New York Holiday Traditions—Our 10 Best

Mother and Daughter at Bryant Park Winter Village with the Christmas Tree

It’s no secret that we love New York, but the holiday season brings even more joy to our love affair. You can find holiday celebrations in every part of the state in every town and every community. Whether you journey to the far reaches of the state for a new cultural experience or overdose on spirit and festivities during a quick trip to New York City, you are destined to feel an increase of joy.

1. Cut your own tree

New York State is full of tree farms geared towards the holidays. Our favorite is Santa’s Christmas Tree Farm on the east end of Long Island. They have 23 acres of beautiful trees for you to wander and pick your favorite. Don’t miss a visit with Santa here: this St. Nick is sure to make you think twice about being naughty. As an added bonus, leashed pets are welcome.

2. Santa’s Workshop, North Pole

What could be better than actually going to the North Pole to visit Santa? This winter wonderland is exactly what you would expect to light up a child’s eyes and put you in the holiday spirit. You can explore Santa’s workshop, visit Santa and the reindeer, enjoy the winter village of shops and even send a letter from the actual North Pole post office. This quaint amusement in the hamlet of Wilmington is right next to Lake Placid for some additional family fun. Visit:

Santa's Reindeer

3. Polar Express

Image by Jill Wellington from PixabayRecreate a beloved holiday book and movie by taking a ride on the Polar Express. Characters come to life with cocoa, cookies, and Christmas carols as the train brings you on a magical journey. This website will lead you to a station nearest you in New York:

4. Lake Placid—Sleigh Rides, Toboggan Chute, & Olympic Skating

Lake Placid sets the stage for the holidays with its beautiful mountain backdrop, mounds of snow, and Olympic legacy of winter sports.

Lake Placid Olympic Village Mountain View, Adirondacks, New York

Enjoy a 35-45 minute sleigh ride through the Olympic Village at Lake Placid and a network of nearby trails with amazing views of the famous ski jump and the High Peaks and Sentinel Range of the Adirondack Mountains. As an added bonus, you will have fabulous horses pulling your sleigh that have been rescued from unfortunate circumstances, rehabilitated and trained to bring you along on this beautiful ride. Visit:

Looking for more of a thrill? Try being sent down a 30’ ice-covered chute onto a frozen lake. The Toboggan Chute is a highlight for many thrill-seeking families. Visit:

B26CC09F-AF4B-4085-8BAD-BA2D3C6BDDB6Ice skating is a winter right of passage whether you skate with grace and style or shuffle your feet trying not to fall. The rinks at Lake Placid hold a history of skating and, novice or not, you can’t help but feel the energy of its past champions on the ice. You can skate on two of the rinks—one outside and one indoors. Bring your own skates or rent.

Special feature: The outdoor rink is one of the few left in the country of its kind. In the center of the Speed Skating Oval is a fire pit to get you warmed up. Visit:

5. Holiday Village Celebrations

Hudson Valley-Sinterklaas Celebration

Image by R vT from PixabayNew York State is full of charming towns that have holiday traditions. Rhinebeck honors their Dutch heritage with a celebration that transforms children into kings and queens and honors them as the bringers of light at the darkest time of the year. Visit:

Winter Village at Chautauqua

The fun festivities in Chautauqua cater to everyone in the family, but offer a few more perks for adults than your typical holiday fair. There are seasonal activities, horse-drawn carriage and sleigh rides, shopping, dining, and other special events that include wine and food pairing. Admission and parking are free. Weekends only: November 29–December 1 and December 21–22. Visit:

6. Lights at Jones Beach

The Magic of Lights at Jones Beach is a perfect way to spend a crisp winter evening! Everyone in the family can enjoy the leisurely pace of the display as they sit warm and snuggly in the car. Don’t forget some hot cocoa in a thermos as you enjoy the light displays and animations of multiple holiday themes

7. Dyker Heights, Brooklyn

This famous neighborhood decorates for the holidays like no other. Lights and decorations are hung the weekend after Thanksgiving and displayed nightly between dusk and 9pm. These amazing displays center around 11th and 13th Avenue to 83rd and 86th Street in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn. Parking is extremely limited and the crowds can get thick. If you’re up for the adventure you can take the D train to 79th St and New Utrecht Ave, Brooklyn and walk about 15 minutes to the neighborhood. If you’d rather kick back and enjoy a good evening you can book a tour. Book a Professional Tour

8. Holiday Shows

The Nutcracker

George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker is a holiday classic brought to life by the New York City Ballet at Lincoln Center. Whether everyone in your family is a ballet fan or not, this is guaranteed to be a captivating performance that everyone will enjoy. Visit:

Nutcracker in midtown, 6th AveThe Rockette’s Christmas Spectacular

The Rockette’s Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall is one show you do not want to miss. The mesmerizing talent of these beautiful dancers mixed with a world class holiday production will leave you with goosebumps for Santa’s arrival. Visit:

9. Holiday Markets

Christmas shopping is a lot more interesting at unique artisan markets. NYC has terrific variety to keep you inspired during gift giving season. Many villages throughout the state are also focusing on local artists and merchants to elevate your seasonal purchases. Keep your eye open for local surprises.

Bryant Park, NYC, Winter Park holiday village kiosk shopping

  • Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park-40th to 42nd Street between 5th and 6th Avenue
    • This is exactly as it sounds—a winter village. You will find over 100 stalls of artisans selling all kinds of items, food stands with treats and sweets, a carousel and an ice rink! Visit:
      • Dates: 10/31/19 to Jan. 5, 2020 (*the ice skating rink stays open until March 2020)
      • Hours: Daily 8am –10pm, with extended hours in December
  • Grand Central Terminal Holiday Fair-Vanderbilt Hall (42nd St. and Park Ave.)
    • Grand Central is worthy of a visit just to admire the iconic terminal, but during the holidays you have the added bonus of an indoor holiday market. Visit:
      • Dates: 11/18-12/24, 2019  (closed Thanksgiving Day. Nov 23)
      • Hours: Mon-Fri 10am-8pm; Sat 10am–7pm; Sun 11am-6 pm; *Dec. 24 10am– 6pm
  • Union Square Holiday Market– Union Square at 14th Street
    • This market is our personal favorite for its more artsy vendors and downtown vibe. If you’re looking for something truly unique to give as a gift (or keep for yourself) this is the perfect place to shop. You can even find some tasty treats and drinks to help you enjoy your search. Visit:
      • Dates: Nov. 21st to Dec. 24th, 2019
      • Hours: Monday–Friday 11 am-8 pm; Saturday 10 am-8 pm; Sunday 11 am-7 pm; closes at 4 pm December 24.
  • Columbus Circle Holiday Market– West 59th Street and Broadway
    • This holiday market has a similar collection of original artisans and yummy treats as Union Square but it’s conveniently located next to Central Park. Visit:
  • Crafts at St. John the Divine Cathedral– Amsterdam Ave, and West 110th St, Manhattan
    • This arts and crafts fair can’t be beat with its indoor location in one of the country’s most beautiful cathedrals. Add extraordinarily talented artisans to this divine setting and you have a terrific experience. Visit:
      • Dates: Dec. 6–Dec. 8, 2019
      • Hours: Dec. 6th 12pm-8pm, Dec. 7th 10am -6pm, Dec. 8th 1pm- 5pm
      • Admission: $10 Adult; Student or Senior $8

10. Rockefeller Center


The number one destination for tourists and locals alike during their holiday season will always be Rockefeller Center. If you only have time for one trip to the city then Rockefeller Center is the plan. You can make a full day of enjoying the area and boosting your holiday spirit. For more attractions in this area check out: NYC in December

Ice Rink

Would you believe there are several places to ice skate in NYC? Our family has skated at Wollman Rink in Central Park, Bryant Park’s Winter Village, and Rockefeller Center. We all agree that as much as we enjoyed all of them and can’t wait to explore more, the rink at Rockefeller Center is our favorite. The rink may not be as large as the others, but the energy and holiday spirit are incredible. We visit just to skate every year.

Holiday Windows

The holiday windows are works of art, engineering and imagination that you don’t want to miss. Start at Lexington Ave between 59th & 60th St and work your way up to Rockefeller Center at 5th Ave between 49th & 50th St. There’s a walking tour plan on NYC in December

There’s no wrong choice to boost your holiday cheer.

American Museum of Natural History, NYC, dinsoaur with a santa hatCheck out some more festive areas of New York:

Empire State Building

American Museum of Natural History

New York Botanical Gardens

Flushing Meadows, Corona Park

NYC in December



10 Best Holiday Traditions in New York, Pinterest

Published by newyorkfamilyadventures

Momager, New Yorker, Travel Blogger, Actress, Martial Artist, Amateur Photographer, Writer, Conservationist

6 thoughts on “New York Holiday Traditions—Our 10 Best

  1. Some wonderful things to do – almost makes me want to jump on the next ‘plane and hop across! I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised that we share similar activities with you, albeit in a different place and style – though some look remarkably familiar from film and TV. I love reindeer, though can say from personal experience that their antlers hurt when they’re hungry!

    1. Thank you! I can say the same thing about wanting to hop across the pond and share your experiences as well. I will definitely not approach any reindeer without goodies in hand thanks to your advice. 😉❤️

  2. It’s like the season brings out the best in the city. I remember watching New Years Eve the movie and I got the same vibe while reading your article 🙂

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