Excited for 2020’s holiday season? Visit the winter wonderland of New York City this December to bask in all of the holiday cheer.
Each December Manhattan is a must-see holiday attraction in itself, but besides the general grandiose winter beauty of the city, there are countless ways to enjoy the holidays with your family – all while staying outside and following COVID-19 safety protocols. Plus, Amtrak offers a solid option to safely and efficiently explore the city via Penn Station.
In 2020, this holiday season may look different from the rest, but there are still multiple ways to enjoy December while staying safe. With plenty of outdoor and social distancing activities to revel in this year, you’ll be sure to find something to do that’s both fun and safe. Listed below are some of the best and most accessible New York City holiday attractions via Amtrak.
Bryant Park- Winter Village Shops
Distance from Penn Station: 0.6 mile
With the holiday season upon us, you may be looking for a way to spread some holiday cheer through the act of giving. Each year, Bryant Park collaborates with Bank of America to form the Winter Village Shops. The Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park assumes a European inspired theme with an open market place. The holiday shops feature local artisans based in the city, as well as vendors from all around the world. Whether you’re interested in supporting local business are looking for products from somewhere outside of the city, the Winter Village Shops are the perfect attraction to buy something for a loved one, or to treat yourself. The city is no stranger to social distancing guidelines, and Bryant Park makes sure to accommodate their consumers. In order to create a safe environment during the pandemic, Bryant Park’s Winter Village has fewer vendors, larger walkways and a new layout fit for social distancing procedures.
Central Park- Wollman Rink
Distance from Penn Station: 1.5 miles
There’s nothing like ice skating each holiday season, and where better to do it then at Central Park? The famous Wollman Rink is one of the many ice-skating rinks to enjoy this winter season in New York City. Opened in 1949, the Wollman Rink is its own fun attraction within the park that both tourists and New Yorkers enjoy every year. Ice skating is sure to be the most fun way to social distance with friends and loved ones this winter season. Skating at the park is cash only and set at different prices for weekdays and weekends. If you’re visiting on the weekend during the holiday season, adult prices are $19, children’s prices are $6 and senior prices are set at $9. Visit Wollman Rink and take in the city lights while gliding across the ice at New York’s largest urban park. Even if you’re not interested in ice skating this year, just strolling through Central Park is always nice too. Entering the park at 59th street and 6th avenue, for the quickest route from Penn Station.
Herald Square- Macy’s Holiday Windows
Distance from Penn Station: 0.3 mile
Looking for a new way to window shop? Macy’s Holiday Windows at Herald Square is an old and famous tradition that returns each holiday season in New York City. Dating back to the early 1900’s, the Macy’s Holiday Windows displays are something to be enjoyed by people of all ages. This year’s theme in 2020 is gratitude, as a thank you to the essential workers on the frontlines and civilians doing their civic duty by following COVID-19 guidelines. Not only can you enjoy beautiful holiday-themed displays, but by visiting you’re paying homage to everyone who helped keep New York City safe. Visiting the 6th avenue holiday display is the perfect way to feel the holiday spirit while social distancing outdoors.
Rockefeller Center- Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree
Distance from Penn Station: 1.2 miles
The most popular among the list is surely the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. Each holiday season tourists and New Yorkers gather to view the gloriously huge decorated pine tree in the middle of Rockefeller Center. This year, the Norway Spruce tree was collected from Oneonta, New York. The first Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree went on display in 1931, and the tradition has continued for more than eight decades. The tree lighting will be done on Tuesday, Dec. 2nd and will be closed to the public due to COVID-19. Instead of an in-person ceremony, everyone can view the tree lighting ceremony virtually via television broadcast on NBC at 9:45 pm. After the tree lighting is commenced, the tree will be open to the public with social distancing measure enforced. The beautiful Christmas tree will be on display until Dec. 31st, making it a must-see attraction every Holiday season.
Hudson Yards- The Vessel
Distance from Penn Station: 0.5 mile
The newest New York City holiday attraction on this list is the architectural masterpiece of Hudson Yards, the Vessel. First showcased on March 15th in 2019, the structure is comprised of 154 flights of stairs and offers some of the best views Manhattan has to offer. For its second holiday season, Hudson Yards creates a winter extravaganza all around the Vessel. The Vessel itself is decorated with lights and reflects the beauty of the lights adorning the Public Square.
“With many people staying closer to home this holiday season, it was important to us to create a destination that combined the most iconic seasonal activities—from visiting Santa, to experiencing the City’s breathtaking light displays, to holiday shopping.” says Stacy Feder, Chief Marketing Officer of Hudson Yards.
Aside from the Vessel itself, Hudson Yards is home to a plethora of shops that participate in creating an immersive holiday experience, featuring the North Pole. In an effort to keep shoppers safe, Hudson Yards is incorporating a contactless shopping experience, in which shoppers can email their shopping list to professional shopping elves.
Randall’s Island- LuminoCity Festival
Distance from Penn Station: 5.7 miles
Looking for a classic holiday season light show that raises the bar for light shows everywhere? The LuminoCity Festival on Randall’s Island is a holiday adventure for people of all ages. Join friends and family on Lumi’s Adventure and explore the festival’s unique features. Unlike many holiday light shows, the LuminoCity Festival isn’t your typical winter attraction. The festival on Randall’s Island is comprised of multiple sections with their own unique theme. Whether you’re in the Mysterious Forest or the Mystical Moon Land, visitors can expect to find something new and exciting at every turn. Prioritizing the safety of all visitors, the festival has adapted to social distancing measures with strict time slots and limited ticket capacities.
New York Botanical Garden
Distance from Penn Station: 11.4 miles
Every winter season the New York Botanical Garden participates in celebrating the holidays with the Holiday Train Show and GLOW. The Holiday Train Show is a fun event that showcases model trains and famous New York landmarks. This year capacity is limited due to the pandemic to ensure the safety of all visitors. The magical Holiday Train Show isn’t the only thing the Garden offers for the winter season. GLOW, is a new outdoor, colorful light show that highlights the beauty of the landmark’s landscape. Of course, the New York Botanical Garden is following social distancing guidelines to make sure that this new light show is safe for all of its attendees. You can enjoy everything the Botanical Garden has to offer via Amtrak to Penn Station.
The Bronx Zoo
Distance from Penn Station: 9.6 miles
Celebrate the winter months differently this year at the Bronx Zoo. Each year the zoo participates in their very own holiday lights show. Walk through a luminous rainforest or explore the deep in a colorful coral bed. This innovative take on the safari is a seasonal attraction that you can’t miss. Additionally, those attending the light show are invited to gaze at beautiful ice sculptures and relax with the family while roasting marshmallows by the fire. Not only is the zoo’s light show unique in comparison to the others on this list, but it is enjoyable for adults and children alike. Tickets are required by reservation.
5th Avenue- Window Shopping
Distance from Penn Station: 1.1 miles
Looking for something fun while doing your holiday gift shopping? Whether you’re purchasing something or just window shopping, the 5th avenue shops during the winter season are always an enjoyable destination. Famously known for celebrating the holiday season in a remarkable way, 5th avenue is home to some of the most intricate holiday window displays. Saks Fifth Avenue in particular is one of the most popular window attractions on 5th avenue, featuring a different light display each year. Some of the shops involve television screens and moving components, while others showcase classic holiday light designs.
The High Line
Distance from Penn Station: 0.4 miles
Enjoying the holiday season isn’t all about lights and grand displays. What better way to immerse yourself in the season than by taking a stroll through a snowy Manhattan? The High Line is open during the winter months for visitors to walk along the once historic freight rail. Opening in 2009, The High Line is a park that showcases Manhattan’s natural environment, art and architectural design. Walking through the park the perfect way to enjoy the winter months, while remaining safe and socially distancing. The park is a great way to take in the city sights while still being immersed in nature. In this current winter season, The High Line is open has open access to the public on weekdays and free timed-entry reservations on the weekends.