Between the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, New York City is always at the center of the holiday season and has been in iconic movies. And a lot has changed for 2020: the Rockefeller Center tree lighting, New Year’s Eve in Times Square and Macy’s Santa visits have all gone virtual, and the Radio City Christmas Spectacular has been canceled for the season.
While some NYC traditions are canceled, there are still a ton of fun events that are outdoors, or limited so you can socially distance happening in NYC this holiday season. We’ve even found a few virtual options if you want to stay home and cozy this holiday.
*Most events require advance tickets, face masks are required at most.
Ice Skating Rinks
The Rink at Winter Village at Bryant Park
Bryant Park, Manhattan
Now through March 7, 2021
Enjoy the City’s only free, outdoor ice skating rink in Midtown at Bryant Park’s Winter Village, with reduced capacity to allow for social distancing. Advanced ticket purchases are required.
The Rink at Brookfield Place
230 Vesey St., Manhattan
Starting Nov. 16
The Rink at Brookfield Place provides skaters of all levels a spot to take lessons or skate on their own while enjoying views of the Hudson River and surrounding cityscape.
Vale Rink at The William Vale
111 N. 12th St., Brooklyn
Starting Nov. 25
Skate on the eco-friendly, synthetic rooftop rink of The William Vale in Williamsburg, with views of the NYC skyline. Guests will also be able to warm up in private, socially distanced tiny houses.
Wollman Rink at Central Park
Now through March 2021 | Manhattan
In the heart of Manhattan at 59th Street and Sixth Avenue, the iconic Wollman Rink offers spectacular views of the NYC skyline and programs that cater to the entire family—ideal for visitors and local skating enthusiasts.
Rink at Rockefeller Center
Rockefeller Center, Manhattan
Nov. 21 – Jan. 17, 2021
The world-famous ice skating rink will open for the holiday season, with advanced tickets available for purchase at www.skatingatrockcenter.com. Skaters also have the option of purchasing VIP packages in partnership with City Winery.
Holiday Train Show at New York Botanical Garden
2900 Southern Blvd., The Bronx
Now through Jan. 31, 2021
Marvel at model trains zipping through an enchanting display of famous NYC landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge, Rockefeller Center and other favorites, each delightfully re-created from natural materials such as birch bark, acorns and cinnamon sticks. Due to limited capacity and tickets this year, you can only atttend the Train Show if you are a Member, Patron, Corporate Member, or Bronx Community Partner.
The Origami Holiday Tree at the American Museum of Natural History
200 Central Park West, Manhattan
Nov. 25 – Jan. 10, 2021
An annual tradition for more than 40 years, the Origami Tree is a beloved New York City holiday offering. This year’s tree features 1,000 colored origami cranes, representing peace and good wishes as the City during the pandemic.
Christmas Tree and Hanukkah Lamp at The Met
1000 Fifth Ave., Manhattan
Nov. 27 – Jan. 6, 2021
The Met continues a longstanding holiday tradition with the presentation of its Christmas tree, a magnificently lit, twenty-foot blue spruce that looms over a vivid eighteenth-century Neapolitan Nativity scene, enshrined in an abundant array of lifelike figures with silk-robed angels hovering above. The Met will also have a spectacular silver Hanukkah lamp on display, generously on loan from the Moldovan Family Collection.
Holiday Express: Toys and Trains from the Jerni Collection at the New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West, Manhattan
Nov. 27 – Feb. 21, 2021
A magical wonderland awaits visitors with the return of this holiday tradition. Featuring toy trains, figurines, and miniature models from the renowned Jerni Collection, Holiday Express transports guests to a long-gone era at the New-York Historical Society.
“Broadway at the Drive-in” Radial Park at Halletts Point
27 – 50 First St., Queens
Nov. 27 – Dec. 19
Head to Astoria to experience the Christmas Show, featuring new and classic Christmas flicks, live performances, a holiday-themed installation, games, raffles and secret Santa fun all in a socially distant manner with views of the Manhattan skyline and East River.
Sing for Hope at Hudson Yards
Hudson Yards, Manhattan
Dec. 1 – 31
One baby grand and seven upright pianos painted by artists inspired by Hudson Yards will be displayed throughout The Shops. The pianos will be played by Broadway artists and Juilliard students. In early January, all pianos will be delivered and donated to communities, homes and others who will benefit from the healing power of the arts.
Winter Activities at Queens Botanical Garden
43 – 50 Main St., Queens
Dec. 5 & 6
Celebrate the holidays with a slate of winter activities at the garden: wreath-making workshops, winter trees tours, beeswax candle making, and a holiday sale at the gift shop.
Holiday Wreath Workshops and Winter Solstice Garden Walk at Wave Hill
4900 Independence Ave., The Bronx
Dec. 5, 6, & 20
On December 5 and 6, join local florist Hanako Shimamoto in Wave Hill’s grand and historic Armor Hall for a holiday wreath workshop. On December 20, join a garden interpreter for a peaceful guided stroll on the eve of the Winter Solstice.
Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol at The Morgan Library & Museum
225 Madison Ave., Manhattan
Dec. 7 – Jan. 11, 2021
Each holiday season, the Morgan displays Charles Dickens’ original manuscript of A Christmas Carol in J. Pierpont Morgan’s Library. The Morgan now advances the Christmas Carol manuscript by one page each season, and this year, the manuscript is open to Scrooge’s vituperative remarks about Christmas. Explore A Christmas Carol online and view other related highlights from the collection, and share in the festivities with a copy of A Christmas Carol available from the Morgan Shop.
The Nutcracker on the Lawn at Alice Austen House Museum
2 Hylan Blvd., Staten Island
In partnership with Spotlight Repertory Theatre, the Alice Austen House Museum will present a rendition of The Nutcracker, a play, on the front lawn. Limited tickets will be sold for $25 at spotlighttkts.com.
Chanukah Family Experience at the Jewish Children’s Museum
792 Eastern Pkwy., Brooklyn
Dec. 13 – 17
Enjoy an experiential Chanukah celebration with the family by creating various art projects – from designing a dreidel-shaped pillow and helping to create a Chanukah mural on a Menorah, to decorating a mouth-watering holiday donut or discovering the art of olive oil making.
HOLIDAY LIGHT DISPLAYS AND LIGHT SHOWS
The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree
Dec. 3 – early January
The 88th tree is lit and on display, but there are some new rules if you want to visit. It is open to visitors from 6 am to 12 am daily, and during busy times, you’ll have to join a virtual queue in order to see it instead of just walking up like in years past. There are QR codes around Rockefeller Center and when you use them, you’ll be given a time to return for your viewing. There are set tree viewing entrances, social distancing spots and five minute time limits to tag that perfect photo. Masks are required at all times.
Harlem Holiday Lights
125th St., Manhattan
Nov. 16 – Dec. 31
Each holiday season, Harlem’s 125th Street is illuminated with more than 10,000 festive LED lights across nine blocks, from Broadway to Fifth Avenue. The annual Turn On the Lights event will be live streamed this year, enabling all to watch the iconic thoroughfare light up with festive light and window displays, as well as a caravan of decorated floats traveling around Harlem to safely greet participating buildings and businesses.
Holiday Lights at Bronx Zoo
2300 Southern Blvd., The Bronx
Nov. 20 – Jan. 10, 2021
During this festive celebration, visitors can enjoy five animal lantern safaris, as well as holiday-themed music, ice-carving demonstrations, costumed characters, stilt walkers, souvenirs, and seasonal treats like hot chocolate and s’mores.
Shine Bright at Hudson Yards
Hudson Yards, Manhattan
Nov. 22 – Dec. 31
NYC’s newest neighborhood will introduce new holiday decor, Shine Bright at Hudson Yards, that will illuminate the Public Square and Gardens, The Shops at Hudson Yards, Vessel and Edge with white lights set against evergreen trees and one-of-a-kind set pieces. By downloading this app, guests will be transported through augmented reality to the North Pole and Santa’s Workshop where they will be able to walk through mounds of snow, along candy cane lanes, pose for pictures alongside animated polar bears, elves, penguins, and Rudolph, and video chat with Santa Claus.
Luminaries at Brookfield Place
230 Vesey St., Manhattan
Nov. 27 – Jan. 8, 2021
Lower Manhattan’s Brookfield Place will feature a canopy of colorful lights emanating from hundreds of lanterns suspended among the shopping center’s palm trees. Touchless, motion-activated stations allow visitors to make a wish and prompt a magical display of lights and colors.
GLOW at New York Botanical Garden
2900 Southern Blvd., The Bronx
Nov. 27 & 28, Dec. 5, 12, 18, 19, 26 – 30, Jan. 1, 2, 9
The New York Botanical Garden will present a gorgeous outdoor light show, illuminating its landmark gardens and the Haupt Conservatory on 14 select nights. As part of the experience, visitors will also be able to enjoy artistic ice sculptures, music, roving dancers and more outdoor fun.
20 Randall’s Island Park, Manhattan
Nov. 27 – Jan. 10, 2021
A spectacular light show which debuted for the first time last year on Randall’s Island, LuminoCity will feature several acres of new light art installations and sculptures inspired by nature, history and magic.
Holiday Lights at Arthur Avenue
Arthur Ave., The Bronx
Beginning Nov. 30
Come walk the Bronx’s “Little Italy” and take in the bright lights strung along Arthur Avenue, as well as the area’s holiday windows. A neighborhood Christmas tree at Ciccarone Park will be festively lit, beginning November 30.
Lighting of the Largest Menorah in Brooklyn
Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn
Dec. 10 – 17
The annual lighting of Brooklyn’s largest Menorah at Grand Army Plaza will take place each night of Chanukah, kicking off with a socially distanced celebration on December 10.
New Year’s Eve Times Square Ball Drop and Holiday Events
December 2020 – Jan. 1, 2021
Each year, millions of viewers watch the Times Square Ball Drop from NYC and around the globe, and this year, for the first time ever, the event will be televised only with the traditional ball drop, live performances and special guests to be announced.
Additional annual activities include the Wishing Wall activation (month of December), Numeral Arrival of “2” and “1’ for 2021 (December 21), Numeral Installation atop One Times Square (December 26), Crystal Installation (December 27), Good Riddance Day (December 28), Confetti Test (December 29) and Ball Test and Balloon Preparation (December 30).
Holiday Light Show Featuring Carrie Underwood’s “Hallelujah” with John Legend at the Empire State Building
Dec. 19 – 25
The Empire State Building’s annual music-to-light show will kick off on December 19, with Carrie Underwood’s new song “Hallelujah” with John Legend being synced to the iconic building’s dazzling holiday lights. In conjunction with the release of Underwood’s new Christmas album My Gift, at 8pm each night the song will be broadcast on iHeartRadio’s Z100 and LiteFM, and the light show will also be streamed live via Earthcam.