Tuesday 12th Dec 2023 |

New York City Tourism + Conventions, the City’s official destination marketing organisation and convention and visitors bureau, is spotlighting a selection of free and affordable things to do in the five boroughs this holiday season.  

“New York City feels extra special during the holiday season, and there are so many ways to celebrate across the five boroughs,” said Fred Dixon, President and CEO of New York City Tourism + Conventions. “We expect to welcome roughly 7 million visitors between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, and the City offers something for the whole family to enjoy—no matter your interests or budget.” 

Suggested activities include:

Free Annual Celebrations:

  • The lighting of the world’s largest menorahs takes place at sundown on each night of Hanukkah at Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn and Grand Army Plaza in Midtown. The celebrations also feature live music, latkes and children’s gifts. 
  • Enjoy free New Year’s Eve festivities in city parks, including spectacular fireworks in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park
  • Join thousands of revellers from around the world to ring in 2024 at the New Year’s Eve Ball Drop in Times Square. Arrive early to save your spot at this once-in-a-lifetime event.  

Festive Lights:

  • Each year, residents of Brooklyn’s Dyker Heights neighbourhood light up their homes with over-the-top Christmas decor. Bring a thermos of hot chocolate and take in the decorations with festive music in the background. 
  • The Dumbo Improvement District is presenting a series of holiday events and activities, including animations projected on the Manhattan Bridge and Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE). The projections are on view through 31 December, from 4–10pm daily.
  • Shine Bright illuminates Hudson Yards with 2 million twinkling lights in this free celebration. The display includes 725 evergreen trees and 16-foot-tall lights in the shape of hot air balloons. 

Get Outdoors:

  • The Rink at Winter Village at Bryant Park offers free ice-skating in the heart of Midtown Manhattan (skates are available to rent). Sitting among the open-air holiday market and dining offerings, the rink is open through 3 March, 2024. 
  • NYC’s  Open Streets program returns this year, creating a pedestrian-only zone around Rockefeller Center and on Fifth Avenue from 48th Street to 59th Street. 

Family Entertainment:

  • NYC is the backdrop of many beloved holiday films. Whether you want to stop by the Empire State Building to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Elf, play on the large-scale FAO Schwarz piano as in Big or visit The Plaza Hotel in honour of Home Alone 2 – Fun in New York, there’s something for the whole family to enjoy. 
  • Meet Santa Claus at Macy’s Herald Square. Reservations are free and can be made up to five days before your visit, with photos available for purchase. Santaland will host sensory-friendly early mornings on select days throughout the holiday season—email Macy’s for more information. 
  • Wave Hill in the Bronx is celebrating the holidays with a variety of programming. On 14 December, make winter-inspired crafts during the free Family Art-Palooza
  • The National Park Service will hold free Kwanzaa events at the African Burial Ground National Monument from 26-30 December. Family-friendly activities include doll making, quilting, face painting and more. 

Holiday Shopping:

  • Every year, holiday markets pop up across the City, offering artisanal products, crafts, food and more, ideal for sourcing uniquely NYC gifts. The famous Union Square Holiday Market is open every day through 24 December, with more than 150 festive vendors and food stalls. 
  • Thrifting fans can visit Brooklyn Flea in Dumbo for housewares, vintage clothing, antiques, jewellery, crafts and more. 
  • The Long Island City Partnership is presenting a Pop-Up Holiday Art Market on Thursdays–Sundays through 17 December, offering handcrafted art pieces, complimentary panettone and hot drinks. 
  • Empire Outlets is NYC’s only outlet shopping destination. Accessible via the free Staten Island Ferry, shops include the Levi’s Outlet, Nike Factory Store, Nordstrom Rack and more. The Outlets also offer festive decorations including a beautiful Christmas tree—perfect for family photos.

Give the Gift of NYC:

  • Reservations are now available for NYC Hotel Week, offering 24 percent off stays at 160 hotels from 3 January – 4 February. Also enjoy prix-fixe restaurant menus; 2-for-1 Broadway tickets; and 2-for-1 tickets to attractions, museums, tours and performing arts as part of NYC Winter Outing