New York City is the place to see and do everything—including some of the world’s most famous recurring events. Whether you’re planning a visit next week or next year, the list below will help you find what’s happening during your stay—along with more information on what each major event is all about. Within each month, events are listed in the rough chronological order in which they occur (though the dates for certain events vary from year to year).
Three Kings Day Parade
El Museo del Barrio hosts this annual parade—by far the largest and longest-running Three Kings Day fete in the City. Paraders 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 filled with live music and gift giveaways.
Winter Jazzfest features a dazzling array of musical talent and is both a forum of discovery and a guaranteed blast. More than 100 sets take place at venues including Le Poisson Rouge, Judson Memorial Church and the Bitter End; Dee Dee Bridgewater, Colin Stetson and Russell Gunn’s Ethnomuiscology are among past performers.
New York Boat Show
Don’t miss the boat. Yachts, fishing boats, kayaks—you’ll find them all at the New York Boat Show, a city institution for more than a century. Each year, tens of thousands of attendees come to the Jacob Javits Center to check out the latest in boats and fishing equipment. Visitors can also attend daily seminars with a full slate of fishing and boating pros.
New York Jewish Film Festival
This film festival—a collaborative effort between the Jewish Museum and the Film Society of Lincoln Center—aims to record, investigate and celebrate the Jewish experience with two weeks of cinematic offerings, including shorts, documentaries and feature-length narratives. Previous NYJFFs have spotlighted films that went on to great national acclaim, like Nowhere in Africa, Beaufort and Empty Nest.
Winter Antiques Show
Each winter, the most prestigious antiques show in America comes to the Park Avenue Armory. It features a selection of pieces from ancient times through the art deco movement and beyond, and also serves as a benefit for the East Side House Settlement.
New York City Ballet Winter Repertory Season
The New York City Ballet returns each winter with a four-week repertory season that includes world premieres, classics like Swan Lake and special tributes to legendary choreographers like George Balanchine—all taking place at David H. Koch Theater in Lincoln Center.
Lunar New Year Parade & Festival
Want to see a dragon dance? Then don’t miss this beloved cultural celebration, taking place in Manhattan’s Chinatown, as well as in Flushing, Queens, and Sunset Park, Brooklyn. To ring in the Lunar New Year, dazzling dragon troupes wend their way through the streets, drawing crowds of hundreds of thousands, who also come to see elaborate floats, marching bands, martial artists, Asian musicians, magicians, acrobats and processions by local organizations. Other celebrations for the New Year include the Firecracker Ceremony and Cultural Festival (firecrackers are detonated to ward off evil spirits) and the Lunar New Year Flower Market.
New York Fashion Week (Fall/Winter)
Fashion Week promises a week of star-studded soirees showcasing the newest styles for the upcoming fall season. The world’s top designers debut their collections on the runway, as style-conscious celebrities and industry insiders look on. Land on a guest list, and you can be right there with them. Fans of up-and-coming designers, meanwhile, will want to pay attention to MADE Fashion Week, which takes place in the Meatpacking District.
Westminster Dog Show
Each year, dog fans flock to Madison Square Garden to find out which pooch will be dubbed Best in Show by the Westminster Kennel Club, America’s oldest organization dedicated to the sport of purebred dogs. Crowd and judge favorites, including terriers, retrievers, dachshunds and the ever-stylish poodle, will vie for top-dog honors throughout the weekend competition.
Since 1934, Amateur Night at the Apollo, a theater where black performers and patrons were once banned, has served as the golden ticket to a big break for many performers. Each season of Amateur Night features a slate of new musicians, comedians and artists from all backgrounds looking to win over the capricious Apollo crowd on Wednesday nights.
The Armory Show
The world’s leading contemporary art fair has been a destination for art enthusiasts, collectors and gallerists since its inception as the Gramercy International Art Fair in 1994 (it was renamed and moved in 1999, and now takes place on Piers 92 and 94). The Armory Show Modern, which joined the program in 2009, highlights both historically significant works and works directly from current artists’ studios.
The Art Show
The Art Dealers Association of America’s (ADAA) annual show presents carefully curated exhibitions at the Park Avenue Armory, including group shows and solo projects from the late 19th century through today. Special events take place each year, including panel discussions and a preview gala to benefit the Henry Street Settlement—a Lower East Side social services, arts and health care organization.
New York International Children’s Film Festival
Helping to redefine the kids’ movie genre, the New York International Children’s Film Festival shines a light on some of the most unique, engaging and thought-provoking youth-oriented films made outside the Hollywood system. From obscure animated shorts to full-length, live-action dramas, the NYICFF covers nearly every style, age group and cultural background, making it an ideal event for the whole family.
Big East Tournament
The Big East Men’s Basketball Championship has called Madison Square Garden home for more than 30 years. Ten schools compete for a title and an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament later in March.
Asia Week New York
For just over a week, Asian art and culture take over New York City. Cultural institutions like the Rubin Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art and China Institute showcase works from the continent, amidst a full schedule of films, lectures, symposia, curator talks, tours and auctions.
St. Patrick’s Day Parade
You don’t have to be Irish to get a kiss at New York City’s famous St. Patrick’s Day Parade. The parade, which was first held in 1762, is the City’s oldest and largest. Officiated by the archbishop of New York, the parade celebrates Irish culture and the Catholic faith. The parade begins at 11am, led by members of the National Guard’s 69th Infantry Regiment, known as the “Fighting 69th”; it runs along Fifth Avenue between 44th and 86th Streets.
Macy’s Flower Show
Get a head start on spring with Macy’s Annual Flower Show, one of the largest in the City. The show features blooms from around the world—the rare, the exotic and the simply beautiful. Also enjoy specially created garden environments and guided tours.
Orchid Show (through April)
Each year, the New York Botanical Garden displays a themed exhibition of thousands of brilliantly colored orchids in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory. Marvel at the beauty of these flowers while surrounded by lush settings depicting the natural habitat from which they came.
New York International Auto Show
See tomorrow’s hottest cars before they hit the streets at the New York International Auto Show, held at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. This high-octane event is North America’s oldest and best-attended auto show, featuring the most innovative automotive technology, the hottest exotics and the latest in green initiatives.
Easter Parade and Easter Bonnet Festival
Every Easter, festive New Yorkers showcase their best bonnets while marching along Fifth Avenue. The parade travels north on the thoroughfare, starting at 49th Street, but the best place to watch the procession is from the area around St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Mets and Yankees Season Openers
Take a trip to Queens or the Bronx (or both!) to watch these two teams kick off their seasons. Enjoy the outdoors and delicious stadium snacks while taking in America’s favorite pastime. Both ballparks are easily accessible by subway, making the outing all the more appealing.
Tribeca Film Festival
Robert De Niro’s Tribeca Film Festival has quickly become a leading player on the entertainment scene. Founded in the wake of 9/11 to help revitalize Lower Manhattan, the annual fest celebrates film, music and culture and transforms the downtown neighborhood into a hub for glamorous red carpets and gala affairs. The festival screens more than 100 films from around the world and even offers free outdoor “drive-in” screenings—no car necessary.
Celebrate the greenest day of the year in New York City by attending one of the many events that go on all week. Encouraging locals and visitors to be earth friendly throughout the year, the City hosts art exhibitions, educational forums, entertainment and outdoor events in the parks.
Cherry Blossom Festival
Each spring, more than 220 cherry trees at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden are in full bloom. To celebrate, the garden hosts the weekend-long Cherry Blossom Festival, known in Japanese as Sakura Matsuri. During the festival, visitors enjoy scores of events celebrating Japanese culture including J-pop concerts, traditional Japanese music and dance, taiko drumming, martial arts, bonsai-pruning workshops, tea ceremonies and manga art.
New York Liberty Basketball (into September)
Queens-born star Tina Charles leads New York City’s WNBA team, which is known for its affordable tickets and family-friendly reputation. Notable alumnae include Becky Hammon, who has gone on to become the first female assistant coach in the NBA.
TD Five Boro Bike Tour
The Five Boro Bike Tour is an annual tradition that attracts 32,000 cyclists of all ages and abilities. The terrain along the 40-mile ride is mostly flat (and totally carless), so you don’t have to be an expert cyclist to join. Take your time pedaling over five bridges—including the Queensboro and the Verrazano-Narrows—and enjoy breathtaking views of the City from every angle.
Frieze New York
Launched in 2012, Frieze New York is an art fair in a spectacular setting: Randall’s Island Park, where the organizers set up a gargantuan tent, an outdoor sculpture park and a heady selection of food purveyors. Art buyers and viewers gather to see the latest contemporary works and attend talks by artists and curators.
Though New York City celebrates design year-round, creativity reigns during the annual NYCxDESIGN, the City’s official appreciation of global design. The multifaceted programming comprises exhibitions, installations, talks, trade shows and open studios. Among the shows and festivals are BKLYN Designs, Collective Design, Frieze New York, the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) and Wanted Design.
Ninth Avenue International Food Festival
Taste what Hell’s Kitchen is cooking at this annual food festival, where restaurants and outdoor vendors serve up food to suit every taste. The 15-block gastronomic extravaganza features cuisine from Greece, Brazil, Italy, Morocco, Senegal, Ukraine, Thailand and everywhere in between, with music and dancing to match.
Shakespeare in the Park (through August)
Shakespeare in the Park is a consummate New York City institution, one that has drawn more than 5 million people since it was first staged in Central Park’s Delacorte Theater in 1962. Theater lovers can see free, outdoor productions of the Bard’s plays, usually starring well-known actors.
Summer on the Hudson (through September)
This free Parks Department festival takes place up and down Riverside Park. The celebration includes concerts, dance performances, wellness activities, movies and kids’ shows. Karaoke nights, a kite-flying festival, life-size chess tournaments and Make Some Noise—an evening devoted to women in music—are among the special events.
In a city of islands, the Bronx stands out as NYC’s emissary to the mainland. Perhaps that attachment to the rest of the continent gives the Bronx’s its distinctive flavor and quiet charisma. No matter the origins of the borough’s charms, the City comes together every year—a tradition that dates back to the 1970s—to celebrate the borough with a parade, festivals, live music, a unique trolley tour and, of course, the induction of the latest additions to the Bronx Walk of Fame.
SummerStage (through September)
Since 1986, Central Park SummerStage has been a sure bet for great live music in a picturesque alfresco setting—for free. Though it started (and still takes place) in the park's Rumsey Playfield, happenings now occur across the five boroughs. The offerings of the annual outdoor concert series span all genres: past performers over the years have included Taj Mahal, Dinosaur Jr., Joni Mitchell and Q-Tip. There is also a SummerStage Kids series with artists from around the world performing music, dance, circus acts and spoken word for the little ones.
Museum Mile Festival
More than a handful of the country’s finest museums offer free admission during this car-free, Upper East Side block party with live music, street performers and activities for kids. Along Fifth Avenue, between the Metropolitan Museum of Art and El Museo del Barrio, you’ll have the chance for a bargain crash course in New York City culture—rain or shine.
National Puerto Rican Day Parade
In celebration of their community, country and culture, more than 80,000 Puerto Ricans march on Fifth Avenue from 44th to 79th Streets in Manhattan as part of the annual National Puerto Rican Day Parade. "Lively" doesn’t even begin to describe this event, which welcomes around 2 million spectators every year, plus energetic musical performances, floats and a host of Puerto Rican celebrities.
Big Apple Barbecue Block Party
This annual feast brings authentic, top-quality barbecue to NYC’s Madison Square Park. Each year’s event features pitmasters from New York City and around the country, including barbecue capitals such as Texas, Missouri and Tennessee. Count on beer and music in addition to the ’cue, which costs around $10 a plate.
River to River Festival
Head downtown for the River to River arts fest, which offers dance performances, concerts and events for free. Highlights from years past have included Night at the Museums, site-specific pieces by Twyla Tharp, Trisha Brown Dance Company and Eiko Otake, as well as shows by the Bang on a Can All-Stars and Superchunk.
Celebrate Brooklyn! (through August)
Celebrate Brooklyn! has more than earned its exclamation point through three decades of free music, dance, theater, film and specially commissioned projects. One of the City’s longest-running outdoor arts festivals, it has featured such acts as They Might Be Giants and Maceo Parker. Don’t miss the Live Music for Film program, where artists play along with screenings of silent, animated and short movies.
New York City is home to one of the world’s most vibrant, thriving gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities. The City embraces its incredible diversity as a source of strength, and that’s never clearer than during Pride, when the five boroughs celebrate the progress made in NYC and beyond since the Stonewall Riots of 1969. The week culminates with the famous march down Fifth Avenue on the last Sunday in June.
NY Philharmonic Concerts in the Parks
The New York Philharmonic’s annual weeklong tour of the City’s parks brings free classical music to all five boroughs, including Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, the Great Lawn in Central Park, Cunningham Park in Queens and Prospect Park in Brooklyn. An indoor concert at Staten Island’s Music Hall at Snug Harbor ends the celebration.
Macy’s Fourth of July Fireworks
Celebrate America’s independence with the nation’s most dazzling pyrotechnics display. Fireworks light up the skyline with musical accompaniment, and you can take it all in from any number of prime waterfront viewing locations around the City.
Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest
With a combination of steely grit and highly expandable stomachs, competitors in the Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest take on the NYC dogs to the delight of throngs of screaming fans. A select group of skilled eaters convenes at high noon, eating Nathan’s dogs for 10 minutes straight, stopping for nothing—not ketchup, not mustard, not even a french fry.
MoMA PS1 Warm Up (through September)
MoMA PS1’s Warm Up is an immersive multimedia experience: a rollicking outdoor concert housed in an installation created by the winner of PS1 and MoMA’s Young Architects Program. In addition to enjoying live music, DJs and dancing, guests are encouraged to explore everything PS1 has to offer—admission to Warm Up includes access to all exhibitions.
Harlem Week (through August)
Don’t let the name fool you—Harlem Week lasts for nearly a month. It makes sense, as seven days is hardly enough time to capture all the history and culture of this vibrant neighborhood. The annual celebration features performances, vendors and tributes at assorted venues. Making it even more of a must-do: most of the festivities are free.
Broadway in Bryant Park
Pack your lunch and head to Bryant Park for these midday, hour-long concerts, performed by cast members from Broadway’s most popular musicals. You can nab one of the chairs set up on the lawn, or bring your own blanket to enjoy the tunes on the grass.
Summer at Lincoln Center
Throughout the summer, Lincoln Center presents a number of annually recurring programs, each with a bit of a different theme. First up is the Midsummer Night Swing, which allows you to take dance lessons and try out your moves to live music under the stars. Beginning in July, the Lincoln Center Festival features nearly 50 performances from artists around the world in opera, dance, theater, ballet and multimedia. Out of Doors includes music, dance, spoken-word events, family shows and specially commissioned works—all for free. And, finally, Mostly Mozart showcases works by the acclaimed composer through a variety of music performances.
Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival
In celebration of the fifth month of the lunar calendar (which actually occurs well before this event), 200 dragon boat teams converge on Meadow Lake in Flushing Meadows Corona Park to compete in one of America’s largest dragon boat festivals. Take in the spectacle on the water, and enjoy a wide array of international music, martial arts, crafts, dance and cuisine.
Between 7am and 1pm on three August Saturdays, large sections of Park Avenue and connecting streets will be closed to traffic and open to the public for anything from biking to strolling to dancing. Haven’t you always wanted to walk (or slide or zip line) right down the middle of Park Avenue, free from honking horns and shoulder-bumping sidewalks?
Charlie Parker Jazz Festival
In the early 1950s, Charlie Parker made his home in Alphabet City; though Bird has been gone a long time now, the neighborhood hasn’t forgotten him. The Charlie Parker Jazz Festival made its 1993 debut in Tompkins Square Park, across the street from the block he called home. Events are still held there, but some performances take place uptown, in Harlem’s Marcus Garvey Park.
US Open Tennis (through September)
It’s the final Grand Slam tournament of the year—the one that makes or breaks seasons, and sometimes careers. The US Open is an iconic event in American sports, rivaled only by the Masters, the World Series and the Super Bowl. No matter how the tournament nets out, it’s always fun to watch it unfold in person. The matches take place in the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
New York Fashion Week (Spring/Summer)
The world’s top designers debut their spring collections on the runways, as style-conscious celebrities from Hollywood, sports and the modeling world look on. You can be right there with them (if you land an invite first). Fans of upcoming designers, meanwhile, will want to explore MADE Fashion Week, which hosts shows in the Meatpacking District.
Feast of San Gennaro
Manhattan’s Little Italy is bustling all year round—and the excitement hits its peak at this annual salute to the patron saint of Naples. Banners and lights adorn the streets, and crowds pack every block. Join the revelers for 11 days of parades, entertainment, Italian food and a cannoli-eating contest.
Each September, New York City remembers and honors the victims of the World Trade Center attacks at a variety of memorial events. Churches, temples and synagogues throughout the City host special events for those affected by the tragedy, and memorial concerts and fundraisers continue throughout the month. The 9/11 Memorial & Museum at the World Trade Center serves as a yearlong tribute to those who lost their lives on both September 11, 2001, and February 26, 1993, featuring a public plaza with two large memorial pools, along with a museum that presents the story of 9/11 along with educational resources and artifacts.
Richmond County Fair
There’s fun for the whole family at the Richmond County Fair, an old-time Staten Island tradition that was revived in 1979. Kids can enjoy circus performers, a petting zoo and even a visit from cartoon characters, while their parents groove to live music and other performances on two stages. Rides, food and county fair standbys like a pie-eating contest round out the weekend.
New York Film Festival (through October)
This festival has been bringing some of the world’s most inventive cinema to New York City , since 1963. This is the place to see cutting-edge films before they hit it big—in the past, the festival has showcased the likes of Jean-Luc Godard, Pedro Almodóvar and Martin Scorsese. Adventurous cineastes will want to check out the Projections sidebar, a selection of new avant-garde films.
BAM Next Wave Festival (through December)
Consistently on the cutting edge, Brooklyn Academy of Music hosts this showcase of creative dance, theater, film and literature from around the world. Past offerings have included the Philip Glass opera Kepler (of planetary motion fame), Isabelle Huppert starring in Phaedra(s) and Ivo van Hove’s staging of The Fountainhead.
The Metropolitan Opera Fall/Spring Season (through the following May)
The Metropolitan Opera always promises a sensational lineup, including company premieres, new productions and exciting revivals. Notable performances have included Georges Bizet's Carmen, Julie Taymor’s production of The Magic Flute, John Adams’ Nixon in China and Gioachino Rossini’s rarely staged French opera Le Comte Ory, under the direction of Bartlett Sher.
New York City Ballet Fall Repertory Season
The New York City Ballet’s fall season typically includes favorites from the likes of Balanchine, Robbins and Tchaikovsky, all performed at Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater. The season kicks off with a Fall Gala and culminates with performances of The Nutcracker, a Christmastime highlight.
Fall at Queens County Farm Museum
Each fall, the Queens County Farm Museum runs a series of family-friendly, harvest-themed events, including the annual Queens County Fair, with blue-ribbon competitions in livestock, produce and arts and crafts, not to mention pie-eating contests, hayrides and live music. On weekends through October, enjoy the Amazing Maize Maze, pick pumpkins and sample New York apples. The series finishes with the Children’s Fall Festival, featuring kids’ games, bounce houses, pig races and a petting zoo.
To New York City’s architects and building buffs, October is Archtober, or Architecture and Design Month. For 31 days, the City’s design community opens its doors for more than 100 tours, lectures, films and celebrations, offering behind-the-scenes peeks at the buildings that characterize this metropolis. Participants include big-name institutions like the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim, Central Park Conservancy and the 9/11 Memorial & Museum.
New Yorker Festival
The New Yorker Festival brings together premier talents and top minds from politics, the arts, journalism, television and everything in between. Past panels and special guests have included Ta-Nehisi Coates, Sleater-Kinney, Mindy Kaling, Elmore Leonard, Matt Groening, Sherman Alexie and Zaha Hadid. The fest’s three-day lineup and schedule is unveiled in September.
New York Comic Con
With geek culture having established an undeniable influence over mainstream entertainment, Comic Con is gaining more and more ground. At Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, expect to see lots of costumed cosplayers, who will provide plenty to gawk at, even if you don’t hit the fest’s many booths, panels and screenings.
Ice-Skating Rinks Open
New York City’s many ice-skating rinks are synonymous with winter and the first glimpse of the holiday season. If you prefer your skating experience to come with a killer view, go enjoy the spectacular surroundings of the seasonal Rink at Rockefeller Center (in December, the famous tree will be there, too). The Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park, which is typically open from late October to early March, is another fine option with stunning architecture nearby.
Open House New York
New York’s towering skyscrapers and charming brownstones provide much of the City’s character. A celebration of that architecture and design, Open House New York (OHNY) weekend includes free tours of buildings and sites—many of which are normally closed to the public.
Food Network New York City Wine & Food Festival
NYCWFF includes a few food-and-beverage-filled days, featuring Food Network personalities like Rachael Ray and Ted Allen as well as a deep squad of local all-star chefs, restaurateurs and purveyors. Past events have included the competitive Blue Moon Burger Bash, a trivia-oriented Food Fight with Guy Fieri, Bagel Making with Black Seed Bagels and Dinner with Alain Ducasse—just a few of the hundred or so happenings at venues all around the City.
Rangers and Islanders Openers
Fans of the Blueshirts, as the Rangers are affectionately known, pack Madison Square Garden even when the team is having a down year and lend the arena one of the more intense atmospheres in New York City sports. To see the stands particularly charged, come to a game when the Rangers host their interborough rivals, the Islanders, who moved to Brooklyn’s Barlcays Center in 2015 and marked that inaugural year by winning their first playoff series in more than two decades. The season runs through the spring.
Knicks and Nets Openers
The Knicks, Manhattan’s NBA team, boast a rich history that includes a pair of titles, stretches of futility and plenty of rekindled hope—these days in the form of youngers Frank Nkitilina and Kristaps Porzingis suiting up next to Olympic star Carmelo Anthony. The rabid fan base always makes a game at Madison Square Garden feel like an event, with celebrities frequently seated courtside. The Nets’ have their share of A-list fans who pack Barclays Center, and their black-and-white gear has become a staple on the borough’s streets. While they lack big stars, they hope that exciting guard D’Angelo Russell will become one in the near future. The season runs through the spring.
Village Halloween Parade
The Village Halloween Parade had humble beginnings back in 1974, as neighborhood children in the West Village walked from house to house with their friends. Over the years, it’s become a massive party with wildly costumed characters, puppets, bands, dancers and about 2 million spectators. Don’t let the crowd scare you off—this is a lively NYC tradition you won’t want to miss.
TCS New York City Marathon
This is the big one—a sporting event that often proves to be as much a life-changing experience as a physical challenge. Like all marathons, the New York City race covers 26.2 miles from start to finish—but no other city offers competitors the sights, sounds and sheer excitement of the NYC Marathon’s five-borough course, which extends from Staten Island to Central Park. Thousands will run; millions will watch.
New York Comedy Festival
Nearly every big name in comedy graces a New York City stage during the NYCF. Past participants have included Norm Macdonald, Bridget Everett, Ricky Gervais, Hannibal Buress, Judd Apatow and Iliza Shlesinger. Serious, professionally minded panels share the schedule with over-the-top improv nights at small venues and large-scale shows at venues like Madison Square Garden and Town Hall.
Radio City Christmas Spectacular (through December)
New York City’s most famous holiday production, which originated back in 1933, has adapted over time to include original scenes and Rockettes numbers, along with showstopping special effects that include fireworks and a flying Santa. The traditional parts of the show—such as “The Living Nativity” and “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers”—remain crowd favorites in Radio City Music Hall’s annual showcase.
Holiday Train Show (through January)
A family favorite, the Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden features toy trains chugging alongside some 150 replicas of city landmarks made from bark, seed and other plant materials. Highlights include renderings of Yankee Stadium, assorted Midtown skyscrapers and a George Washington Bridge that spans the exhibition’s entrance, as well as a sound-and-light show that debuted in 2015.
Holiday Train Show at Grand Central Terminal
The New York Transit Museum Gallery Annex and Store at Grand Central Terminal hosts this annual Holiday Train Show, whose layout features Lionel trains traveling through a two-level, 34-foot-long miniature New York City and countryside scene. Vintage trains from the museum’s collection, including New York Central models, travel all the way to the diorama’s North Pole.
Origami Holiday Tree
Holiday decor gets a historical makeover with the American Museum of Natural History’s Origami Holiday Tree. The museum draws inspiration from its own collection for the 1,000 folded-paper works, constructed by volunteers throughout the year. Explore the permanent-exhibition halls, current shows and expansive collections to see which pieces made their way onto the 13-foot tree.
Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
Marching bands, celebrity guests and performers bring excitement to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, but they take a backseat to the real stars of the show—the balloons. Every year, more than 3 million cheering spectators watch as SpongeBob, Snoopy, Hello Kitty and other giant helium-filled characters float along the 2.5-mile route. On the night before the event, the area where the balloons are inflated—near the American Museum of Natural History—is open to the public.
Lighting of the World’s Largest Hanukkah Menorahs
Celebrate Hanukkah with the lighting of the world’s largest menorahs. One is in Manhattan, at Fifth Avenue and 59th Street (right in front of the Plaza Hotel). This 32-foot-high, gold-colored, 4,000-pound steel holiday icon is a sight to behold. A similar menorah sits across the river, in Brooklyn’s Grand Army Plaza (at the head of Prospect Park). A candle will be lit on each menorah every evening of the holiday; the ritual in Brooklyn includes music and potato pancakes.
Satisfy your shopping list and get into the holiday spirit by visiting one of the many outdoor holiday shops that pop up all around the City. In Union Square, Grand Central Terminal, Bryant Park and Columbus Circle, hundreds of merchants set up shop offering clothing, trinkets, food and many other gift items. In addition to helping local merchants, perhaps you’ll find a little something for yourself.
Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting
The Christmas tree lighting at Rockefeller Center heralds the holiday season in New York City. Brave the crowds and the cold to see the giant tree adorned with tens of thousands of multicolored lights. The ceremony, which dates back to the 1930s and has been televised live since 1966, includes live entertainment for the entire family—past performers have included the Rockettes, Mary J. Blige and Tony Bennett. The tree remains lit until the week after New Year’s Day.
George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker
For more than 50 years, the New York City Ballet has brought visions of the Sugarplum Fairy, marching toy soldiers and the Mouse King to life with its Lincoln Center production of The Nutcracker. The performance is distinguished by old-fashioned costumes, the spectacle of an onstage snowstorm, magical sets including a one-ton Christmas tree and, of course, Tchaikovsky’s timeless music.
Celebrate the return of the American Museum of Natural History’s seasonal vivarium, which is filled with hundreds of live butterflies. The creatures flit about in a summerlike environment: tropical flowers and lush vegetation in 80-degree temperatures. It’s a perfect exhibition for a cold fall or winter day (but equally nice in spring, of course).
This celebration of African-American heritage takes place December 26 to January 1 each year, and culminates in a feast and gift-giving ritual. The City’s largest Kwanzaa celebrations take place at the American Museum of Natural History, which hosts a one-night fete featuring African dance, spoken word, live musical performances and traditional crafts, and Harlem’s Apollo Theater, where you’ll find dance, music and various family-friendly activities.
Times Square New Year’s Eve
It wouldn’t be New Year’s Eve without the crystal ball drop in Times Square. Despite the typically frigid temperature, a million people gather for the world’s most famous New Year’s Eve party. Designated viewing areas fill up on a first-come, first-served basis, and many spectators camp out in Times Square to get a prime spot while audiences around the world watch the celebration on TV.
New York Road Runners Midnight Run
This annual race through Central Park is an active alternative to the Times Square New Year’s Eve ritual. Instead of standing in place, revelers can partake in a costume contest, parade and a 4-mile fun run. A limited number of same-day registration kits will be available at the race, but it’s free to watch.