SantaCon NYC can get pretty intense as the streets swarm with thousands (not a typo) of buzzing New Yorkers dressed as Santa Claus. You either love SantaCon or you absolutely despise everything about this day.
Day drinking, an abundance of Santa hats and donating to charity is what SantaCon NYC is all about. I took it upon myself to write this guide to breakdown the boozy holiday event that many look forward to and many dread.
Having lived in New York City for five years, I’ve participated in two SantaCons and avoided three. As a result, here is my list of everything you need to know about SantaCon NYC (or how to avoid it!).
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SantaCon NYC 2023
What is SantaCon NYC?
SantaCon NYC is an epic annual booze-filled event in the Big Apple. Flocks of folks come from all over the city dressed in festive holiday costumes and indulge in a massive pub crawl. Santacon originated in San Fransisco in 1974 and over the years has become a charitable event.
The event is really quite simple, you donate, you dress up and you drink. Any money made from donations is split between the charities chosen that year and participating bars.
For those who love festive chaos this is a long awaited night of letting loose and drinking with an obnoxious amount of Santas throughout the city. But for those of you who enjoy peace and quiet… this is the worst day of the year.
SantaCon NYC has seen as many as 30,000 participants in the past. If that number scares you, I suggest staying in that night.
When is SantaCon NYC 2023?
SantaCon NYC is on December 9th, 2023 starting at 10AM at 39th Street and Broadway near Times Square.
This is an all day event. Starting as early as 10AM and going on until 8PM. Fair warning, just because SantaCon NYC has an end time, doesn’t mean the Santas head back to the North Pole at 8:00PM.
Where is SantaCon NYC?
Part of the excitement of SantaCon NYC is not knowing where the pub-crawl will take place. Once you register and donate online, you will receive an email with a pick-up location for you SantaCon badge and map.
The SantaCon badge essentially shows that you’ve donated to the cause and therefore you’re apart of the Santa squad.
The week leading up to SantaCon, you will receive an email (or you can follow Santacon on social media) and they will release the starting point.
This email will also include the names of the bars that are participating in SantaCon NYC and any specials the pubs will run for the night.
How to join SantaCon NYC
There are two ways to join SantaCon NYC.
The first way is by going on the official SantaCon website (here) and purchasing a $15 ticket that goes to charity. By donating, you automatically get added to the emailing list and will receive details about the event before anyone else. The email will provide you with all the details, the route and any Santacon specials.
The other way is just hear-say, follow closely on social media for details about SantaCon NYC. Closer to the date of the event, the starting point of SantaCon NYC will be shared with the public. Afterward you just tag along and follow the crowds to the next spot.
Regardless of how you choose to join SantaCon NYC, make sure to dress the part!
What to wear to SantaCon in NYC
While costumes aren’t necessary, they are highly, (highly) encouraged. Trust me when I tell you this is not an event you can “overdress” for. New Yorkers go all-out for SantaCon in NYC.
Dress up as anything that embodies the spirit of Christmas, some options:
- Santa Claus
- Mrs. Claus
- The Grinch
- Christmas tree
- Gingerbread Man
The more creative you get with it, the better. Of course, if all else fails throw on your favorite red shirt and a basic Santa hat and you’ll be set to enjoy SantaCon NYC.
Tips for SantaCon in New York City 2023
- Bring cash: Most bars won’t have a cover charge, but some bars go all out with Dj’s or special events which can result in a $15 cover. This is a charitable charge and will be donated to the many organizations Santacon helps.
- Bring your ID: You’ll be bouncing around New York City hopping from bar to bar. Bring your ID and keep it somewhere safe so you don’t lose it in the chaos. Minors are allowed to participate in SantaCon NYC to the extent of dressing up and joining the parades of people in the streets but they are not allowed to drink or enter bars.
- Hydrate and pack some liquid IV’s: Water is your best friend. There is no shame in choosing water over alcohol. There is nothing worse than being the friend that everyone needs to take care of (don’t even get me started on the gnarly hangover the next day). Pack some extra electrolyte packets to mix with your water.
- Pregame to save money: It’s no secret New York City is expensive, and Santacon NYC doesn’t mean free beer. If you plan on bar-crawling it’s going to cost you, so it may be worth it to meet with friends before.
- Charge your phone: Whether you need to use your phone for taking pictures, calling an Uber or pulling up your map for the next bar, make sure your phone has a full battery. Bars that partake in SantaCon NYC don’t have to charge your phone no matter how much you beg. Come prepared or better yet, invest in one of these.
- Use the bathroom whenever one is available to you: A reason New Yorkers hate SantaCon is the obscene amount of public urination. I wish I was joking, but it happens way too often. If there is a bathroom at a bar USE IT. If you have a buddy that lives near by, swing by and quickly use the bathroom there. Don’t add to the problem, try to find a public bathroom or consider calling it a night.
- Dress warm: This gets tricky and I’ll tell you why. It is very possible you’ll be waiting outside to get into a bar and the weather in New York City in December is chilly. However, when you get inside a stuffy bar with occasional dancing, it gets warm quick. I suggest a warm jacket that comfortably comes off and ties at the waist or is packable (my husband loves this one).
- Pace yourself and make sure to eat between bars: You would think this is common sense but alas, here I am with this tip. You know yourself better than anyone else. Know when it’s time to put the beer down and pick up the water. Luckily for us, SantaCon NYC isn’t a drinking competition, so no need to treat it as one.
- Don’t be obnoxious: Bars that choose to partake in SantaCon NYC have every right to deny entry to anyone who is well past their limit and being annoying. The point of Santacon is to have a good time and collectively spread cheer and joy. If you are obviously intoxicated, causing a scene or just getting messy — your night will be cut short.
- Prepare yourself for the next day: Seriously, your future-self will thank you. Set those alarms for the next day in advance, layout your pajamas and a have a glass of water on your bedside table ready (maybe even ibuprofen, no judgement here). Anything you can do in a sober mindset that will help tipsy you later!
How to avoid SantaCon NYC?
If putting on a costume and going bar hopping sounds like a nightmare to you, I hear ya! Crowds, chaos and drunk people are all but guaranteed on this festive day of the year. Here are a few tips I’ve gathered over the years to avoid SantaCon NYC.
- Stay away from busy neighborhoods: Consider Midtown and the East Village to be like the plague during NYC SantaCon. These areas are where the majority of participating bars will be. Avoid them at all costs if possible!
- Know the day and make a date with Netflix: Put it on your calendar, set alarms, do whatever you need to do to remember the date (December 9th. 2023) of SantaCon NYC and stay home. Watch the movie you’ve been putting off and enjoy some cocoa knowing tomorrow is a new day with far less Santa hats (and hangovers) involved.
- Avoid bars / pubs: If avoiding popular neighborhoods is not realistic for you, avoid any bar or pub in that area. Not all bars participate in SantaCon NYC, but it’s better not to risk it for this one day of the year.
- Social media can be your best friend: Whether you use them or hate them, hashtags can go a long way when trying to avoid SantaCon NYC. If you plan on going somewhere and don’t know if Santaconners will be present, plug in the name of the spot. Along with #santacon in the search bar on Instagram or Twitter and see if anything comes up. This doesn’t always work but it has saved me in the past before!
- Just because SantaCon has an end time, does not mean SantaCon ends: Although it’s advertised as an event from 10AM to 8PM, good luck telling that to the thousands of drunk Santas roaming the streets. Ever heard of an afterparty? I bet you they have! To avoid Santacon, just stay in all night and don’t risk it.
And there you have it! I hope you found this quick guide on everything to know about SantaCon NYC helpful. Don’t hesitate to reach out with questions.
Cheers (and good luck). 😉