What to Do in NYC This December to End the Year On a High Note

There’s only one month left in 2023 (where did the time go?), and we plan to make the best of it by embracing all the best activities, events and shows NYC has to offer. There are the obvious picks, like posing for pictures in front of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, shopping for gifts at one of the many holiday markets or catching a performance by the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall. But there are also multiple new museum exhibits to explore, ballets to take in and just opened restaurants to dine at. Here, 13 things to do in New York this December to end 2023 on a high note.

The Absolute Best Hot Chocolate in NYC, Hands Down, No Question

1. Watch a Movie at the Empire State Building

Celebrate the 20th anniversary of the 2003 Christmas comedy Elf with an extra special viewing at the Empire State Building—which just so happens to be where Buddy’s dad Walter Hobbs worked in the film. December 3, 10, 13 and 17, visitors can gather to watch Will Ferrell’s hilarious holiday classic, complete with snacks and drinks. After the movie, ticket holders can take the elevators up to the 86th floor Observatory and the 102nd floor Observatory for epic views of the city lit up at night. Showings start at 7 pm, but it’s suggested you get there early to ensure enough time to get through the entrance and find the best seats. Tickets cost $135 per person.

20 W 34th Street

brooklyn ballet nutcracker things to do in nyc december 2023

2. Enjoy a Brooklyn-Inspired Performance of The Nutcracker Ballet

If you’ve yet to see a classic performance of The Nutcracker, we highly recommend getting tickets to see the New York City Ballet at Lincoln Center, ASAP. But, for those looking for something a bit more outside the box, Brooklyn Ballet has choreographed its own more modern take on the holiday tale with an emphasis on cultural and artistic diversity that goes beyond classical ballet to include flamenco, hip-hop, krump and the Hopak, a traditional Ukrainian dance. The Kings Theatre is hosting two performances on Saturday, Dec. 16—one at 2pm and another at 7 pm—with tickets starting at $39.

1027 Flatbush Avenue

3. Take in Fotografiska’s Latest Pet-Theme Exhibit

If your favorite part of Thanksgiving day is the National Dog Show, you’ll for sure want to check out Fotografiska’s new “Best in Show” exhibit, featuring photographs of dogs, cats, birds, reptiles and all the other pets we hold so dear. There are works by 25 renowned photographers to explore, including William Wegman, Sophie Gamand and the world's first professional cat photographer, Walter Chandoha. Tickets cost $28 for adults, with discounts for seniors, students and veterans (children 12 and under go free) and the exhibit runs through the end of January 2024.

281 Park Ave S

4. Work Up an Appetite at the World’s Largest Gingerbread Village

Now through Sunday, Jan. 7, visitors of Chelsea Market can take a stroll through the largest gingerbread village in the world—seriously, creator and baker Jon Lovitch currently holds the Guinness World Record, and has for years. This year’s display features 1,000 gingerbread structures, all inspired by New York City, like pink nutcrackers drawn from the decor at Essex House, an ice rink inspired by Rockefeller Center, homes that resemble those in Forest Hills, Queens, and more.

Chelsea Market, 75 9th Avenue

5. Attend a More Low-Key Tree Lighting

If you missed the big to-do at Rockefeller Center this year (either accidentally or on purpose) you can still get your tree lighting fix with the equally festive, but decidedly more low-key Washington Square Park tree lighting. The event will feature performances of beloved Christmas carols by the Rob Susman Brass Quartet and vocalist Linseigh Green, as well as an appearance from Santa himself. The official lighting begins at 6 pm on Wednesday, Dec. 6, and will also be streamed online for those who prefer to watch from the comfort of their couch.

Washington Square Park, 5th Ave and Waverly Place

6. Step Through a Portal to Santa’s Hometown

Grab your friends and family and take a trip to Santa’s hometown with Disney’s The Santa Clauses’ Winter Wonderland at Pier 17. This incredible interactive attraction has fun and games for all ages, including ice skating, fun photo ops and lots of treats to eat and drink. And if you go between 11 am and 7 pm on Fridays, Saturdays or Sundays, you can even score some one-on-one time with Santa to tell him exactly what’s on your Christmas wishlist. Tickets start at $25 per person with the attraction open daily, now through January 7, 2024.

Pier 17, 89 South St.

7. Skip SantaCon in Favor of the Family-Friendly ElfCon

If SantaCon, the annual bar crawl through Manhattan in which attendees all dress as Santa Claus, isn’t quite your speed, perhaps you’ll enjoy the more family-friendly ElfCon, instead. The hot cocoa crawl starts at 10 am on Sunday, Dec. 10, and is open to all ages—so long as you come in costume. (Elf and other holiday character costumes are highly encouraged, but the website explicitly requests participants avoid Santa attire.) The only other thing you need in order to join in the fun is to make a donation through ElfCon’s website, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to The Trevor Project and the Making Headway Foundation.

Starting location TBD, follow @officialelfcon on Twitter and Instagram for more information

8. Catch the Final Performance of Sleep No More

You read that right, the long-running immersive experience is officially coming to a close after nearly 13 years (although the Shanghai show will remain open). A spooky, winding performance inspired by Shakespeare’s Macbeth, this interactive show allows the audience to mix and mingle with the actors as they tour through multiple rooms of the McKittrick Hotel, making each viewing experience unique. If you’ve yet to attend, or if you’ve been itching to go again, be sure to get tickets before closing night, January 28, 2024 (the 5,000th performance).

530 W 27th St

9. Be Among the First to Dine at the New Little Maven

This newly opened restaurant in Chelsea features classic flavors with a distinctly modern twist (think tuna tartare cannoli, steamed red snapper with green Thai curry and beet salad with pomegranate and pistachio) and maximalist decor that’s begging to be Instagrammed. For food, we highly recommend the broiled oysters, scallop crudo with caviar and rock shrimp ravioli, and for cocktails, well, you simply can’t go wrong no matter what you pick. (Though, if forced to pick, we’re partial to the Time Warp.)

30 W 18th St

new york pops holiday concert things to do in nyc december 2023

10. Enjoy Holiday Hits with Norm Lewis and the New York Pops

Head to Carnegie Hall on Friday, Dec. 22, and Saturday, Dec. 23, for a night of holiday carols, Christmas classics and a few festive surprises performed by Tony Award nominee Norm Lewis and the New York Pops. The orchestra is the largest independent pops orchestra in the United States and the only professional symphonic orchestra in New York City specializing in popular music. Even those who aren’t typically fans of classical music are sure to have a blast listening to the sweet baritone singing of Lewis, a Broadway superstar fans may recognize from A Soldier's Play (or his role on FX’s Pose). Tickets start at $47 and each performance kicks off at 8 pm.

881 7th Ave

11. Stroll Through “Women Dressing Women” at The Met

You don’t have to wait for the Met Gala in May to get your high fashion fix. December 7 through March 3, 2024, The Met will have on display work from more than 70 female womenswear designers from the early 1900s through today. Rei Kawakubo, Miuccia Prada, Vivienne Westwood, Sarah Burton, Gabrielle Chanel, Ann Demeulemeester, Jeanne Lanvin—these are just a few of the names you can expect to see in the exhibit, organized into four main themes (anonymity, visibility, agency and absence/omission). As always, general admission to the museum is pay-what-you-wish for NY, NJ and CT residents, with no additional ticket needed to view the fashion exhibit.

The Metropolitan Museum, 1000 5th Ave

12. Enjoy A Christmas Carol at the Merchant’s House

This is the tenth year the Merchant’s House Museum in the East village is putting on an intimate and captivating one-hour performance of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. The antique surroundings and candlelight really help to set the mood for John Kevin Jones’s reading, and select performances even include a pre-show reception with mulled wine to really lift your holiday spirits. Tickets start at $45 per person, with shows scheduled Tuesday through Sunday, now through December 24.

29 E 4th St

13. Play Tourist with a Classic Times Square New Year’s Eve

OK, so we said we would avoid listing the most obvious NYC December activities. But there’s just no avoiding perhaps the biggest event of the year, whether you plan on watching from home or from the crowds on the streets of Times Square. Of course, there are other options—you could book a hotel room with a view. Or you can buy tickets to a number of NYE parties hosted by buildings in the area, also with spectacular views of the iconic ball drop (The Knickerbocker, The Marriott Marquis Times Square, R Lounge). Whether you opt to watch from home or IRL, get excited for performance by Duran Duran, Chelsea Cutler, Chesca and New Edition.

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Abby Hepworth is an RRCA-certified running coach who has worked in fashion for over 10 years. Want to know what shoes are in this season? She's got you. Need recommendations on...