Are you looking for some fun things to do this holiday season? Well there are a ton of unique things to do in December in New York, including the World Cup, seeing incredible Christmas lights, and hopping around the holiday bars in NYC.
Being from New York, I'm always on the lookout for new cool places. No matter how many times I come home, there is always something new to do in the city, and the list is always changing! That's why we've been working hard to find the most interesting activities, from winter markets to the best Christmas Restaurants in New York City.
Enjoy and Happy Holidays!
Things to Do in December in New York: Holiday Bars in NYC
There's nothing like warming up from the cold with a nice spiked drink. Mix that with some great holiday decor, and you'll see why visiting the holiday bars in NYC is the top of our list for things to do in December in New York. Here are some of our favorites for the season.
This year Bucketlister's presents a winter wonderland experience at Watermark. This restaurant and bar is located on pier 15 in Downtown Manhattan, and is one of the top things to do in December in New York. The restaurant fills will glass cabins to dine in, holiday decor, and fun Christmas themed activities. Tickets much be purchased in advance, and they cost $30, with a hot chocolate included. There are cute photo opportunities, s'mores, and visits by Santa.
It's important to note that tickets to enter are to simply experience Watermarks Winter Wonderland, and if you'd like a table you'll of course have to include that in your reservation. If you don't have a table, you can still order food at the bar where they serve hot chocolate.
2. Holly Jolly Bar
Another one of Buckelister's special events this holiday season is a pop up bar and dining experience called Holly Jolly Bar. Just like Watermark, reservations must be made in advance, and they sell out quick! Tickets are per seat, or per table, and include a holiday cocktail. General admission is $27, and Santa's Boozy brunch including an entree and holiday drink is $49/person.
This is one of those events that is specific for only things to do in December in New York, because it's only during this month. Additionally, Holly Jolly Bar is doing a New Years Eve Celebration for $100/person.
3. Oscar Wilde
Oscar Wilde (in our opinion) is at the top of the list for things to do in December in New York. They truly outdo themselves with their stunning Christmas decor, and it's definitely one of the best holiday bars in NYC to check out. Entrance is free, but lines may get long to get in here, so try to have patience! The inside is definitely worth it.
Oscar Wilde is also beautifully decorated year round, so is always a great place to have on your list of Instagrammable Spots in NYC, but it is truly special during the holiday season.
Want to experience some holiday magic without having to wait in a line? Well, right next to Oscar Wilde is a hidden gem which actually has the same owner as its more famous neighbor. Cosmico features a dining room in the back, serving latin cuisine, and has a bar in front, with a DJ at night. The reason though that we think this is one of the great things to do in December in New York is for two reasons. 1- The place is covered in strings of white flowers and lights, giving it a truly magical feel, and 2- they're going to have an epic New Year's beach party, where they're even going to cover the floors in sand!
Cosmico is definitely one of our new favorite holiday bars in NYC, and should definitely be added to your list of things to do in December in New York this year.
5. Miracle on 9th
Just like Holly Jolly Bar, this is another of the holiday bars in NYC that are actually a pop up experience. Reservations should be made in advance. They are open from 4 pm- 1 am from Monday- Thursday, 2 pm- 1 am on Fridays & Saturdays, and from 2 pm to midnight on Sundays. The cocktail bar specializes in holiday themed drinks, and is covered festively from top to bottom.
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6. Magic Hour Rooftop & Grill
If you're a pink lover, then this will definitely be at the top of your list for things to do in December in New York. Magic Hour always has fun decor, but this month they have a pink winter lodge theme. Their rooftop is located in the Moxy Hotel, but has plenty of seating indoors, making it super cozy. The top highlight though? They have a carousel that is dripping in decor, where you can have your Christmas cocktail, fondue, or whatever other holiday treat you prefer while spinning on this epic ride that is free of charge.
Magic Hour has a pink winter wonderland theme for the holiday season.
To Note: No professional cameras, or bags are allowed at the rooftop. You must check your items at the coast check. It is free of charge, but they accept tips.
7. 230 Fifth Rooftop
Also located in Midtown, 230 Fifth Rooftop Bar is one of the most iconic holiday bars in NYC, and also throughout the entire year! The rooftop is open, but they provide comfy robes to wear so you can comfortably enjoy your cocktails with one of the best views in the city. 230 Fifth Rooftop also has igloos to sit inside, so you can be extra cozy while being up close to the Empire State Building, and getting some super cute photos.
While we definitely think it's one of the best things to do in December in New York, we also love this rooftop year round, as it is always a fun place to hang out with it's great panoramas.
8. Paddy Macguire's Ale House
Paddy Macguire's is a lively Irish pub, that has sports playing, pool tables, and horse racing decor everywhere. Except for Christmas, the holiday decor comes into play, and Paddy Macguire's becomes one of the best holiday bars in NYC.
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Things to Do in December in New York: Christmas Restaurants in New York City
Now that you've witnessed the best holiday bars in NYC, we have some more fun places to eat and drink. These spots are here year round, but go all out especially during the holidays! Here are some of the best Christmas restaurants in New York City to check out.
9. Loreley Restaurant & Biergarten
This German restaurant is located in the lower east side, and really turns it up for the holiday season. With its decorative inside, and heated outdoor patio, Loreley has so much to offer during the holiday season. Their heated winter wonderland includes special cocktails like mulled wine, bourbon hot chocolate, and spiked egg nog. They open from 5 pm on weekdays (Monday- Thursday) and at noon on weekends (Friday- Sunday).
10. The Lavaux
This adorable Swiss restaurant is located in Chelsea, and is perfect to add to your list of things to do in December in New York for a few reasons. First of all, they have a ski gondola in the front of the restaurant that you can dine in! There is only one, so you'll have to reserve in advance, or have patience to get placed here. The second reason we love this restaurant and bar is because of the comfort food offered, particularly their incredible 6 different fondue choices.
11. Rolf's German Restaurant
If you're looking for Christmas restaurants in New York, then this is definitely one of the most iconic there is. Rolf's is a small German restaurant located in Gramercy, an eastern village in Manhattan. This place is dripping in Christmas decor, and brings hundreds (if not a few thousand) people a day during the holiday season. We went at 12 when they just opened, and the line went all the way down the street. We suggest getting there at 11 to line up if you want to avoid crowds, or to get there right before they're closing. The decorations are also actually up from early fall until May! So if you can squeeze it in in December, there's no rush.
PS- a friend has told us the food isn't as good anymore, so you may just want to stick to grabbing a drink here and eating elsewhere.
12. Panna II Garden
This is another beautiful lit tiny restaurant that goes all out. Panna II Garden is an Indian restaurant that is actually covered in Christmas lights year round! This restaurant is cash only, but is BYOB, making it a fun way to save a few dollars from the crazy expensive Christmas cocktails around the rest of the city.
13. Lafayette Grand Bakery
Now let's teleport to another area of the world- France! Lafayette Grand Bakery may just be one of the fanciest bakeries you'll ever witness. The truly grand dining room offer sit down brunches during the day, and the place is actually open til 9 pm, including a beautiful bar to have a Christmas cocktail at.
If you don't want to dine in, you can simply grab something quick in the front. We got one of their signature items, the Suprême de Noël, which is a flaky round croissant-like pastry stuffed with egg nog creme, and topped with wintergreen glaze, and a yule-log merengue.
We also love Lafayette Grand Bakery for special things to do in December in New York because it is so cozy, and the staff even dress in French attire, giving it a truly authentic feel.
14. Pete's Tavern
Are you looking for one of the most authentic Christmas Restaurants in New York? Well, Pete's Tavern is the oldest bar in the city, and is a must for things to do in December in New York.
Not only is it iconic, but they covered the tavern in red Christmas lights, and have a wall of Santas. Whether you're looking to have a sit down meal, have a drink at the bar, or catch one of the sports games on, Pete's Tavern is definitely one that you'll want to keep on your list for this month.
15. Chelsea Market
If you're looking for a variety of eateries, bar, and shops in one place, then Chelsea Market is definitely a must. The reason we added it to our list of the best things to do in December in New York is because it is extra magical during the holidays. At the end of the market is a walkway with lights surrounding the iconic clock inside Chelsea Market.
So grab a bite and just browse this market to get in the Christmas Spirit, and maybe even get some holiday shopping done at the same time!
16. Lillie's Victorian Bar
Lillie's actually reminded us a ton of Oscar Wilde, and it's no wonder because it actually has the same owner! It has a stunning Victorian interior, but decks the halls with impressive Christmas decor during the holidays. This bar has two locations, one in Times Square, and one in Union Square. The hours for Lillie's are 4 PM- 1AM from Monday- Wednesday, 4 PM- 2 AM Thursday & Fridays, 11:30 am- 2 AM on Saturdays, and 11:30 AM- 1 AM on Sundays.
17. Papillon Bistro & Bar
Another sister restaurant of both Oscar Wilde and Lillie's is Papillon Bistro & Bar. Unlike the others though, it is only open during the week, Monday-Friday from 11:30 AM- 2 AM. Papillon specializes in cocktails, as well as bar bites, and a few entrees such as steak and salmon.
18. Route 66 Smokehouse
We absolutely love Route 66 Smokehouse. Located in the financial district, this bar and restaurant has igloos outside equipped with games, tvs, and heaters to keep you cozy. The food and drinks are super tasty, and they even have a game room upstairs inside. Whether you want to hang out and watch a game, or rent an igloo, this is one of the most fun things to do in December in New York when it comes to dining.
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Things to Do in December in New York: Christmas Tree Lights in NYC
One of the best things to do in New York in December is to admire the various Christmas trees all lit up. There a ton of beautiful ones. Whether they are traditionally lit in white, tripped in colorful lights, or covered in ornaments, you won't get sick of the different Christmas tree lights in NYC. Here is a list of our favorite ones for you to check out.
19. Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree
This is hands down the most iconic of things to do in December in New York. The Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center is the biggest in the city, and visited by approximately 750,000 people during the holiday season each year. The tree is lit 7 days a week from 6 am to midnight, and is lit 24 hours on Christmas Day. It is completely free to visit, and definitely at the top of the list for Christmas tree lights in NYC.
20. New York Stock Market Exchange Christmas Tree
If you're looking for a tree almost as impressive as Rockefeller Center, but with far less crowds, then make sure you don't miss out on this Christmas tree. Covered in rainbow lights, it is situated in Wall Street right in front of the New York Stock Exchange, and is quite a sight to see. Check below for the 2020 tree vs the 2022 tree.