Holiday Happenings in New York City
Only in NYC: Must-see Traditions
No matter where you are, the holiday season is usually a festive affair: twinkly lights, cheery music, pumpkin everything, decked-out shops and fresh-air outings.
But in New York City? It’s off-the-charts magical — truly, the stuff of legends.
If you’re headed to the city for the holidays, consider adding these unforgettable options to your calendar.
Light display — Saks Fifth Avenue
The holiday light display at the iconic NYC store between 49th and 50th Streets is always a hit with locals, visitors and families. Along with larger-than-life window displays that are unveiled in late November, the entire building’s façade is decorated with lights. Then around 5 PM, a theatrical light show accompanied by music occurs every 10 minutes, until around 11 PM. Crowded? Yes. Worth going? Absolutely.
Tree lighting + ice skating — Rockefeller Center
With more than 50,000 multicolored LED lights, the annual lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting is a sight to behold. This tradition began more than eight decades ago. While the initial lighting event is in late November, the tree and entire square are festively decorated and on display through the end of the year. Afterward, the tree is donated to Habitat for Humanity and used to build homes.
Take a spin around the ice skating rink at Rockefeller Center. This NYC tradition is a quintessential wintertime activity that’s set beneath the glow of the well-lit Christmas tree.
In the city that never sleeps — the one so nice, they named it twice — these New York City holiday storefronts are as festive as they get:
The Bank of America Winter Village — Bryant Park
The Winter Village at Bryant Park hosts the city’s only free-to-skate ice rink. Surrounding the rink are the Holiday Shops featuring the work of artisans from NYC and around the world. Refuel at The Lodge Bar + Food Hall, with its festive cocktail bar and food options, while watching the skaters go ’round. Or reserve your spot (including a curling lane and heated dome) at the Curling Café + Bar. A bonus: The Winter Village is right around the block from Archer Hotel New York.
Holiday Spirits + Eats
Keeping your energy up for all this holiday revelry is easy in New York City. These bars and eateries are bedecked and bedazzled in high holiday fashion:
- Rolf’s German Restaurant — Over the top Christmas décor in every nook and cranny, in Gramercy Park at 22nd Street and 3rd Avenue.
- Oscar Wilde NYC — A Victorian-styled restaurant and bar (the longest in Manhattan) where “extravagance is always in season,” in NoMad on 27th Street.
- Spyglass Rooftop Bar — Inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rear Window,” the bar atop Archer Hotel with festive cocktails (including a signature Giving Drink, exclusively available during the holiday season), shareable bites and an up-close view of the holiday-lit Empire State Building.
- Papillon Bistro & Bar — Seasonal exhibitions with sophisticated debauchery and live opera on Saturday nights, plus two bars and a French-American-Italian menu, in midtown on 54th Street.
- Pete’s Tavern — The city’s oldest original bar and restaurant, the ceiling blanketed in red holiday twinkle lights, in Gramercy Park on East 18th Street.
- Molly’s Shebeen — “The most authentic Irish pub in New York City,” with sawdust floors, shepherd’s pie and plentiful Christmas decorations, in Gramercy Park on 3rd Avenue.
Nifty Holiday Gifts
Gift-giving seems more creatively festive when you’re wandering through the streets of Manhattan. You’re sure to find something uncommon, personal or surprising (or all three) at one of these stops:
- Winter Village at Bryant Park — A European-inspired open-air market throughout Bryant Park, with local and international artisans’ crafts, provisions and gifts available for sale in custom-designed kiosks.
- Grand Central Holiday Fair — In the Vanderbilt Hall at Grand Central Terminal, NYC’s longest-running indoor holiday fair. It showcases 40 local-artisan vendors offering one-of-a-kind products across a variety of categories, including men’s and women’s clothing and accessories, original artwork, jewelry, holiday keepsakes and distinctive home décor, self-care products and handcrafted goods.
- Holiday Market at the Oculus — Westfield’s annual holiday market for gifts, treats and souvenirs, plus special performances and photo moments.
- Union Square Holiday Market — More than 185 vendors in Union Square, offering unique and eclectic gifts with live music a kid’s art station and a warming station and lounge.
- Fifth Avenue — The Big Apple’s most famous street (also known as Millionaire’s Row) with some of the city’s most expensive shopping.
- Columbus Circle Holiday Market — The unrivaled destination for style and sophistication, offering a diverse selection of over 50 retail shops and boutiques.
With so many things to see and do in the city — and so many “only in New York” moments to capture — a great night’s rest before heading out on your holiday adventures (and afterward, no doubt) is paramount.
So, plan your stay at midtown’s Archer Hotel New York: Book directly with us for the best deal around, then read on to choose which of the most quintessentially NYC holiday happenings you just can’t miss.