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    11 Things To Do In New York City In December

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    New York City is a vibrant and cosmopolitan metropolis with unrivalled adventures and activities to suit any visitor. No matter what time of year you visit NYC, you’re sure to be dazzled. Wintertime is no exception – in fact there are many events that only happen in New York City during winter, making it a truly unique time of year to experience the city.

    If you enjoy culture, heritage, the arts, and places that are at the forefront of design, fashion and innovation – then you’re bound to enjoy the Big Apple.

    A trip to New York City in winter is worth it if you’re looking for a magical and festive way to spend the holidays. The city is transformed into a veritable winter wonderland that’s buzzing with Christmas cheer and holiday glitter.

    There are so many reasons to visit New York in winter – a selection of our favorite events and activities are mentioned below. These include open air ice-skating, festivals, Christmas markets, breathtaking displays, shopping, performances, restaurants and museums. Here are 11 things to do in New York City in December.

    1. Visit the Winter Village at Bryant Park

    This winter wonderland in the heart of Manhattan is New York City’s only free-to-enter ice skating rink. You can enjoy skating to retro music on Wednesdays, sip on a festive cocktail and indulge in delicious food at the Lodge Deck, try your hand at iceless curling at the trendy Curling Café – or spend time with friends inside your very own cozy igloo.

    Bryant Park hosts hundreds of free activities, events and classes every year including chess, game nights and art workshops.

    11 Things To Do In New York City In December
    11 Things To Do In New York City In December: Ice skating rink in Bryant Park (Source)

    2. Holiday Train Show at New York Botanical Garden & NYBG Glow

    A popular holiday activity – particularly for families and children – is the Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Gardens (NYBG). Featuring miniature recreations of iconic NYC landmarks like the Statue of Liberty and Brooklyn Bridge – all made from natural materials like bark and moss, the Holiday Train Show has model trains that zip along circuits as they take you on a visual journey around the city.

    11 Things To Do In New York City In December: Holiday Train Show at New York Botanical Garden

    After dark, the Botanical Gardens are transformed by thousands of dazzling, colorful Christmas lights into a nighttime glowing spectacular. Known as the NYBG Glow, this annual event also features activities like ice-sculpting and live performances.

    3. Christmas markets

    Christmas shopping can be stressful, but you can make it a festive experience by visiting one of the various New York City Christmas markets. These are an opportunity to buy local, handcrafted and unique gifts while also sampling some great food and drinks.

    Some of the top Christmas markets in the city include:

    • Bronx Holiday Market
    • Artists & Fleas in Soho
    • the open-air Chelsea Flea
    • Union Square Holiday Market
    • Grand Central Terminal Holiday Fair
    • Columbus Circle Holiday Market
    • and the Holiday Market at The Oculus.

    4. Window shopping on Fifth Avenue

    The holiday season window displays on NYC’s iconic Fifth Avenue are a sight not to be missed. The stores on this street (from Bloomingdale’s down to Macy’s) have some of the most well-planned and elaborate holiday displays you will ever see. The animated windows take window dressing to a whole new level.

    We recommend going at night when all the festive lights add a magical flair to the displays.

    5. Hanukkah celebrations and menorah lightings – the world’s largest menorah

    Every year to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, public menorah lightings take place around the world. The world’s largest menorah is near Central Park. Standing 36 feet high outside the Plaza Hotel, this menorah lighting has been celebrated here annually for over 40 years.

    Brooklyn’s largest menorah is only slightly smaller, 32 feet high. Standing at Grand Army Plaza, it has been a tradition for nearly 40 years. Every night during Hanukkah, children receive special gifts while thousands celebrate with live music and hot latkes for all.

    6. See the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center

    The Christmas tree at the Rockefeller Center in Midtown Manhattan is one of the most quintessential NYC holiday attractions. For over 80 years, people to see the giant Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center.

    The tree lighting ceremony occurs the Wednesday after Thanksgiving and is televised nationally. This event marks the official beginning of New York’s Christmas season, and the tree stays up until January 6 of the new year.

    If you want to witness the ceremony, be prepared for crowds, standing, and cold weather. You’ll need to get there before 3 pm for the 7 pm event.

    11 Things To Do In New York City In December
    11 Things To Do In New York City In December: Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree (Photo by Alex Haney on Unsplash)

    Another popular holiday tradition is skating on the Rockefeller Center’s ice rink. There are many shops and nearby restaurants to enjoy while you gaze up at the tree, a magnificent symbol of the season.

    7. See the holiday lights at Dyker Heights in Brooklyn

    Dazzling with spectacular decorations and festive lights, the houses at Dyker Heights in Brooklyn are definitely an attraction to remember.

    Many families have an annual tradition of doing a Christmas lights walking tour of the neighborhood, which is located between 11th and 13th Avenues and from 83rd to 86th Street.

    All those Santas, reindeer, snowmen, and festive décor are sure to make you feel like you’ve been transported into a Hallmark Christmas card.

    8. Celebrate Unsilent Night in Washington Square Park

    If you’re looking for an event that is a little more arty and quirky, then you may be keen to participate in New York City’s Unsilent Night, which is the brainchild of composer Phil Kline.

    Participants usually meet at Washington Square arch, armed with a boombox or smartphone, and they all play four chosen tracks of music simultaneously while walking through the streets of the city. Unsilent Night usually lasts about 45 minutes and ends at Tompkins Square Park.

    9. Radio City Christmas Spectacular

    Watch the iconic Rockettes live at the Radio City Music Hall during their annual Christmas Spectacular. These magical productions are world-famous and a great way to experience the festive season in New York.

    The extravagant Christmas-themed show always features Santa Claus, the Toy Soldiers, Nativity scene, famous NY department store windows, Rockefeller Christmas Tree and more.

    11 Things To Do In New York City In December: Radio City Christmas Spectacular

    10. Concert for the Winter Solstice at St. John the Divine

    The annual Paul Winter celebration of the winter solstice at the St. John the Divine Cathedral offers a truly remarkable experience in one of the world’s largest cathedrals.

    Led by the award-winning jazz saxophonist, this spectacular event celebrates the shortest day of the year with dance, music and guest performances.

    11. New Year’s Eve Ball Drop at Times Square

    A quintessential New York tradition is to watch the ball drop in Times Square when the clock hits midnight on New Year’s Eve. Thousands of people gather in the square to watch the event and celebrate the new year, while many others watch it on television. Before the ball drops, there are performances to watch which will keep you entertained as you wait.

    One of the best places to watch the ball being dropped is between 42nd and 48th Streets, where Broadway and 7th Avenue intersect. It’s best to arrive quite early to get a good spot to view the ball and entertainment – which means getting there at around 3pm. Use the bathroom before claiming your spot, as you won’t be able to leave once you do.

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