The Best Christmas Things to do in NYC 2019 - Full-Time Travel

The Best Christmas Things to do in NYC 2019

The Best Christmas Things to do in NYC 2019

Combine the warm-fuzzy holiday season feeling with the inimitable energy of NYC and you’ve got a recipe for the ultimate festive experience. Even hardened New Yorkers can’t help softening around the edges once the Christmas markets are set up, bars transform into cozy-kitsch ski chalets, and thousands of extra lights illuminate the cityscape. Read on for a list of the best Christmas things to do in NYC in 2019, as selected by Full-Time Travel’s staff.


Explore the Dyker Heights Christmas lights on foot

Think your neighbor’s Christmas light display is obnoxious? You haven’t seen anything until you’ve been to Dyker Heights, a neighborhood in southwest Brooklyn where the residents dress their homes with 6-foot nutcrackers, ho ho ho-ing Santas, and extravagant nativity scenes. This outrageous display of festive pageantry apparently started with one home back in 1986. The tradition spread rapidly from there, eventually enveloping several blocks from 11th to 13th Avenues, and from 83rd to 86th Street. Around 100,000 people now make the journey to Dyker Heights to see the spectacle each year, many via bus tours, which shuttle spectators from Manhattan, but we like to see the spectacle on foot. Just make sure you bundle up and bring a flask of something hot because there isn’t much in the way of bars and restaurants in this neck of the woods. 

Take a date to watch Company XIV’s Nutcracker Rouge 

This sexy reimagining of the Nutcracker from Juilliard-alumni Austin McCormick combines ballet with burlesque, and the result is genius. Set amid the plush red velvet interior of Théâtre XIV in Bushwick, McCormick’s Nutcracker Rouge contains elements of aerial acrobatics (think scantily clad dancers contorting themselves around a suspended hoop), operatic singing, opulent costume, and mesmerizing burlesque choreography. At $135 for a single bar chair to $535 for a romantic Champagne couch for two, it’s not cheap. But for a show that will blow your mind and possibly even move you to tears (it did for us), it’s worth the splurge. 

Toast under the gaudy decorations of a festively themed bar

Courtesy of Melissa Hom

Rolf’s, the Midtown bar with over-the-top, tinsel laden decor, is the most famous festive boozing destination in the city. In other words, good luck getting a reservation. Luckily, New York has no shortage of atmospheric drinking establishments, and our team has a few favorite places to soak up the merriment. 

For bedazzled booths, mulled wine, and decadent cheese fondue: The Ho Ho Holiday Lounge at The Springs 

For Christmassy drinks served in novelty cups, and festive nostalgia aplenty: The Miracle pop-up Christmas cocktail bar (check the site for a full list of locations) 

For inventive festive tipples, an open fire, and snuggly blankets: Snowday at Sunday in Brooklyn 

For French nibbles, decadent cocktails, and après-ski ambiance: La Chalet at Saks Fifth Avenue

For a Christmas-on-vacation vibes, complete with a festive spin on tiki cocktails: Sippin' Santa at The Boilermaker  

See the city’s most elegant Christmas tree at The Met

© The Metropolitan Museum
of Art, New York

The jumbo tree at the Rockefeller Center is certainly impressive, but the classiest evergreen in New York belongs to The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met). Since 1957, the museum has been decking its tree with an exquisite collection of crèche figures – cherubs, angels, animals, and nativity characters donated by patron Loretta Hines Howard. Bask in its splendor in the Medieval Sculpture Hall, then head to the Balcony for a cocktail or two.  

Peruse New York’s best holiday markets

How wholesome it feels to drift through a holiday market, stopping at stalls to pick up handmade gifts while consuming glühwein and gingerbread. Virtually every neighborhood in the city has its own market, and each has its own merits, but our favorite is The Winter Village, which pops up in Bryant Park each year. Firstly, it’s huge, so you can make a full evening of it. Secondly, the stalls are mostly enclosed in glass houses, so you don’t have to worry about freezing while doing your holiday shopping. As a bonus, ice skating at the market is free, and this year the organizers added an adjoining après-skate food hall, full of comforting pub-style bites and beverages, called The Lodge.  

Catch the annual House of Yes Xmas Spectacular show

Bushwick’s House of Yes excels at razzle-dazzle regardless of the season, but the venue really reaches peak theatricality during the holidays. This year marks the 10th annual Xmas Spectacular – a surreal, flamboyant, and very non-traditional spin on the Christmas archetypes billed, appropriately, as an “extravagant spectacle of irreverent festive nonsense.” Expect pole dancing, aerial hijinks, non-binary nativity characters, burlesque, and bizarre musical numbers. Make sure you get there a little early for refreshments at the bar and a spot near the stage, House of Yes has a very loyal community and this show is particularly popular. 

Enter a surreal winter wonderland of lights at Luminocity Festival

The Frozen Field. Courtesy of Yunkai / LuminoCity Festival

This winter, Randall’s Island plays host to the inaugural LuminoCity Festival, 16-acres of arty light installations encompassing three themed worlds: Winter Wonderland, Wild Adventure, and Sweet Dream. Expect giant Christmas trees, unicorns, dinosaurs, storybook castles, and a Willy Wonka-esque lollipop landscape, all created by artisans who honed their craft making decorative lights for Chinese lantern festivals. After you’re finished Instagramming the whole scene, stop by the LuminoCity Christmas market to shop and refuel with an espresso hot chocolate.

Tour New York’s sparkly department store holiday window displays 

Every year, around December, New York’s biggest department stores compete for our hard-earned dollars by luring us to their doors with extravagant window displays. All the big players, from Macy’s to Saks, put a lot of effort into the concept and execution of their annual holiday windows, but Bergdorf Goodman always outshines the rest. This year’s sparkle and pizzaz come courtesy of Bergdorf’s Senior Director of Visual Presentation, David Hoey, whose team employed Italian mosaic, needlepoint, neon, and soft sculpture to evoke scenes inspired by a traditional holiday fête. It’s the holiday spirit distilled. 

Join Unsilent Night, the public art-meets-holiday caroling procession 

Courtesy of Taylor Davidson

On December 15th, around 6pm, an ensemble of strangers holding boomboxes aloft will congregate under the Washington Square Park arch for the annual Unsilent Night – a musical procession led by composer Phil Kline. This public art-meets-holiday caroling party began in 1992 when Klien composed a piece of music broken into four parts, designed to be played simultaneously. Every year since attendees have shown up for Unsilent Night with a track and speaker system of some description. When the cue is given, the congregation simultaneously hits play and begins its melodic procession to Tompkins Square in what Kline calls “a city-block-long stereo system.”   

Get low-key cozy at Black Mountain Wine House 

If you’ve had your fill of Christmas playlists, sugary cocktails, and flashing lights, head to Black Mountain Wine House. This vino spot in Gowanus has a country cabin vibe, complete with Adirondack chairs out front, an open fireplace with little stockings dangling from the mantle, and a steaming pot full of mulled wine. There’s also a menu of small bites to snack on, including cheese and charcuterie boards, and a wild mushroom, gruyere, and truffle oil mac ‘n’ cheese that’s oh-so-right for the season of indulgence.