9 Best Things to do in NYC at Christmas

Just as a forest looks different in summer than it looks in autumn or winter, cities change depending on the time of the year that you choose to visit them on, and sometimes that change feels almost as visiting a whole different city! This is especially true in New York during Christmas season. The city that never sleeps looks like a different world when the holiday season comes in USA after Thanksgiving.

Planning a family trip to New York City can seem daunting at first. The traffic, the expense of a Broadway show and finding accommodations that work for your brood often requires a good bit of scouring the internet. Many travelers head straight to travel sites and blogs that focus on Manhattan, Times Square, 5th Avenue and all the excitement of that area. Most never look further than just that one borough when there is so much more to NYC.

If you widen your map, you'll find the Bronx to be an interesting option filled with family-friendly attractions, dining and accommodations. This multicultural borough on the edges of the Big Apple sits ready to help you make memories, enjoy meals and sleep well throughout your stay. Here are a few lesser-known ideas and options—and some well-known but often overlooked places—for a true New York experience.

New York is really a beautiful winter city. Go skating in Central Park, shop in Brooklyn's winter flea market, visit Hot Chocolate Festival at the City Bakery in Chelsea and experience the Chinese New Year.

Moving in NYC can at times be problematic, especially if you're not familiarized with the public transport options, plus, nothing kills the joy of the season quite as having to take a crowded subway or bus. A good option for sorting through this issue is to rent a car in NYC, as this option gives you much more control over your transportation and time. Sites such as Miles Car Rental can give you the edge when it comes to renting a car, as they provide an ample and varied catalog of cars at the lowest prices.

Interesting Reads: New York City Packing List

things to do in new york city Christmas

Here snow is coupled with the bright lights and shiny ornaments, and so, in this post, we'll explore a few of the most traditional and picturesque Christmas activities in New York.

1. Go Skating on the Rink at Rockefeller Center

Few things scream Christmas in New York! as loud as the skating rink at Rockefeller Center. It's pretty much a city icon during the holiday season so it must be our first stop when coming to New York during the Christmas season. The ice rink opens at Columbus Day weekend, but when the season comes, the Christmas decorations, which feature a ginormous Christmas tree, become the central focus of the experience.

Just imagine skating with friends and family surrounded by the charming lights right at the heart of Manhattan, you don’t get more New York or Christmas than that!

The rink opens for 90-minute skating sessions, every two hours from 8:30 AM until midnight. If you´d like to you can also enjoy a Dinner + Skating plan experience.

2. Shop for curiosities in traditional Flea market near Brooklyn Bridge

This one is less grandiose than Rockefeller Center, but it's very traditional in New York on Christmas season, so you can’t miss it if you love the local traditions. Now, in the Christmas season and more generally during winter, many flea markets are traditionally held in the Brooklyn area.

And yeah, flea markets may not be as glamorous as other shopping venues, but who knows, you might find that particular object that will finally complete your collection… or you know… a cool unique pin.

At the start, this seasonal tradition mainly took place in One Hanson former bank converted into a cool mega flea market, however, this tradition has expanded throughout Brooklyn and now you can find up to 9 different flea market locations. So if you're a fan of flea markets and want to visit them all, do consider renting a car, and again, you can find good prices in Miles Car Rental.

There are even some food flea markets such as Smorgasbord Winter Market at 625 Atlantic Ave, Brooklyn which features many little restaurants that offer unique and delicious artisanal foods.

There are a lot of different pizza styles in the world, and many of them are tasty, but they're not NY pizza. And while it was brought to NY by Neapolitan immigrants, a NY pizza is not a Neapolitan pizza, though some people would like to think so. People swear by San Marzano tomatoes, but the genuine article can be hard to find.

The best NY style pizzas have a well rounded sauce that has a little bit of garlic, a hint of oregano, and a sweetness that comes from long slow cooking, not added sugar. The other secret, of course, is to use a thin layer of sauce, fresh mozzarella, not the low moisture stuff, and no more than two toppings.

It's not a meat eaters orgy of sausage, pepperoni, meatballs, and extra cheese. Its not a deep dish Chicago style pie, which is a wonderful thing in its own right. It's not a grandma pie. It's a delicate balance of toppings and crust, and the crust is the star.

3. Blossoming hot chocolate at Chelsea Market

There are few things as nice as having a cup of hot chocolate during the colder months, and New York knows it as they have plenty of cafes that know how to make a pretty damn good hot chocolate so now we'll see a couple of cafes that you should go to during your Christmas visit to the big apple if you want to taste the sweet, Christmassy flavors of winter.

How do you feel about marshmallows on your hot chocolate? If you like them then you´ll love this bakery as they have a fun little twist on your average marshmallow-topped hot chocolate. In this bakery, instead of your average squares, you'll find a little marshmallow flower that will blossom right in front of you, revealing a little white chocolate truffle at the center of the flower.

It's a quite charming touch and the bakery also has some unique pastries such as the Cronut, a tasty and puzzling fusion between a croissant and doughnut.

If you really want to indulge yourself in the great sugary pleasures of life, you should go to Brooklyn Pharmacy & Soda Fountain. This is an old-time-style soda fountain that celebrates the extremely unhealthy relationship with sugary drinks that our ancestors had back when the soda fountain was the coolest place to be.

The Farmacy's hot chocolate is a messy hot cocoa with salted caramel with additions of whipped cream or toasted marshmallow fluff, and believe me, asking for the gooiest, most sugary hot chocolate in the menu, is being conservative in comparison with the other items in the menu. Sure, it's not going to do any good to your diet, but hey, one tends to gain a few pounds on Christmas season so why not.

Interesting Reads: Festivals in New York City

4. A Very Waldorf Astoria Christmas

In case the types of events mentioned above didn't quite strike your fancy and you prefer to eat-like-a-local, there are hundreds of new eateries opening every day throughout the most multicultural and diverse neighborhoods in Queens. The World Artisan Market is an international market/hall featuring an exclusive selection of ethnic eateries and trendy spots. Bon appetit!

In the US especially after the Christmas Day customers swarm to a customer service at super markets or toy stores. American people return things without any special reason and stores don't ask why. People get a full refund easily. Some stores in the US don't refund money but give you a credit. You have to buy some other thing with the credit at the same store.

5. New York Harbor

New York Harbor is one of the world’s great harbors - it’s huge, it’s got a lot of coastline for piers and port facilities. The main entrance between Staten Island and Brooklyn is easily navigable, and it has secondary entrances into Long Island Sound as well as around the west side of Staten Island. Not only that, but it also has a major river (the Hudson River) that goes inland and that’s navigable for quite a long ways.

6. Roosevelt Island

Roosevelt Island is a unique, quirky little place in the middle of the East River, an island wedged between two of the busiest places in the world. Manhattan lies to the west. The borough of Queens and all of Long Island lies to the east. Between all that hustle and bustle, Roosevelt Island is quiet and peaceful comparatively speaking. It’s actually part of the borough of Manhattan, which in turn is part of New York City.

The well-traveled Queensboro Bridge bypasses the Island, crossing over high above, but one small bridge takes cars from Queens to Roosevelt Island. The famous tram that parallels the Queensboro Bridge is highly recommended for tourists, which gives stellar views of New York, especially at sunset! There is also a subway stop connecting the island to both Manhattan and Queens.

7. Manhattan Bridge

Here, it is an endless celebration of life. The bars stay open until 5 AM and always has a fun crowd willing to chat forever. It is packed with fascinating strangers from all over the world. Many are struggling artists, actors, dancers, musicians, and writers. Everything seems possible here. The area has a sense as if something is about to happen and end up on the evening news and you are afraid to fall asleep and miss it.

8. Eat Hot Dog in Central Park

While not restaurants, the most famous and popular place to eat are the Hot Dog carts everywhere in Central Park. A $2 dog, pretzel, and soda can’t be beat!

9. The Met Cloisters Museum

The Cloisters Museum, part of New York Metropolitan Museum, stands on Fort Tryon Park, a rugged, hilly 20th century park up at the north end of Manhattan. Studded with Hudson River overlooks and deep gorges, it's sure to please. A millionaire bought all the land from riverfront to hilltop so he could build a house with a view, and drive down to his yacht!

John D Rockefeller Jr, who gave New York the United Nations, Rockefeller University and Rockefeller Center, bought the land and had the museum built to resemble an ancient monastery. And what's The Cloisters? A museum meant to physically evoke religious buildings of Europe's Middle Ages. It's filled with ancient art treasures from all over the continent, from Greece to Ireland.

Among all the splendid pieces of medieval art are all of the original Unicorn Tapestries! You've seen photos of these all your life. Now come up and see the real thing. Fort Tryon Park was also the scene of the last Revolutionary War battle fought in Manhattan. A cannoneer was shot to death, but his widow sprang up to take over his position.

Margaret Corbin thus became the first woman to fight in the American military. Her memorial is here. She is buried at the US Army Academy at West Point, farther upriver.

And there you have it. If you're going to travel this Christmas season do consider making a little trip to New York. But believe me, this little list is only an appetizer compared to all the other wonderful things to do and see in New York, so go out there and explore!
Kalyan Panja