The Best Events to Check out in NYC This Winter
Whether it’s your first or hundred-and-first, winter in New York City will test your mettle. It’ll tempt you to deplete all your sick days curled up on the couch with a good book. It’ll coax you to spend half your paycheck on hot toddies. It’ll layer the sidewalks with sleet on the one day you made outdoor plans.
But as the cold rages on, don’t give into the allure of hunkering down till spring. Braving the cold requires some courage, but the payoff of embracing fun wintertime activities is worth it. So before resign yourself to hibernation, give the Big Apple’s winter a real chance to impress you. Here’s every NYC festival, market, party, and parade that’s worth your time from now until spring.
Until the new year
Every city has that one neighborhood that goes all out with Christmas decor. In NYC, it’s Dyker Heights. The Southwest Brooklyn neighborhood rallies crowds of Christmas fiends each December thanks to its residents’ unparalleled holiday spirit. The best-lit spots are a bit of a walk from the subway, but it’s manageable if you bundle up: Take the R train to 86th Street or the D train to 18th Avenue.
Through January 5
The Rockettes are central to New York’s holiday scene: They dance in the Thanksgiving Day parade, they perform at the Rockefeller Center tree lighting, and they embody the holiday spirit as the stars of Radio City’s magical Christmas Spectacular. And if you have out-of-towners visiting, you’ll likely have to nab tickets. Be a good host and see what makes the kicky crew one of the most celebrated dance companies in the nation.
Cost: Prices range from $46 to triple digits, depending on the date and time of the show
Explore the outer boroughs’ biggest lantern shows
The outer boroughs are brightening the sky with lanterns and light displays this holiday season. The Bronx Zoo Holiday Lights shine in Belmont from November 29 - December 31 and January 3 - January 5, the LuminoCity Festival covers Randall’s Island till January 5, the famed NYC Winter Lantern Festival is an excellent reason to visit Staten Island through January 12, and the first-ever Hello Panda Festival luminates Citi Field till January 26.
Cost: Prices vary by festival, but expect to pay in the $20-40 range for an adult ticket
See the famous holiday window displays
Through the holidays
Christmas windows were once a big deal in Manhattan. Shops up and down Fifth Avenue battled for shoppers’ attention with showy mannequins and flashing lights. Today, there are fewer than ever, but the dazzling Saks display still sparkles. A little farther west, Macy’s Herald Square also shines bright, and the new Nordstrom Women’s Store near Columbus Circle will join the ranks of corporate retailers leaning into the holiday spirit.
Cost: Free to gawk, expensive to shop
Peruse the winter markets
Buy last-minute holiday gifts, winter apartment decor, and new wardrobe pieces at this season’s biggest holiday markets. Or just pass through for warm treats and beverages. The Union Square and Columbus Circle holiday markets stay open through Christmas Eve, the Holiday Shops at Bryant Park stay up till January 5, and the Brooklyn Flea Winter Market is open every Saturday and Sunday through the end of March.
Cost: Free to enter; vendor prices vary
All season long
When the city turns to ice, lace up your skates and make the most of it. Whether you’re planning a date, killing an afternoon with friends, or visiting New York for the first time, glide into one of the many outdoor ice rinks that pop up during the cold months. Their limited-time-only appeal makes them essential winter pastimes; just layer up so you can focus more on the moment than the subfreezing temperature.
Cost: Admission and skate rental prices vary, but if you gravitate to less touristy rinks, you can find both for under $20 on our ice rink roundup
Saturday, December 21
Celebrate the season Puerto Rico-style during the Melrose Holiday Parranda, a caroling-adjacent tradition when people sing, drum, and dance through the Bronx to spread holiday cheer, paying special visits to cultural spots in the area. If you have a jolly smile, a merry voice, and a love for Christmas, this is the parade for you.
Sunday, December 22 - Monday, December 30
Midtown & Prospect Heights
Gather for nightly lightings at one of two record-breaking menorahs this Hanukkah. In Manhattan’s Grand Army Plaza, lightings of the 32-foot-tall menorah typically happen at 5:30pm, except for Friday (3:30pm) and Saturday (8pm). In Brooklyn’s Grand Army Plaza, lightings of the just-as-big candelabrum happen nightly at 6pm, except for Friday (3:30pm) and Saturday (7pm). In Brooklyn, you can expect music and potato pancakes each evening also.
Kiss the 2010s goodbye
Tuesday, December 31
There’s no shortage of New Year’s Eve parties in the city ready to usher you into 2020. If you’re looking for the biggest, there's obviously the Times Square Ball Drop. Tone it down a couple notches and you have the Prospect Park performances and fireworks. If that’s still too rowdy, see what your local bar’s got planned and find a New Year’s kiss the old-fashioned way. You could stay in and count down from your couch, but don’t you want to start the new decade differently than you spent the last one?
Cost: Activities in public spaces are free; NYE-themed parties often have admission fees
Monday, January 6 - Sunday, March 15
Establish a winter routine with up to five of your friends and register for the NYC Trivia League’s 40th season. There’s no buy-in fee, and you can choose from a variety of host bars in a variety of neighborhoods, each hosting trivia nights on different days and times. It’s flexible, it’s low-risk, and it’s more entertaining than the weekly happy hour catch-up. If your team is, you know, smart, you just might walk away with weekly prizes and a shot at the generous, end-of-season cash award.
Cost: Free to play; drink prices vary depending on the venue
Experience a night of culinary bliss
Monday, January 13
Chef DeVonn Francis of Yardy World prominence is bringing a Caribbean menu to Brooklyn for his one-night residency at The Fly. Think tropical cocktails ($13), cod rillettes with pepper chutney ($13), tongue sous with manila clams ($12), rum cake ($10), and jerk rotisserie chicken that comes in half-size or whole ($18/$32).The dinner begins at 5pm, and no reservations are necessary — guests are seated on a first-come, first-served basis.
Cost: A la carte menu items run from $8 to $32
Tuesday, January 21 - Sunday, February 9
Broadway shows are… truly expensive. Of course there are lotteries to win tickets on the cheap(er), but everyone knows they’re no guarantee. So where does that leave you? Waiting for NYC Broadway Week, a special time of year when you can catch the best shows on Broadway at a discounted rate. Keep an eye on the event page for details; tickets go on sale January 8.
Cost: Tickets for select performances are buy one, get one free
Tuesday, January 21 - Sunday, February 9
New York City is a culinary mecca, but Michelin-starred restaurants charge prohibitively expensive Michelin-starred prices. Twice a year, foodies can ball on a budget at some of the city’s best restaurants thanks to NYC Restaurant Week. The reservation links drop on January 8, allowing plenty of time to make an attack plan.
Cost: $26 for a two-course lunch; $42 for a three-course dinner
Tuesday, January 21 - Sunday, February 9
Tourists and locals agree that there’s always more to experience in the five boroughs. NYC Must-See Week coincides with Broadway Week and Restaurant Week: For 20 days, you can see shows, visit attractions, explore museums, and take city tours without completely draining your activity fund. Keep an eye on the event page for details; tickets go on sale January 8.
Cost: Tickets for participating attractions are buy one, get one free
Ring in the Year of the Rat
Saturday, January 25 - Saturday, February 8
Chinese New Year falls on January 25, but celebrations run through February. Among the biggest are the Firecracker Ceremony & Cultural Festival in Manhattan’s Chinatown on January 25, the Lunar New Year Celebration at Queens Botanical Garden on January 25, and the Lunar New Year Parade & Festival on February 8. Among the booziest is the LUCKYRICE Cocktail Feast on January 28. And of course you don’t need an event to get in the spirit: Nosh on dumplings and take a stroll any time of day in one of the city’s main Chinatowns: Lower Manhattan, Sunset Park, and Flushing.
Cost: Parades and festivals are free to attend; check private event prices in advance
Sunday, February 2
If you can’t watch the Super Bowl live in Miami, go for the next best thing: a viewing party in a sports bar. There’s just as much beer (and less overpriced), just as many fans (a Super Bowl viewing necessity), and just as little elbow room (all part of the fun, right?). The Giants and Jets may have fallen short this year, but there’s no reason your Super Bowl Sunday plans have to.
Cost: Cover charges and drink costs will vary by bar
Friday, February 14
Departs from Kips Bay
There’s nothing wrong with going out for Valentine’s dinner, but Empire Cruises can do you one better with the Valentine’s Day Sip & Paint Cruise. Unlimited beer, wine, and sodas are on offer during the three-hour boat ride while you paint your own canvas. It’s romantic, it’s boozy, it’s relatively affordable for a Hallmark holiday, and it’ll give your SO the best Valentine’s Day story to share around the water cooler on Monday. Order yourself a World’s Best Bae mug while you’re at it.
Cost: $49-69 for admission and unlimited drinks; food available for purchase
Saturday, February 22
NYC Beer Week launches February 22 with a big ol’ Opening Bash. Expect plenty of pours from NYC breweries plus a handful of special guests. Details about participating breweries and other Beer Week events haven’t been released yet, but follow along with the NYC Brewers Guild to get in on all the hoppy action.
Cost: Early bird tickets are $65; on January 4, GA tickets increase to $75; VIP tickets are $115
Make the most of Leap Day
Saturday, February 29
When the world gives you an extra day of life, how do you spend it? By packing in as much as humanly possible, of course. Fill your Leap Day calendar with the best that NYC has to offer: Grab a coffee, treat yourself to brunch, tour a museum, volunteer, eat a light lunch, take a class, sip a hot toddy, see a show, enjoy fine dining, laugh at comedy, and get a late-nightdrink before dancing. There’s so much to do, and this once-every-four-years holiday is not one to waste.
Cost: Can you really put a price on mems?
Saturday, March 7
Chocolate, wine, and whiskey are the new peanut butter and jelly: a harmonious union that you won’t be able to get enough of. The Brooklyn Chocolate, Wine & Whiskey Festival takes the Brooklyn EXPO Center for a second year with countless varieties of chocolate treats and alcoholic drinks. A ticket includes unlimited pours of wines, beers, and spirits; chocolates and sweets; and a fondue bar. Savory foods are also available for purchase.
Cost: GA tickets start at $35; VIP tickets start at $60
Tuesday, March 17
Midtown East & Upper East Side
Cheer and dance at the 259th New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Manhattan’s east side. The tradition dates back to 1762, and this year, it returns to Fifth Avenue for another round of festivities from 11am to 5pm. Participants step off on 44th Street and wrap up at East 79th Street, marching, jigging, and bagpiping all the way. James T. Callahan, president of the New York Friends of Ireland, will lead the procession as the 2020 Grand Marshall.
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