Looking for things to do on Christmas Day in NYC? If you’ve found yourself here, trying to figure out your holiday plans while you visit New York (or if you’re a New Yorker just looking to get ~festive~), you may be thinking: how can I make the most of Christmas in a city of secular heathens?
Well, as a proud heathen, I’ll start with this: Christmas is my favorite holiday, despite the fact that I have never personally celebrated–and that is in large part due to the magic of Christmas season in New York. The city takes on a calmness rarely found during the rest of the year, and as hard as I’ve tried, any description I could share of what it’s like would not do it justice. You’ll just have to experience it for yourself. So don’t fear, regardless of your religious inclinations–there is something for everyone on Christmas Day in New York.
Let’s start with the basics: what kinds of things are open on Christmas Day in NYC, and what kinds of things are not?
Generally speaking, it’s a safe bet to assume that most museums, restaurants, shops, and tourist attractions are closed on Christmas Day in NYC.
There are certainly exceptions (which we will get to later), but I wouldn’t recommend planning a full day around activities that rely on these kinds of establishments being open.
As far as establishments that are a safe bet to remain open and provide a wide variety of things to do on Christmas Day in NYC–some Broadway shows, Radio City Music Hall (of course), transportation hubs like Grand Central and the Oculus, the Empire State Building, and nearly every restaurant in Chinatown will be open on Christmas Day in NYC.
Movie theaters are a major attraction for city-dwellers on Christmas Day as well, and ice skating rinks in NYC (namely at Rockefeller Center and Bryant Park, among others) will stay open as well.
Additionally, many of the vendors at Bryant Park Winter Village will remain open, which is a great spot for getting that Christmas shopping fix in. Restaurants are a bit trickier to cover with a rule of thumb, but there are some that remain open outside of Chinatown, some of which offer prix fixe menus–just make sure to make a reservation in advance if you’re thinking about celebrating outside the house, Airbnb or hotel room.
If any of that sounded vague, the list below should help sort out any questions you may have about major attractions and other establishments. Let’s get into the nitty gritty so you can come to town with the peace of mind you deserve and options to choose from for things to do on Christmas Day in NYC.
And if you find yourself exploring the city during the week too, check out all the best things to do in NYC during Christmas time too!
Disclaimer: This post contains commissionable links.
What to do on Christmas Day in New York City
Radio City Christmas Spectacular
It would be wrong to “kick off” a list of things to do on Christmas Day in NYC without paying homage to the ultimate bringers-of-Christmas-joy: the iconic Radio City Rockettes.
On Christmas Day in New York, the Rockettes are slated to perform in five shows, every three hours: the first is at 10 am, and the last is at 10 pm.
A few things to keep in mind if you’re thinking about snagging some tickets for you and the family (and you should definitely be thinking about it, at the very least, especially if you’ve never seen the Christmas Spectacular before): if your group is larger than 8, you’ll have to inquire about group pricing on the Radio City Rockettes website.
In any case, purchasing tickets well in advance is advised, as the Christmas Spectacular on Christmas Day is the most popular time to see the show, of course.
Each show is an hour and a half with no intermission, and it is advised that you arrive at least 30 minutes prior to the start of the show as there will be a line that wraps around the block.
You can get tickets for the Radio City Christmas Spectacular on SeatGeek, and when you add our promo code BROOKLYNGUIDE to your SeatGeek account, you receive $20 off your first ticket purchase. (We receive a small commission at no extra cost to you)
See a Broadway Show
Unfortunately, when Christmas Day falls on a Monday that means there are fewer shows playing than usual (many do not perform on Mondays, even when it’s not Christmas).
However, because New York never rests, there are still some options to round out your Christmas Day in New York experience through the magic of theater.
On Christmas Day this year in 2023, there are six (count ‘em, six) shows playing: Wicked, MJ the Musical, Chicago, Here Lies Love, Dracula (A Comedy of Terrors) and The Gazillion Bubble Show.
It’s worth noting that the last two on that list are off-Broadway, but still good options depending on the company you keep. There are more shows playing on Christmas Eve, so if you’re in the city for more than just the big day, it might be worth checking out those options, if you’re not the type to attend midnight mass.
Or, if you contain multitudes, feel free to see a Christmas Day show and scuttle over to St. Patrick’s Cathedral afterwards for some wholesome piety (more on that later).
If you’re new to all this and wondering how to see a show on Broadway, there are a few ways to buy tickets. SeatGeek, a popular ticket search engine that makes finding tickets Broadway quick and easy! Plus when you add our promo code BROOKLYNGUIDE to your SeatGeek account, you receive $20 off your first ticket purchase. (We receive a small commission at no extra cost to you)
And one of the most popular questions I see pop up on New York City travel forums is about Broadway dress code and etiquette. Our site covers all of that information, but to keep it short and sweet, there is no real dress code!
See the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden
It may sound odd, but catching a basketball game at the worldwide mecca of basketball is one of the most Christmas-y things one can do on Christmas Day in New York. The Knicks are an integral part of New York culture all year round, and represent the melting pot community that New York is–despite their long, arduous history of failure, they are a tradition we can all get behind.
Even with their shortcomings, the Knicks are a beacon of hope to all who call themselves New Yorkers, and thrive on the undying support they receive regardless of how many times they have disappointed us.
And this year, they don’t look half bad! The Knicks are about faith, hope and community, and what’s more akin to Christmas than that? The festive spirit attracts thousands to the Garden on Christmas, so I recommend grabbing tickets as early as possible.
You can get New York Knicks tickets on SeatGeek, a popular ticket search engine that makes finding tickets for all kinds of events in New York City quick and easy! Plus when you add our promo code BROOKLYNGUIDE to your SeatGeek account, you receive $20 off your first ticket purchase. (We receive a small commission at no extra cost to you)
Go to the Movies
If a massive sporting event feels like just a little too much to deal with on Christmas Day in NYC, I get it. Not all of us feel like filtering into a loud arena among throngs of people hopped up on the primal instincts of competition.
For a more relaxed environment, there are countless movie theaters in the city that will have big Christmas movie releases, and you’ll be able to sit peacefully for a few hours without the kids getting too rambunctious.
That being said, this is a popular tradition among locals, so as for most items on this list, be sure to book tickets in advance.
To add some NYC-flair to the event, consider checking out one of the more iconic theaters the city has to offer, like cinephile-friendly indie-arthouses such as the Film Forum and IFC (both in Greenwich Village), or go the more modern route with Regal Battery Park or LOOK Dine-in Cinemas (in Hell’s Kitchen).
The first pair possesses an ambiance that is hard to replicate in some of the newer, bigger theaters, and the latter pair includes great choices for ease and comfort. If you opt for Battery Park, make sure to check out the Westfield Mall in the Oculus (big, white, funky-looking, spiny structure) just under the Freedom Tower while you’re down there.
There are also plenty of cool movie theaters in Brooklyn too, namely Nitehawk Cinema and Alamo Drafthouse.
Bryant Park Winter Village
If you find yourself exploring all the fun things to do in Midtown and a whiff of something sweet you can’t quite identify wafts through the air to meet your nose, follow the scent! It’s either a Nuts4Nuts cart or any number of stalls at Bryant Park’s winter village which dishes out sweet treats fit for a blustery Christmas indulgence.
Bryant Park Winter Village offers much more than sweet snacks, too: every year, vendors of all kinds who are lucky enough to lock down space within the park come bearing the fruits of their trade, which can range from woolen clothing, jewelry, art, pasta, and so much more.
There are always a few staples, like the Waffles and Dinges stall (which is probably that sweet smell that pulled you into the winter wonderland in the first place) and of course always an indulgent hot chocolate spot (that tend to be popular among social media as they are Instagram-friendly), but prepare to find things here you’ve never found before, all while supporting a number of local small businesses.
It does get crowded, but the town square feel to the winter village makes it feel like one big community bonfire, despite being situated among the grandiosity of midtown’s iconic skyline.
Go to the Zoo or Aquarium
Oh, you thought the animals and sea creatures slept on Christmas, too? No shot. On Christmas Day, whereas the Bronx Zoo will be closed, the Central Park Zoo will be open, and is a great way to enhance your park experience if you’ve ventured there for any number of reasons, including the ones later on in this list.
Plus, tickets are $14 for adults, making it a great option that you won’t have to commit to for an incredibly long time if you’ve packed your day with other activities to get done. In addition to the Central Park Zoo, the Coney Island Aquarium is open on Christmas, and admittedly it is a trek to get there if you’re staying in Manhattan, or even some parts of Brooklyn.
However, the aquarium offers more indoor exhibits than the zoo, so if weather is dictating your plans, this is a truly fun experience for humans of any age. Tickets are $30 for adults.
Go Ice Skating
Bryant Park also boasts a skating rink, which is open to the public on Christmas Day and it’s free if you have your own skates! Otherwise, it’s just the cost of the ice skates rental.
There are a handful of other rinks in the city to choose from, too, if you feel like it’s about time to humble your warm-weather cousins with a little icy fun. Nothing that keeps an ego in check like holding on for dear life to the outer wall of an ice skating rink. I digress–here are the three best options, with corresponding skate rental prices:
- Bryant Park: $18-55
- Rockefeller Center: $46-73
- Wollman Rink (Central Park): $37, $10 for kids and seniors
Keep in mind, you’ll need to book these in advance as space on the ice is limited, and for Bryant Park and Rockefeller Center, you’ll likely be paying on the upper end of those price ranges due to the business Christmas Day in New York brings.
Each of the rinks also offers more involved packages if you’re looking to go all in, which include amenities ranging from warm beverages to extended ice time, as well as curling and “igloo” rentals.
There are a few ice skating rinks outside of these three throughout the five boroughs, but the only one that makes the honorable mention list is Glide at Brooklyn Bridge Park, one of the best ice skating rinks in Brooklyn.
Skating here will be on the cheaper end of your options ($37 for admission plus skate rentals for non-NYC resident adults, $24 for kids and $25.50 for NYC resident adults), there’s an incredible view of the Manhattan skyline and you’ll likely run into sparser crowds–all of which are reasons that would normally place Glide on the A-list, but it’s nice to be in the thick of it all where there are plenty of things to do on Christmas Day in NYC–and the thick of it is in Midtown.
Dyker Heights Christmas Lights
Of all the tourist attractions available surrounding Christmas Day in NYC, for some reason this one arguably draws more locals than any other. Sometimes humans are simple, and there’s no reason to fight that inner child in you that wants to look at all the pretty lights.
No one is 100 percent sure how this tradition arose, but some say residents of Dyker Heights have taken great pride in their extravagant light displays since as early as the 1940s.
The most commonly cited catalyst is Lucy Spata, who moved to the neighborhood in the 1980s and did her house up to the nines to honor a tradition her mother had started. Since then, during the Christmas season, Dyker Heights lawns and facades have only grown in grandeur and electricity, so that now nearly every block boasts an assortment of professional-grade lighting do-ups.
For best results, I recommend traveling there by car if you can swing it, preferably with a friend or friendly Uber driver that might be willing to lookie-loo along with you. Although, if it’s a friend’s car, parking can be tricky. Luckily, getting to the Dyker Heights Christmas Lights by subway is super easy.
After you cruise around the hood, feel free to hop out and stroll around to get a closer look. Keep in mind–actual, real life people live in this neighborhood–so be respectful while you visit.
See our full breakdown of all the insider tips and tricks to seeing the Dyker Heights Christmas Lights! We have a few nuggets of knowledge in there from doing it year after year!
Rockefeller Center might as well be Santa’s North American outpost. We’ve already covered the iconic skating rink and Radio City Music Hall just at the end of the block, but of course, the main event, especially on Christmas Day in NYC, is the biggest tree you’ve ever laid eyes on.
I must admit, as a native New Yorker, I can’t help but stop and stare if I ever happen to pass through Midtown during the holidays, and I’ve even taken a picture or two on some years. To avoid making a trek to simply look at the tree for a few minutes and take a family photo, I recommend planning your visit around seeing one of the best Christmas trees in NYC to see some of the other nearby things to do on Christmas Day in NYC if they are in the cards for you.
In addition to the tree, Radio City, and the ice skating rink, the Top of the Rock observation deck will be open on Christmas Day, but we’ll get to that part later. There are also all kinds of food and beverage options nearby, from the truck vendors and pop-ups like City Winery in the plaza to Magnolia Bakery’s Midtown location on 6th avenue, and FAO Schwarz abuts the plaza as well–just note that FAO Schwartz and many of the food options will be closed on Christmas Day itself.
If you happen to visit on a different day, FAO Schwarz is an unforgettable place to take the kids (or the adult “kids” in your family that might hold a special place in their hearts for Tom Hanks’ character in Big). Make a day of it, why not!?
See the Best Christmas Trees
In addition to the “big one” at Rockefeller Center, there are dozens of incredible Christmas trees to see throughout the city. My suggestion is to go see some of these first before you head to Rockefeller Center, so that you create an exciting build-up for yourself and aren’t let down by the fact that no other tree could possibly compete with the “big one.” Below is a list of some of the best trees to see on Christmas Day in NYC, with corresponding neighborhoods:
- Lincoln Center (Lincoln Square)
- Washington Square Park (Greenwich Village)
- Madison Square Park (Flatiron)
- Bryant Park (Midtown)
- New York Public Library (main branch at 42nd Street and Fifth Ave in Midtown)
- South Street Seaport (Seaport)
- The Plaza Hotel (Midtown East)
- The New York Stock Exchange (Financial District)
Sure, there are all kinds of Christmas-themed attractions to visit on Christmas Day in New York, and you shouldn’t miss out on those experiences–but to really lock in that magical Yuletide feeling, Central Park is the place to be.
Some of the Central Park activities available during the winter months are great ones for all year round, but during Christmas they take on an inexplicable peace, especially if you’re lucky enough to visit in the snow.
If it does snow on Christmas Day in NYC, however (fingers crossed!), there is one activity in particular that is exclusive to those conditions and which rightfully disturbs the peace: sledding on Pilgrim Hill. Grab whatever semi-flat object you can find and enter the park from the east at 76th Street to join the other adrenaline junkies on the slope.
Once you’ve let all that pent up energy out, head on over to the Literary Mall, which begins just north of 66th Street and ends at about 72nd Street, just before it lets out onto Bethesda Terrace. This part of the park has a quaint thoughtfulness to it and will possibly include the added bonus of being serenaded by an assortment of street musicians; each one’s melodies slowly washing away just in time for the next to enter earshot.
If there is snow on the ground, this area is particularly quiet, and that strange but welcome silence is always enough to make itself known among the cacophony that lies outside the borders of the park. Plus, you might learn a thing or two about the subjects cast in bronze flanking either side of the pathway.
The Big Apple Circus
Seeing the Big Apple Circus as a kid is a core memory of mine, and as a curmudgeon local who isn’t always receptive to the way the city changes, my heart grows three times in size (in a healthy, grinch-like way, not a medically alarming one) every time I pass Lincoln Center and see the big billboards for the circus, now in its 46th year of existence.
It is an undying tradition, and rightfully so. This Christmas Day in New York, there will be two shows–one at noon and one at 4 pm, with tickets available starting at $35. Come for the high-flying acrobatics, fearsome animals, wholesome humor and showmanship, and stay for the sweet smell of buttered popcorn and cotton candy in the air. I can smell it as I write this right now, and I’m thinking it might be time to catch another show this season.
You can get The Big Apple Circus tickets on SeatGeek, a popular ticket search engine that makes finding tickets for all kinds of events in New York City quick and easy! Plus when you add our promo code BROOKLYNGUIDE to your SeatGeek account, you receive $20 off your first ticket purchase. (We receive a small commission at no extra cost to you)
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
St. Patrick’s Cathedral is the most iconic of NYC churches, and due to its popularity which draws the masses from around the world, obtaining a midnight mass ticket on Christmas is next to impossible. The lottery system for these tickets closed on November 22nd, so if you were hoping to attend, make sure to apply starting in June of next year.
While the midnight mass is no longer available, there are services at other times on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day which do not require tickets.
That being said, those times are also incredibly popular, so I advise arriving at least an hour before the mass you would like to attend, which still does not guarantee entry. It may seem like an undue hassle to be forced to wait in a line in the cold for Christmas mass, but if you are lucky enough to gain entry, it will be worth it to be a part of one of the most memorable things to do on Christmas Day in NYC.
The cathedral is popular for a reason, and represents not only a stunning work of architectural mastery, but also the history of NYC catholicism and the community that has grown with it since its doors opened in 1879. And if you can’t make it in person, St. Patrick’s livestreams their Christmas Eve and Christmas Day masses on their website and YouTube.
Christmas Eve and Christmas Day Mass Times (excluding midnight mass): 7 am, 8 am, 9 am, 10:15 am, noon, 1 pm, 4 pm (Spanish), 5:30 pm (family mass on Christmas Eve)
Grand Central Terminal
Again, Christmas Day in NYC has a magical quality to it, and for whatever reason, there are certain locations and landmarks that kick into holiday spirit high gear every year, even without any specific Christmas activities, decorations or festivities.
One of these locations is Grand Central Terminal–it just innately has the “it” factor required to make you feel like you’re in a Christmas rom-com. If you’ve got the time, spend a good portion of it staring up at the celestially tapestried ceiling, making sure not to ignore your surroundings too much for fear of getting pickpocketed.
And an NYC fun fact–if you look closely enough, you’ll be able to spot a small, eternally dirty patch over one of the crab claws, covered in the cigarette smoke that caked it when smoking was permissible in the terminal. When the city decided to clean the ceiling in the late 1990s, they left this patch as an homage to the history of Grand Central.
There are all kinds of fun historical elements that continue to live on within the walls of Grand Central, and if you’re planning on making the trip this holiday season, I encourage you to explore all it has to offer, and slowly–a pace at which us New Yorkers are seldom capable of achieving, especially if we happen to be passing through Grand Central to catch a train.
Browse the Department Store Window Displays
New York does it better than any other city in the world, and the NYC department store window displays are certainly no exception to that rule. Where else does window shopping become an activity that draws thousands every day!? Nowhere, and New York isn’t resting on its laurels, either–every year, including this one, window displays grow more creative and elaborate, so it is never the same experience if you’ve done it before.
For best results, Fifth Avenue is your best bet to get your fill of holiday flavor, but there are plenty of great options to choose from that are all generally within walking distance of each other, both along Fifth and nearby.
A few staples: Bergdorf Goodman (the best), Macy’s, Saks, American Girl, Bloomingdale’s, and the Empire State Building (which is celebrating the 20th anniversary of Elf with their displays this year), as well as FAO Schwarz.
This is a great activity to combine with a trip to Rockefeller Center, but prepare to be on your feet for much of the day, and know that many of these stores will be closed on Christmas Day, even if their window displays are up and running–grab a warm beverage and layer up!
Saks Fifth Avenue Light Show
If you time it up right, you’ll arrive at Saks along your window shopping adventure just in time for their extravagant light show set to Christmas music, which plays every ten minutes starting at dusk. This one is not exclusive to Christmas Day in New York, either–the light show is already running, and will continue to run through the holiday season.
If you’ve spent the day at Rockefeller Center or window shopping along Fifth Avenue, slowing down for a few minutes to watch 700,000 plus LEDs light up the street is sure to put that pep back in your step before you head out to Christmas dinner.
Have an Unforgettable Christmas Dinner
If you’ve decided to dine out on Christmas Day, you’ll have to have your ducks in a row well in advance to make sure there are no snags that disrupt your holiday joy. The most common of these snags is simply the limited number of restaurants that will remain open–but even on Christmas, NYC doesn’t sleep.
The next section is divided into two categories of Christmas dinners, if you have an idea of the kind of vibe you’d like to experience–the slightly to moderately upscale, generally prix fixe menu vibe, or the hearty, wholesome, likely cheaper Chinatown vibe, without the pageantry. Both vibes are equally great ones–it’s just a matter of preference (mine is Chinatown, but who am I to tell you what to do and how to do it?)
Christmas Day in NYC Non-Chinatown Options:
Below are a few Christmas dinner options outside of Chinatown, with short descriptors of each experience:
- L’Express: Gourmet French cuisine in Gramercy for a slim fraction of the price you’d pay at Le Bernardin. Prix Fixe menu which may or may not include escargot.
- Haven Rooftop: Midtown hotel rooftop restaurant slinging relatively affordable fare in a lovely environment overlooking the city.
- Knickerbocker Bar & Grill: Old school, historic American fare in the East Village. No frills except for music accompaniment (typically a pianist or small jazz band). Large portions and most likely on this list to have reservations available even as Christmas approaches.
- An honorable mention for Tavern on the Green: This iconic Central Park eatery’s Christmas Day reservations are currently unavailable, but there is a waitlist if you’d like to throw your hat in the ring as a backup plan.
Christmas Day in NYC Chinatown Options:
- Wo Hop: The mecca of Chinatown on Christmas as well as throughout the year. A spiritual experience.
- Peking Duck House: It’s right there in the name. A variety of prix fixe menu options include full or partial portions of Peking duck, along with appetizers and choice of entrees.
- Dim Sum Palace: One of Chinatown’s largest establishments. Very easy to just keep ordering food and not know when to stop. Open until 4am, and they also have karaoke downstairs.
- Jing Fong: Another incredible dim sum restaurant offering a wide array of delectables. Dining room seats 125, which is downsized from the 800 that could squeeze into the original location.
Keep in mind, for all options (even ones not on this list), you’ll want to make a reservation as space can be limited.
Harry Potter: The Exhibition
Look, watching a Harry Potter marathon is an unofficial Christmas pastime, but after more than two decades in the public consciousness, I think it’s time we made it official. And before you say, “wait a minute, can’t I watch Harry Potter anywhere in the world?” that’s not what this thing is about.
What NYC does have that most other places do not is Harry Potter: The Exhibition, which has tickets available every half hour from 11 am to 5 pm on Christmas Day, during which you’ll be able to spend 60-90 minutes exploring everything the wizarding world has to offer.
The experience is interactive, featuring potions brewing, quidditch, patronus-conjuring and much, much more, including movie props, photo ops and behind-the-scenes information on some of the more recent adaptations of the franchise, like Fantastic Beasts and Broadway’s Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. This is sure to be one of the most festive things to do on Christmas Day in NYC–happy Christmas!
Russian and Turkish Baths
I don’t know why, but it just makes sense that the Russian and Turkish Baths are open 365 days a year. To really soak in the Christmas spirit, drop into this iconic East Village establishment and pamper yourself for a while in the warm waters, or opt for some time in the various steam rooms and saunas.
Single admission is $60 per person, but make sure if you buy tickets in advance that you are booking the correct shift for the day you’d like to go. David and Boris own and operate the baths separately (due to a longstanding feud of which the details are murky), and for decades have alternated weeks running the show.
This year, Christmas Eve is a David day, and Christmas Day is a Boris day. The good news is that you can just walk in on the day you’d like to go and avoid any confusion. Hot tip: the platza oak leaf treatment is the way to go if you’re interested in any of the treatments available that are not included with the price of admission.
Head to an Observation Deck
Whereas the Russian and Turkish baths have a roof, there are certainly better views to be had in the city, and some of them are so good you might forget to feel cold. There’s nothing like having an opportunity to get the whole picture–New York can feel like a maze sometimes, but when you’re looking out over the entire island of Manhattan or at the Statue of Liberty in the distance in the harbor, it all starts to make a little more sense.
Below is a short list of the best NYC observation decks that are open on Christmas Day, with prices and amenities attached:
- One World Observatory: Interactive Experience, dining/drinking/shopping options, varied experiences starting at $39 for adults. 47 second elevator ride to the highest point in the entire city, see more about our experience visiting One World Observatory. Or book your tickets here.
- Empire State Building: Two roof deck observatory options to pick from starting at $44 for adults, and if you choose the 86th floor option, you’ll be able to recreate the scene from Sleepless in Seattle. Tom Hanks is really baked into the fabric of New York. You can see our experience visiting the Empire State Building or skip ahead to book your tickets here.
- The Edge at Hudson Yards: 100th floor observation deck which includes a street view through a section of glass underfoot. Tickets start at $36 for adults, and of all the observation decks in the city, this one might be the best for a photo op.
- You can see our experience visiting the Edge or skip ahead to book your tickets here.
- Top of the Rock: Right there in the name, this 70-story observation deck is at the top of Rockefeller Center and is a great addition to your time in and around the plaza if the activities of the day bring you there. Tickets for adults start at $40. You can see our experience visiting the Top of the Rock Observation Deck or skip ahead and book your tickets here.
- Summit One Vanderbilt: One of the newest additions to the NYC skyline experience, Summit One Vanderbilt has a greater focus on their digital art concept, and the observatory is mainly indoors (although there is also a wraparound terrace). Tickets for adults start at $42, and NYC and Long Island residents get $5 off. You can see our experience visiting Summit One Vanderbilt or skip ahead and book your tickets here.
Honorable mention goes to the Met rooftop–this is my favorite view in the city because it is the only one that looks from within Central Park out onto the city, but unfortunately, the rooftop is closed from late fall until May. The museum itself is closed on Christmas Day, but makes for a great activity if you can swing it on another day over the holidays, even without the rooftop experience.
Go to a Museum
Many of New York’s iconic museums are closed on Christmas Day, but there are a few that will remain open and will provide some much-needed respite from the cold, especially if you’ve baked some of the more outdoor activities on this list into your grand plan of things to do on Christmas Day in NYC.
The Met, MoMa, Guggenheim, Whitney, and Natural History Museums are all closed, to name a few–but there are a few great alternative options, depending on what you’re into.
Madame Tussauds will remain open on Christmas, as will the Jewish Museum (duh).
With so few museum options to pick from, we’ll stretch the definition of what a museum is to include Rise NY, an interactive, 4D experience that simulates soaring over the New York skyline paired with a film on the history of New York and an interactive museum experience on New York culture.
This last one is great if you don’t feel like braving the cold on any of the aforementioned observation decks, and the price point is similar at $35 for adults. Madame Tussauds prices start at $39 for adults, and the Jewish Museum starts at $18 for adults, $8 for students over 18 and free for anyone 18 and under.
See the World Famous Harlem Gospel Choir
If you’ve gone shopping, window shopping, touring, museum-ing, observing and eating all through your time in New York and the city has taken its toll on you (we all go through this at times, nothing to be ashamed about), consider dropping into one of Greenwich Village’s most historic music venues, the Blue Note, so you can recenter, come to Jesus and take in the incredible talent of The World Famous Harlem Gospel Choir, who will be performing at 1:30 pm on Christmas Day.
The Blue Note is a jazz and dinner club that draws some of the world’s best performers, and the Harlem Gospel Choir is certainly no exception.
Doors open at noon on Christmas so you’ll have time to eat, drink and be merry before the performance begins, and by the end, you’ll feel at home regardless of where that is for you.
Admission is $35 per person and there is a $20 minimum for food per person, which will consist of a brunch menu.
Go to Governor’s Island
A trip to Governor’s Island in the offseason is not for the faint of heart, what with all the frigid conditions and zero wind protection in the middle of New York harbor. However, there are a number of reasons to brave the conditions on Christmas.
The island is home to a number of historical sites including a fort and army barracks, there are food options aplenty (particularly closer to the ferry docks), art installations, bike rentals (and Citibike rentals) and a spa overlooking the harbor (21+, also has its own complimentary ferry).
And the best part might be the QCNY Spa, open on holidays including Christmas Day in New York City by the way! This spa has a variety of themed steam rooms, saunas, and relaxation rooms. But the real draw here are the heated outdoor pools and spas that overlook the Lower Manhattan skyline. Float around with your head near the surface of the water and hear music playing under the water. Choose one of the seats and turn on the jets while you sit back and relax this holiday!
While these attractions are offered, a trip to Governors Island is never the same twice, because you can make of it what you please.
There is room to roam, explore, interact and more, and you’ll never feel obliged to do any one thing in particular–just let your feet guide you, as long as you don’t get sidetracked and miss the last ferry, which is typically at 6pm (the spa ferry runs until 10pm). Be sure to check Christmas Day ferry schedules, as times will be somewhat modified.
Head to a Christmas-themed bar
Ok. You’ve braved the cold. You’ve hit the hotspots. You’ve done Christmas brunch and/or dinner with the family, if you’re in the city with them. You feel like you’ve done your duty. Now it’s time to hit the town and unwind a little with an alcoholic beverage in hand.
Yes, even on Christmas, there are bars open to the public, and some of the best are the awesome Christmas-themed, too. I keep telling you–it’s New York! I can’t believe you’re still surprised by this.
Anyway, here’s our list of the Best Holiday-themed restaurants & Christmas bars in NYC (Plus A Map) to guide your holiday imbibitions, but take note that many are not open on Christmas Day itself. Below is a short list of some of the ones that are:
- Rolf’s: It would just be wrong if Rolf’s wasn’t open on Christmas Day, considering every day is Christmas at Rolf’s. Go early to avoid any line.
- 230 Fifth: Rooftop bar with drop-dead views of the Empire State Building and skyline beyond. Heated igloos. Also offering a Christmas dinner buffet.
- Lillie’s Victorian Establishment: Gigantic restaurant and bar with locations in Union Square and Midtown West. Eclectic antique collection surrounding the restaurant.
- Miracle on 9th Street and Miracle on Union: Pop-up bars in Alphabet City and Williamsburg, respectively. Reservation required, but it comes with a specialty holiday drink.
- Loreley Beer Garden: Super festive do-up on the Bowery featuring all kinds of special holiday cocktails, warm and cold. They are quite proud to be open all year round, especially on Christmas. Heated beer garden out back.
- Nog Shop at Quality Meats: Cozy brick-lined restaurant that is an escape from the hubbub in midtown. Go for dinner or just high-quality seasonal drinks on Christmas Day.
What to do on Christmas Day in NYC (Post Summary):
- Radio City Christmas Spectacular
- See a Broadway Show
- See the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden
- Go to the Movies
- Bryant Park Winter Village
- Go to the Zoo or Aquarium
- Go Ice Skating
- Dyker Heights Christmas Lights
- Rockefeller Center
- See the Best Christmas Trees
- Central Park
- Big Apple Circus
- St Patrick’s Cathedral
- Grand Central Terminal
- Browse the Department Store Window Displays
- Saks Fifth Avenue Light Show
- Have an Unforgettable Christmas Dinner
- Harry Potter: The Exhibition
- Russian and Turkish Baths
- Head to an Observation Deck
- Go to a Museum
- See the World Famous Harlem Gospel Choir
- Go to Governor’s Island
- Head to a Christmas-themed bar
While many businesses and attractions close on Christmas Day in NYC, some restaurants, movie theaters, and select stores remain open. Additionally, some iconic sites like Times Square and Central Park are accessible for strolling. It’s advisable to check specific venues for holiday hours.
Yes, the NYC subway operates on a limited schedule on Christmas Day. While trains may run less frequently, the subway system generally provides transportation options for those who need to travel on the holiday.
Many NYC attractions, including museums and landmarks, are closed or operate on limited hours on Christmas Day. However, some attractions like the observation decks and outdoor spaces like Central Park and certain restaurants may be open. It’s advisable to check specific venues for their holiday schedules.
Some restaurants in NYC are closed on Christmas Day to observe the holiday, however many restaurants do have Christmas Day dinners that are a set prix fixe meal that require booking in advance and there are restaurants that do stay open on Christmas Day, including many restaurants in Chinatown.
Found this guide to the best things to do on Christmas Day in NYC helpful? Bookmark for later. And be sure to check out all our other holiday guides to NYC.