The rooftop ice rink at William ValeCourtesy of The William Vale

Though many holiday traditions in New York City look different this year, New Yorkers still have plenty to celebrate! Whether you want to enjoy festivities from the comfort of your home or venture out for a socially distanced in-person event, there are many ways to get into the holiday spirit. From at-home screenings of classic Christmas tales to rooftop ice skating sessions, discover the most festive ways to celebrate the holidays in NYC!

1. Secret Lantern Society Winter Solstice Festival

Courtesy of Debra Sheldon, Founding Artistic Director of Secret Lantern Society NYC

During this dark year, the Secret Lantern Society NYC wants to spread some light. The Society will host its first annual Winter Solstice Lantern Festival and Labyrinth of Light at Domino Park in Williamsburg, Brooklyn on Monday, December 21st. Free lantern-making workshops will be held in the days leading up to the festival. Guests are encouraged to bring their own lanterns to the festival to help light up the night.

On Monday, a labyrinth lined with hundreds of candles will be set up in the center of Domino Park. Visitors with timed tickets are welcome to walk through the labyrinth and listen to musical meditative soundscapes created Jarrod Byrne Mayer of Brooklyn Healing Arts. There will also be hot chocolate and cider provided by Tacocina.

2. Explore the Woodsy Winter Scenes of Central Park

Snow in Central Park

The snowstorm has made Central Park a winter wonderland! On Saturday, December 19th, join Untapped New Yok’s expert tour guide, Beth Goffe, for a stroll through the woods of Central Park’s less-traveled North End. As you wander through scenes reminiscent of the Adirondacks, you will discover how this landscape was shaped by the geology of the area. You will also discover the momentous events that occurred nearby over the past three centuries while taking in the beautiful scenery.

Beth will point out where encampments from two wars were situated and the site of the former convent where injured soldiers were treated. You will discover the surprising history of the Block House, a War of 1812 Fort that predates the Park, a remnant from one of the grandest mansions in New York City, and the spectacular Conservatory Garden. All of Untapped New York’s tours are run with adherence to our new health and safety measures to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for our guests and our guides.

3. Skate on a Rooftop Ice Rink

The rooftop ice rink at William ValeImage Courtesy of The William Vale

Vale Rink returns to the rooftop of The William Vale in Williamsburg, Brooklyn for its second Winter season. This year, Vale Rink is New York City’s only rooftop ice rink. Atop the 23rd floor of the hip hotel, skaters can take in amazing views of New York City while gliding around the sustainable rink.

Vale Rink is made with sustainable synthetic ice by Glice, which means it doesn’t need any water or power to stay frozen. You can get the same feeling of ice skating without getting wet when you fall down! To keep visitors safe, capacity has been reduced and guests are required to make reservations for a 50-minute session in advance. You must also wear a mask at all times.

4. Uncover the Secrets of Grand Central Terminal

Christmas wreaths deck the main concourse of Grand Central Terminal

See the Christmas decorations inside Grand Central Terminal as you discover the hidden secrets of one of New York City’s most famous and recognizable landmarks. Untapped New York’s Secrets of Grand Central walking tour is for commuters who pass through the station every day, people who have never even visited, and everyone in between, all are sure to learn something new and surprising.

As you admire the giant wreaths and twinkling lights of the terminal’s holiday decorations, you will learn the history of this Beaux-Arts masterpiece. From its origin and glory days through its time of disrepair, to its current status as one of the city’s most beloved sites. You will uncover hidden features of the building like the private tennis courts on the third floor, the glass walkways accessible only to employees, the secret staircase hidden in plain sight, a major design flaw in the main concourse and much more! All of Untapped New York’s tours are run with adherence to our new health and safety measures to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for our guests and our guides.

5. Virtual Holiday Nostalgia Train Experience

Marc A. Hermann / MTA New York City Transit

Riding the New York City Transit Museum’s vintage subway cars is a beloved annual tradition during the holidays in NYC. While this year, the cars didn’t make it to the tracks due to COVID-19, you can still get your nostalgic transit fix by taking part in the museum’s new Virtual Holiday Nostalgia Train experience. In the video, you can watch the museum’s historic 1930s R1/9 cars travel from the beginning to the end of the line. The virtual experience takes you behind-the-scenes to see the historic train at the MTA’s 207th Street Yard.

Want more? You can also see behind-the-scenes footage from the building of the museum’s holiday train show and a time-lapse of the annual exhibit from the point of view of one of the miniature model trains. That’s something you can’t get in person!

6. Take a Holiday Cruise on the Hudson

Classic Harbor Line’s 1920’s inspired yachts are decked out in holiday decor and ready to take you around Manhattan for a festive holiday cruise. Throughout the month of December, Classic Harbor Line offers a variety of holiday boating experiences on the waterways of New York City. Sip a warm cup of hot cocoa and nibble on gourmet cookies as you watch the sunset on the Hudson River on the Sunset Holiday and Cocoa Cruise, or take amazing photos of the Statue of Liberty and the skyscrapers of Lower Manhattan on the Statue and Skyline Holiday Cocoa Cruise.

Whichever sailing adventure you choose, know that the crew at Classic Harbor Line is working to keep you safe. Inside the climate-controlled, MERV13-filtered observatory, each party has an assigned seating area separated from other guests by plexiglass panels. Masks must be worn at all-times. Please be advised that as of December 14th, 2020 according to New York State law, all food and beverage consumption must occur outdoors.

7. 19th-Century Storytime at the Merchant’s House Museum

Merchants HOuse Museum

Join actor Dayle Vander Sande as he reads classic Christmas stories from the parlor of the Merchant’s House Museum. In Warmth from the Hearth – 19th Century Holiday Stories for the Season of Light, you will hear tales written by Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Edward Payson Roe, Frank Stockton, Helen Keller and more.

Dayle’s reading will stream on Facebook Live and YouTube. You don’t need an account on either site to watch. On Saturday, December 19, at 7:30 p.m. Dayle will read “Captain Eli’s Best Ear” and “A Christmas Wreck” by Frank Stockton. On Wednesday, December 23 at 6:30 p.m., tune in to hear a medley of stories including “A Letter from Santa Claus” (1875) by Mark Twain, “Mollie’s Best Christmas Gift” (1882) by Mary E. Lee, “Christmas Every Day” (1892) by William Dean Howells, and “Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus” (1897) by Francis P. Church. Just head to the museum’s Facebook or Youtube page.

8. Watch A Christmas Carol Filmed at United Palace

Production still from A Christmas Carol filmed at United PalaceProduction Still Courtesy of A Christmas Carol Live

Tony Award-winning actor Jefferson Mays steps into over 50 roles to bring Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol to life in a new film adaptation of the classic tale. Proceeds from streaming sales of the film will benefit community, amateur, and regional theaters across the country that have been affected by COVID-19. Two-time Tony Award nominee Michael Aren directed this adaptation, which was filmed at the historic United Palace, one of New York City’s five Loews Wonder Theaters built in the 1920s and 1930s.

This imaginative filmed version of Dicken’s beloved Christmas story is based on the highly acclaimed 2018 stage production which made its world premiere at Los Angeles’ Geffen Playhouse. You can purchase tickets for an at-home screening of this performance here! Tickets purchased via that website will automatically benefit local community theaters based on ZIP code. Proceeds from tickets purchased outside of the U.S. or non-affiliated ZIP will be divided and shared with partner theaters. The film will be available for streaming through January 3, 2021.

9. Winter Solstice Celebration at Elizabeth Street Garden

Elizabeth Street Garden in the SnowPhotograph Courtesy of the Elizabeth Street Garden

Celebrate the winter solstice at the Elizabeth Street Garden in Manhattan’s Little Italy on Sunday, December 20th. While this year’s event will be shorter and smaller than in the past, it will still be a joyous occasion to mark the shortest day of the year and welcome the return of light as days begin to grow longer again. There will be a collective bell ringing at 6:30 pm, so make sure to bring your own bell!

Due to the recent increase in rates of COVID-19, there will be no beverages or snacks served. All guests must wear a mask. Attendance is limited and will be given on a first come first serve basis.

10. Visit NYC’s Holiday Decorations

Holiday decorations in NYC at the Pulitzer FountainPhotograph by Liz Ligon

The city is filled with spectacular displays of holiday lights and decorations! You can revisit classic sites like the department store windows of Fifth Avenue, the Rockefeller Christmas Tree, and the over-the-top home-made displays of Dyker Heights. There are also a bunch of new cheerful sites to see.

In Lincoln Square, you’ll find new light figures seemingly somersaulting their way up the streets from 70th Street to Columbus Circle. Along Fifth Avenue, giant glowing light sculptures of toys line the streets. There are also exciting new public art installations to see while you’re out exploring!

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