New York is pretty amazing year-round, but there’s one time in particular you have to experience at least once: the winter holiday season.
Whatever you celebrate, if you’re into spectacular lights, candy cane cocktails, and gasp-inducing performances, you’ll find something to do in this veritable smorgasbord of metropolitan festivity.
From champagne toasting at Brooklyn boutiques to gazing at holiday window displays, there’s a lot to choose from. We’ve even got acrobats in Santa hats! Grab a mug of cocoa and your social calendar. Then scroll for some fun and festive things to do in NYC this holiday season.
Note: This list will be added to as the season progresses! Got a tip? Comment below or email me!
Image: Alix of Bohemia
RAC (Random Acts of Creativity), a traveling storefront, is hosting a holiday pop-up featuring a range of creative designers and artists from around the world. The pop-up will include men’s & women’s clothing (including one of my fave brands, Alix of Bohemia), accessories, artwork, home décor, musical performances, and interactive designs. See a full list of designers here.
Random Acts of Creativity Winter Pop Up @ 345 Broome Street. Friday, December 2 @ 12:00 pm. Get the full details here.
Image: Bushwick Daily
Get your photo taken with your Brooklyn family (which could be your roommates, no judgment) while awkwardly trying to hold your furry friends. Bushwick Bark’s Awkward Family Holiday Pet Photoshoot is back, and the results are destined to be hysterical. Dress code? Ugly Christmas sweater, obvs. Booze will be served.
Bushwick Bark’s Awkward Family Holiday Pet Photoshoot @ Precious Metal, 143 Troutman St. Sunday, December 4 @ 2:00PM. RSVP & more info here.
Image: Brooklyn Ballet
This NY-tastic version of the Nutcracker fuses many genres of dance and draws inspiration from a range of cultural backgrounds to create something entirely new. Expect ballet, hip-hop, and different genres of world dance to grace the stage.
The Nutcracker @ The Brooklyn Ballet. Showing December 7th—1th. 160 Schermerhorn Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201. Click here for performances.
Image: No Office Christmas Party
For the work-from-home freelance crowd, missing out on the annual holiday party with coworkers can be kind of a bummer. For this reason, Brokelyn and The Skint are decking their halls for the annual No Office Christmas Party. Expect photo booths, ugly Christmas sweaters, and tipsy freelancers talking about what they’re claiming on their taxes this year.
No Office Christmas Party @ Littlefield. Friday, December 9th, 2016. 622 Degraw St, Brooklyn, New York 11217. RSVP here.
Image: New Women Space
There’s a rad new spot in town for the women of NYC to gather, make art, take workshops, and bond over their common interests. New Women Space is in full swing with a full calendar of events through the end of December and the new year, but the highlight is their Holiday Maker Faire: a one-day pop-up celebrating “women who make”.
Holiday Maker Faire @ New Women Space. 188 Woodpoint Rd., Brooklyn, New York 11211. Saturday, December 10th from 12:00PM—6:00PM. Details on vendors & workshops here.
I’ve been selling and shopping at the Greenpointers markets since 2011. I can’t believe it’s been that long since I first stayed up all night baking, sewing, and gluing Christmas ornaments together to sell at this annual community event. You’ll find everything from classic holiday decor to cheeky cards and mulled wine. They even added a tropical twist this year.
Image: Time Out New York
So maybe the idea of dressing up in a Santa costume and drinking until you puke at 11 a.m. on a Saturday isn’t really your thing… I can’t say being athletic enough to don a santa suit and run a 5K is my “thing” either, but I’m happy to promote this instead NYC’s most hated tradition (ehem, SantaCon). Suit up and get your running shoes ready.
Santa Suit 5K from Prospect Park West to Washington Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11215. Sunday December 11th & Saturday December 17th, 11:00AM. Click here for details.
Image: Snap Stills/Rex
This one’s for the mean girls… A winter talent show is going down at the Brooklyn Bazaar, complete with sexy Santa costumes and tinsel curtains. Traumatized from your high school run-ins with actual mean girls? No worries. The organizers, BBQFilms, say “all cliques and cool moms welcome”.
Mean Girls Themed Talent Show @ Brooklyn Bizarre, Wednesday, December 14th. 150 Greenpoint Ave. Brooklyn, NY 11222. Sign up for ticket alerts here.
House of Yes has always been a next-level party venue, from its days as a warehouse with DIY decor to its circusy-sleek new form on Wyckoff Ave in Bushwick. This holiday showcase promises to be acrobatic, eccentric, and magical. Described as a “holiday-flavored entertainment extravaganza of festive intergalactic fantasies”, this is an event you don’t want to miss. And you won’t have to, since it runs for several weeks in December.
Christmas Spectacular @ House of Yes. Runs December 16th—December 22nd. 2 Wyckoff Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11237. Get details and tickets here.
Image: Unsilent Night
Nostalgic for the days when you’d go caroling with family? There’s a grown-up NYC-style version of this classic holiday pastime to be enjoyed, thanks to local composer Phil Kline. Described as “a luminous soundscape played by the audience on boomboxes carried through city streets,” this tradition was founded all the way back in ’92. Will it be *your* new tradition, starting this year?
Unsilent Night @ Washington Square Park (meeting point). Starts 6:45PM, Saturday, December 17th. Greenwich Village, New York, NY 10012. Get more details here.
Image: Spoiled NYC
Attention, snow bunnies! Eataly brought back their much-anticipated holiday rooftop restaurant, brimming with festivity and Christmas cheer, in the theme of an Italian Alps ski lodge. It’s gorgeous to behold and the menu is mouth-watering. Don’t worry about piling on the sweaters, either. This bright and beautiful space is fully heated through the winter.
Baita @ Eataly. Open now! Hours: Sunday—Thursday, 11:30AM—11PM; Friday—Saturday, 11:30AM—12AM. 200 5th Ave, New York, NY 10010. See the menu & make reservations here.
Image: 230 Fifth
Is it just me, or is this city absolutely killing it this year with opportunities to get buzzed in really festive places? 230 Fifth turned their rooftop bar into one of the coolest holiday nightlife experiences you’ll ever see. It consists of clear PVC igloos strung up with colorful lights, featuring a view of the city like none other. They’re not taking reservations, so show up and grab one! I’m assuming they are heated…
Igloo rooftop bar & penthouse lounge @ 230 Fifth. Located at 230 Fifth Ave at the corner of 27th. Open 7 days a week, 4:00PM—late. Doors close at 2AM. See the menu here.
Image: Racked NY
Fun fact: Some of the most talented artists and designers in the world collaborate on NYC’s department store windows each holiday season. I love strolling from store to store, latte in hand, peeping all of the unique details. Immerse yourself in countless worlds just by walking from one window to the next. This is a must-do every year, as long as you can keep your cool in crowds of slow-walking tourists.
Image: NYC Parks.gov
Bryant Park comes alive during the holidays with a quaint market, but it’s the rink at the center of the park that’s even more exciting (as a former figure skater, I may be biased). Experience the rush of icy air hitting your face as you glide toward another frantic, flailing skater… or be that one girl who knows how to do spins and is taking up the center of the rink (ugh, show off). Whatever your style, avoid the crowds by skating during this year’s non-peak hours.
Ice Skating @ Bryant Park. Open now! Hours: 8:00AM—10:00PM, Monday—Sunday. Between 5th & 6th Aves and between 40th & 42nd streets. Get more details here.
Image: Never Fully Sober
If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to lounge below 15,000 ornaments and 100,000 lights, you can find out at Rolf’s German Restaurant in Gramercy park. Hint: It’s pretty epic. This place is celebrated for its savory menu and (very) festive decor. Feeling naughty? Order sauerbraten, which takes like 3 days to make… but far less time to finish.
Rolf’s German Restaurant. Hours; 281 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10010. See the menu here.
Image: Guest of a Guest
Yes, you read that right. Like I said, NYC is going all out with unique festive experiences this year. Rent your own yurt in the East Village for a private, cozy fondue party. It’s sure to score you points with your December birthday buddies who complain about the holidays overshadowing their festivities.
Image: Hey Mishka
I can’t even lie, this is my favorite Christmas tradition (aside from watching cheesy movies and drinking Baileys with mom). The Radio City Christmas Spectacular is incredible, whether you’re a tourist or you grew up here in the city. Good seats aren’t wildly expensive if you buy them in advance. The champagne, however, will cost a pretty penny. Worth it!
The Rockettes @ Radio City Music Hall. Running through the holiday season with multiple shows everyday. 1260 6th Ave, New York, NY 10020. Click here for showtimes & regular priced tickets.
Image: Spoiled NY
Just a few times per year, vintage subway cars that ran between the 1930s and the 1970s are put back on the tracks and decorated with garland and lights. They run from Manhattan to Queens four times, each weekend in December, chocked with holiday shoppers. There’s something about vintage relics of NYC that add a sense of nostalgia to the holidays…
Vintage subway cars running the weekends of 11/27, 12/4, 12/11 & 12/18, via the 6th Avenue line between 2nd Avenue in the Lower East Side and Queens Plaza. To ride, just swipe your normal metro card!
There’s nothing as warm and fuzzy as the feeling of helping someone else have a wonderful holiday season, too. NYC is packed with programs and opportunities to do just that. You won’t have to look far to find ways to make a difference. Offer gently used coats to a coat drive, donate food to a food bank, offer time to distribute goods to those in need, or just buy a hot cup of coffee for someone.
Got a tip for holiday fun in NYC? Comment below!