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If, like us, you plan to do a self-guided photo tour of the best Christmas decorations in New York, our festive article will guide you from Central Park down to the Financial District and then over to Brooklyn!
Alternatively, you can join a Christmas light tour in NYC like this one with a local guide.
Or, if you are just here to get lost in the magical holiday windows and winter scenes, welcome!
NYC’s Magical Holiday Decoration Locations
Tavern on the Green
Sipping a white wine at the round bar of Tavern on the Green after a wintery walk through Central Park was one of my NYC in December highlights.
The entrance greets visitors with garlands and fairy lights, and the decor continues all the way through the restaurant to the outdoor seating area.
We arrived at opening time and managed to squeeze in at the bar, but if you plan to dine it is best to book ahead.
Tavern on the Green is open on Christmas Day.
Columbus Circle Holiday Market
After a stint skating in Wollman Rink in Central Park, you may want to warm up with a hot snack from Columbus Circle Holiday Market.
It’s also an excuse to start your holiday shopping!
The Shops at Columbus Circle
Just over the road from the Holiday Market is The Shops at Columbus Circle, an indoor shopping mall with restaurants, restrooms, and Christmas decorations.
Look out for the Colombian artist Fernando Botero’s 12-foot-tall sculptures, Adam and Eve.
Cartier Fifth Avenue Mansion
Red drapes and complimentary warm lights; does it get any more classic than the Cartier Mansion storefront (653 5th Ave)?
Each year, the 1905 Midtown building produces a different look, which is always elegant and chic.
If you have the funds to holiday shop here, reserve an appointment before arrival.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
The 200+-year-old Neo-Gothic-style Roman Catholic St Patrick’s Cathedral (5th Ave between 50th/51st St) is one of the historical landmarks worth checking out for tasteful wreaths above its arched door and ruscus garlands climbing the entrance.
Visitors may wish to attend mass at St. Patrick’s or do a self-guided audio tour narrated by Cardinal Timothy Dolan.
Saks Fifth Avenue
For something a little more immersive, shimmy on over to Saks (611 5th Ave) to see an animated Christmas light show in NYC.
The colorful story is often set to music, a wee pocket of sensory joy.
This is one of the best-known Christmas light shows in NYC, so expect crowds.
Rockefeller Christmas Tree
Undeniably, the Rockefeller scene with the Christmas tree overlooking the ice rink is the busiest spot on our New York holiday decorations guide.
The tree was first put up by workers who financed it themselves in 1931!
Since then, the landscape has been featured in Christmas movies such as Home Alone 2 and Elf.
You can get a bit more of a crowd-free picture from the other side of the rink, but it doesn’t include the iconic Prometheus statue.
First-time visitors may want to book a ticket for the Rockefeller Top of the Rock experience, too.
You may also find our guide to ice skating rinks around the city useful.
Radio City Music Hall
The Roxy (1260 6th Ave) was built in 1932 as part of the Rockefeller Center construction, and today, it is home to the seasonal sensation, The Rockettes, who take to the stage every winter.
Fox Square Christmas Tree
The ticker tape is not the only thing illuminating 6th Ave this season; the Fox News Tree (211 6th Ave), with its signature red star, also shines bright.
Did you know that this tree located outside of the channel’s Midtown headquarters is fireproof?
In 2021, the tree was torched by a perpetrator known to the NYPD.
A tasty treat straight out of a festive storybook can be found at the plaza next to the MLB NYC flagship store (1271 6th Ave).
These giant candy canes would fit right in at The Land of Sweets from the Nutcracker.
Avenue of Americas Christmas Tree
Edging on the side of OTT, which we are here for, is the Avenue of Americas Christmas Tree (1221 Avenue of the Americas).
This arch and fairy light display is one of the newer additions to the Christmas sites to see in NYC list.
Giant Red Ornaments
The Giant Red Ornaments (1251 6th Ave) need no introduction; those visiting for the first time have most likely seen the timeless symbol of holiday decorations in photos and on social media.
The Radio Hall Fountain that the red balls sit on changes color so you can get a variety of photos.
The cool blue contrasts nicely with the red pop of the baubles.
Times Square Holiday Market
Even if you’re not sticking around for the New Year’s Eve party, you can still get something out of Times Square by visiting the holiday market nestled among the big screens.
If you are around the area close to 11:57pm, swing by the square to experience the Midnight Moment, where digital artists take over the electronic billboards, one of the more unique things to do in the neighborhood.
Frosty’s Christmas Pop-Up
Frosty’s (220 W 44th St) is a favorite among the Gen Z and Millennial crowd for its elaborate decor and DJs.
There are also plenty of photo ops for those who prefer to be in front of the camera.
Guests love the party vibe but not the entrance fee.
Close to Times Square, the Moxy Hotel’s rooftop bar (485 7th Ave) is transformed into a winter display with lots of photo opportunities for friends!
Look out for the cheeky shrubs as you leave the elevator.
Bryant Park puts on quite the show for its official tree lighting, where professional ice skaters perform at the Holiday Village ice rink!
The park is home to a holiday market, boutiques, and igloos for private dining/drinking.
Note: Bryant Park is very busy at Christmastime.
Macy’s – The Home of Santa Claus
We all know Macy’s (Herald Square, 151 W 34th St) from its role in the charming movie Miracle of 34th Street, where the store was used as a real filming location!
The storefront always goes all out with decorations, and the toys in the holiday windows at the Broadway side of the historic building have kids captivated.
Like many of the Midtown Christmas decoration spots, Macy’s is very busy, but there are seats just outside the front of the store if you need a breather.
If visiting during Thanksgiving, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade ends at Macy’s Herald Square.
Grand Central Terminal
A little more subtle than many of the decorations above, the Grand Central Terminal tree stands with a classic look, welcoming commuters and visitors.
There is also a Holiday Fair that takes place in the Vanderbilt Hall.
Sant Ambroeus West Village
It’s not just the big atractions that encourage a festive mood in NYC; many bars and restaurants deck their entrances, too.
Sant Ambroeus West Village (259 West 4th St) offers outdoor heated seating among its wreaths and lights!
Lillie’s Victorian Establishment
One of the NYC Christmas holiday bars that you will have to line up for is Lillie’s Victorian Establishment (13 E 17th St).
Decorations leap off the facade of this casual dining bar, and soldiers greet you at the door; it’s almost as if someone has vomited lights, ornaments, and greenery in the nicest possible way!
Drinks are served at the bar on a first-come, first-served basis, and food reservations can be made online.
Lillie’s isn’t just for Christmas! This holiday bar also does Halloween and other themes, such as Alice in Wonderland; kitsch yet cute.
Union Square Holiday Market
Close to Lillie’s is the largest holiday market in NYC, Union Square.
150+ vendors snake around the park, selling homeware, clothing, jewelry, and crafts.
There are also popular local restaurants doing pop-up style dining, which is great as it means you get to try lots of types of food without having to commit to a sit-down meal.
Washington Square Park
If wandering through Greenwich Village, drop by Washington Square Park to see the understated fir tree framed by the marble memorial arch.
This is the city’s second-longest tree lighting service, which has taken place since 1924, usually kicking off festivities in the first week in December with music and the big switch on.
Check this season’s dates on Facebook.
Washington Square Door Decor
Lining the park at Washington Square North is “The Row”, a series of Greek Revival homes built in the 1833.
Gas-style lamps, iron fences, red brick walls, and a wreath make the perfect canvas for a vintage feel Christmas image.
Just add some carol singers…
SATC Fans Tip: The Carrie Bradshaw apartment (66 Perry Street ) is less than a 15 minute walk from here, residents at the private property have a charity collection box on its famous stoop.
White Oak Tavern
Another one of my personal favorites is the low-key White Oak Tavern (21 Waverly Pl).
This delightful space keeps it traditional with red velvet ribbons and ports of poinsettia that match its red drapes.
There’s also a casual menu of burgers, pies, and salads, and for dessert – winter warmers such as cobbler and sticky toffee pudding.
Miracle on 9th Street
Another Christmas bar that requires some preparation and commitment to get into is Miracle on 9th Street (649 E 9th St).
The pop-up pub’s reservations book out early, but walk-ins who don’t mind propping up the bar can line up from opening.
We did this mid-week and managed to get a drink without bother.
Expect a succinct menu of Christmas alcoholic cheer served in jolly mugs that punters can buy as a souvenir.
New York Stock Exchange
Since 1923, the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) Christmas Tree (11 Wall St) has been brightening up the area known for business.
The tree-lighting ceremony is accompanied by live performances and free products from some of the companies listed on the stock market.
Check the official site for dates.
Chanukah at the NYSE
Another event that takes place at the New York Stock Exchange is the lighting of the Menorah for Hanukkah.
Some of the city’s oldest and best bars are located around the Financial District, and over the past few years, they have taken full advantage of decoration opportunities in December!
The three-story Broadstone Bar & Kitchen (88 Broad St) strings garland, fairy lights, and wreaths to the interior and exterior of its building.
New York’s oldest bar, built in 1762, Fraunces Tavern (54 Pearl St) is bustling all year round with revelers checking out the listed building that served many of the Founding Fathers.
Live music is another big draw.
There are lots of nooks and crannies to this pub, perfect for an intimate experience appreciating New York’s Christmas decorations!
Jingle Jangle Christmas
Close to Fraunces Tavern is the five-story (three of which are open to the public), 19th-century townhouse Irish pub, The Dead Rabbit (30 Water St), which transforms one of its rooms into a Christmas bar called Jingle Jangle.
The pop-up celebrates as many Irish families do, with lots of sing song and, of course, spirit!
While you can reserve a table if you want to guarantee a seat, you do have more chance of walk-ins here compared to Rolf’s or Miracle bars.
Santa’s Winter Wonderland at Watermark
Watermark at Pier 15 (78 South Street) goes for a different spin on the popular igloo bar by offering cozy entertainment experiences in heated glasshouses!
The compact culinary space has views over Brooklyn Bridge, where our guide is heading next!
Reservations are required.
If you are visiting the city that never sleeps just to see the lights, you will be well aware that the best holiday decorations in NYC are located at Dyker Heights in Brooklyn.
A bold statement, some may say, but honestly, some of the residents between 83rd Street (image one) and 84th Street (image two) / 10th and 12th Avenues have been growing their collection since the 1980s.
If doing a self-guided Christmas decor tour, aim to arrive in Dyker Heights as soon as it turns dark to avoid the bus tours; around 100,000 people visit each year.
Brooklyn is a completely separate borough from Manhattan, where most visitors stay, so you do need to use the subway, which takes around one hour to get there, getting off at 79th St and New Utrecht Ave (D Train), then walking for 20 minutes until you see the lights!
Alternatively, order an Uber or join a tour with transport like this one.
A huge thanks to our friends at A Brooklyn Guide for showing us around; check out their detailed guide to Dkyer Heights lights.
Grinchy’s at Roberta’s
Roberta’s (261 Moore St), the Bushwick institution has been serving Neapolitan-style pizza since the late 2000s.
Part of the shack-like restaurant becomes Grinchy’s, the holiday tikki bar and restaurant, in December.
Locals love Leyenda in Carroll Gardens (221 Smith St), which slides into Sleyenda in late November!
Expect a festive menu with some drinks delivered by sexy Santa boot.
While the elaborate decor changes from fall to festive at this Bay Ridge, Brooklyn staple, the budget-friendly menu stays consistent at Skinflints (7902 5th Ave)!
I personally recommend the breaded chicken escalope for a hearty winter meal.
Frequently Asked Questions
When is the best time to see the NYC Christmas decorations?
Official tree lighting dates vary each year, but they tend to happen after Thanksgiving, which is celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November.
Lights and holiday windows stay up until New Year’s Eve.
What are the best neighborhoods to see Christmas decorations in NYC?
Most of the walkable holiday decorations are clustered around Midtown Manhattan, but a trip to Brooklyn’s Dyker Heights is well worth it to see the houses at Christmas.
Where are the best locations in New York City to view Christmas decorations?
5th and 6th Avenue and Dkyer Heights.
What is the best time to visit popular attractions to avoid crowds?
Early morning weekday viewings see the fewest crowds. Use reservation options where applicable.
Are there guided tours for Christmas in NYC?
Yes, this one is a four hour Brooklyn and Bryant Park tour with private transport included.
Did we miss out any Christmas decor in NYC that you enjoy? Tell us in the comments.
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