Holidays in the City

by Staff

(Updated 12/29/2015)

January 1 – New Year's Day
New York City has the world's most famous New Year's Eve celebration, and the five boroughs are also a wonderful place to spend the day itself. In recent years, the Merchant's House Museum has held a New Year's Day open house trying to capture what it was like to experience the holiday in the 19th century, when New Yorkers would "call in" to wish their friends and family all the best for the year ahead. As for current traditions, the City's lively sports bars are fun-filled places to watch college football bowl games.

January 18 – Martin Luther King Jr. Day
Celebrate the great civil rights leader in one of the world's most ethnically diverse cities. Parks and museums throughout the five boroughs honor Dr. King with speakers, films, discussions, even concerts. Much of the holiday observance revolves around one of the values Dr. King held most dear: service. New Yorkers band together and do what they can to make their communities better for everyone. That often means restoring streets, recycling, planting and more.

February 2 – Groundhog Day
Groundhog Day is when New Yorkers and other winter-weary folks wait with bated breath to learn if spring will come early or if the cold weather will plague them for another six weeks. The world’s most famous groundhog is no doubt Punxsutawney Phil—immortalized in the 1993 Bill Murray movie—but New York City has its very own predictor extraordinaire in Staten Island Chuck, who, in fact, has a greater accuracy rate than his Pennsylvania-born pal. According to many reports, Phil has correctly predicted spring's arrival less than 40% of the time, while our groundhog's success rate is closer to 80%. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, NYC is the superior Groundhog Day destination.

February 8 – Lunar New Year
There's no better place to welcome the Year of the Monkey than NYC, home to some of the most bustling Chinese communities outside China. The City's main Chinatowns—in downtown Manhattan; Flushing, Queens; and Sunset Park, Brooklyn—as well as numerous other neighborhoods come alive with colorful festivities. Two celebrations are held: one, the New Year Firecracker Ceremony and Cultural Festival, on the actual day; and a second, the Lunar New Year Parade and Festival, less than a week later. You'll find fireworks; dragon parades featuring floats, costumes and music; and some of the tastiest Chinese food anywhere. They make up a dazzling spectacle and a fantastic tribute to NYC's diversity.

February 14 – Valentine's Day
Some people assert that the world's most romantic city is in France. We say, "Forget Paris." On the subject of romantic flicks, it's fitting that An Affair to Remember and When Harry Met Sally (to name just a couple) took place in NYC. In the real world, the City is full of cozy restaurants, dreamy music, bright lights and everything else you'll need to embrace the day. We especially recommend the breathtaking views from Top of the Rock, the Empire State Building and the Staten Island Ferry.

February 15 – Presidents' Day
Presidents' Day roughly corresponds to the birthday of George Washington, the first president of the United States (it also honors Abraham Lincoln, born February 12). Way back in 1789, Washington was inaugurated not in Washington (which didn't yet exist as a city) but right here in New York at Federal Hall. While you can't commemorate the day with a visit to the Hall's exhibition galleries (it's closed on federal holidays), you can still bask in the glow of the nation's historic first capital—and seek out statues of both presidents around town, of which there are a combined 10.

March 17 – St. Patrick's Day
They say everyone's a little bit Irish during this festive celebration, and that's especially true in New York City. Some shops even sell green bagels on St. Patrick's Day. For the main event, watch bagpipers, drummers and other assorted revelers march their way down Fifth Avenue in the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade—or just share in the spirit at one of the City's many pubs.

April 22 – Earth Day
Earth Day is another great time to celebrate New York's efforts to go green—as in environmentally friendly. Pedal down a new bike lane, enjoy shade from a tree planted as part of MillionTreesNYC (which, in accordance with its name, added a million of the leafy assets to the City) or check out engaging educational programs throughout the five boroughs.

May 30 – Memorial Day
It's the unofficial start of summer and the City's public beaches are now open, so why not plunge right in? Maybe you'll go to Coney Island for a ride on the legendary Cyclone and Wonder Wheel. There are also the various Memorial Day parades that take place around town. And don't forget to go see the Mets or Yankees in action—one or the other plays a Memorial Day home game every year.

July 4 – Independence Day
There's no place like NYC to celebrate America's independence. The day's centerpiece is the Macy's Fourth of July fireworks, in which more than 100,000 pyrotechnics explode in a dazzling show that's choreographed to music. Meanwhile, out in Coney Island, elite competitors from around the globe embrace their freedom to eat—a lot—at the Nathan's Famous hot-dog-eating contest.

September 5 – Labor Day
Labor Day is recognized throughout the United States, but it originated in New York City. In 1882, the Central Labor Union recognized the first-ever Labor Day as a day off for American workers and as a celebration of their role in bringing about progress and prosperity for all. The New York City Central Labor Council still organizes a parade on the weekend following the federal holiday. On the actual Labor Day weekend, the West Indian–American Day Carnival fills the streets of Brooklyn with the festive sights, sounds and smells of the Caribbean.

October 10 – Columbus Day
New York City's Columbus Day Parade is a vibrant, star-studded celebration of Italian-American culture and contributions—past grand marshals have included such luminaries as Mario Andretti, Frank Sinatra and Sophia Loren. The day's events also include a solemn mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral. The week leading up to the big festivities is marked by such traditions as a Columbus Circle wreath-laying ceremony and special exhibitions at Grand Central Terminal.

October 31 – Halloween
Halloween in New York City is so much fun, it's—ahem—scary. The spectacular Village Halloween Parade has been named one of the 100 things to do before you die by Neil Teplica and David Freeman in their book of the same name. And all around the five boroughs, you'll see an unparalleled cast of costumed characters (yes, even more than during an ordinary NYC day).

November 11 – Veterans Day
New York City's parade pays tribute to those who have served in the US armed forces with marching bands, proud displays of the American flag and more than 100,000 spectators and participants. Originally conceived as a celebration of the armistice ending World War I, the holiday has come to honor all US war veterans and express continued hope for world peace.

November 24 – Thanksgiving
To some people, Thanksgiving means a big turkey and some quality time around the dinner table with extended family. But NYC knows it's really about giant inflatable cartoon characters. The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade brings smiles to faces of all ages—and if you bring a kid to the City during the holiday, you really need to see the great American tradition up close.

December 25 – Christmas
The tree at Rockefeller Center is one of the world's most beloved holiday images. Adorned with tens of thousands of lights and a Swarovski crystal star, it's an eye-catching testament to the Christmas spirit—and its roots in the Great Depression (the first version of the tree included tin cans among its ornaments) reflect New Yorkers' famous optimism and determination. Visitors will also want to catch the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, featuring the Rockettes. And, of course, festive holiday displays throughout the five boroughs create an unparalleled environment of celebration and joy.

December 31 – New Year's Eve
Everywhere around the globe, people—even those who have never visited New York City—picture Times Square when they think of New Year's Eve. The City's big crowds, countdown and ball drop are part of what may be the world's most famous celebration. It's something everyone should experience at least once (but be sure to bundle up and wear comfortable shoes—it's cold out there, and you'll do a lot of standing). And NYC hosts countless other celebrations, from rock concerts to dance parties to late-night yoga, to fit any interest.