What to Do During the Holidays in NYC 2018November 7, 2018 - by City Guide News Desk
Events for the holidays in NYC are some of the most memorable that the city has to offer. Winter 2018 in New York will be no exception, as skating rinks, Christmas trees, holiday markets, department store windows, and the world-famous Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes® will set the wintry city ablaze with light. Read on for the best of NYC holiday events this season!
NYC Holiday Events: Tree Lightings and Celebrations
(11/23-12/31) The first-ever WinterFest at the Brooklyn Museum will feature a variety of attractions, including a Vinopolis Wine Tasting Experience, a beer garden, an enchanted tree maze, Santa Land (where the little ones can pose for photos, enjoy story time, and snacks), an interative chocolate dome, a giant snowglobe, a spectacular menorah, food, and beverages.
(11/26) Light up the Upper West Side with the 19th Annual Winter's Eve at Lincoln Square, an evening of music, food, dancing, children’s activities, and fun for everyone. Look for processional groups, multicultural dance troupes, ice sculpting, Jazz at Lincoln Center, youth choruses, jugglers, stilt-walkers, and more! At Dante Park on Broadway between 63rd and 64th Sts., beginning at 5:30pm. Arlo Guthrie returns for a performance this year. Along Broadway from Columbus Circle to 68th St., 212-581-7762, winterseve.org
(11/28) The towering tree in Rockefeller Center is an international symbol of the holiday spirit. This year’s tree lighting ceremony on Wednesday, November 28 will feature live performances from 7 to 9pm. The tree will remain lit, and can be viewed, through Jan. 7, 2019. Note that the lighting ceremony gets very crowded, so it’s best to be there hours in advance, or come back after the 30th, when the scene is more manageable. Rockefeller Center, 600 Fifth Ave. (btw. 49th & 50th Sts.), 212-332-7654, rockefellercenter.com.
(12/2-12/10) Annual Lighting of the World's Largest Hanukah Menorah. This whopping 32-foot-high, two-ton menorah is set up at Grand Army Plaza in midtown (Fifth Avenue and 59th Street), with lightings for the nights of Hanukah December 2nd through 10th. It remains lit through Jan 1.
(12/4) For Bryant Park Winter Village's Tree Lighting and Skate-tacular this year, actor Alan Cumming will be in charge of festivities, with ice skating performances by Olympian skaters Johnny Weir, Kaetlyn Osmond, Megan Duhamel, Eric Radford and Jeremy Abbott. Each year, skaters do a performance of “The Lights Before Christmas,” an original story about the Light family, a group of characters made out of light. New Yorkers (the skaters) show Star, the youngest member of the family, how to shine. 6pm.
(12/20-22) Paul Winter’s 39th Annual Winter Solstice Celebration takes advantage of the acoustics of the world’s largest cathedral, St. John the Divine's on the Upper West Side. This favorite city multimedia event will this year feature the 10-member Paul Winter Consort, gospel singer Theresa Thomason, and the 25 dancers and drummers of the Forces of Nature Dance Theatre. There are four performances over three days.
(12/24) Christmas Eve Services at St. Patrick's Cathedral 5:30pm and *midnight (*free, but tickets required).
(12/29) Kwanzaa Celebration: Regeneration at the Apollo Theater, 2pm and 7:30pm. Featuring Abdel Salaam's Forces of Nature Dance Theatre. Since 2006, the Apollo has established an annual show to celebrate this holiday tradition on one day of the Kwanzaa holiday. The Apollo’s celebration is a joyful evening of dance and music honoring the principles of Kwanzaa—family, community, and culture.
(12/31) St. John the Divine's New Year's Eve Concert for Peace. Founded by Leonard Bernstein in 1984, the annual New Year’s Eve Concert for Peace is a signature Cathedral event, gathering old friends and new for more than a quarter of a century. The music, the candles, and the spirit of peace send audiences out into the chill January night with renewed hope for the world we share. With guests With guests Judy Collins, Jason Robert Brown, Paul Winter, and host Harry Smith. 7pm. General admission free, tickets required.
NYC Holiday Events: Skating
New York winter fun has officially begun, as the first skaters have hit the ice at The Rink at Rockefeller Center. This year marks the 82nd anniversary of the world’s most famous rink. Tuesday and Thursday mornings you can catch Cool Workout Classes with two-time Olympian JoJo Starbuck, who leads skaters in stroking, gliding, turns, and spins. Or take advantage of a package deal, like a VIP dining and skating combo that includes great seats for the Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes®.
For more on skating in NYC, click here.
NYC Holiday Events: Tours
A Slice of Brooklyn’s The Original Christmas Lights Tour runs every night in December (except Christmas Day). This three and a half hour tour highlights the festive homes of Dyker Heights, an Italian-American section of Brooklyn that boasts the most extravagant holiday lights show you’ve ever seen. A Slice of Brooklyn knows the homeowners personally and escorts guests around like family. The multimedia presentation includes vintage Christmas variety specials with the likes of Andy Williams, Frank Sinatra, and Bing Crosby. Departs from Union Square in Manhattan. Call 212-913-9917 or visit asliceofbrooklyn.com
Gray Line New York Sightseeing offers special Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes™ combo tours, as well as trips to Woodbury Commons, where you can get the jump on designer outlet shopping. See newyorksightseeing.com for more.
THE RIDE: HOLIDAY EDITION returns to turn the streets of New York into a stage. You’ll cruise in comfort in a patented $1.5 million travelling theater. Technology galore and floor-to-ceiling glass with side-facing VIP seating provide perfect views to dazzling holiday performances you’ll find along a 4.2-mile journey through Manhattan. Original seasonal music, videos, and hilarious hosts complete the experience, definitely one to remember. 234 W. 42nd St. (btw. Seventh & Eighth Aves.), 212-221-0853, theridenyc.com
NYC Holiday Events: Cruises
(12/1-12/28) Spirit of New York offers a series of December Holiday Lights and Christmas Eve Lunch and Dinner cruises, departing from Chelsea Piers. Jingle Bell Lunch Cruises sail from noon-2pm, from $64.90 per person; their Holiday Lights Dinner Cruise sails from 7pm-9:30pm, from $119.90 per person. spiritofnewyork.com
(12/1-1/1) Bateaux New York offers a Holiday Lights Dinner Cruise, sailing from 7-10pm. Includes a three-course dinner, an acoustic quartet and piano performance, and panoramic views. From $149.90. Grab the gang for the Holiday Bottomless Mimosa Brunch, starting at $94.90. Ring in the new year with Bateaux's New Year's Eve Cruise, from 9pm-1am, starting at $599.90. bateauxnewyork.com
NYC Holiday Events: Holiday Markets
Every year, NYC offers a variety of pop-up holiday markets. For off-the-beaten-path gift shopping, these are excellent destinations.
No need to brave the elements for holiday shopping: visit the Grand Central Holiday Fair (Nov. 12-Dec. 24) and browse in comfort. This season features a new look and a more intimate shopping experience, with a tightly curated grouping of 40 artisans in Vanderbilt Hall selling art and home goods; holiday-themed items; bath and body products; toys; and clothing and accessories for men, women, and children. For the first time during the holiday season at Grand Central, visitors will be able to take advantage of both dining and shopping options, with the critically acclaimed Great Northern Food Hall standing by witj four Nordic-inspired food pavilions and bar. The Holiday Fair is open Monday through Friday, 10am-8pm, until 7pm Saturdays, and 11am-6pm Sundays. Closed Thanksgiving and open 10am-6pm on Christmas Eve. Grand Central Terminal, 89 E. 42nd St. (Park Ave.), grandcentralterminal.com
(Now-3/3/19) Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park is back! Ice skating, shopping, hot chocolate and other tasty treats, and more! wintervillage.org
Year round, Annex Markets, which include Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen locations, offer a wide selection of new and antique finds, great for gifts and treasures. Every weekend enjoy spectacular holiday shopping! annexmarkets.com
NYC Holiday Events: Performances and More
The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
(11/22) The Macy's Thanksgiving Parade is a longstanding New York City tradition, responsible for unofficially kicking off the holiday season. Dating back to 1924, the parade sees generations of families—locals and visitors alike—lining up to see floats, live entertainment, iconic hot air balloons (Snoopy, Hello Kitty, Spiderman, and many others), plus a glimpse of Santa on his sleigh at the end. The parade gained popularity after being prominently featured in the film classic Miracle on 34th Street, starring a very young Natalie Wood. The parade route runs down Central Park West from 77th Street to Columbus Circle, along Central Park South to Sixth Avenue, down Sixth Avenue to 34th Street and along 34th Street to Macy's Herald Square. Line up early! Starts 9am. Check here for the latest on the 2018 performers, including Diana Ross and many others!.
Looking for Thanksgiving dinner in NYC? We've got the best of turkey and fixin's here.
NYC Holiday Events: Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes™
The NYC perennial holiday favorite Christmas Spectacular runs this year from November 9 through January 1, 2019. Fan favorites include "New York at Christmas," where the Rockettes board a real double-decker bus, and the high-energy tap number "Twelve Days of Christmas." Of course, beloved classics like "The Parade of the Wooden Soldiers" and "The Living Nativity" will also be back. Radio City Music Hall, 1260 Avenue of the Americas at 50th St., 877-941-7457, rockettes.com/christmas
George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker
Photo credit: © Paul Kolnik
(11/23-12/30) Dreams come to life when Tschaikovsky’s iconic melodies begin to play. As the clock chimes midnight, a brave young girl turns the tide in a battle between toy soldiers and mischievous mice, and a blizzard of ballerinas reveal a wonderful world of confection. This holiday season, be swept away by the magic of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker®, performed by the world-renowned New York City Ballet. The New York Times says, “Balanchine’s classic production felt like coming home.” David H. Koch Theater, 20 Lincoln Center, nycballet.com/nutcracker
The Hip Hop Nutcracker
(12/23) The Hip Hop Nutcracker at Brooklyn's Kings Theatre. Celebrate the holiday season with NJPAC's very own holiday smash—an urban dance retelling of the timeless fairy tale, featuring rap legend Kurtis Blow as special guest MC. The Hip Hop Nutcracker resets Tchaikovsky's classic score to explosive hip-hop choreography courtesy of Jennifer Weber. A dozen all-star dancers—plus a DJ, a violinist, and awesome digital scenery—bring the traditional Nutcracker story to new life, but with a distinctly urban twist. This evening-length show celebrates love, community and the magic of the holiday season. Doors open, 5pm, show, 6pm.
(12/12-12/13) Andrea Bocelli performs at Madison Square Garden.
(12/11-12/13) New York Philharmonic performs Handel's Messiah.
(12/16) The Vienna Boys Choir perform at Carnegie Hall.
(12/21-12/22) A Darlene Love Christmas at Sony Hall. A holiday staple on David Letterman with her performance of "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)," The New York Times raves about the singer..."Darlene Love's thunderbolt voice is as embedded in the history of rock and roll as Eric Clapton's guitar or Bob Dylan's lyrics."
NYC Holiday Events: Times Square New Year’s Eve Ball Drop
The clock will strike midnight, the ball will drop, kisses will be exchanged, and the promise of a New Year will light up the night sky. If there’s any town that can be trusted to get New Year’s right, it’s New York City, where the Times Square New Year’s Eve Celebration and Ball Drop provides a focal point for the entire world. Get there hours early if you want to be close to the center of the action as the city counts down to 2019. newyearseve.nyc
Ring in the new year at Applebee's in Times Square! Celebrate all the intensity and excitement of New Year’s Eve at the crossroads of the universe—Times Square, in the comfort of The World’s Largest Applebee’s. Take your choice, Applebee’s Broadway, 205 W. 50th St. (btw. Broadway & Seventh Ave.) or Applebee’s Times Square, 234 W. 42nd St. (btw. Seventh & Eighth Aves.), just steps from the ball drop. Both parties offer an all-inclusive evening of a lifetime, including top-shelf premium open bars, a chef’s selection of passed hors d’oeuvres and buffet dinner selections, DJs and dancing, party favors, and a champagne toast at midnight.
(12/30-1/1) Spirit of New York is offering a 20% discount on their New Year's Eve Family Lunch (from $52.90), Eve of the Eve Dinner Cruises (from $111.90), or New Year's Eve Fireworks Cruise, from $279.90 per person, 10pm-1am. New Year's Day Lunch and Dinner cruises also available, $59.90-$104.90. All ages welcome, bar, 21+. For discount, must book by 11/15. spiritofnewyork.com
(12/31-1/1) Bateaux New York (866-817-3463) is offering a New Year’s Eve Fireworks Dinner Cruise and New Year’s Day Bottomless brunch and dinner cruise. All offer unparalleled views, premium open bar, live music with jazz classics and Broadway show tunes, party favors, and much more.
For more on New Year's Eve happenings and other New York events in December, click here.
Looking to save over the holidays in New York? Check out our long list of coupons and savings in NYC.