Free and Affordable things to do in NYC this holiday season
New York City Tourism + Conventions, the City’s official destination marketing organization 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 iconic Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is on view through January 13. The 80-foot Norway spruce is covered in 50,000 multicolored LED lights.
- 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 revelers 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.
- Each year, residents of Brooklyn’s Dyker Heights neighborhood 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 December 31, 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.
- Wander through The Shops at Columbus Circle and enjoy Holiday Under the Stars, which features twelve 14-foot stars hanging from the ceiling.
- 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 March 3, 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.
- Enjoy festive scents along Fifth Avenue between 46th and 61st Streets: the Fifth Avenue Association is partnering with NEST New York to pump the brand’s signature Holiday fragrance into the air.
- Join hundreds of brave swimmers on January 1 for an icy dip in the Atlantic Ocean during the Coney Island Polar Bear Club New Year’s Day Plunge. Participation is free; individuals are encouraged to donate to community organizations.
- 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 honor 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.
- The Children’s Museum of Manhattan is offering a series of public holiday programs throughout December, including a singer-songwriter series, cultural celebrations, New Year’s Eve programming and more.
- Wave Hill in the Bronx is celebrating the holidays with a variety of programming. On December 14, 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 December 26–30. Family-friendly activities include doll making, quilting, face painting and more.
- Visit Battery Park City Public Library on December 18 for a free Holiday and Christmas Carols Sing Along.
- 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 December 24, with more than 150 festive vendors and food stalls.
- Thrifting fans can visit Brooklyn Flea in Dumbo for housewares, vintage clothing, antiques, jewelry, crafts and more.
- Traversing through Grand Central Terminal this holiday season? Be sure to check out the Holiday Fair in Vanderbilt Hall—and note that a visit to the New York Transit Museum’s Holiday Train Show in Grand Central is free this year!
- The Long Island City Partnership is presenting a Pop-Up Holiday Art Market on Thursdays–Sundays through December 17, 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 January 3–February 4. 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.
Between the Thanksgiving and New Year’s holidays, New York City expects to attract approximately 7 million visitors. The City welcomed 56.7 million travelers in 2022 and remains on track to welcome more than 63 million visitors this year.