The days leading up to Christmas provide endless delights in New York City, from the Rockefeller Center tree to the Barneys New York windows to an ever-growing array of outdoor markets. But if you don’t celebrate, December 25 can be a quiet—and sometimes frustrating—day, as many of your favorite restaurants and venues close their doors.
Not to worry, though, as people of all faiths have found that there is still plenty to do on Christmas Day in New York. In fact, the quiet streets and sense of camaraderie for those venturing out on the big day give the city an extra-special sparkle. You can always celebrate the 25th the traditional Jewish way with Chinese food and a movie, or you can kick it up a notch with one of our unique holiday itineraries.
Jewish Culture and Fresh Air on the Upper East Side
Start the day at the Jewish Museum, where you can wander through the vast collection of Judaica and Modigliani’s early drawings, currently being shown for the first time in the U.S. If you’re bringing kids, time your visit around klezmer musician Oran Etkin’s family concert at 11:30 a.m. You can’t leave without stopping for a feast of authentic Lower East Side bagels and lox, knishes, and egg creams at the museum’s Russ & Daughters café.
Work off all that chocolate babka in Central Park, where you can take a brisk winter stroll around the reservoir, visit the zoo, or go all out and snuggle under a blanket on a touristy but worth-it carriage ride.
Sky-High Scenery and Dim Sum Downtown
Take the glass elevator up 102 stories to One World Observatory (inside One World Trade) for the most spectacular view of the city. Even jaded New Yorkers will be rendered speechless by the sweeping views of the Statue of Liberty, the shores of New Jersey, and all five boroughs. For extra oohs, visit at sunset.
From the WTC, it’s a quick cab ride or half-hour walk to Chinatown, which will be bustling on one of its busiest days of the year. Check out Golden Unicorn or Red Egg for the most delicious dim sum and noodles this side of Beijing.
Ice-Skating and Adorable Animals in Brooklyn
Nothing says winter in New York better than skating outdoors in one of the city’s majestic public parks. Though Central Park’s Wollman Rink gets most of the buzz, Prospect Park has two new rinks, as part of the LeFrak Center at Lakeside. Try out your best camel spins and axels (or at least attempt to stay upright without clutching the rail), then grab a hot chocolate or beer at the rink’s Bluestone Café.
Before leaving the park, head over to the Prospect Park Zoo to pay a holiday visit to some of the 400 animals representing 100 different species, including sea lions, emus, baboons, red pandas, and a whole team of friendly farm animals. Unlike its more famous and much larger cousin in the Bronx, this zoo is easy to cover in just an hour or two.
Outdoor Art and Star Wars in Chelsea
Wrap up in your coziest hats, scarves, and gloves and amble among the art installations on the High Line. Enter at Gansevoort Street and head north, marveling at the abstract sculptures of birds, lions, shoes, hands, and fountains, all the way up to Sheila Hicks’s whimsical, brightly colored twisting tubes by the rail yards.
Circle back to the exit at 23rd Street and walk a couple of blocks east, where you can join the masses lining up for Star Wars: The Last Jedi at Cinépolis Cinema (buy your tickets ASAP; it’s going to be a madhouse). Grab some popcorn and Sno-Caps and cuddle up with your fellow Stormtroopers.
Make your alternative December 25 plans with us…before you’re stuck eating takeout Chinese on the couch.