COVID Christmas in NYC

There will be no Christmas Spectacular this year. Nor will New York City Ballet be performing The Nutcracker. We won’t be able to listen to Handel’s Messiah live at the Philharmonic or carol outside the Park Avenue Brick Church. Holiday parties will more likely than not be occurring via Zoom and no festive shows will be lighting up the stages of Broadway.

This is sad, no doubt. Christmastime in the city is one of the more special periods of the year. However, this doesn’t mean the holiday spirit is expunged altogether. There are still plenty of ways to celebrate and enjoy the festivities in a safe and responsible manner.

Read on for some COVID-friendly holiday festivities.

Dyker Heights Christmas Lights

A home in Dyker Heights

For decades the Brooklyn neighborhood of Dyker Heights has been synonymous with Christmastime. From right after Thanksgiving until early January, the area is sparkling with millions of lights and the most elaborate Christmas displays we could ever hope to see (including the largest Santa in all of New York City, measuring at 15 feet). This activity is perfect for the strange times we find ourselves in, as the spectacle can be enjoyed entirely outside and while maintaining social distancing. Grab a mug of hot chocolate and head over to Dyker Heights after sundown to get the full experience.


The Bang Group, directed by David Park and Jeffrey Kazin, is known for its nonconformist style; movement driven by rhythm above all else. It’s no surprise, then, that their take on the Nutcracker is by no means the traditional ballet performance that we might expect from another company. Instead, this show blends together hip-hop, tap, ballet, and campy humor, all set to Tchaikovsky’s iconic score and a blend of jazz and pop numbers.

This year, the performance is a special treat, as so many other live shows have been cancelled. Viewers can attend Nut/Cracked in person at 12 St. Marks Place thanks to Art on Site’s ‘Arts Alive‘ initiative. Purchase tickets here.

The Brooklyn Nutcracker

This year, the Brooklyn Ballet has found a way to produce a live show for Nutcracker-starved audiences. The company is offering nine FREE performances, from December 10 to 13, to experience the magic of this timeless production live from the Ballet’s home studio space. With a running time of just 20 minutes, this is a production for the whole family to enjoy. Get your tickets here.

A holiday window display at Bergdorf Goodman’s a few years back

Holiday Window Displays

Every year, it seems as if New York becomes a winter wonderland overnight. All of sudden, wreaths pop up on doors, lights are strung around trees and storefronts and holiday music spills out of open windows. However, nothing can compare to the window displays at superstores like Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman. In recent years, Hudson Yards has given these iconic displays a run for their money with elaborate light tableaus and festive scenery both inside and outside the mall.

Grab a friend and stroll through midtown (much quieter at the moment the usual) and take in the artful displays.

Holiday Markets

It’s tempting to do all of our shopping online this year. After all, most of us have never spent so much time on the internet and less time outside. If you are shopping online, try to avoid big boxes and Amazon. Instead, give your local small business some love. Even better, if you’re a NYC resident, check out the many Holiday Markets that crop up throughout the city during the holidays. Many of the markets give opportunities for small retailers and artisans to showcase their works and, this year especially, they could really use your support. There are markets throughout the boroughs, the most well-known being Byrant Park’s and Union Square’s. Check those and others out here.

A home in Brooklyn, decorated for Christmas

And, of course, it wouldn’t be Christmas in New York without a mention of Rockefeller Center. Many of you might have been following the drama of the tiny saw-whet owl (appropriately dubbed Rockefeller) that was rescued from the tree a few weeks back after being accidentally carried along in transport from Upstate New York. (Have no fear, he was taken good care of and has been returned to the wild.) But don’t worry, our owl friend isn’t the only one who gets to see the tree up close this year. Visitors can still view it in person (or view virtually) and can also enjoy the festive holiday tradition of skating on the rink. Be sure to read the protocols carefully before planning your visit, as some things have changed this year due to COVID-19.

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays!