Here’s What To Do (And What Not To Do) In NYC During The Holiday Season

New York City is an idyllic place during the holiday season. Shopping, sightseeing, and snowfall are all pieces that help make New York a magical place to be during this time. Because of its allure, NYC is a common setting for holiday-themed movies, and even native New Yorkers who loathe tourists will admit the city is a wonderful place to be during the holiday season.

Sounds exciting, we know, but there is a downside. Because the city itself is such a huge holiday attraction, the dropping temperatures and increase in tourist population make getting around and enjoying the perks of the city more difficult than usual. There are dozens of markets, jazzed up store windows, and restaurants with epic holiday decor you may intend on visiting, but crowds can make this less than ideal.

To make things easier for you, here’s what you need to know about navigating NYC during the most wonderful time of the year:


Renegade Craft Fair in NYC

Check out items from over 200 vendors, DIY opportunities as well as live entertainment from DJs

Where: Metropolitan Pavilion, 125 W 18th St

When: Saturday, November 18 + Sunday, November 19

Union Square Holiday Market

Where: Union Square, South Side

When: November 16th – December 24th

  • 11:00AM to 8:00PM Monday through Friday
  • 10:00AM to 8:00PM on Saturdays
  • 11:00AM to 7:00PM on Sundays
  • Closed Thanksgiving Day and at 4pm on Christmas Eve

Brooklyn Holiday Bazaar

This market is curated by e-commerce site Brooklyn Makers and features a live DJ, art prints, stationary, jewelry and more. Bonus: Get your gifts wrapped for free!

Where: 452 + 501 Union Street, Gowanus 

When: Saturday, November 25 + Sunday, November 26 – 11am-6pm

Etsy Holiday Handmade Cavalcade

Where: Manhattan (corner of Broadway and Great Jones St) + Brooklyn (Brooklyn Historical Society in Brooklyn Heights, Corner of Pierrepont & Clinton Sts. – enter on Clinton)

When: Manhattan: Dec 8 – 10, 11am – 8pm, Brooklyn: Dec 16 – 17, Saturday: 11am – 6:30pm Sunday: 11am – 6pm

Columbus Circle Holiday Market

Where: Columbus Circle, 59th Street and Central Park West

When: November 28th – December 24th

  • 10:00AM to 8:00PM Monday through Saturday
  • 10:00AM to 7:00PM on Sundays
  • Closes at 4pm on Christmas Eve 

Common Tourist Attractions (Avoid These If You Aren’t A Fan Of Large Crowds)

Rockefeller Christmas Tree

If you’re in NYC during the holidays, visiting the tree is a must, but ice skating there should be avoided. It’s tiny, expensive, and lines can take up to two hours. If you’re really eager to skate there, try going after January 4 – the wait will be shorter and the rates will be cheaper. Instead, head over to Central Park’s Wollman Rink. It’s bigger, (slightly) cheaper, and boasts an equally magical ambiance.

Other NYC staples:

  • Radio City Music Hall – Whether you’re going to see the legendary Christmas Spectacular, or just want to snap a few pics in front of the famous sign, it’s worth the trip, but make sure to plan ahead
  • The Plaza Hotel – You can walk through the iconic lobby or fill your belly with all the goodness that is their food hall, located on the concourse level
  • Bryant Park Winter Village – Ice skating, shopping, and entertainment, but prepare yourself for crowds

Must-See Christmas Lights

Want all the options? Here’s a rundown of all the best holiday lights in NYC – it’s great free entertainment!

Window Shopping

Nothing will get you more in the holiday spirit than checking out all the boutique and department store windows across the city dressed up for the holiday season.

  • Walk up Fifth Avenue from Saks at 49th St to Bergdorf Goodman at 58th
  • Lord & Taylor (5th Ave at 38th St)
  • Macy’s (34th St & Broadway)
  • Barneys New York (Madison Ave & 61st St) 

Outer Boroughs

Bronx – the Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden

Enchanting model trains zip through a display of 150 landmarks, each re-created with bark, leaves, and other natural materials.This year’s exhibition showcases Midtown Manhattan, with iconic skyscrapers and other architectural wonders.

When: Wednesday, November 22, 2017 – Monday, January 15, 2018

And a few last minute notes…

Make sure you avoid pedicabs (they’re insanely overpriced and won’t get you too far), Times Square (just don’t even try), and Macy’s Santaland (more long lines).

Don’t miss Central Park. It’s the best greenery we have around here and it makes this oversized city feel like a warm, inviting place. From Central Park’s Lake to The Mall, every sight is picturesque.

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