Best December in New York City Activities

There are lots of great things to do in New York in December. For starters, winter sports abound, whether you like to play, watch, or both. Shopping reaches a fever pitch this month, from crafts and artists’ markets to flea markets to sample sales and more. New York City in December offers some of the biggest shopping bargains and some of the most unique items.

A Holiday Lights Tour is definitely a must-see, both in Manhattan and Dyker Heights, Brooklyn. Top it off with Radio City Music Hall, Lincoln Center, the best of Broadway, the beautiful windows of 5th Avenue and lots more. Choose from bus tours, walking tours and dinner cruises and take in all of NYC during the holidays just like you’ve seen in the Movies and TV.


1. Special December Tours in New York City

All year round, NYC offers fabulous tours of all kinds, but there is nothing on the planet like New York City during the winter holidays, when the entire City just sparkles.

New York City Holiday Lights Tour

On Sale Now Special Holiday Lights Tours:

Holiday Cruises

Cocoa & Carols Holiday Cruise

NYC Insider Pick
Price starting at US$96
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Statue & Skyline Holiday Cocoa Cruise

NYC Insider Pick
Price starting at US$48
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Sunset & Holiday Cocoa Cruise

Price starting at US$72
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Best of NYC Holiday Tours

Browse more NYC Holiday Tours

2. Special Christmas Holiday NYC Tours

All year round, New York City offers fabulous tours of all kinds, but there is nothing on the planet like New York City during the winter holidays, when the entire City just sparkles. These special tours are offered on Christmas Eve and/or Day.

Special Holiday Tours Open on Christmas Eve and/or Day

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3. Holiday Shopping in December in New York City

One of the best things to do in New York in December is check out our one-of-a-kind artists’ markets, craft fairs, flea markets or shopping festivals. Indoors and outdoors, uptown and downtown. These special markets offer original artists’ creations, one-of-a-kind finds, antiques, deep bargains, lots of food and drink, and a festive shopping atmosphere.

Holiday Markets in NYC

Holiday Markets in NYC

Explore the top holiday markets in NYC, sip hot cocoa, ice skate and shop your way through our fantastic holiday bazaars, featuring unique artisan gifts for the whole family. We review Grand Central Holiday Market, Union Square Holiday Market, Shops at Winter Village Bryant Park, flea markets, Holiday Markets Shopping Tours and more. Cross off your holiday shopping list with our full season Guide to Holiday Markets in NYC

  • Holiday Shops at Bryant Park - TBD 2022
  • Grand Central Holiday Fair - November 14 - December 24, 2022
  • Union Square Holiday Market - November 17 - December 24, 2022
  • Columbus Circle Holiday Market - November 28 - December 24, 2022

You can also choose a private NYC Christmas Markets Shopping Tour if you prefer to be guided around the best NYC markets.

In prior years, December designer sample sales included L’Oreal, Autumn Cashmere, Theory and Diane von Furstenberg and many more. Stay up to date on deep designer discounts on your favorite brands with our New York City Sample Sale Calendar.

Interested in a personal escort to guide you through the thousands of shopping choices? New York City shopping tours range from the most insider bargain opportunities to the most interesting shops and locations, from the garment center to Soho to celebrities’ favorite shopping spots; from home goods and high fashion to the most unique shoes, accessories, gifts and more. There are shopping tours for movie buffs, fashionistas and even for men who want a shopping trip designed just for him. Learn more about our fabulous NYC Shopping Tours.

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New York City Gift Ideas

There are so many fantastic New York City Gift Ideas that will bring a smile to anyone who lives here, is moving to NYC or is just visiting for a few days. You can treat your loved ones of any age to almost anything in NYC, like foodie gift cards, Broadway gift cards, or a special experience as a gift for someone visiting New York.

New York City Gift Ideas

  • Ticketmaster Gift Card - There is probably no more versatile gift in NYC than a Ticketmaster Gift Card. Broadway, Sports, Concerts and so much more.
  • Classic Harbor Cruise - NYC Boat Cruises are one of my favorite things to do in NYC, with both my lifelong NYC friends and when visitors come to town
  • NYC Foodie and Restaurant Gifts - choose from dozens of food tours, restaurant gift cards, classes.

See All: New York City Gift Ideas

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4. NYC Insider Guide December Events Calendar

Things To Do in New York in DecemberCheck out all our cool events taking place in December: Concerts, NYBG Holiday Train Show, Holiday Shows (Elf, Cirque du Soleil, How the Grinch Stole Christmas are some examples), Nutcracker Ballet and so much more.

Also don’t miss our Insider Guides’ to the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, Christmas in New York City and New Year’s Eve Parties. There is never a shortage of things to do in New York in December!!!! 

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5. Skiing, Snow and Sledding in and around NYC

Sledding in New York CityAfter a good snow, New York City becomes a mecca of winter sports activities; from cross-country skiing to sledding, ice skating and, of course, building giant snowmen (and snow-women).

Skiing in New York City may be a challenge, but most toy stores in the city sell inexpensive sleds and you can get creative with cardboard, as well.

Pilgrim Hill in Central Park is known for being big and steep, though it can get crowded. Best entrance is 5th Avenue & 72nd Street.  Cedar Hill (also Central Park) is quieter and less steep.  Best entrance is between 76th and 79th Streets at Fifth Avenue.

For those who want to do some local downhill or cross-country skiing, this all day Hunter Mountain Ski Package with Transportation takes you right from the city to the mountain and back; more local ski groups: Dynamic Outdoors, Ski NYC.

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6. Head to a Winter Wonderland

The NYBG always has fantastical Holiday Train Show, a replica of Manhattan, made entirely from plants, leaves, seeds and bark. They also recently started their "Glow" show (photo). The Bronx Zoo Holiday Lights never fail to leave adults and kids in wonder with their immersive light displays, animal lanterns, holiday decor, train rides, animated sculptures, colored tunnels and arches and tree lighting, all accompanied by hot cocoa and toasted marshmallows. Some years, the Central Park Zoo has a Winterfest, where it’s all lit up and the polar bears are right at home. Our Christmas in New York Calendar highlights all the best Tree Lightings – Central Park, Bryant Park, Winter’s Eve @ Lincoln Center and more.

New York Botanical Garden GLOW

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Save BIG on Things To Do in New York in December

There are New York City Coupons and Discounts available for almost everything one can do in NYC, except for a few exclusive events, shows and restaurants. This time of year, there are huge savings on shows, tours, attractions and other fun things to do in December.

Examples include Elf The Musical, the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall, The Big Apple Circus, Museums, Holiday Lights Tours, New Years Eve Parties and lots more. For updates and details, check the NYC Insider Guide to ALL our local steals and deals.

New York City Coupons

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7. Cheer on a New York City Sports Team

New York Knicks Tickets

Even though it’s cold outside, there are still lots of great sports to watch in December in New York City. The Knicks and Nets basketball season is well underway, as are the Rangers and Islanders hockey seasons. The Giants and Jets are toward the end of football season, and hopefully doing well!

So whether you brave the cold at MetLife Stadium for football, or stay warm at Madison Square Garden or Barclay’s Center for basketball and hockey, or even just try and watch them all on TV at a bar, cheering for a NYC Sports team is one of the BEST things to do in New York in December.

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Download our NYC Holiday Hours Cheat Sheet

Wondering what’s open on Thanksgiving or How to Spend Christmas in New York? Which attractions are open late and what days they are closed? We put together this awesome NYC Holidays and Hours Cheat Sheet for you. You can download it free just by giving us a share! Keep in mind, schedules are subject to change, so you should always check in advance, but this chart is current as of November 2021.

NYC Holiday Hours Cheat Sheet

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8. New York City Helicopter Tours

The cold weather is a great time to take to the Manhattan skies for an exciting New York City Helicopter Tour! Enjoy spectacular aerial views of Manhattan, including the Statue of Liberty, Wall Street, 9-11 Memorial, World Trade Center and Ellis Island. If your tour heads uptown, Central Park and Yankee Stadium are must-sees!

I LOVED my tour…check out some of my photos and review at New York City Helicopter Tour.

NYC Helicopter Tours

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9. What to Wear – What to Bring – New York City in December

Bundle up – December in New York City ranges from cold to freezing cold, with some occasional unseasonably warm days. As a year-round rule, layers are always a good idea when traveling to NYC.  But make sure to pack hats, scarves, gloves, waterproof shoes/boots, sweaters, coats, umbrellas and so on. It is always advisable to bring a small knapsack for warm winter accessories, as temperatures can change quite a bit while you’re walking around.

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Where to Stay in New York City in December

December is the perfect time to watch the world's most famous ball drop at midnight from your own New Year's Eve NYC Hotel, check into one of our hotels near Rockefeller Center (Rockettes at Radio City, Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, Ice Skating) or near Central Park for more iconic Ice Skating.

Best Hotels Near Rockefeller Center

Some of our top value picks near Rockefeller Center include:

Hotels Near Rockefeller Center

See the Insider Guide for dozens more Hotels Near Rockefeller Center. Rockefeller Center runs from 47th - 50th Streets, between 5th and 6th Aves. Download our free neighborhood maps at Midtown East Hotels and Midtown West Hotels


Best New Years Eve NYC Hotels

If watching the world's most famous ball drop at midnight from your own New Year's Eve NYC Hotel is on your bucket list, then don't miss your chance to reserve a special NYE package in NYC. Some of our favorites include:

Best New Years Eve NYC Hotels

  • New York Marriott Marquis - rooms with Ball Drop views, multiple parties in hotel
  • M Social New York - new in 2021 with bar and lounge right above Times Square with perfect vantage point for the Ball Drop
  • The Knickerbocker (photo) - St. Cloud rooftop bar "New York, New Year's Eve, Times Square, private party on roof top where you can watch the ball drop 180 feet away - what else could you ask for?"

See More: Best New Years Eve NYC Hotels


Central Park NY Hotels

These are NYC Insider hand picked hotels that are not just "near" Central Park, as most NYC hotels claim to be...but on the Park itself, either Central Park South, Central Park West or Fifth Ave. Many other hotels are nearby, or within a few blocks, but these are the closest, and all offer Park views from select rooms.

Central Park NY Hotels

Some of our top value picks near Central Park include:

See the Insider Guide for dozens more Central Park NY Hotels and download our free Central Park map at Central Park NY Guide


NYC Hotels Best Holiday Decorations

Ready to have your own private winter wonderland during your NYC stay? Holiday Trees, Twinkling Lights, Santa's Mailbox, Menorahs and more.

NYC Hotels Best Holiday Decorations

  • Lotte New York Palace - “Beautifully decorated for the holiday season” (photo)
  • The Peninsula Hotel - Nights Before Christmas Package & Holly Jolly New York Holiday Package + their amazing rooftop
  • Club Wyndham Midtown 45 - The "Elf" Suite inspired by the classic holiday film is like “Sleeping inside a Christmas card”

See More: NYC Hotels Best Holiday Decorations

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Fun Things to do in New York in Winter

Fun Things to do in New York in Winter


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More Things to do in New York City

Fun Things to do in New York in Fall

Fun Things to do in New York in Fall



Hot Sellers Right Now


Explore and Indulge Like a Real NYC Foodie

There is no shortage of pizza, bagels, street vendors, cupcakes, craft beer and cocktails, rooftops and mini food parks to explore and so many more food choices in the five boroughs, along with wonderful guides who can't wait to show you them all!!!!


Best New York City Hotel Rooftops

NYC Hotel Rooftops offer some of the best skyline views in the whole City, along with cocktails and food, views, pools, cabanas, sundecks and retractable roofs. Our top picks for the most surreal views and cocktails include:

New York City Hotel Rooftops

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Museums

Museums and attractions are open, some with reduced capacity, safety protocols, reservations and vaccination proof. Check out the new Museum of Ice Cream (SoHo), Guggenheim, MoMA, Whitney and so many more NYC Museums from which to choose.


New York City Museums


Attractions & Sightseeing

NYC attractions are open, some with reservations required. Whether you want to sightsee from the sky or selfie with celebs @ Madame Tussauds, you can be safe and explore.

Go HIGH or Go Home

Top of the Rock, Empire State Building, One World Observatory, Edge or the new SUMMIT? Which is best and, if we have to choose, which should we visit? There is no easy answer, but here are some facts to help guide your choice.

Edge NYC Observation Deck

  • Empire State Building - (86 and 102 floors) Best for patient movie and history buffs who need to check it off their bucket list. Recently redone indoor 102nd Floor Observatory
  • Top of the Rock - (67-70 floors) Best for sweeping 360° vista views, including of the Empire State Building and Central Park. Shorter lines and cheaper than the ESB.
  • One World Observatory - (100-102 floors) Best for homage to the Twin Towers. Modern and high tech, with phenomenal views
  • Edge - (100-101 floors) Highest outdoor observation deck, glass bottom floor, deck extends 80 feet away from building (photo)
  • Summit One Vanderbilt - (91-93 floors) Opened Oct 2021, all glass elevator, indoor and outdoor decks and glass terraces off the side of the building. One of the hottest tickets in town



Secret NYC Insider Tours

Explore our subways secrets with a local guide, go behind-the-scenes at the Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral, uncover surprising gems and historical tales of Grand Central Station, cocktail your way through Manhattan’s best and most secretive speakeasies and much more!


Fun Things to Do in NYC


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Sightsee from the Sky

Top of the Rock, Empire State Building, One World Observatory, Edge or Summit? Which is best and, if we have to choose, which should we visit? There is no easy answer, but here are some facts to help guide your choice.

Edge NYC Observation Deck

  • Empire State Building - (86 and 102 floors) Best for patient movie and history buffs who need to check it off their bucket list. Recently redone indoor 102nd Floor Observatory
  • Top of the Rock - (67-70 floors) Best for sweeping 360° vista views, including of the Empire State Building and Central Park. Shorter lines and cheaper than the ESB.
  • One World Observatory - (100-102 floors) Best for homage to the Twin Towers. Modern and high tech, with phenomenal views
  • Edge - (100-101 floors) Highest outdoor observation deck, glass bottom floor, deck extends 80 feet away from building (photo)
  • Summit One Vanderbilt - (91-93 floors) Opens Oct 2021, all glass elevator, indoor and outdoor decks and glass terraces off the side of the building

See All: Top New York City Tourist Attractions

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New York City Night Cruises

See our beautiful Skyline from all angles - in any weather!

Sunset Sail aboard the Schooner Adirondack

NYC Insider Pick
Price starting at US$72
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NYC Premiere Dinner & Skyline Cruise

Bestseller
Price starting at US$145
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Champagne City Lights Cruise on Yacht Manhattan

Price starting at US$56
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Circle Line Harbor Lights Cruise

Bestseller
Price starting at US$33
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New York City Lights Dinner Cruise

Likely to sell out
Price starting at US$161
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Architecture and Lights of Gotham

Price starting at US$74
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Take in ALL the Tours, Landmarks and Attractions and SAVE

NY Sightseeing Pass, New York Pass, NY Explorer Pass, CityPASS Compared

New York City Passes Compared

See All: New York City Pass Comparison Chart

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Secret NYC Insider Tours

Explore our subways secrets with a local guide, go behind-the-scenes at the Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral, uncover surprising gems and historical tales of Grand Central Station, cocktail your way through Manhattan’s best and most secretive speakeasies and much more!


Things to do in New York with Kids

One of the best parts of NYC is that what is fun for kids is usually just as much fun for adults. If you are joining us in NYC for a family vacation, then please read all about our local kid's favorites, along with special tips just for visitors.

Things to Do in New York With Kids

See All: Visiting New York with Kids.

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FREE Things to do in New York City

There are tons of free things to do in New York all day, every day! Tours, attractions, museums, events, shows, sports, movie and more. Kids, adults, outdoors, indoors, active, lazy...you name it!

Free Things to Do in New York City

See All: Free Things to Do in NYC - weekly calendar of all free walking tours, free museum admissions, free things to do by season and more

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New York City Shopping Guides

New York City Shopping


New York City Nightlife

How do you make the most of your time in the city that never sleeps?? Some of the best 'only in NYC' nightlife experiences include skyline views, dinner cruises, Museums and attractions open late til 2am, rooftops, night tours, comedy clubs and more. Some of our top NYC Nightlife picks:

New York City Nightlife

See all our Top Picks: New York City Nightlife

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Save HUGE $$$$ in NYC

New York City Coupons


Romantic Things to Do in NYC

There are tons of things to do on your romantic New York City vacation. Attractions open late with skyline views, Central Park Tours, VIP Experiences, a helicopter ride. Some of the most popular romantic ways to see NYC include:

Romantic NYC Hotel Deals

NYC Insider Pick
Price starting at US$120
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Romantic NYC Champagne & Skyline Cruises

Bestseller
Price starting at US$60
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Private Central Park Walking Tour with a Personal Photographer

Price starting at US$147
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New York City Private Helicopter Tour

Bestseller
Price starting at US$1,800
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Romantic Broadway Show Picks

Price starting at US$120
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Sunset Valentines Dinner Cruise in NYC

Bestseller
Price starting at US$145
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See more romantic things to do at: Romantic New York City Vacation and Valentine's Day in NYC


Explore and Indulge Like a Real NYC Foodie

There is no shortage of pizza, bagels, street vendors, cupcakes, craft beer and cocktails, rooftops and mini food parks to explore and so many more food choices in the five boroughs, along with wonderful guides who can't wait to show you them all!!!!

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Spot Celebrities in NYC

Celebrities in NYC

Where to find celebrities in NYC or which celebrities are living in NYC today are common questions by all, but celebrity sightings in NYC are way easier than you may think and happen all the time. You will, of course, see them on the subway, in Central Park, at the gym, in restaurants, at all the current hotspots, at shows and more. But here are some unique ways to see celebrities all over the city.

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Get Out of Town for a Day

NYC is within 3 hours of so many other cities and areas you can visit for just one day. Easily head to Washington DC, Boston, Philadelphia, Niagara Falls, the Hamptons, Woodbury Common Shopping Outlets and more. Whether you live in NY or are visiting, and no matter how much you love NYC, escaping for a day is a treat for everyone. Top choices for 1-day Out of Town:

See All: Day Trips Out of New York City

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2 COMMENTS

    • Hi Sandi – I’m not sure what you mean by “inexpensive.” There’s always free things to do in NYC, as you can see from this post. And in December, feel free to see the Holiday trees, light and decorations all over NYC.

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