Holidays in the USA: what to do in your college city this December

15 Dec 2016 - Lindsay Bennett. Photo by Time Out New York.

December is a very festive month in the USA. Because America is multicultural, many different holidays and customs are celebrated just before the New Year. If you're studying in the USA, you can find lots of fun things to do during the holiday season. Here are a few ideas for international students spending their holidays in the USA living in New York, Boston and Seattle!


In New York, the Christmas season “officially” begins when Santa Claus appears on his sleigh at the end of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. There’s always a lot to see and do here, but one very New York tradition is to see a performance by the Rockettes in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. This annual dance show dates back to 1933. On your way there, make sure to stroll along Fifth Avenue’s department stores to view their amazing holiday window displays.

In Boston, Faneuil Hall—America’s first open-air market—is the center of the city’s festivities. Every night, you can catch free light and music shows as you pop in and out of the holiday shops. December is a great month to enjoy classic holiday tunes, especially if you get tickets to “America’s Orchestra,” the Boston Pops.

Tchaikovsky’s classic Christmas ballet The Nutcracker is especially beloved in the USA, and performed by major ballet companies throughout the country every year. If you’re in Seattle, you won’t want to miss a performance by the celebrated Pacific Northwest Ballet. At night, the Seattle Art Museum lights up with holiday spirit, offering special installations, arts and crafts, and sweet treats.


America is home to one of the largest Jewish populations in the world, so most cities celebrate the 8-night “festival of lights” called Hanukkah. New York hosts the world’s largest menorah lighting in Brooklyn's Prospect Park, featuring live music and traditional foods like potato latkes. At Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, you can learn about their collection of Jewish art and objects, and make your own Hanukkah arts and crafts. Seattle’s annual Winterfest, next to the city’s famous Space Needle, includes exciting high-energy performances of Jewish klezmer music.


First celebrated in the USA, Kwanzaa is a non-religious holiday that celebrates the cultural heritage and traditions of Africans around the world. Festivities include feasts of African dishes and rituals that honor the respected principles of African culture. Museums are great places to experience this special holiday. New York’s American Museum of Natural History and Seattle’s Northwest African American Museum feature dance performances, storytelling and traditional crafts. At Boston's Museum of African American History, you can enjoy music and spoken word performances that tell the story of the city's African American community in the 19th century.

No matter what you choose, holidays in the USA are a fun way to explore your city’s traditions and celebrate the winter season!

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