Post Overview: Best Christmas Shows in New York City
Is there anything better than Christmas in New York City? The chilly weather (sweaters! Scarves!), the cozy restaurants, beautifully lit streets and Christmas trees worth craning your neck for, it really doesn’t get better than this.
As a Big Apple local, I’ve had many friends visit during the holidays and curious minds always want to know: What are the best Christmas shows in New York City?
Well, I finally decided to stop being lazy and write them all down. I wanted to share this list with anyone planning to catch memorable NYC Christmas shows while visiting my stomping grounds.
This is the exact list I share with my own family and friends, and I hope it makes your planning easier.
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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 NYC Christmas show, wear an insulated coat, warm hat or beanie, and these bad boys don’t hurt.
- The subway is an efficient mode of transportation but it won’t drop you off at the door, so you will be doing 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, crowds are all but guaranteed in New York City. 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 whenever possible make reservations in advance.
Best Christmas Shows New York City
The Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes
When it comes to iconic Christmas shows in New York City, arguably none is more beloved than the The Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes.
The 90-minute performance is awe-inspiring and guaranteed to impress even the staunchest critic. The choreography is on point and the dancers’ high kicks seem to defy the laws of physics.
A lot of folks assume that catching this famous New York City Christmas show requires having kids in tow, but that is not so! Even folks without kids (*raises hand) will enjoy it immensely.
The NYC Christmas show dates back to the 1930’s and although the world has changed a lot over the last nearly 100 years, the Rockettes’ status as an elite dance company has not. The dance group has entertained troops stationed overseas during wartime, performed at a presidential inauguration and a Superbowl halftime show.
Shows begin on November 18th, and are held multiple times a day until January 2nd. Tickets can be had for as little as $50. Doors open an hour before showtime, plan to be there as soon as they do. This way you avoid missing any of the numbers while waiting in lines and going through security.
If you’re looking for an one of the most unforgettable Christmas shows in New York City, this one is for you. George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker ballet performance at the Lincoln Center is an engaging show full of complex dance numbers and theatrical ingenuity.
Most folks grew up watching the Nutcracker on a screen, but there’s nothing like seeing a live performance by the talented New York City Ballet. Plus, the attention to detail that goes into setting the stage and backdrops is astounding.
I must admit, I wasn’t sure I would enjoy seeing the Nutcracker before my first visit. I’m not a ballet person and with tickets clocking in around $100-200 a piece I wasn’t sure it was worth the expense.
However, when my mom and sister visited me, I knew we had to go. The 2-hour performance blew me away, I couldn’t stop talking about it! Long story short — I ended up loving it so much that I took my husband a week later.
The talent these ballerinas have is mind boggling and the show is not something you will forget anytime soon. Plus, the live orchestra playing Tschaikovsky’s music helps cement the Nutcracker as one of the best Christmas shows in New York City.
Tickets go on sale on September 26th, 2022 and the first show takes place the day after Thanksgiving. Fair warning, this is one of the most popular holiday shows in NYC and with performances beginning right at the beginning of tourist season, tickets sell out quickly.
Address: 20 Lincoln Center Plaza, New York, NY 10023
Joy of Christmas at St. John the Divine
If you’re looking to check out one of the best Christmas shows in New York City in an equally impressive venue beeline to St. John the Divine.
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, though! Simply being in the presence of this church feels important.
. The Cathedral’s choir and orchestra sing the evening away to the likes of A Ceremony of Carols, Gloria and other beloved holiday classics.
This year the concert takes place on the evening of December 10th and tickets are on sale now, but won’t last long. If you’re lucky enough to get your hands on them you will be in for one of the best holiday shows in New York City.
Saks Fifth Light Show
Of all the impressive Christmas lights you’re bound to see while visiting the Big Apple for the holidays, none will compare to the spectacular display of the Saks 5th Avenue Light Christmas Show in New York City.
The lights play in tandem with classic Christmas music, dazzling children and adults alike. The experience takes the New York City holiday spirit to a whole new level!
The songs play at regular 10-minute intervals from 5pm to 11pm. Stick around and enjoy a few rounds. But prepare for crazy crowds because this is one of the most popular things to see during Christmas in New York City.
While you’re there don’t forget to check out the Rockefeller Christmas tree (right next to Saks Fifth Avenue, hard to miss) and continue the holiday festivities!
Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden
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. Kids are enthralled by the trains running through monolithic displays of iconic buildings in NYC.
Model trains make way past 190 replicas of New York’s landmarks, all made from natural-growing materials. The train show has been an ongoing holiday show New York City has loved for more than 30 years.
And I don’t want you to think these are small, popsicle stick replicas. The New York Botanical Garden goes all out, this is an immersive, walk-through experience.
Don’t have kids? Visit during the adult-only bar nights for an experience you soon won’t forget. Seeing a model-train show might not be up everybody’s alley but add some booze and you’re sure to enjoy.
This year the shows will be taking place from November 19th, 2022 to January 16th, 2023. Tickets can be purchased here. While on their site pick up some tickets to see NYBG Glow, their holiday light experience.
Harlem Gospel Choir: Christmas Matinees
If you’re looking for an electric and awe-inspiring Christmas show in New York City you need look no further than the Harlem Gospel Choir’s Christmas Eve & Christmas Day matinees.
The Harlem Gospel Choir was founded in 1986 and is consistently regarded as the most talented gospel choir in the world. I’ve spent years listening to them online and admiring them from afar, but once I got to see them live — wow.
The choir even travels the world, which is a testament to their skill and reach.
Whether you practice a particular faith or not, the Harlem Gospel Choir’s skills are undeniable. I can’t encourage you enough to check out this treasured New York City Christmas show.
The shows take place on December 24th & 25th at Sony Hall (centrally located in Manhattan), with both general admission and VIP tickets already on sale.
Mozart’s the Magic Flute Holiday Performance
I’m probably not the first to tell you that the Metropolitan Museum of Art (the Met, for short) is one of the coolest things to see in NYC. The museum is massive (the 5th largest in the world), so you need to have a game plan before visiting. (If helpful, here’s a quick list of the 20 best things to see at the MET.)
But look at me getting ahead of myself, let’s talk NYC Christmas shows! Most folks don’t realize that the Met is also responsible for a fully functional opera house,
Housed at the Lincoln Center (because the museum does not need to grow any bigger) the Met Opera House puts on a showing of Mozart’s Magic Flute, a can’t miss holiday show in New York City.
The two-act opera that tells the story of a young man, Tamino, on his quest to save the Queen’s daughter, Pamina. For those who have never seen an opera, this is exactly the one you want to be your first.
Performances begin December, 10th and run until January 6th. Tickets can be purchased for as little as $35, and this is such a unique Christmas show in New York City that I think is really worthwhile.
A Christmas Carol
A trip to NYC should always include a Broadway show, especially if the Broadway show is A Christmas Carol.
The timeless classic is the perfect Christmas show in New York City to set the holiday mood. The story, written by Charles Dickens nearly 150 years ago tells the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge on his path to redemption, from greedy to generous.
Jefferson Mays (who has won a Tony Award) is the solo actor and plays over 50 characters in this Broadway play. The fact he’s able to memorize 50 characters worth of lines alone is testament to his skill!
The show is recommended for kids 8+, so bring the family to this Christmas show in New York City. Just note, the runtime is 90 minutes and there is no intermission so use the restroom before it begins.
Shows begin on November 8th and run until January 1st at the Nederlander Theater, with tickets starting at $49. Tickets are on sale now and I encourage purchasing them early on to save the headache of having to scramble later.
Bronx Zoo Lights
The Bronx Zoo is a beloved institution any day of the year, but Christmas is exceptionally special. The zoo is converted into a winter wonderland, with bright lights adorning a path that meanders through illuminated animal displays.
Although the animal enclosures are closed, the experience is still worthwhile and kids are sure to love it. 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. Reason alone to visit! I’d plan to spend two to three hours checking out this popular NYC holiday light show.
Lights are on from November 18th to January 8th (on select days). Make sure to purchase a Holiday Lights ticket, since a regular entry won’t allow access.
Unsilent Night Washington Square Park
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 have you ever heard of the Unsilent Night?
Every year New Yorkers gather at Washington Square Park and make the mile march to Tompkins Square carrying old school boomboxes playing the electronic-sounding track, Unsilent Night.
This is all thanks to Phil Cline, who composed the song that’s played through the speakers. This is the 30th anniversary of the event, which has gone to be adopted in cities all across the globe.
In New York City Cline leads the march himself, providing old school boomboxes from his own collection. However it is encouraged participants bring their own speakers if they have them (bluetooth speaker + cell phone works great) to guarantee everyone gets to join in on the fun.
This years performance is on December 18th, with the march usually taking place around 7PM. For any questions, I suggest checking out the official website.
Cirque Musica Holiday Wonderland
Cirque Musica is a modern circus company with multiple productions touring at any given time. The circus has gained a reputation for gravity-defying acrobatics that keep guests on the edge of their seats.
This year Cirque Musica’s Holiday Wonderland is coming to the Big Apple, and is sure to be one of the best Christmas shows in New York City.
Holiday music will fill the theater adding to the holiday cheer, with all the traditional circus entertainment we’ve come to know and love.
There is only one performance, at the Palladium Times Square, taking place on Thursday December 1st, 2022 before they continue with their tour. Tickets start at about $60 but since it’s a one day only Christmas show in New York City demand is sure to be high, so I suggest purchasing in advance.
Broadway Sings Mariah Carey – A Holiday Spectacular
Sometimes when I get so carried away with the Christmas music my wife has to remind me that there’s a reason I’m a writer, not a singer.
It’s gotten so bad that my wife relieved me of my caroling duties. This year we’re checking out the acclaimed concert series Broadway Sings, which this year which will tribute Mariah Carey.
The concert series strings together talented Broadway performers for a concert covering a given artist, and this year it will be Mariah Carey with an emphasis on her Christmas album. (Mariah Carey won’t actually be performing.)
The New York City Christmas show takes place on December 5th at Sony Hall, and tickets are live now. For those of you interested, there is also a full dinner menu available for a great dinner & a show date.
Amateur Night Holiday Special at the Apollo
The stage at the Apollo has been graced by legendary icons such as Louis Armstrong, the Jackson 5, Ella Fitzgerald and Marvin Gaye to name a few. Indeed, the Apollo Theater has been a part of so much history it’s been added to the National Register of Historic Places.
The Apollo Theater is most famous for their Amateur Nights, which were featured in the long-running TV show Showtime at the Apollo.
Structured like a talent show, musicians, comedians and dancers showed off their skills in an attempt to earn the applause of the notoriously tough crowd.
And every year there is an Amateur Night Holiday Special, which just might be my favorite Christmas show in New York City. The Apollo’s “Stars of Tomorrow” sing and laugh in a show dedicated to spreading holiday cheer.
There’s been more than one artist who’s launched successful careers at the Apollo’s amateur night, and you might be there to witness another at this iconic Christmas show in New York City.
This year’s holiday special takes place on December 10th at 7:30PM, with tickets starting at $28. Also, if you’re a Harlem resident, student, business owner or employees you qualify for half off the price of admission.
Marky Ramone’s Holiday Blitzkrieg
Few bands loom as large in New York’s pantheon as the Ramones, the creators of punk rock. And although Marky Ramone wasn’t one of the four original members, he’s been with the band for nearly 50 years.
Marky has continued to keep the Ramone’s legacy alive, noticeably with his annual Christmas show in New York City. But I don’t want you to think this is one of those shows where you sit down and are serenaded while drinking champagne. Marky Ramone still puts on a full punk show.
Loud amplifiers and mosh pits are par for the course, along with the unwritten dress code of all black (in true punk fashion). And throw the Christmas carols out the window, Marky still sings all of the Ramone’s greatest hits.
For those looking for something new or to relive their glory days (no judgement here), this Christmas show in New York City is the one for you.
Marky Ramone’s Holiday Blizttzkreig is on December 16th at the Gramercy Theatre, with tickets starting at $40.
Notes from Ukraine at Carnegie Hall
If you’re looking for the best Christmas show in New York City that features multicultural music, it’s at Carnegie Hall and it’s called Notes from Ukraine.
The Ukrainian Children’s Choir, Ukrainian Bandurist Chorus of North America, Ukrainian Chorus Dumka of New York and others will perform traditional Ukrainian Christmas songs along with other contemporary works.
Whether you understand the language or not it’s still a memorable experience! You get to experience a new culture through the holiday spirit, which helps make this one of the best Christmas shows in New York City.
The New York City Christmas show takes place on December 4th, and tickets start at $34. The show starts at 2PM and is close to two hours with one intermission.
Holiday Shows New York City (Post Summary)
- The Christmas Spectacular with the Rockettes
- The Nutcracker
- Joy of Christmas at St. John the Divine
- Saks Fifth Light Show
- Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden
- Harlem Gospel Choir: Christmas Matinees
- Mozart’s the Magic Flute Holiday Performance
- A Christmas Carol
- Bronx Zoo Lights
- Unsilent Night Washington Square Park
- Cirque Musica Holiday Wonderland
- Broadway Sings Mariah Carey – A Holiday Spectacular
- Amateur Night Holiday Special at the Apollo
- Marky Ramone’s Holiday Blitzkrieg
- Notes from Ukraine at Carnegie Hall
Holiday Shows New York City (Map)
And there it is folks, our list of the best Holiday Shows New York City has to offer!
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