Manhattan in the winter can either be magic, or a slushy icy nightmare. It’s truly all in how you look at it. If you’re committed to enjoying your holiday travel to New York, you can make a magical Manhattan holiday out of all the amazing opportunities the most famous part of New York City has to offer. You can find free festive activities, along with relatively inexpensive holiday offerings, as well as expensive options, too. It’s a mixed bag of fun on the avenues and streets of one of the most beautiful cities in New York.
Enjoy a Variety of Choices to Create Your Magical Manhattan Holiday
New York City is made of five boroughs: Brooklyn, The Bronx, Queens, Staten Island, and the most well-known of all of them, Manhattan. During the holidays, all the boroughs have tons of fun activities for all of our residents, but also for all types of travelers! Whether you’re heading to New York City alone, with friends, with your partner, or your family, the most bang for your buck can be found in Manhattan. It truly does have the best mix of free, inexpensive, and some pricier fun holiday options for all to enjoy.
Free Stuff to Enjoy in Manhattan During the Holidays
The simple pleasure of walking around Manhattan’s streets and avenues during the holidays is one of the best free ways to create a magical Manhattan holiday. You can check out tons of decorations, and enjoy some ice skating, too!
Experiencing Rockefeller Centre for free means you head over, view the tree and all the beautiful decorations, take some pictures, watch people ice skate, and explore the area. No purchase necessary to take it all in and capture a magical Manhattan holiday core memory!
Holiday Window Display Viewing
It doesn’t cost a dime to view all the store window displays around Manhattan. Head to Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, Saks, and so many more all around Manhattan. The trick is not to enter any of the stores, because that’s when it’ll cost you big bucks!
If you have your own ice skates, you can book a time slot to skate at no cost at Bryant Park during the Bank of America Winter Village. It’s pretty awesome, to be honest. My kids loved it when they were younger, and since they both have their own skates, they enjoyed a fun holiday treat at no cost. Since you have to get tickets, this helps keep the crowds somewhat small even with the free admission.
If you don’t have ice skates, you will have to pay to rent ice skates, making this a “less expensive” magical Manhattan holiday activity. So, don’t forget your skates when traveling to Manhattan for the holidays. Definitely be prepared to spend some money in the Winter Village if you want to grab a meal, hot beverage, or small gifts to bring home.
Grand Central Station
Grand Central Station. It’s one of the most gorgeous train stations in the world, and is gorgeous no matter what time of the year you visit it. However, over the holidays, it takes it up a notch and it also has started doing a holiday market. If you go just to take in the beauty, it will be a free activity. If you start shopping, that’s on you. I’m just sharing the free way to enjoy this Manhattan gem.
Less Expensive Holiday Activities Happening Around Manhattan
If you want to spend a little money to experience some of the more well-known, but not overpriced Manhattan holiday activities, there’s always a way to do it. People flock to Rockefeller Centre to ice skate, but often forget the less frequented ice rinks. And if you’re going to head to your local mall to have pictures taken with Santa, you know how expensive it has gotten. Might as well wait for your trip to Manhattan and spend a bit more to enjoy a whole Santa experience!
If you want a less expensive option to skating at Rockefeller Centre’s ice rink, Wollman Rink in Central Park is a far less expensive option. A fan favorite are the Rink Side Igloos that are free to use Mondays through Thursdays at designated times on a first come, first serve basis. You can enjoy them for 90-minutes free of charge! After enjoying some time on the ice, you can enjoy a casual walk around Central Park, and maybe head over to Fifth Avenue’s Apple Store.
Santaland at Macy’s Herald Square
Compared to many other holiday experiences in Manhattan, Santaland on the 8th floor at Macy’s Herald Square is relatively less expensive than you’d think. The whole holiday experience starts on November 24th, and you have to buy tickets to visit Santaland and take a picture with Santa.
Somewhat Expensive Things to Do in Manhattan
Now, if you’ve saved for years, and want to experience more than just the free holiday fun and the cheaper options I’ve shared so far…. you’ll love these options below. You’ll immerse yourself in some of the most Manhattan-y holiday activities you’ll ever experience!
Radio City Christmas Spectacular
Arguably the most expensive holiday experience in Manhattan, the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. Is it worth it? Maybe if you can find a discount code, and go to one of the early afternoon shows, sure. However, if you want to take yourself to see the Radio City Rockettes on a Saturday night during the holidays, you should forget about buying food for a month.
I may, or may not, be exaggerating. I guess it just depends on how much you spend on food each month, right?
Rockefeller Centre Experiences
Though you can enjoy the tree at no cost, Rockefeller Centre provides some amazing experiences for the holidays that can cost a pretty penny. One of the least expensive is reserving a Rinkside Chalet. If you want to head to The Rock for some ice skating, depending on a few factors, it can definitely become a budget-breaking activity. Want a tour of Rockefeller Centre during the holidays? Be prepared to spend, spend, spend.
Enjoying Manhattan Over the Holidays
Though there are plenty of free ways to enjoy Manhattan over the holidays, you’ll always spend money in some way. But the free and less expensive options truly capture the holiday cheer Manhattan has to offer, and can help stretch your holiday travel budget in the best ways. If you can save on certain holiday experiences, you can splurge on some of the more well-loved holiday fun and maybe some amazing meals! That Bryant Park Winter Village has some of the best food Manhattan offers in a concentrated area! Definitely pick up something at the Cheesesteaks by The Truffleist. Delicious!