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Are you planning a visit to New York City in December with kids or teens? New York City during December and Christmas is a magical experience. The entire city transforms into a winter wonderland with dazzling decorations, festive lights, and a myriad of holiday-themed events and activities. Christmas season is one of the best times to visit NYC with kids and teens but keep in mind that it can get super crowded, so advance reservations are necessary for the popular attraction. Here are the best things to do in NYC with kids and teens during the Christmas season and our 4 day NYC itinerary.
Where to stay in NYC with kids and teens
Choosing where to stay in NYC largely depends on your preferences, budget, and what you want to experience during your visit. We have been to NYC with kids multiple times and always stay where our points take us. On our most recent trip during Christmas time, we stayed at the Even Hotel New York-Times Square South. This is an IHG hotel and we booked it using points. Hotels during this time were super expensive and many fully booked, so this was a great redemption! And, with IHG, if you book 3 nights the 4th is free so we were able to get a good rate on our 4 night NYC itinerary.
If you aren’t using points and miles to help offset travel costs, you are missing out on a lot of free travel! There are a ton of travel reward credit cards that are great for families looking to save while traveling with kids. Our airfare to NYC was also covered by JetBlue points, making it one of the cheapest trips we have taken this year and we booked a December NYC trip last minute so the cash price would have been insane!
If you want to see other hotels in the area, use the interactive map below.
What to do in NYC during Christmas
Top of the Rock
If you’re looking for the best views of New York City, head to the Top of the Rock observation deck! We used our New York CityPASS® to access this and it was awesome! As a bonus, this is close to many other NYC Christmas attractions so you can do lots of things while in this area of the city. We wanted to get a view of NYC during the day and night so we did Top of the Rock during the day and the Eiffel Tower at night.
Visit the Jellycat Diner
Jellycat is a well-known brand of plush toys and the very first Jellycat Diner opened up in NYC on the ground level of FAO Schwartz. While not an actual food spot, the Jellycat Diner is set up like a retro diner where you can purchase food themed plushies that are then wrapped in to go containers to resemble food. We love Jellycat so this was a huge hit with our 12 year old!
Visit the Eiffel Tower at night
For a different view of the city, visit the Eiffel Tower in the evening, when the city is glowing with lights. We used our New York CityPASS® to access this and walked right in with our app QR code.
View the Christmas light displays
One of the best things to do in New York City in December is to view the Christmas window displays at the various department stores. The best Christmas window displays in New York City can be found at Saks, Macy’s, Barney’s, Bloomingdale’s, and Bergdorf Goodman, among many others!
Keep in mind that if you come on a weekend, you won’t be able to move. We arrived in NYC on a Saturday and quickly gave up trying to navigate through the crowds. You couldn’t move an inch, it was downright dangerous. So we came back on a Monday and there were barely any people by the windows and Rockefeller Tree!
Visit the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree
Of course, no trip to NYC around Christmas time is complete without visiting Rockefeller Center and their majestic Christmas tree! Keep in mind that this area can get super crowded during peak times, so plan accordingly. If you’re into ice skating, you can rent ice skates and skate in a beautiful atmosphere. This is one of the best things to do in NYC with kids and teens in December. Again, come on a weeknight. You won’t have lines or crowds. We came during the day and at night for different views.
Visit the NYC Christmas markets
While Europe may be known for their epic Christmas markets, I’m here to tell you that NYC has them as well in multiple parts of the city. The Christmas markets in NYC are a fantastic way to get into the holiday spirit. The best Christmas markets in NYC can be found in Columbus Circle, Bryant Park and Union Square.
The markets are beautifully decorated with twinkling lights, creating a magical ambiance. Indulge is some yummy food and drinks while shopping for unique gifts. Now if you’ve been to any of the European ones, these are nothing like it so don’t expect that and you’ll have a great time. Come on a weekday, you won’t be able to walk on a weekend!
One of our favorite foods at the Bryant Park Christmas market was the raclette. It’s worth the wait in line!
Visit the Nintendo Store
One of the best things to do in NYC with kids and teens is to visit the Nintendo Store. Located in Rockefeller Center, this 2 story 10,000 square foot store is a dream for Nintendo fans! This store is more than just a retail outlet; it’s an immersive space that showcases the latest Nintendo games, consoles, merchandise, and exclusive items. If you have Nintendo fans, don’t miss this! My daughter loved exploring this store since she’s a fan.
American Museum of Natural History
One of the best things to do with kids and teens in NYC is to visit the American Museum of Natural History. We entered with our New York CityPASS® tickets and it was so easy! Pro tip: Download the museum app, it helps you navigate so you won’t miss any of the attractions.
The museum has multiple floors of super engaging exhibits, everything form space to dinosaurs, so your entire family is bound to find a topic they like. This is a great thing to do when it rains in NYC!
Where to eat in NYC with kids and teens
If you’re looking for the best family friendly restaurants in NYC, you’re in luck! They are all over the city. I will mention some of our favorites but chances are, you will find your own.
Do you like hot chocolate? Then this place is for you! We first visited Angelina in Paris and loved the thick chocolate and were so happy to find out there is now a location in NYC. It’s a popular place and there’s usually always a line to get in, but we came on a weekday afternoon and only had to wait about 10 minutes. Note that if you’ve been to their Paris location, this is nothing like it. It’s not thick at all, more like American hot chocolate. Still good but definitely not the same product!
If you’re looking for a family friendly breakfast restaurant in NYC, check out Flipper’s. They are known for their fluffy soufflé pancakes but also have other items on the menu as well. We loved the pancakes and our pancake hating child ordered the BLT, which was great as well.
Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao
One of the best dumpling restaurants in NYC is Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao. We came here on our first night and loved it! You can watch them make the dumplings, kind of like they do at Din Tai Fung if you’re familiar with them. Everything we ordered was delicious and we would definitely come back!
If you’re familiar with NYC, you have probably heard of Gray’s Papaya. They are famous for their hot dogs and tropical drinks, which are priced low. When I lived in NJ, I would come here with friends just to eat some Gray’s late at night! There’s only one location remaining but it’s worth a visit. This is the best hot dog in NYC and an icon that’s been around for many years.
Bibble & Sip
If you’re looking for a cute themed restaurant in NYC, check out Bibble and Sip. This adorable bakery has some of the cutest little pastries and cakes that are also super delicious. We wanted to try them all but settled on two. This was my 12 year old’s favorite dessert in NYC!
Brooklyn Dumpling Shop
After hearing about this automat style dumpling shop, we knew we had to try it! If you’ve ever been to Amsterdam, this is a similar concept to FEBO. You order your food on a device and then pick up from a vending machine. While not the best dumplings in NYC, they have some unique flavors and my daughter loved the concept.
As you can see, there are lots of fun things to do in NYC in December. NYC is one of the best Christmas destinations for families and if you have the chance to visit, do it! Want to read this later? Pin one of the images below.