NYC Celebrates Holiday Season

The famous Christmas Tree above the Rockefeller Center ice skating rink is a hallmark of the holidays in New York © Karen Rubin/goingplacefarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

The arrival of Santa on his sleigh to close out the 96th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade ushers in the beginning of or the holiday season throughout New York City and the tree lighting at Rockefeller Center means festivities are well underway. 

As one of the most iconic holiday destinations, NYC once again hosts a potpourri of festive experiences, attractions and events across dining, shopping, culture and entertainment throughout the city. Here are highlights:

HOLIDAY PERFORMANCES

A New York City holiday staple: Radio City Rockettes performing Christmas Spectacular Wooden Soldiers © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
  • DREAM BIG: Big Apple Circus Returns to Lincoln Center for 45th Anniversary, Nov. 9–Jan. 1. For eight weeks, Big Top at Lincoln Center will be home to astonishing wonders and daring acrobatics, setting imaginations soaring to the most astounding, awe-inspiring heights.
  • Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes, Nov. 18–Jan. 2 has dazzled audiences of all ages for nearly a century with incredible costumes, festive songs, synchronized high kicks, new acts and several shows daily.
  • A Christmas Carola one-man show on Broadway, Nov. 21–Jan. 1. In this astonishing Broadway adaptation, Tony Award–winning actor Jefferson Mays tackles more than 50 roles in this season’s limited run of A Christmas Carol at the Nederlander Theatre. The beloved Dickens story featuring notable characters—Ebenezer Scrooge, Tiny Tim and the four ghosts—is making its return for the first time since 2019 and will enchant theatergoers with its redemptive story.
  • George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker Presented by New York City Ballet, Nov. 25–Dec. 31 at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center returns for its annual performance featuring exquisite costumes, magnificent sets and Tchaikovsky’s iconic score that transports audiences to a land of twirling snowflakes, leaping candy canes, waltzing flowers and more. On November 27, TDF Autism Friendly Performances will present the first-ever Autism-Friendly Performance of New York City Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker.
  • Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at New York City Center, Nov. 30–Dec. 24, returns to New York City Center for a season that has become a joyous winter tradition. Led by Artistic Director Robert Battle, Ailey’s extraordinary dancers will move audiences with world and company premieres by Kyle Abraham, Jamar Roberts, Paul Taylor, and Twyla Tharp. In addition to repertory favorites, founder Alvin Ailey’s choreography is spotlighted with a new production of Survivors and the staging of over a half dozen classic works, including the must-see American masterpiece Revelations.
  • The Magic Flute Holiday Presentation at The Met Opera, Dec. 16–Jan. 6. The Met Opera’s abridged, English-language version of Mozart’s magical fairy tale is a classic holiday treat for audiences of all ages, bringing the charming story and enchanting music to life. This year’s series features Maestro Duncan Ward, making his company debut conducting Julie Taymor’s irresistible production.

CULTURAL EVENTS

The NY Phil annual tradition returns Dec. 16-17 with the holiday Brass and former Philharmonic Principal Trumpet Philip Smith as host, conductor, and trumpet (Photo by Jennifer Taylor)

HOLIDAY LIGHTS

Amaze Light Festival is the newest holiday attraction in New York City © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
  • Shine Bright Only at Hudson Yards, throughout the holidays, Hudson Yards, Manhattan. Featuring over 2 million twinkling lights, Shine Bright Only at Hudson Yards, presented by Wells Fargo, adorns the neighborhood with 115-miles of string lights, 725 evergreen trees dressed and 16-foot-tall illuminated set pieces in the shape of hot air balloons arranged through the Public Square and Gardens with a 32-foot hot air balloon centerpiece suspended in The Great Room of The Shops and Restaurants.
  • Lightscape at Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Nov. 16–Jan. 8, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. Explore the garden after dark at the illuminated Lightscape, celebrating the beauty of nature with an enchanting one-mile trail through BBG’s 52-acre landscape. Sold out in its first season, this year’s after-dark, illuminated spectacular features new works of art alongside returning favorites. Enjoy the Winter Cathedral tunnel, Fire Garden and Sea of Light, as well as new site-specific light works by local artists, accompanied by a curated soundtrack.
  • Bronx Zoo Holiday Lights, Nov. 18–Jan. 8, Bronx Park, The Bronx. With more than 360 lanterns representing nearly 90 animal and plant species, Bronx Zoo’s family-centric holiday lights festival will connect visitors with real wildlife and wild places. During the evenings, the park comes to life with holiday cheer as immersive light displays, custom-designed animal lanterns (with some life-size, some larger-than-life-size) and animated light shows sparkle across the zoo. The celebration is complete with seasonal treats, classic holiday music and other festive entertainment. The beloved tradition is sure to enchant visitors of all ages, making it the perfect way to kick off the holidays this year.
  • NYBG GLOW, Select dates from November 18–January 14, Bedford Park, The Bronx. Discover the beauty of New York Botanical Garden through NYBG GLOW, which will illuminate the garden’s landmark landscape and historic buildings after dark with a newly expanded 1.5-mile colorful experience. Building upon sold-out evenings the past two years, the event is expanded across more of the garden’s collections.
  • Amaze Light Festival at Citi Field, Select dates from Nov. 20–Jan. 8, Flushing, Queens. Guests are greeted by the lovable characters Zing and Sparky from the Amaze storybook, who bring the stage dancers, singers and light show to life with their magic powers. Visit the holiday market and grab a treat at Sparky’s Sweet Spot. Enjoy culinary treats, specialty drinks and cocktails. Zip down Zing’s icy Thrill Hill, take in the wonder on a train ride, and write a letter to Santa.
  • NYC Winter Lantern Festival: Journey to the East, Oct. 21–Jan. 8, St. George, Staten Island. The NYC Winter Lantern Festival is back for its fourth year to transform a new venue, SIUH Community Park in Staten Island, into an immersive world of light. Enjoy over eight acres of luminescence, live DJ, projection mapping, food vendors.
  • NYC Winter Lantern Festival: Illuminate the Farm at Queens County Farm Museum, Nov. 11–Jan. 8, Glen Oaks, Queens. Back for its second year, the NYC Winter Lantern Festival transforms Queens County Farm into an immersive and radiant oasis with festive lights and handmade lanterns in the shape of flowers, tractors, farm animals.
  • Christmas Lights Tour of Dyker Heights from A Slice of Brooklyn Bus Tours, Dec. 1–31 (except 24 & 25), Dyker Heights, Brooklyn. Experience the extravagant Christmas light displays in Dyker Heights, also known as “Dyker Lights.” This guided bus tour, departing from Manhattan, offers visitors a special experience to view the uniquely decorated homes, learn about the history and stories of the neighborhood tradition.

ICE-SKATING, OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES:

Holidays in New York City: Ice skating at Bryant Park © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
  • The Rink at Rockefeller Center, Nov. 5 throughout the holidays. Skate under the iconic Christmas tree, a quintessential NYC experience on the world-famous rink. In collaboration with Coach, Rockefeller Center will unveil this year’s activations, including a bespoke holiday gift shop, custom hospitality cart serving special treats, and live onsite patch customization for a curated line of Coach products. Santa will join visitors on the ice in December.
  • The Rink at Bryant Park, Oct. 28 throughout the holidays, Midtown Manhattan. Enjoy NYC’s free 17,000-square-foot outdoor ice-skating rink at Bryant Park’s Winter Village. Visitors can also enjoy the Holiday Shops, free shows, events, activities, and eats and drinks at The Lodge.
  • Wollman Rink in Central Park, Oct. 23–throughout the holidays, Midtown Manhattan. Enjoy skating in Central Park with the picturesque Manhattan skyline in the background. This year, Wollman Rink is partnering with Culture Pass.
  •  Classic Harbor Line Holiday-Themed Cruises, throughout the holidays, Manhattan. Enjoy four-course holiday brunch cruises, a Cocoa and Carols cruise and more holiday themes, while sailing across the East and Hudson Rivers with views of the NYC skyline and Lady Liberty.
  • City Cruises Holiday-Themed Cruises, throughout the holidays, Manhattan. Enjoy a NYC dining cruise (available Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s) featuring festive decor, meals and stunning views of the City while sailing across the East and Hudson Rivers from the glass-enclosed deck.

FESTIVE HOLIDAY SHOPPING

  • Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park, Oct. 28 throughout the holiday season, Bryant Park, Manhattan.
  • Shop at Grand Central Terminal, Nov. 14–Dec. 24, Midtown Manhattan. Grand Central Terminal welcomes back its famous indoor Holiday Fair to the splendor of Vanderbilt Hall after a two-year hiatus. The Grand Central Holiday Fair is one of New York City’s most coveted attractions, welcoming thousands of locals, commuters and visitors for a curated holiday shopping and gifting experience. This year’s event features 36 vendors, including Ekologic, Garden of Silver and Rebel Designs.
  • Union Square Holiday Market, Nov. 17–Dec. 24, Union Square, Manhattan. Urbanspace’s longest running holiday market returns with over 160 vendors featuring unique gifts created by local craftsmen, artists and entrepreneurs.
  • Brooklyn Flea Holiday Market, Sundays, Nov. 24–Dec. 24, Dumbo, Brooklyn. Come to Pearl Street for Dumbo’s iconic Brooklyn Flea Holiday Market. One of the borough’s most popular attractions, shoppers support local vendors and cross off holiday shopping with vintage and antique items, crafts and gourmet food stands.
  • Grand Holiday Bazaar, Sundays, Nov. 27–Dec. 18, Upper West Side, Manhattan. Find one-of-a-kind handmade holiday decoration and giftable items: candles, skincare, fashion, handbags, vintage accessories and collectibles, handmade jewelry and furniture, rare antique silver and glassware, and of course delicious artisanal treats and foods. Annually, the market provides 1,000 independent local merchants with much-needed affordable retail space.
  • Columbus Circle Holiday Market, Nov. 28–Dec. 24, Upper West Side, Manhattan. Internationally known as one of the most elegant places for holiday shopping, visitors will lose themselves in aisles of art, jewelry, home goods and delicious eats from local artisans and designers, with the backdrop of NYC’s iconic Central Park.

NEW YEAR’S  

New Year’s Eve in Times Square, NYC
  • New Year’s Eve Times Square Ball Drop, Dec. 31–Jan. 1, Times Square, Manhattan: The Waterford Crystal Times Square New Year’s Eve Ball will sparkle in Times Square all season, but watching its descent in person on New Year’s Eve is a spectacular, once-in-a-lifetime way to ring in the New Year. Guests can also stop by the New Year’s Eve Confetti Wishing Wall from December 1 on to submit (in person and online herefor nye wishing wall) a wish for the New Year on a piece of official NYE confetti that will be dropped at midnight as the ball drops. 
  •  NYRR Midnight Run in Central Park, Dec 31–Jan. 1, Midtown Manhattan: Start the new year off on the right—and left—foot at the NYRR Midnight Run. Join the fun and celebrate as 2022 comes to a close; the countdown to 2023 begins at 11:59pm, and at the stroke of midnight, a fireworks display will light up the night sky and kick off the start of the 4-mile race.
  • Coney Island Polar Plunge, January 1, Coney Island, Brooklyn: Each year on January 1, members of the Polar Bear Club and anyone else brave enough to participate venture into the frigid waters at Coney Island. Watch hundreds of daring souls plunge into the Atlantic Ocean, where the temperature of the water hovers right above 40 degrees Fahrenheit and the air temperature can be well below freezing. The event is free, but in lieu of admission, participants are encouraged to donate to community organizations.

For additional holiday celebrations and itineraries, visit nycgo.com/holidays.

For the official source on all there is to see and do in New York City, go to nycgo.com

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