New York! Charming and delightful, the city of New York exudes a vibrancy that not many cities in the world can compete with. The city is a vivid celebration of life throughout the year, but when December comes along it reaches a hysteria that will leave you euphoric! The holiday celebrations are in full force and you will find yourself surrounded by holiday lighting, market fairs, musical performances and special holiday events. The good old attractions like the Statue of Liberty, Central Park and the Empire State Building are evergreen and a must-visit! Here is a guide on how to make the best of the holidays and plan an epic trip to New York in December.
What Makes New York in December Special?
Holiday Cheer – New York is one of the best cities in the world to spend the annual holidays. Touted as the ‘Melting pot of the world’ it witnesses holiday celebrations from cultures across the world. The festive season starts right from Thanksgiving and all through December till the New Year.
Shopping & entertainment – New York has multiple sales, Christmas market fairs and pop-ups across the city that are ideal for festive shopping. Even window shopping is a treat with major departmental going over the top with their holiday decorations! You have special shows like Christmas Spectacular with the Rockettes and Nutcrackers, plus several music concerts to entertain the entire family.
Calm & Frenzy – New York in December witnesses two phases, the first couple of weeks are lower in tourist numbers and you can enjoy shopping and sightseeing with fewer queues. However, if you love being in the thick of things then you enjoy the last two weeks of December when there is a literal holiday frenzy! Accommodation and flight rates reflect this as well and you can choose what kind of experience you want.
New York Weather in December
Winter is in full force in New York in December and temperatures are dropping throughout the month. The average daytime temperature ranges around 7°C and it lowers to around 0°C at night. The weather is windy and you can expect a few rainy days, while there aren’t major snowstorms hitting the city there will be snow towards the end of the month.
Must - Dos in New York in December
Central Park is the best spot in New York to witness the changing seasons. In December, the landscape turns white and opens up for snow activities like sledding, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. The most popular activity remains ice skating at Wollman Rink and Lasker Rink.
Daily: 6:00 AM to 1:00 AM
New York, NY, USA
Getting There ›
9/11 Memorial & Museum
The 9/11 Memorial is a sombre reminder of the terrorist attack that happened in New York. It is a moving tribute to the people who lost their lives, the museum holds a variety of memorabilia of the event and the people affected. In December, you can attend the film and live talks at 9/11 Memorial, free of cost.
Daily: 7:30 AM to 9:00 PM (Memorial)
Sun – Thu: 9:00 AM to 8:00 PM (Memorial Museum)
Fri – Sat: 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM (Memorial Museum)
Z180 Greenwich Street, New York, NY 10007, USA
Getting There ›
Top of the Rock Observation Deck
Go up 850 feet to the Top of the Rock Observation Deck and take in a bird’s eye view of New York City. With both indoor and outdoor viewing you can keep the December cold at bay. Combine your trip to enjoy the Christmas festivities at the Rockefeller Centre.
Every day: 8:00 AM – 12:00 AM
December 24 & 31: 8:00 AM – 10:00 PM
30 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10112, USA
Getting There ›
American Museum of Natural History
A visit to the largest natural history museum in the world is the best way to enjoy a cold December day. With over 33 million specimens spread across 28 buildings, there is a lot to see at the museum. It is the best place to go to if you are traveling to NYC with kids.
Every day: 10:00 AM – 5:45 PM
Holiday on Christmas
Central Park West & 79th St, New York, NY 10024, USA
Getting There ›
Statue of Liberty
Bundle up and take the ferry to Ferris Island for a rendezvous with the Statue of Liberty. December is a great time to visit the monument as you don’t have to deal with thronging crowds and even visit the Crown and Pedestal without having to book months in advance.
Every day: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Holiday on Christmas
Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes
Enjoy a Christmas NYC Tradition by going to a show of the Christmas Spectacular starring the beautiful Radio City Rockettes. A tradition since 1933, the show is a visual extravaganza and is a family-friendly entertainment show that uses technology and fantastic choreography for a show of a lifetime!
Daily Shows at 11:00 AM, 2:00 PM, 5:00 PM and 8:00 PM
The Intrepid Museum is an ode to the might of the American Military. The museum displays the USS Intrepid, which was an aircraft carrier in World War II, a Space Shuttle Pavilion, the Submarine Growler and a British Airways Concorde. It is perfect for kids and adults to learn about the rich history of the US Army.
Every day: 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Pier 86, W 46th St, New York, NY 10036, USA
Getting There ›
Couple’s Private 30 Minute Helicopter Tour
Searching for the best Christmas gift for your partner? Gift them an experience they won’t forget ever! Book a unique 30 minute Helicopter tour of NYC, enjoy a private experience and indulge in sightseeing of NYC’s most famous attractions from the sky!
Every day: 3:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Chinatown Food Tour
NYC is a melting pot of cultures and a tour of Chinatown will help you understand how this culture came to fruition. Take a food tour of the neighborhood’s most iconic restaurants like Vanessa’s Dumplings, Jing Fong, Nom Wah Tea Parlour, and Golden Fung Wong Bakery.
Tour starts on Saturdays at 12:00 PM
Canal St & Baxter St,
New York, USA
Getting There ›
Holiday Lights and Movie Sights
Head to the real locations of your favorite Christmas movies and enjoy the glamorous side of New York City. On this tour you will be accompanied by a local actor who will take you through the Holiday light decorations of the city and stop at some of the most memorable movie locations in NYC.
Every day: 3:00 PM
Events in December in New York
Christmas Tree Lighting at Rockefeller Center
Date: 4th December 2019
The Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting is in its 87th year and it’s not an exaggeration to state it’s become a New York tradition. The lighting ceremony is accompanied with an entertainment show and the tree remains lit until early 2020. The ceremony lasts from 8 PM – 10 PM.
Hello Panda Festival
Date: 6th December 2019 – 19th December 2019
The Hello Panda Festival is a one of its kind Lantern Festival in New York. For the first time you can experience over 120 Chinese lantern exhibits, live entertainment and interactive workshops. With lots of activities and international food vendors, it is a fun family event for all ages.
Street Music Festival
Date: 21st December 2019
All of New York will ring out with beautiful music on Winter Solstice, the longest day of the year, as over 350 artists perform throughout New York’s streets. The event is taking place since 1989 and is inspired by the French street music festival, Fête de la Musique.
Winter Village at Bryant Park
Date: All through December
Over 120 holiday shops pop up in Bryant Park for the Winter Village festival. The holiday market is one of the best in NYC and the highlight of the festival is the only free admission skating rink in the city. Plus, there are restaurant popups, events and live entertainment shows.
New Year’s Eve at Times Square
Date: 31st December 2019
There is no other place in the world you would rather be than at New Year’s Eve in Times Square! At Least a million people assemble at Times Square to watch the ball drop and be a part of history each year. Be there for this epic moment and witness a fireworks show and musical performances.
Date: All through December
The Nutcracker is a Christmas tradition worldwide, and the New York City Ballet’s production of George Balanchine’s Nutcracker is a family favorite. The show will run at the David H. Koch Theatre and is a brilliant production complete with spectacular choreography and grand stage theatrics.
New York in December : 7-day Itinerary
7 Days in New York Itinerary
What to Eat in New York in December?
Nothing beats the cold like digging into a warm hearty bowl of clam chowder. Unlike other variants the Manhattan clam chowder is made with a tomato-base and cooked with onion, celery, potatoes and seasoned with thyme, pepper and cayenne. It’s a bowl of the best comfort food you can get!
Where to order: Bostwick's Chowder House
Fans of Seinfeld will remember the quest for a fresh chocolate babka. The brioche-like bread stuffed with chocolate has Eastern European Jewish and soon became a New Yorker’s favorite. You can eat it for breakfast or as a snack and is a perfect carb-loader for keeping warm in December.
Where to order: Russ & Daughters
The rich and decadent Lobster Newberg is a dish that is fit for the holidays. Created in the 1890’s in a New York City restaurant, Delmonico’s, the dish uses all things luxurious! Fresh lobster is boiled, then fried in butter and further cooked in cream and sherry. The resulting dish is melt-in-the-mouth bonanza!
Where to order: Delmonico's
It is always a good time to eat Pizza and with the cold weather beating you down in December, the cheesy deliciousness of the New York-style Pizza will come to save you! The pizza topped with simple ingredients like mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce is perfect to eat on the go as you window shop.
Where to order: Juliana's Pizza
You cannot visit the Big Apple and not eat a slice of Apple Pie! This traditional American dessert is a perfect treat to indulge in New York in December. The rich filling of apple ensconced in a sweet crust is served warm with a topping of whipped cream or ice cream.
Where to order: Little Pie Company
New York December Essentials
Weather in New York in December
New York experiences a cold, windy and wet December. The likelihood of a white Christmas is high but in this month you will still see more rain than snow. The days get shorter and you are likely to experience around 9 hours of daylight which is good to enjoy the sights. The sun rises at around 7 AM and sets around 4:30 PM.
Where to Stay in New York in December
New York is fairly large city and while most of the sights are concentrated in Manhattan you can easily commute around in public transport. Some of the best neighbourhoods in New York for tourists are Midtown, Tribeca, SoHo, Theatre District, Meatpacking District, Upper West Side, Bowery, and Upper East Side. Here are our favorite accommodation picks for December in New York –
What to Pack for New York in December
You will find yourself doing a mix of both indoor and outdoor activities in New York in December, hence it’s best to prepare for both. Pack a long trench coat or a waterproof wind cheater and raincoat, add a layer of warm sweater and long pants and shirts. Don’t forget to get scarves, and gloves to keep warm. There will also be a lot of walking so make sure you bring your walking shoes and if you are attending parties or visiting upscale restaurants ensure you pack dress clothes.
Getting Around in New York in December
New York in December can be packed towards the last weeks of December and you will need to be prepared in advance on how to use public transport. Here are the options you have –
- Bus: These run 24/7 and are spread over 238 local routes, however they can be crowded and get stuck in traffic .
- Taxi: The ubiquitous taxi is easy but its speed depends on the traffic.
- Subway: With over 472 stations, it is one of the largest subway networks in the world
You can learn about the other public transport options like Commuter Rail, PATH, Ferry, Aerial Tram, and Hop-on Hop-off Bus here in this complete guide to New York Public Transportation System.
Tips for Visiting New York in December
- The Christmas season is happening on Broadway with several Holiday special shows and new shows. However, it is a busy period and it is advisable to book your Broadway tickets in advance.
- There is no getting away from the crowds in New York in December, especially towards the Christmas week. Be mindful of keeping your belongings around you and prepared to wait in queues for all attractions, especially if you are traveling with kids.
- Schedule some time in your itinerary to just walk around Manhattan to soak in the holiday lighting. A stroll through Fifth Avenue’s stores like Saks, Bergdorf Goodman, and Bloomingdales will leave you amazed with the outrageous holiday decorations. The city is quite ‘Instagrammable’ during the holiday season!
- If you are visiting New York City in the first few weeks you can finish your holiday shopping in the many Christmas markets. Some of the most popular ones are at Bryant Park, Grand Central Terminal Holiday Fair, Union Square Park, Columbus Circle, and the Oculus.
- Many restaurants in New York are open to serve elaborate Christmas Dinners, however they need reservations weeks in advance so make sure you do the booking ahead. Some of our favorite restaurants are Rolf’s, Rock Centre Cafe, Kingside, Clement, and Boqueria.
Discover New York Through The Year
Planning to Visit New York in December?
For more fun things to do in NYC, check out our detailed guides and plan your trip better!