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Things To Do In New York During Christmas: Solo-Traveler Guide 2024

new york during christmas banner

After coming back from my trip to New York during Christmas season, I’m convinced that there is no right or wrong way to celebrate the holidays. Being home with your loved ones is certainly a wonderful way to spend Christmas, but it can also be a fantastic solo travel opportunity!

Sometimes, the holidays can be more stressful than we’d like to admit. All the planning, scheduling, cooking, and gift shopping –maybe even family drama– usually leaves us drained and wanting to take a break from it all. Not to mention that many people celebrate Christmas exactly the same way every year, which might eventually become dull.

How about going on a solo trip as an alternative?

If you’ve been thinking about visiting NYC this Christmas but the idea of being alone is stopping you, I promise it can be a lot more exciting than you think. New York is an undeniably stunning city, and it gets even more magical at this time of the year with the massive decorations, special shows, and countless seasonal activities –that I’m sure you’ll enjoy even if you’re alone!

So, let’s dive into the best things to do and places to go in New York during Christmas.

brooklyn bridge over the east river with buildings at night

2023’s Christmas In NYC: Best Ways To Spend The Holidays Alone

Being alone on Christmas doesn’t have to be a bad thing at all. On the contrary, it can be a very meaningful experience. You can take this time for yourself, trying to reconnect with the things that make you happy –like traveling!

Traveling solo gives you lots of freedom and the chance to embrace your independence. At the same time, you can find your own way to make the holidays feel special by treating yourself, practicing gratitude and self-reflection, and setting new goals for next year.

The following list includes things I think are enjoyable to do on your own and will help you keep the festive spirit alive.

Snap A Photo Of The Rockefeller Center Christmas Treeilluminated christmas tree at rockefeller center

The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is an iconic NYC symbol of the holiday season. Every year, a giant spruce is placed in Midtown Manhattan, adorned with thousands of colorful lights and a shiny crystal star on top. You probably recognize it from the “Home Alone” movie 😉

This year, the tree will be lighting up the streets from November 29 until early January. But apart from this, Rockefeller Center is a bustling area with lots of things to do nearby. You can ice skate, go shopping, take a tour of the NBC Studios, or enjoy a meal at the many dining options.

Take In The Holiday Spirit On 5th Avenue

There’s no doubt that walking the streets of New York during Christmas is truly magical, but strolling along 5th Avenue is just a one-of-a-kind experience. 

During the holiday season, the whole avenue turns into a pedestrian area and comes alive with extravagant decorations. World-renowned shops like Macy’s, Saks, Bergdorf Goodman, and Tiffany & Co. attract all the crowds with their elaborate window displays and lighting shows. Window shopping has never been more entertaining!

Go shopping At Holiday Markets

If you haven’t done your Christmas shopping yet, this is your chance. NYC is known for its amazing holiday markets. Most of them run all December and offer an amazing variety of handmade items, jewelry, Christmas decorations, artwork, and gourmet foods. Some markets also host live performances and special events.

Whether you’re looking for holiday gifts or delicious seasonal treats, or you just want to immerse in the festive atmosphere, you’re sure to get all that here. There’s a lot to see, so expect to spend a few hours of your day exploring these lovely spots.

And if you love coming back from trips with lots of gifts –to the point that sometimes you need an extra bag– make sure you know what essentials to pack for winter in NYC to avoid taking unnecessary space in your suitcase.

Here are some of the best-known markets you can visit throughout the city:

Union Square Holiday Market

Where to find it: Union Square Park.

Operating Hours: Monday to Friday: 11 am – 8 pm, Saturday: 10 am – 8 pm, Sunday: 11 am – 7 pm

Columbus Circle Holiday Market

Where to find it: Columbus Circle, 59th St & Central Park West.

Operating Hours: Monday to Friday: 11 am – 8 pm, Saturday: 10 am – 8 pm, Sunday: 11 am – 7 pm

Bryant Park’s Winter Village

Where to find it: Bryant Park, 40th to 42nd St. 

Operating Hours: Monday to Friday: 11 am – 8 pm, Saturday & Sunday: 10 am – 8 pm

Grand Central Holiday Fair

Where to find it: Grand Central Terminal, Vanderbilt Hall, 89 E 42nd St. 

Operating Hours: Monday to Saturday: 10 am – 7 pm, Sunday: 11 am – 6 pm

holiday market with christmas decorations in new york city

Go Ice Skating

Going to one of many ice rinks in New York during Christmas not only is an incredibly fun activity to do on your own but also a great way to meet new people! Part of the charm of traveling alone is socializing with locals and other tourists, so why not make some friends to skate with?

Countless rinks in New York offer stunning views of the city, such as those at Central Park, Prospect Park, and Rockefeller Center. These rinks are open daily and have an admission fee.

If you’re trying to stick to a budget, you can skate at Bryant Park’s free ice rink!

By the way, there are other ways to travel for cheap other than just doing free stuff. Want to know how I do it? Check out how to travel on a student budget here!

st patrick's cathedral facade and interiorVisit St. Patrick’s Cathedral

St. Patrick’s Cathedral is a beautiful Fifth Avenue landmark between 50th and 51st Streets. It is designed in a Gothic style with intricate details, pointed arches, stained glass windows, and incredibly tall ceilings. Seeing this imponent structure both from inside and outside is just breathtaking, especially during the holiday season.

Apart from festive decorations, including Christmas trees, wreaths, and cozy lights, the Cathedral hosts special Christmas Masses, charitable events, and concerts with classic Christmas songs sung by its amazing choir.

Whether you go to attend a Mass, pray on your own, meditate, or just admire its beauty, visiting the church can be a nice way to connect with your spiritual side during this festive time. Even if you’re not a religious person, doing this can be a relaxing and fulfilling experience.

Enjoy Christmas Shows

Visiting New York during Christmas would be pointless without experiencing any of these renowned holiday shows.

“Christmas Spectacular” At Radio City Music Hallfacade of radio city music hall at night and ballet dancer of the nutcracker play

“Christmas Spectacular” was first introduced in 1933 as a dazzling musical show in Radio City Music Hall. Over the years, the production has evolved and become one of the most iconic and beloved holiday traditions in the city.

The show takes place annually with a variety of musical numbers, visual effects, and precision dancing featuring the world-famous Rockettes. Prepare for a night with explosive energy and performances that will make your jaw drop.

Buy tickets here.

The New York City Ballet’s “The Nutcracker”

If you enjoy ballet and dancing in general, you can’t miss the one classic that never gets old! The production features mesmerizing sets and costumes that will transport you to the magical world of Hoffmann’s original story. Additionally, the performances are accompanied by a live orchestra, which adds to the immersive experience.

The show is typically held at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center from November 24 to December 31.  Get your tickets here.

Christmas Jazz At Lincoln Center

Jazz lovers will be pleased to know that they can enjoy Jazz at Lincoln Center during December. This widely recognized event features different types of jazz concerts taking place at Frederick P. Rose Hall, including big band concerts, jazz orchestras, and special intimate performances by some of the most influential musicians of the genre.

Check out dates and get tickets here. 

See The Magical Lightscape At Brooklyn Botanical Garden

Brooklyn’s Botanical Garden offers an immersive nighttime experience that allows you to explore the garden like never before. Visitors can make their way through the illuminated trails with unique lighting designs, sculptures, and music. 

Your admission ticket allows you to wander the different trails at your own pace, take as many photos of the decorations as you want, and grab a treat or hot drink.

Check out more details, dates, and fees on the website.

Take A Tour Of Dyker Heights

As we all know, one of the best things about exploring New York during the Christmas season is the astonishing decorations, and Dyker Heights is no expectation. This Brooklyn residential neighborhood is known for having the most insane Christmas displays you’ll ever see.

Since getting there and parking can be a bit difficult in the area, I suggest taking a tour with pickup and drop-off. It’s a fun and different thing to do at night when shows are sold out and Christmas venues are overcrowded.

Buy tickets here.

houses with christmas lights and decorations in dyker heights neighborhood at nightGrab A Drink At A Holiday Pop-Up Bar

December is also time for themed pop-up bars and pubs! Every year, the holiday spirit takes over these temporary venues, transforming their interior with festive decorations, themed cocktails, and special offerings.

Whether you want a relaxing evening or a fun atmosphere, New York is full of options for everyone’s enjoyment. Here are some amazing places I recommend:

  • Santa’s Secret (11th Ave & Hudson Blvd E) –  this vintage speakeasy offers an immersive experience with Christmas cocktails, live music, and a variety of burlesque-style shows.
  • Frosty’s (220 W 44th St) – a 3-floor Christmas wonderland with impressive ambiance, photo ops, and amazing energy. There’s also a restaurant and dance club –all holiday-themed!
  • City Winery Winter Domes (Rockefeller Plaza) – an outdoor wine garden with heated igloo-shaped domes to stay warm while enjoying some hot chocolate.

winter domes at city winery rockefeller center with christmas lights

Where To Stay In NYC For Christmas

You’ve made it to the end of the list and now you’re excited to start planning your trip? Start by looking for a place to stay in New York during your Christmas adventure!

Last Thoughts

All things considered, you can’t go wrong with NYC for celebrating the holidays. The festive, cheerful feeling throughout the city and all the unique things to do make it a worthy trip for the winter holidays.

Whatever your reasons for making this trip alone, I hope you can make this Christmas feel extra special and fulfilling.

Safe travels & Merry Christmas!



I may collect a small commission from the links on this page if you decide to book a stay, it helps me keep the blog up :) Listed prices are accurate as of the time of publication.

Anna is a traveler, blogger, and entrepreneur who can’t keep herself still. She’s always on the move, whether working hard on a new passion project or exploring a new city as a part-time digital nomad. Dare to keep up? Check out The Tatted Nomad for everything digital nomad, social media marketing, mental health, and travel (and to see her latest addition, Novah, her service dog and travel companion). As a psychotherapist (to be) she also offers insights about your mental health related questions – anything you see that isn’t covered but you have questions about? Let her know!

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