Christmas in New York via

Fun and Free Christmas in New York – Updated!

It’s Christmas Time in the City

To borrow a line from the classic Silver Bells, it is Christmas Time in THE city! So many of the sights, sounds, and activities we associate with the season are right in Manhattan, from Miracle on 34th Street to the iconic Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. So we got our handy map out, braved the cold, and snapped some photos of our favorite Fun & Free “Must Do” Christmas in New York sites!

Updated: December 2021

Christmas Markets

Holiday Market at Union Square - Christmas in New York via

The Holiday Market at Union Square is one of the city’s largest.

This is really four (or more!) in one, because New York has several Christmas Markets, large and small. Right in Central Manhattan, you can visit Holiday Markets at Union Square, Columbus Circle, Grand Central Terminal, and Bryant Park (more on that spot later). Visit one, or visit them all – you won’t be disappointed.

Three Top Tips

  • Go during the week, because they are crazy crowded on the weekends!
  • If you’re pressed for time, the holiday markets at Columbus Circle and Union Square are both products of Urban Space NYC, so they are very similar.
  • When the weather outside is frightful, the Holiday Fair at Grand Central Terminal is indoors, where it’s delightful.

Macy’s Santaland

Miracle at Macys - Christmas in New York via

Miracle at 34th Street still draws crowds at Macys in Herald Square!

Updated with the most recent COVID-19 impacts from Macy’s.

Did you know the seminal holiday movie Miracle on 34th Street was filmed at Macy’s Herald Square store? What better place to meet the Jolly Old Elf himself than “the Home of Santa Claus,” a title Macy’s has used to draw millions of visitors since 1860?

Not even Santa’s home village, Santaland at Macy’s on Herald Square (and the flagship stores in Chicago and San Francisco), are immune to COVID-19 impacts. After being a virtual occasion last year, St. Nick’s workshop opens once again and stays online for anyone who prefers a virtual visit, or doesn’t happen to live near one of Macy’s flagship stores. From the day after Thanksgiving through Christmas Eve, kids of all ages will enjoy a personalized visit to the North Pole, and will deliver those Christmas lists to Santa! Reservations are required when visiting in person, and can be made at Macy’s Santaland.

Macy’s at Herald Square will be open during the holidays. So, while you’ll miss past holiday treats like free showings of Miracle on 34th Street, you can do some Christmas shopping in the biggest store in the country! (Seriously, it’s huge. We got lost. Twice.)

Winter Village at Bryant Park

Bryant Park ice skating - Christmas in New York via

Christmas in New York means free skating at Bryant Park!

We mentioned Bryant Park earlier, because of the Winter Village Christmas market. There’s more to this destination than unique gifts and spiced cider, though. Bring your wish list and visit Santa’s Corner, then enjoy New York’s only free public skating rink. (Bring $20 if you need to rent skates.) Afterwards, grab a bite or cocktails at the rink-side Lodge by Prime Video. For an extra special holiday experience, you can book a Cozy Igloo at Bryant Park for your friends and family. Or try your hand at the one Olympic sport we all think we could complete in at the Curling Cafe. Reservations are required for skating, Cozy Igloos, and the Curling Cafe. While you’re in the neighborhood, stop at the New York Public Library next door to see one of the best and brightest Christmas trees in the city.

New York CityPASS

FAO Schwarz

FAO Schwarz in Fun and Free Christmas in New York via

Iconic toy store FAO Schwarz returns to Manhattan! (Photo: FAO Schwartz)

Speaking of iconic stores, the New York institution known as FAO Schwarz is back! Once billed as The World’s Largest Toy Store, the flagship location was featured in the Tom Hanks film Big, and in the dreams of kids of all ages. With the rise of online shopping and retail rental rates in New York, the store fell on hard times. It was eventually purchased by Toys-R-Us (which fell on hard times itself), and the flagship New York store was closed in 2015.

That was then. This is now, when all things retro and iconic are cool again, including shopping in a real-life store! Fortune shone on us all as FAO Schwarz returned for the 2018 holiday season, and it’s been going strong ever since. The flagship store – complete with the giant piano you can play with your feet – is right in Rockefeller Plaza another must-see Christmas sight in Manhattan. FAO Schwarz is open daily except Tuesdays, but check ahead for reduced hours due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Just remember: Looking is free. Playing is free (and encouraged). Shopping? Not so free. (But totally worth it!)

Window Shopping

Saks celebrates Snow White - Christmas in New York via

Saks celebrates Snow White in their holiday display windows on 5th Avenue.

“Back in the day,” as they say, the well to do would spend a pretty penny on their Christmas shopping in the stores up and down Park Avenue (and 5th and 6th Avenue, too). Stores would try to one-up each other to get customers in the door with fantastic window displays. Before long, those displays became attractions themselves, from (the now defunct) Gimbels and their arch rival Macys, all the way to Tiffany & Co. Today’s best windows – and a literal highlight of Christmas in New York – are at Saks Fifth Avenue. A fantastic light show plays throughout the night above designer showcase store windows.

Rockefeller Center - Christmas in New York via

An iconic sign of Christmas in New York: The tree at Rockefeller Center.

Rockefeller Center

It’s really not Christmas in New York without a stop at Rockefeller Center. Conveniently just across the street from Saks, the stunning decorations and iconic ice rink are the city’s star. Expect big crowds, especially on the weekend, and expect to pay if you’d like to skate or head to the Top of the Rock. You can also dine rink-side at the Rock Center Café, and do some shopping. This is Christmas in New York, after all, and Tiffany & Co. is right there. Who wouldn’t love to find a trademark Blue Box under the tree?

Find affordable and luxurious Manhattan accommodations for your Christmas in New York at

Oh Christmas Tree,
Oh Christmas Tree

New York City knows how to dress up for the holidays! One of our favorite things to do in Manhattan is simply admiring all of the Christmas Trees. From the stately silver tree at the Victoria’s Secret corporate office, to the glittering gold trees at The French Building, you’ll see dozens – maybe hundreds – of beautiful displays in every big building, every park, and almost every place in between!

French Building Trees - Christmas in New York via

Christmas in New York means trees, trees and more trees! These golden beauties are at the French Building on 5th Ave.

Macys Windows - Christmas in New York via

Macys and FAO Schwartz are reason to Believe…in stunning window displays!

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Your Christmas in New York

Given the short December days, you can easily fill a few of them with these suggestions. But we want to know how you fill your days with fun for Christmas in New York! Leave us a comment with your suggestions, or let us know which of these ideas you like most.

Winter Village at Bryant Park - Christmas in New York via

A favorite for Christmas in New York – the Winter Village at Bryant Park. Can you see the Empire State Building peeking in?

Stay: While in New York, TravelLatte indulged in a little luxury, staying in the heart of the holiday action at the W New York – Times Square. You can too! Get the best rates at

See also  Visiting New York City with the New York Pass

37 comments on “Fun and Free Christmas in New York – Updated!

  1. Everything I love about the Christmas season rolled into one city! Christmas markets, lights, FOA Schwarz and Tiffany & Co! It’s been awhite since I was in New York (or recieved a little blue box), but I would brave the wintery weather to enjoy some of these sights.

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  4. I was in NYC this past Christmas and can totally relate to your awesome suggestions. The Saks windows blew me away for the 80th anniversary of Snow White. Plus the fact i’m a Disney NERD so I just loved them. I also LOVED seeing the Rockefeller tree for the first time. Made me cry! The Rockettes were AMAZING too. Great time and great city for Christmas! Thanks so much for coming out to the Christmas Fly Away Friday. Happy new Year and see you tomorrow!

    • Happy New Year, Janine! I can feel your excitement – we feel the same way!! Just so much fun and so many iconic things in New York, especially during the holidays. Thanks so much for your comment – and getting us all excited about New York all over again. 🙂

  5. I’ve always wanted to go to NYC around the holidays. It looks SO magical. I like that included free things in this list because travel can definitely add up. Hopefully I’ll make it there someday and do/see some of the things you’ve suggested. Merry Christmas!

    • You should plan on it! New York is so festive during the holidays, and we were surprised by how much we did without spending a penny. Although, that did let us splurge a bit on restaurants, so it can still add up fast. Thanks so much for your comment, Hayley, and Merry Christmas!

  6. Love your Christmas markets and activities posts – I would LOVE to spend Christmas/New Year in New York – I feel it would be magical and there is so much to see and do, even without these fun activities. Winter Village looks like so much fun!

    • Thanks Lexx! The Winter Village is awesome, and it goes all winter long! If you’re in the city in February or even March, it’s still there!.(Just not so holiday-themed. 😉 Since you’ve already done Chicago at Christmas, it’s time to visit New York! 🙂 Merry Christmas, Lexx, and Happy New Year, too!

    • Hi Samantha – Glad you enjoyed it! Christmas in New York really is special. So many images and events that are holiday icons are all right in Manhattan, and most of them free to see! Thanks for commenting, and Merry Christmas!

  7. You had me at “fun and free” and when it comes to New York that’s even better. I’ve been a few times but never through Xmas hols. The street decorations and window displays are fabulous & of course Rockefeller Centre is a must. What a fun time ti be in the Big Apple! Enjoy Xmas!

    • Fun and free are good! In fact, they’re our favorites! 🙂 It seemed to us that, for a city that’s pretty expensive to visit, there’s a lot to enjoy that doesn’t cost a cent. 🙂 Thanks for your comment, Shona – Merry Christmas to you and yours!

    • We’re seeing more and more paid activities and displays around our home base – it’s good to remember that some of the best parts of Christmas are absolutely free! And the memories will be priceless. 🙂 Merry Christmas, Sally!

    • We didn’t get to see as many as we hoped – but the ones we did see were fabulous. That big light display at Saks was pretty awesome, too. Hoping you get to the Big Apple for one of these Christmases! Thanks for the comment, guys, and Merry Christmas!

  8. I love Christmas in New York! We saw the Rockettes years ago and they’re still emailing me! haha! Such a great list of fun and festive things to do! #theweeklypostcard

    • We ran out of time before seeing the Rockettes this year. Darn, I guess that means no email from them for years to come? 😉 So much other great stuff to do and see! Plus, we can lose a couple of hours in a Christmas Market in the blink of an eye. Thanks for your comment Hilary – Merry Christmas to you and your family!

  9. I missed Christmas in NYC (I was there for New Year’s) but I still got to enjoy all the lights, which was really nice. The tree at Rockefeller is such an iconic spot (as with many places in New York), but I think it makes the top of my must see places in NYC during winter!

    • You’re right – Rockefeller Center is such an icon! But so is New Year’s Eve at Times Square! We haven’t braved that craziness…but we keep getting closer to talking ourselves into it every year. 😉 Thanks for your comment Kiyoko, and Merry Christmas!

    • Thanks Jessica! We only know New York in the cooler temps, actually. One day, we’ll have to make a summer trip. But wow, it really brings out our Christmas spirit! Best wishes to you and Laurence for a fab Christmas, too!

  10. Visiting New York during the holiday season would be a dream come true! And I just read that FAO Schwarz is making a come back and that for me is like a Christmas miracle! This will definitely be good for later!! #FeetDoTravel

    • You will love it! We’d heard that FAO Schwarz rumor too, and noticed that Macy’s had a window featuring them. Coincidence? Maybe they will have a store on Herald Square again? We can hope and dream. 🙂 Thanks for your comment, and Merry Christmas, Lolo!

    • That’s the awesome thing about Christmas in New York – these are age old traditions that are here year after year. When you do get there, you’re going to love it! Thanks for reading, Ben, and Merry Christmas!

  11. Loved this post made us feel very festive! Those lights at Saks WOW would love to experience that! Great post. #TheWeeklyPostcard

    • Glad you liked it, guys! Yeah, those lights at Saks are amazing! We turned the corner and bam! We must have watched that display half a dozen times – maybe more! 😉 Thanks for your comment, and Merry Christmas!

  12. I’ve not been to New York at Christmas -until this year! Our family is spending Christmas there and visiting our daughter, who lives there. Can’t wait – thanks for all the tips!

  13. How fun! I’ve never been in New York in December, but seeing all these Christmas Markets, the Winter Village at Bryant Park and the beautiful lights a Sacks Fifth Avenue makes me want to jump on a plane and go there. I don’t like cold weather, but at Christmas time I always miss a little snow. #TheWeeklyPostcard

    • So much fun! Lots to see, for sure, and those lights at Saks were amazing! We were hoping for a little snow – just to give it that classic wintery feeling – but all we got was cold. We don’t mind braving the cold (for short periods), but thankfully there are plenty of vendors with nice, warm drinks at the Christmas markets. Thanks for your comment Anda – Merry Christmas!

  14. This is a great post with beautiful photos. I wasn’t aware that Macy’s shows Miracle on 34th Street at their flagship store or that Union Station has a Christmas Market. I’m pinning this.

    • We didn’t know about Macy’s showing the film either; we just stumbled across it and had to share! To give it a real genuine feeling, take the old wooden escalators upstairs. 😉 The Union Station market is pretty big – we thoroughly enjoyed it, and know you will too! Enjoy, and Merry Christmas, Dorothy – thanks for your comment!

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