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Christmas in the City: What To Do In New York On Christmas Day

For Jews, Christmas is a great excuse to do nothing — but with most of the city otherwise occupied, it’s also a great day to explore New York. If you wake up feeling festive, here are the eight best options for Christmas Day in the city.

Take an outing to one of the city’s classic cinemas

Nitehawk Cinema.

Nitehawk Cinema. Image by Getty

From “Little Women” to “Uncut Gems,” there’s a film for everyone this Christmas. Brooklyn’s Nitehawk Cinema pairs its movies with themed snacks, Metrograph’s adjacent bar is a chic spot for a couple’s night out, and Film Forum offers artsy picks for those of us who can’t even be in the same building as “Frozen II.”

Visit a Jewish Museum

Growing Panes: The Museum at Eldridge Street installed a new window in 2010. Image by Courtesy Eldridge Street Synagogue

While the Met and MoMa shut their doors on Christmas Day, Jewish museums are propping up the city’s cultural life. The Museum at Eldridge Street will host its annual Klez For Kids family concert, followed by a Hanukkah ceremony featuring historic menorahs from the shul. The Jewish Museum offers a drawing workshop for kids, an exhibition of Hanukkah lamps, and performances from a Jewish bluegrass band.

Take in a jazz concert

Musician Stanley Clarke performing at Blue Note.

Musician Stanley Clarke performing at Blue Note. Image by Getty

For many of the city’s most storied jazz clubs, Christmas is just another night. Blue Note has a holiday-themed concert, while basement bar Smalls offers three different acts.

Stroll Through Chinatown

A view of the Lower East Side.

A view of the Lower East Side. Image by Getty

Chinatown is one of those places where the workaday hustle and bustle doesn’t stop on Christmas — and where you might not need a dinner reservation.

Do something classic and corny

The Staten Island Ferry.

The Staten Island Ferry. Image by iStock

Christmas is the day to visit quintessential New York sites that are usually clogged by tourists. Bring your kids to the top of the Empire State Building, take the Staten Island Ferry, or just enjoy a quiet walk in Central Park.

Gorge on Jewish deli

Legendary deli Barney Greengrass.

Legendary deli Barney Greengrass. Image by Getty

If you want to be festive without taking part in Christmas, Jewish deli is a great option. But unlike other restaurants, they’re often crowded on Christmas — so make a reservation!

Shop at a holiday market

The Bryant Park holiday market.

The Bryant Park holiday market. Image by iStock

Holiday markets started out as a European Christmas tradition, but the one in Bryant Park, selling all kinds of food and gifts, gives another meaning to the phrase “festival of lights.”

Go Skating

Skating at Bryant Park.

Skating at Bryant Park. Image by iStock

The Rockefeller Rink can be crowded and pricey, but there are plenty of other rinks that are open on Christmas. A lap around the rink at Bryant Park is a great prelude to the holiday market, and Brooklyn dwellers can skate closer to home at Prospect Park’s LeFrak Center.

Irene Katz Connelly is an intern at the Forward. You can contact her at connelly@forward.com.

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