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6 Ways to Get in the NYC Holiday Spirit This Year

Nikol Slatinska | December 7, 2020 | Culture Lifestyle Travel

From the New Year’s ball drop to Christmas light displays, New Yorkers have reworked the season’s most definitive events to comply with spectator safety.

Ice Skating at Bryant Park

Getting into the holiday spirit might seem challenging during an unprecedently challenging year. Gatherings are discouraged and labeled as a public health violation, and the chances of seasonal events to rally residents and tourists in the name of good tidings seemed slim to none.

But New York City emerges from the gloom once again with spectacular venues, decorations and spectacles scheduled for December and beyond. Seasonal classics will look a bit different to ensure the safety of patrons, but the magical feelings they inspire will be no less captivating. Even if we can’t come together in the traditional sense, the collective mood is sure to be lifted by all that’s to come.

Ice Skating at Bryant Park

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42nd St. and Sixth Ave. / Website

As of Oct. 30, Bryant Park reopened its annual Bank of America Winter Village, including its free-admission ice skating rink. All skaters must book their reservations online before showing up, and face masks are required while using the reduced-capacity rink. Visit the surrounding holiday shops after hitting the ice, which have been spaced further apart in keeping with the safety protocols.

Bronx Zoo Holiday Light Show

2300 Southern Blvd., The Bronx, NY 10460 / Website

Reserve your tickets now for the Bronx Zoo’s safari of lights, running on select dates from now to Jan. 10. In addition to the illuminated animals representing five different geographic regions, the zoo will exhibit ice carving demonstrations, stilt walkers, costumed characters and more. Social distancing will be in practice throughout the venue, keeping visitors’ health just as big a priority as their enjoyment.

See also: The 10 Best Holiday Lights Displays in NYC

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting

45 Rockefeller Plaza / Website

No public access will be granted for the lighting of the 88th Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, but the tree’s lights will shine all day on Christmas as always. Residents will finally get the chance to view this quintessential symbol of yuletide in person from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. on New Year’s Eve.

Dyker Heights Christmas Lights

12th Ave. and 84th St., Brooklyn, NY 11228 / Website

This neighborhood is responsible for generating much of Brooklyn’s annual Christmas cheer. Check out Dyker Heights residents’ magnificent displays, each home a blissful pandemonium of Santa Clauses, nutcrackers, snowmen and other blinged-out characters. Hundreds of thousands of people flock to see the displays every year, so be sure to keep safety measures in mind if going.

Holiday Window Displays

5th Ave. / Website

Window shopping is taken to a new level each winter thanks to the whimsical displays of New York’s most famous department stores. The presentations will go over differently this season, with Saks Fifth Avenue hosting 20 virtual light ceremonies now through Dec. 23. Be sure to check out Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s, too, the latter of which (on Herald Square, not Fifth Avenue) dedicates its display to the first responders who have helped keep the city afloat amid this tumultuous year.

Times Square New Year’s Ball Drop

Times Square / Website

Like the lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, Times Square’s annual New Year’s ball drop attracts thousands of spectators. As a result, this event will similarly exclude in-person visitors, with the surrounding area blocked off to the public. Don’t worry, we’ll know when to shout “Happy New Year” as the drop will still be broadcast live on television and online to help usher in 2021.

Photography by: Johnell Pannell/