Start Some New Traditions This Year with the Best Holiday Events in NYC

The ultimate guide to the best events, pop-up bars, and holiday markets in NYC this season.

Photo credit: Colin Miller, photo courtesy of Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park
Photo credit: Colin Miller, photo courtesy of Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park
Photo credit: Colin Miller, photo courtesy of Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park

Once again, it’s that time of year when everyone is dreaming about PTO, spiked beverages, and fun ways to spread holiday cheer with loved ones.

There’s no place more magical to do this than New York City, and we’ve rounded up all the details on the top events and activities to choose from. From classic traditions or a boozy Christmas boat brunch to bedazzled neighborhoods and illuminated light festivals, here are the best holiday markets in NYC and more fun things to do throughout the festive season.

Photo credit: Colin Miller, photo courtesy of Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park
Photo credit: Colin Miller, photo courtesy of Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park
Photo credit: Colin Miller, photo courtesy of Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park

Holiday Shopping in NYC

Holiday Markets in NYC (and Skating Rinks)

An essential seasonal activity is open-air holiday markets like the 150+ vendors at Union Square Holiday Market that’s popular for artisan accessories and locally made holiday treats. Another al fresco must-visit spot is the Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park-while there, be sure to glide on the ice skating rink and take photos under the Christmas tree. For the same level of fun but with indoor heating, Westfield Shops & Dining at the Oculus has a giant snowman, holiday market, and Christmas snacks. Nearby is also Brookfield Place for Luminaries (begins November 24), free performances of The Nutcracker by New York Theatre Ballet, and return of The Rink. For more ice skating, Wollman Rink at Central Park never goes out of style.

Fifth Avenue

Fifth Avenue between 47th Street and 60th Street
Since inflation is really inflation-ing right now, plan for all of the free and affordable activities available throughout the iconic thirteen block stretch of Fifth Avenue. First, start at Pulitzer Fountain for Christmas decorations and a Menorah; walk south down the avenue for lit holiday street art like a dreidel and a NYC yellow cab (designs change annually). The holiday traditions at Rockefeller Center include its iconic Christmas tree and ice skating rink just as you wait for the Saks Fifth Avenue Christmas lights across the street to flash every ten minutes. Feast your eyes on the myriad of iconic haute couture holiday windows at Bergdorf Goodman, plus the annual Louis Vuitton Christmas mural and many more festive scenes.

Photo by Terence Patrick/CBS via Getty Images
Photo by Terence Patrick/CBS via Getty Images
Photo by Terence Patrick/CBS via Getty Images

Holiday Music in NYC

Mariah Carey’s Merry Christmas One and All

December 9 & 17, 7:30 pm
Madison Square Garden; tickets start at $220
It’s time! If all you want for Christmas is the Queen of Christmas serenading you-alongside thousands of fellow Lambs-book your tickets immediately. Carey’s 13-date holiday tour kicks off on November 15 in California before making its way to the Big Apple in December. Over two NYC performances, hear her dulcet voice and whistle tones in action and help commemorate the last year of “All I Want for Christmas Is You” in its thirties ahead of its 40th anniversary next year.

Photo courtesy of Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Photo courtesy of Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Photo courtesy of Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Holiday Events in NYC

Lightscape at Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Starting November 17, 9 am–12 am
Prospect Park, tickets are $34
This annual tradition at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden is one of New York City’s top festive illuminations to hit up. Lightscape is an immersive experience featuring an after-dark lit trail of decor and art with light bites and holiday music under the moonlight. Ticket prices vary according to peak and off-peak days, so plan ahead in advance. When it comes to the best selfie spots, head to the brighter illumination rather than areas with orange or green.

Winter Lantern Festival

Starting November 17
Floral Park, tickets prices vary
The Winter Lantern Festival is an illuminating walk-through experience with over 1,000 Chinese lanterns of various colors, designs, and animatronics. Additional interactive programming includes a bounce house and sugar paintings, as well as light swings and tunnels.

Revelations at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Starting November 29
Hell’s Kitchen; tickets start at $42
Every December, heading to Hell’s Kitchen for Alvin Ailey’s holiday programming is a can’t-miss tradition. The iconic institution rooted in African-American culture and modern dance dates back to 1958, and their classic Revelations especially gets the audience clapping, singing, and dancing on their feet. In addition, there are old favorites and new numbers such as Reflections in D and Pas de Duke in either the matinee or evening shows.

12 Days of Festive Fun

December 1–12
Times Square; prices vary
Santa Claus is coming to… Times Square. 12 Days of Festive Fun at the New York Marriott Marquis launches with Holiday High-Kickers and culminate on the twelfth day with Cookie Decorating with Mrs. Claus. Sprinkled within this festive week are a scavenger hunt, holiday movies and trivia, carolers, and much more. Choose your fave(s) to experience or do all twelve festive days to really get into the Christmas spirit.

Wreath Making Workshop

December 2, 3, 9 & 10
Queens County Farm Museum; tickets start at $38
Ever thought about crafting your own door wreath for Christmas or any festive holiday? Now is your chance to flex your creative thumb with this themed class at Queens County Farm Museum. The experience in Floral Park has been a local tradition for over three decades. A ticket includes accoutrements required for a wreath, except a pair of shears, so bring your own.

Lights on the Cobbles

Starting December 7
Meatpacking District
In its third year of festive illumination, the Meatpacking District’s holiday lights display, Lights on the Cobbles, is returning with seasonal planters, embellished snow people, an illuminated colonnade, and many more lit holiday designs on the cobblestones of Gansevoort Street. The best time to see them and get those coveted insta photos against the backdrop of the Gansevoort Hotel, is evening time when the night sky provides the perfect canvas for the sculptures’ and other designs’ illumination.

Shabbat Service: Hanukkah and Trivia Night

December 8, 6:30 pm–7:45 pm
Battery Park
For Hanukkah, join the City Congregation for Humanistic Judaism for a secular celebration of the Festival of Lights, with singing, trivia, candle lighting, and readings. The City Congregation is a diverse Jewish community with members from various backgrounds who were raised secular or unaffiliated. All are welcome to the event, full stop.

Kwanzaa: A Regeneration Celebration at The Apollo

December 30, 2 pm and 7:30 pm
Harlem, tickets start at $25
Celebrate Kwanzaa at the historic Apollo Theater with Forces of Nature Dance Theater, a renowned New York dance troupe. The group honors the principles of Kwanzaa through family, community and culture, by integrating dance styles from across the African diaspora in this spectacular performance. Tickets are half off for Harlem residents, employees, students, and business owners.

Holiday Wellness in NYC

Book a Bath at LUSH Spa

Upper East Side; $50 for 30 minutes
Are you one of those New Yorkers without a tub (or too many roommates) but you crave a relaxing soak as a treat this festive season? Fret not, as the Lexington Avenue branch of LUSH has opened a spa with a tub experience and other services. Envelop yourself in an indulgent and self-led bathing experience paired with LUSH Snow Fairy seasonal collection, a Fresh Face Mask tailored to your skin, and a silky vegan hot chocolate to end the relaxing experience.

Photo courtesy of Winter Wonderland at Watermark
Photo courtesy of Winter Wonderland at Watermark
Photo courtesy of Winter Wonderland at Watermark

Holiday Drinks in NYC

Santa’s Winter Wonderland at Watermark

Starting November 10, 5 pm–9 pm
The Seaport; tickets start at $19
Have a whimsical waterfront evening at the Seaport with Christmas activities, decor, and games for all ages. Programming includes glasshouse chalets with scenic nighttime views of the Brooklyn Bridge; gifts from Mrs. Claus’ Candy Bar; a festive photo opportunity with Santa; and complimentary spiked hot chocolate and toasted s’mores to warm you up. And be ready to take the ultimate holiday squad photos at Santa’s sleigh and other festive installations.

The Peninsula New York

Starting November 30
Fifth Avenue
The Peninsula New York is a Manhattan staple that has hosted generations of families for its iconic Christmas festivities. Begin the Christmas season on November 30 with a tree lighting ceremony at the Salon de Ning rooftop terrace with holiday drinks, light bites, and string music from Sterling Strings. At the Festive Afternoon Tea, a portion of proceeds will go towards The New York Center for Children. Lastly, swing by for Victorian carolers in the lobby on Fridays and Saturdays from 5 pm on November 24 until December 23.

Ophelia Lounge

Turtle Bay
This Art-Deco inspired cocktail lounge at the top of the Beekman Tower transforms its rooftop bar into a shimmering snow globe in the sky, dripping with crystals and sparkling snowflakes for the holiday season. Dive into their exquisite bites like French Onion Sliders, Duck Confit Spring Rolls, and champagne. This installation is a fun and festive spot in the city perfect for after-work vibes or weekend cocktail brunches. Their cocktail brunch experience happens on Sundays from 12 pm–4 pm.

Christmas Eve Bottomless Brunch Cruise

December 24, 12 pm
Chelsea Piers; tickets start at $105
If you didn’t know, dinner cruises are cool again. This Christmas Eve, sail away on the New York Harbor on City Cruises with the classic skyline of the Freedom Tower, Hudson Yards, and Pier 17 behind you. With live entertainment, chef-prepared meals, holiday decor, bottomless mimosas, and non-alcoholic beverages, these two-and-a-half hour cruises are a relaxing change from the hours long prepping, cooking, and cleaning we’ve been forced to partake in our entire lives.

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Kemi Ibeh is a Thrillist contributor.


The Best New Bookstores in LA are Curated, Specific, and Personal

Discover a new favorite book, join a book club, and maybe even do some karaoke at the new wave of LA bookshops.

Photo by Innis Casey Photography, courtesy of Zibby's Bookshop
Photo by Innis Casey Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop
Photo by Innis Casey Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop

A couple of years ago, the legendary Powell’s Books in Portland released a perfume designed to evoke the smell of a bookstore. The scent has notes of wood, violet, and the lovely and unusually precise word biblichor, the particular aroma of old books. The reality of the scent is what it is-mostly sweet and floral-but more important is the imagery it conjures. The best bookstores are both cozy and mysterious, familiar and surprising, with endless potential for discovery.

Los Angeles has a wealth of independent book sellers, including beloved legacy shops like The Last Bookstore, The Iliad, and Chevalier’s. But a new wave of bookstores has been growing over the last few years, shops that eschew the traditional one-of-everything mindset to focus on specificity, curation, and point of view. There are bookstores with themes, bookstores that double as event spaces, bookstores that reflect their neighbourhoods, bookstores that take inspiration from a specific person-whether that’s the shop owner, a historical figure, or a little bit of both-and so many more.

Like the niche-ification of the internet and the culture at large, these new and new-ish bookstores provide a space to discover books, ideas, and perspectives led by an expert, the kind of things that you may never have found on your own. They can also be a safe harbour for pure nerdiness, a place to dive deep into your favourite category or cause. To help you on your way, we’ve put together a list of some of the best new bookstores in LA, with a focus on curated shops with their own specific perspectives.

Photo courtesy of Octavia's Bookshelf
Photo courtesy of Octavia’s Bookshelf
Photo courtesy of Octavia’s Bookshelf

Octavia’s Bookshelf

Pasadena is a famously book-friendly city, with bookstore royalty in the form of legendary Vroman’s and its own literary alliance. Now it has one of the most exciting new bookstores too. Octavia’s Bookshelf is owner Nikki High’s tribute to the science fiction master Octavia E. Butler, who was a Pasadena native herself. The name of the shop provides a clue into High’s inspiration, titles she imagines Butler would have had on her shelves, with a focus on BIPOC authors. The storefront is small, but the collection is impeccably curated and the space is cozy and welcoming for readers of all backgrounds.

Photo by Mads Gobbo, courtesy of North Figueroa Bookshop
Photo by Mads Gobbo, courtesy of North Figueroa Bookshop
Photo by Mads Gobbo, courtesy of North Figueroa Bookshop

North Figueroa Bookshop

Highland Park
Vertical integration can be a beautiful thing, especially when it allows independent creators more control over their products. The new North Figueroa Bookshop is a shining example of the concept, a storefront built on a collaboration between two publishers, Rare Bird and Unnamed Press. North Fig features titles from those presses, of course, including lots of striking literary fiction and memoir, but it also features a curated collection of other books. They’ve made it a point of emphasis to serve the needs of the local Highland Park, Glassell Park, Cypress Park, and Eagle Rock community-there’s lots of fiction from fellow independent publishers, other general interest titles with a focus on California history and literature, and plenty of Spanish-language books.

Photo by Karen Cohen Photography, courtesy of Zibby's Bookshop
Photo by Karen Cohen Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop
Photo by Karen Cohen Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop

Zibby’s Bookshop

Santa Monica
Speaking of vertical integration, there’s another new combined publisher and bookstore on the other side of town. Zibby’s Bookshop is the brainchild of Zibby Owens, Sherri Puzey, and Diana Tramontano, and it’s the physical home of Zibby Books, a literary press that releases one featured book a month. That system is designed so that each book gets the full attention and resources of the press. Owens is an author, podcaster, and book-fluencer, and she has become something of a lit-world mogul with a magazine, podcast network, event business, and an education platform too. The shop has a unique sorting system, built around a feeling for each book-in store many of the shelves are labelled by interest or personality type, like “For the foodie,” or “For the pop culture lover.” On their webshop, you can browse for books that make you cry, escape, laugh, lust, or tremble. There are recommendations from Owens and the staff, sections for local authors, family dramas, and books that have just been optioned. If this all seems a little overwhelming, you should probably avoid the section dedicated to books that make you anxious.

The Salt Eaters Bookshop

Inglewood native Asha Grant opened The Salt Eaters Bookshop in 2021 with a mission in mind-to centre stories with protagonists who are Black girls, women, femme, and/or gender-nonconforming people. Over the last year and change that it’s been open, it has also become a community hub, a place for Inglewood locals and people from across town to drop in, to see what’s new and to discover incredible works in the Black feminist tradition. They also host regular events like readings, discussions, and parties.

Lost Books

Thankfully, legendary downtown bookshop The Last Bookstore’s name is hyperbole, and owners Josh and Jenna Spencer have even gone so far as to open a second shop, Lost Books in Montrose. Instead of the technicolour whimsy of the book tunnel at The Last Bookstore, Lost Books has a tunnel of plants that welcomes you into the shop, which opened in the summer of 2021. They sell those plants in addition to books, and coffee and vinyl too, which makes Lost Books a lovely destination and a fun little surprise in the quaint foothill town just off the 2 freeway.

Photo by Claudia Colodro, courtesy of Stories Books & Cafe
Photo by Claudia Colodro, courtesy of Stories Books & Cafe
Photo by Claudia Colodro, courtesy of Stories Books & Cafe

Stories Books & Cafe

Echo Park
Ok, this one is fudging the criteria a little-Stories has been open for almost 15 years. But over those years the shop has become a pillar of Echo Park community life, hosting readings, discussions, and events, and their cafe tables function as a de facto office for about half of the neighbourhood on any given afternoon. After the tragic recent passing of co-owner and Echo Park fixture Alex Maslansky it seemed like the shop’s future was in doubt, but thankfully after a brief hiatus co-owner and co-founder Claudia Colodro and the staff were able to band together to reopen and keep the beloved cafe and bookstore going strong.

Page Against the Machine

Long Beach
The name alone makes it clear what you’re getting at Page Against the Machine-revolutionary progressive books, with a collection centred on activist literature, socially conscious writing, and a whole lot of political history. The shop itself is small but the ideas are grand, with fiction by writers like Richard Wright, Colson Whitehead, and Albert Camus next to zines about gentrification and compendia of mushroom varieties. They also host regular readings and discussions.

Photo by Viva Padilla, courtesy of Re/Arte
Photo by Viva Padilla, courtesy of Re/Arte
Photo by Viva Padilla, courtesy of Re/Arte

Re/Arte Centro Literario

Boyle Heights
Boyle Heights has its own small but mighty combined bookstore, art gallery, gathering space, and small press in Viva Padilla’s Re/Arte. Padilla is a poet, translator, editor, and curator, and as a South Central LA native and the child of Mexican immigrants, she’s focused on Chicanx and Latinx art, literature, and social criticism. Re/Arte’s collection has a wide range of books, from classic Latin American literature to modern essays and everything in between. Re/Arte is also now the headquarters for sin cesar, a literary journal that publishes poetry, fiction, and essays from Black and Brown writers. There are always community-focused events happening too, from regular open mics and zine workshops to film screenings and more.

The Book Jewel

Most bookshops host events, but few host them with the regularity of The Book Jewel, the two- year-old independent bookstore in Westchester. Their calendar is so full with readings, several different book clubs, signings, and meet and greets that there are sometimes multiple events on the same day. The shop also hosts a ton of family-focused readings, with regular storytime on Sunday mornings often followed by a talk with the author. It’s a great fit for the relatively low-key (but not exactly quiet) suburban neighbourhood, and it’s no coincidence that storytime lines up with the Westchester Farmers Market, which takes place right out front.

Reparations Club

West Adams
Most bookstores lean into coziness, aiming to be a hideaway for some quiet contemplation or maybe a quick sotto voce chat-not so at Reparations Club, the exuberant and stylish concept bookshop and art space on Jefferson. Owner and founder Jazzi McGilbert and her staff have built a beautiful and vibrant shop full of art from Black artists, including books but also records, candles, incense, clothing, and all sorts of fun things to discover. There’s a perfect seating area to sit and hang out for a while, and they host a range of wild and fun events from readings to happy hours, panel discussions to karaoke nights and more.

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Ben Mesirow is a Staff Writer at Thrillist.


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