7 festive places to visit in New York City for the holiday season

ByAlexandra Moyen via WABC logo
Wednesday, December 15, 2021
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A workshop in Brooklyn has been a staple in the community for years because of its instrumental role in neighbors' dazzling light displays and holiday decorations.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- When it comes to the holidays in New York City, they seem to start earlier each year, and the bar keeps getting pushed higher. While this means long lines to get into bars, it also means beautiful sights such as light festivals and decorated trees up and down Midtown.

From creating your unique light soundtrack or skating at the iconic ice skating rink at Rockefeller Center, there are many Insta-worthy attractions around NYC to choose from. To help, ABC7 created a list of festive spots that is surely worth the walk and will have you believing there is no place like NYC during the holidays.

The Rink at Rockefeller Center

Located on Fifth Avenue in Rockefeller Center, this iconic ice skating rink, whether you're skating or watching others do so, is essential when enjoying the Christmas experience in NYC.

The rink has been seen in notable movies, such as Will Ferrell's "Elf" and Kate Beckinsale's "Serendipity," and has become a symbol of Christmastime in NYC since its first opening in 1936. The rink has also been the perfect spot for thousands of marriage proposals.

Wanting to get in on all the fun, an estimated 125 million people would visit Rockefeller Center during the holiday season before the pandemic-- including famous figures such as Serena Williams and Olympian Kristi Yamaguchi.

The 75-foot Rockefeller Christmas Tree overlooking the rink, which is adorned with over 50,000 multi-colored lights, while skating in the presence of the golden Prometheus, is an experience no one will forget.

The skating season will only include the major winter holidays, closing on Jan. 17, several months early, right when New Yorkers enduring the pandemic need it most, so you better buy your tickets sooner rather than later. Tickets can be bought from the Rockefeller Center website starting at $20 a person.

Lillie's Victorian Establishment

This establishment is located on 17th Street in Union Square, which is adorned from its ceiling to its walls in Christmas decorations.

Seriously-- if you're a scrooge, you'll hate it here.

Starting at the establishment's storefront, you can already feel the Christmas spirit with a decorated Christmas tree behind its tall glass window, and snow-covered ferns and red ornaments covering the window frame, which is perfect for onlookers taking in the Christmas spirit of NYC.

Inside are huge Christmas-colored LED ornaments and multiple Santas hanging from the ceiling, with tinsel cascading down throughout different parts of the restaurant. Just hanging over the bar is a ginormous teddy bear that will make you want to reach out and hug it.

The restaurant's hashtag, #lilliesvictorianestablishment, has amassed close to 500,000 views on TikTok, and, apart from its extravagant Christmas-themed display, it is also known for its themed specialty cocktails, with enough attention to detail, tol please your palate.

The establishment strongly recommends reserving your space which you can do from its website.

Dyker Heights Christmas Lights Festival

Have you ever gone past a house decked out in Christmas lights, starting from the roof, and questioned what their electricity bill is like? Wait until you see the Christmas lights displays on the houses all over Dyker Heights Boulevard.

Starting on 11th to 13th avenues and 83rd to 86th streets in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, this festival has become one of the most popular traditions in NYC. The Brooklyn neighborhood welcomes people of all ages to see the most over-the-top Christmas light decorations such as life-size Santas, sleighs, snowmen, with some houses even bumping Christmas carols from loudspeakers.

To get the most of your experience, Dyker Heights Christmas Lights offer walking and bus tours. For the bus tour, the bus first departs from Manhattan, to give riders a scenic ride of NYC's historic buildings and skyline. Guests will then be given a rundown of the festival's history and annual tradition by their chaperone, while taking in all the bright lights illuminating the neighborhood. Due to the pandemic, there are limited days the tours will be happening, with the last tour being Dec. 23.

To reserve your spot, you can visit the Dyker Heights Christmas Lights website.

Miracle on 9th

As you and your friends are going bar hopping this NYC Christmas, consider heading over to the Christmas-themed pop-up bar located in the East Village on 9th street.

With both Christmas and Hanukkah décor, this bar is serving seasonal drinks such as Jingle Balls Nog, a twist on the eggnog, and the Christmas Carol Barrel. Pairing those festive drinks, is the feel of the holiday décor such as twinkling lights draping the ceiling and going up and down the bar's walls, vintage garlands, reindeer figurines, and humorous holiday cards.

This bar won't be here for long and only stays open until Jan. 2, so book your reservations quickly by going to Resy where you can also find more information on their rules about COVID-19.

Rolf's German Restaurant

This restaurant is taking holiday decorating to another level, perfect for getting you in the holiday mood.

This bar and grill is a fusion of German and French cuisine with hearty food choices including fried or sautéed schnitzel and beef stew. Apart from the delicious food, the restaurant is completely covered in over-the-top décor with 15,000-holiday ornaments and 100,000 lights hanging inside the space.

Decorating the restaurant in all these ornaments began the last week of September and took six men working overtime for five nights a week for six weeks. The restaurant, according to Business Insider spends more than $60,000 every year preparing for Christmas. In addition to the ornaments and lights, 800 dolls are overlooking the crowd and thousands of icicles hanging from the ceiling.

NYC lifestyle blogger Krista Robertson wrote about her 2015 experience on trying to get in. She wrote that Rolf's gets "crazy" during the holiday season and one time there was a two-and-a-half-hour wait and another time it took her 15 minutes to get to the door.

It's best if you make a reservation ahead of time, but if you can't make it inside for the holiday season, don't worry because they keep the decorations up until May.

Bryant Park Winter Village

Bryant Park Winter Village is home to the only free-admission ice skating rink in NYC, making it a must-have on your list of festive places to visit this season. While skating you can take in the view of the tree and Christmas caroling by the New York City Opera.

The Winter Village also offers Cozy Igloos heated tents shaped like igloos for when you have just finished ice skating or admiring the tree and want to warm up. These igloos, located between the Skating Pavilion and the village tree, are also the perfect spot to enjoy warm food from one of the many eateries within the park.

The Lodge By Prime Video is a covered, outdoor apres themed area where visitors can try a number of foods from its different stores such as the El Pambazo Shop, which has people raving about their Mexican sandwiches, and S'mores N'more which is serving up custom s'mores and hot chocolates to satisfy your sweet tooth. Make sure to visit before it closes up shop on March 6, 2022.

The park also has a Curling Café and Bar which has a heated dining dome, food and drink when you purchase one of the packages and a dedicated curling lane for 90 minutes of play. You can also enjoy five-minute pop-up performances by young skating apprentices and professional ensemble members of Ice Theatre of New York performing on the rink.

The park is located between Fifth Avenue and Avenue of the Americas and between 40th and 42nd Streets in Midtown Manhattan and is perfect for all ages. Each program the park offers requires a reservation, so make sure to secure one before the season is up.

Brookfield Place - Luminaries

Just hanging over the Brookfield Place Winter Garden are 650 color-changing lanterns suspended from a canopy which creates the mesmerizing Luminaries show.

The display and its interactive exhibit were created by the LAB at Rockwell Group who were inspired by the season's traditions of sharing, giving, and community.

The exhibit, Maestro, is a gesture-controlled instrument allowing visitors to display their light show in unison with holiday music. The dates for when the exhibit will be open can be found on their website, as well as tips to make the most of your experience. The exhibit also features three Wishing Stations where visitors can "send" wishes to the canopy of lanterns above, activating a magical display of lights, colors, and music. For each wish made, Brookfield Place donates $1 up to $25,000 to City Harvest.

The choreographed light shows happen every hour from 8 A.M to 10 P.M until Jan. 2 to holiday song favorites such as Silver Bells by Tony Bennet and Winter Wonderland by Michael Bublé.

Also, StubHub just announced the most popular events happening in NYC this year, so be sure to check them out:

1. Cirque du Soleil: Twas The Night Before at The Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 24

2. Lion King at Minskoff Theatre on Dec. 24

3. Radio City Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall on Dec. 24

4. New York String Orchestra at Carnegie Hall - Stern Auditorium on Dec. 24

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