36 Magical Things to Do in New York on Christmas Day

This article has links to products and services we love, which we may make commission from.

Are you planning a trip to New York on Christmas Day?

Countless films have depicted the city blanketed in snow (although a white Christmas is pretty rare), lit up with lights and decorated trees and creative window displays, and if you’ve yet to see it in person, there’s no time like the present!

The quintessential Christmas experience is something everyone needs to do at least once in their lifetime.

NYC is always crowded, but there are an estimated extra 5 million people who visit between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve and you’ll want to keep a few things in mind before you go.

Where applicable, you’ll want to book all tickets and organize all reservations with as much notice as possible.

Also, be mindful that even if Google Maps says it will take 20 minutes to get somewhere, it will most likely take longer as all taxis, public transport, and even the streets will be filled to capacity most of the time. 

Also, even if it isn’t a white Christmas, be prepared for some cold (30-40F) and potentially very wet weather.

Waterproof shoes and extra socks are a good idea, and external battery packs for your phone will come in handy when the cold temperatures drain your phone’s battery faster.

Want more ideas about what to do in New York in December? Check out this guide.

And enjoy some fun winter day trips from the city before or after the big day.

All of the Fun Things to Do in New York on Christmas Day

What is Open on Christmas Day in New York

Finding things to do in NYC on Christmas Day might seem tricky; government buildings, public libraries, and iconic NYC spots like the Statue of Liberty are closed.

However, there are plenty of outdoor public spaces open and various indoor ones too that you’ll still have plenty to fill up your day.

Plus, almost everything is open the day before, so you can find lots of fun things to do on Christmas Eve in NYC too.

The Rink at Rockefeller Center

The Rink at Rockefeller Center (600 5th Avenue) is one of the most beloved Christmas spots in NYC and the site of many romantic proposals. 

Take a spin around the rink, and you’ll feel like you’re in an NYC Christmas film.

Looking for more places to do ice skating in NYC? Check this guide.

Crowds skate at lower plaza ice skating arena of Rockefeller Center during Christmas Manhattan New York City.

Central Park

Central Park in New York at Christmas can be a picture-perfect snowy dream come true, and when that happens, you’ll want to head to the popular sledding spot, Pilgrim Hill (72nd St and 5th Ave).

Central pPark covered in snow during winter in Manhattan in New York City.

While gondola season is over in December, you can still take in Central Park Lake, the second-largest body of water, from The Loeb Boathouse, which offers a Christmas Day menu.

The lack of leaves on the trees makes seeing the architecture popping through a little easier!

You may also like our NYC bucket list featuring Central Park and other famous NYC attractions.

Boats on water at pond in Central Park in NYC. Bridge lined with trees.

Wollman Rink

Wollman Rink (830 5th Ave) is located inside Central Park and is the place to go for ice skating with a view that never gets old.

Christmas Day is classified as prime for traffic (off-peak tends to be midweek outside of the holidays), so plan to arrive early to avoid disappointment.

Skate and locker rental are available at the ice rink.

If visiting with kids, there are also skate aids for rental.

Crowds ice skating at Wollman Rink in Central Park with building peering through trees in background

Museums Open on Christmas Day NYC

Unfortunately, very few museums are open on Christmas Day, although most have at least abbreviated hours on Christmas Eve, the day after Christmas, or both.

There are still a few you can visit to get out of the cold and experience some classic NYC culture. 

If you’re looking for some of the best indoor NYC activities, read this guide.

The Jewish Museum

The Jewish Museum (1109 5th Ave) is one of the oldest Jewish museums in the world and has over 30,000 items that display the vibrancy of Jewish art and culture. 

Madame Tussauds 

Madame Tussauds (234 W 42nd St), the infamous wax museum, is a menagerie of some of the best-known celebrities and a great chance to snap a selfie with a “famous” person- get your tickets here.

The Jewish Children’s Museum

The Jewish Children’s Museum (792 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn) brings history and adventure together for children and adults as they explore Jewish traditions and customs.

South Street Seaport Museum

South Street Seaport Museum (12 Fulton Street) tells the story of “Where New York Began” through libraries, galleries, art, a working 19th-century print shop, and a fleet of historic vessels.

NYC Attractions Open on Xmas Day

If you want to see the best sights and views, many famous attractions are open on Christmas Day in New York City.

It’s one of the best times to get a bird’s eye view of the city because there’s never a time when it’s more lit up during the day and night.

Just be sure to get your tickets as soon as possible, so you don’t end up disappointed.

Empire State Building

The Empire State Building (20 W 34th St) is one of New York’s best-known buildings, and while it is great to visit the 102-story Art Deco building all year round, it’s extra special at Christmas.

You can see the world-famous tower lights shine throughout the holiday season including Christmas day.

Get your tickets here.

Empire State Building night. NYC New York

One World Observatory

One World Observatory (117 West St) has the unique perspective of showing the entire city.

It is situated at the bottom of Manhattan, so you can see all of the city lit up (like a Christmas tree!).

Get your skip-the-line tickets here.

One World Trade Center Tower (AKA Freedom Tower) over Hudson River viewed from New Jersey

Top of the Rock

Top of the Rock (30 Rockefeller Plaza) offers three levels of indoor and outdoor observation decks and has the perfect vantage point for prime viewing of the 5th Avenue illuminations.

Take a self-guided tour of the place and see the breathtaking views of New York from 850 ft above the ground.

Top of Rock view including Empire State Building

Edge Observation Deck

Another great way to spend Christmas day in NYC is to take a tour of the highest observation deck in the city and see the entire Manhattan skyline from 1100 feet up.

The Edge Observation Deck (30 Hudson Yards) not only offers a unique view of NYC- its glass floors also let you see 100 stories beneath your feet.

Looking for more observation decks in New York? Then check this guide.

Edge Observation Deck on a blue sky day in NYC

Dyker Heights

Dyker Heights is a neighborhood in Brooklyn that knows how to show its Christmas spirit, and its holiday displays are out of this world.

You can visit the place through a 4-hour bus tour with a guide that will take you to some of the most illuminated spots in the area.

Stores Open Christmas Day NYC

Sadly, most famous stores such as Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale’s, Bergdorf Goodman, and many popular chain stores like H&M, Zara, and Forever 21 aren’t open on Christmas Day.

The good news is that all these amazing NYC shops are open on Christmas Eve for your last-minute shopping needs, along with the many Christmas markets around the city open throughout December.

You’ll have dozens of opportunities to find the perfect gift at the NYC markets open on Christmas Day, so you can browse or spend some of that Christmas money burning a hole in your pocket.

The Market at Westfield World Trade Center

The Market at Westfield World Trade Center (185 Greenwich St) is an indoor winter wonderland with dozens of shops offering souvenirs, food, gifts, and many photo ops.

Bank of America Winter Village 

Bank of America Winter Village (42nd St and 5th Ave) has a European-inspired open-air holiday market with dozens of vendors, NYC’s only free admission ice skating rink, and a cozy lodge to warm up and enjoy some delicious food and drink.

Christmas Day Events in NYC

Just because the city doesn’t do as much on Christmas Day doesn’t mean you can’t! You might find that the quieter feel of Christmas Day just means that you can see and do more in a day than you normally would with the normal crowds and craziness.

Sticking until the New Year’s Eve? Read this guide.

Chicago the Musical

Chicago the Musical (219 W 49th St) is one of the longest-running shows on Broadway and one of the many Broadway shows that run on Christmas Day.

Get your tickets here and see for yourself why it has won 9 awards.

New York Knicks

The New York Knicks playing in Madison Square Garden (4 Pennsylvania Plaza) on Christmas Day is a true holiday tradition. 

Tickets might not be easy (or cheap) to get, but there’s no better way to spend Xmas in NYC for any sports fan than at a Knicks game.

Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes

The Christmas Spectacular starring the Radio City Rockettes has been the ultimate Christmas show since 1933 and is great fun for the whole family.

You can watch the annual show at the Radio City Music Hall (1260 6th Ave).

Radio City Music Hall sign lit up at night

Christmas Day NYC restaurants

Restaurants love to get in the Christmas spirit, and fortunately for you, several places are open on Christmas Day in New York.

Many will offer special pre-fixe menus or fun-themed cocktails, but you should prepare to make reservations where possible or be prepared to potentially wait outside. 

Alternatively, if you try to go during non-peak hours, you might have more luck finding your Christmas Day dinner in NYC.

Lillie’s Victorian Establishment

Lillie’s Victorian Establishment (13 East 17th Street) is an Irish pub set in the Victorian era that is transformed in the holiday season with a menu just as festive as the decor.

Tavern on the Green

Tavern on the Green (67th Street & Central Park West) offers a prix fixe menu for Christmas breakfast, lunch, or dinner to enjoy under the twinkling lights while looking out onto Central Park.

Rolf’s German Restaurant

Rolf’s German Restaurant (281 3rd Ave) is the place to go if you want to see Christmas decorations. 

Their holiday decor is up from September until April, but since they don’t take reservations, get there early and prepare to wait outside in the cold. 

Miracle

Miracle (649 E 9th St) is a Christmas pop-up bar with the most amazing themed cocktails and decor, and you can even take home one of their quirky drinkware cups as a souvenir.

Wo Hop

Wo Hop (17 Mott St. Basement) has been an NYC icon since 1938 and is where the locals go for their Christmas dinner – but they don’t take reservations, so don’t wait until the last minute and grab a cup of coffee to keep you warm as you wait outside.

L’Express

L’Express (249 Park Ave S) is a 24-hour French restaurant that might be under the radar for a Christmas dinner in NYC but is the perfect atmosphere for a relaxed and less tourist-filled evening.

The View

The View (1535 Broadway) is inside the Marriott Hotel in Times Square and is the only revolving restaurant in NYC where you’ll take in the 360-degree views while eating your Christmas dinner.

Serendipity 3

Serendipity 3 (225 E 60th St), made famous from the film Serendipity, is best known for its frozen hot chocolate but offers all sorts of eats and treats.

Christmas Day Parade in NYC

There is no Christmas Day parade, but you could certainly conduct your own and take advantage of fewer people gawping at the city’s best decorations.

Fifth Avenue is world renowned for its window displays, pop-up illuminations, and other various decorations.

Follow this path through midtown, and you’ll hit all the major spots – plus, it might be one of the best free Christmas Day activities in NYC.

New York Public Library 

Starting at the New York Public Library (476 5th Ave), you’ll see the two stone lions, Patience and Fortitude, decorated in their holiday best.

Saks Fifth Avenue

 A 10-minute walk up 5th Ave will bring you to Saks Fifth Avenue (6115th Ave), where you can see the artful window displays and watch the mesmerizing light show set to Carol of the Bells.

Lit up Saks Fifth Ave Christmas lights.

Rockefeller Center

On the other side of the street stands Rockefeller Center (30 Rockefeller Plaza), where you’ll see The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree and can rest amongst the angels in the Channel Gardens.

Tiffany & Co.

Continue up 5th Ave until you reach Tiffany & Co. (6 E 57th St) and can peer into “The Magical Windows of Tiffany” and get an iconic Audrey Hepburn-inspired photo.

Bergdorf Goodman

Just around the corner to Bergdorf Goodman (754 5th Ave) to see their most high fashion window displays.

Bloomingdale’s

A short walk east to Bloomingdale’s (1000 3rd Ave) to gaze upon this infamous department store’s colorful and creative window displays.

Cartier 

The 15-minute walk to Cartier (653 5th Ave) offers ample time to gawk at the gorgeous street illuminations until you come upon the 5-story mansion wrapped up like the perfect Christmas gift.

Christmas Balls and Lights

Just over a 5-minute walk, head west to the Christmas Balls and Lights (1255 6th Ave), a prime spot to take the perfect photo to use on next year’s Christmas card.

Giant Red Ornament Sculpture

And just a few steps further down 50th Street and you’ll see the giant red ornament sculpture (1251 6th Ave) just across the Radio City Music Hall.

Big red bauble Christmas decor at the fountain plaza at 1251 Avenue of the Americas (Sixth Avenue) NYC

Macy’s Herald Square

Finally, walk 15 minutes to the ultimate Christmas destination in NYC, Macy’s Herald Square (151 W 34th St) and see the animated windows come to life. 

Don’t forget to take a photo of the illuminated “Believe” sign to keep the spirit alive year-round.

Boxing Day New York

Boxing Day isn’t celebrated in America, and you won’t find anything catering to it specifically.

However, almost every shop you enter will have major sales, and it is a great chance to do some holiday shopping. 

The day after Christmas, you can head to shops like Macy’s Herald Square, Saks Fifth Avenue, or Bloomingdale’s to find items on sale like shoes, clothes, jewelry, and more.

Final Thoughts

Experiencing Xmas Day in New York is a bucket list moment for so many people.

Everything from the lights to the display to the trees is a dazzling experience for anyone, especially if it is your first time in the Big Apple.

Even if some of your favorite spots are closed for the holiday, you’ll still find many incredible things to do in NYC on Christmas Day.

For ideas on fun things to do in NYC year-round, read this guide.

Enjoy Our NYC Travel Guides

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.