You don't have to know the meaning of auld lang syne or who Robert Burns was to ring in the New Year with style (for the record, the answers are “the good old times” and Scotland's most famous poet-lyricist who authored the phrase). Just select one of the events below, grab a friend, partner or, yes, old acquaintance and trip the light fantastic into 2016.
The First Noel at the Apollo Theater
If you're still feeling the afterglow of Christmas on New Year's Eve, consider checking out this holiday musical at the Apollo, courtesy of the Classical Theatre of Harlem.
Sandra Bernhard: Feel the Bernhard at Joe's Pub
Sandra Bernhard returns with her annual run of holiday shows for those who are not exactly fans of the holidays. There will be singing, cursing, storytelling and the usual sass from this inimitable chanteuse-comedian.
Deer Tick at Brooklyn Bowl
This folk-blues quintet—which also knows its way around the Nirvana catalog—plays another New Year's Eve run in Brooklyn. We talked to 'em last time they did so, and it was fun.
Gogol Bordello at Terminal 5
If your New Year's resolution is to start wearing purple, you might want to count down to 2016 with this raucous group of immigrant punks (who've made a habit of New Year's shows in New York City).
December 30–January 2, 2016
The Disco Biscuits at PlayStation Theater
The UPenn alums are sure to bust out extra-long “trance fusion” jams to celebrate the New Year.
December 30–January 2, 2016
Phish at Madison Square Garden
The reigning king of jam bands takes to one of its favorite stages at one of its favorite times: doing New Year's in NYC is old hat for the Vermonters. But they'll probably have a few tricks up their collective sleeve, and who knows, you might find yourself fondly recalling that you saw them play the “Jägermeister Song” for the first time since New Haven 1990. Or something like that.
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah at Rough Trade
The blog buzz died down years ago, but Brooklyn's own Clap Your Hands Say Yeah is still cranking out quirky, nervous indie rock.
Jimmy Buffett at Barclays Center
Let's face it: spending New Year's in NYC is a far cry from living on sponge cake and searching for lost salt shakers in Margaritaville (though you may be able to find a cheeseburger in paradise). The next best thing might be enjoying a Parrothead sing-along about it all. Oh, also, Huey Lewis and the News are opening up, so you can go back in time while looking forward to 2016.
New Year's Eve in Coney Island
For the second year in a row, Coney Island will be throwing its own Times Square–style New Year's Eve party with a digital ball drop and fireworks at midnight—plus some sideshow performers and local acts as a counterpart to the glossy names across town. A few bonuses: the 95-year-old Wonder Wheel will be in operation (9–11pm) as will the Thunderbolt (8-11pm) and the B&B Carousell (both 8-11pm), all of which you can ride free of charge; you can also skate for free at the Abe Stark Skating Rink (7–11pm). The main festivities begin around 9pm and are centered around the historic Parachute Jump tower, where LED lights will create a visual countdown of the final seconds of 2015. Best viewing spots are Surf Avenue and the Boardwalk, but make sure to dress for the weather and not a day at the beach.
New Year's Eve Fireworks at Grand Army Plaza
Head to the perimeter of Brooklyn's Prospect Park for a dazzling display of pyrotechnics. The fireworks begin at midnight, but arrive early, especially if you're coming by car. Prime viewing spots are along the park's West Drive and along Prospect Park West, between Grand Army Plaza and 9th Street.
New Year's Eve Fireworks Cruise
The venerable Circle Line helps you toast the New Year by taking you along the water from Midtown West around Manhattan's southern tip partway up the East River and back. While you're on board, enjoy music, food, an open bar, twinkling skyline views and, as promised, fireworks.
Nicky Siano's The Last New Year's Eve Disco Extravaganza at Eldorado
Famed NYC DJ Nicky Siano, who is credited with helping start the disco craze in the 1970s and even spun records at Studio 54, returns to his home borough for a New Year's Eve bash at the Eldorado bumper car pavilion. This all-night-long disco dance fest will feature a mix of old-school classics and some newer dance hits, along with a performance by Melba Moore. The adjoining gaming arcade will be open for drinks, socializing and the chance to kick off 2016 with a game of Skee-Ball.
New York Philharmonic New Year's Eve: La Vie Parisienne at David Geffen Hall
Gallic music is the lingua franca for this concert, as the Philharmonic performs works by Ravel, Offenbach, Piaf and other French songwriters and composers. Très bien.
New Year's Eve Concert for Peace at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine
Sopranos Jamet Pittman and Lauren Flanigan, baritone Gregory Purnhagen and singer-songwriter Judy Collins will be among the performers on this night of festive music, meant to spread a message of peace, hope and spirituality. There will also be readings and traditional candle lighting.
NYE 2016 with Justice
Have yourself a very electro New Year’s Eve with this warehouse party somewhere in Brooklyn (location: classified). Performers include crucifix-carrying DJ duo Justice, along with local act Bob Moses and former Major Lazer collaborator Switch, now operating under the nom de turntable With You. Promoters also promise “a VERY special guest”; speculate about his or her—or their—identity amongst yourselves. For tickets, visit wantickets.com.
NYRR Midnight Run in Central Park
The 4-mile New Year's run (what better way to kick off those resolutions?) starts at the stroke of midnight at the first sight of fireworks; consider the pre-race dancing and costume parade and contest to be evening-appropriate handicaps.
Party for a Purpose at Housing Works Bookstore Cafe
Channel your inner Ingrid Bergman for Housing Works Bookstore's inaugural Party for a Purpose, which celebrates the romance and style of Casablanca, circa 1942. All proceeds from the party will benefit the fight against AIDS and homelessness.
Times Square Ball Drop
Join the hordes in Midtown Manhattan for the world's most watched New Year's Eve celebration. Just make sure to dress in layers and get there early, as street closures begin in midafternoon. This year's headliner is country phenom Carrie Underwood.
December 31—January 1, 2016
Snarky Puppy at Irving Plaza
A movable, musical feast, Snarky Puppy has more than a dozen members and brings in all kinds of collaborators for its mix of jazz, R&B and world beat.
December 31–January 2
They Might Be Giants at Music Hall of Williamsburg
Brooklyn's favorite weirdo-rockers conclude their Williamsburg residency with three shows. The first is a New Year's Eve celebration; the second will see them play the album Flood in full; and the third will feature a horn section.
January 1, 2016
“Come Calling” on New Year’s Day at Merchant's House Museum
New Year’s Day in NYC once meant engaging in the genteel practice of social calls to offer salutations and good wishes. The Merchant’s House Museum hasn’t forgotten and aims to keep that spirit alive—and bring friends and strangers together—with tours of its 1832 house, readings about the mid-19th-century ritual and various sweet treats.
January 1, 2016
Coney Island Polar Bear Club New Year's Day Swim at Coney Island
Need to shake off the effects of last night's revelry? Find your bathing suit and enjoy a bracing dip in freezing cold water with “the oldest winter bathing organization in the United States.” The Coney Island Polar Bear Club, which takes the plunge every Sunday from November through April, invites nonmembers to participate in today's annual ritual. The event is free, though there's a suggested donation of $20 to help raise money for Camp Sunshine. Oh—and bring some warm clothes to change into.
January 1, 2016
Salute to Vienna New Year's Concert at David Geffen Hall
Not all is quiet on New Year's Day. Take, for instance, the tribute to the waltzes and operettas that Austria's capital is known for, right in NYC's high-culture capital of Lincoln Center.
Still looking? Check out our nightlife rundown for a local bar at which to raise a glass. Roll a few frames at an NYC bowling alley. See a movie at a classic cinema. Or just step out onto the streets to take in the cinematic cityscape.