While some favorite NYC traditions are cancelled this winter, the city is still sparkling with lights and trees and new festive outdoor experiences.
And see our ideas for volunteering with kids to truly celebrate the season.
West 40s & 50s
Swanky store windows on and around Fifth Avenue are especially eye-catching during the holidays. And no tourist crowds this year! Some highlights, listed north to south: * Giant illuminated ornaments bedeck the fountain at Doris C. Freedman Plaza at 59th Street (plus explore an installation of giant doors). * At 58th street, each window of…
This gorgeous, classy tree in the neo-Italian Renaissance courtyard of the historic landmark Villard Mansion (now Lotte New York Palace Hotel) has Rockefeller Center and the St. Patrick’s Cathedral in the background.
* Shop for a wide array of handmade gifts at a a European inspired open-air market (smaller and more spread out this year).
* Watch skaters – or skate yourself on the city’s only free rink ($18-33/skate rentals – varies by day). Online advance reservations required. Penguin skate aids available for younger kids ($22).…
This urban rink is one of the smallest and most expensive in the city, but the iconic location is pure magic. Operating at a limited capacity with 50 minute skate times – but no tourist throngs this year. Mostly outdoors, but admission is through the indoor skate house.
Discounts for the first and last skate…
Macy’s 2020 holiday windows at its flagship Herald Square store honor the city’s frontline workers who have worked tirelessly throughout the coronavirus pandemic with the theme “Give, Love, Believe.”
Six animated and interactive celebrate first responders and essential workers as well as Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the uniqueness and diversity of New York.
Rainbow windows at Bloomingdale’s, feature color and emotion – “Give a Smile” with a yellow smiley face among gold disco balls, “Give Snuggles,” with a wreath made of evergreen plush teddy bears and more.
Indoors, cozy up with complimentary hot chocolate from Polo Ralph Lauren and receive a roll of custom wrapping paper printed with…
* Skate in the middle of magical Central Park at this spacious rink.
* Capacity is limited. Multi-use pass holders may reserve public session space in advance. All single-use attendees are first come, first served.
* Lockers not available for single-day use.
* Adult admission is $7 less on Monday-Thursday (non-holiday).
Over 800 intricate origami creations decorate this unique tree. This year’s theme is Cranes and Colors, featuring 1,000 brilliantly colored paper cranes, presented as symbols of peace and good will this difficult year and inspired by special exhibition The Nature of Color.
Also check out the adorable dinosaur…
See historic toy trains, figurines, and miniature models from the renowned Jerni Collection. Look for fun details in a variety of toy train stations dating from the turn of the 19th century to the WWII era. Giant screens display animations and fun facts about the toys. Pick up a train-themed I Spy scavenger hunt and…
Wander through 10 acres of outdoor spectacular light art displays based on the tradition of Chinese Lanterns.
* New displays include fantastical ancient civilizations, lush illuminated jungles, can & dog influencers and 30-foot high towers.
* Learn about the history and culture behind lantern-making traditions and get a behind the scenes look at the light…
Dance up on down giant stairs underneath a canopy of 650 ever changing rainbow hanging lanterns in the Winter Garden of a high end mall. Watch cool light shows to holiday music at the top of every hour.
Two touchless wishing stations allow visitors to send a motion-activated wish that will illuminate the canopy of…
Book a socially distanced, heated rooftop cabin for seasonal food and signature cocktails on a rooftop overlooking the East River.
Cabins fit 2 to 10 and have classic winter cabin décor, virtual fireplaces, and floor-to-ceiling NYC views. Menu ($15-$30) features starters, artisanal comfort food, cheese fondue, dessert & a kids menu.
New reservation times released Monday mornings.
Skate on a small rink overlooking New York Harbor with incredible views. Uncovered and windy so dress accordingly.
Skate aids and pushable sit-down sleighs for small beginners available for $15. Sign up for private and group learn to skate and hockey lessons.
Eat at an array of yummy food options including French market Le…
Explore an ice cream winter wonderland of holiday-themed spaces and installations. Enjoy special treats, festive surprises, and visit a whimsical shop for exclusive holiday merchandise. Dance, discover, and play in 13 interactive installations across 3 floors, a big sprinkle pool, a three-story slide plus eat lots of ice cream and other treats.
Purchase a $25…
* Marvel at model trains zipping around stunning New York landmark replicas made of plant parts such as nuts, bark, and leaves (most of it in the climate-controlled indoors).
* With capacity very limited for social distancing, this captivating display is only open to Members and Bronx Community Partners. Annual memberships start at $90 for individuals, $145 for families (tax-deductible)…
See beautiful candy-inspired trees throughout a historic mansion and in the carriage house. Stop by the Candy Cane Carriage House Gift Shoppe for sweet treats, hot cocoa and yummy jingle dogs and special gifts.
Reserve a time spot for a 45 minute walk-through. After 4 pm the museum is candlelit.
Embark on an illuminated safari with animal lanterns, animated sculptures, and colorful designs throughout the spacious Bronx Zoo and take in the musical light show. The five lantern safaris, spread out throughout the park each showcase a different wildlife region from gorillas in Africa to sea turtles in the ocean.
Also enjoy ice-carving demonstrations, holiday…
Explore a glowing world of color and light featuring the Haupt Conservatory as the centerpiece—its iconic exterior a glittering canvas.
* Washes of brilliant colors, thousands of dazzling lights installations fill the Reflecting Pool and enliven surrounding gardens and collections.
* Also enjoy artistic ice sculptures, music, roving dancers, plus more…
Blocks in the Dyker Heights section of Brooklyn (mostly 83rd thru 86th Streets between 11th through 13th avenues) go all with insanely extravagant Christmas lights and decorations. Santa is there most nights (though perhaps not in 2020). Expect crowds and traffic and try to go early in the evening and season.
Stroll through a series of immersive, multi-sensory floral filled installations. Pose for photo-ops in a Gingerbread Village, stop by smell a Candy Cane Rose Garden or snap an ‘elfie with Santa in his Jolly ‘olly, throne chair.
Also explore 47-acres of the longest continuously farmed site in New York State with a pumpkin patch, historic…
The public art & high design at this innovative hub gets holiday makeover, with cute photo-ops throughout (in addition to tons of great international food options).
Ice skate in outside in courtyard 5/6 ($12, $10/skate rentals). Penguin skate aids available for $10/half hour.
Or roller skate indoors at the vibrant Dreamland Roller Rink by Lola…
Visit Santa’s three reindeer Dasher, Dancer and Vixen outside a lovely nursery. Shop Christmas Tree, holiday plantings and unique holiday gifts.
Santa will be staying at the North Pole for the health and safety of all.
Schedule a contactless visit with Santa in a special cottage at an outdoor mall.
Masks required for ages 2+ the entire time. Guests will not sit on Santa’s lap and mist stay six feet away. Santa and his staff will have daily health screenings and temperature checks and will be wearing masks.
Walk through the center of e see the lit 44 foot tall Christmas tree and look up to the top. A professional photography team will be on site most nights and weekends to capture your photo, which you can print or have emailed directly to you.
Santa is available for…
Take a photo with a classic mall Santa in a small Santaland in the center of the shops.
Advanced reservations strongly encouraged. Expect masks on Santa, his helpers and kids over the age of 2 during this socially-distanced experience
Reserve a FastPass online to skip the line.
Take a spin on our outdoor ice skating rink, featuring more than 9,000 square feet of ice that can accommodate up to 150 recreational skaters.
A limited number of visitors will be admitted to the ice rink every 30-minutes. All visits must be reserved in advance by purchasing timed tickets online.
Skate to funky…
See a family-run elaborate light show featuring 10,000 lights on 144 channels synchronized to music over four homes. Enjoy the show from the safety of a car with the radio broadcasting on 107.7 FM. Masks required while outside vehicles. Hot Chocolate available in the Winter Village. This will be the last year of this neighborhood…
Drive 1.2 miles though dazzling exclusive light displays at Kensico Dam Plaza and see your favorite holiday characters. Listen to holiday music on your car radio, wave to Santa and enjoy other surprises.
Also stop by the free North Kenisco Light Christmas Show in a residential neighborhood a few blocks away.
This COVID-aware market features 40+ vendors and artisans, in individual open-air booths in the heart of downtown White Plains. Pick up your Christmas tree or holiday wreath. Find interesting and unique gifts for everyone on your holiday shopping list then walk to nearby downtown restaurants for a drink and a bite to eat.
This spacious garden complex is decorated for the holidays, with a poinsettia tree and Lionel model trains traveling through a miniature holiday landscape representing Metro-North’s Harlem Line from Grand Central Terminal to Katonah. Along the way, the trains pass famous landmarks, skyscrapers and winter scenes, highlighted by some favorite holiday characters.
* Santa will be…
Ages 5 and up can skate in the courtyard of a mall with music, theme nights and other fun events. The synthetic ‘ice’ is easier to glide on for young and first time skaters. Skates are provided with admission or bring your own.
Other holiday festivities include a walk-through Christmas tree, food truck market…
Explore a free, outdoor, socially distanced and masked holiday light sisplay at the gorgeous Untermyer Gardens. Online timed reservations will be available on a weekly basis beginning in December.
Cut your own real evergreen Christmas Tree season at this 8- generation family farm. Choose from 5,000 cut your own trees (hand saws provided) including Blue Spruce, Douglas Fir and vibrant colored trees in pink, white, light blue and dark blue, purple, black, red, turquoise and ombre ($10-$14/foot). Colored trees sell out quickly.
Drive-through 240 of dazzling holiday lights with accompanyign music on your car radio.
experience to celebrate the season. Pile everyone into the car and experience Magic of Lights from the safety and comfort of your own car as you wind through the sparkling path. At every turn, the magical route is overflowing with spectacular light…
Visit Santa and take your own photos in two safe, outdoor environments at a farm and garden center – on Santa’s socially distant sleigh and in a winter wonderland scene.
* Bring a letter to Santa for the North Pole Mailbox along with a self-addressed stamped envelope and Santa will return your letter.
This annual holiday market goes online, showcasing beautiful American-made gifts from over 40 artisan vendors using locally and ethically sourced materials to create men’s and women’s accessories, children’s clothing and toys, home goods, and more.
Also shop select Grand Central lifestyle and food retailers.
Travel virtually through Macy’s iconic (and currently closed) Santaland. Meet the Elves, engage with different areas of the magical space, play fun games and finally meet St. Nick himself via an interactive video (with pre-recorded responses). Take an interactive selfie with Santa Claus for a special keepsake.
Black and Spanish-speaking Santas available by request. Free…
Learn more about the Jewish celebration Hanukkah. Join New-York Historical Society historical interpreters online to explore Hanukkah’s origins and history and how people observe the holiday in New York City and across America. Then, celebrate with a Festival of Lights activity.
The famed Radio City Rockettes offer live dance classes on Instagram every Thursday. Learn classic choreography from the yearly Christmas Spectacular from a tall talented dancer.
The annual lighting of NYC’s iconic tree is TV only this year, live performances from the Radio City Rockettes and music groups. The tree will be lit at 9 pm.
At 10 pm, watch (or tape) the full production of the dazzling, dance-filled Radio City Christmas Spectacular.
Join New York City Ballet artists via Zoom for a series of lively Saturday morning movement activities. Each 30-minute workshop taught by a NYCB dancer includes a warm-up and choreography inspired by George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker. Stretch, twirl, and leap on a journey to the Land of Sweets where we will explore basic ballet concepts and…
Join Santa for a virtual story time from the North Pole. Santa has some special surprises in store to make this extra magical.
Presented by Mommmy Mingle and Buy Buy Baby (includes $15 store credit). Limited spots; RSVP in advance.
Did you know that decorating trees for Christmas wasn’t a common practice until the mid-19th century? Join New-York Historical Society online to learn more fascinating factoids about winter traditions in 18th-century America. Then, bake the Christmas dessert almond cake along with us at home.
Celebrate community, family, and culture with this deep dive into the Black American holiday of Kwanzaa. Join New-York Historical Society online to learn about the history of the holiday, its significance, and the seven principles. Discover and learn about New-York Historical artifacts that connect with the principles of the holiday. Then, create a guided activity…
Watch the world’s first holiday show highlighting the African American tradition of stepping, a feast for the eyes and ears. Fabulous and furry friends from the Arctic Kingdom – Popper the Penguin along with polar bear twins, Pinky and Polo – join exceptional dancers to celebrate in song and dance.
Seven-time Grammy winner Paul Winter and his colleagues annual feast of music and dancing from the diversity of cultures and creatures of the world goes online. Watch be a retrospective tapestry highlighting iconic performances from the first four decades of the event.
In keeping with the inclusivist embrace of the solstices and the intercultural,…
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Tuesday, January 1
Feast on antipasti, artisanal pastas and paninis at Caffe Storico, a classy yet kid-friendly eatery within the engaging New-York Historical Society.
Walk though multiple blocks of 100+ murals by artists from around the corner and around the world, providing new arrays of visual experiences that change how people interact with their environment. Mural map available online.
The downtown outpost of Italian marketplace Eataly is focused on bread, but you can also find delizioso pizza, fresh mozzarella, prosciutto, pasta, rotisserie chicken, chocolate, gelato and weekend kids cooking classes.
Find a vast selection of bon bons and bars from historic Italian chocolatier plus gelato in a a variety of chocolate and other delicious flavors. Make it even yummier with creamy base of Suprema chocolate spread or a cone dipped in seasonal sprinkles like granules of Piedmont Hazelnuts, Nougatine, Chocaviar or Raspberry. Some seating in…
Gorgeous bonbons in an array of colors and artisanal flavors taste as good as they look in this small Nolita chocolate shop.
Argentinean-style small-batch ice cream and sorbet comes in traditional and adventurous flavors including sweet potato with brie cheese, yerba mate and the popular sweet corn with cinnamon.
Uptown artists transformed three blocks of fencing located adjacent to the 125th Street Metro-North station into a canvas for murals that support and uplift the community.
Interact with colorful dots by following painted prompts such as ‘leap up’ and ‘reach for the sun.’ Right outside the Children’s Museum of the Arts, which has a jelly bean dispenser (bring quarters) encouraging more color exploration. Both can be found on the Color Factory’s neighborhood exploration map, availble for free at 251…
An office tower plaza features a dynamic Jean Dubuffet sculpture and a peaceful Noguchi rock garden fountain.
Watch rainbow lights dance across hexagonal honeycomb shapes on the ceiling of the Bleecker Street Station in a light installation by Leo Villareal.
Colorful florals decorate the wall outside a shoe store with fun funky shoes. A poster with a shoe telling us to ‘Choose Love’ might lead to philosophical questions about the emotional ability of footwear.
Street artists from around the world vibrantly transformed the streets surrounding 3 World Trade Center with fun, colorful murals, bringing love and joy to a place of mourning.
Wonder at how a giant gummy bear ended up in a prison mugshot, gripping an identity placard in between his gelatin paws in this lobby installation by WhIsBe.
Shop by weight from bins of colorful Venchi bon-bons or pick up some artisanal chocolate made in Italy with raw ingredients in a variety of shapes and textures according to traditional recipes, from smooth spread to crunchy bars to elegant cigars. Or sample some of the best gelato in the city in a range of…
Everything is baked on-site throughout the day at the UES outpost of legendary bakery, from an array of rustic breads to the world-famous six-ounce chocolate chip walnut cookie. We are constantly debating the merits of these versus the equally giant dark chocolate peanut butter chip cookies, and the whole wheat walnut raisin rolls are also…
Availble-all-day breakfast at this nautical-themed kid-friendly hotel lobby restaurant are over-the-top and pricey - there's even a $2000 ' Zillion Dollar Lobster Frittata' with caviar. Creative sweet and savory dishes in the $30+ range include Super Cheesy French Toast with caramelized onions and applewood smoked bacon, a 'Waz-Za' waffle with fruit inside and outside and…
Everything is 100% gluten-free and organic at this cozy French import featuring gourmet meals, pastries and coffee. The menu changes with the seasons but you can always find classic signature dishes such as burgers (classic or vegetarian) and quiches. First floor is take-away counter service, the second floor is casual sit-down table service.
Enjoy excellent pastries, sandwiches, salads and breakfast dishes plus Melbourne-style coffee) nestled among the limestone arches of what was once a side chapel of a 1929 art-deco church, or pick up provisions for a Central Park picnic.
The newly designed play area features a giant, multi-colored, one-of-a-kind, Robinia wood pipefish plus water features incorporating limestone cattle head sculptures reclaimed from historic meatpacking district business New York Butchers’ Dressed Meat Company.
Central Park's largest playground features a shaded area with swings and slides, a large, maze-like climber, lots of water features with tunnels, ramps and slides plus giant rocks to climb (and a bathroom). Face painters, musicians and giant bubble makers often congregate at the entrance. Closes at dusk.
Indulge in world renowned gourmet chocolate in a French-style café. Enjoy baked-on-site French pastries, freshly brewed specialty coffees and an assortment of chocolate bonbons and bars with a fair-trade focus. Counter service with a small, stylish seating area.
A small cute bakery with muffins, cakes, cookies, cupcakes and more tasty treats, all of which happen to be gluten free.
Feast on authentic Greek pastries both sweet (backlava, kataifi, walnut cake) and savory (spinach pies & a variety of cheese pies) plus soups, salads, sandwiches, house-made Greek yogurt and more at this friendly bakery/cafe.
Enjoy scones in rotating flavors as magical as the decor, sandwiches, salads and treats with optional fairy wings and glitter at a whimsical tea house inspired by Alice in Wonderland. Choose from hundreds of teas served in charming mismatching pots and cups. Fairy wings and glitter avaialble. Gets crowded on weekends and reservations only available…
Enjoy scones as magical as the decor, sandwiches, salads and treats with optional fairy wings and glitter at a whimsical tea house inspired by Alice in Wonderland. Choose from hundreds of teas served in charming mismatching pots and cups. Gets crowded on weekends and reservations only available for groups 6+, call ahead or go early…
Choose from salads, sandwiches, amazing healthy artisanal bread and not-so-healthy pastries at the new UWS outpost of the 100+-year-old Orwashers Bakery with counter service and seating.
Choose from an array of premium Asai shaved ice desserts with snow flake toppings based on all 100% natural ingredients such as red beans, berries, and an assortment of fruits
The extensive cheesecake-heavy dessert menu and charming Belle Époque decor lure locals to this cash-only tourist favorite. Dine on salads, sandwiches, pastries and all-day waffles, quiches and omelets or choose from exquisite desserts including 20+ cheesecake flavors, dozens of pies tarts and cakes (including 10 gluten-free options) and jumbo cookies a al a mode. So…
Escape to Ladurée's pastel Parisian wonderland, where the only stress is choosing among the 25+ colorful flavors, from salted caramel to strawberry marshmallow - plus chocolate covered macarons, gelato and more sweet treats. Or sit down in the magical garden for casual yet sophisticated French fare including salads, sandwiches and croissants.
This whimsical, family-owned restaurant features a legendary 900-item menu with dozens of wacky (and delicious) pancakes varieties filled with s'mores or mac n'cheese. Small seating area; expect waits on weekends (but lots to explore in the indoor Essex Market while you wait).
After a year-long project to restore and repair the historic Belvedere, visitors can once again appreciate sweeping views of the Park from its terraces and Castle. The whimsical structure, designed by Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted in 1869 provides the highest and best views of the Park and the adjacent cityscape - plus has…
Candy lovers go bonkers at a whimsical Willy Wonka factory with an oversized lollipop tree, candy cane columns, dripping chocolate shelves, kaleidoscopic candy wallpaper and candy-embedded staircases - it even has a candy-themed soundtrack. Shop over 7,000 confections, including Dylan's Candy Bar (private label) products, a large assortment of rare American nostalgic favorites, novelty items,…
Wild-west decor charms cowboys and cowgirls of all ages at this friendly, casual sit-down West Village establishment. Texas-friendly grub with local fresh ingredients (except for the fritos on the fritos pie) includes an extensive, reasonable ($7-$8) kids menu.
Get a classic NY slice to go at this Greenwich Village institution (established in 1975 ), still owned and operated by 75-year-old Neapolitan native Joe Pozzuoli.
Indulge in Venezuelan fried yumminess (and passion fruit sangria) at the casual Arepas Cafe, small and friendly with wooden tables, string lights on the windows, flags and masks adorning the walls, and soccer playing on the tv by the bar. We recommend the tasting platter.
Feast on a changing roster of inventive noodles, steamed breads, soft serve, and daily dishes from a midtown outpost of David Chang's creative LES Asian fusion cult favorite. Friendly staff and flavorful food. Get a quick bite (and watch the cooking action) at the kitchen counter or sit at tables lunch and dinner in the…
Get some of city's best cookies - signature half pound size treats can be covered in frostings with sprinkles, halved and filled with two scoops of gelato for an amazing ice cream sandwich, or stacked 3x high to make a unique little cookie cake. No on-site seating available.
Nosh on tacos, margaritas, and more in a laid-back, lively setting overlooking the East River at this counter service taco stand owned by Danny Meyer/Union Square Hospitality Group. Winter menu and space heaters keep it going all year long.
This cultish and tiny eatery is hidden behind a curtain in a hotel lobby. Limited menu - just tasty burgers, fries, beer & brownies. Cash only, some seating if you can snag a table. Divey feel - bring a marker to write on the walls.