Light 'em up! NYC's best Christmas tree-lighting ceremonies
With respect to the Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting, it’s not for New Yorkers. These Christmas tree-lighting ceremonies have free treats, music and activities.
With all due respect to the Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting Ceremony, it’s not for New Yorkers. The performances can only be seen by very few people — and many of them don’t even take place in Midtown — and there’s no free hot chocolate, festive treats or other fun activities for attendees. But there are plenty of actually fun NYC Christmas tree-lighting ceremonies that you should check out this holiday season.
Visitors to Central Park’s iconic Tavern on the Green restaurant this holiday season will be greeted by executive chef Bill Peet’s recreation of the restaurant as a gingerbread house. The restaurant has transformed into a small forest of Noble firs dappled in twinkle lights throughout its rooms. The centerpiece can be found on its outdoor courtyard: a 20-foot tree decorated with more than 2,000 ornaments. On Thursday, it will be illuminated while carol singers from LaGuardia High School perform. Guests will also enjoy free mulled cider and hot chocolate, along with Tavern's signature cookies and doughnuts, as well as bites from student chefs of the West Side Campaign Against Hunger. They will also be accepting food donations. Nov. 29, 5-7 p.m., Central Park West & 67th Street, tavernonthegreen.com
The NYSE marks the 95th anniversary of its Christmas Tree Lighting on the Wall Street plaza with a megawatt show of stars and free treats for attendees. The party starts at 2:30 p.m., emceed by Extra host AJ Calloway, with appearances by Queer Eye for the Straight Guy's Carson Kressley, supermodel Christie Brinkley, the cast of Showtime’s Billions, The Grinch, Mr. Met, the Harlem Globetrotters and many, many more. Performances include Jake Miller, Sophie Simmons, Raleigh Keegan, Rhonda Vincent, the Radio City Rockettes and more. Can’t make it downtown? Watch the ceremony via livestream. Nov. 29, 2:30-6 p.m., 11 Wall St., nyse.com
The Central Park Conservancy puts on one of Halloween’s most unique events with its annual Pumpkin Flotilla on the Harlem Meer. In December, they do the same thing with Christmas trees: The community is invited to the Charles A. Dana Discovery Center in the northeast end of the park for free hot cocoa and cookies. There will be caroling and photo ops with Santa Claus — also free, but BYO camera. Then watch as the flotilla of Christmas trees lights up the lake. Nov. 29, 5:30-6:30 p.m., 110th Street between Fifth and Lenox Avenues, centralparknyc.org
There’s no more action-packed day of free Christmas fun than at Astoria Park in Queens. The sixth annual Holiday Festival & Tree Lighting Celebration on the Great Lawn will have free train rides, a giant snow globe you can step inside for photos, balloon art, face painting, candy apples, hot cocoa, coffee and juices from Higher Grounds and music, ending in the all-important tree lighting. Dec. 1, 2-5 p.m., Shore Boulevard between Hell Gate Bridge and the pool, centralastoria.nyc
The flowers may not be blooming but the fun hasn’t stopped at the Queens Botanical Garden. The annual Christmas in the Garden celebration kicks off a whole festive month of themed activities with a day of performances by The Rough Dozen Acapella, photos with Santa ($10-$15), free holiday crafts and caroling, all ending in the tree lighting. Dec. 2, noon-5:30 p.m., 43-50 Main St., Queens, queensbotanical.org
If you didn’t make it to one of Pier 17’s rooftop concerts this summer or visited the new fashion hub 10 Corso Como, the Seaport District Holiday Block Party is your chance to see what’s new. There will be live music and free hot chocolate, plus special treats from eateries in the Seaport while you enjoy the new decorations courtesy of artist Kris Ruhs. Bring your holiday spirit — Santa’s elves will be hidden in the crowd, surprising the merriest guests with gift cards to the Seaport’s shops and restaurants. Dec. 3, 5-7 p.m., 19 Fulton St., free with RSVP, eventbrite.com
The annual Tree Lighting Skate-tacular at the Bank of America Winter Village in Bryant Park is turning into a whole production. Narrated by Alan Cumming, the Olympic-size ice rink will be filled with the stars of the figure-skating world including longtime supporter Johnny Weir, followed by ice skating for everyone (always free if you BYO skates). Guests can also take part in giveaways, including the chance to get your photo on a Times Square billboard. Dec. 4, 6 p.m.-late, West 42nd Street and Sixth Avenue, free, bryantpark.org
Take a visit out to one of the oldest houses in New York City to see a different kind of Christmas ceremony. The Hendrick I. Lott House in Brooklyn was built 50 years before the official founding of the United States, with Dutch roots and possibly even serving as a stop on the Underground Railroad. Its exterior got a major renovation, installing a garden, well and historic outhouse — check them out at its annual tree-lighting ceremony. Children can share their holiday wishes with Sinterklass, the Dutch version of Santa Claus, plus live music and free cookies and cocoa for all. Dec. 7, 6:30-8 p.m., 1940 E. 36th St., Marine Park, lotthouse.org
New York’s newest neighborhood is having its first Christmas celebration. The Hudson Yards / Hell’s Kitchen Alliance is everyone to Block 3 of Hudson Blvd Park, which will be transformed into Holiday Blvd Park. There will be horse-drawn carriage rides around the park, photos with Santa Claus, holiday arts and crafts, and more. Dec. 8, 2-5 p.m., between West 33rd-36th streets and 10th and 11th avenues, hyhkalliance.org
Don’t like trees being sacrificed in the name of Christmas? Tompkins Square Park wraps its tall, very much alive evergreen in twinkle lights every year, with a ceremony that includes free drinks and snacks, plus a raffle for holiday prizes. And if the tree lighting ceremony only made you ready for more fun, there’s an afterparty at Lucky Bar, 168 Ave. B. Dec. 9, 4-5 p.m., Center Grass, info