Christmas Events and Winter Wonderlands Within 2 Hours of NYC

Fun destinations in Hudson Valley, Long Island, and beyond, as well as timeless Big Apple traditions.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year when streets are decked with boughs of holly for month-long Christmas activities with Santa and mulled wine.

This holiday season, along with festivities happening in New York City, head outside of the five boroughs for whimsical light shows and more that make for a great city escape while spending quality time with loved ones. From timeless musicals and winter wonderlands, here are fun and unique Christmas activities to enjoy within two hours of NYC.

Say hi to Santa and Mrs. Claus after a mile-long outdoor stroll

Escape to the City of Hudson for the Winter Walk street festival on the mile-long historic
Warren Street. Located just minutes by foot from the Amtrak station, Warren Street is Hudson’s Main Street dotted with unique and independent stores, antiques, galleries, bookstores and the like for die-hard wanderlusters and those who love walkable small towns and cities. Festivities will include Santa and Mrs. Claus appearances; outdoor Christmas jazz; miniature sculptures; fireworks; a display by Hudson-Athens Lighthouse Preservation Society; and so much more.
Where: Warren Street, Hudson, NY
When: December 3 starting 5 pm
Price: Free
How to get there: 2 hour Amtrak from NY Moynihan Station to Hudson and then a 5 min walk to Warren Street.

Take an immersive candlelight tour at a historic town

Historic Richmond Town in Staten Island is a settlement once inhabited by Dutch settlers and their English in-laws from the 1700s to 1890s. The Candlelight tour begins at the Visitor’s Center where guides in period costumes—think flouncy skirts and bonnets—lead the group to provide a peep at some master craftspeople at work. For example, the tin shop (with dim bulbs because there was no electric grid in the 1700-1800s) has a woman tinsmith hammering Christmas ornaments; a home decorated in decor of the era like a candle-lit Christmas tree and ornaments by the fireplace; and the making of Dutch olykoeks (sprinkled with cinnamon sugar), or doughnuts as they’re now known, in a hearth cauldron. The tour ends with tavern singing, a wassail bowl, and desserts, so come hungry.
Where: 441 Clarke Ave, Staten Island, NY
When: December 10–11 and 17–18
Price: $10 (Children under 12 years are free)
How to get there: Free 15 min Staten Island ferry from Whitehall to St. George Terminal then a 30 min taxi/Uber to Richmond Town; less than an hour’s drive from Manhattan or Brooklyn.

The Armour-Stiner (Octagon) House
The Armour-Stiner (Octagon) House

Tour Victorian mansions decked out in Christmas cheer

Continuing with unconventional Christmas activities, what better way to enjoy than at historic homes of the Hudson Valley? Tour grand edifices built by Gilded Age magnates and wealthy businessmen with original furnishing intact. For example, Armour-Stiner Octagon House in Irvington has the Victorian Christmas at the Octagon House tour until December 30 and it will be draped with decor, a large Christmas tree, and docent narration of landscape, architecture, and history. Tickets are $29. Nearby is Lyndhurst Mansion and its Holiday Classic Mansion Tour with period furnishings and Christmas decor of former owners. The one hour tour runs November 28 through December 30th between 9:30 am–3 pm. Tickets are available for purchase.
Where: Hudson Valley
How to get there: 1 hour via Saw Mill River Parkway; 50 mins Metro-North train ride to either Dobbs Ferry or Irvington Station then a taxi/Uber to Octagon House; 50 mins via I-87 N for Lyndhurst Mansion.

Make like Monet with a chocolate painting class

Paint chocolate with chocolate at this edible experience by Disset Chocolate, an artisanal chocolatier on North Fork, Long Island. Start with a chocolate canvas and “paints” of melted cocoa butter mixed with food coloring to get primary colors of red, yellow, blue. Paint Christmas imagery or fancy yourself a Jackson Pollock with symmetric dots. Afterwards, treat yourself to their range of seasonal bonbons, bars, spreads, and kits. Your chocolate canvas lasts up to six months at room temperature so enjoy. Painting workshops are also available for private groups.
Where: 28080 Main Road, Cutchogue, NY
When: December 11–31
Price: $70
How to get there: 1 hour 30 mins via Northern State Parkway; 2 hours via Hampton Jitney from select NYC locations to North and South Fork.

Mohonk Mountain House
Mohonk Mountain House

Marvel at a gingerbread house competition

Your inner child will be glad you decided to check out a gingerbread house competition at the Mohonk Mountain House, featuring classic houses, futuristic designs, and more. The competition is free to enter until spaces fill and judging is on December 11. Gingerbread pieces will be on display from December 13 to January 1, 2023—and you can also see them if you opt for one of the amazing specials on offer like the Midweek Spa Getaway or Mountain Mini-cation.
Where: 1000 Mountain Rest Rd., New Paltz, NY
When: December 13 to January 1, 2023
Price: Free to enter competition
How to get there: 90 mins Trailways Bus from Port Authority Bus Terminal to New Paltz Main Street then a short taxi/Uber ride up the mountain or pre-schedule a Mohonk shuttle for your arrival; 1 hour and 45 mins by car on I-87 N.

Explore a Christmas warehouse

Ever wonder how iconic Christmas displays at Rockefeller Center or Cartier on 5th Avenue happen? Wonder no more as American Christmas, the company responsible for these classics, is opening its 110,000 square foot warehouse and showroom to the public for a unique Christmas experience. Stroll through Santa’s Village with life size displays, Dickens interactive vignettes, and mesmerizing animatronics. Visitors will also be privy to a section of the warehouse where NYC decorations are created and assembled by the American Christmas “elves.”
Where: 30 Warren Place, Mount Vernon, NY
When: Until December 23
Price: $10 during the week and $15 on weekends.
How to get there: 50 mins Metro-North train from Grand Central to Mount Vernon East then a short taxi/Uber to destination; 40 mins by car via Henry Hudson Parkway.

Amaze Light Festival
Amaze Light Festival

Head to a light festival at a famed NYC ballpark

Immerse yourself in Amaze Light Festival, a storybook light show with live characters, a stage show, and hundreds of custom lighted pieces. There are also themed worlds, Zing’s Thrill Hill, an Arctic Express Train, a holiday market with hand-made pieces, food, and warm drinks for comfort. It is the largest light festival in the country.
Where: 41 Seaver Way, Queens, NY
When: Until January 2023
Price: $50.15 adult, $41.15 for children 2-12 years
How to get there: Take the 7 to Mets-Willets Point

Snag sustainably sourced Christmas trees

Brooklyn and Manhattan
Greg Walsh has been selling Christmas trees in New York City for over three decades and his trees are sustainably sourced from as far as Quebec and as domestic as the Blue Ridge Mountains in the Appalachians. What makes a Greg’s Trees experience different from others are his setups, which transform local NYC parks and gardens into North Pole winterland backdrops for fun tree picking as a family event.
Where: Multiple locations: Domino Park in Williamsburg, McCarren Park in Greenpoint, JJ Byrne Playground in Park Slope, and Washington Square Park in Manhattan.
When: Until January 2023

Crystal Springs Resort
Biosphere at Crystal Springs Resort | Crystal Springs Resort

Indulge in holiday activities after a few rounds on a golf range

Crystal Springs Resort in Sussex County is the ideal holiday getaway in nearby New Jersey. Boasting two spas, hotels, dining venues, and a biosphere pool complex with lush foliage to make you forget winter, this time of year, the resort is transformed with activities like gingerbread house decorating, goat yoga, and elf scavenger hunts. If you prefer less holiday-centric activities, try supervised archery by a scenic quarry (equipment available), clay shooting with an infra-red beam, and of course, golf at any of the six courses.
Where: Crystal Springs Resort, Sussex County, NJ
When: Until December 31
Price: Activities range between $15 and $45
Howto get there: 50 mins via car on I-80 W or NJ-23

Union Square Holiday Market
Union Square Holiday Market | Photo by Jacob Williamson

Feel mesmerized at citywide winter wonderlands and Christmas markets

An unmissable NYC holiday activity includes local Christmas markets and winter wonderlands. Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park has artisanal shops like Avigail Adam Jewelry or Beriqisu with apparel and gifts inspired by Ghanaian heritage. While there, also check out the skating rink, Christmas tree, and food hall with hot cocoa and waffles—and take note, winter yurts and lodges reserve fast. The Union Square Holiday Market is popular for everything from local accessories and pies to winter wear and unique items; Rockefeller Center’s includes the iconic tree and skating beneath the Prometheus statue. Head downtown to Westfield Shops & Dining at World Trade Center for giant snowmen, winter lodges, and Christmas snacks; walk to nearby Brookfield Place with its Luminaries (opens November 25) in the Winter Garden, Le District French Market, and a less crowded skating rink for the bambi-legged skaters.
Where: Citywide


Get nostalgic at popular musicals and Broadway shows

Nothing screams Christmas in New York City than the plethora of classic Broadway musicals like Wicked and Lion King, and Greek mythology shows like the acclaimed Hadestown. Classic Christmas musicals such as The Nutcracker and the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall are also stalwarts, and then there’s the ever popular Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre (don’t miss the classic Revelations number) at New York City Center.
Where: Citywide

Old Westbury Gardens
Old Westbury Gardens

Be dazzled by a light show at Old Westbury Gardens

Can’t get enough light shows? Head to Old Westbury Gardens on Long Island for a Shimmering Solstice walkthrough of its Walled Garden, Rose Garden, and flowered paths. Visitors experience interactive exhibits and illuminated features on the property’s pond. Turn back time with Christmas at Westbury House nibbling on afternoon tea, partaking in wreath-making, and chilling to a choir concert. These latter events run through mid-December so throw on your holiday best and head east.
Where: 71 Old Westbury Rd., Old Westbury, NY
When: Until January 1, 2023
Price: Between $19.95 and $34.95
How to get there: 45 mins via car on I-495 E

Visit an enchanted forest on an orchard

Step into an enchanted forest at the Harvest Moon Farm & Orchard with a spectacular LUMAGICA USA light show. The half-mile trail is filled with 750,000 lights, large lit creatures like a 20-foot reindeer, light tunnels, magic trees, and lots of whimsy. With its storybook setting and ambience, kids of all ages will love ambling through this magical world with a steaming mug of cocoa. Have waterproof and comfy shoes for the terrain and prepare to walk up to an hour. The location is ADA compliant and is open all week from 4 pm–9pm. Tickets are available to purchase here.
Where: 130 Hardscrabble Road, North Salem, NY
When: Until December 31
Price: Between $24.90 and $31.90
How to get there: 2 hours via car on I-87 N and Saw Mill River Parkway

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Kemi Ibeh is a contributor for Thrillist.