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A Guide to Holiday ~Hoppenings~ for a Magical Christmas in New York

by Mommy Frog on November 3, 2023
New York City

Christmas in New York - PinterestPhoto: "2013 Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting #Flickr12Days" by Anthony Quintano is licensed under CC BY 2.0.The most wonderful time of the year is truly nowhere more wonderful than New York City. Christmastime in the Big Apple is renowned worldwide. From the twinkling lights and magnificent decor to the vibrant atmosphere and endless celebrations, there's so much to see and do during the holidays in The City That Never Sleeps. Not sure where to start? No worries! I'm breaking down the top ways to celebrate Christmas in New York — whether you're a tadpole or tadpole at heart.

Our Magical Guide to Celebrating Christmas in New York

Witness the City's Largest Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center

Adorned by 50,000 multi-colored LED lights and topped with a 900-pound Swarovski star covered in 3 million crystals, the iconic Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center is quite the sight to behold. Frankly, a trip to New York City during the holidays isn't complete without visiting it! This year, the tree will arrive Nov. 11 and the official tree lighting ceremony will take place Nov. 29. The tree will be lit up daily from 5 to 12 a.m. until Jan. 13 at 10 p.m. It'll also be lit for 24 hours on Christmas Day and from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. on New Year's Eve.

While you're at Rockefeller Center, get a whole new perspective on the city by taking the Sky Shuttle up to the Top of the Rock. With 360 degrees of breathtaking unobstructed skyline sights, this dazzling observation deck gives you the ultimate reindeer's-eye view of New York City. Enjoy three stories of unfrogettable views of Central Park, the Empire State Building, lower Manhattan and One World Trade Center from viewing areas on the 67th and 69th floors and the 70th-floor open-air roof deck.

Grab Tickets to the "Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes"

Radio City Rockettes - Candy Cane Rockettes

Delighting audiences since its debut in 1933, the enchanting "Christmas Spectacular" at Radio City Music Hall is a perfect activity for the whole family. This all-singing all-dancing holiday extravaganza is undoubtedly the most popular Christmas show in New York City. Many visitors and locals even see it as a holiday tradition! Sit back, relax and enjoy 90 minutes of holiday-themed song and dance numbers performed by the beautiful and talented Radio City Rockettes. And don't worry — while the show has been revamped and elevated over the years, the famous kick line hasn't gone anywhere. Get your tickets ASAP because they do sell out fast!

Catch a Performance of "The Nutcracker" at Lincoln Center

While you may have seen a production of Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker" in your hometown, the annual production by the New York City Ballet at the David H. Koch Theater is truly the gold standard. Enchanting New York audiences since its premiere in 1954, this ballet is performed by an incredible ensemble of 90 dancers and 62 musicians. Prepare to be delighted by exquisite costumes, jumping candy canes and the jaw-dropping center-stage Christmas tree that grows from a height of 12 to 41 feet. A holiday classic, you'll surely leave with visions of sugar plum fairies dancing in your head. Performances start after Thanksgiving and run through the end of December.

See the Holiday Train Show and NYBG Glow at the New York Botanical Garden

Christmas in New York - Holiday Train Show "Ellis Island" by happyskrappy is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Throughout the holiday season, the New York Botanical Garden transforms into a verdant winter wonderland. During the day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., stop by the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory to catch the magnificent Holiday Train Show. A holiday staple for more than three decades, this show features model trains that zip through a mini city in a half-mile track lined with nearly 200 replicas of New York landmarks, such as Grand Central Terminal and the Statue of Liberty. The coolest part ... every replica is made of plant materials.

When the sun sets on select nights, take in the beauty of NYBG Glow: An Outdoor Color & Light Experience. Watch as the garden's landscape and historic buildings are illuminated by thousands of dazzling, energy-efficient lights choreographed to the sounds of the season. While you're wandering the gardens, enjoy drinks and light bites from one of NYBG's outdoor bars or the Bronx Night Market Holiday Pop-Up.

Listen to Holiday Classics Played by the New York Philharmonic

Christmas in New York - Philharmonic "Franz Welser-Most conducting the New York Philharmonic - 49615748416" by Steven Pisano is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

One of the oldest musical institutions in the United States, the New York Philharmonic truly shines around the holidays. In addition to their annual family-friendly Holiday Brass concert, the world-famous symphony orchestra is amping up their Christmas offerings this year at Lincoln Center. Enjoy a program that includes Tchaikovsky's passionate take on "Romeo and Juliet," Enescu's "Romanian Rhapsody No. 1" and an orchestra adaptation of Bartók's "The Miraculous Mandarin Suite." Then, celebrate the season with a stunning presentation of Handel's "Messiah." Lastly, suit up for the ultimate "surround-sound" movie event with Marvel's "Black Panther" in Concert.

Dance the Night Away at Jingle Ball at Madison Square Garden

iHeart Radio brings some of the biggest pop stars together for a jolly good time at Jingle Ball. The very first Jingle Ball concert took place at Madison Square Garden in 1996, and it's been a holiday tradition ever since. This year, the lineup boasts Olivia Rodrigo, SZA, Jelly Roll, OneRepublic, Sabrina Carpenter and more. You can get tickets for the Dec. 8 concert through Undercover Tourist.

Experience the Magic of Cirque du Soleil's "'Twas the Night Before..."

Based on the classic poem "A Visit from Saint Nicolas" by Clement Clarke Moore, Cirque du Soleil's first holiday show will be thrilling audiences at Madison Square Garden during the holiday season. "'Twas the Night Before..." follows the story of a jaded young girl who rediscovers the magic of the holidays. Featuring exhilarating acrobatics, lovable characters and a soundtrack that includes holiday classics reinvented by Cirque du Soleil, this festive flurry of love and cheer is perfect for frogs of all ages!

Check Out the Origami Holiday Tree at the American Museum of Natural History

An impressive structure that spans four city blocks across 25 interconnected buildings, the American Museum of Natural History is one of the best museums in the world. Here you'll find a collection of dinosaur fossils unlike anywhere else, interactive walkways that illustrate the scale of the universe, the world's most technologically advanced planetarium and even a life-size replica of a blue whale. During the holidays, though, the museum erects an incredible 13-foot origami tree, featuring over 1,000 hand-folded paper models created by local, national and international origami artists. The theme this year is Beautiful Bugs, which means the three will be decorated with intricately designed models of long-legged grasshoppers, brilliantly colored butterflies and iridescent beetles. The tree will be available to view starting Nov. 21, 2023.

Stock Up on Gifts at the Holiday Market at the Oculus

Christmas in New York - Oculus Holiday Market "HOLIDAY" by wwward0 is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Every year, the magnificent atrium of the Oculus celebrates the season with its annual holiday market. Featuring over 20 specialty shops stocked with limited edition gifts, snacks and souvenirs, this whimsical pop-up shines with special Instagrammable photo-ops and performances, such as Christmas carolers. The market is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Mondays through Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sundays. 2023 dates are currently to be determined.

While you're at One World Trade Center, be sure to visit the One World Observatory — located a whopping 102 stories up — for the most sweeping and breathtaking sights of New York City. Explore three sprawling levels of interactive exhibits and undisrupted skyline views all while enjoying some tasty bites from the café or celebratory libations from ONE Mix bar. Don't leave without facing your fears and stepping out onto the Sky Portal for a stroll high above the crowded city streets!

Immerse Yourself in Holiday Magic at Frost Fest at Luna Park

Prepare for the ultimate winter experience at New York City's most iconic destination for fun. Luna Park's first annual Frost Fest will feature an outdoor skating rink, thrilling select rides and attractions, dazzling holiday lights and decor and memorable photos with Santa. You can also stock up on unique novelties, festive food items and delicious bites at the jolly holiday market! Frost Fest will take place on select weekdays and holidays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from Nov. 18, 2023 to Jan. 7, 2024.

Go on the NY Holiday Markets & Christmas Lights Walking Tour

The most surefire way to see all the can't-miss holiday sights, the NY Holiday Markets & Christmas Lights Walking Tour will take you to some of the city's most vibrant traditional holiday markets. On this four-hour tour, you'll get to experience the magical atmosphere and warmth of New York's traditional Christmas markets, observe the magnificent window displays at big department stores, enjoy traditional Christmas food and warm drinks and find unique gifts and handicrafts for all your family and friends. Highlights include Christmas Cottage (the oldest Christmas shop in New York City), the famous Bergdorf Goodman window display and Rockefeller Center. You can select this walking tour as one of your attraction choices on the New York Multi-Attraction Pass by Go City. Tours run on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in December.

What are your favorite ways to spend Christmas in New York? What new sights, attractions or shows are you excited to see this holiday season? Share with us in the comments below!

Related: Things to Do with Kids in NYC

Hoppy planning!

Keep hopping, Mommy Frog!
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