How to Do the Holidays in New York City

Nov 2, 2021

New York City is always ready to wow visitors, but the five boroughs are particularly dazzling from Thanksgiving through New Year. The City’s “fifth season” will feel especially festive this year, as many beloved events make their long-awaited return. Students will have the opportunity to explore iconic experiences—and make new traditions too.

Holiday Displays
The window displays on Madison and Fifth Avenue will beckon students off the bus immediately. Each year, the big flagships like Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman and Bloomingdale’s attempt to outdo their previous efforts—and each other. After visiting the tree at Rockefeller Center, they can go on a “lantern safari” at the Holiday Lights at the Bronx Zoo or marvel at the intricate models at the New York Botanical Garden’s Holiday Train Show.

Students will enjoy sipping hot cocoa as they wander the City’s charming outdoor holiday markets like the Holiday Shops at Bryant Park’s Winter Village. For one-of-a-kind gifts, try the Makers Show at Brooklyn’s City Point, which features the work of local artists and small businesses. Looking to conquer your list in a day? Empire Outlets offers more than 100 shops, just steps from the Staten Island Ferry.

Ice Skating Rinks
For a quintessential NYC holiday experience, students should head to Harlem’s Riverbank State Park, featuring spectacular views of Upper Manhattan and the Hudson River. Or for downtown views, Winterland Rink at Pier 17 offers rooftop skating with the Brooklyn Bridge as a stunning backdrop.

Menorah Lighting
Celebrate the Festival of Lights with public menorah lightings at both the Manhattan and Brooklyn Grand Army Plazas—make that the World’s Largest Menorah Lighting, with each lantern towering more than 30 feet in height.

Live Theater
The marquees of Midtown won’t be outshone by even the most brilliant holiday displays. The Christmas Spectacular Starring The Radio City Rockettes makes its triumphant return to the stage, while Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s The Book of Mormon deftly blends hilarious and heartfelt moments for an irreverent yet uplifting experience.

There’s nothing like a long bus ride to work up an appetite. Carmine’s delicious old-school Italian fare is always a crowd-pleaser, with both portions and accommodations on the generous side. The spacious Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden offers an old-world atmosphere as well as an extensive list of Czech and craft beers served alongside pretzels, schnitzel and other pub fare.

For more information and ideas, visit New York City’s official guide at