Rockefeller Christmas tree

The Top 10 Family-Friendly Holiday Activities in New York City


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Add these Christmas festivities in New York City to your family’s vacation plans for a fun and festive winter visit. These holiday events will awe visitors of all ages, with spectacular window displays and iconic shows to one of the world’s most glamorous Christmas trees. Pack your luggage and come discover the top ten holiday activities in New York City.

Rockefeller Christmas tree
Photo by Alex Haney on Unsplash

Rockefeller Center

Rockefeller Center is well-known as the New York headquarters of NBC and the setting for shows such as 30 Rock and Saturday Night Live. It is also the epicenter of holiday cheer in New York City.

From Fifth Avenue to 30 Rock, look for cheerful floral displays among the fountains. For decades, the Channel Gardens has decorated with themed installations made of live flowers and other plants. The spectacular scenery changes with the seasons. The highlight at Christmastime is a collection of beautiful lighted angels.

Make a photo stop in front of the world-famous Christmas tree, the stunning centerpiece at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. This massive tree, which can grow to be up to 100 feet tall, makes its annual appearance in early December and remains lit until the New Year.

The Top of the Rock observation deck offers great views of the city’s skyline if you want to see it decked out in its winter finest from above.


Ice Skating in New York City

Wollman Skating Rink
Photo by Yomex Owo on Unsplash

Ice skating in the city is one of the most iconic NYC holiday activities. The Rink at Rockefeller Center is the most popular (and most expensive) option. This rink provides one of the city’s classic holiday scenes, placed in front of Rockefeller Center’s Christmas Tree and the larger-than-life bronze Prometheus sculpture. Consider buying your tickets in advance to ensure a spot on the ice, and try to go off-peak to avoid crowds.

Two other skating options are certain to please holiday revelers in New York. The beautiful Bank of America Winter Village Rink in Bryant Park is free (just pay for skates) and has nearby snack and christmas shopping options. Meantime, Wollman Rink in Central Park provides breathtaking panoramas of the city.

Department Store Holiday Displays and Santa Visits

While in New York City for the holidays, you must visit the famous department store windows and in-store displays. Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman, Bloomingdale’s, Barneys New York, Tiffany & Co., and Macy’s have the best Christmas window displays in New York City.

Families as well enjoy Santaland at Macy’s. This elaborate indoor winter wonderland has long lines and extravagant decorations. Check out ABC Carpet & Home’s Santa display for a more low-key and fast-paced Santa experience. Check out Mommy Poppins’ list for more places to see the jolly old elf in NYC.

Rockettes at the Radio City Christmas Spectacular

Don’t miss The Rockettes Celebration or the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. For good reason, this annual stage production has been a holiday tradition since 1933. The show has evolved to include 3-D effects, technological tricks, amazing costumes, and stunning backdrops. The famous dancers, on the other hand, truly steal the show. Consider purchasing your tickets right away!

New York City Holiday Shopping

During the holiday season, it’s common to see tourists walking down the streets of New York City carrying numerous shopping bags. If you have a family who enjoys shopping, you should join in on the Fifth Avenue fun. The Lego Store, American Girl Place, and Build-A-Bear are among the favorites of children. Parents should also visit the renowned department stores and jewelry stores in New York City. There are also several pop-up Christmas markets throughout the city featuring art, unique gifts, and tasty treats.

Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden

Head to Brooklyn for the unique New York Botanical Garden Holiday Train Show for one of the hottest holiday tickets in town. More than 150 miniature replicas of famous New York City landmarks, including the Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge, and Rockefeller Center, will be passed by model trains. Aside from the trains, families enjoy special tours, musical performances, and activities for kids. For this well-attended event, be sure to make reservations in advance. It runs mid-November through mid-January so you can go after the holidays and miss the crowds, depending on when you’ll be in NYC.

Christmas carriage ride in New York

A snowy carriage ride in Central Park
A snowy carriage ride in Central Park

What could be more joyous than riding in a horse-drawn carriage while viewing the city’s holiday lights and decorations? Start by taking a tour of Central Park, passing by attractions like the park’s carousel and the Wollman Skating Rink. Then stroll down Fifth Avenue to see how festively decorated the department stores are. Keep on to Rockefeller Center to see the city’s renowned Christmas tree. Since a Christmas carriage ride is a well-liked New York City holiday activity, make sure to reserve your ride in advance.

Holiday Tea or Hot Cocoa

In one of the city’s renowned restaurants or tea shops, warm up with a hot beverage. Make reservations at well-liked establishments like Alice’s Tea Cup, the Russian Tea Room, or The Palm Court at The Plaza if you’d like a full afternoon tea with finger sandwiches, scones with jam, and tiers of tiny treats. If you’d prefer to embrace the cold, order a frosty cup of Serendipity 3’s renowned Frozen Hot Chocolate.


Christmas Lights Tour of Brooklyn’s Dyker Heights

Christmas tree in amusement park
Photo by sergio souza on Pexels

Meryl Pearlstein, a New Yorker and author of Travel Food and Notes, suggests attending the Dyker Heights Christmas Lights Bus Tour in Brooklyn for a truly breathtaking show. Riders are astounded by the amazing inflatable and animated figurines and thousands of lights used to decorate homes for the holidays. The bus tours leave from Manhattan and return after 3.5 to 4 hours.

The Nutcracker by the New York City Ballet

Any trip to New York City is special, but it’s even more so around the holidays to see some of the best performers in the nation live on stage. The Nutcracker Ballet, with music and choreography by George Balanchine, is performed by the New York City Ballet, one of the most renowned ballet companies in the world, at Lincoln Center in Midtown. George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker is one of the most intricately staged and theatrical ballets in the Company’s current repertory, according to The performance features 90 dancers, 62 musicians, 40 stagehands, and more than 125 children in two alternating casts.

Additionally, from Manhattan to the Bronx, Brooklyn, and beyond — there are several other Nutcracker options sure to delight visitors to the city.

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