Some cities have one big Christmas tree lighting or celebration. But New York doesn’t play that way. The Big Apple hosts more than a few, and yeah, you could say they’re biggest and brightest, too. Bundle up and head out to these NYC holiday events — many of which are free and feature food, performances and more — to set the tone for a festive season. (Check out the NYC Parks Department’s listings for local lightings in more neighborhoods throughout the city.) And don’t forget—NYC hosts some awesome menorah lightings too!
Winter’s Eve at Lincoln Square
One of the first, and biggest free celebrations of the season, this indoor/outdoor event Hosted by the Lincoln Square Business Improvement District, is now in its 20th year! The 2019 Winter’s Eve at Lincoln Square begins with lighting of the Upper West Side Holiday Tree in Dante Park at Broadway & 63rd Street, and continues with free kids entertainment and activities galore. This year's headliner is Ronnie Spector and The Ronnettes, and Twinkle, a bilingual pop artist for kids, will headline Kids Central. (Twinkle's act is a colorful, high-energy pop concert that fuses education, language, arts and pop culture.) Plus: arts and crafts, live music and dance performances, ice sculpture carving and and more are on hand for a festive evening alongside great bites provided by 30+ local restaurants and activities from dozens of local stores. Click here to see all the kid-friendly happenings. Also of note: New York Cares will be doing a winter coat drive during the fest: bring your new or gently-used coats to Dante Park to donate them.
Mon., Dec. 2, 5:30-9 p.m.
Broadway, from 63rd to 68th St.
Upper West Side
Winterland Annual Holiday Tree Lighting at South Street Seaport
The Winterland Annual Holiday Tree Lighting at South Street Seaport is a fun-filled, free event complete with mainstage performances, a Seaport Kids activity station and fitness-themed activities at the Cobblestone Tents. The Very Hungry Caterpiller (who is doing a show at the South Street Seaport Museum) will also be on hand for photo ops.
Dec. 2, 6-8 p.m.
Fulton & Water Street
South Street Seaport
Tavern On the Green
Iconic NYC restaurant Tavern on The Green has its very own 20-foot Christmas tree, topped with more than 2,000 ornaments and 10,000 lights. Its tree-lighting festivities will include live holiday carolers from Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, complimentary cider and hot chocolate, and additional treats crafted by Executive Chef Bill Peet for New Yorkers, tourists and families alike to enjoy.
Tues., Dec. 3, 5-7 p.m.
Tavern on the Green
67th Street and Central Park West
Upper West Side
Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting
This year, the holy grail of tree lighting ceremonies takes place on Wednesday, December 4. The Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting is a classic for a reason, in part because it's got over seven decades of tradition backing it up. If you want a good view, get there early, because it gets packed with people wanting a peek at the big event. If you can't make it there in person, catch the live broadcast, filled with star-studded performances, on NBC from 8-10 p.m., and visit the tree any time up until January 17, when it's taken down (and recycled as building material.)
Wed., Dec. 4, 8-10 p.m.
30 Rockefeller Plaza
Bryant Park Tree Lighting Singalong
Another big to-do in Midtown, Bryant Park's annual Tree Lighting at Winter Village has fireworks, Santa, and even free skating. Hosted Alyse Zwick, the event will feature Christmas sing-alongs led by Harlem youth chorus DREAM Choir, as well as performances by world-class skaters Ryan Bradley, Evelyn Walsh and Trennt Michaud, and The Haydenettes. Following the ceremony, all visitors are welcome to skate to live music on the city’s only free admission ice skating rink.(But note that you do have to rent skates, at $20/pair.)
Thurs., Dec. 5, 6-7 p.m.
The Rink, 41st St. and Sixth Ave.
Central Park Christmas Tree Lighting and Flotilla
Ever seen a floating Christmas Tree? Now's your chance! The Central Park Conservancy rings in the holiday season with Santa, cocoa, carols and cookies. The event includes a festive lighting of a flotilla of trees on the Harlem Meer.
Thurs., Dec. 5, 5:30-6:30 p.m.
Charles A. Dana Discovery Center
110th Street btwn 5th and Lenox Ave.
Sixth Annual Fort Greene Park Tree Lighting
Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership and the Fort Greene Park Conservancy are excited to kick off the holiday season with their Sixth Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony. Snap a photo with Santa, enjoy holiday music, and nom on free hot chocolate and cookies from area businesses.
Sun., Dec. 8, 4-5 p.m.
Myrtle Avenue Plaza in Fort Greene Park
Corner of Myrtle Ave and Washington Park (Enter at Myrtle Ave. and St. Edwards St.)
75th Annual Park Avenue Tree Lighting and Carol Sing
Since 1945, the trees at Brick Church have been illuminated as a memorial to Americans who sacrificed their lives in war and in celebration of New York’s holiday season. Sponsored by the Fund for Park Avenue, the interfaith and inclusive evening takes place in front of the church steps on Park Avenue at 91st Street at 6:30 p.m. In addition to the lighting, Rev. Kimberly Clayton will share words of remembrance and celebration and all will join in a rousing Carol Sing led by Brick Church’s Minister of Music, Keith S. Tóth.
Sun., Dec. 8, 6:30 p.m.
Park Avenue an d 91st Street
Upper East Side
Christmas in the Garden & Tree Lighting at Queens Botanical Garden
The Queens Botanical Garden is celebrating the the holiday spirit with a free afternoon of fun, crafts, music and a tree lighting. This event will feature live music, holiday crafts, photo ops with Santa, face-painting and a tree illumination at 5 p.m. to cap off the day. (Plus: big sales at the Garden’s shop!) Note: the event is free but there is a $10 parking fee, a cost for snaps with Santa and face-painting.
Sun., Dec 8, Noon-5 p.m.
43-50 Main St.
Historic Richmond Town Tree Lighting
Visit Historic Richmond Town to experience Christmas like they did way back in the day. Santa makes a grand entrance at Noon, and you can visit with him until 4 p.m. Check out storytelling throughout the day at the courthouse, then stroll the historic village to see tinsel-making, gingerbread decorating, do some popcorn stringing, and shop for baked goods, crafts, and ornaments — and top it off with the 5 p.m. tree lighting. You can also go for a horse and wagon ride ($2), or a train ride ($3).
Sun., Dec. 8; events throughout the day starting at 11 a.m.; tree lighting is at 5pm
Tickets: $10/adults; $8 kids
441 Clarke Ave.
Madison Square Park Conservancy’s Tree Lighting Ceremony
This tree-lighting tradition has been going on fore more than a century! In fact, the first public Christmas tree in the United States was displayed in this park on December 21, 1912. The year's event will feature live music from Lucy Kalantari & the Jazz Cats and the New York Life Singers. You can also expect food from local vendors, giveaways, free seasonal activities and treats!
Thurs., Dec. 5, 3:30-5:30 p.m.
5th and Madison Aves., Northern Plaza near 26th St.
Madison Square Park
Staten Island Empire Outlets
One of the newest trees in town is at Staten Island's Empire Outlets. The shopping destination is going big with a 40-foot crystal tree, along with hot chocolate and caroling before they flip the switch. The lighting will also feature performances by Spotlight Repertory Theatre, Staten Island’s premier theatre company; St. George Theatre’s The Christmas Show; JAGMAC, American pop band named Radio Disney’s “Next Big Thing”, and a special visit by Santa Claus.
Tues., Dec. 3, 6-8 p.m.
Washington Square Park Tree Lighting Ceremony
The Washington Square Association offers New Yorkers two opportunities to get in the holiday spirit each year. The lighting of the 45-foot tree will take place on Dec. 9, with the Rob Susman Brass Quartet leading the crowd in holiday carols. (Songbooks are provided.) Santa will also make an appearance at the event. For those who can’t enough, Susman and crew will return on Christmas Eve at 5 p.m. for more caroling en masse.
Tree Lighting, Dec. 9, 6 - 7 p.m.
Fifth Avenue at Waverly Place
— Mimi O’Connor