How to Spend the Holiday Season in Central Park

The holidays are a magical time in New York City, and an especially wonderful season to visit Central Park! From ice skating in rinks with skyscraper views to ushering in the new year with fireworks and a midnight run, here are some ways to make lasting memories in the Park during the final few months of the year.

Watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

This world-famous, annual tradition is typically held from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm on Thanksgiving. The parade kicks off at 77th Street and Central Park West, then runs south through midtown, ending on 34th Street at Macy’s Herald Square. If you want to watch from the Park, we suggest grabbing a spot between West 69th and West 72nd Streets. (Don’t forget: Many Park entrances will be closed on Thanksgiving until about 1:00 pm! Visit our alerts and closures page for more information.)

Listen to holiday tunes at the Delacorte Clock

This popular clock near the Zoo rings seasonal chimes and nursery rhymes every half hour. Sitting atop a three-tiered tower, it features a band of animals including monkeys, a penguin, a hippo, and a kangaroo. In December, these marvelous musicians play holiday favorites such as “Deck the Halls,” “Jingle Bells,” and “Chanukah, Oh Chanukah!”

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In December, the Delacorte Clock plays holiday classics such as “Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel,” “White Christmas,” and “Joy to the World.”

Shop for presents

In December, Merchants’ Gate Plaza transforms into a festive winter market, featuring aisles of gifts and jewelry from New York City designers as well as foods from local artisans. The Columbus Circle Holiday Market, a tradition for more than a decade, is open daily throughout December. Don’t miss the Conservancy’s booth so you can bring a piece of the Park home for the holidays!

Enjoy the Central Park Holiday Lighting

Celebrate the season at our free Holiday Lighting which takes place at the Charles A. Dana Discovery Center in the first week of December. Meet Santa and friends, watch a live ice-carving demonstration, sing carols on the Plaza, and warm up with hot cocoa and cookies. The event concludes with the lighting of a flotilla of trees on the Harlem Meer.

Celebrate the new year with fireworks and a run

Each New Year’s Eve, the New York Road Runners hosts a Midnight Run in Central Park. The four-mile trek through the Park begins at the stroke of midnight. At the same time, fireworks light up the night, ushering in the next year.

See a show at the Swedish Cottage

Under the direction of the City Parks Foundation, the Swedish Cottage is home to one of the last public marionette companies in the country. Their schedule changes, so be sure to check out this page for the most relevant updates!

Go ice skating

Take in the views while you glide across the ice at Wollman Rink (and once its construction is complete, the new ice rink at the Harlem Meer Center—formerly Lasker Rink). Both offer skate and locker rentals and are open on holidays; hours and ticket prices vary. If you’re looking for a more old-fashioned experience, when conditions permit and the ice is consistently at least six inches thick, Conservatory Water also opens for free ice skating—just bring your own skates!

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With its romantic backdrop, Wollman Rink puts visitors beneath the magical New York City skyline by day, and its twinkling lights by night.

Befriend some animals

Managed by the Wildlife Conservation Society, the world-famous Central Park Zoo showcases animals from tropical, temperate, and polar zones around the world. At the Tisch Children’s Zoo, kids can interact with potbellied pigs, sheep, goats, and the only cow in Manhattan. Open on holidays, visit the Zoo’s website for more information and to buy tickets.

Take an Official Central Park Tour

From corner to corner, Central Park is filled with beautiful destinations and fascinating secrets. Discover them on a tour—either one of the year-round offerings, or one of the special seasonal versions. Topics range from historical backgrounds on statues and monuments to learning more about the Park’s habitats. Visit our tours page to see our full listing and to register.

Explore the Arthur Ross Pinetum

In their design of Central Park, Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux included a “Winter Drive” of pines, spruces, and firs from 72nd to 102nd Street. By the late 1800s, when these needed to be replaced, planners planted deciduous varieties instead. In the 1970s, philanthropist Arthur Ross set out to return pine to the Park, and the Arthur Ross Pinetum now features 17 different species. As winter settles in—and most of the other trees have lost their leaves—you can still find an abundance of green at the Pinetum.

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The Arthur Ross Pinetum is a beautiful destination to explore in the wintertime with its year-round greenery.

Grab a bite or cup of hot cocoa

Looking for a quick snack or full meal? There are plenty of places in Central Park to find food and drinks. Concession carts selling snacks and beverages are also located throughout the Park. We appreciate our Park community for carrying out any trash they bring into the Park! Remember: the Park needs all of us to help care for it!

It goes without saying, but a walk in the Park—especially if it snows—is a magical activity. Bundle up, take a stroll, and stop by one of our visitor centers to learn more from our friendly staff members! Don't forget to tag us with #TheParkNeedsUs on social @CentralParkNYC!