Christmas In New York: Decorations and Christmas Trees In NYC During the Holidays

Celebrating Christmas in NYC should be on your bucket list. Check out my list of the best photo spots and Instagrammable places in NYC during the holidays and plan your New York City Christmas trip today!

Even before I moved to New York, I knew that December is always a busy time to visit New York because everyone from all over the world wants to experience Christmas in New York City like they have seen on TV and in the movies.

I made it a mission to check out all the most instagrammable places in NYC during the holidays to see the Christmas trees and Christmas lights all over the city. So every winter I would walk around New York City to take photos of the Christmas decorations to add to this list.

Check out all my other articles on NYC winter activities!

These articles include the best holiday markets, most festive pop up Christmas bars and restaurants in NYC, what to wear in New York City in the winter, and many many more!

In addition, if you want to save money while visiting NYC, be sure to get a New York City tourist pass!

Lucy Spata House Dyker Heights Christmas

This blog contains occasional affiliate links, where I receive a small commission on sales of the products/hotels that are linked at no additional cost to you. In addition, as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.


Best time to see the Christmas decorations in New York City

The most optimal time to see the holiday and Christmas decorations in NYC is from the week after Thanksgiving through early January.

In general most Christmas trees in NYC get lit up the week after Thanksgiving (Thanksgiving is the 4th Thursday of November).

In particular for 2023, the Rockefeller Center Tree lightning is on Wednesday, November 29th and the Bryant Park tree lightning is on Tuesday, November 28th.

If you come before Thanksgiving, some of the Christmas trees will be up, but no lights on them. The good news is that Hudson Yards Christmas lights will be up on Monday, November 13th!

If you want to avoid the crowd, then the best time is either right after Thanksgiving or after Christmas until mid January. Most tourist arrive the second and third week of December. How do I know this? Since I walk around New York City to take updated photos every holiday season, I can tell how crowded it gets during different times throughout the year.

Christmas in NYC: Hudson Yards festive Christmas lights during the Holiday Season in NYC


Other Things to Know Before Spending Christmas in New York City:

Dress warmly! December in New York can be really cold with the wind chill so make sure you are appropriately dressed. See my NYC winter survival guide on what to wear and what to pack when visiting New York City in the winter.

Bring your camera. Iphones simply cannot do it justice (especially at night).

Don’t forget the tripod. Even though some places may tell you no tripod, but you always want to make sure you have the right equipment in case you want to capture anything at night (and everything happens at night)

Christmas tree at the Rockefeller Center shut down around 11:40pm, get there before then!

Check out all the window displays for all the department stores on Fifth Avenue in NYC. Some stores are very decorated outside as well.

Sharpen up your ice skating skills because there are many outdoor ice skating rinks in New York City during the holidays.

Prepare for the crowds and lines because everyone else also wants to spend Christmas in New York. But if you come earlier (like end of November/ early December) it is a little less crowded.

Get ready to drink! New York has some of the best Christmas themed bars in the world and you can go to a different place everyday and still not see everything.

Do I need travel insurance for New York City?

I always get travel insurance when I travel since airlines these days are known to be delayed and lose luggages during peak travel season. Medical costs in the US are also super expensive if you do not have insurance The two companies I usually get insurance from are World Nomads and Safety Wing, just for that extra peace of mind.

World Nomads provides travel insurance for travellers in over 100 countries. As an affiliate, we receive a fee when you get a quote from World Nomads using this link. We do not represent World Nomads. This is information only and not a recommendation to buy travel insurance.


Best Photo Spots and Instagrammable Places in NYC During the Holidays

Now let’s dive right into where to see all the Christmas decorations in New York City during the holiday season!

Rockefeller Center Christmas Decorations

Christmas in NYC

The Rockefeller Center is probably the epicenter of where all the actions are and also where the biggest Christmas tree in New York City is.

Every year in late November (usually mid week after Thanksgiving) or early December, there is a Christmas tree lighting event and there are performances at the Rockefeller Plaza where thousands watch live and millions stream on TV. If you visit before the lightning event you will just see the tree there, without the lights.

For 2023, the Rockefeller Tree lightning will take place on November 29th. The tree gets taken down mid January, 2024.

However in my opinion, bigger doesn’t mean better. The Rockefeller Christmas tree looks amazing in photos from far away but when you look closer, the tree is droopy because it’s too big. Therefore it’s best to take photo from afar.

As a New Yorker, I avoid the Rockefeller Tree lighting event at all cost. But if you are new to the city and want to experience the tree lighting event, make sure to check the official Rockefeller Center events website to see when it is.

It is usually incredibly crowded to see the Rockefeller tree lighting so if you don’t like crowds, I would suggest watching this on TV or visit the Rockefeller Christmas tree on a weekday night.

The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree is accompanied by numerous other Christmas lights and decorations. The instagrammable place to take photos of the Rockefeller Christmas Tree from the Channel Gardens in the photo above.

People also enjoy taking photos under the Christmas tree. Visit the Rockefeller outdoor ice skating rink If you have time, make sure to skate here for an unique Christmas in New York experience.

Christmas in NYC Best Spots For Christmas Lights

There are also a lot of stores and restaurants at the Rockefeller Plaza. So if you visit during the day or during meal time, make sure to stop by there for some shopping and eating.

Christmas holiday in New York City | Free private cabin igloo next to Rockefeller Center during Christmas in December

Every year there are these rinkside Chalets near Rockefeller Center. Last year these private chalets next to the rink was free, as long as you buy something to drink from the small coffee stand nearby. The guard will then let you in for about 15-20 minutes!

But for 2023 you will need to book the chalet in advance here.

In addition there are pop up igloos sometimes where the restaurants are (cannot see the iceskating rink from the igloos). Those generally cost money and they may or may not be around this year.

Rockefeller Iceskating Rink Christmas in NYC

Be aware that besides Christmas Eve and Christmas day, the Rockefeller Christmas tree turns off at 11:40pm, so if you want to take photos of this tree, make sure to get there before it turns off.

<Not available in 2023> Fifth Avenue Street Decorations (The Fifth Season)

Christmas in NYC Decorations | Taxi decoration fifth avenue

In the winter between 48th and Central Park, you will see a ton of Christmas pop up decorations outside of stores on 5th avenue. Some note worthy ones include the yellow taxi, toy box, mailbox, etc. Be sure to walk down fifth avenue and take photos of them!

Bear lights 5th avenue nyc Christmas

Pulitzer Fountain animal sculptures

Cartier Store on 5th Avenue

Cartier Fifth avenue Christmas decorations | What to see in NYC in the winter during Christmas

As you walk down on Fifth Avenue, one of the most decorated score is perhaps Cartier. Every winter Cartier itself is transformed into a giant gift box. Many bloggers stop by late at night just to capture a photo in front of the store.

The decoration changes every year. In 2023 the theme is cloud, but to be honest, it’s a bit underwhelming.

Peninsula Hotel New York: The Best Hotel Christmas Decorations in NYC

New York City Peninsula Hotel Christmas holiday decoration in the lobby

Another noteworthy stop on 5th Avenue is the famous 5 star luxury hotel The Peninsula. The hotel may not look like anything on the outside but once you step inside, you would be amazed at all the Christmas decorations. It’s another instagram spot for influencers during the holiday season in NYC.

Keep in mind that you can only use your phone for photos inside. Cameras are not allowed.

In case you are interested in staying here during the Christmas holiday, rooms are least $700 a night! However, if you decide to stay at the Peninsula during the holiday, you can choose Holiday package or the Nights before Christmas package.

Your room will be decorated with all holiday-themed floral arrangement and even your own Christmas tree (Deluxe suites only). The package also includes holiday window display walking tour, chauffeur-driven car to Dyker Heights (see later), VIP access to the Top of the Rock, etc.

For the Nights before Christmas package, you can even get an in-room Gingerbread Playhouse and candy cane scavenger hunt. This IS the ultimate luxury in NYC.

NYC Department Stores Christmas Window Display

The holiday time is when department stores in New York City all put on a spectacular show through their window displays. The map below shows a walking path that hits all the NYC department stores that are known for their holiday window displays.

Here are a few notable ones:

Saks Fifth Avenue Christmas Display

Across from the Rockefeller Center and the Channel Gardens is the famous department store: Saks Fifth Avenue. Every year Saks decorate its Christmas window display with a different theme.

Thousands line up to see the different window displays during Christmas in New York. I’ve always enjoyed looking at them because of the fairy tale decorations, the characters and beautiful clothes and shoes.

What’s noteworthy about Saks is that every night there are lighting shows synchronized with music. The perfect spot to watch the Saks light show is actually right at the Channel Garden. The last show if around 11:30pm at night and once that show is over, the Rockefeller Center tree will shut down as well.

Macy’s Herald Square Christmas Display

Christmas in NYC decorations and lights | Macy's holiday Christmas window display

Macy’s has a nice display in their stores at 34th street Herald Square. Similar to Saks, every year Macy’s has a new theme for the Christmas window display and there are always tons of people checking them out. Macy’s also has a famous “believe” sign on its building on 34th street.

Christmas in NYC Macys Believe Sign and the most instagramm

Macy’s is also known for Santaland where kids can meet Santa and take photos with him. Santaland used to be free but in recent years Macy’s started charge for this activity, you can read more here.

Holiday Christmas in New York City in the winter | Macy's holiday window display and lights

Macy’s also has a Toys R Us on its 7th floor. This space has interactive play areas as well as toys your kids can play with. It is a wonderful place to visit after you visit Santaland.

Radio City Christmas Tree & Show

Radio City Music Hall is not only known for its festive Christmas lights display every year but more famous for the Radio City Christmas Spectacular show.

Like the name suggests, the Radio City Christmas Spectacular is a spectacular performance of dancing and music performances that shows just how festive and how serious Christmas in New York really is. There are usually 3 performances a day, at 2pm, 5pm, and 8pm. You can book your Christmas Spectacular tickets plus a walking tour easily online.

Christmas Spectacular at Radio City During Christmas in NYC
Christmas Spectacular*

Giant Candy Cane & Giant Ball near Radio City During Christmas

Giant wrapping box balls decoration during Christmas in NYC near Radio City | Best photo spots and Instagram places in NYC during Christmas holidays

Across the street from Radio City Music Hall there are a number of fountains with huge Christmas ornaments and lights. The Radio City itself also has a nice Christmas tree that turns off at 11:30pm (again, get there early).

Candy cane holiday decoration in NYC near Radio City on 6th Avenue in the Winter | Best Christmas decorations in New York City in the winter

All the trees around that area are lit up. These decorations near Rockefeller Center stay the same every year and you should go right after Thanksgiving on a weekday so it’s less crowded and you can get some really nice shots.

Grand Central Christmas Decoration

Park avenue Grand Central Station NYC Christmas tree |. How to spend Christmas in NYC

The areas around Grand Central is always super festive during the holiday season, with small Christmas trees on every block. If you are visiting Grand Central or the Summit One observation deck, be sure to walk around on Park Avenue to see all the lights and trees! The building above Grand Central itself is lit up as well, making the street extra festive.

Financial District (Wall Street) Christmas Tree

Christmas tree in NYC financial district

Financial District aka Wall Street (even though Wall Street is only one street in the entire Financial District) is a business center in lower Manhattan. Wall Street is the most famous street in the Financial District where the New York Stock Exchange is located.

The Financial District is very busy during the day due to visitors and people working there but it is relatively quiet at night. It is interesting that this is one of the few areas in Manhattan that is so quiet after 8pm.

I found out that Fidi (financial district) is actually the perfect instagrammable place in NYC during the holidays for a night shot of the huge Christmas tree and the colorful New York Stock Exchange, which, is guarded 24 hours.

Zuccotti Park

Zuccotti Park Christmas lights

Another cute place in Fidi is the Zuccotti Park (where occupy Wall Street happened). It’s a cute spot for photos and only 5 minute walk from the Oculus.

Oculus

Oculus Christmas decoration and Christmas Market in NYC

Oculus is the most expensive transportation hub in New York City and it is the symbol of Lower Manhattan. Oculus is not only a transportation hub but also a high end shopping center with tons of nice stores and restaurants.

Christmas Decoration at Oculus in the winter

During Christmas time, Oculus has special decorations that let you take cute festive photos. Even though the area is small, it is still very festive. However I don’t know if this will be there every winter.

In 2023, the Oculus has a small synthetic rink where you can ice skate.

Oculus-Christmas-Decorations

Seaport District Christmas Tree

Christmas in New York SeaPort Christmas Tree

I’ll be honest here… I had never heard of Seaport until I walked by it randomly one day. It’s not an area that I normally visit, but in recent years Seaport has been changing quite a lot and got more developed.

Now it has really nice shops, restaurants, and both Pier 15 and Pier 17 for entertainment in the summer and winter. There are two winter wonderland type of things at these two piers for a fee, so if you are down there it’s worth checking them out!

Christmas in New York SeaPort CHristmas Tree

The Seaport Christmas Tree is usually this beautiful tree covered in white light bulbs instead of the traditional colorful ones. The Seaport Christmas tree is lit the week after Thanksgiving (the 2023 one is already lit).

Note that the Christmas tree at Sea Port actually changes every year so it’s not always white. This year the tree looks the same as the one above (but with a different base). But in previous years they had a fence around the tree.

Back when I visited the security guard told me no tripods even late at night. I don’t know if that’s still the policy if things have changed.

Hudson Yards

The Vessel at Hudson Yards Christmas light NYC

Hudson Yards is one of the newest areas in New York City and has gained its popularity due to the Vessel (which now can only be seen from afar and cannot be climbed due to the increasing number of suicides happening there), the Edge observatory, restaurants (such as Little Spain) and the high end shopping center.

Hudson Yards can be super festive during the holidays! The holiday decorations and displays are usually up in the middle of November.

Hudson Yards Holiday lights decoration

Hudson Yards lights inside shopping center NYC Christmas

The Vessel is fully lit and even all the escalations inside Hudson Yards shopping center is lit! It’s a bit crazy to think about how much electricity would cost for all this decorations but it really is pretty and the lights are on 24/7.

Pro Tip: If you want to photograph inside Hudson Yards without anyone, go before the store opens around 10am or after 10pm. The building technically closes at 10pm, but there are side doors that are open. I know many bloggers that went late at night and was able to get all the photos they wanted without anyone around.

Pro Tip 2: If you live in New York, you should visit mid November right after they turn on all the lights. Go around 4-5pm and the mall is very empty.

Central Park During Christmas

Christmas in New York Central Park Ice Skating Rink

Central Park is always everyone’s favorite place in New York City regardless of the season. Central Park is not really known for any giant Christmas trees there but everyone goes there for the outdoor ice skating rink. I have to say that Central Park in the winter is still incredibly beautiful, especially after a snow storm.

Bryant Park Christmas Tree and Winter Village

Christmas in New york Bryant Park Ice Skating Rink

If I have to pick one place that has everything you need to see for Christmas in New York, that would be Bryant Park.

The reason I picked Bryant Park over Rockefeller Center for Christmas is the fact that Bryant Park not only has a nice Christmas tree, a FREE outdoor ice skating rink, a beautiful carousel, but it also has a fantastic holiday market that has food and shops.

Since the Bryant Park ice skating rink is free, definitely expect crowds. However, if you don’t have your own skates, you will need to pay for some rentals and a locker.

Check out my detailed post on the Bryant Park Winter Village as well as my post on the best Christmas Markets in Manhattan.

Upper East Side

This super festive nutcracker house on the Upper East Side has been the new darling on the holiday decoration scene in the last couple of years.

Every year after Thanksgiving weekend, this townhouse gets all decorated with candy canes, gift boxes and the two giant nutcrackers. You can sit and walk on the red carpet to capture your photo (but do not touch anything or try to go inside)!.

The best time to go is mid week after Thanksgiving (we went one year on a Monday after Thanksgiving and they were in the process of setting it up).

This house is located on E 76th St. between Madison Ave and 5th Ave. The easiest way is to either take the M2 or M3 bus up or take the 6 train, get off at 77th St and walk over.

Washington Square Park Christmas Tree

Washington Square Park is located in Greenwich Village in Lower Manhattan by the NYU buildings so it’s always very lively during the summer.

Christmas in New York Where to see Christmas Tree | Washington Square Park Christmas tree

It has a beautiful fountain, street performers and a lot of young people chilling and relaxing on a nice summer night. I actually witnessed a public proposal at Washington Square Park too.

You don’t really get to see most of that in the winter, but instead, you are greeted by a giant Christmas tree under the arch. The Christmas tree and the arch makes this one of the most instagrammable places in NYC during the holidays since it’s not going to be as crowded as in the summer.

However some years there is no Christmas tree, instead there will be other art installations.

Madison Square Park

Most people probably know Madison Square Park by the Flatiron building, Eataly market and the original Shake Shack (which is awesome if you’ve never tried).

Christmas in New York Best Spots

In the winter, Madison Square Park is transformed into a little gingerbread village (although there is only one gingerbread house). There is usually some awesome art installation there but that changes year over year. Madison Square Park is one of the lesser known spots for Christmas in New York but I think the area is just really pretty in general.

Lotte Palace Hotel

Lotte Palace Hotel is a five star luxury hotel near the Rockefeller Center. The rooms are fancy and the hotel has a long history. Lotte Palace Hotel also has a nice court yard which allows it to have a nice Christmas Tree during the holiday time.

The Christmas tree is in the court yard but there is public access. We were able to spend a long time there and also sit in front of the tree for shots. I personally think the Christmas Tree at Lotte Palace is THE BEST CHRISTMAS TREE IN NEW YORK CITY.

Bloomberg Tower

Bloomberg Tower Christmas Tree winter in NYC

Bloomberg is not exactly a “Christmas” spot since it’s an office building. However because of the way the building looks plus the tree in the center, it makes the whole area look very pretty and festive during the holiday season.

Dyker Heights Christmas Lights Display

When people think about Christmas in New York, they automatically think about the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center or the numerous window displays. However, one not-so-hidden-gem is the neighborhood of Dyker Heights in Brooklyn.

Dyker Heights Christmas decorations | how to get to Dyker Heights by yourself

Dyker Heights is known to have lavish Christmas lights displays and it’s a super instagrammable place NYC during the holidays. The best places to check out the Christmas displays at Dyker Heights are located between 11th to 13th Avenue from 83rd to 86th street.

The most festive streets are quite far from public transportation so research beforehand for the best way to get there. The best time to visit Dyker Heights is mid December when all the lights are up. If you visit earlier than that you may not see all the lights and decorations.

Dyker Heights is quite far from Manhattan and there is no direct train that goes there so you would need to do a tour.

The tour will provide you transportation and take you to the best decorated houses in Dyker Heights so it’s worth it. Book your Dyker Heights Christmas Lights tour. The tour is also included in the Go City Pass and New York Sightseeing Passes.

You can also visit Dyker Heights without a tour. Be sure to check out my complete guide on where to go and how to get to Dyker Heights by yourself.

Brookfield Place

Inside of Brookfield Place during Christmas | Christmas decorations in NYC
The lanterns will change to Christmas Color in the winter

Brookfield Place is a high end shopping center in Lower Manhattan not too far from 911 Memorial and the Oculus. There are restaurants, ice skating rink and high end stores at Brookfield Place and it is the perfect place to visit during both summer and winter.

During Christmas time, there are lights all over the mall entrance area making it the perfect Instagram spot in New York City without the crowd.

Brookfields Place Lights
Tunnel of lights

Christmas Themed Bars in NYC

There are a number of Christmas themed bars in New York City that you simply cannot miss. A lot of them are “pop up” Christmas bars in New York City meaning they only show up during the holiday time.

During non-holiday time, the bars are just regular bars with no Christmas decorations. Since there are only a few of them in the city, these Christmas themed bars in New York City can be quite expensive and crowded.

Now a few of the note worthy ones….

Miracle on 9th Street

Wow, where do I even start with this bar? If you are in Manhattan, you have to visit Miracle on 9th during the holidays. It’s located in the East Village at 649 E 9th St.

Best New York City Christmas pop up bar and restaurants during the holidays

Miracle on 9th Street is one of the cutest and most festive place I’ve visited during Christmas in New York. It’s definitely one of the most instagrammable bars in New York City with even more delicious Christmas themed drinks. You can read about Miracle on 9th Street on my previous blog post.

Since Miralce on 9th Street is one of the best Christmas themed bars in New York, the line gets quite long so I would highly recommend visiting really early otherwise you have to wait in the cold for a long time.

Rolf’s: The Most Festive Christmas Themed Bar in NYC

Rolf's NYC festive decoration winter in NYC
Rolf’s

Rolf’s is a famous German eatery with incredible Christmas decorations during the holiday season. Every year the line is out of the door because of its decorations.

You will need to line up outside of the restaurant before it opens. If you want to sit at a table, everyone in your party will be required to order an entree, which is pretty expensive.

Pro tip: the decoration is up in September, you can go when they first put it up to avoid crowds!

Besides these two more popular ones, check out my post for the most festive bars and restaurants for all the festive Christmas themed bars in New York City looking like the ones below!

Best Christmas Markets in New York City

When I lived in Europe, one of my favorite things to do in the winter was to visit the endless Christmas markets to enjoy some mulled wine, delicious food, and holiday themed shopping.

Now that I moved back to the US, I can also experience a taste of European Christmas markets in New York City.

In addition to Bryant Park, you can also find tons of festive pop up stalls around Union Square (14th Street between 4th and Broadway), Columbus Circle (59th St & Broadway) near Central Park, and inside Grand Central Terminal (42nd Street & Lexington Ave).  Read more about the Christmas Markets here.

Christmas Markets in New York City in the winter

It’s nice to visit New York City any time of the year but I think Christmas in New York is the most magical experience you can have. You will not be disappointed to spend Christmas in New York and visit some of the most Instagrammable places in NYC during the holidays.

New York has a lot of everything and the holiday cheer here is unparalleled. The entire city is lit up and full of locals and tourists and all the restaurants and bars full just like in the movies.

Have More Questions about NYC During Christmas?

How cold is December in New York City?

December in New York City has an average temperature of 30F – 44F (freezing to 7 Celsius) during the day. Although cold, it generally is sunny in NYC in December but sometimes you can experience very windy days, which make it feel colder.

Check my NYC Winter packing list to figure out what to wear and pack to stay warm.

Does it snow around Christmas in New York City?

Unfortunately you most likely will not have a white Christmas in NYC. It rarely snows in December in New York City and even if it does, it would be a thin layer of snow at most.

Is it expensive to visit NYC during Christmas?

The short answer is yes, things are way more expensive and crowded in December in NYC. Tourists from all over the world come to experience the magic of Christmas in NYC. With that said, you can find cheaper hotels in Queens, Brooklyn and in New Jersey if you are not set on staying in Manhattan.

If you are planning to do touristy attractions in New York City, you definitely should get a New York attraction pass to save money and book your time slots early!

Are things open on Christmas Day in New York City?

Most of the observation decks in New York City are open on Christmas Day! Holiday markets, Times Square, Grand Central, Oculus and other outdoor places like Central Park are open on Christmas Day as well.

Keep in mind a lot of restaurants are closed on Christmas Day but that really depends! Some very touristy restaurants remain open and a lot of Chinese/ Indian restaurants remain open as well on Christmas Day.

Summary of the Best Christmas Tree and Holiday Decorations in New York City

The Best Christmas Trees in New York City

  • Lotte Palace Courtyard Christmas Tree
  • Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree
  • Bryant Park Winter Village
  • Seaport District
  • Radio City & Candy Cane
  • Wall Street Christmas Tree
  • The Peninsula Hotel Lobby
  • Washington Square Park
  • Bloomberg Office Courtyard
  • The New York Public Library
  • The MET
  • Lincoln Center

The best Christmas lights and decorations in New York City

  • Hudson Yards
  • Bryant Park Winter Village
  • Rockefeller Center Channel Garden
  • Saks Fifth Avenue Window Display and show
  • Macy’s Herald Square
  • Fifth Avenue Fifth Season Christmas Pop Up display
  • Peninsula Hotel
  • Giant candy cane and ball decoration across fro Radio City
  • Oculus
  • Dyker Heights
  • The Mark Hotel on the Upper East Side
  • The Nutcracker house on the Upper East side between 5th ave and Madison on 76th Street

Additional New York City Resources

If you want to check out other cool things to do and see in NYC here are some other articles that may interest you!

Like this post? Pin this New York City Christmas decoration guide to Pinterest!

Pinterest Pin: Christmas in NYC | Best holiday and Christmas photo spots in New York City
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