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15 Best Christmas Shows in New York City (2024 Guide)

Radio City Hall in NYC at night, Best Christmas Shows in New York City

The holidays in New York City bring a ton of fun, memorable experiences, including a plethora of fun Christmas shows. As someone who’s seen more than two dozen holiday-themed shows in NYC over my years as a local, I thought I could share my list of the cream of the crop. From family-friendly holiday shows to a punk-rock holiday spectacle, these are the top Christmas shows in New York City.

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Best Christmas Shows in New York City

Table of Contents: Best NYC Christmas Shows

Rockettes NYC Christmas Spectacular
Christmas Shows in NYC
Image Courtesy the Rockettes

The Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes

Website: Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes
Radio City Music Hall, 1260 6th Ave, New York, NY 10020
Mid-November to early December

The Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes dates back to the 1930’s, and over generations has become one of the most treasured holiday shows in NYC. The Rockettes are a lauded dance group that have entertained troops stationed overseas during wartime, performed at a presidential inauguration, and even a Superbowl halftime show.

Every year the troupe fills the iconic Radio City Music Hall, and perform a dazzling 90-minute show full of high energy, precision dancing that’s narrated by none other than Santa Claus himself. The strong holiday theme and electric dance numbers makes this one of the best Christmas shows in New York City for kids.

Lincoln Center NYC Rainy Day
Christmas Shows in NYC
The Nutcracker

The Nutcracker

Website: New York City Ballet: George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker
Lincoln Center, 20 Lincoln Center Plaza, New York, NY 10023
Usually the day after Thanksgiving through New Years Eve

A lot of folks grow up watching The Nutcracker on a screen, but there’s nothing like seeing a live performance by the talented New York City Ballet. The captivating dance numbers and attention to detail that goes into setting the stage and backdrops is astounding.

Tickets clock in around $100-200 a piece, but considering the New York City Ballet is a world-class dance company the price can be justified. Plus, the live orchestra playing Tschaikovsky’s music during the two-hour performance makes The Nutcracker a can’t miss holiday show in NYC.

Joy of Christmas at St. John the Divine

Website: Joy of Christmas at St. John the Divine
The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, 1047 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY 10025
Generally the second weekend in December

Construction may have started in 1892 but St. John the Divine is still technically an unfinished church. That doesn’t stop it from being the largest church in New York City and the fifth largest church in the world! Every year the Cathedral hosts a one night only holiday show in NYC, with their choir and orchestra performing popular carols and worship songs. There’s a blend of a cappella, symphonic numbers that include classic holiday songs, and new music made by living artists.

Saks Fifth Light Show
Christmas Shows in NYC
Christmas in New York City

Saks Fifth Light Show

Website: Saks Fifth Light Show
Saks Fifth Avenue, 611 5th Ave, New York, NY 10022
Late November to early January

The Saks Fifth Avenue Holiday Light Show can be found on Fifth Avenue, right across the street from the famous Rockefeller Christmas Tree. During the free NYC holiday show, the lights play in tandem with classic Christmas music at regular 10-minute intervals from 5pm to 11pm.

But prepare for crazy crowds because this is one of the most popular attractions in NYC during Christmas. In 2023 Saks Fifth Avenue teamed up with Dior to create an light show featuring 300,000 LED lights around a Zodiac calendar, and it’s safe to expect a similar, well thought out display in 2024.

NYBG Holiday Train Show Best Christmas Show New York City
Image Courtesy New York Botanical Garden

Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden

Website: Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden
New York Botanical Garden, 2900 Southern Blvd, Bronx, NY 10458
Mid-November to mid-January

The Holiday Train Show at New York Botanical Garden is a can’t-miss New York City holiday show, especially if you have kids in tow. It’s hard not to be excited by the trains chugging past 190 replicas of New York’s landmarks, all made from natural-growing materials.

For more than 30 years The New York Botanical Garden has gone all out with the immersive, walk-through experience. They also host adult-only bar car nights, where those 21 and older can enjoy NYC’s favorite holiday train show and some brews at the same time.

A Christmas Carol: The Musical

Website: Be Bold! Presents: A Christmas Carol, The Musical
Players Theatre, 115 MacDougal St, New York, NY 10012
Late November to late December

A Christmas Carol is a classic story by Charles Dickens that follows the journey of Ebenezer Scrooge, a miserly and bitter old man who is visited on Christmas Eve by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future who teach him the true meaning of compassion and generosity.

Be Bold!, a theater company, has transformed the story into an Off-Broadway musical, and perfromed it for more than 15 years! By using both beloved Christmas carols, new music and following the age-old tale, they’ve managed to put together one of the best family-friendly holiday shows in NYC.

Bronx Zoo Lights Show Christmas Show New York City
Image Courtesy Bronx Zoo

Bronx Zoo Holiday Lights

Website: Bronx Zoo Holiday Lights
Bronx Zoo, 2300 Southern Blvd, Bronx, NY 10460
Mid-November to early January

Every year the Bronx Zoo is converted into a winter wonderland, adorning paths with bright lights and holiday that decorations. The animal enclosures are closed for the night, but folks will get to enjoy nearly 400 bright and colorful lanterns representing 100+ animal and plant species. Make sure to pick up a hot chocolate or s’mores at the Crane Cafe before embarking on this epic adventure!

What’s more, at 265 acres, the Bronx Zoo is the largest metropolitan zoo in the country. Bring shoes you don’t mind getting dirty, since some of the path can be muddy. And last note: make sure to purchase a Holiday Lights ticket, since regular entry ticket won’t allow access.

Christmas Tree at Washington Square Park

Unsilent Night Washington Square Park

Website: Unsilent Night Washington Square Park
Washington Square, New York, NY 10012

If you’ve been waiting for a Christmas show in New York City you can participate in and not just watch, this next one is for you. Most folks have heard of Silent Night, the 200 year old Christmas carol, but Unsilent Night is a highly synthesized, electronic song that sounds like it’s from outer space.

Every year New Yorkers gather at Washington Square Park and make the mile march to Tompkins Square, carrying boomboxes and speakers playing the song. The event is often called a moving sound sculpture. The event has gone on for 30+ years, and spread to cities across the globe.

In New York City Phil Kline (the song’s composer) leads the march, providing boomboxes from his own collection. However it is encouraged participants bring their own speakers if they have them (bluetooth speaker + cell phone works great). The event usually starts after sunset around mid-December.

Apollo Theater Christmas Show New York City
Image Courtesy Apollo Theater

Amateur Night Holiday Special at the Apollo

Website: Apollo Theater
Apollo Theater, 253 W 125th St, New York, NY 10027
Usually first week of December

The iconic Apollo Theater, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, boasts a rich history with legends like Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald gracing its stage. Famous for its Amateur Nights, which where showcased on Showtime at the Apollo, the theater holds an annual Amateur Night Holiday Special, a top Christmas show in NYC.

Structured like a talent show, musicians, comedians and dancers show off their skills in an attempt to earn the applause of the notoriously tough crowd (who are not afraid to boo). With a legacy of launching careers, this festive event, featuring the stars of tomorrow, is a unique blend of holiday cheer and potential stardom, making it a must-see Christmas spectacle in Harlem.

Marky Ramone’s Holiday Blitzkrieg

Website: Marky Ramone
Venues vary by year
Usually first weekend in December

Marky Ramone, an integral part of the iconic punk band the Ramones for nearly 50 years, upholds the pioneer punk band’s legacy with an annual, unique Christmas show in NYC. The show is a full-blown punk concert with loud amplifiers, mosh pits, and the staple dress code of all black. Marky Ramone delivers the Ramones’ greatest hits, tossing Christmas carols aside, creating a unique and rebellious holiday experience that pays homage to the raw energy and spirit of punk rock in the heart of New York City.

Top Christmas Shows New York City (Post Summary)

  1. The Christmas Spectacular with the Rockettes
  2. The Nutcracker
  3. Joy of Christmas at St. John the Divine
  4. Saks Fifth Light Show
  5. Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden
  6. Harlem Gospel Choir: Christmas Matinees
  7. A Christmas Carol
  8. Bronx Zoo Lights
  9. Unsilent Night Washington Square Park
  10. Cirque Musica Holiday Wonderland
  11. Amateur Night Holiday Special at the Apollo
  12. Marky Ramone’s Holiday Blitzkrieg

Tips for Visiting NYC for the Holidays

  • There’s no sense in sugarcoating it, NYC is COLD during the winter season. Average temperatures in December hover around 44° but the windchill makes it feel colder! Even if you’re planning to stop indoors to check out a Christmas show in NYC, wear an insulated coat, warm hat or beanie, and these bad boys don’t hurt.
  • The subway is an efficient mode of transportation but most folks still do a lot of walking in NYC. On your trek to the best New York City Christmas shows you’re going to want shoes that will keep your feet dry and comfortable. You’ll be getting those steps in, I guarantee it.
  • New York City averages more than 63 million visitors per year, so crowds are a guarantee. That’s a lot of people trying to watch the same popular Christmas shows New York City has to offer. To avoid this try showing up early and on weekdays, and make reservations in advance.
Holiday Checklist NYC
Downloadable bucket list

Holiday Shows New York City (Map)

Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best Christmas show to see in NYC?

The best Christmas show to see in NYC depends on personal preferences, but iconic options include the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, the Unsilent Night march, and Marky Ramone’s punk-fueled Christmas show, each offering a unique and festive experience.

Where is the Christmas Spectacular in NYC?

The Christmas Spectacular is held at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.

When do Christmas shows usually start in NYC?

Christmas shows in NYC typically start in November and run through December, aligning with the holiday season. However, exact start dates can vary among different shows and venues.

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And there it is folks, our list of the best Holiday Shows New York City has to offer!