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Things to Do in NYC During the Holidays

The top ways to celebrate the season in the Big Apple.


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The most wonderful time of the year has finally arrived, and holiday magic is certainly in the air. When it comes to Santa sightings, dazzling displays, and, of course, Christmas cheer, no one city does it quite like our neighboring Big Apple. So grab the kids and take advantage of all NYC has to offer with these seasonal favorites.

Journey to the Land of Sweets

It’s been said that, when it comes to celebrating Christmas in the city, The Nutcracker is one attraction so enchanting it cannot be left unseen, and for good reason. After all, what could possibly be more magical than a Christmas Eve journey filled with growing trees, epic battles, dancing sweets and a doll come-to-life? There are countless traditional productions throughout the city from which to choose, such as American Ballet Theatre and New York City Ballet’s renditions. Afraid a 2-hour-long performance might be a little much for your youngsters? Check out New York Theatre Ballet’s kid-friendly, hour-long version.

Things to Do in NYC During the HolidaysEnjoy a Rawther Fancy Tea with Eloise

If your kids made it onto Santa’s “Nice List” this year, treat them (and yourself!) to a Rawther Fancy Tea at The Plaza Hotel. Dine in the fabulous style of everyone’s favorite 6-year-old Plaza guest, Eloise, enjoying scrumptious tea sandwiches and delicious desserts with the big guy in red. Write a group letter to Eloise, listen to an Eloise story and even make a trip to the North Pole to meet Santa. More Eloise events at the Plaza include Gingerbread Housemaking and Hannukah with Eloise.

Delight in a Holiday Light Show

Throughout the Christmas season, NYC is illuminated by seemingly hundreds of light shows, making it challenging to choose the perfect production for you and your loved ones. Thanks to the Time Warner Center, however, this decision has become a whole lot easier. One of the most popular holiday attractions the city has to offer, Holiday Under the Stars, will entrance children and adults of all ages. Look 150 feet up to the ceiling and marvel at a collection of 14-foot, glowing stars that light radiate vibrant colors in sync with favorite Christmas tunes. Keep the fun going long after the show has ended by shopping for gifts and snacking on treats at the neighboring Columbus Circle Holiday Market. If your family loves musicals, be sure to attend Broadway Under the Stars, which features free once-a-week performances through December 12 by a select cast of five Broadway shows.

Watch a Christmas Spectacular

If you’re interested in seeing a traditional living nativity, your daughter’s heart is set on seeing a musical and your son won’t step foot in a theater for anything less than a 3D flick, look no further—the Radio City Christmas Spectacular has got you covered. A New York holiday tradition since 1933, this musical stage show boasts over 140 performers, an original score, and 14 colorful scenes, including a 3D Santa sleigh ride, an excerpt from The Nutcracker, a rendition of “Joy to the World” and, of course, numerous performances by the famous Radio City Rockettes. Sure to bring bright smiles to the faces of even the Scroogiest of audience members, this production is called a “spectacular” for a reason.

Visit Santa’s NYC North Pole

For many kids, one of the most exciting parts of the Christmas season is—next to tearing open gifts beneath the tree, of course—sitting on Saint Nick’s lap. This year, take the excitement of meeting Santa to a whole new level by taking the kids to his Manhattan home-away-from-home: Macy’s Santaland. Stroll through the department store turned North Pole village and delight in merry elves, an enchanted forest, animatronic toys and a train display before visiting with Mr. Claus.

Things to Do in NYC During the HolidaysSpend a Magical Day in Central Park

Bundle up the whole gang and take advantage of all the timeless yuletide attractions Central Park has to offer. Kick off your day at the historic Belvedere Castle, where Santa Claus will collect Christmas wish lists and be available for photographs. Once you’ve told jolly old Saint Nick whether you’ve been naughty or nice, pile the family into a horse-drawn carriage for a ride throughout the frosty park. Be sure to ask your coachman to drop you off at either the Wollman or Lasker Rink for some ice skating fun. When the kids get tuckered out, head over to the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theater for a performance of The Three Bears Holiday Bash and warm up while watching a unique puppet show.

Snack and Skate with Santa

Don’t sweat it if you missed this year’s Christmas tree lighting—Rockefeller Center rings in the season with another beloved family tradition that’s even better. Head to Rock Center Café for Breakfast with Santa at Rockefeller Center, a one-of-a-kind celebration sure to delight the whole family. Enjoy an unforgettable breakfast with Santa Claus and his elves, complete with gingerbread men, candy canes and special gifts delivered straight from the North Pole. Then, fueled by all of those tasty treats, take to the ice skating rink with Santa to practice your figure eights under the twinkling lights of the iconic Christmas tree.

Things to Do in NYC During the HolidaysSee Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical

Everyone's favorite reindeer is heading to Madison Square Garden this season. Discover the magic of this classic holiday tale as it comes to life on stage from December 1-18 in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical. Take part in "The Reindeer Games," Rudolph's pre-show carnival-style activities that will be fun for the whole crew. This production reminds us all that our unique differences are indeed what make us special.

All Aboard for a Train Show

The New York Botanical Garden Holiday Train Show in the Bronx has been a city favorite for a quarter century for a reason. With over 150 models of NYC landmarks and skyscrapers and model trains throughout, your kid is sure to get a taste of the city like never before. Check out the 30-foot Brooklyn Bridge, or the new light-up Coney Island Wonder Wheel. The building displays feature parts made from plants, keeping the structures true to the venue. Head to this one-of-a-kind celebration before it closes January 16. While your there, get a special seasonal tour, hang back for a winter concert or a poetry reading and have a blast at one of many kids activities. Advanced tickets are highly recommended, so get yours ASAP.

Catch City Views from One World Observatory

Have you taken the crew to One World Observatory yet? There's no better time than the holiday season. If you're taking the kids, go for the Family Holiday Pack, which includes two adult tickets, two youth tickets, four hot chocolates and a One World Observatory Snow Globe. Snag a Holiday Cheer Package, which includes a festive cocktail and a One World Observatory Shaker. Go up to the main observatory on the 100th floor to check out Manhattan, Brooklyn and New Jersey from new heights.

Get a Taste of Holiday Spirit

New York City is one of the culinary capitals of the world, so odds are your family has ventured over the Hudson for a unique, delicious dinner. But have you ever gone for dessert? Sugartooth Tours, started by Broadway performers Sarah Rolleston and Allyson Tolbert in 2012, offers guided tours of the best sweet spots Manhattan has to offer. The Holiday Market Dessert Tour starts in Herald Square, where your crew will sip hot chocolate while taking in the renown Macy's holiday window displays. You'll then head to Dough for some one-of-a-kind doughnuts (we love the chocolate-cocoa nib!), and then head to The Union Square Holiday Market. This European-style market features tons of gift and food vendors. Get a taste of German glühwiene, spiced cookies and authentic Belgian waffles. All tours are family-friendly, but the Future Foodies Tour is created especially for little ones and available upon request. The Holiday Market Dessert tour runs on Sundays at 2 pm through Christmas and upon request.

Read on for more holiday fun:

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