30 Holiday Activities You Have to Do in New York City This December

Oh, New York City...the concrete jungle where dreams are made of, while always magical, has a special sense of seasonal magic around the holidays.  

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The Big Apple has had countless cameos on the big screen — so much, in fact, that you might not live there or ever even paid the Big Apple a visit to feel like you've spent each Christmas ice skating in Central Park or frolicking around The Plaza Hotel à la Kevin McCallister in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. 

Whether you're visiting New York City for the first time or are a seasoned New Yorker who needs a quick refresher on your city's holiday charm - this list is your guide to experiencing the most wonderful time of the year in the Big Apple. 

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THE 30 THINGS YOU NEED TO DO IN NEW YORK CITY DURING THE HOLIDAYS

 

1. GET ABSOLUTELY CHRISTMAS WASTED AT ROLF'S

I'm a "more is more" kinda girl, but Rolf's is low-key teetering on the edge of overdoing it in all the right ways. This restaurant serves German beer, the best spiced eggnog ever, hot mulled wine and schnitzel under an over-the-top canopy of Christmas ornaments at Rolf's. Prepare for crowds and a wait in December (the bar is open through May) if you go on a weekend, but you've got to go...your Instagram feed can thank me later.

Rolf's, 281 Third Avenue

2. GO WINDOW SHOPPING

 Photo by @ effortlyss

Photo by @effortlyss

You can pretend like you wanna stay far away from Midtown during the holidays, but you and I both know they do December best. They say the best things in life are free (debatable, btw), but window shopping on Fifth Avenue doesn't cost a thing. Admire the gorgeous and ornate window displays of Lord & Taylor, Barneys, Saks, Tiffany’s, Bergdorf Goodman and Bloomingdale’s. You can flip off Trump Tower on your way to Boomerang dancing motorized mannequins, paper snow and the incredible light shows.

3. GO TO (JINGLE) HELL

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The Skinny bar on Orchard Street has turned into “an anti-holiday pop-up bar” to promote SYFY’s new television series, HAPPY! The cable network has transformed the space with unconventional holiday decor (like lots of it) and hilarious photo ops. Hurry though, Jingle Hells is a 10 day only pop-up experience. Did I mention everyone’s first drink is FREE at the daily HAPPY! Hour? Yeah, get over there quick.

DATES: Friday, December 1 through Sunday, December 10, 2017

HOURS:
Monday-Wednesday: 4pm – 4am
Thursday-Sunday: noon – 4am

4. SING YOUR HEART OUT AT CAFÉ UN DEUX TROIS

Calling all theater lovers, karaoke superstars and musical fiends - head over to Theater District mainstay, Cafe Un Deux Trois, and join the  restaurant in singing "The 12 Days of Christmas" all December long. It's an annual tradition locals know and love.

Cafe Un Deux Trois, 123 W 44th St.

5. MIRACLE ON 9TH STREET

 Photo by @ miracleon9thstreet

East Village cocktail haven Mace is transforming into Christmas hot spot, Miracle on 9th Street, a charming and cozy spot to sip straight from a Santa mug underneath a sea of Christmas lights. Oh, and in true Holiday neutrality, there's even a Hanukkah Hideaway nook with dreidels and more.

Mace, 649 East 9th Street

6. GET NOSTALGIC AT THE ARTSY IFC

Catch a big screen showing of It's A Wonderful Life at the IFC Center because we all need a good cry sometimes and tears will be streaming down your face the second George Bailey finds Zuzu's petals again.

IFC Center, 323 6th Ave.

7. NOT YOUR STANDARD ICE RINK

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The age old dilemna - you want to go ice skating, but you don't wanna be that basic b*tch who heads down to Rockefeller Center or Central Park. I get it. Opt for the hipper, trendier (yet much smaller) rink at The Standard High Line. 

The Standard High Line, 848 Washington Street

8. CATCH A MAJOR CASE OF HOUSE ENVY IN WEST VILLAGE

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It's officially the most wonderful time of the year when the gorgeous doors and stoops of West Village are decked out in wreaths, garlands, trees, lights and bows. Take a walk through the Village, stop for 'grams and maybe even pop over to Magnolia Bakery for some banana pudding after all that walking.

9. VISIT THE NEW YORK BOTANICAL GARDEN

 Photo by @ @trish_mayo

Photo by @@trish_mayo

Tower over a replica of Midtown Manhattan while you watch locomotives zoom along the holiday train track in the New York Botanical Garden. Stationed beneath the warm glow of the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, the whole thing will run circles around your former (or current...don't worry, I won't tell anyone) Thomas the Tank Engine set.

Cost: Tickets start at $23

10. GET WEIRD AT THE HOUSE OF YES HOLIDAY PARTY

Looking for somewhere to drench yourself in glitter while cage-dancing with a snake beneath a team of aerial performers? Look no further than House of Yes. At this particular HOY holiday party, the venue will be styled to replicate a “poetry brothel” -- naturally, the best place to embrace the holiday spirit. A series of actor-poets in classic bordello garb will burst out in spontaneous eruptions of poetry, amidst the already absurd cast of burlesque dancers and acrobats in drag. Lean into the oddity of it all, and take this opportunity to publicly recite some of your own sad-boy poetry. If attending a poetry brothel is not already on your holiday to-do list, I strongly urge you to reconsider. YOLO, right?!
Cost: Tickets start at $40

11. EXPERIENCE THE FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS THAT IS DYKER HEIGHTS

 Photo by @ popobullot

Photo by @popobullot

If you still think Rockefeller Center has the city’s most magical display of Christmas lights, then you've definitely never been to Dyker Heights. When it comes to decorations, this south Brooklyn neighborhood is as extra as it gets. So, rent that Zipcar and experience the magic of Dyker Heights for yourself.
 

12. CHANNEL ELOISE (OR KEVIN MCALLISTER) AT THE PLAZA

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Growing up, I dreamt of having tea at the (ok, let's be real...pizza in a limo on the way to) The Plaza Hotel. Simply walk around and quote Home Alone 2 or sip fancy teas (keep those pinkies up, y'all), and nibble on tiny tea sandwiches followed by pastel petits fours at the regal Palm Court.
Cost: $70

13. MOVE OVER BETTY CROCKER

Skip the store bought pie and learn how to actually bake this year, from the best of the best at Brooklyn Kitchen.
Cost: Classes are $95 with all tools and ingredients included (and you get to take home your creations)

14. SHOP REBECCA GARDNER'S POP-UP

 Photo by @ lboriginals

Photo by @lboriginals

Stock up and cute and kitschy gifts at Rebecca Gardner's Sugarplum Pop-Up, located at the St. Regis Hotel. The girliest girl on your Christmas list will totally swoon over anything you choose for her from the cutie pop-up.

St. Regis, 2 E 55th St.

15. BINGE ON LATKES

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Get in the Hanukkah spirit at the bottomless latke festival at the Brooklyn Museum with plenty of Manischewitz (kosher wine for all you noobs) to wash it all down.
Cost: Tickets are $55 with bottomless food and drink included

16. SWEET DREAMS ARE MADE OF CHEESE

 Photo by @ shake_ur_bonnbonn

The Standard East Village has transformed it's outdoor space to a special winter garden, complete with private yurts, spiked holiday cocktails and fondue.

The Standard East Village, 25 Cooper Sq.

17. TAKE A TRIP TO THE TROPICS

Let's be real, Santa Claus probably takes a little longer at the tropical destinations on his route. Sippin' Santa's Surf Shack returns to Boilermaker with tropical tiki drinks and kitschy holiday decor at this island-themed wonderland.

Boilermaker, 13 1st Avenue

18. NOT YOUR GRANDMA'S GINGERBREAD HOUSE

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Davio's Northern Italian Steakhouse is hosting an adults-only Naughty or Nice Gingerbread House Workshop on Saturday, December 9th. Tickets are $65 per person and include two wine, beer, or festive cocktail options. Guests are encouraged to bring gently used winter clothes to donate to the GOOD+ Foundation. Call 212-661-4810 or email lauren@davios.com to RSVP.

Davio's Northern Italian Steakhouse, 447 Lexington Ave.

19. VISIT WINTER ROOM AT THE ROOF

 Photo by @ theroofny

Photo by @theroofny

Belvedere-spiked hot chocolate, melty cheesy fondue goodness and "Veuve Clicquot in the Snow" pop-up are a few of the highlights at the holiday version of the popular Midtown watering hole, The Roof, whose rooftop is enclosed and heated during the winter season. The seating areas are also filled with pillows and blankets to keep guests toasty.

Open from 4 p.m. to 3 a.m. Thursday through Saturday and from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Sunday through Wednesday, through March, at 124 West 57th Street in Manhattan.

20. HEAR THOSE SLEYENDA BELLS RINGS

 Photo by @ leyendabk

Photo by @leyendabk

Cobble Hill's Latin-themed Leyenda turns into Sleyenda for nearly all of December in honor of the holidays. Holiday-card menus, tree shaped cocktail glasses and cocktails by esteemed mixologists, Ivy Mix and Julie Reiner, are just some of the delights Sleyenda has to offer. 

Open from November 30 through December 30 from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Thursday, 5 p.m. to 3 a.m. Friday, 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Sunday at 221 Smith Street in Brooklyn.

21. VISIT THE COCKTAIL FACTORY POP-UP

 Photo by @ @muddlingmemories

Inspired by Willy Wonka and Charlie at the Chocolate Factory, this holiday pop-up at NYLO Hotel on the Upper West Side boasts oversized candy canes and mushrooms seats. Guests can sip on drinks like Snozzberries Taste Like Snozzberries and Goodie Goodie Gumballs while posing for photos in the picturesque space. Best part? $1 from every drink served will be donated to Save the Children.

Open from December 1 through February 28 from 3 p.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday, 1 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday, and 1 p.m. to midnight Sunday, at 2178 Broadway in New York City.

22. PAY IT FORWARD

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To give is better than to receive and there's no time like the holidays to make someone else smile. Make some time for others this year to give the gift of a warm coat, kind conversation or even a hot holiday meal. Visit www.newyorkcares.org to find the cause and volunteer opportunity right for you this year.

23. GET OUTDOORSY AT CHRISTMAS MARKETS

 Photo by @ aeneid_images

Photo by @aeneid_images

I'm a sucker for a good Christmas Market. Strasbourg, France - the city I was born in - has the best in the world (I'll bore you about all the details in a future blog post). No joke, it's called the Capital of Nöel. So, I just say the love for Christmas Markets runs deep in my veins. New York City is full of Christmas Markets, all with their own charm. Choose between the Union Square Holiday MarketHoliday Shops at Winter Village at Bryant Park (my personal favorite) and Columbus Circle Holiday Market—or choose to stay toasty at the indoor Grand Central Holiday Fair.

24. GO SEE THE NUTCRACKER

Get dressed up and go see the Nutcracker at Lincoln Center. Some may say this is an overrated activity, but does anything get you feeling in the holiday spirit quite like the Nutcracker? The ballet runs through December 31.

25. HOTEL LOBBY BAR CRAWL

 Photo by @ crystal.cara

Photo by @crystal.cara

I love a good hotel lobby. New York City hotels go all out year round, but even more during the holidays. One of my favorite things to do is to hop from one hotel lobby bar to check out their eclectic decor while enjoying a cocktail (or four) along the way.

26. THE HIP HOP NUTCRACKER

Tchaikovsky’s iconic ballet has undergone an urban makeover. The show performs at Manhattan's United Palace Theatre on December 14 and Brooklyn's Kings Theatre on December 16. Set on New Year's Eve in Washington Heights, this Nutcracker features a dozen hip-hop dancers, digital scenery, a DJ, and the legendary Kurtis Blow as special MC doing an opening set of old-school classics. What Hamilton did for musicals, this Nutcracker is doing for ballet. I mean...this is a total must, amirite?! 

27. GET FREE (RETAIL) THERAPY WITH LOUIS VUITTON

December can be real rough on your bank account, but this free exhibit will let you experience world-class luxury without dipping into your savings. Luxury brand Louis Vuitton is offering a new and free (yes, FREE) exhibition: “Volez, Voguez, Voyagez.” Located at 86 Trinity Place, guests experience the rich history of the timeless brand by viewing and interacting with various Louis Vuitton pieces (from 1854 to 2017) sourced by historian Oliver Saillard. Wander through all three-levels of the exhibition to discover the brand’s past collaborations as well as trunks and luggage of years’ past. You'll be wondering how in the world such a fun exhibit cost you absolutely nothing for days after...just be prepared to want a Louis Vuitton trunk after you leave. To reserve your spot, see their website here.

28. END THE YEAR ON THE RIGHT NOTE

The New York Philharmonic's annual New Year's Eve concert is an elegant way to cap off the end of another great year on the right note. Get tickets at nyphil.org for this year's big concert, Pictures at an Exhibition and Bronfman.

29. TAKE A PLUNGE ON NEW YEAR'S EVE

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Starts don’t come much fresher than a chilling dip in the Atlantic Ocean to kick off the New Year. Join Coney Island’s Polar Bear Club by the West Eighth Street boardwalk for their annual New Year’s Day Plunge to help raise money for local organizations, including the New York Aquarium. Just think, those heart palpitations will be so worth it for the warm, fuzzy feeling you’ll get from doing a good deed (it might just be the hypothermia setting in, but hey).
Cost: $25 suggested donation

30. RUN INTO 2018

There’s no better way to part with 2017 than running as fast as you can in the other direction. Ring in the new year with a midnight run around a 4-mile course in Central Park and sprint directly into 2018. Fireworks await you at the end - proof that you made it out of 2017 alive.  
Cost: Entry fees start at $30

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