Thanks to the vaccine rollout, this holiday season is going to look a whole lot brighter than last year with plenty of exciting, entertaining, delicious and—most importantly—safe things to do in NYC this December. Here are some of the activities and events you can look forward to this month.

Editor’s note: For all indoor activities in NYC, proof of full vaccination is required for those ages 12 and up, along with photo ID. Mask mandates vary from venue to venue, so check on the specifics before you go.

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1. Transport yourself to warmer weather at Talk Story rooftop

New York, we love you, but Hawaii sounds pretty nice right now. Which brings us to the next best thing: Talk Story, the rooftop bar at the McCarren hotel. This bohemian hideaway is decorated with mismatched rugs, vibrant mural wallpaper, and potted succulents. Half of the space sits under a retractable rooftop while the other side has plenty of heat lamps to keep you warm in the cold December weather. But you’ll probably feel nice and toasty after one or two cocktails like our favorite, the Tickled Pink (mezcal, hibiscus honey, citrus, and chili).

2. Head to Long Island and walk through a winter wonderland

A short drive from the hustle and bustle of midtown Manhattan in Manhasset is LuminoCity Festival, an interactive holiday spectacular of immersive art installments and twinkling lights displays. The winter wonderland is broken up into a handful of sets that take visitors through different presentations like “Penguin Village” and “Alice’s Garden.”

3. Warm up with a big plate of Sichuan food from Hwa Yuan

December is the ultimate time to slurp down spicy dandan noodles and plump soup dumplings. And Hwa Yuan, the iconic Chinatown eatery that was recently revamped into a trendy, three-story establishment, is dishing out some of our favorite Szechuan food. They’re offering takeout as well, so you can enjoy legendary steamed pancakes filled with the crispiest peking duck from the comfort of your couch.

4. Check Out the Hip Hop Nutcracker at the Kings Theatre

The Kings Theatre in Flatbush is known for giving classics a new spin and this holiday season is no exception. This December 19, bring the whole fam to this touring show that melds the beloved Tschaikovsky score with modern dance. Tickets available here.

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

5. Admire the seriously festive holiday lights in Dyker Heights

When it comes to holiday cheer, no neighborhood does Christmas like Dyker Heights. If you have access to a car, head to this Brooklyn locale for one of the best holiday light displays in the whole country. Houses go completely over the top, decorating their lawns in thousands of glistening lights, life-sized snowmen, reindeer, and Santas galore. It’s the perfect field trip for entertaining kids or just getting into the Christmas spirit.

6. Indulge in sophisticated hot cocoa at Bar Pisellino

Bar Pisellino is best known for its negronis and Italian-inpired cocktails, but this cocktail and espresso bar on Grove Street (it’s from the same people behind Via Carota, I Sodi and Buvette) also has some pretty serious hot chocolate. At Pisellino, it’s not just any old hot cocoa, it’s cioccolato caldo, a dense and decadently creamy Italian take on the classic winter drink. (Psst: Here are 25 more excellent hot cocoa options in the city.)

7. Visit the Bronx Zoo all decked out in lights

All throughout December, the Bronx Zoo is bringing back it’s fan favorite holiday lights show. Visitors can walk through the park after dark through five unique “lantern safaris” featuring different animals from around the world shining in colorful LED lights. There are nightly ice carving competitions, costumed characters, and plenty of holiday treats like s’mores and hot cocoa.

8. Pick up sufganiyot from Breads Bakery

Head to this popular bakery chain and grab a dozen of the pillowy doughnuts with chocolate, strawberry, caramel and coffee filling for Hanukkah and beyond. Better pick up a babka pie, too, just to be safe.

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

9. Eat fondue in a yurt at the Standard East Village

Every year, we count down until the Standard East Village transforms its summer garden into a cozy winter wonderland. Nestled in the comfort and quiet of your own private alpine yurt, you’ll forget you’re just steps from The Bowery. In fact, as you enjoy a hot toddy and decadent cheese fondue surrounded by sheepskin throw blankets and winter greenery, you might even think you’ve been transported to Zermatt or Chamonix.

10. Check Out One of the City’s Spectacular Christmas Trees

Even the most jaded New Yorker can’t resist the majesty of a towering evergreen, twinkling with thousands of lights. So pack up a Yeti filled with hot cider, throw on your best pom-pom hat, and hit on one of these stunning Christmas trees with all the other locals. We’ll see you there.

11. Learn about surrealism at the MET

The fascinating exhibit, “Surrealism Beyond Borders” is currently on display at the MET and celebrates the “revolutionary idea sparked in Paris around 1924 that asserted the unconscious and dreams over the familiar and every day.” Challenge yourself with the strange and unexpected (the lobster telephone!) and then prepare for a riveting discussion afterwards.

12. Visit a Festive Holiday Market

Whether you’re trying to stay on top of your shopping, or looking to get into the holiday spirit, Christmas markets are a must-visit in NYC’s chilly wintertime. So put on your mittens and ready thy wallets, because there’s likely a charm-filled wonderland right around the corner from you in the Big Apple. Here are the 12 best Christmas markets in NYC to check out this year.

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