New Year’s Day in New York City

Heather Liang

New Year’s Day is generally a quiet time in New York City, with many people staying in and sleeping off the activities of the night before. While the day is a federal holiday and most official buildings are closed—along with many businesses and attractions—there is a surprising amount that is open. We’ve gathered a list of 10 different ways you can fill your New Year’s Day in the City.

Brooklyn Bowl. Courtesy, Brooklyn Bowl

Start with Brunch
For your first meal of the New Year, why not treat yourself? Dovetail on the Upper West Side is just the place, offering their annual menu full of delicious goodies that will sustain you for the day ahead. The three-course prix fixe comes with sweet and savory canapés for the table, a choice of entrée and a dessert for $72 per person. Those ready to restart the party can opt for the bottomless mimosas at $28 per person. If you’re looking for something more casual and family friendly, head to Brooklyn Bowl for their yearly New Year’s Day Family Bowl, which features a brunch menu, drinks specials, a kids’ menu and, of course, the chance to roll a few games.

Coney Island Polar Bear Club New Year’s Day Swim. Photo: Julienne Schaer

Coney Island Polar Bear Club New Year’s Day Swim
A great way to wake yourself up after a night of New Year’s Eve partying is to take a dip in the Atlantic Ocean. The Coney Island Polar Bear Club, the oldest winter bathing organization in the country, does it every Sunday from November to April. (Even Kramer joined them for a swim on Seinfeld.) On New Year’s Day, they invite everyone to come for a celebratory plunge into the chilly waters. Meet at the Coney Island Boardwalk at Stillwell Avenue; swimming begins at 1pm, and all participants must register. The NYC Parks Department provides changing facilities.

1950s Films at Film Society of Lincoln Center
Lincoln Center is a lovely place to visit during holiday time. Its spectacular Christmas tree stands in the center of its plaza, with its surrounding holiday lights sparkling well into the New Year. It also happens to be open on January 1; that day, the Film Society of Lincoln Center will feature four 1950s films back to back ($10 per show). Beginning at 1:30pm, see Charlie Chaplin in Limelight, followed by Frank Sinatra in Some Came Running at 4:15pm. In the evening, Jane Wyman and Rock Hudson star in two films: All That Heaven Allows at 7pm, and Magnificent Obsession at 9:15pm.

New York Botanical Garden Holiday Train Show. Photo: Christopher Postlewaite

New York Botanical Garden Holiday Train Show
The New York Botanical Garden Holiday Train Show is a can’t-miss NYC tradition. This yearly display of crafted miniatures is made entirely of plant parts. Model trains make their way through mini renderings of the Empire State Building, 30 Rockefeller Center, the Brooklyn Bridge, the GE Building and the Chrysler Building. On New Year’s Day, you’re likely to find smaller crowds than you would have in the days leading up to Christmas.

Courtesy, American Museum of Natural History. Photo: R. Mickens

Our Senses
The American Museum of Natural History is one of only a few museums open on New Year’s Day. There’s always a ton to see and do here, but be sure not to miss the immersive exhibition Our Senses, which closes January 6. This family-friendly interactive experience sends museumgoers through 11 different galleries, requiring them to use their five senses to differentiate between perception and reality. The eye-opening display shows us how human senses have evolved to protect us, and how our senses differ from those of animals in the wild.

New Year’s Day Marathon Benefit Reading
Literature buffs, rejoice. The Poetry Project returns with its annual January 1 event, which takes place at 2pm. There is no official end time, but this one has historically gone on for as long as 12 hours. The event raises money for the Poetry Project and helps sustain it as a public venue for innovative writing. For $25, you’ll get a day filled with readings and performances from more than 100 poets, writers, dancers and musicians. It all takes place at St. Mark’s Church.

Radio City Christmas Spectacular. Courtesy, MSG Photos

Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes
Today is your last chance to see the Rockettes perform their stunningly choreographed high kicks at Radio City Music Hall. The Christmas Spectacular’s last three shows of the season take place at 2pm, 5pm and 8pm on New Year’s Day. The 90-minute show is a must-see for families visiting the City, with unforgettable performers, an original music score, singing, dancing and humor that keeps audiences enthralled. The entire interior of Radio City Music Hall is transformed into a canvas on which digital projectors show holiday scenes, and the Rockettes perform their classic kicks along with “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” and “New York at Christmas.”


Westfield World Trade Center. Courtesy Westfield

Shopping at Westfield World Trade Center
Many stores in the City are closed on New Year’s Day, but not those at the Westfield World Trade Center (they’re open noon to 6pm). Located within the Oculus transportation hub in Lower Manhattan, Westfield WTC is Manhattan’s largest shopping mall and includes more than 100 retail shops and restaurants. Among those are Apple, Dior Beauty Boutique, Stuart Weitzman, Under Armour and restaurants Choza Taqueria, Eataly and Shake Shack. The mall also hosts a holiday market with 20 vendors plus entertainment.

Lego Batman Movie and Superhero Workshop
During winter break, the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens, offers this family-friendly program to keep the little ones busy. Visit January 1 for a screening of the Lego Batman Movie at 11am followed by a family art project, where kids make their own animation projects and design superhero costumes and masks. The art workshop takes place 11am–4pm; it’s recommended for ages 4 and up.

Central Park Zoo. Photo: Joe Buglewicz

Visit the Central Park Zoo
The Central Park Zoo is one of the few attractions in the City that’s open 365 days a year—the animals never take a day off from being cute. While you’re there, catch a penguin or sea lion feeding, and consider making a visit to the 4-D Theater, where a 3-D film is coupled with sensory effects. You should find the crowds lighter than usual, and many of the animals are more active in the winter.