Brittney Naylor and John taking a selfie in front of the Rockefeller Christmas Tree and Plaza. NYC Christmastime Bucket List things to do.

7 BEST NYC Christmastime Bucket List Things to do

Are you ready to experience the magic of Christmas in the city that never sleeps? New York City, with its dazzling lights and festive atmosphere, offers a truly unforgettable holiday experience. From ice skating to exploring charming Christmas markets, the city offers a plethora of activities that will make your Christmastime visit truly unforgettable. Whether you’re visiting two days or five, there’s plenty to discover! In this article, I’m sharing 7 NYC Christmastime bucket list things to do during the most wonderful time of the year.

NYC Christmastime Bucket List

1. Enjoy Wintertime Views from Top of the Rock

If you can brave the cold, then visiting the Top of the Rock is a must for your NYC Christmastime bucket list.

The suspense builds as you take the elevator to the top of the Rockefeller Center. When you arrive, a spectacular view of the city decked with holiday lights unfolds before you. The Empire State Building and Central Park glitter like stars, providing a unique and remarkable view. The winter decorations below, particularly the enormous Christmas tree and bustling ice rink, look to be straight out of a book. This vantage point captures the full essence of the city’s festive spirit, making it an unforgettable moment and a treasured item on anyone’s Christmastime bucket list in New York City.

2. Ice Skating in Iconic NYC Locations

Ice skating is a must do NYC Christmastime bucket list activity and luckily, there are several iconic locations within the city to give you the thrill of a lifetime.

Central Park is home to two popular skating rinks: Wollman Rink and Lasker Rink. Enjoy the picturesque views of the park as you twirl on the ice, surrounded by towering trees and a serene winter landscape.

Perhaps the most well known rink is the Rockefeller Center Ice Rink. Skating under the shadow of the towering Christmas tree and the glistening lights of the surrounding buildings makes this an unforgettable experience. Tip: You’ll want to make your reservations early, as they fill up quickly.

Then there’s Bryant Park. This is where we opted to skate. We could easily make reservations, even the day of, and we were still able to skate amongst the skyscrapers of New York City.

Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned skater, these rinks offer a delightful way to embrace the holiday spirit and create lasting memories.

Brittney Naylor and husband at Bryant Park ice skating rink in New York City. NYC Christmastime bucket list Things to do

3. Explore the Holiday Markets

Explore the charming holiday markets scattered throughout the city to get into the festive mood. You can browse unique gifts and enjoy the thrill of Christmas shopping while surrounded by the festive atmosphere at the Union Square Holiday Market, Grand Central Holiday Fair, or Columbus Circle Holiday Market.

One of New York City’s most popular holiday markets is the the Union Square Holiday Market. This market features over 150 sellers of a variety of handcrafted goods, jewelry, art, and foods. You will be captivated by the sights and sounds of artisans at work as you browse the booths while they create one-of-a-kind treasures and seasonal treats.

Christmas markets at Bryant Park in NYC
Holiday Markets in NYC at Christmastime, things to do in NYC, New York City

4. See the Rockefeller Christmas Tree

Of course, your NYC Christmastime bucket list isn’t complete without visiting the iconic Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree.

The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is a symbol of holiday cheer and a centerpiece of the city’s festivities. Standing tall and majestic, this towering tree is adorned with thousands of twinkling lights and a magnificent star on top. Take a leisurely stroll around Rockefeller Plaza, marvel at the ice skaters gliding on the rink below, and soak in the festive atmosphere.

5. Window Displays on Fifth Avenue

And no visit to New York City, during Christmastime, is complete without witnessing the world-renowned Macy’s holiday window displays. Each year, the iconic department store showcases elaborate and whimsical scenes that transport viewers into a winter wonderland. Don’t forget to explore Macy’s Santaland, where kids (and the young at heart) can meet Santa Claus and experience the magic of the season.

As you walk along Fifth Avenue, you’ll find yourself mesmerized by the whimsical scenes and dazzling lights that radiate from these window displays. Delicate snowflakes, sparkling ornaments, and twinkling lights adorn the glass, enhancing the festive ambiance of the street. The attention to detail is remarkable, with every element carefully chosen to bring a sense of wonder and joy.

Window displays on lights as seen on fifth avenue in NYC chritmastime

6. Radio City Christmas Spectacular

Next, attending the Radio City Christmas Spectacular is an absolute must for anyone seeking an unforgettable Christmas experience in New York City. This iconic show has been dazzling audiences for decades, enchanting both young and old with its magical performances and exuberant holiday spirit.

Attending the Radio City Christmas Spectacular is not just a show; it’s a cherished tradition that brings people together year after year. The infectious holiday spirit is palpable as you join the audience in singing along to beloved Christmas carols. It’s a celebration of the season, a reminder of the joy and togetherness that makes Christmas so special.

Radio City Christmas Spectacular, NYC Christmastime bucket list things to do

7. Horse Drawn Carriage Ride Through Central Park

In addition, taking a horse-drawn carriage ride through Central Park is worth adding to your NYC Christmastime bucket list. As you step into the carriage, you can feel the excitement building, knowing that you are about to embark on a romantic journey through one of the city’s most iconic locations.

The horse-drawn carriage ride through Central Park is more than just a means of transportation. It’s a moment to pause, a chance to soak in the beauty of the city. You can admire the snow-kissed trees, the frozen ponds, and the quiet pathways that seem untouched by time.

Tips for Navigating NYC during Christmastime

Navigating NYC during the holiday season can be overwhelming, but with a few tips, you can make the most of your visit.

First, plan your itinerary in advance and prioritize the attractions and activities that interest you the most. This will help you make the most of your time.

Second, consider using public transportation instead of driving. The city’s subway system is efficient and convenient, allowing you to easily navigate through different neighborhoods.

Lastly, dress warm and be prepared for unpredictable weather. NYC winters can be cold and snowy, so bundle up in layers and wear comfortable shoes for walking. A warm hat, gloves, and a scarf are essential to keep you cozy as you explore the city’s festive attractions.


New York City during Christmastime is a magical dreamscape that belongs on every traveler’s bucket list. From skating at Rockefeller Center to exploring holiday markets, these moments create memories that last a lifetime. So bundle up, grab a scarf, and let the spirit of Christmastime guide you through the streets of the Big Apple.

Do you have another favorite NYC bucket list activity to add? Let me know in the comments!

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The Comments

  • Trisha Velarmino
    August 16, 2023

    Never been to NYC and it’s one of my dream destinations! It looks like it will be extra packed during the holidays. Is there a weekly pass for the trains for fast-lanes?

    • Brittney
      → Trisha Velarmino
      August 16, 2023

      We visited at the beginning of December and didn’t feel like it was any more crowded than usual. We had no issues using the subway and you can use Apple Pay on your phone to hop on each time. You can purchase skip-the-line passes for things like Top of the Rock, Empire State Building, etc.

  • Gabby Leopard
    August 16, 2023

    This looks beautiful! Travelling to New York during Christmas or Halloween season has been on bucket list since I was a teenager.

    • Brittney
      → Gabby Leopard
      August 16, 2023

      Oh, I’ve never thought of visiting during Halloween, but would love to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade!

  • simplyjolayne
    August 16, 2023

    You list so many beloved activities.

  • Kendra
    August 17, 2023

    I had no idea that NYC has so many places to ice skate! I would love to skate at Rockefeller Center one year. Adding it to my bucket list!

    • Brittney
      → Kendra
      August 17, 2023

      It was so magical! We also saw so many proposals happening at the Rockefeller Ice Rink!

  • Anna
    August 17, 2023

    My top Christmas plans in New York would involve Radio City Christmas Spectacular and ice skating in Central Park. Hope to spend Christmas in New York with the kids one day!

  • Elle
    August 17, 2023

    Love all the sparkling lights!