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New York comes alive during the holiday season and this year the city expects to welcome 6.5 million visitors by the time the iconic New Year’s ball at Times Square drops. And to entertain such a volume of visitors, as well as locals, the city has host to festive experiences and events and events across dining, shopping, culture and entertainment throughout all five boroughs.

The fourth quarter is historically the strongest of the year, accounting for approximately 30% of visitation to the city. A total 56.7 million people are forecasted to visit NYC before the end of 2022 – roughly 85% record 2019 tourism levels.

“A trip to New York City during the holiday season is magical whether it’s your first visit or an annual tradition,” says NYC & Company President and CEO, Fred Dixon. “The five boroughs witness a transformation that includes iconic experiences along Fifth Avenue and Rockefeller Center as well as new holiday markets, pop-events and performances that create memories of a lifetime.”

Following are festive events, performances, and activities across the five boroughs to celebrate the holiday season in New York City:


• Lighting of the Largest Menorah in Brooklyn (Dec. 18-25, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn): Brooklyn’s Grand Army Plaza will light the largest menorah on each of the eight nights of Hanukkah, with live music, hot latkes, and gifts for children.

• New Year’s Eve Times Square Ball Drop (Dec. 31, Times Square, Manhattan): The Waterford Crystal Times Square New Year’s Eve Ball will sparkle in Times Square all season, but watching its descent in person on New Year’s Eve is a spectacular, once-in-a-lifetime way to ring in the New Year. Millions view the broadcast event in NYC and around the globe along with spectators in Times Square on Dec. 31.


• Big Apple Circus (through Jan. 1, Lincoln Centre): The Big Apple Circus is back for its 45th anniversary season and invites visitors to experience the excitement of its dazzling newest extravaganza: DREAM BIG! For eight weeks only, Big Top at Lincoln Center will be home to astonishing wonders and daring acrobatics, setting imaginations soaring to the most astounding, awe-inspiring heights.

• Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes (through Jan. 2): The beloved holiday tradition once again returns to Radio City Music Hall for its annual musical stage show, which has dazzled audiences of all ages for nearly a century. With incredible costumes, festive songs, synchronized high kicks, new acts and several shows daily, now is the time to return and enjoy this festive custom.

• A Christmas Carol (through Jan. 1): In this astonishing Broadway adaptation, Tony Award–winning actor Jefferson Mays tackles more than 50 roles in this season’s limited run of ‘A Christmas Carol’ at the Nederlander Theatre.

• George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker Presented by New York City Ballet (through Dec. 31): George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center returns for its annual performance featuring exquisite costumes, magnificent sets and Tchaikovsky’s iconic score that transports audiences to a land of twirling snowflakes, leaping candy canes, waltzing flowers and more.

• The Magic Flute Holiday Presentation at The Met Opera (Dec. 16-Jan. 6): The Met Opera’s abridged, English-language version of Mozart’s magical fairy tale is a classic holiday treat for audiences of all ages, bringing the charming story and enchanting music to life.

• The New York String Orchestra at Carnegie Hall (Dec. 24): A favourite of Carnegie Hall audiences for more than 50 years, the New York String Orchestra returns for its annual Christmas Eve concert conducted by Jaime Laredo and will feature some of the nation’s most celebrated young musicians performing alongside guest artists, including Venezuelan violinist Rubén Rengel, who joins the orchestra for J. S. Bach’s virtuosic Concerto in A Minor.


• The Rink at Rockefeller Center: Skating under the iconic Christmas tree at the renowned skating rink is quintessential NYC experience. In collaboration with Coach, Rockefeller Center will unveil this year’s activations, including a bespoke holiday gift shop, and visits from Santa on the ice in December.

• The Rink at Bryant Park: NYC’s free outdoor ice-skating rink at Bryant Park’s Winter Village also features holiday shops, free shows, events, activities, and eats and drinks at The Lodge.

• Wollman Rink in Central Park: Skate in Central Park with the picturesque Manhattan skyline in the background.

• Classic Harbor Line: Enjoy four-course holiday brunch cruises, a ‘Cocoa and Carols’ cruise and more holiday themes, while sailing across the East and Hudson Rivers with views of the NYC skyline and Lady Liberty.

• City Cruises Holiday: Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, or New Year’s dining cruise, among others, feature festive decor, meals and stunning views of the City while sailing across the East and Hudson Rivers from the glass-enclosed deck.

• NYRR Midnight Run in Central Park (Dec. 31): Visitors are invited to start the new year off on the right – and left – foot at the NYRR Midnight Run. The countdown to 2023 begins at 11:59 p.m., and at the stroke of midnight, a fireworks display will light up the night sky and kick off the start of the 8-km. race.

• Coney Island Polar Plunge (Jan. 1, Coney Island): Each year on Jan. 1, members of the Polar Bear Club and anyone else brave enough to participate venture into the frigid waters at Coney Island. Watch hundreds of daring souls plunge into the Atlantic Ocean, where the temperature of the water hovers right above 40 degrees F. and the air temperature can be well below freezing. The event is free.


• The Seaport’s NYC Celebrations: The historic cobblestone streets of The Seaport and Pier 17 turn into the ultimate destination for holiday celebrations. Festivities include the Hanukkah Menorah Lighting on Dec. 18 and decorations throughout the streets.

• Spectacular Factory: The Holiday Multiverse at ARTECHOUSE (through Jan. 8, Chelsea): ARTECHOUSE, a pioneer in innovation digital and experiential art, is hosting an immersive and family-friendly holiday art experience, perfect for the whole family that enables guests to immerse themselves into a multiverse of holiday villages. Visitors will float among giant swinging jingle bells, crash the party of a thousand nutcrackers, join a thrilling train ride through wreaths, take a spin in the candy cane carousel and more.

• Holiday Train Show at New York Botanical Garden (through Jan. 16, The Bronx): This favourite holiday tradition has been around for over 30 years. Visitors will see model trains zip through an enchanting display of more than 190 replicas of New York City landmarks, each re-created from natural materials such as birch bark, lotus pods and cinnamon sticks.

• Christmas Tree and Neapolitan Baroque Crèche at The Met Fifth Avenue (through Jan. 8): A NYC tradition, The Met’s Christmas Tree and Neapolitan Baroque Crèche exhibition – an adorned tree with a nativity scene around its base – comes from a collection of 18th-century Neapolitan figures donated by American artist and collector Loretta Hines Howard in 1964.

• Fifth Avenue Presents: The Fifth Season and Brand-New Open Streets (Dec. 4, through holidays): The Fifth Avenue Association welcomes guests from around the world to enjoy the iconic holiday windows and decorations. New for this season, Fifth Avenue will launch Open Streets, a new program that will not only close Fifth Avenue to all vehicular traffic, but also open the sidewalks to a variety of food vendors and musical performers from local choirs and instrumental ensembles.

• Apollo Winter Wonderland (Dec. 10, Harlem): The Apollo Theater invites audiences to bring the family for holiday-themed activities including picture taking with Santa Claus and amazing performances.

• The Origami Holiday Tree at the American Museum of Natural History: The 13-foot Origami Holiday Tree, celebrates its 50th anniversary, with a Gems of the Museum theme, featuring 50 specially created gold-coloured models for the golden anniversary.


• Shine Bright Only at Hudson Yards: Featuring over 2 million twinkling lights, Shine Bright Only at Hudson Yards, sees the neighbourhood adorned with 240 km. of string lights, 725 evergreen trees dressed, and 5-m. tall illuminated set pieces in the shape of hot air balloons arranged through the Public Square and Gardens with a 10 m. hot air balloon centrepiece suspended in The Great Room of The Shops and Restaurants.

• NYC Winter Lantern Festival: Journey to the East (through Jan. 8, St. George, Staten Island): The NYC Winter Lantern Festival is back for its fourth year to transform a new venue, SIUH Community Park in Staten Island, into an immersive world of light. Visitors will enjoy over 3.3 hectares of luminescence in addition to a live DJ, projection mapping, food vendors and more.

• Lightscape at Brooklyn Botanic Garden (through Jan. 8, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn): Explore the garden after dark at the illuminated Lightscape, which will celebrate the beauty of nature with a one-mile trail through BBG’s 21 hectares landscape. Sold out in its first season, this year’s after-dark, illuminated spectacular features new works of art alongside returning favourites.

• Bronx Zoo Holiday Lights (through Jan. 8, Bronx Park, The Bronx): With more than 360 lanterns representing nearly 90 animal and plant species, Bronx Zoo’s family-centric holiday lights festival will connect visitors with real wildlife and wild places. During the evenings, the park comes to life with holiday cheer as immersive light displays, custom-designed animal lanterns (with some life-size, some larger-than-life-size) and animated light shows sparkle across the zoo. The celebration is complete with seasonal treats, classic holiday music and other festive entertainment.

• NYBG GLOW (through Jan. 14, Bedford Park, The Bronx): NYBG GLOW illuminates the garden’s landmark landscape and historic buildings after dark with a newly expanded 2.4 km colourful experience. Building upon sold-out evenings the past two years, the event will expand across even more of the garden’s magnificent collections.

• Amaze Light Festival at Citi Field (Select dates through Jan. 8, Flushing, Queens): Amaze Light Festival welcomes visitors of every age to feel the spirit of the holidays in a universe of sparkle, music, food, dance, celebration and wonder. Guests will be greeted by the lovable characters Zing and Sparky from the Amaze storybook, who bring the stage dancers, singers and light show to life with their magic powers.


• Loews Regency New York (through Dec. 30): The hotel invites all guests to get in the holiday spirit with a special themed welcome amenity, two drinks at The Regency Bar & Grill while taking in the festive décor by Patrick J. Clayton Productions, in addition to other unique and memorable programming.

• The Plaza (through Jan. 1): Enjoy afternoon tea at The Palm Court at The Plaza, an iconic destination for holiday festivities, as well as Santa Claus visits, the “Home Alone 2” experience, and one-of-a-kind gifts at the Eloise Pop-Up.

• Lotte New York Palace (through Dec. 23): The hotel will hold its annual Letters to Santa program, where customized postcards are provided to all guests upon check-in, allowing visitors to write their very own letter to Santa and “mail” them in the property’s Santa mailbox. Each evening, a North Pole Postman will pick up the cards, which are read by the hotel’s “Guest Experience Elves” and Santa Claus himself. Each guest will find a personalized response from the desk of Santa Claus, placed in their room.

• The Knickerbocker (Dec. 31): The Knickerbocker Hotel continues with tradition, ringing in 2023 with its annual New Year’s Eve party. The one-of-a-kind celebration will host guests with a night of surprise and excitement just 150 feet below the Times Square Ball—the closest live view of the event in the world.


• Union Square Holiday Market (through Dec. 24, Manhattan): Urbanspace’s longest running holiday market will return this year with over 160 vendors featuring unique gifts created by local craftsmen, artists, and entrepreneurs.

• Grand Central Terminal (through Dec. 24): Grand Central Terminal welcomes back its famous indoor Holiday Fair to the splendor of Vanderbilt Hall after a two-year hiatus. This year’s event will feature 36 vendors, including Ekologic, Garden of Silver and Rebel Designs.

• Grand Holiday Bazaar (Sundays through Dec. 18, Upper West Side, Manhattan): Find one-of-a-kind handmade holiday decoration and giftable items: candles, skincare, fashion, handbags, vintage accessories and collectibles, handmade jewellery and furniture, rare antique silver and glassware, and artisanal treats and foods.

For additional holiday celebrations and itineraries, visit

First published at Travel Industry Today

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