NYC Winter Events: Arts & Culture Edition

When the days get shorter and the weather gets colder, it can be tempting to retreat to the warmth of your home rather than going out to explore. Winter in NYC is full of celebrations, special events, and outdoor activities, so it’s worth braving the cold. Ice skating, caroling, bike rides and runs for charity, and even a dip in the Atlantic Ocean are all on the agenda this year. Here’s a list of upcoming arts & cultural events coming up this winter:


Ice Skating in Bryant Park
Through March 6, 8am – 10pm
Free to enter

This 170′ x 100′ rink is part of Bank of America’s Winter Village at Bryant Park, an annual festival featuring holiday shops, food and drink, and special events throughout the holiday season. The skating rink offers free admission, and those who don’t own skates can rent a pair for $15. For a link to all other ice skating rinks in NYC, check out my blog post from last year’s skating season.

NYC Holiday Markets
Through 12/24, various times
Free to the public

NYC’s holiday markets offer a mix of art, clothing, handbags, jewelry, holiday items, and more from local artists and businesses. Whether you’re looking for a unique gift or a way to spend a chilly afternoon, take time to wander around the markets at Union Square, Columbus Circle, Grand Central Terminal, or one of the many other locations.

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Radio City Christmas Spectacular
11/15 – 1/3, various times
$49 – $250

Since the first Christmas Spectacular came to Radio City Music Hall in 1933, it has remained a New York City holiday tradition. The world-famous Rockettes are joined by Santa and wooden soldiers for a 90-minute program that gets better every year. Tickets are available through the Radio City Music Hall website.

11/21, 1:30 – 7pm
Free to register

This annual bike ride doubles as a food drive for the Bowery Mission and contains elements of a scavenger hunt as well. Bring your bike and $15-20 to spend on groceries for families in need. Register at Hudson Yards and finish at Interface NYC for an afterparty and awards.

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Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
11/26, 9 – 10:30am
Free to the public

Now entering its 89th year, The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade will proceed down 6th Ave while 3.5 million people line up along the route to watch. The one-of-a-kind floats and musical performances have made the parade the unofficial kickoff to the holiday season in NYC. If you’re looking to avoid the crowds, you can join 50 million others and view from home on NBC.


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Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony
12/2, 7-9pm
Free to the public

For the 83rd year in a row, tens of thousands of people will gather to watch the Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center light up for the first time this holiday season. The ceremony is also broadcast live on NBC, where hundreds of millions will watch. The tree will also be lit daily from 5:30am to midnight through 8pm on January 6.


Menorah Lighting Ceremony in Grand Army Plaza
12/6 – 12/13, various times
Free to the public

The world’s largest Menorah stands at 32 feet tall, which is the maximum allowed by Jewish law. Since 1985, the annual Menorah lighting ceremony has taken place during each night of Chanukah, accompanied by live music and hot latkes. With the help of a Con Edison cherry-picker, Rabbi Shimon Hecht lights the Menorah with community leaders and special guests while special gifts are distributed to children. The Menorah-lighting schedule is available here.

Z100’s Jingle Ball
12/11, 7:30pm
$51 – $351

This annual concert series returns to Madison Square Garden on December 11, featuring The Weeknd, Calvin Harris, Tove Lo, and more. Tickets are sold out, but resale tickets are becoming available for those who missed out.

Sounds of Reggae Starring Shaggy
12/13, 7pm
$79 – $99

Sounds of Reggae will return to Brooklyn for an encore after its wildly popular debut in 2012. This time, the concert will take place at the historic Kings Theatre in Brooklyn and will feature Grammy Award Winner Shaggy alongside the legendary reggae band, Third World. A portion of the concert proceeds will benefit the American Foundation for the University of The West Indies (AFUWI) scholarship fund. Tickets are available via Ticketmaster.

New York Philharmonic Presents Handel’s Messiah
12/15 – 12/19, various times
$29 – $134

Handel’s Messiah is an essential part of the Christmas season for classical music lovers, and the New York Philharmonic brings it to life each year at Lincoln Center. Tickets are available through the Philharmonic website.

Christmas Eve Caroling in Washington Square Park
12/14, 5 – 6pm
Free to the public

Join the Rob Susman Brass Quartet and the Washington Square Association for an hour of singing classic Christmas carols. The Washington Square Association will hand out songbooks with lyrics, and all are welcome to join in on the fun.

Kwanzaa at the American Museum of Natural History
12/27, 12pm and 3pm
Free with museum admission

World-famous entertainer and Harlem native Doug E. Fresh will join the American Museum of Natural History’s 37th annual Kwanzaa celebration. Linda Humes of the Yaffa Cultural Arts will guide the audience through the history and seven principles of Kwanzaa, and filmmaker MK Asante will introduce his movie, “The Black Candle: A Kwanzaa Celebration.” A musical tribute to Maya Angelou and a Q&A with Jamilah Lemieux, Senior Editor of EBONY Magazine will wrap up this year’s festivities.

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New Year’s Eve in Times Square
12/31, 3pm – 12:15am
Free to the public

In the hours leading up to midnight, the Times Square New Year’s Eve celebration will feature musical performances, confetti, and a pyrotechnic display while approximately one million people gather in the epicenter of New York City to ring in 2016. Arrive early to ensure a good view, or watch the webcast from the comfort of your home.


No Pants Subway Ride
Data and Time TBA
Free to the public

What started as a prank in 2002 has become a wacky yet beloved New York tradition. Each year, a group of brave New Yorkers board the subway sans pants, pretending they do not know each other and acting as though there is nothing odd about their pants-less attire. The date and time will be announced by Improv Everywhere in early December

New Year’s Day Marathon Benefit Reading
1/1, 2pm – 2am
Ticket price TBA

The Poetry Project’s 41st Annual New Year’s Day Marathon Benefit Reading will feature 140 poets, raffle prizes, food vendors, and books for sale. Proceeds will fund The Poetry Project’s programs, workshops, and special events. Tickets will be available online – in the meantime, you can email or call (212) 674-0910 for more information.

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Coney Island Polar Plunge
1/1, 1pm
$20 to register

Join the Coney Island Polar Bear club for a dip in the chilly Atlantic and raise money for Camp Sunshine, a retreat for kids with life-threatening illnesses and their families. Registered attendees will also receive free admission to the NY Aquarium. There is a $20 minimum for registration, and there are prizes for those who raise $100 or more. Register online ahead of time to avoid lines on the day of the event.

Fifty First Jokes
1/2, 7:30pm
$10 in advance / $12 at the door

Each year, 50 NYC comedians gather to tell the first joke they’ve written for the new year. This year’s show at the Bell House in Brooklyn will feature up-and-coming comics Aparna Nancheria, Ben Kronberg, Brooke Van Poppelen, and more.

Winter Jazzfest
1/13 – 1/17, various times
$145 for 5-day pass

Winter Jazzfest was established in 2005 to give greater exposure to New York’s jazz scene. With over 100 acts playing at 10 different venues, this year’s lineup will include artist-in-residence Dave King along with Channeling Coltrane, Kamasi Washington, The Ex, Bill Laswell, Colin Stetson, and more. The 5 Day pass will get you into all Jazzfest shows, or you can purchase single and two-day passes for $45 and $75 respectively. Tickets are on sale now.

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Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service
1/16, all day
Free to volunteer

Honor the memory of Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. by joining fellow New Yorkers in community service efforts across the city. Past volunteer opportunities have included food drives, park beautification and cleanup, sorting clothing donations, and more. Registration for this year’s day of service will open on the Volunteer New York! website later this month, and you can email with questions.

NYC Broadway Week
1/19 – 2/5, various times
Ticket prices vary

Get 2-for-1 tickets to the best Broadway shows in town. Information will be added to the NYC Go website closer to the January 19th start date.

Outsider Art Fair
1/21 – 1/24, schedule TBA
Free to enter

Head to the Metropolitan Pavillon in Chelsea to peruse and buy works from unknown and unconventional artists. A schedule and list of artists will be added to the fair’s website in January.

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Central Park Winter Jam
1/24, 11am – 3pm
Free to the public

This free winter sports festival welcomes New Yorkers of all ages for a day of snowshoeing, skiing, snowboarding, and sledding. Fresh snow will be brought from Gore Mountain, and equipment will be provided free of charge.


Empire State Building Run-Up
2/3, 8pm

The 39th annual Empire State Building Run-Up will challenge runners to race up 86 flights (that’s 1,576 stairs) in one of the world’s most famous buildings. The fastest runners are able to climb to the top in about 10 minutes, while the ascent takes about one minute in the elevator. Those interested in running should sign up for the lottery via NYC Runs before November 29.

New York Fashion Week
2/11 – 2/18, various times
Ticket prices vary

Known as one of the “big 4” fashion weeks (along with those in Paris, London, and Milan), New York Fashion Week is where designers from all over the world show their collections to buyers, editors, and the general public. A list of public events will be listed online as Fashion Week approaches.

Cupid’s Undie Run
2/13, 12pm
$35 through November 30

This unconventional fundraiser collected over $3.5 million last year for #EndNF, and this year the Children’s Tumor Foundation will receive all proceeds. Run a mile around Manhattan’s Pier 84 in your skivvies and enjoy an open bar to celebrate afterwards. Register on Cupid’s website to join the fun!

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Chinatown Lunar New Year Parade & Festival
2/14, 1pm
Free to the public

Ring in the Year of the Monkey at this annual parade featuring traditional lion and dragon dances, costumes, floats, multicolored confetti, and food vendors.

The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show
2/15 – 2/16, 8am – 4pm
$40 – $110

This two-day, all-breed dog show will take place over the course of two days at Madison Square Garden and The Piers 92/94. Watch as canines from all over the world compete for Best in Show – tickets are available through the Westminster Kennel Club’s website.


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