Nineteen Ways to Spend the Holidays in New York City


Artists & Fleas
Holiday Edition Market

Weekends through the end of the year

Artists & Fleas’ emporium of eclectic designer and vintage goodies is a year-round staple in Williamsburg and Chelsea Market. But this year, A&F’s Williamsburg location is going supersized for the holidays: It’s taken over the 2,500-square-foot warehouse next door, and on weekends through the end of the year it will be packed with a whopping 100 vendors. Pick up White Magic Energy Spray from apothecary Species by the Thousands for Mom, or NYC-themed 3-D wall art from PJ Cobbs Arts for your co-worker who (shudder) moved to the ‘burbs last spring. As you browse, enjoy DJ sets from students at Dubspot or acoustic tunes from local bands throughout December. Artists & Fleas, 70 North 7th Street, Brooklyn,

American Museum of Natural History’s Origami Holiday Tree
November 24–January 11

You won’t find boring old twinkle lights or red and green balls on the American Museum of Natural History’s holiday tree, a stunning 13-foot display decorated with more than 500 hand-folded paper models created by origami artists from around the world. The nonprofit OrigamiUSA combs the museum each spring in search of inspiration for the year’s theme, referencing four decades’ worth of origami archives to determine which new models are necessary for the coming year. The result is a gorgeous history-filled tree topped by a star mobile made up of more than 30 origami pieces. After you gawk at the intricate décor, try making your own origami under the tutelage of an OrigamiUSA volunteer. American Museum of Natural History, Central Park West at 79th Street,

The Annual Post-Thanksgiving Multi-Ethnic Eating Tour
November 28

After stuffing yourself with stuffing on Thanksgiving, wake up the next morning and keep the gluttony going. Tour company Big Onion’s Post-Thanksgiving Multi-
Ethnic Eating Tour is a 20-plus-year tradition where intrepid eaters learn about the Jewish Lower East Side, Little Italy, and Chinatown while sampling different snack items. Big Onion stresses that the $25 tour of markets and shops shouldn’t be considered a real meal, but on November 28 more walking and less food is likely a good thing. Meet at Delancey and Essex streets,

Dyker Heights Christmas Lights
Peak season November 28–December 31

Skip Rockefeller Center and head to this tight-knit Brooklyn community, where homeowners drape scores of twinkly lights over blocks and blocks of neon Nativities and twirling Santas for visitors to wander through. Yes, it’s campy, and yes, some residents shell out loads of cash for professional decorators in a bid to outdo one another. But the result is a sometimes-beautiful-sometimes-tacky wonderland that’s been a Dyker Heights tradition for decades. As traditional as an inflated Santa on a motorcycle can be, anyway. Dyker Heights, Brooklyn

Arlo Guthrie & The Guthrie Family Annual Thanksgiving Concert
November 29

Sharing family stories over the Thanksgiving table can be delightful or disastrous, depending on what your family is like. After a day’s recovery from Aunt Lou overload, swing by Carnegie Hall for an evening of stories and songs from three generations of Guthries. Singer-songwriter Arlo — the son of Woody — is known for his comical digressions in between classics like “Alice’s Restaurant,” and he’s joined here by his musical children and grandkids. After more than 40 years, the family soiree has become a Carnegie Hall tradition. Tickets range from just $12.50 for balcony seats to $70 for parquet. Carnegie Hall, 57th Street and Seventh Avenue,

The Moth StorySLAM
December 1, 11, 18, 22, 29

Year’s end is a season ripe for reminiscing. Why not do it in front of a bunch of strangers? Soho-based storytelling group The Moth holds weekly StorySLAM sessions that invite audience members to perform a five-minute story based on a previously provided topic. Intrepid storytellers can toss their names into a hat at the event in hopes of being one of the lucky 10 selected, offer to serve as a judge, or simply enjoy a night of unique and varied tales. December’s holiday-appropriate themes include Bouncing Back, Saved, and Rewards, and advance tickets go for $16 each. They’re only $8 at the door — but you could end up waiting in the wintry weather for a while. Venue changes weekly; check schedules at

Bar Car Nights at the New York Botanical Garden’s Holiday Train Show

December 5–6, 19–20; January 2–3, 9–10

Up in the Bronx, kids and adults alike can enjoy the New York Botanical Garden’s model train show — in which locomotives weave through a miniature New York City built from bark and twigs — from mid November onward. But the fun for the big kids comes during special Bar Car Nights, when the garden transforms into a scene full of seasonal and romantic outdoor events. Sip on a cocktail or hot chocolate while wandering through “station stops” (get it?) including expert ice-carving demonstrations, a literally fiery performance from Cirque de Light, and an intimate jazz session in the toasty Pine Tree Café. The $35 tickets also include a visit to the Holiday Train Show, which covers a quarter-mile of track. New York Botanical Garden, Bronx,

Queens Botanical Garden Winter Solstice Celebration & Tree Lighting
December 7

The Queens Botanical Garden’s annual solstice bash is a one-stop shop for family fun, and better yet, admission is free. Kids will enjoy sweet treats and photos with Santa, while parents can opt to stroll the garden and peruse the wares at a holiday marketplace. Botanical crafts are available for an additional fee. After a full day of shopping and crafting amid live musical performances, the event comes to a close with a tree-lighting ceremony and sing-along. What could be Christmasier? Queens Botanical Garden, 43-50 Main Street, Queens,

Chase Away the Winter Blues
December 7, January 4, February 1, March 1

Calling all humbugs and heat misers: Stop sulking under a quilt on the couch all winter and enjoy the great outdoors with a seasonal walk through the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Licensed psychotherapist and longtime BBG guide Lynne Spevack will guide you through this hour-long narrated walk across the grounds, which are picturesque even in winter. The walking series is specifically “designed to relieve the winter doldrums,” so throw on a scarf, lace those sneakers, and feel the winter sun on your face. Tours are free for BBG members or with $10 adult park admission, and private walks may be arranged for a fee. Meet at Magnolia Plaza, Brooklyn Botanic Garden,

It’s a Wonderful Life at IFC
Opens December 12

Yes, you’ve already sobbed over It’s a Wonderful Life two dozen times on cable, but it remains pure magic on the silver screen. Hark back to the holidays of yore at the IFC Center, which continues its tradition of showing Frank Capra’s 1946 holiday classic-to-beat-all-classics nearly seven decades after the film’s premiere. In addition to enjoying Jimmy Stewart’s megawatt cinematic grin, you might catch a flesh-and-blood Mary Owen (daughter of star Donna Reed), who typically drops in for a quick pre-show chat at a showing or two. Merry Christmas, you wonderful old Building and Loan! IFC Center, 323 Avenue of the Americas,

Unsilent Night
December 13

Why Christmas-carol when you can sound-sculpt? New-music composer Phil Kline will mark his 22nd year leading a massive chorus of boomboxes from the arch in Washington Square Park to Tompkins Square Park. Participants of all ages bring their own portable speakers, laptops, and megaphones and receive one of four tracks of music Kline composed in the form of a download, cassette, MP3, or CD. On cue, everyone presses play, with the resulting joyful cacophony meant to create a “unique mobile sound sculpture which is different from every listener’s perspective” — and quite a holiday sight for tourists. Washington Square Park, Fifth Avenue and Waverly Place,

Grace-ful Ice: Microcosmos
December 15–16

The ice sculptures at your cousin’s wedding may have been tacky, but in the hands of skilled craftspeople, the transformation of simple blocks of frozen water can be transcendent. The Long Island City–based artist collective Okamoto Studio creates stunning lifelike sculptures from regular old ice, and they hold an annual two-day live carving event at Grace Plaza in midtown Manhattan, where onlookers can watch transfixed as the master artisans coax intricate insects and other tiny creatures from crystal-clear blocks. Perhaps the best part of this winter-wonderland experience: It’s free. 1114 Avenue of the Americas,

Lighting of the World’s Largest Hanukkah Menorah
December 16–23

New York may be packed with Christmas trees and Santa Clauses during the holidays, but the city does Hanukkah in a big way too. The Big Apple boasts the world’s largest menorah: a 4,000-pound, 32-foot-high gleaming gold structure that stands at Manhattan’s Grand Army Plaza. Designed by artist Yaacov Agam in 1977, this majestic menorah is modeled after the original in Jerusalem’s Holy Temple. The candles will be lit each holiday night at 5:30 p.m., except for the Sabbath, when lighting takes place at 3:30 p.m. Friday and 8:30 p.m. Saturday. Celebrations include live music, dancing, Hanukkah gelt, and, of course, piping-hot latkes. Grand Army Plaza, Fifth Avenue and 59th Street, Manhattan

A Charlie Brown Christmas 50th Anniversary Celebration With Live Music
December 20–21

The jazzy classics from the soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas just might be the only Christmas songs that never get old. The short film starring Charlie, Linus, Snoopy, and the gang turns 50 this year, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art is celebrating with a special screening and live musical performance. Tickets start at $40 and include museum admission for the day of the show. The Rob Schwimmer Trio and the Church of Heavenly Rest Children’s Choir will perform their interpretation of the score as the Peanuts kids discover the true meaning of Christmas onscreen. Hang around afterward for a holiday sing-along (and be sure to throw your head way back as you sing). Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Avenue,

The Hanukkah Concert: Featuring Gerard Edery and His Virtuoso Musicians
December 21

You could choose to spend an evening swinging by a folk concert, watching a menorah lighting, and attending a contemporary reading. Or you could hit all three in one event: the Center for Jewish History’s Hanukkah Concert. A special guest will kick off the night “with a story from the pen of a great Jewish writer.” Then master singer and guitarist Gerard Edery will lead virtuoso musicians in playing a wide range of ethnic folk styles from Europe, the Middle East, South America, and ancient Persia. Tickets are just $18 for the concert, which includes a menorah lighting and refreshments. Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street,

Good Riddance Day
December 28

For those who can’t wait for 2014 to slither back whence it came, it could be worth battling creepy Elmos in Times Square for the Times Square Alliance’s eighth annual Good Riddance Day. Bitter New Yorkers scribble down breakup stories, job regrets, and other tales of woe from 2014, and toss them into a huge shredder ahead of the new year. It’s inspired by a Latin American New Year’s tradition in which partiers stuff dolls with objects representing bad memories and set them on fire. There’s no conflagration at the Times Square version, but the ssssszzzzzcht of the shredder is satisfying enough to wipe the slate clean for 2015. Times Square,

New Year’s Eve Concert for Peace
December 31

You’ll have plenty of time on New Year’s Eve to wait hours for a drink at the bar for which you bought a $300 ticket. First, why not start the night in calmer surroundings at the 30th annual Concert for Peace at St. John the Divine in Morningside Heights? Founded by Leonard Bernstein in 1984, the concert features both classical and contemporary music in a candlelit cathedral. The church offers a limited number of free general-admission seats, and ticketed seating starts at $30. The two-hour concert ends at 9 p.m., leaving plenty of time for post-show debauchery. The Cathedral of St. John the Divine, 1047 Amsterdam Avenue,

Brooklyn Bowl New Year’s Eve With Deer Tick
December 31

Say farewell to 2014 by knocking out bowling pins and knocking back a few brews at Brooklyn Bowl’s New Year’s Eve bash. In between the sounds of glorious strikes, enjoy a set from influential Rhode Island alt-rock band Deer Tick, who are celebrating their 10th year. New Year’s Eve marks the final installment of Deer Tick’s six-night residency at Brooklyn Bowl in Williamsburg, during which the band will perform their favorite acts’ full albums (plus a few originals). NYE is extra-special, as Deer Tick will perform a totally fan-chosen set. Tickets run $40–$50 for the Deer Tick performance. For lane packages, contact [email protected]. Brooklyn Bowl, 61 Wythe Avenue, Brooklyn,

Coney Island Polar Bear Club Annual New Year’s Day Swim
January 1

Start 2015 off right by raising money for a good cause and shocking your system out of a hangover on the Coney Island Polar Bear Club’s annual swim, where hundreds of revelers plunge into the frigid Atlantic to greet the new year. Bring warm clothes, costumes, or whatever else may keep you from getting hypothermia after the plunge, which raises money for the Camp Sunshine recreational program for kids with multiple disabilities. Early registrants who donate $20 or more will be entered into the earliest wave, and plungers who raise $100 or more will score a T-shirt. Shy observers are encouraged to make a donation to Camp Sunshine, but there’s no formal fee to watch those crazy diamonds shine on. Boardwalk at Stillwell Avenue, Brooklyn,