What To Do in NYC Over the Holidays


Eat, Drink and Be Merry

If you’re like me and you haven’t made dinner plans yet, remember — no Christmas is complete without a good old fashioned holiday dinner …right? Not to worry, if there’s one thing NYC is definitely not lacking in, it’s the number of quality restaurants in this city. From an Italian feast at A Voce Columbus to sophisticated French dining at Tocqueville – you will be spoiled by all the choices for hosting your Christmas dinner. 

My Personal Favorites

If you’re in SoHo, Balthazar (which I used to go to twice a week when I lived in SoHo – great oysters) is a classic, and takes walk-ins, or… (if you have some pull) you could try your luck at The Waverly Inn, which is another one I used to go to weekly when I lived in the West Village. 

What To Do in NYC Over the Holidays

The Waverly Inn is cozy during December

Oh, and you can’t beat the memorably delicious vegetarian food at Candle 79 on the Upper East Side — it’s my #1 favorite restaurant in the city. Or just stop by for dessert… their chocolate brownie with caramel, nuts and vegan ice cream (made with nut butter) is out of this world – must be tasted to be believed. I’ve also been dying to try the Michelin star restaurant on East 39th called KajitsuIf you’re in BK, you could head out to uber-hip Reynard in Williamsburg or The John Dory Oyster Bar. Other good options are Rouge Tomate (modern farm to table),  Zen Palate (fresh vegetarian) and Bell, Book & Candle (cozy atmosphere with organic, free-range food). Want more suggestions? Check out this great list.

Restaurants with Holiday Decor

Looking for restaurants decked out in holiday spirit and decor? Try these suggestions from Gotham:

Polo Bar: The Polo Bar might be one of the city’s trendiest restaurants, but expect the holiday decorations to take on Ralph Lauren’s classic elegance. Tuck into the resto’s all-American fare in an atmosphere full of holiday-perfect touches like evergreen boughs, flickering candles, fireplaces, dark wood paneling, seasonal floral arrangements, and tartan plaid pillows. 1 E. 55th St., 212-207-8562

What To Do in NYC Over the Holidays

21 Club, looking festive

21 Club: This iconic New York spot gets even cozier when it’s filled with garlands and red ribbons during the holidays. Throughout December, the ‘21’ Club also plays host to the Salvation Army Band for lunch and dinner on certain days with special prix-fixe menu promotions. On the designated dates, a chorus and band will serenade guests with Christmas carols and help raise funds for charity. 21 W. 52nd St., 212-582-7200

Tavern on the Green: The 300,000 lights, fragrant spruces, and life-size reindeers only heighten Tavern on the Green’s romantic vibe. Add some of the restaurant’s seasonal fare to the mix and you’ve got the perfect holiday celebration. 67th St. and Central Park W., 212-877-8684

Miracle on Ninth Street: Mace Bar transforms into a seasonal pop-up for the second year in a row as Miracle on Ninth Street from after Thanksgiving until December 24. Bartender Nico de Soto’s cocktails will be just as festive as the space’s strands of Christmas lights and blue-and-silver-decked Hanukkah Hideaway nook. A dozen specialty cocktails will make their debut: from the Jingle Balls Nog (a brown butter fat-washed cognac-based drink) to the Bad Santa (a hot clarified milk punch with Jamaican rum and a host of tropical ingredients). 649 E. Ninth St.

What To Do in NYC Over the Holidays

Rolf’s Restaurant really goes all-out for the holidays

Rolf’s: Rolf’s over-the-top winter wonderland-like décor brings in the masses this time of the year. Wreaths cover the ceiling and countless lights surround the dining room of this Alsatian-German restaurant in Gramercy, which has been serving a delicious schnitzel for over four decades. 281 Third Ave., 212-477-4750

Park Avenue Winter: On December 2, Park Avenue Autumn becomes Park Avenue Winter. The bare twigs, white flowers, and gentle lighting give the dining room an austere winter vibe. Tuck into the new American dishes and you’ll feel right at home. 360 Park Ave. S., 212-951-7111

…and more great suggestions from Eater:

The Breslin Bar & Dining Room: Ken Friedman has great taste in tchotchkes and quirky lighting. So, naturally, all of his restaurants look awesome during the holidays. Around Christmas, The Breslin feels like a mountain-top lodge from a Rankin & Bass special.

The NoMad Hotel: The Library at The Nomad has the best restaurant Christmas tree in New York City. It’s strategically positioned in the middle of the space so that you can see it no matter where you’re sitting. The only tricky part is getting a table back there…

Gotham Bar & Grill: Even with the Christmas trees and wreaths, Gotham Bar & Grill still feels like a class act. Head here if you want to spend your Christmas bonus on a meal of terrific New American fare.

Rosemary’s Enoteca & Trattoria: You can see the massive Christmas tree that sits atop Rosemary’s from three blocks away. The dining room also has some tasteful holiday lighting, and another, smaller tree. Rosemary’s is still one of the best date night restaurants in Manhattan.

Lucky Strike: The Keith McNally restaurant that everyone forgets about, is best enjoyed during the month of December, when the dining room is wrapped in garlands and twinkling lights. And it’s an especially jolly place to visit during happy hour, when Manhattans are just $8 and snacks are $6.

Like I said, eat, drink & be merry!

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A writer, artist and designer since she was young enough to put pencil to paper, Hilary spends most of her time in France, but still considers herself a New Yorker, and visits regularly. Hilary spent the past decade living in NYC and has traveled extensively around the world, looking for hot new topics, destinations, and brands to bring to Urbanette readers.


  1. Claudia Nainggolan

    NYC Christmas shows are the best!

  2. Phillippe Salvatore

    Perfect! I appreciate your list, especially now that I’m in search for some yuletide fun.

  3. For me, the best thing to do in NYC (over the holidays) is watch Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting.

  4. Debbie Jones

    Thank you for the suggestions 🙂 I’d like to share that I love Macy’s window displays. Never fail to impress!

  5. Irene McCarthy

    I recently had a beautiful dinner (a day after Thanksgiving) at Tavern on the Green. The decor has old New York charm and I loved the bar area with fireplace.

  6. NYC during the holiday season is definitely something else with the gorgeous combination of festive lights and tall skyscrapers. I love ice skating at Rockefeller Center with my boyfriend 😉

  7. I agree! NYC is really at its best during holidays! And yeah, my daughter love Christmas shows!

  8. Jessica Carlson

    NYC is home to me. It’s already a great place to live in as it is, and with all the lights, sounds, and spectacular sights, one can’t help but get excited for the coming of the holidays. This time of the year is always the most anticipated, among the adults and more so among the children. This huge urban jungle more than compensates for the lack of natural sights with superb holiday decorations, colorful sights, delectable food, and merry activities. After a long and hard day at work, it’s just nice to step outside of the workplace and immediately get enveloped with the spirit of the yuletide season and the atmosphere of merriment.

    Thanks to the author for this article as well. That’s a long list of must-see places and new hang-outs to check out. 🙂

  9. Jennifer McSween

    I saw the Nutcracker in 2013! Such an incredible setting. Something I will never forget!

  10. Kim Hartford

    All of you people who get to spend their holidays in the big apple are the luckiest people on earth, and you better know and appreciate it 🙂

  11. Evelyn Sandler

    Miracle on Ninth Street is my favorite bar in New York! A bar where it’s always Christmas. Am I in Heaven? The North Pole? No… I’m on 9th and Ave C in Alphabet City. God bless the USA. <3 🙂

  12. Molly Twain

    This year we are doing a Christmas Eve Dinner Cruise in NYC. I am so excited!

  13. Kimberley Foulkes

    If you are in New York during the Christmas season, The Christmas Lights Tour of Dyker Heights is a must! You get to see the houses as you know them, from American movies / shows. During the tour there is plenty of time to take pictures and you’ll be amazed by the decorations. This tour will certainly get you in the Christmas spirit. I can’t wait to go again this year! 🙂

  14. Susanna Milton

    To be honest it’s the beautifully decorated streets and shop windows in New York that surely put you in the Christmas mood!

  15. Sabrina Wellington

    Christmas atmosphere in New York is really indescribable! Last time I visited, I amazed by countless lights and magical decorations. =)

  16. Ayla Pennington

    I just read some news about people declaring war on Christmas in Bronx. I hope that doesn’t kill the vibe in rest of the New York.

  17. Amelia Beckons

    I’ve read that New York stores already have impressive Christmas decorations up!

  18. Sabrina Grattidge

    Winter in New York is worth the hype!! 🙂

  19. Lynn Hayes

    It’s the articles like this convince me that New Yorkers are the most fortunate and blessed people on this planet!

  20. Frances Seifert

    I can’t wait to order the biggest raw seafood platter at Le Balthazar!!!

  21. Kimberly Thompson

    I am so inspired to take a New York trip right now. Wow!!

  22. Catherine White

    Sooooo many romantic places! I can’t make it this year, but I’m already saving up for next year.

  23. Pearl Nguyen

    I know why you love Balthazar! 😀 You’re a Paris lover, and Balthazar is very Parisienne!! Great bistro with an extensive menu full of French favorites. The best French food without traveling to France. 🙂

  24. Pamela Sanabria

    Bemelmans Bar is the BEST! I heard so much about this place that I just had to get here!!! Great music, great crowd, and seriously, I don’t know what they do to get it so good, the perfect vodka martini!! Served in a chilled glass, the drink is ice cold and incredibly delicious. he live band was wonderful, offering that perfect mellow mood for a quintessential NY evening with dimmed lights and upholstered chairs tucked away into cozy nooks. All that was missing was a good cigar. The wall murals (Madeline children’s book series) were an added bonus. 🙂

  25. Kaitlyn Barrett

    All I have to say is, I am so jealous of you New Yorkers!!!

  26. Olivia Peterson

    For those who are in New York on New Year’s Eve; I would recommend you go to New Year’s Eve Times Square Ball Drop Party! I went last year. And will be going again this year! Incredible location with a direct view of the ball drop and the fireworks in central park. Much better than being in the crowds! We had a great view, and the party was fun!

  27. Olivia Peterson

    I went to some of the places you recommended and I agree, they’re all rather nice and fun locations. 🙂

  28. Sydney Nowak

    Park Avenue Winter has a good seasonal menu concept with sleek modern inside, waiting staff, coat check and bar. It’s kind of overpriced for my budget, but it was well worth it!

  29. Anna Kaplan

    The Waverly Inn is one of my favorite places to! I hope to run into you there one day. 🙂

  30. Julia MacLean

    Hello Hilary! Thank you so much for the recommendations. It’ll be very useful as I’ll be spending Christmas with my family in New York this year!

  31. Franny Pimms

    I wish I could spend Christmas in New York.

  32. Sarah Uibel

    I always love going to see the Rock Center Tree. It just never gets old. Love NYC this time of year, it’s magical! : )

  33. Monica CONOVER

    My sister and I used to love to check out the Christmas lights on 5th Avenue, by foot or from a bus (MTA, not doubledecker). Glad that’s one thing that still has its magic in NYC!

  34. Sasha Rosswell

    I wish it would snow so it would be an absolute winter wonderland! 🙂

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