December 

The weather in NYC in December can be unpredictable.

Temperatures range from 5 to 10 C in the daytime and 3 to -1 C at night (low-30s to mid-40s F), where you will feel the crisp chill of winter. It’s not uncommon to have warmer days.

As Christmas nears, the city often experiences light snowfall, creating a picturesque, postcard-like landscape. I was unfortunate to have no snow during my visit, which made it easier to get around but I missed seeing Central Park covered in snow.

girl looking out from the empire state building in new york in december

What to Pack for Christmas in New York City

When packing for Christmas in NYC, warmth should be your priority.

You will want to bring a thick, preferably waterproof, winter coat to shield you from the wind and snow.

Layering is key. Pack sweaters, long-sleeve shirts, thermal underwear, and scarves.

Don’t forget hats and gloves to keep your head and hands covered.

Comfortable, warm footwear is a must as you’ll likely do a lot of walking.

If you are planning on attending a fancy event or a Broadway show, pack a dressy outfit. You can go casual, but it’s more fun to dress up a bit.

Include an umbrella and a reusable water bottle to stay prepared and hydrated during your city adventures.

Despite the cold, the charm of NYC in December is an experience not to be missed.

holiday decoration light display in new york city

New York City Christmas Time FAQs 

When Do The Christmas Lights Go On in New York?

The Christmas lights go on in New York at the end of November.

Is Christmas a Good Time to Visit New York?

Christmas is a good time to visit New York for seasonal Christmas activities and sights. While the weather is cold and crowds tend to be larger than usual, NYC is popular around Christmas for a reason. 

Is New York Fun for Christmas?

New York is fun for Christmas because of all the festive attractions. From light displays and Christmas markets to dazzling seasonal performances, New York is full of ways to celebrate the holidays.

How Busy is New York at Christmas?

Christmas is one of the busiest times of year to visit New York. From November to January, NYC becomes crowded with tourists travelling to the city for festive celebrations.

Is New York Expensive at Christmas?

New York is more expensive than usual at Christmas, but you can save money by booking your vacation in advance. It’s recommended to reserve hotels, flights, and activities at least three months before your trip to get the best savings.

Is New York Crowded on Christmas Day?

New York is typically crowded on Christmas Day, as many businesses stay open. The holiday season is also one of the busiest in NYC, so be prepared for more crowds than usual at top attractions throughout the city.

What are the Best Areas to Stay in New York for the Holidays?

Manhattan and Brooklyn are some of the best areas to stay in New York for the holidays. Many of the seasonal attractions that draw tourists to NYC for Christmas are located near Grand Central Station, Central Park, and the Rockefeller Center.

Does it Typically Snow During Christmas in NYC?

Snow is common in NYC around Christmas, though it varies every year. The weather is usually cold and windy, so come prepared with warm clothes and appropriate footwear.

New York: For Christmas or New Year?

New York is a great destination for both Christmas and New Year’s. Both holidays are very popular in NYC, so plan your trip well in advance. Christmas is ideal for families, while New Year’s is great for couples and solo travellers. I visited for both Christmas and New Year.

How Long Does NYC Stay Decorated for Christmas?

NYC typically stays decorated for Christmas until early or mid-January.

Final Thoughts: Is New York at Christmas Worth it?

Experiencing Christmas in New York City is worth it, and something that should be on everyone’s bucket list.

Despite crowds and potentially higher expenses, the magical atmosphere, brilliant lights, and festive decorations transform the city into a winter wonderland.

From seeing the incredible Rockefeller tree to ice skating in Central Park, and the festive window displays along Fifth Avenue, there’s no shortage of holiday cheer and winter activities in the city.

It’s a special time when the business of the Big Apple takes on a warm and merry glow.

And when planning your New York Christmas trip, don’t forget to visit some must-eat restaurants.

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