Last updated on December 21st, 2023 at 07:14 am
New Year City, where the holiday season transforms the bustling streets into a mesmerizing tapestry of lights, festivities, and fun activities for all ages.
Whether you find you’re exploring solo or with your loved ones, New Year City is a magical experience that captures the essence of celebration that creates lasting memories.
In this guide, the best things to do in NYC this holiday season includes free, affordable and fun activities that you can experience.
- Free Annual Festivities
- Free Festive Lights
- Outdoor Activities
- Family Entertainment
- Holiday Shopping
- Winter Experience in NYC
Free Annual Festivities
Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree
Experience the iconic Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree in all its splendor until January 13. Adorned with 50,000 multicolored LED lights, this magnificent 80-foot Norway spruce is a breathtaking sight not to be missed.
World’s Largest Menorahs
Immerse in the illumination of the world’s largest menorahs as the sun sets each night of Hanukkah, a dazzling event held at both Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn and Grand Army Plaza in Midtown. These joyous celebrations include live music, the delectable aroma of latkes, and the delight of children receiving special gifts.
Free New Year’s Eve Festivities
Join in free New Year’s Eve celebrations at city parks, featuring an awe-inspiring fireworks display in the enchanting Prospect Park in Brooklyn.
Time Square New Year’s Eve Ball Drop
Celebrate the arrival of 2024 with a global community of joyous attendees at the Times Square New Year’s Eve Ball Drop. Secure your prime viewing spot by arriving early and be part of this unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Free Festive Lights
Transforming Hudson Yards into a radiant spectacle, Shine Bright features 2 million twinkling lights in a captivating, free celebration. The display boasts 725 evergreen trees and 16-foot-tall lights shaped like hot air balloons.
The Shops at Columbus Circle
Stroll through The Shops at Columbus Circle and immerse yourself in the festive ambiance of Holiday Under the Stars, showcasing twelve 14-foot stars suspended gracefully from the ceiling.
Dumbo Improvement District
Experience the holiday spirit with a series of festive events and activities presented by the Dumbo Improvement District. Catch mesmerizing animations projected onto the Manhattan Bridge and Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE) daily from 4 pm to 10 pm, with the enchanting displays running through December 31.
Every year, Dyker Heights residents in Brooklyn illuminate their homes with extravagant Christmas decorations. Bring a thermos of hot chocolate and immerse yourself in the festive ambiance as you enjoy the dazzling displays accompanied by cheerful holiday music.
Embrace the winter charm at The Rink in Winter Village at Bryant Park, where you can enjoy complimentary ice-skating in the heart of Midtown Manhattan (rental skates are available). Surrounded by the festive ambiance of the open-air holiday market and tempting dining options, the rink welcomes visitors until March 3, 2024.
The Open Streets program in NYC is making a comeback this year, establishing a pedestrian-only zone encompassing Rockefeller Center and Fifth Avenue from 48th Street to 59th Street.
Indulge in the holiday spirit with delightful fragrances along Fifth Avenue from 46th to 61st Streets. The Fifth Avenue Association has teamed up with NEST New York to diffuse the brand’s signature Holiday fragrance into the air.
Icy Dip in the Atlantic Ocean
Take the plunge into the New Year by joining hundreds of adventurous swimmers on January 1 for a refreshing dip in the Atlantic Ocean with the Coney Island Polar Bear Club’s New Year’s Day Plunge. Participation is free, and individuals are encouraged to contribute to community organizations through voluntary donations.
Backdrop of Holiday Films
Explore the iconic settings of cherished holiday films against the enchanting backdrop of NYC. Celebrate the 20th anniversary of Elf at the Empire State Building, play on the large-scale FAO Schwarz piano reminiscent of Big, or visit The Plaza Hotel in homage to Home Alone 2 – Fun in New York. There’s something for the whole family to enjoy in this cinematic holiday adventure.
Meet Santa Claus
Ho ho ho! Santa Claus is at Macy’s Herald Square. Secure your free reservation up to five days before your visit, and consider purchasing photos to capture the festive moment. For a sensory-friendly experience, Santaland offers early mornings on select days during the holiday season.
Free Kwazaa Events by National Park Service
Take part in the National Park Service’s free Kwanzaa events at the African Burial Ground National Monument from December 26 to 30. Engage in family-friendly activities such as doll making, quilting, face painting, and more.
Free Holiday and Christmas Carols Sing Along
Join the Holiday and Christmas Carols Sing Along for all ages at Battery Park City Public Library on December 18. The event is free and open to the public.
Public Holiday Programs
Throughout December, the Children’s Museum of Manhattan presents an array of public holiday programs. Dive into a singer-songwriter series, immerse yourself in cultural celebrations, and enjoy special New Year’s Eve programming, among other engaging activities.
Holiday Programs at Wave Hill
Celebrate the holidays at Wave Hill in the Bronx with a diverse range of programming. On December 14, join the free Family Art-Palooza and engage in crafting winter-inspired creations.
Union Square Holiday Market
Each year, festive markets emerge throughout the City, showcasing artisanal products, crafts, food, and more—a perfect opportunity to discover uniquely NYC gifts.
The renowned Union Square Holiday Market welcomes visitors every day until December 24, featuring over 150 vendors and food stalls to explore.
If you enjoy thrifting, visit Brooklyn Flea in Dumbo for a treasure trove of housewares, vintage clothing, antiques, jewelry, crafts, and more.
Pop-Up Holiday Art Market
Join the festive spirit with the Long Island City Partnership’s Pop-Up Holiday Art Market, available Thursdays through Sundays until December 17.
Discover handcrafted art pieces and enjoy complimentary panettone and hot drinks as part of the delightful experience.
Grand Central Terminal
Exploring through Grand Central Terminal this festive season?
Make it a point to explore the Holiday Fair in Vanderbilt Hall, and don’t miss the opportunity to experience the New York Transit Museum’s Holiday Train Show in Grand Central for free this year!
Explore Empire Outlets, the sole outlet shopping destination in NYC. Conveniently reachable via the free Staten Island Ferry, the shops feature renowned brands such as Levi’s Outlet, Nike Factory Store, Nordstrom Rack, and more.
Capture the festive spirit with dazzling decorations, including a splendid Christmas tree—an ideal backdrop for family photos.
Winter Experience in NYC
Enjoy a 24% discount on stays at 160 hotels from January 3 to February 4, 2024 with NYC Hotel Week.
Indulge in prix-fixe restaurant menus, take advantage of 2-for-1 Broadway tickets, and explore attractions, museums, tours, and performing arts with 2-for-1 tickets as part of NYC Winter Outing.