With Christmas just around the corner, the arrival of December sees New York City ramp up the action, with a whole host of city-wide events helping get locals and visitors in the festive mood.
The city that never sleeps certainly lives up to that tagline come winter time, as it bursts into life with an assortment of great things to see and do – many of which revolve around the festive period. If you’re visiting the Big Apple this December and would like to start building an itinerary to fill your time, we’ve looked into everything that’s going on across the city and picked out 10 events not to miss.
Radio City Christmas Spectacular
An annual holiday event since 1932, this captivating stage show features more than 140 performers and combines singing, dancing, and humour with traditional festive scenes. Taking place at the Radio City Music Hall at Rockefeller Center, highlights include tap dancers, a flying Santa Claus and, the world-famous synchronized precision dancing of the Rockettes. A live orchestra, a magical set design complete with giant screens and dazzling lighting, and breathtaking costumes add to the occasion.
Radio City Music Hall, 6th Avenue / Through December 2023
Union Square Holiday Market
While some Christmas markets are best suited for a quick wander, you could easily set aside an entire day to explore this internationally renowned event in the heart of Manhattan. As well as more than 150 vendors showcasing handcrafted goods and other eclectic items, there’s also a whole host of entertainment, including a kid’s craft studio and live musical performances. Some great gift ideas to be found here include brew-your-own beer kits and monogrammed stuffed animals. There’s also plenty of food and drink on offer, either to enjoy as you walk or to take home.
Union Square / Through 24 December 2023
Amaze Light Festival
Thought to be the largest festival of lights anywhere in the US, this dazzling event features a stunning light show, together with booths offering a mouth-watering array of festive food, and plenty of other entertainment. Visitors can stroll through five themed worlds festooned with millions of twinkling lights and a small forest dotted with lanterns and frost-covered trees, which are animated to dance along with Christmas music at regular intervals. There’s also a Christmas market where you can pick up seasonal gifts and treats.
Citi Fields Stadium, Queens / Through 8 January 2024
If you’ve ever wanted to dress up in a Santa costume but have never quite summoned the courage, then you can do so in almost absolute anonymity at the annual SantaCon. This distinctly unserious bar crawl sees participants dress up as well-known Christmas characters – with the majority opting for the big man himself. Inspired by the surrealism movement, the charitable event starts mid-morning where organisers will accompany you to watering holes across the city for a full day of hard-core – but ultimately rather ridiculous revelry.
Venues TBC / 9 December 2023
Madonna – The Celebration Tour
For three nights this December, music icon Madonna will bring her global Celebration Tour to Brooklyn’s Barclays Center indoor arena to perform in front of packed crowds. The American star’s first retrospective tour, it highlights her more than forty-year-long recording career, featuring a number of her songs that have not been performed live in decades, including “Justify My Love”, “Bad Girl”, “Erotica” and “Rain”. The two-hour-plus sets will also see multiple-costume-changes
Barclays Center, Brooklyn / 13-14 & 16 December 2023
Broadway Under The Stars
Hosted by The Shops at Columbus Circle, close to Central Park, this free and open to the public annual series will take place on select Thursday nights throughout December. Named after the 12 huge stars hanging from the 100-foot ceiling at the venue’s Time Warner Center – said to be the largest specialty crafted display of illuminated colour in the world – attendees will once again get to watch exclusive performances of some of Broadway’s most loved shows, which this year include Lion King, Alladin, Spamalot, Chicago and Shucked.
Columbus Circle / Through 10 December 2023
Gingerbread NYC: The Great Five Borough Bake-Off
After the inaugural edition proved a big hit last year, Gingerbread NYC returns for its second annual outing. Once again, the Museum of the City of New York will invite dozens of bakers from across the five boroughs to create gingerbread displays on the theme of “”Iconic New York”. A panel of prominent NYC-based bakers, curators, and restaurant owners will award prizes across a variety of categories, and there’s also the chance for attendees to help select the final award by voting for the “People’s Choice.” A holiday-themed makerspace with crafts for kids adds to the entertainment.
The Museum of the City of New York, 5th Avenue / Through 16 December 2023
Created in the 1960s, Kwanzaa is a raucous celebration of African American culture, unity, and family that is marked with great enthusiasm and energy in New York each year. Events and activities take place across the city including live songs, dances, African drums, storytelling, poetry reading and – in individual households – an extremely large and hearty traditional meal. There are also panel discussions relating to diverse topics such as “The State of the Black Family” and “The Role of Creativity in Liberation,” plus vendors and live DJs.
Apollo Theater, Harlem / 30 December
The Louis Auchincloss Prize
Each year, the Museum of the City of New York presents the eponymous Louis Auchincloss Prize – named after the late American novelist and lawyer – to writers and artists whose work is inspired by and enhances the five boroughs of NYC. This December, five-time Tony Award-winning director and choreographer. Susan Stroman will attend the event, during which there will be a cocktail reception and a special performance of her work before the prestigious prize-giving ceremony.
Museum of the City of New York / 4 December 2023
New Year’s Eve in Times Square
A Times Square New Year’s Eve celebration is not only a New York tradition, it’s a global phenomenon. On the last day of December, an estimated one million revellers flock to the land of LED screens to celebrate the occasion and enjoy an array of live entertainment, including performances by eminent musicians. The event’s centrepiece moment is the world-famous ball drop, which sees a time ball located on the roof of One Times Square descend down a specially designed flagpole before resting at midnight to signal the start of the new year.
Times Square / 31 December 2023
By Paul Joseph