The best things to do in NYC now through Hanukah, Christmas & New Year’s include FREE museum admission, holiday crafts markets and tree and menorah lightings, ice skating, Winter Solstice festivals and so much more.
Pick one, some or all, and enjoy the best of New York City on the cheap. Nearly everything here is FREE, and nothing is over $20 per person unless it is museum admission or supports a charity.
This best things to do in NYC guide is updated at the beginning and middle of each month, with at least six weeks of events to help you plan how to enjoy the greatest city on the planet.
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ICYMI – News Worth Noting
Bow Bridge in Central Park is closed to the public through January 2024 for repairs that include replacing its wood decking.
Viselka, the iconic Ukranian restaurant on the Lower East Side, has opened an outpost in the Dining Concourse at Grand Central Terminal.
Wegman’s, the beloved supermarket chain based in Upstate New York, has opened its first Manhattan location in Astor Place, in the space formerly occupied by K-Mart. Wegman’s Astor Place also includes a full-service restaurant and a sushi bar.
Revel has pulled its fleet of rental electric mopeds out of NYC. The move comes after several deaths involving Revel mopeds, including the crash that killed CBS News reporter Nina Kapur in 2020.
Times Square Wishing Wall
Turn your wishes for 2024 into confetti that drops on New Year’s Eve revelers in Times Square.
The annual Wishing Wall is back for another year. Submit your wishes in person or online – it can be anything, from a personal goal or a dream for the future, like world peace.
The Wishing Wall is open daily through Dec. 28, although it will be closed on Dec. 25th. Anything submitted after the 28th will be saved for next year.
- NOTE – The Times Square New Year’s Eve schedule has not yet been released. As soon as it is, we’ll publish it.
Bryant Park Winter Village and Ice Skating
Its 17,000-square-foot ice-skating rink is always the highlight, but the Winter Village with its European-style kiosks and holiday spirit is a close second. Nearly 200 new and returning kiosks offer handmade gifts and other holiday items, many of them made by artisans here in New York City.
- Note – while ice skating continues through spring, the holiday kiosks are around only until New Year’s Day.
Rockefeller Center Ice Skating
The Rink at Rockefeller Center is open daily, 9am to 11pm, through March.
Tickets start at $21 per person, but vary by day, time of day and age. Peak season – for high prices and long lines – are between Thanksgiving Week and Jan 1, when you are skating below the world-famous Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. Skate rentals are available for $11.
Buy tickets in advance online to save time and ensure admission. Tickets are on sale here.
Rockefeller Center Ice Skating History
- The Rink was originally to be a temporary attraction in 1936 to draw visitors to Rockefeller Center’s outdoor plaza.
- It became so popular that by 1939, The Rink became a permanent fixture.
- Since then, it has become one of NYC’s most famous landmarks and one of the most visited and photographed sites, hosting more than a quarter of a million skaters annually.
New – Ice Skating in Brooklyn Bridge Park
‘Glide at Brooklyn Bridge Park’ brings ice skating to Brooklyn Bridge Park for the first time. It opens November 15, through Mar 1, 2024, and offers FREE skating for NYC residents two times a week.
The rink will be located at Emily Warren Roebling Plaza near Pier 1, under the Brooklyn Bridge
50 minute sessions start at $9 for NYC resident adults and kids, with thousands of free tickets available throughout the season. Proof of New York City residency is required for free sessions every Saturday from 9 am to 11 am and Tuesdays from 4 to 6 pm. Get your tickets here.
The new ice rink will also feature a cafe with food from DUMBO’s Time Out Market, restrooms, skate rental and complimentary lockers.
Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree
How to Visit Santa at Macy’s Santaland
Visiting is FREE, including the adjoining Dickens Village. Photo packages start at $39.99.
Reservations are required – no walk-ins.
- Reservations open one week ahead. No pets allowed except service animals.
- Macy’s also offers Santaland in San Francisco, Chicago, Orlando and Philadelphia.
Coney Island’s Luna Park Opens for Holidays
For the first time in it’s 120-year history, Coney Island’s Luna Park will be open for the winter holidays, with a Frost Fest winter festival that includes some of the amusement park’s iconic rides and attractions, a brand-new ice skating rink called Rudolph’s Rink, holiday shopping and more.
Santa also will be on hand for family photos.
Frost Fest is on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays plus select weekdays and holidays, from November 18 to January 7.
- Purchase tickets here.
Sun., Dec 2 – This family-friendly holiday event features a crafts market for Hanukkah and other holiday celebrations, plus entertainment and activities for the kids.
The crafts market and some entertainment is FREE. The rest of the program is ticketed, starting at $12.51 plus fees, bringing it closer to $15.
- Sunday, Dec. 2, 11am to 5pm at the 14th St. Y, 344 East 14th St.
BRICS Winter Wonderland
Sun. Dec. 9 – BRIC House unveils a wintry realm brimming with family fun, where art, music, dance, and interactive media weave a magical tapestry.
Craft delightful winter-themed cookies, embark on a festive scavenger hunt bursting with snowy surprises, and move to the electrifying beats of Teen DJ Annie Red. Marvel at the rhythms of Victory Music Dance, design your own winter-inspired tee with the celebrated Camella Elhke, and ‘freeze’ moments with polaroids, thanks to the artistic touch of Stephanie Alvarado.
- FREE, Noon to 5pm, Sunday, Dec. 9.
- Registration encouraged
Winter Ramble in Lincoln Square
Thurs., Dec. 21 – Celebrate the Winter Solstice and the holidays with this street fair and parade of illuminated giant puppets and bands through Lincoln Square, which adjoins Lincoln Center.
The Frost Giant puppets leading the way, joined by hundreds of folks locals carrying mini-lanterns.
The hour-long march will be set to the sounds of J.C. King’s Kalimbascope, a group of musicians playing kalimbas, a variation of the African thumb piano.
Want to join in? Register to play with the Kalimbascope or to carry a mini-lantern or icicle lantern as you walk. there will be a workshop where you can make your own mini-lantern or make one or more for someone else.
More information here about Winter Ramble and how to participate.
- Parade is 5pm-6pm around Dante Square, Broadway & 64th St.
Children’s Museum of Manhattan Holiday Events
Dec. 26-31 – There’s a full week of special activities for kids – and the grown-ups who love them – including a mid-day New Years’ Eve party
Come celebrate the new year at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan (CMOM). New Year’s Eve is all day long at complete with a ball drop and dance party. Ring in 2024 in style by wearing wacky hats of your own design and making some noise with your own New Year’s noise makers. For more information, please visit https://cmom.org/cmom-programs/.
New Year’s Ball Drop Maker
Make your own new year ball to bring up and down in celebration of the new year.
- Each day, Dec. 26-30 | 10:30 am – 12:30 pm & 2 pm – 4:30 pm | All ages | 1st Floor
- Sunday, December 31 | 10 am – 12 pm | All ages | 1st Floor
New Year’s Eve Ball Drop & Dance Party
10…9…8…7…6…5…4…3…2…1…HAPPY NEW YEAR! Join us for a countdown party to the New Year!
- Sunday, December 31 | 12 pm, 2 pm, & 3 pm | All ages | 1st Floor |
CMOM’s New Year’s Eve Ball with Vibes by Ayo Nish!
Kanisha E. Henderson (AKA “Ayo Nish!”), is a multi-faceted artist, songwriter, DJ, educator, and social entrepreneur who has opened for artists like Flo Rida, DJ Funkmaster Flex. She blends musical genres like pop, hip-hop, and soul to create one-of-a-kind sets with high energy that captures crowds of all ages.
- Sunday, December 31 | 12 pm, 2 pm, & 3 pm
Children’s Museum of Manhattan, 212 West 83rd Street
- Tickets are $16.75 for adults and children; Seniors and those with disabilities are $13.75
Non-Holiday December Events
Free Admission to Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), Friday, Dec. 1
UNIQLO NYC Nights are the first Friday of each month, 4–8 pm.
New York City residents get free admission courtesy of UNIQLO, but everyone can enjoy an evening out in our galleries with paid admission.
See new art in the galleries, enjoy music by DJs from The Lot Radio, grab a drink at the pop-up bar, get creative with drop-in drawing sessions, see a film in the theaters, and enjoy the spring weather in the lovely outdoor sculpture garden.
Free First Fridays at Neue Galerie, Friday, Dec. 1
Free First Fridays at Poster House, Friday, Dec. 1
Poster House is the first museum in the United States dedicated to the global history of posters. First Fridays free admission is all day, 10am to 9pm
The two main exhibitions currently on display for the fall season are Art Deco: Commercializing the Avant-Garde and We Tried to Warn You! Environmental Crisis Posters, 1970-2020. Both exhibits will be open through February 25, 2024.
Every First Friday is different, with tours, workshops, performances, and activities, to further engage visitors with the exhibitions.
First Friday Activities for December 1st include:
- 3:00 PM: Learn about Billion Oyster Project‘s vision of a future in which New York Harbor is the center of a rich, diverse, and abundant estuary, whose goal is to restore one billion oysters by 2035. . The communities that surround this complex ecosystem have helped construct it, and in return benefit from it, with endless opportunities for work, education, and recreation.
- 4:00 PM: Join Poster House Guest Curator Tim Medland for a drop-in tour of We Tried to Warn You: Environmental Crisis Posters, 1970–2020. Explore the global history of environmental activism through graphic design.
- 5:00 PM: A workshop on how to reframe alt text (short, written descriptions of images) as a type of poetry.
- 6:30 PM: Collage workshop.
- 7:00 PM: Celebrate Art Deco: Commercializing the Avant-Garde with a performance by Gatsby Entertainment, New York’s premiere Jazz-Age dance troupe. Enjoy the hottest dances of the 1920s performed by expert dancers in full period costume.
Poster House is at 119 West 23 St. in Chelsea. tel. 617-447-7453
Marvel Studios’ ‘Black Panther’ with the NY Philharmonic
On December 20-23, exxperience Marvel Studios’ “Black Panther” like never before — with the New York Philharmonic.
Watch the film play across a towering screen while the orchestra performs its Oscar® and Grammy®-winning score live.
Released in 2018, “Black Panther” quickly became a cultural phenomenon. Rolling Stone raved, “The film lights up the screen with a full-throttle blast of action and fun. That’s to be expected. But what sneaks up and floors you is the film’s racial conscience and profound, astonishing beauty.”
NYC Travel Guru/ecoXplorer money-saving tip –
- Skip the $45 tickets and watch for FREE on the 55-foot video wall at David Geffen Hall.
- All NY Philharmonic concerts are live-streamed on the video wall.
- It’s one of the best things to see and do in NYC for FREE.
Free Tours of Hart Island
Hart Island is now open to the public. Since 1869, more than 1 million New Yorkers have been laid to rest on the island.
NYC Parks is now offering visits twice per month so New Yorkers can learn about its important history and see the beauty of the island and enjoy picture postcard views of the city.
You can put your name in the lottery for a free walking tour here.
- Tours are Tuesdays, 10am to 1pm
This NYC Culture Calendar is updated at the beginning and middle of each month.
ecoXplorer Evelyn Kanter is a journalist with 20+ years of experience as a newspaper and magazine writer, radio & TV news producer & reporter – all focusing on travel, automotive, the environment and your rights as a consumer.
ecoXplorer Evelyn Kanter also is the author or editor of numerous NYC guidebooks and apps.
ecoXplorer Evelyn Kanter currently serves as President of the International Motor Press Assn. (IMPA), a former Board Member of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) and a current member of the North American Travel Journalists Assn. (NATJA).
Contact me at email@example.com.
Copyright (C) Evelyn Kanter