From iconic landmarks to never-before-seen wonders, New York transforms into a holiday playground like no other during the winter months. Whether you crave a taste of the unconventional or yearn for more traditional holiday charm, consider these events the crown jewels of NYC’s shining winter wonderland. 

Rockefeller Center

At the beating heart of the city’s holiday spirit stands Rockefeller Center, home to the renowned Swarovski-topped Christmas tree. Equally well-frequented during the winter months is the iconic ice-skating rink, where you can lace up your skates and take a spin beneath the dazzling city lights.


Be sure not to miss the Candy Cottage of Christmas Magic when you visit Rockefeller Center. It’s as sweet as it sounds, and kids and adults alike will enjoy the everything-made-of-candy experience and corresponding scavenger hunt. Tickets are required for entry.

Dyker Heights Holiday Lights

For a jaw-dropping spectacle, and proof of how seriously New Yorkers take Christmas, venture out to Dyker Heights in Brooklyn. Each winter, the neighborhood transforms into a luminous dreamscape with extravagant holiday decorations. From twinkling lights to life-sized Santa automatons, Dyker Heights is a festive feast for the eyes – an annual tradition that embodies Brooklyn’s flair for the dramatic. 


The best time to see the lights is mid-December through New Year’s Eve. Arrive at any time between dusk and 9 p.m. for the most complete experience.


In a city known for embracing the unconventional, SantaCon takes the cake (or perhaps the cookie). A sea of Santas, elves, and other festive characters embark on a merry pub crawl throughout the city. It’s a spectacle that marries New York’s penchant for eccentricities with a generous dose of holiday merriment. Join the jolly throngs and add a sprinkle of mischief to your festivities, because in New York, even Santa likes to let loose.


The event can get rowdy by nature, but organizers take great care to ensure that all participants are respectful of each other and the city around them. The event takes place On Saturday, December 9th, and purchasing a ticket guarantees you a spot on the crawl.

Lightscape at Brooklyn Botanical Gardens

Immerse yourself in a symphony of light in the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. During their annual Lightscape event, the gardens morph into a mesmerizing world of light, creating an ethereal world of frosted flowers and twinkling trees. It’s a serene escape into a winter wonderland that is sure to captivate both the young and the young at heart.


Lightscape runs from November 17th through January 1st, 2024.

Holiday pop-up bars

There’s no shortage of trendy pop-ups in New York City, and around the holidays especially, it can be difficult to discern which ones are worth your time. Fear not: our go-to's for spirited cocktails in whimsical settings are Miracle on 9th Street, Sippin’ Santa, and Sleyenda at Leyenda are the go-to pop-ups for spirited cocktails in whimsical settings. These trendy establishments offer a perfect blend of holiday cheer and mixology mastery, so get ready to drink and be merry. And maybe eat beforehand.


Check out our full roundup on the Top 10 Christmas Pop-Ups 7 Bars You Won’t Want to Miss this Holiday Season


Santa’s Secret

Ascend to the fifth floor of the Shops at Hudson Yards, and you’ll discover Santa’s Secret, which turns out to be a speakeasy-meets-winter-wonderland. The spot boasts eight different immersive installations featuring quirky holiday characters, along with life-sized snow globes, an eye-popping variety show, and a menu of delectable holiday cocktails.


You’ll select your date and time when purchasing a ticket, but the event runs through December.

Frost Fest at Luna Park on Coney Island

While normally closed in the winter months, Luna Park is opening up during the big chill for the first time ever. Now, you can take the ferry across the way to discover a brand-new event called Frost Fest. Guaranteed to be a blast for the entire family, Frost Fest will include rides, a skating rink, holiday lights, shopping, and Santa.


Frost Fest takes place on select dates beginning Saturday, November 18th, and tickets are required.

The Nutcracker

If you’re someone who doesn’t feel their holidays are complete until they see Tchaikovsky and Balanchine’s timeless ballet, rest easy in the knowledge that New York City boasts some of the most stellar performances of The Nutcracker. The New York City Ballet is known for delivering the classic, familiar version of the show, albeit in a decidedly top-shelf manner. We would also recommend checking out the Brooklyn Ballet’s rendition for a fresh take, which weaves a rich tapestry of global dance from hip-hop to Flamenco.


The New York City Ballet has performances through December 31st at the David H. Koch Theatre. The Brooklyn Ballet’s Nutcracker takes place only on December 16th at Kings Theatre, with two showtimes at 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Tickets go fast, so be sure to get yours in advance.


FDNY Santa Rescue

In a heartwarming tradition that is likely to be a bit of a head-scratcher to the outside observer, the FDNY undertakes a serious seasonal mission. Santa has gotten stuck atop a tall building, and they’ve been sent to rescue him. Crowds amass to see the firefighters make their way up the face of the building and at last, bring Santa to safety. If you have children of any sort in your party, this one is unmissable, and adults are likely to find the novelty just as entertaining.


This year, the FDNY Santa rescue will take place on December 3rd at 12:00 p.m. at the New York City Fire Museum. Be sure to arrive on time; Santa waits for no one.