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New York City can dazzle a traveler any time of year, but the Christmas season takes it to the next level! It’s time to cue the Christmas carols and pack your bags because spending the holidays in NYC is sure to be a magical experience you don’t want to miss!
After exploring New York City for 5 days, we were amazed at all the city has to offer. And, of course, they go over the top at Christmastime! With dazzling light displays, Rockefeller Center’s 100-foot (30-meter) Christmas tree, and the iconic Radio City Rockettes, there’s no shortage of festivities to brighten your holidays.
However, it can be hard to figure out the best things to do in New York City during the holidays, as there is so much to see. So to make your planning easier, we’ve compiled the best Christmas tours in New York City that truly capture the Christmas spirit. This way, you can simply book a tour and enjoy what holiday magic comes your way!
Don’t have time to read the full article? The absolute best Christmas tours in NYC include:
- Enjoy epic views of NYC from the comfort of this Cocoa and Carols Holiday Cruise, which offers Christmas cookies and a live jazz band.
- Watch the world-famous Rockettes dance their hearts out in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular.
- Take a guided driving tour of Dyker Heights, a Brooklyn neighborhood that takes Christmas lights and decor to the next level.
1. New York City Cocoa and Carols Holiday Cruise
The city looks incredibly scenic from the water. You get to see an impressive skyline and get up close to the Statue of Liberty. All those views combined with a relaxing boat ride – it really doesn’t get better than that. Unless, of course, you toss in some Christmas cheer!
This Cocoa and Carols Holiday Cruise is a fantastic way to get into the holiday spirit. You’ll spend 1.5 hours sailing around on a yacht that is covered in festive Christmas decor, almost as if Buddy the Elf did it himself!
I think this holiday cruise sounds like the perfect activity for a group of friends or as a romantic night out. You can enjoy the Manhattan skyline all lit up, while still staying warm in the boat – trust me, you’ll be happy for this as New York is cold in December!
As you enjoy this cruise, you can snack on Christmas cookies and spiked hot cocoa. Listening to the live jazz band play the top Christmas carols really enhances those holiday vibes. Overall, it’s a relaxed evening on a cozy cruise with incredible views the whole way!
This tour departs from the Chelsea Piers in Midtown and has multiple time slots taking off in the afternoon and evening. You can reserve this holiday cruise for $118 USD per person, which includes cookies and a beverage. Bring your credit card to purchase more drinks since the bar doesn’t accept cash. Bear in mind this tour does require a minimum of 2 per booking, so grab that special someone and get festive.
However, I recommend booking this tour in advance, especially if you are trying to schedule it for the weekend! It’s a limited-time excursion and sells out fast!
Related Read: Looking for foodie experiences in NYC? Check out our list of the best food tours in the city (plus everything you need to know before booking one!)
2. Dyker Heights Brooklyn Christmas Lights Tour
Exploring Dyker Heights on a Christmas tour gives you the best seat in the house for these famous light displays! This Brooklyn neighborhood is known all around the city for having over-the-top arrangements that are, quite frankly, incredibly impressive! You can see life-size Santas and Rudolphs, rooftop sleighs, and fake snow falling from above.
Expect to find a few tributes to iconic Christmas movies, and some people even blast carols through speakers. Nearly every home in Dyker Heights goes all out, so there isn’t a Grinch in sight!
This 4-hour tour of Dyker Heights pairs you up with a guide and driver who will navigate the busy New York streets as you make your way to Brooklyn, giving commentary and history on the city the whole way!
Once you reach Dyker Heights, you’ll drive through the neighborhoods for over an hour, as there are a lot of houses to see! On the way back, you’ll stop on the Brooklyn Bridge to get magical views of the New York skyline. This is one of the best viewpoints of the city!
This tour includes all fees and transportation. All you have to do is show up and gaze at the impressive Christmas lights of Dyker Heights! Tours meet at the McDonalds on Broadway, and you’ll be dropped off in Times Square at the end – another spot we recommend visiting!
This experience costs $60 USD and departs in the early evening. You want to make sure it’s dark enough to enjoy the lights! So, check your New York City itinerary and be sure to add this tour to your list! You can reserve this tour in advance here.
Money Saving Tip – Some of NYC’s best attractions unfortunately aren’t free. But that doesn’t mean you have to blow your budget to see them! We purchased a New York City attraction pass during our visit and it helped us save 30-40% on admission fees to top attractions like the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty. There are a few different options, but the top three are the New York CityPASS®, the New York Pass, and the New York Explorer Pass by Go City.
3. Radio City Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes Ticket
Nothing tells me it’s the holiday season more than seeing the Radio City Rockettes Christmas Special! I remember watching the Rockettes on television as a kid, so getting to see them perform live is certainly a bucket-list experience.
Radio City Music Hall is an iconic performance venue located in Rockefeller Center and has been running shows since 1932. The Rockettes are the resident high-kicking dance company that has been performing in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade and on the Radio City Christmas Spectacular since 1933.
They are known for precision dancing, with impressively high kicks. In fact, you have to be between 5’6-5’10 (168-178 cm) just to be a Rockette! You’ll see ballet, tap, jazz, and modern dance styles along with their Christmas-themed costumes.
Trust me, the Rockettes are a staple in New York’s Christmas culture!
You can see the Rockettes perform their Christmas Special at Radio City by securing tickets in advance. The Christmas performance runs from mid-November through January 1 and is a solid 1.5 hours of pure entertainment. It’s also a great way to stay warm and dry on a snowy or rainy day in New York City.
There are numerous showtimes throughout the day, so the price of tickets varies on the time of day and seat preference. Tickets start at $90 USD for the third mezzanine and get more expensive as they get closer to the stage.
Booking tickets ahead of time guarantees your seat, as this popular performance is known to sell out. After all, you won’t want to miss the Radio City Christmas Spectacular – it’s the performance of a lifetime!
4. NYC Holiday Lights Tour by Limousine
Sometimes the perfect Christmas gift is an experience! This Limousine Holiday Lights Tour is my ideal Christmas gift because you get to dress up, drink champagne, and have a luxury night out. All the while, you’ll be surrounded by the Christmas spirit. I really can’t think of a better way to celebrate the holidays in NYC!
On this private tour, your group will be escorted through the city in a limo fully stocked with champagne! You’ll spend 3.5 hours visiting the most festive holiday light displays, such as Dyker Heights, Rockefeller Center’s giant Christmas tree, and the Brooklyn Bridge.
These three sights are stunning at Christmastime! Dyker Heights is full of impressive lights in a residential neighborhood, the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree is iconic, and the Brooklyn Bridge gives the absolute best viewpoint of the Manhattan skyline. I couldn’t imagine a more festive trio! And since this is a private tour from NYC, you’ll be able to enjoy quality time with your crew.
If you need an excuse to dress up with your friends and hit the town to celebrate the holidays, this is your perfect tour. To top it off, it covers roundtrip luxury transport from your hotel and a bottle of bubbly – so no need to worry about any designated drivers. But dates are limited, so don’t hesitate to secure your tour online.
It’s $775 USD for a limo, which fits 7 people, $949 USD for a luxury Sprinter van for 14 people, or $559 USD for an executive SUV for 5 people. So if you break up the cost, it isn’t too expensive per person.
Gather your friends for a unique holiday party or early Christmas gift experience, and reserve this tour in advance here!
Why We Book Tours with Viator
Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! We almost always book our tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:
- Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
- Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
- Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
- Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.
5. Holiday Lights Extravaganza Walking Tour
New York City during the holidays is absolutely beautiful, but with an influx of travelers and locals doing their holiday shopping and celebrating, the streets of New York can be even more crowded than usual! This Holiday Lights walking tour helps you navigate all the festivities around you so you can see the best sights and not have the stress of planning a route.
The hustle and bustle do make this season seem even more exciting and having a guided tour like this one helps you fully embrace that holiday spirit! A local guide will take you through the city over 3-4 hours to see all the holiday highlights like Macy’s holiday window display, a chance to shop at the Christmas Village in Bryant Park, and gawk at the lights and beautiful expensive storefronts on Fifth Avenue.
The walking tour continues past The Plaza Hotel, which is all dressed up in Christmas decorations. Then, you’ll pass by the Trump Tower, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and Rockefeller Center to see the iconic 100-foot (30-meter) Christmas tree!
Some of my highlights of this tour include the Radio City Music Hall and Tiffany’s, from Audrey Hepburn’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s. There are even more stops along the way that we haven’t mentioned, but we have to leave some surprises!
Throughout the entire journey, your tour guide will explain the history and significance of these holiday locations. Many of these places are on our list of must-see destinations in NYC, so you’re getting a city tour and a holiday experience all wrapped up in one.
This is a fantastic overview of New York City, especially when it’s covered in holiday cheer! It costs $60 USD, which is a great deal considering how much you see. To witness NYC all lit up in all its holiday glory, reserve this walking tour right here!
Related Read: If you’re looking to get out of the cold and into an indoor food and shopping hotspot, here’s everything you need to know before visiting the Chelsea Market!
Other Things to do While You’re in New York City
As the biggest city in the USA, there is no shortage of things to do in New York! I mean, you could spend a week or more here and still not see a fraction of what the Big Apple has to offer. But if you only have a few days and want to see the highlights, these are other top attractions and activities we highly recommend checking out.
- Eat pizza! – New York was home to the first pizzeria in the US way back in the early 1900s, and it’s still something this city is known for. I dare say the pizza here is legendary! Top pizza joints include John’s of Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village, Prince Street Pizza in Nolita, and we also loved 2 Bros Pizza. You can even eat pizza (and lots of other treats!) on a food tour of Chelsea Market, which is a foodie’s paradise!
- Visit Central Park – Likely you’ve seen this famous park in movies, so it’s a must while you’re here. Central Park is huge with great spots like a historic carousel, Belvedere Castle, and even a skating rink in the winter. There are several tours of Central Park, and you’ll feel like you’re starring in a rom-com with this 45-minute horse and carriage ride.
- Cross the Brooklyn Bridge – New York can be expensive, but strolling over the Brooklyn Bridge is a completely free thing to do in NYC! The views of the skyline are stellar and there are lots of vendors if you get hungry. We recommend walking all the way across to Brooklyn Bridge Park for the best views of Manhattan.
- Empire State Building – As one of the most iconic buildings in the entire world, the Empire State Building is an attraction like none other! Of course, you’ll see the building from afar, but the views are next-level from the Empire State Building observation deck. Make sure to reserve tickets for the main observation deck in advance as only a limited number of people are allowed up at a time.
- Take a day trip – Not only is NYC full of fun, but it’s close to other amazing destinations you can visit for a day! Head to Washington, DC to check out the White House or visit Georgetown, DC (one of our fave neighborhoods in the capital). You can also try the best Philly cheesesteaks and see the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, or take a tour from New York to Niagara Falls.
Where to Stay in New York City
New York City is huge – there is just no other way to put it! Even Manhattan (the area you’ll want to base yourself in) is a lot bigger than you think. That’s why choosing the right hotel in the right location is so important during your stay in New York.
Below, we’ve simplified it all for you by choosing a couple of the very best hotels available in the city. All three of these options have ideal locations close to attractions and the subway system. They all have amazing reviews, too, so just choose the one in your budget category and you’ll be ready to pack your bags!
Motto by Hilton – $$$
Motto by Hilton is a gorgeous hotel located in the Chelsea neighborhood, only 600 meters from the Flatiron Building. The hotel features modern decor that has “speakeasy vibes”. In fact, they have a beautiful bar onsite that looks like the perfect place to sip an Old Fashioned. There are a variety of rooms on offer, including some that are a little more budget-friendly, and some that are pure luxury with city views! Prices start from about $400 USD per night plus tax.
Delta Hotels by Marriott New York Times Square – $$
Delta Hotels by Marriott New York Times Square is where we stayed the last time we visited New York, and honestly, we loved it! This hotel is the perfect combination of comfort and value for money. It was clean, modern, and our room had all of the amenities we needed for an enjoyable stay (air conditioning, k-cup coffee maker, steamer, large shower, big windows, etc). Plus, the location is ideal – it’s only a couple blocks from Times Square!
Prices do range, but they do go as low as $200 USD per night plus tax depending on the time of year and day of the week. You can check prices and book online here!
Nap York Central Park Sleep Station – $
For those traveling on a tight budget, Nap York is a budget hostel that’s an ideal choice. Although affordable, this property is immaculate and offers a ton of amenities for a great stay including air conditioning and a shared kitchen. The rooms are modern and the location is about as central as it gets! This property only offers dorm rooms, but they are affordable at as little as $150 USD per night.
Don’t get Caught without Travel Insurance!
We never travel without travel insurance! We’ve had a few instances during our travels when one of us has ended up in the hospital, and travel insurance has saved us thousands of dollars over the years!
SafetyWing is our go-to insurance, we both have policies with them whenever we travel.
They offer travel medical insurance that’s super affordable (only $45 USD per 4 weeks!)The only thing to note is that the insurance must be purchased once you’ve left your home country – we typically buy it as soon as we land at the airport.
We’ve personally used SafetyWing for many different trips, and we’ve been reimbursed for countless expenses when we’ve fallen ill. SafetyWing even covered our flights back to Canada in full when the pandemic first happened (when last-minute flights before the borders closed were super expensive!) While most travel insurance companies left people stranded, SafetyWing fully reimbursed us for our last-minute, pricey flights!
Also, because it is so affordable, there really is no excuse not to take out a policy. Check prices and get a quote online here with SafetyWing (you can even take out a policy if you’re already traveling!)
Thanks for reading!
If you’re visiting New York City during the holidays, you’re in luck! This city knows how to celebrate Christmas and really goes all out with lights and decor. What better way to join in the festivities than by booking one of these tours? Whether you want to see incredibly lit-up neighborhoods, hop on a holiday cruise, or see a Rockette’s show, you really can’t go wrong.
Before you head to NYC, check out our other blogs! We’ve traveled all around the United States as well as Canada (where Bailey is from). To help you out, I’ve linked to some of our popular articles below. And as always, thanks for reading!