This post, updated for 2019, lists the top ten January activities as well as family-friendly events, things to do at night, and of course, free activities since we love saving money. January is a fine time to visit New York City since crowds are small and lines are short, and much of the holiday spirit and activities are still going on. The video below covers January weather as well as things to do. Be sure to check out our extensive list of Things to Do in NYC or our guides for other months for even more ideas.
Below is our top 10 list. If you are considering visiting many of NYC’s top attractions, then you might want to consider a tourist discount pass, which could save you considerable money. Read our post comparing the different tourist discount passes.
This post covers things to see and do in Harlem, including a top 10 list, where to eat, where to hear great jazz and other live music, how to attend a gospel service, and more. Also, see our full list of NYC neighborhood guides.
Harlem is a vibrant neighborhood known to be steeped in African-American history and culture. It’s a neighborhood where you can see historic sites, hear amazing jazz and gospel, taste succulent ‘soul food’, and feel the unique vibe that Harlem offers.Read more »
The following section will cover the best ideas for things to do with your kids in New York City. We will also make note if any activity is either free or if it can be done at night. You’ll also find several family-friendly activities on our list of the top things to do in NYC.
A live attendant storage service is not available at Penn Station, and due to increased security following the Sept 11th attacks, storage lockers in train stations and airports are things of the past.Read more »
Although the 9/11 Memorial is free to visit, you will require a paid ticket to enter the 9/11 Museum. Admission can be purchased ahead of time in order to skip the ticket line and avoid waiting in a potentially long queue.
This is the best way to save time and it can also save you some money depending on how you purchase your tickets.Read more »
This section will feature our top 10 activities to enjoy in New York City throughout the month of December. We include several Christmas activities, but for a more in-depth look at holiday activities, check out our Christmas in NYC guide.
For fans of Elf, Home Alone 2, Serendipity, Scrooged and Miracle on 34th Street, consider taking our Christmas Movies tour. See where Buddy the Elf wins that snowball fight and where Kevin McAllister met the Pigeon Lady!
Not only will you see these familiar sites, but you will also see some of the beautiful holiday decorations and displays of NYC along the way. If you’d rather not spend a lot of time outside in the winter, there is a bus version of this tour for a reasonable fee.
If you’re more interested in learning about the history of New York City, don’t forget that we offer a lot of informational pay-what-you-wish walking tours which will be available during December.
Go to a Concert
New York City is one of the most popular destinations for entertainers from around the world, so it shouldn’t surprise you that there will be quite a few notable concerts taking place this month, including Billy Joel live at Madison Square Garden.
No matter which sport is your favorite, chances are that there will be a lot of regular season games to attend in New York City during December. Here are the most popular teams to watch during this time of year:
There are a lot of great Christmas shows you can see in New York City during the month of December. Whether you’re looking for something classic or you’d rather see a newer show, chances are you’ll find an interesting musical, ballet or play to attend. Here are a few of the more notable holiday shows available this month:
How the Grinch Stole Christmas – The Musical
Frozen – The Musical
A Christmas Carol – The Musical
The Nutcracker Ballet
Elf – The Musical
Radio City Music Spectacular
If you’re looking for even more great opportunities or you want to learn more about these musicals and ballets, make sure to read our full post about Christmas shows in New York City.
Visit Winter Village in Bryant Park October 28 to January 5, 2018, Free
NYC is filled with one of a kind pop-up markets in December and even if you just want to ‘window-shop’, Winter Village at Bryant Park (pictured on right) is one of the best holiday markets to shop for one-of-a-kind items including handmade winter clothing, sweaters, hats, mittens, scarves, decorative items and more.
TIP: If you are interested in going ice skating at the Winter Village, it’s worth noting that you can get a free ice skate rental with the New York Pass.
New Year’s Eve in Times Square December 31 Free
If you are in town December 31st, you might consider being part of the world’s most famous New Year’s countdown in Times Square. It’s not for everyone, but it’s definitely on many people’s bucket lists.
If you cant make it up to the New York Botanical Gardens train shown above, this train show is more centrally located.
You also get the double bonus of visiting the spectacular Grand Central Terminal layout features Lionel trains traveling through a two-level, 34-foot-long miniature New York City and countryside scene.
Vintage trains from the museum’s collection, including New York Central models, travel all the way to the diorama’s the North Pole. Get all the information here.
While you are Grand Central you might want to spend some time looking around. You can do this on your own with one of our GPS-enabled audio guides or self-guided tour, or join one of the many free Grand Central Tours offered.
Kwanzaa Celebration at the Apollo Theater December 30 at 2 pm & 7:30 pm Tickets: $20; Premium $35
Over ten years ago, the famous Apollo Theater in Harlem has put on this annual show to celebrate the holiday of Kwanzaa. The Apollo’s celebration is an energetic and joyful evening of dance and music honoring the Kwanzaa’s principles of family, community, and culture.
Just going to the Apollo Theater itself is an occasion. They have any shows including plays, music, dance and it’s nearly legendary “Amateur Night”. To find out more about this Harlem landmark or to tour inside, read our post on the Apollo Theater.
Woodbury Common Outlets “Boxing Day” Sale December 26
If you haven’t yet heard of Woodbury Common Shopping Outlet, it is one of the best outlets in New York. Our post How to Get to Woodbury Commons has everything you need to know to get there, including bus company recommendations or instructions on how to go by train.
This giant shopping outlet mall has 220 stores including many upscale stores. Shops offer 25%-65% off items, and on Boxing Day prices will be even lower! Woodbury Commons is only one hour north of New York City and worth the easy ride to get there. (FYI: (Boxing Day is a British holiday celebrated the day after Christmas, sounds like a good time to have a sale!)
Go See a Comedy Special
If you’re looking for a good laugh, there are at least a few great comedy shows you may want to see this December. New York City tends to attract a lot of the more popular comedians, so you can expect to see some notable names on this list.
Tracy Morgan (Dec 1st)
Stephen Colbert/Meryl Streep
David Cross (Dec 4th)
Trailer Park Boys (Dec 7th)
Jerry Seinfeld (Dec 7th)
Jim Breuer (Dec 15th)
Dave Attell (Dec 27th)
Tickets for some of these shows may be difficult to come by, but that shouldn’t keep you from enjoying some comedy. There are a lot of great comedy clubs in NYC, and you can see local comedians at these locations pretty much every day of the week.
This early evening pay-what-you-like walking tour is 2-hours. You can expect lots of jovial fun as your guide takes you to see the best holiday window displays (without the crowds), the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and much more.
Along the way, your guide will share fun facts about the city while ‘warming your heart’. Click here for all the information and how to reserve a spot.
Ice Skating at Night Dates and prices vary by venue
In New York City you have many choices of where to ice skate, at varying prices and all different hours. Ice-skating at night is extra fun. Nothing brings out the fun of winter as a loop around a rink, or a fall on your behind under the holiday lights of the Big Apple.
See the Dyker Heights Christmas Lights dates vary: free on your own or pay-what-you-like for a guided tour
Word is out! For years only locals knew about the wacky competitiveness for best Christmas decorations among the homeowners of Dyker Heights. If you haven’t already heard about the Dyker Heights lights in Brooklyn, now you do and you should think about checking it out.
You can also join us for our guided walking tour. Our guide knows the best houses to go to and the history of the origins of the Dyker Heights seasonal insanity.
Attend the Vigil for John Lennon
Each year, December 8th marks the tragic anniversary of the killing of New York’s Beatle, John Lennon. Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono resided in the Dakota Apartments just across the street from Central Park and enjoyed taking strolls in this famous urban oasis.
Following his death, Yoko worked to secure space in the park for a memorial, Strawberry Fields, to her beloved husband. Every December 8th, devoted fans come all day long and into the late night to sing songs and pay tribute to the musical legend.
Ever since the Coen brothers released their cult classic The Big Lebowski, fans have been celebrating the film in a variety of different ways. Lebowski Fest is one of the more popular events in the fan community, and it takes place every year. Fans will come together to go bowling, dress up as their favorite characters, and talk about their favorite movie.
In the past, notable actors such as Jeff Bridges and John Goodman have actually shown up to this event. If you’re a Lebowski fan, do yourself a favor and consider going to Lebowski Fest in New York City this December.
Tickets: $25/Movie Party | $35/Bowling Party
Dates: Movie Party (Dec 7th) | Bowling Party (Dec 9th)
If you’d like to learn more about Radio City Music Hall and the surrounding neighborhood, join us for our pay-what-you-likewalking tour of Midtown Manhattan that includes Radio City Music Hall, Rockefeller Center and so much more.
Here are just a few of the hundreds of free things you can do in New York City in December and year round. Also, be sure to check out the other sections of this post, as many of these other activities and events are free, such as visiting the Dyker Heights Lights, the Holiday Train Show at Grand Central Terminal or strolling the Christmas markets.
Christmas Caroling in Gramercy Park December 24, 2017
This is the closest you might get to a miracle this season. On Christmas Eve, the Gramercy Block Association opens the otherwise locked gates to the exclusive and elusive Gramercy Park.
The park is located in the historic and beautiful Gramercy Park neighborhood. Its stately mansions from the late 19th Century surround the gated and lush private park (only local residents have access).
This caroling event is part holiday spirit, part once-a-year chance to see inside this famous New York park. Find out the details by clicking on the Association’s website.
There is never a bad time of year to visit Central Park. Soft and sentimental in the winter, it is a quiet escape from the holiday crowds.
While it is certainly easy to take a casual stroll in the park on your own, we recommend that you take a guided walking tour to help you find your way through this huge park. We offer severalpay-what-you-like tours of Central Parkincluding a tour of the lower section and one of the middle section.
Read our post on Central Park tours, where you can find out about the many tours available, some free and some with a fee.
One-hour Nutcracker Ballet Performance Fri. Dec. 1, 7 pm and Sat. Dec. 2 at 1:00 pm and 7:00 pm
If the ticket costs of the full-length ballet are outside of your budget, you can see this free one-hour version performed in Lower Manhattan’s Brookfield Place located in the World Trade Center district. This is a rare opportunity to enjoy this classic ballet.
Seating is first to come, first to be seated basis and early arrival is strongly suggested. Click here for all the information on the performance.
Plan some walking in your day before watching ballet! Try one of our pay-what-you-likeLower Manhattan walking tours. We offer many different tours of Lower Manhattan, some include the Brooklyn Bridge, others include the 9/11 Memorial. Click here to find out about all our tour offerings.
Go See a Live TV Show
New York City is the home of several popular live television programs, and most of them offer free tickets for their live recordings. No matter what you want to see, chances are you’ll be able to get a ticket without paying a dime. Here are some of the shows you can see for nothing:
The Late Show With Stephen Colbert
The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon
The Daily Show with Trevor Noah
Saturday Night Live
Good Morning America
The Today Show
For additional information on how to get tickets for each of the shows above and many others, make sure to read our post about New York TV Tickets.
Consider Getting a Tourist Pass
A tourist pass isn’t technically free, but it can save you so much money that you’ll eventually be able to enjoy some attractions for absolutely nothing. To show you what we mean, we’ll use the 3-Day New York Pass ($199) as an example.
Hop-on-Hop-off Bus Tour | $60
Top of the Rock | $39
Radio City Music Hall Tour | $30
Rockefeller Center Tour | $27
Total Value | $156
Empire State Building | $39
Madame Tussauds | $37
Broadway Walking Tour | $35
Museum of Modern Art | $25
Total Value | $292
Everything is free!
As you can see, by the time you get halfway through with the second day, the New York Pass has already paid for itself. What this means is that you won’t have to pay a dime more for anything with the pass on day three.
For more information about this and other all-inclusive passes, read our full post comparing each New York Tourist Pass.
Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden Nov. 22, 2017 – Jan. 15, 2018 Prices vary
It’s worth taking a bit a slightly longer subway train ride to see these G-scale mini-trains circle 150 of New York City’s landmarks along a half-mile of track.
See the Brooklyn Bridge, Statue of Liberty, and Rockefeller Center re-created with only natural materials like bark and leaves. This year’s theme is Midtown Manhattan and showcases New York’s iconic skyscrapers and other architectural beauties. For more information, click here.
44th Annual Merry Tuba Christmas at Rockefeller Center December 17, 2017, at 3:30 pm Free
This kinda wacky event has been put on for over 4 decades so they must be doing something right! You will hear hundreds of tenor and bass tuba players who gather on the famous concourse level Rink at Rockefeller Center to play Christmas carols and other crowd favorites. Get all the information by seeing their website.
Take a Photo with Santa location, hours and prices vary
Before you go rushing to Macy’s Santaland for that “Santa’s lap” photo, why not compare prices, locations and hours. Our post Photos with Santa will tell you where you can find the many Santa photo locations throughout New York City.
For sure your family will enjoy Macy’s Santaland regardless of getting a photo or not. It’s located in the flagship Macy’s store in Herald Square, on 34th Street between Broadway and Seventh Avenue.
If you do go to Santaland, why not explore the area around Macy’s. See our post on 50+ Things to Do in Midtown Manhattan including a self-guided tour of the area, with history on Macys and Herald Square.
As we mentioned in the top 10, there are a lot of great Christmas shows to see in New York City during the month of December. That said, you might also want to consider going to see a popular Broadway show instead. At any given time, there are bound to be a lot of wonderful family-friendly musicals to see. Here are a few examples of some popular shows that will be available this month:
TIP: If you plan on being in the area, you might want to consider taking our pay-what-you-wishBroadway Theater District Tour. This is a great way to learn about the history behind all of the theaters on and around Broadway.
Take the Kids to the Zoo
There are a few different zoos you can visit in New York City throughout December. The most popular options will be either Central Park Zoo or the Bronx Zoo. Both locations will have a variety of events going on this month that you might want to consider attending.
This post covers the best NYC attractions and points of interest, including content on free, family-friendly, nighttime and neighborhood-specific attractions, each with a map listing these attractions.
Below we list our top 10 free attractions in New York City as well as a map of even more free points of interest. We start off with this section because many of the most famous NYC tourist attractions cost nothing to enjoy, that you could plan a trip without paying for even one.
Likewise, each of our neighborhood posts (below) all list free attractions and attractions with free days for those particular areas.
Many of our walking tours visit several of the sights listed above, such as the Brooklyn Bridge, Central Park, and the 9/11 Memorial. Our tours are free to sign up for and work on a pay-what-you-wish basis only after a successful tour.
Unfortunately, not everything is free in NYC. Some of the best and most popular attractions come with entry fees, and sometimes with hefty price tags.
Below, we list our top 10 and provide a long list of additional paid (and free) attractions below that. Be sure to check out our neighborhood and family-friendly sections for more ideas.
But, before we list them, there is a way to visit some of them for free or at a discount.
If you are considering visiting at least 2 of the city’s main paid attractions, then consider an all-inclusive tourist attraction discount pass. If you are smart with these deals, you will end up getting 1 or 2 attractions for free each day.
Below is a list of many of the best attractions. For in-depth information on how to visit these attractions, simply click on the attraction’s name and you will be taken to another post with information such as:
Each of our things to do by neighborhood posts below get more granular by area. You can also visit our NYC neighborhoods page to view a clickable map of NYC to better understand how each neighborhood is positioned in relation to the others.
In this section, we will break down some of the best attractions that you can visit for free or at a heavy discount with a New York Tourist Pass. In addition to providing a list of the most popular activities included with each service, we will also explain some of the differences between them to help you pick one that fits your itinerary.
The following is a list of the top attractions available on all three of the major New York Tourist Passes.
Hop-on-Hop-off Bus Tour
Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island Ferry
Top of the Rock
9/11 Memorial & Museum
American Museum of Natural History
Radio City Music Hall Tour
Museum of Modern Art
Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
Luna Park at Coney Island
Clipper City Sailing Cruise
Whitney Museum of American Art
When Harry Met Seinfeld Bus Tour
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Inside Broadway Walking Tour
If you’re looking for an attraction that isn’t listed above, don’t worry – you may find it listed below on a specific pass.
In addition to these options, we should also mention that both Groupon and Living Social often offer discounts on some of the most popular activities in New York City.
The following attractions are not included with some of the other tourist passes in New York City. If you see any activities you like, read our recommendation to get a sense for some of the best things about this pass.
Empire State Building
Madison Square Garden Tour
Rockefeller Center Tour
Yankee Stadium Tour
This pass will allow you to take the next step and dig a little further into notable sites such as Rockefeller Center and the Empire State Building. It’s also great for sports fans who want to learn more about where their favorite teams play. This is an all-inclusive pass, so you will get instant access to all of these sites for a specific amount of time.
These attractions may not be offered by other tourist passes. If you’re interested in seeing or doing anything on this list, check our recommendation to determine whether or not this is the right pass for your needs.
National Geographic Ocean Odyssey
One World Observatory
Ripley’s Believe it or Not!
Yankee Stadium Tour
LOL Times Square Comedy Club
Central Park Zoo
If you’re looking for even more popular activities to enjoy, this is an excellent option. Families should also take note that admission to both the Central Park Zoo and the Bronx Zoo are included with this service. This is available as either an all-inclusive pass or a set number of attractions pass. To learn more about each option, read the before you buy section on our New York tourist pass post.
This list will only include attractions that aren’t offered by at least one of the other New York tourist passes. If you’re still not sure about which pass to get, check our recommendation to get a better sense for what to expect.
Empire State Building
Ripley’s Believe it or Not!
Rockefeller Center Tour
National Geographic Ocean Odyssey
Sopranos Sites Bus Tour
As you could probably tell, many of these attractions are also included with the New York Sightseeing Pass. The main difference between these two services is that the Explorer Pass lets you pay one flat price for a certain number of activities. This pass can be used at any time over the course of an entire month, so it will last much longer than the other options on our list.
This map is our self-guided tour map of the Financial District. Lower Manhattan is actually made up of several additional neighborhoods (we have maps for all of them here).
The map below is interactive. You can enlarge it. You can use it on a smartphone. Each lettered pin contains images and text explaining each location. Below are maps highlighting smaller areas of Downtown Manhattan.
New York City is so much more than a bunch of amazing points of interest spread across 5 boroughs. What truly makes this city so special is its distinct neighborhoods which themselves make up the integral parts of New York.
However, it can be time-consuming to crisscross the city if you plan your visits out without at first consulting a map of NYC neighborhoods.
We created this guide to help you understand where each neighborhood is in relation to each other, what there is to do in each area, as well as which attractions are located where.
Here are some additional posts to help get you started:Read more »