New York

Actually Cool Things to Do in NYC This Holiday Season

Fun activities for over-the-top holiday cheer.

Photo courtesy of 230 Fifth
Photo courtesy of 230 Fifth
Photo courtesy of 230 Fifth

The holidays are-of course-going to look a little different this year. The Rockettes aren’t high-kicking; SantaCon revelers won’t be roaming the streets (which, actually, might be a silver lining!); and for the first time since 1861, Mr. Claus will be skipping his route to Macy’s. And while this may turn out to be one of the strangest winters of our lives, NYC will always be the most magical place to celebrate the holidays. That’s because, pandemic or not, after 10 months of brandishing hard grit and attitude, this is traditionally the time of year when New Yorkers let their guards down and embrace the season’s merriments. And especially in 2020, we’re ready to revel in all of the cheesy, over-the-top, holiday cheer we can get.

This year, see the Bronx Zoo transform into a light-up winter wonderland, take a trip to Queens to shop for decor in a gigantic Christmas shop, or warm up with a hot cocktail at a holiday-themed pop-up bar-we’ve rounded up every magical, miraculous, and must-do event in the city this holiday season. And when it comes to 2020’s hottest gift to give and receive-wearing a mask and social distancing responsibly-we hope it remains at the top of your list beyond this time of year.

Get a taste of hot chocolate from Paris

Open 8 am – 8 pm through December 24, 9 am – 7 pm December 25-27
Bryant Park
Parisian café Angelina-best-known for its creamy hot chocolate-dates back to 1903 and has opened a Manhattan outpost to bring a little joie de vivre to winter in NYC. Sip a big cup of hot chocolate, nibble on a croissant, and live your best Emily in Paris fantasy. If you want to spend a whole dreamy morning à la Emily Cooper, the prix fixe brunch includes tea, coffee, or hot chocolate; pastries; your choice of entree; and a chestnut crepe with chantilly cream.
Cost: Hot chocolate is $8.90, prix fixe brunch is $38

Photo Kit/Shutterstock
Photo Kit/Shutterstock
Photo Kit/Shutterstock

Do some stocking-stuffer shopping at an open-air market

Through December 24
Bryant Park
Don’t know what to stuff inside your family’s stockings this year? The Holiday Shops at Bryant Park have handmade gifts from over 170 vendors from artisans all over the world, so statistically, you’re sure to find something they’ll like. Sip a hot cider, shop for scarves, take a break by watching the figure skaters glide across the ice rink at Bryant Park, and take in some retail therapy in the comforts of open air. 
Cost: Free to peruse

Warm up with a hot date in a rooftop igloo

Through spring
Midtown
230 Fifth is bringing back its beloved Igloo Bar, which features 17 heated domes that are ideal for social distancing and (not-so-socially-distant) holiday dates. You can order food and drinks to your booze cocoon with a cocktail menu that includes hot chocolate spiked with Malibu, apple pie cider, and caramel Irish coffee made with whiskey and butterscotch schnapps. Igloos can be reserved, but walk-ins are welcome-and while you wait, warm up with one of the bar’s cozy red robes. 
Cost: Cocktails start at $10

Get on board with a model train show

Through January 31
The Bronx
At the New York Botanical Garden, the Holiday Train Show is back-with a few twists on the tradition. The beloved recreation of NYC rendered in natural materials (like bark, acorns, and cinnamon sticks!) will be there, complete with the Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge, and Rockefeller Center. Due to social distancing guidelines, only members and patrons of the NYBG will be able to score a ticket, although they will be allowed to bring a guest. Why not start a new holiday tradition by becoming a member and supporting one of the best green spaces in NYC?
Cost: Membership starts at $90

Make your cheeks rosy at a pop-up bar

Through December 31
East Village
The pop-up bar Miracle on 9th Street will bring that warm holiday flush to your face… or maybe that’s just all the booze? From behind a bar draped with bows, garlands, presents, and all the other trappings of the season, they’re serving up cocktails to get you more than a little merry. Order the Christmapolitan with vodka, vermouth, spiced cranberry, and rosemary, or (because Die Hard is a Christmas movie!) the Yippie Ki Yay Mother F****r! with four rums, bitters, and pumpkin-almond orgeat. 
Cost: Depends how merry you get

Photo by Julie Larsen Maher
Photo by Julie Larsen Maher
Photo by Julie Larsen Maher

Walk through a winter wonderland at the Bronx Zoo

December 17-23, 26-31
The Bronx
The Bronx Zoo is transforming into a winter wonderland for the holidays. Watch an ice carving competition, sip a steaming cup of hot cocoa, and walk through a glittering “lantern safari” that features light-up animals from habitats all over the world. While all the real animals of the zoo will be tucked into their cozy dwellings for the night, you’ll get to see glowing gorillas, flamingos, caribou, and sharks with a ticket to the Holiday Lights.
Cost: $34.95
 

Go on a shopping spree in New York’s biggest Christmas store

Open 7 days a week
Ozone Park
With over 35,000 square feet of shopping space, Ozone Park’s House of Holiday store is filled with wall-to-wall Christmas cheer. Shopping here is like stepping inside a snow globe: Christmas trees, ornaments, stockings, and some (frankly) unnerving elves await you. Even if your apartment doesn’t have the space to start a miniature Christmas village, you can still ooh and aah over their collection of tiny trees, trains, and snow-topped houses. 
Cost: Free to browse; unnerving elves start at $24.99

William Vale Hotel
William Vale Hotel
William Vale Hotel

Perfect your triple salchow on the ice

Wednesday – Sunday
Williamsburg
Skip the crowds at Rockefeller Center and head to the William Vale’s outdoor Vale Rink on the 23rd floor, where the ice is just as cold and you can skate with the Manhattan skyline behind you. When you get too chilly, head to their cozy, socially-distant “tiny houses” to have a warm drink and compare moves with your ice-dancing partner.
Cost: Check website for updates

Explore a magical light sculpture forest on Randall’s Island

Through January 10
Randall’s Island
The LuminoCity Festival is returning to Randall’s Island Park this year for a socially-distant light-up extravaganza. With glowing Christmas trees, castles, unicorns, and other magical displays, they’ve transformed the island into a jaw-dropping (and eminently Instagrammable) destination. Safety precautions are in place-including masks, temperature checks, and ticketed time slots-so be sure to secure your spot before you go.   
Cost: $38

Take a seat (virtually) on Santa’s lap

Through December 24
Virtual 
Seeing as you can’t sit on somebody’s lap from 6 feet away, the longstanding tradition of Macy’s Santaland is moving online. With Macy’s Santaland at Home, now you can recreate the “Santa at the mall” experience of your childhood from your very own computer. It might feel different from the mall of your memories, but Santa is exactly the same (isn’t it funny how that happens?). These new adaptations set in place due to COVID-19 will make 2020 the first time since 1861 that Santa won’t be ho-ho-hoing at Macy’s, but you can still tell the big man what you want under your tree.
Cost: Free; no reservations needed

Serge Yatunin/Shutterstock
Serge Yatunin/Shutterstock
Serge Yatunin/Shutterstock

See Brooklyn in its very best light

Through December 31
Dyker Heights
Mid-to-late December is the time when Dyker Heights-finally!-gets to shine. Every year, the entire neighborhood transforms into a Christmas light spectacular, inflatable Santas and all. Almost every house gets into the spirit, but the most merry drive (or walk, if the night is warm) is up Dyker Heights Boulevard from 83rd to 86th Street. Head out after sundown, and be prepared to jump on the D train around 9, when the homeowners turn off the lights. Since individual homeowners decide whether to light up or not, 2020 might have fewer holiday lights than years past-but the neighborhood is sure to still be in the Christmas spirit.
Cost: Free

Ring in 2021

December 31
Your apartment
After the year we’ve all had, we deserve to celebrate 2021. While the Times Square ball drop usually draws more than a million people to the streets, this year you can watch it virtually and spend the night cuddled up in your pajamas. Sing “Auld Lang Syne,” drink a split of champagne with your roommates, and brace yourself for whatever the new year will bring. 
Cost: FreeSign up here for our daily NYC email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun New York has to offer.

Rachel Pelz lives and writes in Brooklyn.

New York

Scavenge for Peeps Cookies and More Fun Treats in NYC This Easter

The best Easter desserts in NYC this spring include Easter Bunny Churros and Carrot Cake Macarons.

Photo courtesy of Funny Face Bakery
Photo courtesy of Funny Face Bakery
Photo courtesy of Funny Face Bakery

As spring makes its way through New York City, not only do we get to enjoy beautiful weather, stunning cherry blossoms, and cool activities priced at $Free.99, but it’s also the perfect time for some limited-edition desserts.

With Easter fast approaching, bakeries are filling their shops with tons of chocolate eggs, carrot cake-flavoured everything and all types of flavours that offer both nostalgia and innovation within the city’s dessert landscape. After you’ve picked up a cake from the city’s best new bakeries, from Easter Bunny Churros to Carrot Cake Macarons, here are 8 Easter desserts to try in NYC right now.

Photo courtesy of Magnolia Bakery
Photo courtesy of Magnolia Bakery
Photo courtesy of Magnolia Bakery

Magnolia Bakery

Throughout April
Various locations
There’s great news for devotees of Magnolia Bakery’s Classic Banana Pudding: For Easter, the spot is mixing up the iconic dessert’s vanilla pudding with some carrot cake. The Carrot Cake Pudding is filled with freshly grated carrots, coconuts, pineapples, raisins, and walnuts. And if both bananas and carrots aren’t your thing, they’ll be offering their Classic Vanilla Cupcakes in pastel colours with a Cadbury chocolate egg hidden inside.

Photo courtesy of Funny Face Bakery
Photo courtesy of Funny Face Bakery
Photo courtesy of Funny Face Bakery

Funny Face Bakery

Through Easter Sunday
NoHo and Seaport
Known for their celebrity face and meme-worthy decorated cookies, fans of Funny Face Bakery know that a new fun design is always just around the corner. For Easter, they’ve created the adorable Hoppy Easter decorated cookie that resembles a classic box of marshmallow Peeps. Along with that, they also have the return of their fan-favourite Caramel Pretzel Chip cookie flavour, plus a set of three mini-decorated cookies perfect for gifting.

The Doughnut Project

Friday, April 7 through Easter Sunday
West Village
With the ever-changing flavours at The Doughnut Project, it’s super easy to miss out on trying out a new debut. But this Easter weekend, there will be two new flavours available. One is of course, a carrot cake doughnut topped with a cream cheese glaze, and the other is known as the Doughnut Nest-a French cruller “nest” with a cream-filled doughnut hole “egg” in the centre.

Photo by Cole Saladino, courtesy of The Fragile Flour
Photo by Cole Saladino, courtesy of The Fragile Flour
Photo by Cole Saladino, courtesy of The Fragile Flour

The Fragile Flour

Wednesday, April 5 through Easter Sunday
East Village
For stellar vegan desserts this holiday, head to The Fragile Flour, a plant-based bakery and dessert wine bar. They’re known for going all out for each holiday with a variety of new pastry options that you can pair perfectly with a glass of wine. This Easter, they’ll have a whole dessert menu that’s both delicious and gorgeous for posting on IG. The menu includes Stuffed Carrot Cake Cookies, a Lemon Cake (whole or by the slice), some festive cupcakes, and specialty macarons.

Photo courtesy of Kreuther Handcrafted Chocolate
Photo courtesy of Kreuther Handcrafted Chocolate
Photo courtesy of Kreuther Handcrafted Chocolate

Kreuther Handcrafted Chocolate

Through mid April
Midtown
For a luxurious take on Easter chocolates, browse the selections available at Kreuther Handcrafted Chocolate. You can even pick the Easter Signature Chef’s Selection for a special box curated by award-winning chefs. For something other than chocolate, choose between the Carrot Cake Macarons or the cake flavored Easter Marshmallow Trio, both of which are almost too cute to eat.

La Churreria

Throughout April
Nolita
This churro-centric spot is putting the cutest Easter spin on their crispy cinnamon churros by twisting them up into bunnies and bunny ears. At Churreria, choose from a Bunny Churro Lollipop topped with your choice of chocolate or dulce de leche and sprinkles, or the bunny ear churros in the Ube and Matcha ice cream sundae or the Ube Milkshake, both of which are made with ice cream from il laboratorio del gelato.

Photo by Briana Balducci
Photo by Briana Balducci
Photo by Briana Balducci

Lafayette

Throughout April
NoHo
You’ve surely seen this croissant tons of times while scrolling through IG or TikTok, whether it’s the Pain au Chocolat one or the latest of the month. Known as Supr√™mes, these filled croissants went viral and continue to live up to the hype each time a new flavour comes out. April’s flavour-sour cherry amaretto with a Luxardo custard and toasted almonds. While you’ll have to be super early and wait in line during one of their three drops of the day to get a taste, we promise you it’ll be worth it.

Photo courtesy of Levain
Photo courtesy of Levain
Photo courtesy of Levain

Levain

Seasonal
Various locations
We all know the iconic cookies from Levain-they’re gigantic, perfectly crispy and chewy, and well worth the long lines. For spring, the shop is launching a new flavour: Caramel Coconut Chocolate Chip. Filled with gooey caramel chips, fresh shredded coconut, and melty dark chocolate, it’s one you’ve got to try while it’s still around. To further celebrate the new season, all of Levain’s storefronts will be decked out in spring floral displays, serving as the perfect backdrop for pictures.

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Alaina Cintron is an Editorial Assistant at Thrillist. Her work can also be found in Westchester Magazine, Girls’ Life, and Spoon University. When she’s not at her desk typing away, you can find her exploring a local coffee shop or baking a new recipe.

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