Last updated: 07:00 PM ET, Wed November 18 2015

How to Find NYC’s Hidden Holiday Gems

Features & Advice | Janeen Christoff | November 18, 2015

How to Find NYC’s Hidden Holiday Gems

PHOTO: The famed Dyker Heights Christmas lights. (photo courtesy of NYC & Company)

Approximately 5.2 million people are expected to visit New York City between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve — that’s a lot.

And they are all going to the same places to partake in the city’s well-known holiday traditions.

“Every winter, New York City welcomes visitors and locals with open arms as the spirit of the holiday season comes to life in all five boroughs,” said Fred Dixon, NYC & Company’s president and CEO. “From holiday classics to festive hidden gems, the city has something to offer everyone, and we encourage travelers to book now for what promises to be a trip of a lifetime.”

While a visit to New York can be a trip of a lifetime, there are some alternatives to such oft-crowded places as Rockefeller Center and Times Square. What about checking out the 14th annual Holiday Train Show at Grand Central Terminal? It will be on display until Feb. 21 at the New York Transit Museum Gallery Annex and Store. Or maybe visit the Coca-Cola Winter Wonderland? All five of New York’s boroughs have a roster of events for the holidays, so no matter where you are in the city, you don’t have to battle the crowds to experience some Christmas cheer.


There’s the traditional 89th annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which is sure to draw crowds, but don’t forget other hot-ticket items such as the Rockettes performing the Radio City Christmas Spectacular through Jan. 3. The Empire State Building will light up the city’s skyline once again with its third annual holiday light show series from Dec. 20-24.

When the rink at Rockefeller Center is packed with people, there’s delicious treats, free ice skating and unique shops at the Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park, which opened on Oct. 30. Or you can skate under the snow-covered trees of the Wollman Rink in Central Park. The Rink at Brookfield Place is another option for skaters along the Hudson River waterfront.

Get into the holiday spirit at one of Manhattan’s holiday markets. Not many U.S. cities have Christmas markets but Manhattan is lucky enough to have three: Union Square Holiday Market runs from Nov. 19 to Dec. 24; the Columbus Circle Holiday Market from Dec. 1-24; and the Grand Central Holiday Fair operates through Dec. 24.

Check out New York’s holiday decorations on a motorcoach tour. The Ride’s Holiday Edition through Jan. 3 includes special choreographed performances and new seasonal content in celebration of Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. Visitors can also spot iconic landmarks featured in their favorite movies and hidden gems throughout Manhattan onboard a special Holiday Lights & Movie Sites tour with On Location Tours. And those who are willing to walk can check out Free Tours by Foot’s New York Holiday Lights Tour to learn about Midtown Manhattan’s holiday lighting and window displays from Dec. 3 to Jan. 3

Manhattan is also home to a variety of special holiday performances, from classical shows performed by the New York Philharmonic to “Elf the Musical” and “The Nutcracker.”

The Bronx

Christmas in the Bronx is truly a family affair. The borough hosts the must-see New York Botanical Garden’s Holiday Train Show, featuring model trains that hum past more than 150 iconic buildings in a miniature city landscape. The show runs from Nov. 21 to Jan. 18.

There is also a Holiday Workshop Weekend at Wave Hill Dec. 12–13. Visitors can create and take home their very own natural wreaths, treasure boxes and other great keepsakes. Another event to check out is the Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum Annual Holiday Family Day in Pelham Bay Park, set for Dec. 5.


In Brooklyn, a Slice of Brooklyn’s Christmas Lights Tour is celebrating 10 years of offering guests the opportunity to see the famed Dyker Heights Christmas lights.

The Coney Island Holiday Market returns to Brooklyn this holiday season on weekends from 12-6 p.m., Thanksgiving through Christmas.

The recently restored Kings Theatre will feature two holiday classics: Moscow Ballet’s “Great Russian Nutcrackerand “Annie,” and Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts will hold two live holiday performances, “Christmas in Vienna” and “The Colonial Nutcracker.”


The Queens Historical Society will present its Annual Historic Holiday House Tour on Dec. 6. The guided trolley tour includes stops at seven festively decorated museums and historical sites in Queens. The Louis Armstrong House Museum will also host its annual holiday tours throughout the month of December, featuring Louis Armstrong’s voice recording of “Twas the Night Before Christmas (A Visit from St. Nicholas)” and other seasonal favorites.

Take part in a Queens holiday tradition, as the New York Hall of Science presents Gingerbread Lane, the world’s largest gingerbread village, featuring more than 1,050 gingerbread houses spread over more than 500 square feet for its 22nd season.

Staten Island

Historic Richmond Town comes alive for the holidays. The Traditional Tree Lighting ceremony is on Dec. 6, and visitors can take Candlelight Tours, where candles, oil lamps and flickering fireplaces will light up the town on Dec. 12. There’s also the 12th Annual St. George Theatre Christmas Show from Dec. 11 to Dec.13 and the beautifully decorated Alice Austen House.

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