Holidays in New York City

New York City, famously known as the “City that Never Sleeps,” truly comes alive during the holiday season. From iconic landmarks to charming neighborhoods, the Big Apple offers a plethora of festive experiences that add a touch of magic to the city. Let’s explore some of the enchanting locations that make spending the holidays in New York City truly unforgettable.

The Christmas Tree lit up in Rockefeller
  1. Rockefeller Center

Our holiday adventure begins at the iconic Rockefeller Center, a place synonymous with Christmas in the city. Here, you can witness the dazzling Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, adorned with thousands of twinkling lights. The tree is lit daily from 5 am to midnight, with a special ceremony on November 29. It is lit 24 hours on Christmas Day and 9 pm on New Year’s Eve and goes dark at 10 pm on January 13. 

The Rockefeller Center Plaza also houses a renowned ice-skating rink, surrounded by breathtaking architecture and a magnificent Christmas tree. 

The Rink at Rockefeller Center will open on October 21, 2023, with tickets starting at $21 per person. Skate rentals are available for $11, and local skaters can purchase a membership for unlimited skating throughout the season. Peak season, from Thanksgiving to January 1, will see long lines, so it’s best to buy tickets in advance and choose a date earlier in the season.

A house decorated in Dyker Heights
  1. Dyker Heights

For a different kind of holiday magic, take a trip to Dyker Heights in Brooklyn. The neighborhood is renowned for its extravagant Christmas light displays that transform ordinary houses into illuminated masterpieces. Walking through the streets of Dyker Heights feels like stepping into a real-life winter wonderland.

The most extravagant Christmas light displays, complete with life-size snowmen, sleighs, and Santas, can be found in the Brooklyn neighborhood. Some homes even play loud Christmas carols throughout the holiday season. The Brooklyn area draws large crowds of people of all ages who stroll along the many avenues and blocks.

The weekend following Halloween through the first few days of January is when most residences are decorated. Although you can explore on your own, taking a tour could be a little simpler. Bus tours from Dyker Heights Christmas Lights, A Slice of Brooklyn, and many more are back. 

Ice Skating near the Tree in Bryant Park (Diana Robinson)
  1. Bryant Park Winter Village

Bryant Park’s Winter Village is another must-visit spot. Here, you can enjoy an ice skating rink, an array of charming holiday shops, and delicious seasonal treats. It’s the perfect place to shop for unique gifts and soak in the festive atmosphere. While strolling through the market, you can enjoy live performances by local musicians, creating a joyful soundtrack and adding to the festive ambiance.

One of the main attractions at Bryant Park’s Winter Village is its ice-skating rink. Whether you’re a seasoned skater or a beginner, gliding across the ice amidst the shimmering lights and the laughter of fellow skaters is a truly magical experience. Create lasting memories as you enjoy the picturesque setting and the joyful atmosphere.

The Winter Village is scheduled to remain open until March 3, 2024. Tickets for the ice skating rink are available for free for those who bring their own skates!

Gingerbread Lane at Chelsea Market
  1. Gingerbread Lane

At the New York Hall of Science, inside Chelsea Market, you’ll find Gingerbread Lane, a jaw-dropping exhibit featuring a miniature village made entirely of gingerbread and candy. It’s a sweet escape into a world of culinary artistry and creativity.

A little over a thousand gingerbread houses, shops, ice cream shops, pizzerias, dance schools, and more will be on exhibit. There are several features inspired by New York City, such as an ice rink paying homage to Rockefeller Center, a few houses that resemble those in Forest Hills, Queens, and pink nutcrackers that are modeled after the decor at Essex House. 

From November 26 to January 7, GingerBread Lane can be found in Chelsea Market in Manhattan, close to the corridor with the glittering lights. It will be visible every day from 8 to 9 am during market hours.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden Lightscape
  1. Brooklyn Botanic Garden Lightscape

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Lightscape event is a magical experience with thousands of twinkling lights that transform the garden into an enchanting wonderland. Strolling through the illuminated pathways is a truly captivating experience.

The famous Winter Cathedral and a larger Fire Garden are part of Lightscape, an illuminated trail of art created by regional and worldwide artists, which is set to more than a million lights, colors, and sounds. This year, it’s been redesigned with a longer route and additional immersive experiences all around, like the shimmering new Chandelier Walk, the huge red poppy blossoms of Floraison that float over the trail, and “Supernova,” a 24-foot-high illuminated Moravian star.   

The stunning, lit extravaganza will return to the grounds of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden on November 17, 2023, and run through January 1, 2024.

New York Botanical Garden GLOW
  1. New York Botanical Garden GLOW

The New York Botanical Garden offers the GLOW experience, an enchanting display of light and color that enhances the natural beauty of the garden. The enchanting spectacle of the Haupt Conservatory is a highlight, making it a must-visit destination.

Thousands of energy-efficient LED lights and festive installations will light up the grounds as part of the Bronx’s outdoor light experience. The Haupt Conservatory and Mertz Library Building serve as luminous focal points, reflecting the surrounding gardens and collections in the experience.

November 17, 24, & 25; December 2, 8, 9, 15, 16, 22, 23, 26–30, 2023; January 6 & 13, 2024 are the dates GLOW is open. Every night, it runs from 5 to 10 p.m.

Holiday Train Show at the Botanical Garden
  1. Holiday Train Show at the Botanical Garden

Commencing on November 17, the cherished New York holiday train custom also at the New York Botanical Garden, which has been going on for over 30 years, is back and better than before.

Watch as nearly 200 well-known New York landmarks—made of natural materials like leaves, cinnamon sticks, twigs, bark, and berries—such as the Empire State Building, Radio City Music Hall, the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge, and Rockefeller Center, are zoomed by model trains. In the comfort of the Conservatory, the garden cares for its collection of twenty-five G-scale model trains, which chug along a nearly half-mile track that is also overhead. 

The train exhibition will remain open until January 15, 2024.

Holiday Train Show at Grand Central Terminal
  1. Holiday Train Show at Grand Central Terminal

Grand Central Terminal hosts its own Holiday Train Show, showcasing vintage model trains traveling through a delightful miniature world. It’s a historic and charming experience that captures the essence of the holiday season.

A 34-foot-long, two-level, “O” gauge model train layout that winds past some of the city’s most recognizable sites, including a miniature Grand Central, is the route that the Lionel model trains ride along in this display. 

Located at the New York Transit Museum Gallery & Store in Grand Central Terminal, Shuttle Passage, it’s a sweet way to kill time at Grand Central before your train. It’s also a fun display to show your kids.

Tickets must be purchased in advance and cost $5 per person. Tickets go on sale three weeks prior to the scheduled date, on a rolling basis.

Bronx Zoo Holiday Light Show
  1. Bronx Zoo Holiday Light Show

The Bronx Zoo transforms into a captivating holiday light show during the Christmas season. The dazzling light displays and animal-themed decorations make for a unique and unforgettable experience.

Anticipate a stunning display of 400 wildlife lanterns, each representing 100 species, dispersed around a large section of the zoo. This year, the exhibit features a brand-new interactive experience honoring bioluminescent animals in addition to the wildlife of New York’s marshes and ocean waters. This year will see the launch of sixty-four new lanterns, each of which will symbolize nine new animal species.

The Bronx Zoo’s Holiday Lights will be open on certain days from November 17 to January 7. 

Washington Square Park Tree
  1. Washington Square Park Tree

The magnificent tree in Washington Square Park is breathtaking, nicely framed inside the park’s well-known arch. You can watch it live or on the internet, and it formally opens during the first week of December (2023). Stay tuned for the precise date. The Rob Susman Brass Quartet performs Christmas carols during the tree-lighting ceremony.

During the event that you are unable to attend the tree lighting, you can still view the exquisite 45-foot tree lit every day from 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. throughout December.

And on Friday, December 24 at 5 p.m. they feature Christmas Eve caroling as well!

So try and experience the unique holiday charm of New York City, where the festive spirit is in the air. Experience the atmosphere of Bryant Park’s Winter Village, the grandeur of Rockefeller Center, and the timeless allure of Grand Central Terminal. Be mesmerized by Dyker Heights! Celebrate Christmas in the vibrant city and uncover the genuine heart of this wonderful time of year!

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