Absolutely Free Things to do in New York City for Christmas.
Free Things to do at Christmas in New York City?
Ah, Christmas: the season of excess, spending and many broken budgets. Its the time of year when many would expect New York City to be a mecca of costly events and extravagant affairs. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Christmas in New York City comes filled with opportunities to enjoy the magic of the Christmas season without spending a dime. One needs only to know where to look. Here are the best free things to do at Christmas in New York City.
1. See the Christmas “Windows”
When New Yorkers speak of the holiday windows at Christmas time, they are really referring to the extravagantly dressed Christmas windows of the major department shows between Seventh Avenue and Fifth avenue in mid-town Manhattan. Beginning in late November, the windows of Macy’s, Lord and Taylor, Bergdoff Goodman and others come alive with color, movement and music for a free holiday treat that locals and visitors look forward to.
Each window can best be described as a show. A show where the traditional, heartwarming Christmas gets reinvented in a way that remains warm, but feels fresh and exciting. For 2015, one Macys window showed Santa visiting (instead of people's home) Santa the planets of the Milky Way solar system in an animated sleigh that flew around the planets. This year (2016), the windows seem to be playing homage to the more magical part of Christmas. Lord and Taylor has fully focused on the fantasy and magic of The Nutcracker story with colorful windows displaying the Sugarplum fairy, the Nutcracker prince and other characters from the story while Macys' are filled with interpretations from Santa's workshop.
To get to the windows, take the A, C, E, 2,3 or F trains to the 34th Street stop, walk up to 7th Avenue where Macy's windows begin. Continue up 7th, then turn unto 6th and 5th avenues all the way up to 50th street for a festive and free evening of even more colorful windows.
See New York City Transit Museum's Free Holiday Train Show
This train show is a favorite with locals over the holidays. Beginning in the middle of November each year the New York City Transit Museum brings its free holiday train show to the Grand Central Terminal building. The long running show is really a small scale replica of the city’s train system travelling through a realistic looking scene that changes each year. Themes of previous years include a homage to New York City when it was just a small town of immigrants (2014's show) and a celebration of the city's icons like the Grand Central Terminal itself. Watch as the small train replicas throttle away through realistic looking tunnels and past beautifully depicted scenery. Look out for homey cabins and town scenes along the trains’ journey. The kids will love trying to catch the lightning fast black train that zooms in and out of mountainside tunnels and is a feature of each year’s show.
Leave the free train show and head into the main floor of the Grand central building which is itself a treat. Look up for a sight to behold. The Grand Central Terminal’s ceilings are covered with intricate paintings reminiscent of the Sistine Chapel. Admire the paintings and the architectural grandeur of the building, then head to the Christmas Fair for some exquisite window shopping at the pop up stores.
To get to the train show, take the 4,5,6 or 7 train to Grand Central Terminal/42nd street stop and walk to the Transit Museums store located inside Grand Central.
Admire one of New York City’s Larger Than Life Christmas Trees
No Christmas is complete without a sparkly, colorful Christmas tree overladen with ornaments and lights. Visit one of New York City’s public Christmas trees for an extravagant wonder. It is not strange that the city is home to the most famous Christmas tree in the world: this is a city where the Christmas trees are larger than life and richly decorated.
Visit the famous Rockefeller tree at its free lighting or on any other evening after that for a grand tree which seems to reach the sky. The Rockefeller Tree lighting is an event in itself. Expect to see live performances around the 80 foot or taller tree which is often decorated with Swarovski crystals and more than 40,00 lights. The tree normally stays lit until the middle of January, but gets crowded every night. If the crowds at Rockefeller Center is too intimidating, take a trip to the colorful tree in Bryant Park, where there will be less people hanging around and the chance of getting a good family photo is much better.
Check www.rockefellercenter.com for the date and time of the scheduled lighting of the Rockefeller tree, and for directions to Rockefeller Center. To get to Bryant Park take the B ,D, F or M train to the 42nd Street/ Bryant Park Stop, and walk to the park.
See the Free Gingerbread Extravaganza at Le Meridien Parker Hotel
The Gingerbread Extravaganza hosted by the Le Parker Meridien hotel is actually held each year for the benefit of a charitable organization. City Harvest is a well- regarded foundation that feeds the less fortunate in New York City. Every Christmas Le Parker Meridien hosts a gingerbread house competition in the lobby of its 56th Street hotel for the foundation's benefit. The competition attracts New York City’s best pastry chefs who create the most unbelievable gingerbread houses for a show that is free to the public. The gingerbread houses on show elevate the Christmas staple from child’s play and into an art form. The amazing creations from previous years include a Audrey Hepburn covered 'Breakfast at Tiffany' themed Gingerbread house (2014's show), and one featuring Sesame Street’s Cookie Monster eating New York City! The show is free to the public, but many visitors make a small donation to the charity by paying a small fee to vote for a winner (about $1).
Ice Skate for Free at Bryant Park's Winter Village
Ice skating is the perfect activity for those white winter nights. Normally visitors to New York City have to pay a pretty penny to enjoy the activity, but each Christmas the Bank of America sponsored Winter Village in Bryant Park opens up its skating rink for free skating to those who have their own skates (those without have to pay the fees).
Go ice skating with a huge Christmas tree and a romantic carousel as your view in the beautiful Bryant Park where couples and families often go to enjoy the great seasonal events. After skating, check out the rest of Winter Village for free samples of apple cider and other holiday treats. The Winter Village is a colorful cocktail of festive stands selling all things related to the holidays for those who want to do last minute shopping. Past years have seen vendors selling everything from Christmas ornaments to fruitcake. To get here, take the B, D,F or M train to Bryant Park/42nd Street stop. Check www.wintervillage.org for more information
The Christmas Tree and Free Ice Skating at Bryant Park's Winter Village
Gingerbread House from Le Parker Meridien's Free Extravaganza (2014)
More by this Author
The best things to do, places to eat, ways to play after walking the Brooklyn Bridge.
Part of what makes New York City great is its appeal to kids and adults alike. Even very small kids will find the city exciting. Read on for ten exciting things to do with toddlers in NYC.
Visiting the Caribbean with kids may seem daunting, but Jamaica makes it easy with so much things to do with kids (toddlers included) on one small island. Read on!
No comments yet.