10 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 great 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.

Fairgrounds Festival of Lights in Hamburg – November 29-December 23

For the ultimate holiday magic experience, pack up the family in the car and head to Hamburg for their annual Fairgrounds Festival of Lights. Featuring thousands of LED lights, you and your family will marvel at their expansive drive-through light display.

But this festival is so much more than an impressive holiday lights display! Let the kids try their hand at decorating a cookie for Santa or creating their own magical holiday craft at the Tops Winterland Workshop. A visit to Santa at the North Pole is also included in your carload admission price, so don’t forget to bring your camera!

For more information on hours and admission prices, be sure to visit the festival’s site.

Bowling Green Park Fair in New York City – December 6

This dog-friendly event is one of the last free things left to do in New York City. The streets are shut down to all vehicle traffic during this one-day event, so it is a rare opportunity to experience the city without its usual hustle and bustle.

This fair features more than 20 authentic food booths and over 50 merchandise and artisan booths. The fair serves as a welcome break before the business of the holiday season fully sets in.

For more information on this event, click here.

Lights on the River Festival in Oswego – December 6

Bring out the entire family to celebrate the magic of the holiday season at the Lights on the River Festival in Oswego. This one-day event features family-friendly activities like ice carvers, reindeer, and even a visit from Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus. The festival concludes with a riverside fireworks display.

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

The best things to do in New York in December


Native American Winter Arts Festival in Victor – December 7

Experience Native American arts firsthand at this year’s Native American Winter Arts Festival in Victor. From storytelling to traditional Iroquois social dancing to food tastings, this family-friendly event is sure to become an annual favorite. This festival will also feature handcrafted goods from local artisans and hourly raffle drawings.

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

24th Annual Charles Dickens Festival in Long Island – December 7-8

Visit the Village of Port Jefferson during the first full weekend in December to experience a Dickensian-era Christmas. The streets of the village magically transform into a scene straight out of The Christmas Carol.

The festival features horse-drawn carriage rides, a model train display, live music, Christmas carolers, and even a troupe of strolling costumed Dickins’ characters.

This family-friendly event is open to the public and free of charge.

Find out more on the festival’s website.

It’s a Wonderful Life Festival in Seneca Falls – December 13-15

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, a Bedford Falls inspired tasting event, the It’s a Wonderful Life Museum, and a Mrs. Martini’s pasta dinner and movie trivia night.

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 13-15

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 Gilded Age Christmas in Staatsburgh – All December

Step back in time and experience a turn-of-the-century Christmas at A Gilded Age Christmas held at the Staatsburgh State Historic Site. Decked out in lavish holiday decorations for this month-long event, this historic mansion sits atop a scenic hill overlooking the Catskills Mountains and the Hudson River.

Tours of the mansion are offered Thursdays through Sundays from 12pm to 4pm. Special programs will also be offered during this holiday season event.

Find out more on the event’s website.

Capital Holiday Lights in the Park in Albany – All December

Drive through over 125 festive light displays and scenes at this year’s Capital Holiday Lights in the Park event in Albany. Once you have enjoyed the sparkling lights, head to the Washington Park Lake House to visit Santa, create a craft, and partake in refreshments.

This event also features special nights such as a Craft Beer, Wine & Spirits Festival, a Chili, Chowder & Soup Fest, and a Pet Walk Night.

For a full list of special nights and admission prices, visit the event’s site.

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

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

Make plans to ring in 2020 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 NYE celebrations, attending the ball drop at midnight on December 31 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 Years’ Eve Celebration & Torchlight Parade is a family-friendly way to ring in the New Year. After the parade, 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.

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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