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The holiday season in the city comes with a lot of headaches (just try walking down Fifth Avenue amid a thousand selfie-snapping tourists). But there are plenty of December happenings that even the Grinchiest of New Yorkers can get on board with. Here’s what to see, eat and do all month.

RELATED: Our 9 Favorite Holiday Markets in NYC

things to do in nyc in december dyker heights
Atilgan Ozdil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

1. See the Christmas lights in Dyker Heights

Grab a hot chocolate and take a stroll through the Brooklyn neighborhood known for its holiday light displays that can probably be seen from space.

2. Pick up sufganiyot from Breads Bakery

Grab a dozen of the pillowy doughnuts with strawberry, chocolate, vanilla or halvah filling for Hanukkah. Better pick up a babka pie, too, just to be safe.

3. Go carb-crazy at the Latke Festival

Speaking of Hanukkah, the Olympics of potato pancakes (aka the Latke Festival) comes to the Brooklyn Museum, December 16.

 

things to do in nyc in december maison yaki late night
Courtesy of Maison Yaki

4. Check out the new late-night menu at Maison Yaki

The French-Japanese hot spot's new 10 p.m.-to-midnight menu is worth staying up late for, with dishes like spicy crispy duck wings. tempura onion rings and a wagyu burger.

5. Sip tropical drinks at Paradise Found

While most holiday pop-ups lean into the North Pole vibe, the seasonal iteration of Last Light at Sister City hotel heads for the tropics with tiki drinks from Jersey City's Cellar 335 and island-inspired bites.

winter lantern festival
Courtesy of Winter Lantern Festival

6. Snap a ’Gram at the Winter Lantern Festival

A Chinese tradition comes to Staten Island’s Snug Harbor with the Winter Lantern Festival, an enchanting light installation with features like an Instagrammable light tunnel, a glowing garden and light-up pandas. 

7. Catch a festive performance at the Apollo

The Apollo Theater never fails to bring the holiday cheer. This year, catch a free Winter Wonderland event, the Amateur Night Holiday Special, a holiday concert with Cynthia Erivo and Shoshana Bean, a gospel night and a Kwanzaa celebration.

things to do in nyc in december brooklyn botanical garden
Raymond Haddad/Getty Images

8. Spend a free winter weekday at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden

The day after the next snowfall, call in sick and instead soak up the serenity at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden—it's free to enter from noon to 4:30, Tuesday to Friday through February.

9. Feast on holiday treats

’Tis the season for absurdly decadent holiday desserts, like Buche de Noel from Bien Cuit, peppermint bark cake from Milk Bar.

10. Take a ride in a vintage subway car

Even the MTA is getting dressed up for the season with its Holiday Nostalgia Rides: Sundays throughout the month, you can hop aboard a vintage 1930s train for the price of a regular MetroCard swipe.

 

11. Admire the colorful lights at Brookfield Place

In between last-minute gift shopping, check out Luminaries, a striking sculpture designed by LAB at Rockwell Group that will light up for hourly displays.

12. Feel like a kid at the Holiday Train Show

Marvel at the meticulously constructed cityscape at the New York Botanical Garden’s Holiday Train Show. Grown-ups should stop by for one of the Bar Car Nights, where the Bronx Night Market will be curating the food lineup.

 

things to do in nyc in december the standard east village yurt
Courtesy of the Standard East Village

13. Cozy up in a yurt at the Standard East Village

Drinking mulled wine and eating fondue is good. Drinking mulled wine and eating fondue in a yurt is better. Have it all at the Standard East Village’s charming Winter Garden, which also features a Christmas-tree market this season.

14. Take a stroll down Gingerbread Lane

Avoid an icing-covered catastrophe in your own kitchen and instead admire the world’s largest gingerbread village at the New York Hall of Science.

15. See a live-scored screening of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

OK, it's not holiday-themed per se, but we'll be first in line to hear the New York Philharmonic take on John Williams' score in front of the big screen.

things to do in nyc in december mariah carey
Samir Hussein/WireImage

16. See Mariah Carey at Madison Square Garden

You already take every opportunity to belt out "All I Want for Christmas Is You" the minute the season rolls around—may as well sing along live when Mariah Carey comes to MSG December 15.

17. Catch concerts in unexpected places during Make Music Winter

Make the longest night of the year (December 21) a little more palatable with Make Music Winter, a free interactive outdoor festival that brings sound-driven parades to unexpected places across the city.

18.  See music and dance in a stunning venue at Paul Winter Solstice Celebration

Paul Winter Solstice Celebration commemorates the changing season for three nights (December 19 to 21) with music and dance inspired by ancient rituals, set in the breathtaking venue of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.

19. Take a New Year's Day swim with the Coney Island Polar Bear Club

Feeling brave? Dig out your swimsuit and take the plunge with the Coney Island Polar Bear Club’s annual New Year’s Day swim. (Yes, in the ocean.) 

RELATED: Our 10 Favorite Holiday Markets in NYC

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