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What to Do in New York City in December 2023

By Emmie MurphyNov 17 2023
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What’s that line about city sidewalks dressed in holiday style? Strung lights, buzzy excitement, and Salvation Army Santas ringing their bells on every corner. Ornate window displays along Fifth Avenue and neighborhood celebrations. All this and more make the holiday season in New York the most wonderful time of the year. From classics like the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall and turns around The Rink to unexpected encounters with carol singers, there is no better time or place to embrace the festive spirit than New York City in December.

This year, December is a time to celebrate and reflect, and there are a host of ways to do so. Revel in the lightscapes of Dyker Heights, be transported by Cirque du Soleil, or dance your way through myriad Nutcracker performances. However you choose to engage, don’t miss out on the chance to revive old traditions and create new ones. Read on for our top six picks of events happening around New York City in December.

Wondering what else is going on at Rockefeller Center in December? Scroll through our upcoming events, and sign up for The Center Newsletter to get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

Photo by Erin Baiano; courtesy of New York City Ballet
Photo by Erin Baiano; courtesy of New York City Ballet

1. The Nutcracker, in its many incarnations

Throughout the month of December

The Land of the Sweets comes in many flavors throughout the five boroughs. Treat yourself to a holiday classic with George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker at New York City Ballet (November 24-December 31) or experience the timeless story with a twist at The Brooklyn Nutcracker, a show that blends dance forms from ballet to hip-hop in a celebration of cultural diversity (December 16). A particularly family-friendly option is Keith Michael’s The Nutcracker at Florence Gould Hall on December 16 and 17, while Company XIV will be staging a racy, adults-only version called Nutcracker Rouge from November 16 through January 6.

Courtesy of Dyker Heights Christmas Lights
Courtesy of Dyker Heights Christmas Lights

2. Dyker Heights Christmas Lights

Ongoing through December

New York City is renowned for its twinkling lights at Christmastime, and nobody does it bigger or better than the Dyker Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn. Every year, this quiet community transforms into a colorful carnival, with houses going all-out on their holiday decor. Glowing Santas, flashing wreaths, and dustings of fake snow adorn every facade while carols blast from speakers. It's a 24/7 winter wonderland that has become one of the city’s most popular holiday attractions. Walk around at your leisure, or sign up for a guided bus tour anytime through the New Year.

Photo by Joey Stocks
Photo by Joey Stocks

3. A Christmas Carol at Merchant’s House Museum

November 28 - December 24

Ebeneezer Scrooge returns to The Merchant’s House Museum for the eleventh annual engagement of Charles Dickens’ famous story A Christmas Carol. Allow the atmospheric setting – formerly the home of a wealthy 19th-century family – to transport you to Victorian England as John Kevin Jones recounts this holiday classic. Beginning December 8, the museum will also host a special pre-show reception, where audiences can enjoy a reading of A Visit from St. Nicholas while sipping on mulled wine or cider.

Photo by Errisson Lawrence; courtesy of MSG Entertainment
Photo by Errisson Lawrence; courtesy of MSG Entertainment

4. Cirque du Soleil: ‘Twas the Night Before…

December 7-28

‘Twas the Night Before…, Cirque du Soleil’s answer to The Nutcracker, is an acrobatic spectacle that will quickly become a family favorite. A reinterpretation of Clement Clarke Moore’s famous poem, A Visit from St. Nicholas, the story follows a young girl who finds herself in a magical world of carnivalesque feats energized by the holiday spirit. Set to a soundtrack of reimagined holiday classics like Deck the Halls and O Holy Night, the show promises to entertain audiences of all ages. Tickets start around $80 and are on sale here.

Courtesy of The Met
Courtesy of The Met

5. Women Dressing Women at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Opens December 7

The latest exhibition at the Met’s Costume Institute, Women Dressing Women will highlight the creative female forces behind women’s fashion. Opening December 7, the exhibit will be on view in the Costume Institute’s galleries until March 3, 2024.

Around 80 objects from over 70 womenswear designers will be included, looking at examples from the turn of the twentieth century up through the present day. Visitors can expect designs from celebrated names such as Vivienne Westwood and Miuccia Prada as well as unknown creators forgotten by history. Spanning dressmakers in early 1900s Paris, the globalization of fashion in the 1960s, and creators shaping the cultural conversation today, the exhibition will present a nuanced view of women’s important and ongoing contributions to fashion history.

Courtesy of MSG Entertainment
Courtesy of MSG Entertainment

6. Andrea Bocelli Holiday Tour 2023

December 13 and 14

Iconic Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli returns to Madison Square Garden for two evenings of musical harmony. Throughout his life, Bocelli has sold nearly 90 million records worldwide, performed at the Olympic Games and the World Cup, earned a Golden Globe, and set a Guinness World Record for his album Sacred Arias, which simultaneously held the top three spots on the U.S. Classical Albums chart.

This year, Bocelli’s Holiday Tour will feature special guest Zucchero, an Italian singer and songwriter who is credited as “the father of Italian blues.” Together, the two will perform songs from their respective repertoires as well as special holiday selections. Bocelli will draw extensively from his recent album A Family Christmas, which features songs that will be familiar to an American audience – like Joy to the World and The First Noël – as well as Italian ballads like Buon Natale A Tutto Il Mondo. Bocelli’s concerts are often sold-out affairs, so don’t wait to nab your tickets here.

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