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  • Writer's pictureAlana Robin

The 20 Best Festive & Free NYC Holiday Activities

'Tis the holiday season in New York City and all the stops are being pulled out. Everywhere you turn are lights and decor galore.

Today, I will be giving you the inside scoop on all the most fun, festive, and ~mostly~ free activities to do in New York City this holiday season.


Companies and shops spend crazy amounts of money to deck our their buildings and public spaces for the holidays. I try to take full advantage and walk to the streets taking in all the glitz and glam I can. One of my favorite ways to get in the holiday spirit is to walk down Fifth Ave, see all the trees and lights, and take in how incredibly happy everyone is. It is one of the few times of year tourists and locals stop and enjoy the moment instead of rushing from place to place. Here are some of the best holiday lights and decor:

  • Rock Center Christmas Tree: Truly an iconic view that is beautiful day and night

  • Sak's Fifth Avenue: Gorgeous lights and music show - most incredible at night

  • Lotte Palace: Gossip Girl & a huge tree - need I say more?

  • Cartier: The building itself is a giant present

  • Tiffany & Co.: All the glitzy glory of the holidays

  • Bank of America Winter Village: Such a beautiful tree and the shops themselves transport you to a European marketplace

  • New York Botanical Gardens: Beautiful light displays

  • Dyker Heights Christmas Lights: Whimsical light displays on overload

  • Central Park: Especially beautiful after a fresh snow

  • Brookfield Place: All the trees and festivities you expect from a suburban mall done up the true Manhattan way

  • Lincoln Center: Always classy with great lights & trees

  • The Plaza Hotel: Lights and trees everywhere to make you feel like Eloise on Christmas morning


I lovelovelove going to see window displays during the holidays. As a kid, my family would come to the city from Michigan and see the Macy's window displays. Now, as an adult, I hike through the city to my four favorite places for festive windows.

They all have amazing displays that are unique and themed each year!

  • Bergdorf Goodman's

  • Sak's

  • Bloomingdales

  • Macy's


Holiday markets are my happy place. They are have so much to offer and are the perfect place to walk around, shop for gifts, and eat some snacks both day and night. Many seem to offer the same vendors, so you don't need to go to them all - unless you're obsessed and love a good market like me. Here is my personal ranking of the three big ones in the city:

  1. Columbus Circle

  2. Bryant Park

  3. Union Square


If you love a good sugary, winter themed drink - New York City has you covered in December (and well into January). Bars try to set themselves apart with the most ornaments, most creative cocktails, and largest rooftop igloos. I would highly recommend checking out the following bars; be warned the lines get crazy!

  • Rolf's: A ceiling of ornaments and some truly festive drinks

  • 230 Fifth Avenue: Igloos with a view of the Empire State Building

  • Ralph's (Coffee) Bar: Great for before work or in between Christmas Tree viewing sessions

  • Miracle on Ninth Street: Such festive drinks and cups

  • Donner & Blitzen's Reindeer Lounge: Super cozy spot for a festive vibe

What is your favorite holiday tradition? Let me know in the comments!



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