A Complete Guide to the Top Holidays Happenings in New York City

‘Twas a night before December, and all through the internet, not a creature was tweeting, not even a president. The children were nestled as they awaited the bucket list of holiday happenings throughout New York City. While visions of Rockefeller tree lighting ceremonies and Radio City Rockettes danced in their heads; Jingle Bell concerts and “The Nutcracker” flew like a flash. Whatever jolly good time you’re looking for, the Entertainment Voice Holiday Guide has Santa’s stash. 

Grand Central Holiday Fair at Grand Central Market | Through Dec. 24
Experience one of the longest-running traditions in Manhattan holiday history. The Holiday Fair consists of over 40 vendors, curated specifically by the Holiday Fair Committee. All of the gifts for sale at the fair are handmade products using locally-sourced materials. Shop among men’s/women’s clothing, accessories, children’s toys, and home goods.

The Radio City Rockettes Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall | Through Jan. 1
It’s (almost) Christmas time in the city. But there is no harm is getting into the spirit a little early. The long-standing history behind the Rocketts stretches back to the 1920s. Since then, they have perfected their routines to present their pinnacle annual performance at the Christmas Spectacular. You won’t want to miss the evening of dancing, lights, and surprise performances.

Charles Dickens and the Spirit of Christmas at The Morgan Library & Museum | Through Jan. 14
For the first time, all five of Dickens’s Christmas books – “A Christmas Carol (1843), “The Chimes” (1844), “The Cricket on the Hearth” (1845), “The Battle of Life” (1846), and “The Haunted Man” (1948) are on exhibition under one roof. Explore the author’s composition and motivations behind crafting one of the most famous stories in the history of literature.

Holiday Train Show at Grand Central Market | Through Feb. 4
Witness the fine crafted Holiday Train show as three model train cars zip through tunnels, and traces around iconic and familiar landscapes. During its journey, the miniature display makes its way from the Grand Central Station all the way to the North Pole – and features the Lionel Metro-North, Polar Express, and vintage subway train. The event is free and open to the public.

Union Square Holiday Market | Nov. 16 – Dec. 24
Located in the heart of New York City, the Union Square Holiday Market is the ultimate shopping destination for unique gifts created by local craftsmen and artists. Come for the shopping, but stay for the Urbanspace Provisions, a Warming Station and Lounge, a Kid’s Arts Studio, and live music.

Holiday Train Show at New York Botanical Garden | Nov. 22 – Jan. 15
The wintry landscape of New York Botanical Garden sets the scene for festive outdoor adventures. The half-mile track features iconic skyscrapers and other real architectural pleasures. Bar Car Night at the Gardens includes a 21+ evening also features and after-dark viewing of the Holiday Train show. So grab a drink and enjoy the magical and festive garden, pianos at the Pine Tree Café, and end your evening cozying up next to the warm fire pit.

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade | Nov. 23
Instead of spending your Thanksgiving watching the iconic parade march from 77th Street down to Macy’s Herald Square on your television screen, or let’s be honest, your iPhone, be a part of the magical tradition. The parade, which began in 1924, features an array of floats, balloons, and performances.

George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker at David H. Koch Theater | Nov. 24 – Dec. 31
The theatrical show “The Nutcracker” has been a holiday staple of the stage for decades. The esteemed New York City Ballet brings Tchaikovsky’s triumph to the David H. Koch Theater. The visual show is the company’s most complex production to date, which is surely not want to be missed.

Brooklyn Holiday Bazaar at 501 Union + The Green Building | Nov. 25 – Nov. 26
Enjoy a unique celebration of local talent with over 60 handpicked crafters and creators, food masters, and one-of-a-kind drink mixologists. The event also includes fun activities for the whole family. Shop while you feast. Now that’s the definition of multi-tasking.

Winter’s Eve at Lincoln Square | Nov. 27
The Lincoln Square Business Improvement District and Time Warner, Inc, present the 18th annual Winter’s Eve event. The holiday festival features affordable food tastings, processional groups, jugglers, stilt-walkers, performers, and live music. This is the perfect event, which features a little bit of everything to get you into the holiday spirit.

Home for the Holidays at August Wilson Theatre | Nov. 27 – Dec. 30
The collective holiday concert features fresh voices as they perform contemporary takes on over 25 classics from “O Come All Ye Faithful” to “O Holy Night.” Performers in the Kaitlyn Bristowe hosted evening include Josh Kaufman (“The Voice”), Bianca Ryan (“American’s Got Talent”), Candice Glover (“American Idol”), and Youtubers Peter Hollens & Evynne Hollens.

Columbus Circle Holiday Market | Nov. 28 – Dec. 24
Located at the entrance of Central Park, the Columbus Circle Holiday Market is an elegant and beautiful alternative to department store shopping. Get everything on your entire holiday shopping list, as the market features vendors of art, jewelry, home goods, and treats that will provide unique gifts for all.

Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting | Nov. 29
A landmark staple of Manhattan during the yuletide season is the nearly 100-foot Christmas tree, which sparkles with 50,000 bulbs at Rockefeller Center. The 85th annual lighting ceremony is free to attend and fills in on a first-come, first-served basis. The lineup of performances is typically announced about two-weeks out, so be sure to keep an eye out.

21st Annual Central Park Holiday Lighting | Nov. 30
Right after you stare in awe at the Rockefeller lighting ceremony, hop uptown the next evening for the glimmering festivities at Central Park. Celebrate the season with a live ice carving demonstration and carolers on the Plaza. Then warm-up with delicious hot cocoa and cookies. The evening tops off with the lighting of the fleet of trees on the Harlem Meer.

Winter Village at Bryant Park | Dec. 1 – Dec. 24
Bryant Park transforms into the ultimate holiday hot spot in the Big Apple. The park features the city’s only free admission ice skating rink, surrounded by holiday shops, a pop-up eatery, and a centerpiece Christmas tree. There is plenty to pack an afternoon at Bryant Park.

Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas Is You Concert Series at Beacon Theatre | Dec. 2 + Dec. 4 + Dec. 5
The self-proclaimed Queen of Christmas hits the stage at the Beacon Theatre for a special three-night celebration. The Grammy Award-winning songstress released her holiday album, “Merry Christmas” in 1994. Since then, her song “All I Want For Christmas Is You” has become a modern staple of the season.

Jane Lynch’s Swingin’ Little Christmas at City Winery | Dec. 3 + Dec. 4
Emmy and Golden Globe winter Jane Lynch headlines her own holiday show featuring plenty of music and laughs. The talented show-woman is joined on stage by Kate Flannery (“The Office”), Tim Davis (“Glee”), and The Tony Guerrero Quintet. All the music featured in the joyful show comes from their holiday album now available on iTunes.

iHeartRadio’s Jingle Ball at Madison Square Garden | Dec. 8
iHeartRadio presents the ultimate concert series to get you grooving into the holiday spirit. The all-star line-up of performers includes Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, The Chainsmokers, Sam Smith, Demi Lovato, Charlie Puth, Julia Michaels, Logic, Fall Out Boy, G-Eazy, Niall Horan, Halsey, Camila Cabello, Liam Payne, and Why Don’t We.

SantaCon Crawl in East Village | Dec. 9
Ho, ho, ho. The annual tradition returns to the East Village. Dawn your best Santa costume, drink and be merry. Check-in and registration starts at Bar None, The Grayson, One and One, and Van Diemens. Participating bars will be featuring great deals on drinks and drafts. ‘Tis the season.

A John Waters Christmas at City Winery | Dec. 10
If you are looking for a different flavor this holiday season, look no further than “A John Waters Christmas.” The legendary filmmaker and bestselling author packages all of his Yuletide profanity into this entertaining one-man show. Hot tip: The show is already sold out. But there are a few tickets still available for the waitlist, so grab them fast.

Handel’s Messiah w/ New York Philharmonic at Lincoln Center | Dec. 12 – Dec. 16
Presented by Gary W. Parr, The Philharmonic’s performances of “Messiah” are considered to be a staple of the holiday season. The beautifully orchestrated score is splashing with holiday flare and charisma. Conducted by Andrew Manze, the show is quite possibly the Philharmonic’s pinnacle holiday listening experience.

Big Band Holidays at Lincoln Center | Dec. 13 – Dec. 17
Warm up your holiday season with the soulful renditions of your favorite holiday classics. Enjoy arrangements old and new from Jazz legends Catherine Russell and Kenny Washington as the talented duo take on classic yuletide hits such as Count Basie’s “Jingle Bells,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and Billie Holiday’s “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm.”

Elf the Musical at Theater at Madison Square Gardens | Dec. 13 – Dec. 29
“Elf the Musical” follows Buddy, who after crawling into a bag of gifts gets transported to the North Pole. He grows up thinking he is just like all the other Elves but soon sets out on a journey to New York City to find his birth parents. Based on the modern classic film starring Will Ferrell, “Elf the Musical” brings plenty of chaos, heart, and laughs.

ACRIA Holiday Dinner at Cipriani 25 Broadway | Dec. 14
Leaders of fashion, art, media, and design come together to celebrate the winter season, but more importantly support the ACRIA’s work in HIV prevention, research, and education. At the 22nd annual dinner, designer Jason Wu, photographer Anne Collier, artist Matthew Higgs, and ACRIA board president Ross Bleckner will be honored at the star-studded event.

Paul Winter’s Winter Solstice Celebration at Cathedral of St. John the Divine | Dec. 14 – Dec. 16
Celebrate the coming of the Winter Solstice in a multi-media event focusing on togetherness. The contemporary alternative to ancient solstice rituals features a splattering of talented musicians and vocalists including Paul Winter, Theresa Thomason, Paul McCandless, Eugene Friesen, Paul Sullivan, and more. Also in attendance will be the 25 dancers and drummers of the Forces of Nature Dance Theatre.

Latke Festival at Brooklyn Museum | Dec. 18
For those who have grown up in a Jewish household, latkes are a holiday delitescent that bring back memories of menorahs and dreidels. For its second year, the Latke Festival features the city’s best and most creative potato pancakes judged by a panel of celebrity guests. The art of potato pancakes has never tasted so good.

Make Music Winter | Dec. 21
From 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Make Music Winter launches 12 participatory musical parades across various locations throughout New York City. Taking place on the winter solstice, Make Music Winter features an array of performers and locations. The full schedule is set to release in the beginning at December, so be sure to keep an eye out.

Kwanzaa Celebration: Regeneration Night at Apollo Theater | Dec. 30
Since 2006, the Apollo has established an annual show to celebrate the Kwanzaa. The joyous event is full of dance and music encompassing family, community, and culture – the themes of Kwanzaa. This year’s event will feature Abel R. Salaam’s Forces of Nature Dance Theatre who also make an appearance at Paul Winter’s Winter Solstice.