What to Do in New York in December

This post lists things to do in December in New York City, including free, nighttime, and family-friendly activities. 

We list Christmas and Holiday events, but read our Christmas in NYC guide for many more events.



This section features our top 10 activities to enjoy in December in New York City, including Christmas activities. 

For a full listing of things to do in holiday events and activities, see our post on Christmas in NYC.

Be sure to check out our master post, Things to Do in NYC, for more ideas to all year round.

Several of the items below are already included for free with the purchase of a tourist attraction discount pass.

For tips on the most popular activities in NYC, check out the following posts:

1) Take a Holiday Tour

In December, we offer a few different pay-what-you-wish holiday tours including our Holiday Lights Tour which runs daily.

You’ll see the famous department store windows, the stunning lights at Rockefeller Center and much more.


We also offer a tour of the famous Dyker Heights Christmas Lights where you will see some of the most outlandish Christmas decorations of houses in Brooklyn.

For fans of Elf, Home Alone 2, and other Christmas-themed movies, check out our pay-what-you-wish Christmas Movie Tour. We also offer a bus version of this tour for a reasonable fee. 

Don’t forget that our most popular pay-what-you-wish walking tours will be running in December.

We also have audio tours that you can enjoy at your own pace, day or night.  

2) Go to a Concert 

Winter heats up with some fantastic concerts this month, like Cher, The Strokes and a special concert Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone accompanied by the New York Philharmonic at Lincoln Center.  

Below we list the best of what’s on this month. See who else is playing in December.



Find out about other concerts in December

TIP: If you plan on going to see Bob Dylan, you’ll probably enjoy our self-guided Bob Dylan’s Greenwich Village walking tour

3) Attend a Sporting Event  

In December, you can see ice hockey, basketball, and football games. Going to a sports event is a great way to spend an evening out.

It’s also fun for the family. Check out the WWE Live Holiday Tour on December 26th which is a crowd-pleaser for people of all ages!

See what other games are scheduled when you are in NYC.




American Football

Ice Hockey

See what games are scheduled for December when you are in NYC.

TIP: Check out Madison Square Garden’s All-Access Tour to see the inner workings of this iconic arena.

4) See a Broadway or Christmas Show

December has its fair share of holiday shows like the Radio City Christmas Spectacular which begins on November 9, 2019, until January 5, 2020.



Find out about the many holiday-related performances from our post on Christmas Shows in New York City

Here are some non-holiday themed shows that are playing in December.

Find out how you can save some money by reading our post about how to get cheap Broadway tickets.

See what other shows are on this month.

5) Utilize a Tourist Attraction Discount Pass

If you’re looking to see and do as much as possible, using a New York City tourist attraction discount pass can help you save money and time. 



 Attractions Available on Passes Include:

  • Museum of Modern Art
  • Empire State Building
  • Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus Tour
  • Madame Tussauds
  • 9/11 Memorial and Guided Tour
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • Madison Square Garden All Access Tour

These passes save you money by bundling dozens of popular attractions and tours into one discounted ticket (up to 55% off).

They can also save you time by allowing you to skip the ticket lines and numerous locations.

Read our post comparing your options.

For more ideas for any time of year, be sure to read our master post on things to do in NYC.

6) Visit Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park 

This is one of the best Christmas markets in NYCShop for one-of-a-kind items including handmade winter clothing, sweaters, hats, mittens, scarves, decorative items and more.

You can also go ice skating here!


This market is a stop on our Manhattan Holiday Lights and Window Displays Tour.

Find out more about this market and others from our post on the best Christmas markets in NYC

TIP: If you do plan on ice skating here, you can get a free skate rental with the New York Pass!

7) See a Holiday Shows at the Apollo Theater  

You can count on having a fantastic time seeing a performance at the famous Apollo Theater in Harlem.

In December they host a number of holidays and Christmas shows and events.



One special is their Kwanzaa Celebration on December 28, 2019, an evening of dance and music honoring the principles of family, community, and culture. 

Another is their annual Winter Wonderland, a fantastic family-friendly event. In 2019, it will be held on Saturday, December 14, 2019.

That same night at 7:30 pm, you can see the Holiday Edition of their weekly Amateur Night at the Apollo.

You can see the Apollo Theater with us on our pay-what-you-like Harlem Walking Tour.

You can also go on your own, using our GPS audio tour of Harlem.

8) New Year’s Eve in Times Square 

If you are in town on December 31st, you might consider being part of the world’s most famous New Year’s countdown in Times Square. 



Our post on New Year’s Eve in Times Square will fill you in on what to expect, the best places to stand, what time to go as well as some survival tips.  

9) Woodbury Commons Outlet Post-Christmas Sales

On December 26, head to Woodbury Commons Shopping Outlet, one of the best outlets in New York. 

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!



Our post on shopping at Woodbury Commons has everything you need to know to get there, including bus company recommendations and instructions on how to go by train. 

Find out about other shopping discounts from our post on NYC New York City’s best shopping outlets.

10) See the Rockefeller Christmas Tree Lighting

On December 4, 2019, the lights on this iconic Christmas Tree are turned on. For all the details such as when to go and how to get there, see our post on the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree.



The tree lighting marks the unofficial start of the Christmas Season in NYC

It’s now when many storefront displays, holiday shows, and musicals, as well as light decorations, are available. 

While you are there, take the opportunity to visit Top of the Rock to get unparalleled views of New York City at the observatory. 


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Here are a handful of nighttime activities in NYC in December. Look through this whole post for other ideas, including going to a concert, a sports event or a Christmas show.



For more ideas, see our post on Things to Do in New York City at Night.

Attend the Radio City Christmas Spectacular

A New York tradition, this lavish seasonal show is fun for the whole family.

It showcases the world-famous high-kicking Rockettes in addition to many other holiday performances.

Read our post, Getting Discount Tickets for the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, to get a ‘leg up’ on the details about dates and tickets.

We also have a Midtown Manhattan Night Tour which is really festive and holiday season!

TIP: You can take a tour of Radio City Music Hall for free with both the New York Pass and the Explorer Pass.

New York Holiday Lights Walking Tour  

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  Bryant-Park-Ice-Rink

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.

Find out where all the rinks are from our post, Where to go Ice-skating in New York City

See the Dyker Heights Christmas Lights   

Dyker Heights Xmas

Word is out! For years only locals knew about the wacky competitiveness for best Christmas decorations among the homeowners of Dyker Heights.

Now visitors from around the world go to see the spectacle!

You can join us for our pay-what-you-like guided walking tour.

Our guide knows the best houses to go to and the history of the origins of the Dyker Heights seasonal insanity. 

If you want to go it alone, it’s not too difficult. We have all the information you need at our post, How to see the Dyker Heights Christmas Lights

Attend the Sing-A-Long Vigil for John Lennon

December 8th marks the anniversary of John Lennon’s death. In defiance of his tragic fate, thousands of fans head to Strawberry Fields in Central Park to celebrate his life.

Strawberry Fields is located across the street from the Dakota Apartments, the historic building where John Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono lived for many years.

Every December 8th, devoted fans come all day long and into the late night to sing songs and pay tribute to the musical legend.  

While you are in Central Park, take the time to stroll this oasis in the city. See our post on things to do in Central Park.

Unsilent Night

A very unusual way to celebrate the holidays! People gather in Washington Square Park to prepare for this one-mile parade in which everyone is invited to bring their own boomboxes or sound-blasters.

Everyone downloads the specific track for the event and then make a lot of noise in unison!

The date has yet to be announced for 2109. Click here for the details of how to participate. 

Learn more about what there is to do in Greenwich Village.

Take a look at our post on things to do in NYC at night for even more suggestions.


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Here are just a few of the free things you can do in New York City in December. 

Also, be sure to check out the other sections of this post, which contain other free things to do like seeing the Dyker Heights Lights, or going to the Holiday Train Show at Grand Central Terminal.



For even more ideas, check our comprehensive post about free things to do in NYC.

Winter’s Eve at Lincoln Square  

On December 2, 2019, at Lincoln Center, this event has a tree-lighting, sidewalk performers like jugglers and stilt-walkers, and a brass-band dance. 

See their website for more information.

If you are interested in the performing arts, Lincoln Center offers tours.

See our post on how to find deals and discounts for the Lincoln Center tour.

Make Music Winter

A free outdoor music-making celebration featuring parades around the city, showcasing many cultures and genres. 

This takes place on December 21, 2019, the winter solstice and longest night of the year.  

Check here for the various events around the city.

Take a Tour of Central Park 

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.

Read our post on Central Park tours, where you can find out about the many tours available, some free and some with a fee.

If you can’t join us, explore the park on your own using our guide of things to in Central Park and our audio tour


Every year, hundreds (if not thousands!) of people in NYC dress up as Santa or other holiday figures or symbols and then go on a day-long pub crawl called SantaCon.

In 2019, SantaCon occurs on December 14th. Anyone can join in and it’s free to participate. 

However, if you want to get into the big venues, instead of the smaller drinking holes, you must make a charitable contribution of $13,

See the SantaCon details here.

See a Live TV Show Taping

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:

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

Annual Merry Tuba Christmas at Rockefeller Center 

This free annual and noisy event takes place on the famous Rink at Rockefeller Center

You will hear hundreds of tenor and bass tuba players who gather to play Christmas carols and other crowd favorites. 

The date for 2019 has not yet been announced. Keep checking their website

Before or after the event explore the area with our guide to 50+ Things to Do in Midtown Manhattan which includes a list of 25 things for kids to do in Midtown Manhattan.

For hundreds of more ideas, check out our post about free things to do in NYC.


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Below are just a few ideas for things to do with kids in December. Many of the activities in other sections of this post are kid-friendly, such as taking our Holiday Lights Tour, going ice skating or seeing a sports events.



For lots of other activities, check out our post on things to do with kids in New York City and our 3-day itinerary for families.

Holiday Train Show at Grand Central Terminal

Holiday Train Show at GCT

See vintage Lionel trains traveling through a two-level, 34-foot-long miniature New York City and countryside scene that kids and grown-ups alike will love.

The show dates have yet to be announced. Get all the information here

While you are Grand Central, spend some time exploring one of the most magnificent train terminals in the world with our guide to Grand Central Terminal.

Visit Gingerbread Lane 

There are more than 1,300 gingerbread houses in this village made entirely of gingerbread, icing and candy!

You can see this Guinness World Records holder for the largest gingerbread village at the New York Hall of Science from November 23, 2019 to January 12, 2020.

Find out more here.

Go to a Museum or Attraction

When the weather is nippy, head for the great indoors! There are a lot of kid-friendly museums in New York City, and several offer discount prices for children’s tickets.

To find out about other options, read our museums and attractions. Also, take a look at our post on free museums in New York City.

See a Broadway Show

As we mentioned in the top 10, there are a lot of great holiday shows to see in New York City in December.

There are alternatives like seeing a popular Broadway show instead.

The family-friendly show, The Illusionists, returns to Broadway with magical and mysterious acts.

It begins on November 19, 2019, and runs until January 5, 2020.

Here are a few more examples of some popular shows that will be playing in December:

Winter Wonderland at the Apollo Theater

This free event on December 14, 2019, takes place at the legendary Apollo Theater.

The whole family can take part in holiday-themed activities including picture-taking with Santa Claus and seeing fantastic performances from local choirs. Get more information here

Stop by FAO Schwarz 

This iconic toy store had been located for nearly a century on 5th Avenue and 59th Street.

After shutting its doors in 2015, FAO Schwarz reopened at 30 Rockefeller Plaza . Be sure to visit and dance on their ‘piano keys’ made famous in the movie BIG!

For more ideas for any time of year, be sure to read our complete post on things to do in NYC.

Take a Photo with Santa 

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.

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.

You can get admission to both zoos with the New York Sightseeing Pass

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

It’s worth taking a bit a slightly longer subway train ride to the Bronx to see these G-scale mini-trains circle 150 of New York City’s landmarks along a half-mile of track.  

See mini replicas Brooklyn BridgeStatue of Liberty, and Rockefeller Center re-created with only natural materials like bark and leaves.

The show runs from November 23, 2019, to January 26, 2020. For more information, click here.


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About the author

Courtney is a lifelong New Yorker fascinated with the city’s history, culture and cuisine. She loves exploring the world, as well as sharing her travel expertise with others.

She joined the Free Tours by Foot team in 2011, first as a guide and then as a writer. She has a law degree, a teaching degree and a worn-out passport. Her motto is “Have backpack, will travel”.