Sure, the weather outside is frightful, but that doesn’t mean you and your pup have to stay home! There’s the holiday season, winter just around the corner, and lots of fun New York activities to do. Grab a scarf and a coat and have some fun with these eight fun and dog-friendly things to do in New York City during the winter.
1. Ride the Holiday Nostalgia Train
Go back in time this winter by simply swiping your MetroCard ($2.75!).
Every Sunday between Thanksgiving and New Years, the MTA will be putting 1930s R1-9 train cars back on the tracks.
The old time trains will be running on Sundays throughout Manhattan. They’ll choo-choo downtown along the A and D lines, and uptown along the F line.
The holiday nostalgia train will be virtual in 2020 due to COVID-19, but should be back up and running in person in 2021.
2. Go to a Dog-Friendly Holiday Party
Nothing kicks off the holidays like a good party. Luckily, there are always a few happening around the city.
There’s everything from White Elephant parties, to themed trivia, to Hanukkah celebrations, and more happening throughout the city. Hit one up and spread your holiday cheer.
You can check out a full list of holiday parties and pup-ups on our dog-friendly event calendar.
3. Do a Holiday Photoshoot
Winter is when the city transforms into a festive canvas of twinkling lights and green Christmas trees. Suddenly the gray, dull colors of winter are livened and brightened with reds, greens, and blues everywhere. It’s a magical time!
All of the decor means there are so many great holiday photo ops around the city. Here’s a few places to get the perfect sparkly holiday pup photos:
- The Seaport
- The New York Stock Exchange
- Sidewalk Christmas Tree vendors
- Industry City
- Bryant Park
- Madison Square Park
- Lotte New York Palace
- Hudson Yards
- Street lights and decorations (see photo above).
4. Go See Holiday Window Displays
The holidays are when New York staples show off their fanciest window displays, and dazzle passer-byers with epic lights, music, and tableaus.
Macy’s started the holiday tradition in the 19th century, when they decorated their street-level windows with festive lights.
Since then, storefronts across the city have aimed to outdo themselves every year. They create eye-catching scenes, celebrating the holidays and spreading holiday cheer.
The holiday windows aren’t only fun and festive, but they’re a safe way to take in some holiday cheer (safer than sitting on Santa’s lap!). They’re also something every person – and dog – can enjoy, free of charge.
The spectacular holiday window displays are best at the following locations:
- Saks 5th Avenue – their music and light show is (in my opinion) the best in the city, and just right down the street from the Rockefeller tree!
- Bloomingdale’s – their flagship store on 59th street puts on a show every year, with lights and fun themes.
- Bergdorf Goodman – located near the famous Plaza Hotel and right across from Central Park, the grandiosity of Bergdorf Goodman’s display is certainly not lost on pedestrians. They leave no place untouched, with stunning fixtures and lights.
- Macy’s – the store that started it all! Macy’s annual holiday window displays are world famous, and with good reason.
All of these stores are somewhat close to one another, so if you’re feeling particularly festive, so a window display crawl with your pup throughout midtown. Don’t forget the hot cocoa!
5. Go See the Tree at Rockefeller Center
The dazzling tree is guaranteed to be the biggest tree your dog will ever sniff – but don’t pee on it!
The gigantic tree is usually 69 to 100 feet, with a dazzling 50,000 lights and a 9-foot-wide Swarovski Star on top. It’s great for holiday selfies, sipping hot cocoa, and for people watching (there’s an ice rink right below it).
It all started in 1931, when the first Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center was erected during the Depression-era construction of Rockefeller Center. Workers decorated a small 20 foot tree with their families on Christmas Eve.
Since then, it’s become a yearly tradition, with a tree lighting ceremony broadcast to millions on television.
Can’t make it until after Christmas? Don’t worry, you have plenty of time to check it out. The tree will remain lit and can be viewed until after the New Year.
6. Get a Holiday Drink at a Dog-Friendly bar
When dog-friendly NYC bars and restaurants start busting out the seasonal drinks, you know it’s time to splurge a little. ‘Tis the season to be jolly after all.
The Grey Dog – The Grey Dog always goes big for the holidays, with their delicious mulled wine and hot spiked apple cider. We love them, their dog-friendly atmosphere (and name!), and the fact that the often do fundraisers for local animal rescues. There are a few locations in Manhattan, so check them out.
Luckydog – If you’re a dog in NYC, Luckydog is the place to be. Dogs are allowed both indoors and outdoors in this Brooklyn joint, with plenty of room to sit, free shuffleboard, and happy hour lasts from 12pm – 7pm (with $3 well drinks!). Pair that with Luckydog’s delicious hot toddy or their adult hot chocolate and you’ve got the perfect day. It doesn’t get better than that.(303 Bedford Ave, Williamsburg, Brooklyn).
d.b.a. – This East Village neighborhood dive bar, is all about the holi-dawgs. Sip on a hot cider with whiskey or rum and hang out on their heated patio. They have happy hour every night until 9pm, plus plenty of dog events to keep you busy. Bonus: check out their Instagram feed for plenty of pup porn. d.b.a is currently closed due to COVID-19, but should be back some time in 2021! (41 1st Ave, East Village, Manhattan).
For those of you who’d rather skip the alcohol, head to your local cafe for a peppermint mocha with extra whipped cream, and don’t forget to order a puppuccino for your dog!
7. Go Sledding in Central Park
Sledding is fun for all ages, and all leg counts – two or four. When Central Park gets more than six inches of snow, their sledding areas open for everyone to enjoy.
The two most popular spots are Pilgrim Hill, accessed by the park entrance at 72nd St and Fifth Ave, and Cedar Hill, found a bit further uptown between 76th and 79th St at Fifth Ave.
Check out our dog-friendly guide to Central Park to get the low down on park rules and areas.
If you’re closer to Prospect Park in Brooklyn, head there. Top sledding spots include Long Meadow, Lookout Hill, Drummer’s Grove and Endale Arch.
Need a sled? We recommend this one.
8. Go See Holiday Lights in Dyker Heights
The Brooklyn neighborhood of Dyker Heights is home to the most over-the-top holiday decorations in the entire city, with huge life sized Santa’s, a dizzying amount of lights, and blasting holiday music. It’s Christmas, but on steroids.
It’s gotten so intense over the years, that some homeowners have opted to hire professional decorating companies, just to make sure their decor is up to par.
Dyker Heights is located in the Kings County area of Brooklyn, and is best reached via car (although parking during this time can be tricky!). If you’d rather take the subway, take the D Train to 79th St and New Utrecht Ave, and then walk for about 15 minutes.
The best homes are located from 11th to 13th Avenues (also known as Dyker Heights Blvd) from 83rd to 86th St in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn. The homes are usually decorated from mid-December through New Year’s Eve. Most of the houses turn their displays off after 9pm, but some do leave theirs on later, for you night owls.
9. Go to a Holiday Market
Holiday markets in NYC are a great place to spend an afternoon people watching, shopping and snacking. Hit up one of these markets, and be sure to grab some mulled wine or hot cocoa while there.
Winter Village at Bryant Park: Featuring over 170 vendors (!), the Winter Village at Bryant Park has something for everyone. There’s a cozy skating rink, wholesome eats and holiday events like a tree lighting and caroling. It’s a winter wonderland, right in the middle of the city!
Union Square Holiday Market: This European-style winter market features more than 150 local and national vendors, so there’s truly something for everyone. Head here for a day of winter fun, grab a snack from food vendors, shop ’til you drop, and then cap it all off with play time at the dog park right in Union Square.
Columbus Circle Holiday Market: This annual holiday bazaar is right at the entrance of Central Park, the city’s best dog park! With more than 100 booths, there are plenty of dog-themed items to choose from. We liked the dog breed socks, and freshly made hot apple cider donuts. Shop and then head into the park.
Click here to see a full list of dog-friendly holiday markets in New York City.
10. Have Your Photo Taken with Santa
Dogs love laps, and Santa has a big one!
Get your pup’s photo taken with Santa, perfect for the fridge or this year’s holiday cards.
Local Petco and Unleashed stores offer photos with Santa, with 100% of your $9.95 fee benefiting homeless pets in your community, through the Petco Foundation. Check locations and times on the Petco website.
There are also other dog-friendly events that offer photos with Santa, like at Brooklyn’s Bushwick Bark or at dog meet ups. Check out our dog-friendly calendar to get in the know.
11. Go to a Christmas Tree Lighting
‘Tis the season for Christmas trees to be lit up all throughout the city!
🎄 Rockefeller Center – the biggest, and some might say best tree in New York City, is in Rockefeller Center. The lighting takes place in person and at night, but be warned that it gets crowded and can be pretty cold! There are special performances If you can’t make it in person, then tune into NBC to watch. December 1st, 2021.
🎄 Wall Street – Santa will be there, hot cocoa will be provided and there are performances, this year by the Harlem Globe Trotters, The Salvation Army Band and more! If you can’t make it in person, you can stream the event online on the New York Stock Exchange website. Wednesday, December 1, 2021 at 4:15 p.m.
🎄 Seaport District – The Seaport District goes all out for their tree lighting, creating a festive environment for all ages to enjoy. There’s everything from holiday crafts and live music, to pop-up markets to hot chocolate and mulled wine to an ugly sweater party too! Thursday, December 2, 2021 at 6:45 p.m.
🎄 Bryant Park – Bryant Park will kick off the holiday season with performances by The Classical Theatre of Harlem Choir and live performances by Olympic and World champion skaters. There will also be fireworks and Santa. The event will be streamed on the Bryant Park website for those who can’t make it. Tickets are required, and are released on December 1st. Be sure to reserve yours! Monday, December 6, 2021 at 6 p.m.
🎄 Washington Square Park – NYC’s 2nd longest running tree lighting ceremony! The Rob Susman Brass Quartet and will sing holiday songs and Santa will be there too. Wednesday, December 8th, 2021 (tentative) at 6pm.
🎄 Holiday on the Hudson – This Harlem tree lighting includes live music, tree decoration making, and hot chocolate. Saturday, December 4, 2021, 4:30 p.m.–6:00 p.m.
🎄 Central Park Holiday Lighting – At the 25th Annual Holiday Lighting in Central Park, guests can meet Santa and friends, sing carols on the Plaza and watch the dazzling flotilla of trees light up in the Harlem Meer. It’s a great family friendly event. Thursday, December 2, 2021 at 5:30 p.m.
🎄 Madison Square Park – Madison Square Park has held an annual holiday tree lighting for over 100 years!? Can you believe it? They’re home to the nation’s first public holiday tree, starting way back in 1912. Watch the tree lightning and then head to the dog run and Shake Shack for a burger.Thursday, December 9, 4:00pm – 5:30pm.
12. Visit the Memorial Tree in Central Park
This is a special one, so buckle up. Hidden deep within Central Park, in a secluded place, stands a tree dressed up for the holidays every year. The ornaments, placed there by pet loving New Yorkers, are all dedicated to beloved pets who have passed, but are never forgotten.
The Memorial Pet Tree in Central Park is an elusive holiday tradition – many born and raised New Yorkers don’t even know about it!
The ornaments are all shapes and sizes, and many feature photos of the departed pets. All kinds of pets are included, from dogs and cats, to reptiles and birds.
There’s been little written about its existence, but it exists. There’s no record of how long the tradition has existed, but come mid-December, the tree is filled.
If you’d like to visit the Memorial Tree, and honor the pets who have passed or share an ornament or a memory, head to Central Park. It’ll take a bit of foot-work and patience, but you’ll find it, and once you see it, you’ll know.
Want more dog-friendly fun in NYC? Click here.
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