New York City with Kids for the Holidays: Your Guide to ALL the Fun

Heading to New York City with kids for the holidays? We took a group trip to enjoy all the holiday magic this year and I have all of the details from my trip for you (including 28 things to do!)! Keep reading for everything you need to know about NYC with kids for the holidays.

 

New York City is great all year long, but during the holidays it’s magic. The whole city becomes a winter wonderland, and the best part is that it’s a great experience for all ages.

I have always loved holiday lights and decorations, since before I can remember. My older son took after me and during the holidays we love visiting all the different light shows and holiday events. 

I made the decision during COVID that when the world “opens up again” I was going to take him to the mother of ALL holiday events, New York City. It ended up being a group trip with my mom, sister, neice, and aunt which was a blast! 

I soon realized that going to NYC for the holidays with children is a little bit of a beast. There’s SO much to do. It ended up requiring a TON of research, but I did it and now I’m giving it all to you! 

So, if you’re heading to the city for the holidays, read over my guide so you know exactly where to go!

Note: This post is just for activities in Manhattan. There are plenty of other activities in the other Burroughs (like the famous Dyker Heights neighborhood lights in Brooklyn and the Botanical Garden decorations and train show in the Bronx), but since it was our first time there for the holidays, we didn’t venture out of Manhattan. 

Key Takeaways

  •  New York City is packed full of activities to do and things to see for the holiday season. The options can get overwhelming, so prepare as much as you can. 
  • Walking 5th Ave., visiting trees and winter villages, checking out shopping center light displays, walking through Central Park, and watching a show are among the best things to do. 
  • A few good tips are to dress warm because it can get very cold, be prepared for crowds wherever you go so try to get started early in the day, and plan to do as many activities as you can in one region each day to make the most out of your time.

Table of Contents

How to Get to NYC

There are three major airports around NYC. They’re relatively close mile-wise to Manhattan, however there is always traffic so the drive time can vary. If you can, try not to fly in during rush hour.

LaGuardia Airport (LGA) is in Queens, NY. It’s 10 miles and ~20 minutes (no traffic) from midtown Manhattan.

John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) is also in Queens, NY. It’s 18 miles and ~30 minutes (no traffic) from midtown Manhattan.

Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) is in Newark, NJ. It’s 17 miles and ~30 minutes (no traffic) from midtown Manhattan. 

How to Get Around NYC

Walk. To really experience the city, walking is the best option. Try to stay in the area that the activities you want to visit are located.

Subway. To get to other areas of the city, the subway is the best way to get there. It’s the quickest option, cheap at under $3 a ride, and you won’t have to deal with the traffic.

Taxi. A taxi is another way to get around town if you want to brave the traffic. The good news is that you do not need car seats on NYC taxis.

Unless absolutely necessary, I wouldn’t recommend renting a car. Parking is hard to come by and is very expensive. 

Where to Stay in NYC with Kids

NYC is full of options for lodging, but I found a few options for 1-, 2-, and even 3- bedroom suites.

📍 Fifty Hotel and Suites by Affinia: 50th and 3rd

Super chic with options of regular rooms or studios and 1-bedroom suites with a full kitchen. Affinia’s Junior Program includes fun activities like coloring and board games. Cribs and Pack-and-Plays available. The location can’t be beat, it’s near most of the famous attractions! 

➡️ Check prices and book the Fifty Hotel and Suites by clicking here! 

📍 Best Western Hospitality Place: 49th and 3rd

Standard 1- and 2-bedroom suites available that offer a living room, dining area, and full kitchen. The Penthouse has a patio as well. Breakfast and WiFi are included and Pack-and-Plays are available. The location is perfect! Close to many of the major attractions (like a block away from The Rock), plus many subway lines.

📍 Gardens Suites Hotel: 64th and 2nd

Standard rooms plus 1- and 2-bedroom suites are offered, all with full kitchens. Also owned by Affinia, the Junior Program is also offered here! Cribs and Pack-and-Plays available.

➡️ Check prices and book the Garden Suites Hotel by clicking here!

📍 The Marmara Manhattan: 94th and 2nd

Offers 1-, 2-, or 3-bedroom suites with a living room and full kitchen. There’s also free WiFi, 24-hour concierge, an exercise room, and it’s pet friendly. Pack-and-Plays are available. This is your luxury option, it’s right on Park Avenue.

➡️ Check prices and book the Marmara Manhattan by clicking here!

28 Best Holiday Activities in NYC

1. Walk On - and Slightly Off - 5th Ave.

Grab your comfy shoes and the stroller and get walking. 5th avenue glows from 39th to 59th. The major department stores decorate their storefronts plus many offer amazing window displays. Some even have light shows that coordinate with music.

🎄 Notable sites to watch out for on 5th Avenue:

  • Saks Fifth Avenue on 49th is unbelievable. The whole front side of the store is covered in lights, there are window displays, plus every night there is a light show that is coordinated with Christmas songs. It’s by far the best of the best. (And bonus, it’s right across the street from Rockefeller Center.)
  • Cartier on 52nd is wrapped up to look like a gift.
  • On 57th, right next to UNICEF HQ, is the world’s largest snowflake.
  • Bergdorf Goodman on 58th has decorative lights and window displays. While other stores have holiday themed displays, there’s are high fashion inspired.  
one of the best things to do while in new york city with kids for the holidays is to visit saks fifth avenue!

In addition to that, there are gigantic holiday toys right on the sidewalks of 5th avenue from 47th to 60th that light up at night!

  • Plane: 48th and 49th
  • Christmas cab: between 51st and 52nd
  • Teddy bear: between 53rd and 54th
  • Hot air balloon: between 55th and 56th
  • Dreidel: between 55th and 56th
  • Santa’s mailbox: (you can actually mail him a letter!) 58th and 59th
visiting nyc with kids for the holidays isn't complete without walking down 5th avenue

🎄 Sites right off 5th Avenue:

On 34th and 7th Ave. is Macy’s Herald Square. Not only are there lights, but the window displays are amazing, and the inside is decorated too. PLUS, Santa Land is here too! (Reservations required.)

The iconic Radio City Music Hall is on 50th and 6th Ave. Across the street is a fountain that changes colors and has beautiful life size ornaments.

Bloomingdales on 60th and 3rd Ave. has holiday window displays and is lit up in green and red lights.

macy's in nyc is a great spot to view window displays for the holidays
radiocity

2. Visit the Trees and Winter Villages

🎄 Rockefeller Center – 49th and 5th Ave.

The Rock needs no introduction as it’s the most popular area in all of NYC during the holidays. The tree lighting event has the NYPD at every corner because it’s THAT big. Yes, it’s a tourist trap, but you have to see it at least once.

The tree is HUGE (like 80 feet) but while you can’t get too close, the ice-skating rink gives you a perfect view of it. If you make the walk from Saks, there’s a beautiful fountain lined with angels that you can’t miss. 

the rock in nyc

🎄 Winter Village at Bryant Park – 42nd and 6th Ave.

Bryant Park impresses with a great tree, a European Christmas Market, and an ice-skating rink (which is way less popular than Rockefeller Center’s rink). Entry is free but you have to pay for skate rentals.

There are even cozy igloos you can warm up in and enjoy your favorite festive snacks and drinks! If you are a fan of curling, you can make a reservation at the Curling Cafe and get your own lane for 90 minutes. Bonus- you’ll get an igloo included with your reservation!

bryant park ice skating is a great activity when visiting nyc with kids for the holidays

🎄 Seaport Village – Lower Manhattan

Alllll the way downtown is Seaport Village. Their tree is huge (like 60 feet) and most years, you’re able to get right up to the tree for pictures. There’s also a Christmas market and an ice rink on a rooftop! This area gives you perfect views of the Brooklyn Bridge and the skyline.

🎄 Washington Square Park tree — Greenwich Village

A great place to get a picture of the gorgeous tree within the arch. Greenwich Village is a great area to walk around and explore as well. Plus, it has some of the best food in the city! 

🎄 Gingerbread Lane @ Essex Market — Downtown

Essex Market hosts the world’s largest gingerbread village (really, they’re in the Guinness Book of Records)! The creator designs, bakes, and decorates 1,500 gingerbread houses to display.  The designs range from classic holiday, like Santa’s Sleigh Repair Company, to trendy like Pumpkin Spice Latte Shop. Super cute! 

3. Check Out the Best Shopping Center Light Displays

🎄 Hudson Yards—Midtown

A new-ish development, Hudson Yards has it all—apartments, offices, even a gym. But head over to the mall to see the magic. On the walking path to get there all the trees are lit up, there’s a hot air balloon installation, and you’ll pass the Vessel, an intricate spiral stairway.

Once you get into the mall, you’ll be in awe of all of the lights that cover practically every inch of the walls plus the huge hot air balloon hanging from the ceiling! 

hudson yards in nyc is a great place to visit during the holidays

And if you have time, go visit The Edge! It’s the highest skydeck in the country. You’ll get amazing 360 views of the whole city. When you get too cold, you can pop inside for a drink at the bar or just to relax on the comfy couches.  

the edge at hudson yards

🎄 The Shops at Columbus Center in Time Warner Center—Midtown

Visit the “Holiday Under the Stars” exhibit—twelve illuminating 14-foot stars that hang from the ceiling. They look awesome at night, but during the day you can catch a beautiful view of Central Park in the background.

Bonus—right across the street is the Columbus Circle Holiday Market! Over 100 vendors sell crafts, art, home décor, and food at the outdoor market.

🎄 Brookfield Place – Downtown

A canopy of colorful winter lanterns light up the entrance at Brookfield Place. There are light shows at the top of every hour AND this year you’re now able to conduct your own light show coordinated with holiday music. There’s also a beautiful tree, ice skating, and tons of shopping.  

🎄 Oculus @ One World Trade Center—Downtown

Around the corner from Brookfield Place is Oculus. In addition to being a transportation hub (the subway stop lets out on the floor above), it’s a high-end shopping center. There are adorable decorations in the center of the space for many different photo opps. 

oculus in nyc is a great place to visit with kids during the holidays

🎄 Chelsea Market—Chelsea

A shopping center, but for food. While there are some retail shops here, it’s considered one of the best food marketplaces in the country. You’ll get tastes from all over the world. As you walk through the halls, the arches are covered in white lights and shiny ornaments hang from the ceiling!

4. Visit Central Park

Central Park is a must if you’re visiting New York. There’s an adorable zoo, multiple playgrounds, gorgeous walking paths, delicious restaurants, even horse drawn carriage rides.

While there isn’t much in terms of decorations, there’s a great ice-skating rink. 

Also, if you’re entering the park from the southern side, you’ll pass the Pulitzer Fountain on the way there. They turned the fountain into a full-out winter wonderland. A part of “The Fifth Season” installation, the fountain features a faux ice-skating rink, hand-crafted animal sculptures, and handmade icebergs. It’s set to music and some of the sculptures rotate too!

And right next door to that is the famous (think Home Alone) Plaza Hotel. It’s worth it to pop in and get a picture with the exquisite tree in the lobby. There isn’t a specific theme other than “Christmas at the Plaza” which is enough.

fountain at central park

5. Watch a Show

🎄Christmas Spectacular, The Rockettes—Radio City Music Hall

The classic holiday show, it’ll get even the biggest Grinch in the Christmas spirit. With over 140 performers, it combines singing, dancing, and humor in one spectacular event.

🎄 Nutcracker NYC Ballet—Koch Theater

The gold standard of ballet, the show is a must for any dance lover. It features 90 dancers in a beautifully complex masterpiece.

🎄Peter and the Wolf—Guggenheim Museum

An adorable theater production that brings the charming children’s classic book to life. It’s only 30 minutes so it’s perfect for even the littlest ones.

FAQs: New York City with Kids for the Holidays

Is New York good for kids at Christmas?

New York is absolutely great for kids at Christmas. There are so many fun family-friendly activities all around the city.

Tree lightings, whimsical window displays, ice skating, light shows, and fun shows are just the surface of everything that is offered!

 

Is it worth going to New York during Christmas?

It’s 100% worth going to New York during Christmas at least once in your life! The magic of the holidays is on another level in the city. 

 

Wrapping Up: New York City with Kids for the Holidays

As you can see, there are MANY things you can do in New York City with kids for the holidays. 

From strolling down 5th Avenue for the beautiful window displays and ice skating in Central Park, to watching the famous Rockettes and attending a tree lighting event, you will be able to fulfill all of your holiday dreams!  

So whatever you decide to do, enjoy! And happy holidays! 

MEET BESA

Your Go-To Girl for Beach Travel

Hi! I’m Besa. I’ve always been a travel-loving beach bum… and then I had kids. Two boys, born 19 months apart. But I didn’t let that stop me. I still travel, even with a couple little boys in tow – and I want to help other parents like you do the same!

I’ll be sharing all my travel tips, beach hacks, and guides for some of my favorite family vacation beach spots.

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