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9 Great Things to do in New York in December

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Without a doubt, December is a great month to travel in New York. There are so many fun things to do throughout the state whether you are looking for non-holiday season events, something festive, or wanting to ring in the new year.

Here are a few of our favorite things to do in New York in December.

(Article updated November 12, 2023, for events in December 2023.)

Lights on the Lake in Syracuse

Driving through a lit castle at Lights on the Lake in Syracuse NY
Lights on the Lake in Syracuse is a great drive-through light display.

New York is home to many excellent holiday season attractions, but one of my favorites is the Lights on the Lake in Syracuse.

This display is set up along the shores of Onondaga Lake and allows visitors to see hundreds of great Christmas scenes from the comfort of their cars. While there are several other drive-through light shows in the area, this one is my personal favorite.

For more information, visit their website.

Lights on the River Festival in Owego – December 1

Bring out the entire family to celebrate the magic of the holiday season at the Lights on the River Festival in Owego.

This one-day event features vendors, street entertainers, a costume contest, and much more. The festival concludes with a riverside fireworks display.

For a full schedule of the festival, visit the event’s website.

Indigenous Winter Arts Market in Victor – December 2 & 9

Historic sign at Ganondagan State Historic Site near Rochester New York
Visit Ganondagan in December for a fantastic day of Native American dancing and crafts.

Experience Native American art firsthand at this year’s Indigenous Winter Arts Market at the fantastic Ganondagon in Victor on both December 2nd and 9th.

There will be a variety of indigenous artists on site selling all manner of handcrafts. Plus, visitors can explore this fabulous museum for free.

To learn more about this festival, visit the event’s site.

It’s a Wonderful Life Festival in Seneca Falls – December 7-10

Inside the It's a Wonderful Life Museum in Seneca Falls NY
The It’s a Wonderful Life Festival takes over Seneca Falls.

Experience the magic of a classic Christmas movie firsthand when you attend the It’s a Wonderful Life Festival in Seneca Falls. This event is a must-do for any fan of this beloved movie.

This festival features live performances of favorite scenes from the movie, various events inspired by characters in the film, a 5K race, the It’s a Wonderful Life Museum, and much more.

But perhaps the highlight of this annual event is the It’s a Wonderful Life Participation movie where movie-goers are encouraged to become a part of the movie. During this one-night screening, festival-goers can dress in costume and become a part of Bedford Falls with props provided at the theater.

For the full schedule of events for the festival, click here.

Lake Placid Holiday Village Stroll in Lake Placid – December 9-11

Downtown Lake Placid, New York
Downtown Lake Placid really comes alive during the holiday season.

Come join in on a Lake Placid annual tradition when you take part in the Lake Placid Holiday Village Stroll the second weekend in December. Be a guest at one of the event’s parties such as the Ugly Sweater Party or the Skating Party.

This three-day event also features many kid-friendly activities like breakfast with Santa, holiday craft workshops, cookie decorating and hot chocolate, and so much more.

Festival-goers can also enjoy live entertainment, dining deals at local restaurants, and shopping specials at the shops at Lake Placid so you can wrap up that holiday shopping.

For more information on this event, visit the festival’s website.

A Frosty Fest in Ulster Park – All Month

If you are looking for something to do in the Hudson Valley this December, look no further than A Frosty Fest in Ulster Park.

A Frosty Fest is open most Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from Thanksgiving weekend through the weekend before Christmas. This fun activity features nine different walk-through attractions, as well as a drive-through light display.

For more information, visit the festival’s website.

Santa’s Workshop in North Pole – Select Dates in December

Santa’s Workshop is located in North Pole in the Adirondack Mountains of New York. While this spot is normally open throughout the year, the holiday season is the perfect time to visit. In 2023, it will be open on select dates from November 11 through December 17.

Santa’s Workshop is actually a small amusement park centered around Santa and his reindeer and elves. There are different rides and shows designed to get you in the holiday spirit. And, of course, there is also the chance to see Santa himself.

There is also a separate Village of Lights attraction that’s open for select dates in December.

For more information, visit the park’s website.

New Year’s Eve Celebrations in New York – December 31

New Years' Eve Fireworks in New York
There are many great New Year’s Eve celebrations in New York.

Make plans to ring in 2024 with the various New Year’s Eve events being held throughout the state.

Perhaps the most iconic New Year’s Eve celebration in the state of New York is the annual Times Square Ball Drop. Known as one of the world’s largest New Year’s Eve celebrations, attending the ball drop at midnight in Times Square is definitely an event to add to your bucket list. For full details on this year’s Ball Drop, click here.

If you can’t make it to NYC for New Year’s Eve, then attending First Night Saratoga is the next best thing. With over 15,000 people attending annually, it is the state’s largest NYE celebration outside of New York City. The celebration features live music, a 5K run, and fireworks at midnight in Congress Park. Find out more on the event’s website.

Held at the Holiday Valley Lodge in Ellicottville, the Holiday Valley’s New Year’s Eve Celebration is a family-friendly way to ring in the New Year. After a fun party, attendees will be treated to a fireworks display to ring in the new year with a bang. For more information, visit the event’s website.

Go Skiing Throughout New York

Skiing in New York
Skiing is a great wintertime activity throughout New York.

Did you know that there are nearly four dozen ski areas spread throughout New York State?

Other than in New York City and Long Island, there are ski areas in every region of the state, and December is a great time to head out and enjoy skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing, and more fun activities at these resorts.

Find out more information about New York ski areas here.

Looking for more events in New York? Check out our picks for the top things to do in New York in November and the top things to do in New York in January.

Do you have a favorite thing to do in New York in December that isn’t on this list? Let us know in the comments below.

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