Everyone knows about the Rockettes, the department store windows, and the holiday markets. Don’t get us wrong, those are some of the best things about Christmas in NYC, but here are 10 less glitzy, more homey reasons to love Christmas and the holiday season in New York. Please share your own favorites in the comments!

1. The streets smell like pine trees.

Phil Roeder via Flickr

The aroma of fresh Christmas trees is so much better than whatever the streets usually smell like the rest of the year. Christmas tree vendors can be found all over the city, often set up along the sidewalk, so you can take home your perfect tree.

Manhattan Rentals Under $3,000 on StreetEasy Article continues below

2. You can experience the city through gingerbread.

Gingerbread models of the city for Christmas in NYC
This 2018 display was a collaboration between Williams-Sonoma and StreetEasy.

It seems that every year, a new gingerbread holiday display pops up. In 2018, StreetEasy collaborated with Williams-Sonoma to create Gingerbread City, a model of NYC made with real gingerbread cookies. This year, check out The Great Borough Bake-Off display at the Museum of the City of New York through January 8. The display gave local bakers the opportunity to recreate their own NYC neighborhoods out of gingerbread. There’s even a gingerbread Staten Island ferry!

3. Walking down the street with a Christmas tree is totally normal.

man carrying tree on Christmas in NYC

Because who has a car? (But if you do, check out the most car-friendly neighborhoods.)

Manhattan Homes Under $1M on StreetEasy Article continues below

4. Park Avenue is as festive as ever.

gigi_nyc via Flickr

Adding lights to the trees down Park Avenue’s median have been a fixture of the NYC holiday season on the Upper East Side since 1945. The tradition started as a way to honor the men and women who had died in World War II. You can see the illuminated trees along Park Avenue between 54th and 97th Streets. In addition, see the Helmsley Building at 230 Park Avenue between East 45th and 46th Streets lit up in red and green at nighttime!

5. The most charming neighborhoods become even more charming.

@greenpointers via Instagram (photo by John Gurion)

Some of NYC’s most historical, beloved neighborhoods are at their best during the holidays. Neighborhoods like Greenpoint, Astoria, Greenwich Village, and the West Village become bastions of tradition, decorations, and overall festivity this time of year. It’s enough to make the center of the universe feel more like a small town. There’s no better time to take a stroll through your favorite charming NYC nabe!

Brooklyn Rentals Under $3,000 on StreetEasy Article continues below

6. The Dyker Heights Christmas lights never disappoint.

Dyker Heights lights on Christmas in NYC
Wikimedia Commons

New Yorkers’ take on holiday lights is unlike any other, especially in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Dyker Heights. The nabe goes all out every year for Christmas and becomes “Dyker Lights“, attracting visitors from all over the city to see the spectacle. Year after year, it has remained a highlight (literally) of Christmas in NYC.

Dyker Heights Homes Under $1.5M on StreetEasy Article continues below

7. The glimpses of Christmas trees in windows are always magical.

Image of Christmas in NYC

Christmas in NYC is the one time when peering into the windows of fancy brownstones is a bit more socially acceptable.

8. The New Yorker covers are consistently spot-on.

Image of Christmas in NYC

There are decades’ worth of memorable holiday New Yorker covers, but one favorite is the Eric Drooker cover from 2011 above, depicting Santa and his sleigh under the tracks of what looks like the 1 train in the Bronx. Or is it an elevated line in Coney Island? Or Queens? Either way, it’s a New York City dream come true.

9. Holiday pop-up bars start popping up everywhere.

Rolf's on Christmas in NYC
@rolfsny via Instagram

The bar scene in NYC can get a little stale after a while, but the various holiday-themed pop-up bars that appear this time of year help keep things exciting. Some have been popping up every year for a while, like Rolf’s in Gramercy, and Miracle (this year they’re taking over Thief in Williamsburg, and The Cabinet in the East Village). Others are newer to the scene, like The Garret Coctelería and Frosty’s. Secret NYC has a list of the best NYC holiday pop-up bars happening in 2022.

Gramercy Park Homes Under $2M on StreetEasy Article continues below

10. The city quiets down a little.

snowy street on Christmas in NYC
Wikimedia Commons

On Christmas in NYC, shops close, subways and buses slow down, New Yorkers settle in — and for maybe half a minute, the city goes still.

More NYC Christmas Content

Looking to buy, sell, or rent in NYC?

Get Started with StreetEasy