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 11, 2022, for events in December 2022.)
Lights on the Lake in Syracuse
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 2
Bring out the entire family to celebrate the magic of the holiday season at the Lights on the River Festival in Owego. In past years, this one-day event featured 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.
Native American Winter Arts Festival in Victor – December 3
Experience Native American arts firsthand at this year’s Native American Winter Arts Festival at the fantastic Ganondagon in Victor. From storytelling to traditional Iroquois social dancing and food tastings, this family-friendly event is sure to become an annual favorite. This festival will also feature handcrafted goods from local artisans.
To learn more about this festival, visit the event’s site.
26th Annual Charles Dickens Festival in Long Island – December 3-4
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 historic toy-making demonstrations, 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 9-11
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
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 Frost Fest is open Saturdays and Sundays from Thanksgiving weekend through Christmas weekend (except for Christmas night). 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 2021, it will be open on select dates from November 13 through December 19, 2021.
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
Make plans to ring in 2022 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 & 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.
Go Skiing 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.
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.