Top photo by Ann-Sophie Fjelloe-Jensen/New York Hall of Science
You’ve seen the tree at Rockefeller Center. You’ve window shopped at the Fifth Avenue department stores and you’ve scoured all the holiday markets. What’s left to do for the holidays in New York City? So many things! No matter your holiday, there are tons of ways to celebrate the season. From Hanukah themed virtual reality games and menorahs made out of ice, to a gallery of wreaths made out of found objects and music in the streets, discover 11 ways to celebrate the holidays this year in New York City!
1. Play Music in the Streets
Photograph Courtesy of Make Music
Grab a ukulele and join carolers in Greenwich Village, or chime in with singers on the Upper West Side. On Saturday December 21st, the streets of New York City will be filled with song thanks to the Make Music Winter outdoor music-making celebration. There will be thirteen free participatory musical parades citywide. The daylong musical celebration brings together New Yorkers of all ages, backgrounds, musical abilities and styles to sing, play, march and dance their way across streets, parks, plazas and other public spaces. Hop aboard the Jingle Train in Harlem, a musical trolley that will loop from the Harlem-125th Street Metro-North Railroad station to the Harlem Night Market, playing brass band, jazz, gospel, reggae, soul and salsa along the way. Join artist Tom Peyton for a participatory hand bell performance that will parade through the East Village and discover all the New York City events here!
Make Music Winter is a nationwide event that will be taking place in forty different cities. It is the cold-weather counterpart to Make Music Day, the annual global celebration of music occurring on June 21, the summer solstice.
2. Uncover the Remnants of Dutch New Amsterdam
Did you know that the Dutch brought us Santa Claus? You can learn what else we inherited from the first European settlers of New York City on our Tour of the Remnants of Dutch New Amsterdam. On Sunday, December 22nd, join Untapped New York’s Chief Experience Officer Justin Rivers for a walk around the original street grid of Lower Manhattan, laid by the Dutch in colonial times.
This tour will reveal physical vestiges of Manhattan’s colonial era that you can still see woven into the modern cityscape. There are even some super old remnants you can touch! Book your tickets using the button below.
3. Kwanzaa Celebration: Regeneration Night at the Apollo
Kwanzaa Regeneration Night, Photograph Courtesy of Ed Marshall
Watch a stunning performance by Abdel R. Salaam’s Forces of Nature Dance Theatre at The Apollo’s Kwanzaa Celebration: Regeneration Night. Hosted by Imhotep Gary Byrd, this annual tradition has been going strong since 2006. The Apollo’s celebration is a joyful evening of dance and music honoring the principles of Kwanzaa – family, community, and culture.
In addition to the New York based dance company, the show will also feature the KIPP AMP Legacy Jazz Ensemble. The evening’s entertainment will honor 2019’s family of the year, the family of Elome Brath. Tickets for the December 28th shows at 2:00pm and 7:30pm range from $25 to $40 and can be purchased here!
4. Sing Carols under the Washington Square Arch
For the past 94 years, a crowd of carolers has gathered near the arch in Washington Square Park for an evening of joyful singing on Christmas Eve. Anyone who wants to help spread holiday cheer is welcome to sing along. Carolers are accompanied by The Rob Susman Brass Quartet. While you probably know all the words by heart already, songbooks will be distributed by the Washington Square Association just in case! The association has been keeping this merry tradition alive since its formation in 1906.
The revelry starts at 5:00pm by the 45-foot Christmas tree just south of the arch. The tree, provided by the Association each year, will be lit for the season between 4:00pm and 1:00 am. See all of the details of the event here.
5. Uncover the Secrets of Grand Central
Like many of New York City’s iconic landmarks, Grand Central Terminal is decked out in holiday decor. There is also a holiday market right off of the main concourse. You can check out all of these festive holiday accouterments as you walk through the terminal and uncover its hidden secrets with an expert Untapped New York tour guide. On our Secrets of Grand Central Terminal Tour, daily commuters and visitors alike will be surprised by what is revealed.
Peek into the off-limits walkways inside the iconic windows, discover a hidden tennis court, learn where there is a major design flaw in the main concourse, and so much more! Tours are offered every Saturday and select days during the week. You can book your spot now for tours on Christmas Eve and the day after Christmas.
6. World’s Largest Gingerbread Village
Photo by Ann-Sophie Fjelloe-Jensen/New York Hall of Science
Admire rows and rows of candy covered gingerbread houses at GingerBread Lane inside the New York Hall of Science in Queens. Creator Jon Lovitch holds the Guinness World Record for largest gingerbread village. In order to qualify, the entire village must be edible. Lovitch designs, bakes and decorates all of the structures in his home in Queens. He first sketches out each building, then brings it to life with frosting and candy. This year’s GingerBread Lane includes a number of storefronts with quirky names: Eleven Pipers Piping – Piping Hot Soup, My Two Front Teeth General Dentistry, Visions of Sugar Plums Eye Glasses, and Letters to Santa – GingerBread Lane’s Post Office.
On December 28th – 30th, you can make your own gingerbread houses or trains in a crafty workshop. Each participant will receive a kit with all of the materials needed to make a one-of-a-kind edible creation. Workshops will be held at 10:30 am, 11:30 am, 12:30 pm, 2 pm, 3 pm and 4 pm. They sell out fast, so book your tickets here!
7. Giant Menorah Lightings
Photograph Courtesy of LargestMenorah.com
Kick off eight nights of Hanukah celebrations by watching a giant menorah get lit. There are menorahs all over the city that will be hosting nighttime festivities. At Lasker Rink in Central Park, you can see a giant hand-carved ice menorah at Chanukah on Ice. The ice menorah, hand-carved by Bill Bywater, will be lit by a Jewish celebrity and, from 5:00pm to 8:00pm, enjoy ice skating to Jewish music and free Kosher food.
At Grand Army Plaza, you can see Brooklyn’s largest menorah. The lighting will be accompanied by live music, hot latkes and gifts for the kids. You can also see a menorah lighting in the Seaport District. Hanukah runs from December 22nd through December 29th. You can purchase tickets for Chanukah on Ice at the door, or save money by booking online, here!\
8. See Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol Manuscript
The Morgan Library & Museum, MA 97. Photography by Graham S. Haber, 2011
Every year, as a special treat just for the holiday season, The Morgan Library and Museum digs out Charles Dickens’ original handwritten manuscript of A Christmas Carol from the archives. The manuscript is on display in J. Pierpont Morgan’s Library. This year, the manuscript is open to Dickens’s evocative description of a gloomy, fog-bound afternoon in London: “it was quite dark already—it had not been light all day.” Along with the famously grumpy character of Ebenezer Scrooge, we meet his clerk Bob Cratchit, as he tries to warm himself by the flame of his desk candle. The sketch of Cratchit’s miserable work with Scrooge is modeled in part on Dickens’ own experience as a solicitor’s clerk.
Dickens wrote his Christmas tale in a six-week flurry of activity beginning in October 1843 and ending in time for Christmas publication. He had the manuscript bound in red morocco as a gift for his solicitor, Thomas Mitton. The manuscript then passed through several owners before Pierpont Morgan acquired it in the 1890s. This priceless treasure will be on view through January 5, 2020.
9. Go Inside Gramercy Park
For just one hour this Christmas Eve, the gates of Gramercy Park will be open. This rare occurrence will allow the public to gain access to the famously exclusive park. The park is usually only accessible to those who hold a key, the homeowners who live in one of the thirty-nine buildings that ring the park.
Don’t miss your chance to get inside on December 24th at 6:00-7:00pm between East 20th and East 21st Street. There will be caroling!
10. Wreaths Made out of Found Objects
Photograph Courtesy of NYC Parks / Malcolm Pinckney
Instead of garland and holly, the decorative wreaths at the 37th Annual Wreath Interpretations Exhibit in The Gallery at the Central Park Arsenal are made of salvaged chess boards, crepe paper, recycled waste, and other found materials. The inventive and quirky wreaths were crafted by more than 40 artists, designers, and creative individuals of all ages. Each used a variety of unexpected materials to reinterpret the traditional holiday symbol, often with a touch of humor and light-hearted fun.
Drawing on themes ranging from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to the bridges of New York City, artists this year have incorporated woven dog leashes, candy, plastic trophies, foil coffee wrappers, and wigs into their wreaths. You can see the free exhibition now through January 2, 2020. The Gallery is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. More details here!
11. Experience a Virtual Chanukah
Image Courtesy of YokeyPokey Virtual Reality
Experience an old tradition mixed with new technology. Katz’s Delicatessen has partnered with the virtual reality team at YokeyPokey to bring a pop up arcade with Katz’s Deli famous potato pancakes to City Point in Brooklyn. The Chanukah Experience: Don’t Burn the Latkes is a ten minute virtual reality video game designed to educate kids about the Jewish holiday. At this holiday pop up, visitors can try their hand at multiple Chanukah themed games like Spin the Dreidel and Temple Treasure Hunt. The experience ends with lighting the menorah.
The first 100 families to participate will receive free Katz’s latkes! The free Chanukah Experience will take place on Sunday, December 22nd from 11AM – 4PM in Dekalb Market Hall at City Point, 445 Albee Square West in Downtown Brooklyn. Make your reservation here!