Dyker Heights Christmas lights light up for the holidays in NYC

The holidays are here! As we mark the shortest day of the year and welcome winter, there are tons of festive ways to celebrate the holidays in NYC. Whether you want to see the classic sights or find something to do that’s a little more off-beat, we’ve got you covered with these festive ways to celebrate the holidays in NYC:

1. Sing Carols Under Washington Square Arch

Washington Square Park arch Christmas tree

Besides the public Christmas trees at Rockefeller Center and Madison Square Park, the lighting of the tree under the Washington Square Arch is one of the oldest holiday traditions in the city. Another beloved tradition that takes place there is Christmas Eve caroling! Every year the public is invited to belt out “Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men” and other songs of the season.

You can download the Washington Square Arch caroling songbook on the Washington Square Arch Association’s website. The caroling starts at 5 pm and will be accompanied by the Rob Susman Brass Quartet.

2. Visit a Giant Menorah

World's largest menorah in Manhattan lights up for the holidays in NYC

Giant menorahs are a common sight in the parks and plazas of New York City. You’ll find the largest menorah, clocking in at 36 feet tall, right outside the Plaza Hotel. The second largest is in Brookyn’s Grand Army Plaza.

This year at the South Street Seaport, artist and Chasidic Rabbi, Yitzchok Moully, has created an extra special menorah that will become part of the historic district’s annual celebrations. The Seaport Menorhah design was inspired by the area’s nautical history and is meant to look like the sails of a ship. Check out the biggest menorahs in the city here!

3. Go on a New Year’s Eve Tour of the Metropolitan Museum

Tour guide Patrick Bringley points to architectural features of the Met in front of a group of tourgoers.

Add a little adventure to the holidays in NYC this year by trying something new! Join a former museum guard and author of the forthcoming memoir All The Beauty in the World Patrick Bringley for a New Year’s Eve tour of the Secrets of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. On this expert-led tour, you’ll see the museum through the eyes of someone who spent an entire decade patrolling its treasure-filled halls.

Secrets of the Met Museum Tour

Tour guide Patrick Bringley points to a painting at the Met Museum

Some of the fascinating stops you’ll make include a visit to the very first item acquired by the museum in 1870, a once-stolen Greek statue, and the tooth of Mary Magdalen in a Renaissance reliquary. As you walk among priceless artifacts, Bringley will share behind-the-scenes stories of how the museum is run and what happens in the backstage areas where the public isn’t allowed.

4. First Day Hike

Van Cortlandt Park trails
Van Cortlandt Trail

Start the new year off with a refreshing stroll in one of New York City’s beautiful parks on a First Day Hike! 2023 marks the 12th anniversary of First Day Hikes in New York City, when residents are encouraged to go out and explore their local green spaces.

This year, more than 100 state parks, historic sites, wildlife areas, canal trails, and public lands will participate in the family-friendly hikes. The hikes range from 1 to 5 miles. Find a hike near you on the NYC Parks website!

5. Spend Christmas Day Exploring Grand Central Terminal

Giant wreath on the front of Grand Central Terminal which goes up every year for the holidays in NYC

Ready to start a new tradition? This year, you can spend part of Christmas Day uncovering the  Secrets of Grand Central Terminal. You’ll get to admire the giant wreaths and twinkling lights of the terminal’s holiday decorations while learning about the history of this Beaux-Arts masterpiece.

Tour the Secrets of Grand Central

Grand central aerial

Led by a licensed and expert New York City tour guide, 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! 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.

6. Kwanza Regeneration at the Apollo Theater

Woman in a large flowing dress is center stage for the Apollo Kwanzaa show which is out on every year for the holidays in NYC
Kwanzaa Regeneration Night, Photograph Courtesy of Ed Marshall

Watch a stunning performance by Abdel R. Salaam’s Forces of Nature Dance Theatre at The Apollo’s Kwanzaa Celebration: Regeneration Night. This annual tradition celebrates its 17th anniversary this year. The Apollo’s celebration is a joyful evening of dance and music honoring the principles of Kwanzaa – family, community, and culture.

In addition to the New York-based dance company, the show will also feature jazz vocalist Pauline Jean and the young performers of the Harlem Children’s Zone/Forces of Nature Youth Academy of Dance and Wellness. You purchase tickets to this “powerful evening of music, percussion, and modern and African dance” on The Apollo website, The show takes place on December 30th.

7. Stock up for the Feast of Seven Fishes

Cosenza's Fish Market Arthur Ave
Courtesy of the Belmont Business Improvement District

The Feast of the Seven Fishes, or “La Vigilia”, is a Christmas Eve tradition celebrated by Italian-Americans that commemorates the midnight birth of Baby Jesus. Traditionally, a meal of seven different fishes is prepared, an homage to the Roman Catholic tradition of abstaining from eating meat on the eve of a feast day. For those who celebrate, there are a plethora of fish markets in New York City where you can stock up for the evening!

Fulton Fish Market Virtual Talk

Book cover of The Fulton Fish Market: A History by Jonathan Rees which features a painting of the historic fish market

For the early birds, you can head up to the Fulton Fish Market in the Bronx for a fresh catch. Other options can be found along Arthur Avenue, the Bronx’s Little Italy. Baccala, shrimp, branzino, octopus, calamari, mussels, eels, clams, lobster, and more are up for sale at old-school joints like Cosenza’s Fish Market, which has been around for over 100 years, and Randazzo’s Seafood, a family-owned traditional fish market since the late 1920s. Buon apetito!

8. Track Down the Most Creative Christmas Trees

Origami Christmas tree at the American Museum of Natural History that goes up every year of the holidays in NYC
Photo by M. Shanley/©AMNH

Around the holidays in NYC, crowds flock to the iconic trees like the Rockefeller Christmas Tree, and Bryant Park, but spread throughout the city there are other creative Christmas trees to admire. At the American Museum of Natural History, you’ll find a 13-foot Christmas tree covered in origami bugs and other specimens. At a restaurant in Brooklyn, there is a tree made of lobster traps!

There are so many trees to discover scattered throughout the city that are each unique in their own way. Discover 11 alternatives to the Rockefeller Center Chritsmas tree here!

9. Celebrate the Last Night of Hanukah at Eldridge Street Museum

Eldridge Street synagogue interior

Take in the beauty of the Eldridge Street Museum’s Main Sanctuary as you listen to Klezmer music on the last night of Hanukah this December 25. At Music at the Museum, the Litvakus Collective led by Zisl Slepovitcho will play lively Jewish tunes and Chanukah songs with vocals performed by Off-Broadway and National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene actor and singer Maya Jacobson!

The concert will conclude with Maya leading the audience in the lighting of one of the Museum’s historic menorahs from the ongoing exhibition, LIGHTING THE WORLD: Menorahs Around the Globe. Litvakus is an innovative klezmer collective, that brings “an authentically modern feel to the traditional music of “Litvakland,” the cultural homeland of the Litvak Jews and their neighbors in North-Eastern Europe.”

10. Admire the Holiday Lights

Dyker Heights Christmas lights that go up every year for the holidays in NYC

There’s tons of holiday cheer lighting up the streets of New York City this time of year! From the over-the-top Fifth Avenue department store holiday windows to the extreme lights of Dyker Heights, it seems everywhere you turn there is a festive holiday display. Some of New York City’s most famous sights including the Bronx Zoo, New York Botanical Garden, and Rockefeller Center all host dazzling displays this time of year.

Along with the holiday decorations, there are tons of holiday markets to check out as well. Find the perfect last-minute gift at the giant Union Square market or grab a gift on your commute through Grand Central Terminal. No matter how you choose to celebrate, we wish you the best of holidays in NYC this year!

Next, check out The Top 10 Secrets of the New Year’s Eve Ball in Times Square