A few years ago, we traveled to New York City to see the Christmas Spectacular with the Rockettes. Our first time at the iconic event was, well, spectacular. The music, dancing, special effects, and “snow” made it a magical performance.

A LOT of people travel to New York City over the holiday season. The city is an endless source of excitement and fun and made more so by the decorations, special events, and the hustle and bustle of the holidays.

While Rockefeller Center is an exciting addition to a holiday trip, NYC offers tons of family events way beyond a giant Christmas tree. To help you plan, here are six fun things to do in NYC over the holidays. Let’s go!

New York Botanical Garden’s Holiday Train Show

Bronx Park
2900 Southern Blvd.
November 23, 2019 – January 26, 2020

Visitors to the Botanical Gardens experience an amazing half-mile train display that includes Coney Island, the Brooklyn Bridge, Statue of Liberty, and Rockefeller Center. The 250-acre botanical garden also hosts a cappella performances, winter concerts, and children’s events. Buy tickets in advance and visit early in the season or during the week to avoid the massive crowds.

Santaland

Macy’s at Herald Square
34th Street, 8th Floor

Since 1980, more than 200,000 people have visited Santaland in Macy’s Herald Square location. “America’s Largest Department Store” hosts the unbelievable 13,000 square foot Santaland from Thanksgiving week until December 26th.  The North Pole village includes tons of elves, an enchanted forest, a train display, and of course, Santa. Reservations are required to see the man in red at the Herald Square store, and the online reservation portal opens on November 25th.  Click here for more information.

Ice Skating Rinks

Central Park has two rinks for skating, Wollman Rink (located between 62nd and 63rd Street) and Lasker Rink (situated between 106th and 108th Street). A bit of trivia, the Wollman Rink was featured in the movies “Love Story” and “Serendipity.” Both charge admission fees.

Bryant Park offers free admission to its 170-by-100 foot rink. Skate rentals are available, and the park hosts skating shows and special events throughout the season.

And the granddaddy of them all, Rockefeller Center….

Experts recommend arriving before 8:30 am or purchasing a VIP skate package to avoid the lines (otherwise, expect at least a one hour wait in the cold). It’s also possible to buy a “Breakfast with Santa” or “Radio City Christmas Spectacular” package that includes ice skating.

LuminoCity Festival 

Do you love elaborate holiday light displays? This year, a brand new event is taking place on Randalls Island that will satisfy your love of bright lights. With 12-acres of beautiful (and enormous) light displays, visitors are sure to find something to delight. Climb a castle, visit CandyLand, or the world of Willy Wonka, see glowing unicorns, rainbows, and animals, both real and mythical. The event is a feast for the eyes and stomach with food stalls and holiday market included.  Buy your tickets in advance, or you might miss out.

Christmas Shopping and Pop-Up Markets

  • Grand Central Terminal annual holiday fair hosts 40 unique pop-up shops. Open until Dec. 24
  • Columbus Circle Holiday Market near Central Park.  Nov. 28 – Dec. 24
  • Union Square Holiday Market with 150 vendors selling handcrafted gifts, plus fantastic food vendors. Nov. 15 – Dec. 24
  • Winter Village at Bryant Park is like a European open-air holiday market with a 17,000 square-foot ice-skating rink. Opens after Halloween.

Brooklyn’s Dyker Heights 

Remember the movie Deck the Halls? Yeah, me neither. How about Christmas Vacation? Well, picture the Griswold’s house and spread its glory all over this neighborhood in Brooklyn. A bus tour is an excellent way to see this world-famous spectacle of a million twinkling lights and massive inflatables.

New Year Firecracker Ceremony & Cultural Festival 

For those who want more, celebrate Chinese New Year beginning on January 25th and running through February. Chinatown comes alive with dragons, dancers, parades, and amazing food as it marks the new year.

A few bonus ideas:

  • Check out the holiday window displays at Barneys, Bloomingdales, Macy’s, and Saks Fifth Avenue.
  • Visit with Scrooge and Tiny Tim in a Christmas Carol playing at the Lyceum Theatre.
  • If dancing toys are more your thing, see The Nutcracker performed by the New York City Ballet at Lincoln Center.
  • Visit Gingerbread Lane, an intricate display of shops and landmarks that takes nine months to plan and construct at New York Hall of Science.

Dress warm and enjoy! And remember, every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings.