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Ray Banke / Staff Illustrator

Finals might be frightful, but the holidays in New York are delightful. The few weeks between Thanksgiving and winter break can be a stressful time for students. Between studying for finals, throwing the last events of the year for clubs, and packing up to go home, we tend to forget that December is also a really fun time of the year—especially in New York. So, if you have some time during reading week, or if you are planning to stay in the city over break, don’t miss out on these festive activities!

1. Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas or aren’t planning on ice skating, it is still fun to go see the Christmas tree and storefront decorations on Fifth Avenue. This activity is free of charge and you can get cute holiday pictures as well!

2. Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park

Only 20 minutes away by subway, Bryant Park hosts its Winter Village from November to February each year. Mimicking European-style outdoor Christmas markets, the Winter Village is always a reliable option if you don’t know where you want to go. It hosts a range of cute stores as well as delicious restaurants. You can window shop, grab a bite to eat, and listen to some holiday music—all without crossing the street.

3. Ice Skating

Ice skating is a fun outdoor activity in the winter, even if you have never skated before! There are people of all skill levels at the rinks, so you don’t have to feel shy about being a beginner. Also, it’s really funny to see how you and your friends try to balance on the ice; you will probably be laughing at yourselves more than you will be skating. Because of the cold, most people try to stay indoors as much as possible this time of year. But since you move around so much when you skate, it actually doesn’t feel as cold as it is.

There are many different rinks around New York City at different prices. Of course, everyone knows about the iconic Rockefeller Center skating rink, where tickets cost $25 to $35, depending on the time of the year. If you want to rent skates, you will also have to pay an additional $18. However, why spend that money when you can head down to the Bryant Park skating rink, which is only a couple of blocks away from Rockefeller Center and is New York’s only free-admission rink (but if you need to rent skates, they will charge you $18 to $33, depending on the season). If you want to stay a little closer to campus and are cool with spending some money, visit Wollman Rink in Central Park, which is cheaper than the Rockefeller Center but still a $12 admission on weekdays and $19 on the weekends, with a $10 rental charge for skates.

4. Baking

If you don’t feel like going outside, there are also holiday-themed activities to do in your suite. It’s always a fun time when you get some friends together, blast Holiday music, and bake! Some of our favorite recipes to make with friends are:

- Gingerbread houses

Making a gingerbread house from scratch is always fun. But if your kitchen is too small to accommodate that, you can also buy a house to assemble (it’s just as fun and easier to clean up!).

- Hot chocolate

You could always visit your local coffee shop or buy hot chocolate mixes from your local grocery store (some of our favorites are Trader Joe’s and Ghiradelli’s),, but if you want to make some delicious homemade hot chocolate, then try this recipe.

- Sugar cookies

Baking sugar cookies is also a fun activity to do with friends. You get to have a little arts and crafts session when you decorate them, and then get to eat your creations afterward. However, the cookie dough needs to be made in advance, so plan ahead.

5. Holiday markets

Everyone’s favourite summer food market is now available in the winter! Smorgasburg and the Brooklyn Flea Market are teaming up to create a one-stop market in Brooklyn. Of course, because of the season, this market is indoors, so you don’t have to worry about the weather. Instead, enjoy the roughly 70 vendors selling a range of items from furniture to vintage clothes before treating yourself to the cool restaurants that Smoragasburg is hosting.

6. LuminoCity

If you have a good chunk of time available, check out the immersive light experience LuminoCity on Randall’s Island. This year, there are three different light shows: “The Winter Fantasy” (winter and arctic themed), “The Wild Adventure” (nature and jungle themed), and “The Sweet Dream” (candy and dessert themed). If you want to have your jaw drop and marvel at the magic of Christmas lights (and snap a nice picture for your Snapchat), then this is the place to go. If you have to only choose one show to see, “The Winter Fantasy” would be the most “on brand” for the season.

7. Holiday movies

Another option if you want to stay indoors is to snuggle up and watch a holiday-themed movie. Some of our favourite holiday movies include “Home Alone,” “Love, Actually,” “Elf,” and “The Holiday.” Alternatively, you could even go to the theater and watch a newly-released holiday movie such as “Last Christmas” or “Frozen 2.”

Happy holidays from Spectrum!

Staff writer Jazilah Salam can be contacted at Follow Spectator on Twitter @ColumbiaSpec.

winter seasonal events nyc holidays activities festivals festive
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