Christmas is widely known as the day most of the outside world shutters, leaving anyone with a case of cabin fever to seek respite in movie theaters and . As usual New York City is a notable outlier, preserving its always-open reputation with countless ways to celebrate the holiday—or avoid it altogether. If you’re lucky enough to find yourself within the five boroughs this December 25, here’s how to make the most of it.
Tavern on the Green. Photo: Mitchell Frye
The Tradition: NYC chefs often feature prix-fixe menus and lavish buffets on Christmas Day at restaurants like the elegant and comfort-food mainstay . Many eateries have designated seating times or modified holiday hours, so book ahead of time. Others, like Bushwick’s beloved pizza spot , are business as usual with holiday specials sprinkled in.
Katz's Delicatessen. Photo: Matthew Penrod
The Twist: You can count on a classic Jewish deli to be open on Christmas, and NYC has some of the best. Tuck into a towering pastrami sandwich at or “The Classic” smoked salmon board at . If your Christmas isn’t complete without lo mein, head to one of the City’s three Chinatowns—in , or —for authentic Chinese fare.
Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockets. Courtesy, MSG
The Tradition: An annual Radio City institution that’s been running since 1933, the lives up to its name with legendary choreography, elaborate costumes, charming vignettes and venue-transforming special effects. The high-kicking headliners (and company) do an impressive four performances on Christmas Day.
School of Rock. Photo: Andrew Eccles
The Twist: The show goes on for many Broadway productions this Christmas, including hit musicals like and and critically acclaimed plays like . The is also in full swing, with two shows on Christmas Day.
Rockefeller Christmas Center Tree. Courtesy, Diane Bondareff/Invision for Tishman Speyer/AP Images
The Tradition: New York City’s ever-changing landscape is especially photogenic during the holidays. You could spend the day admiring along Fifth Avenue or marveling at the giant Christmas trees in and .
Empire State Building Observatory. Photo: Julienne Schaer
Bryant Park Holiday Shops. Photo: Brittany Petronella
The Twist: , an Upper West Side institution offering gourmet groceries, prepared foods and impressive selection of housewares, is open all day. (You can’t go wrong with a gift card for NYC-based relatives.) Down in Manhattan’s Chinatown, some shops are likely to be open as well—and you’re sure to stumble upon some excellent dim sum either way.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Photo: Christopher Postlewaite
The Tradition: Catch a Christmas morning service or afternoon concert at the majestic , the world’s largest Anglican cathedral. Or head to —a pristine landmark amid the Fifth Avenue bustle—for any of the six traditional Catholic masses held that day.
Also Tradition: Whatever you celebrate, the holiday season is a reminder to give back. Lend a helping hand to New Yorkers in need this Christmas by volunteering at a soup kitchen, food pantry or hospital through .