Free This Week


by staff, 12/23/2013

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There's always something exciting to do and see around the five boroughs that doesn't cost a dime. See our weekly picks below, and visit our calendar and special offers section for more free events.

December 23–January 7

Monday, December 23

Gingerbread Extravaganza
Where: Le Parker Meridien
When: ongoing
Stunning gingerbread creations take center stage when City Harvest and Le Parker Meridien team up for a festive, charitable holiday display inside the Manhattan hotel's lobby. Pastry chefs, restaurants and bakeries around New York were asked to provide their most innovative sugary designs for the event. The 2013 theme is "Quintessential New York," and participants have gone all out with their structures. Perusing the projects is free, but voting for a contender for best in show takes a $1 donation to City Harvest. Among the participants are Butterfly Bakeshop, David Burke Kitchen, Le Monde and Cupcake Café

Tuesday, December 24
Christmas Eve Caroling
Where: Washington Square Park, Washington Arch
When: 5–6pm
On the night before Christmas, bundle up and head to Washington Square Park to take part in a tradition some 90 years strong. Members of the Rob Susman Brass Quartet will lead an hour-long caroling session under the park's famous arch, which frames a 45-foot twinkling tree. Those who gather around can become participants, joining in for a set list of classic holiday tracks—songbooks are given out for those who need a little help remembering the lyrics.

Wednesday, December 25
Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree 
Where: Rockefeller Plaza
The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree is one of the City's holiday icons: every year thousands of revelers flock to the outdoor plaza to see the stunning Norway spruce. The Swarovski star–topped tree is wrapped in 40,000-plus energy-efficient LED lights, which usher in plenty of "oohs" and "ahs" from visitors. You can see the tree, and snap plenty of photos of it, through January 7. (You can also try your luck at getting a spot to skate on the ice rink.) 

Thursday, December 26
Brooklyn Movie Night: A Christmas Story
Where: St. John's Recreation Center
When: 7–9pm
This classic film follows Ralphie—a young boy living in Indiana in the 1940s—as he doggedly attempts to persuade his elders (parents, teacher and, of course, Santa) to buy him a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas. Ralphie also has to deal with bullies who taunt him and a parental feud over a lamp shaped like a woman's leg. 

Friday, December 27
Kwanzaa Celebration
Where: Central Library, Dweck Center
When: 3pm
Learn about Kwanzaa at this event, which includes musical performances and the opportunity to make zawadi (Swahili for "gifts"). Kwanzaa, the weeklong holiday celebrated by millions of people each year, commemorates African-American heritage and culture. Its core traditions revolve around seven basic principles, or Nguzo Saba, including unity, self-determination and faith.

Saturday, December 28
Holiday Open House
Where: Queens County Farm Museum
When: noon–4pm
Situated on the largest remaining tract of farmland in NYC, the Queens County Farm Museum traces its history back to 1697. This holiday open house event includes tours of the festively decorated farmhouse as well as craft activities for children. Guests can enjoy mulled apple cider, made with cinnamon and maple syrup and served hot. 

Sunday, December 29
Wildlife Exploration: Seal Watch
Where: Orchard Beach Nature Center
When: 2pm
NYC is home to all kinds of wildlife, including harbor seals who spend their time in cold coastal waters. Novice explorers, with the help of some expert guides, can tour the best spots in Pelham Bay Park to see these local marine mammals. Seals can be spotted lounging on rocks, sand bars and remote beaches during low tide. Make sure to dress for the weather.

Monday, December 30
The Line King's Library: Al Hirschfeld at the New York Public Library
Where: New York Public Library for the Performing Arts
When: noon–8pm
This Upper West Side branch of the New York Public Library celebrates the 110th anniversary of the birth of caricaturist Al Hirschfeld with an exhibition showcasing his contributions to stage and screen. During his nearly eight-decade career in illustration—most visible in The New York Times' Sunday entertainment pages—Hirschfeld had a profound influence on the arts world in NYC, Hollywood and places in between; for many actors, musicians and other public figures, becoming the subject of his line drawings was a sure sign they had arrived. Curated by David Leopold, who spent over 20 years archiving the artist's work, the exhibition includes drawings, posters, album covers and the very table where Hirschfeld sat to work on many of his depictions.

Tuesday, December 31 
Times Square Ball Drop 
Where: Times Square
When: arrive midafternoon; ball is lit and raised at 6pm and starts descent at 11:59pm
Celebrate the arrival of 2014 with the annual Times Square Ball Drop. Nothing compares with the exhilaration of watching the fete from the streets, plus you can catch music and other performances before and after midnight. With all the revelry (and crowds), it's best to get to Times Square as early as possible in the day; street closures begin at roughly 3pm, by which time the choicest spots are usually filled. For more information, read our guide.

Wednesday, January 1
New Year's Day Swim
Where: Coney Island
When: 1pm
Happy New Year! How will you start your 2014? Well, if you're a member of the Coney Island Polar Bear Club, we know exactly how: in the ocean. The historic organization's hardy, temperature-indifferent members take a dip in the frigid Atlantic every January 1. (They also swim every Sunday from November through April.) Come out to watch them brave 40-degree water, and, if you're so inclined, join in.

Thursday, January 2
Richard Prince: Monochromatic Jokes
Where: Nahmad Contemporary
When: 10am–6pm
"I never had a penny to my name," goes one of the borscht-belt jokes in Richard Prince's latest show, "so I changed my name." Another: "I went to see a psychiatrist. He said, 'Tell me everything.' I did, and now he's doing my act." This selection of the artist's drily humorous works from the late 1980s and early 1990s hasn't been exhibited in more than 15 years. The show is up through January 18. 

Friday, January 3
Giuseppe Penone: Ideas of Stone
Where: Madison Square Park
When: 11am–6pm
Italian artist Giuseppe Penone's installation consists of three 30-foot-tall bronze trees meant to blend with Madison Square Park's natural foliage (and, doubtless, serve as a contemplative backdrop to a burger and fries at Shake Shack). Read about Penone at, see his work in person and, finally, explore the park's surrounding neighborhoods, including the Flatiron District and Gramercy

Saturday, January 4
Brooklyn Brewery Tour 
Where: Brooklyn Brewery
When: noon–8pm
Brooklyn Brewery hosts free tours on Saturdays every half hour from 1pm to 5pm. Learn about the past, present and future of the company and its beer—including favorites like the lager and IPA. (Note: you must be 21 or older or accompanied by a parent or guardian.) After, grab a seat at one of the indoor picnic tables and sample some of the brewery's wildly popular creations. Beer tokens are available for $5 apiece or five for $20. The bar sells snacks, but outside food is also welcome. 

Sunday, January 5
Scissor Sundays 
Where: The Rusty Knot
When: 4–10pm
JD Samson (Le Tigre, MEN) hosts this weekly Sunday afternoon tea dance at the Rusty Knot, a charming space that reminds us of our Uncle Ted's basement—the way it was back in 1982. Enjoy drinks (which, sadly, are not free), a convivial LGBTQ crowd and some of the best sunset views around. 

Monday, January 6
Three Kings Day Parade
Where: El Museo del Barrio
When: 11am–12:30pm
El Museo del Barrio hosts the annual Three Kings Day Parade and Celebration—by far the largest and longest-running Three Kings Day party in the City. It's also one of the only New York City parades populated mostly by children. Marchers will join camels, sheep, a donkey, colorful puppets, brightly dressed community leaders posing as the Three Kings and thousands of spectators for a festive day replete with music and gift giveaways.

Tuesday, January 7
Ishmael Beah, Radiance of Tomorrow: A Novel
Where: Barnes & Noble Union Square
When: 7pm
Ishmael Beah's critically lauded 2007 debut, A Long Way Gone, chronicled his upbringing in Sierra Leone, where he was drafted into fighting that country's civil war as a child soldier. At this event he reads from Radiance of Tomorrow, his first novel, which is about what happens after the war ends: the book focuses on two friends, Benjamin and Bockarie, who return to their hometown and struggle to find equilibrium when faced with crime, famine and corporate greed.

related venues/(8)

  1. 1
    Rockefeller Center
    45 Rockefeller Plaza
    Manhattan – Midtown West
    NY 10111
  2. 2
    Central Library, Dweck Center
    10 Grand Army Plaza
    Brooklyn – Prospect Heights
  3. 3
    Queens County Farm Museum
    73-50 Little Neck Pkwy.
    NY 11004
  1. 4
    Orchard Beach
    Park Dr
    NY 10464
  2. 5
    New York Public Library for the Performing Arts
    111 Amsterdam Ave
    Manhattan – Upper West Side
  3. 6
    Coney Island
    Surf Avenue
    Brooklyn – Coney Island
    NY 11224
  1. 7
    El Museo del Barrio
    1230 Fifth Ave.
    Manhattan – East Harlem/El Barrio
    NY 10029
  2. 8
    Brooklyn Brewery
    79 N. 11th St.
    Brooklyn – Williamsburg
    NY 11211

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