If you are looking for the best things to do during Christmas in New York, you will be happy to know that some of these activities include free things to do in NYC. Though you can stay almost anywhere in Manhattan and enjoy the holiday spirit, for convenience sake and depending on your budget, you should consider staying in midtown for your New York Christmas holiday.
In midtown you can walk to attractions or hop in a cab or Uber for a short ride, depending on traffic. Also, I wouldn’t recommend taking a pedicab without first negotiating the price and reading the fine print.
Lotte New York Palace
Free Things to do in NYC
If you are unsure about where to stay in midtown during your Christmas in New York visit, we prefer the Lotte New York Palace, because there’s a lot to like. First of all, the Lotte New York Palace is located in the heart of the holiday happenings. Second, it’s beautifully decked out in seasonal trim drawing passersby into the hotel.
Christmas in New York
You can find Lotte New York Palace visitors lined up for photos in front of the iconic lighted tree at the entranceway that glows in red. Colorful red and gold balls dangle from holiday trees that shimmer in white. Plus, the lighted garland that bedecks the archways and entranceways feels like a warm welcome.
You will find that the lobby is a flurry of activity. It’s the perfect place to celebrate Christmas in New York. When the door opens, and the cold air hits your face you can watch the shoppers whirl in wearing winter coats and hats while clutching packages in gloved hands. If you are in the area, you should make a point to stop in to see the decorations. Plus it’s one of the free things to do in NYC.
Many staff members have worked at the Lotte New York Palace for years, though ownership has changed. Year after year you can’t help but recognize the same faces like the doormen and the room service attendants. I believe that the staff’s commitment to the hotel makes a statement about how the Lotte New York Palace treats their employees. Moreover, the loyalty of the employees trickles down to the guests.
The Lotte New York Palace is across the street from St. Patrick’s Cathedral and many hotel rooms offer excellent views of the cathedral and midtown. Additionally, you can walk from The Palace to Rockefeller Center, Radio City Music Hall, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodmen, and Central Park, though you will have a healthy twenty-minute walk to Bergdorf and Central Park.
Saks Fifth Avenue
One of the best free things to do in NYC is to peruse the creatively designed window displays at the department stores. Luckily, you have Saks Fifth Avenue within a few blocks from the Lotte New York Palace.
Saks not only trims their window displays in grand style, but they also present an impressive themed light and sound show that you can watch from the streets. Also, don’t forget to check out the lighted garland swagged inside the stores.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Free Things to do in NYC
Add touring St. Patrick’s Cathedral to your list of free things to do in NYC. Also, you can attend Mass.
You can find free activities in NYC in Rockefeller Center. For example, take in the festive features and snap photos of the holiday tree and lights. Better yet, find someone to take a picture of you and your friends in front of the tree.
Also, don’t forget to venture into Nintendo NY, World Store in NYC, and explore the latest games and electronic devices. Some of the electronics are hands-on, and you can give them a try.
If you love truffles, stop in Teuscher for champagne truffles. Note: for more reasonably priced chocolates try La Maison du Chocolat. Additionally, if you plan to ice skate, please know that it is on a first come first serve basis at the Rink at Rockefeller Center.
For free things to do in NYC, take a stroll to Hammacher Schlemmer famous for electronics, sports, toys, one of a kind items, and outrageous gifts. For example, you can buy a Celebrity Robotic Avatar featured in movies, videos and more for a mere $345,000. Or you can buy a robotic bartender for $25,000 or a seven-person tricycle for $20,000. Who buys this stuff anyway? Also, they offer some fun hands-on games that you can try in the store.
Another one of the free things to do during Christmas in New York is to stop in the beautifully decorated Trump Tower. Take the elevator up for the best view of the decorations. If you want, you can grab a drink at the Trump Bar.
If you go to Central Park, stop in Serendipity 3 for a frozen hot chocolate. If you are a chocoholic, you will relish the decadent cocoa taste. Also, check out the ice skaters at Wollman Rink in Central Park and Lasker Rink. Another one of the free things you can do in NYC is to walk the park and take in the scenery.
For a nice workout, you can walk through Central Park to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. On your way, chances are you will pass plenty of performers including singing and dancing groups.
One of the favorite things to do during Christmas in New York is to shop the boutiques in Bryant Park. If you love to skate, lace up your ice skates and take a few spins.
Breakfast in Midtown Manhattan
One of our favorite things to do during Christmas in NYC is to grab breakfast in a local diner. Walking to breakfast will not only get you out of your hotel but will save you from paying hotel prices.
The New York Luncheonette and Moonstruck are within walking distance of the Lotte New York Palace. The New York Luncheonette is about a five-minute walk, and Moonstruck is about ten minutes. Both diners are clean, and even if you have to stand in line, table turnover is quick, and the staff is efficient. Chances are they will seat you within ten minutes. Furthermore, the breakfasts are ample and tasty.
Lunch in Midtown
I love The Smith for their upbeat atmosphere and delicious food. I especially like their raw oysters and salads. Plus, they have an adequate wine selection listed on their menu. They are open for breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner.
But, one of the best things to do during Christmas in NYC is to experience Ellens Stardust Diner. The nostalgic atmosphere and decor throw you back to the ’50s. This bi-level restaurant is located in the heart of Times Square. They not only serve typical diner food like burgers, shakes, and desserts, but you can order alcoholic beverages too.
Moreover, aspiring actresses sometimes dressed in poodle skirts and actors dressed in black serve your food. At any given time the show begins when the servers grab their microphones and break into song. It’s lively and fun, but it can get a little loud. But isn’t that part of Christmas in New York?
Lunch in the Flatiron District
Take a cab to Eataly in the Flatiron District and peruse the aisles for restaurants, bakery items, meats, cheeses, wine, beauty items, gifts, and much more. Try one of Rosticceria’s prime rib sandwiches. If you are not eating in a particular restaurant in Eataly, finding a seat can be challenging. Therefore if you are with a group, have someone look for a place to sit while the others wait in line. Also, if you have time, take one of their cooking classes.
Union Square Holiday Market
While you are in the area, stop by Union Square Holiday Market to shop the boutiques and food vendors.
Dinner in NYC
Some of our favorite restaurants for dining during Christmas in New York City include Gallagher’s Steak House, Del Frisco’s Grille, the Tribeca Grill, and Wallflower in the West Village.
Radio City Christmas Spectacular
If you haven’t seen the Rockettes perform in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, it’s worth your while and will catapult you into the Christmas spirit. The Radio City Christmas Spectacular has some surprises for you, and along with the music and dancing it’s one of the best parts of the show. Sorry, I can’t tell you any more.
We like the midtown location for our New York Christmas holiday. However, you can stay almost anywhere in Manhattan and absorb the holiday spirit. When you arrive in New York, you will feel your pulse quicken in rhythm to the beat of the city.
In addition to the typical tourist spots like Rockefeller Center and Radio City Music Hall, I suggest that you choose some of my recommendations for the best things to do during Christmas in NYC. To recap, consider a trip to Hammacher Schlemmer, La Maison du Chocolat, Serendipity 3, Madame Tussauds, and Ellens Stardust Diner. Additionally, don’t miss the department store window displays.
I hope that you enjoy Christmas in New York City. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!
I am sure that you can add to this list of best things to do in NYC. Please comment below with your favorite Christmas in New York activities or free things to do in NYC in December.