by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com
NYC & Company, New York City’s official destination marketing organization, is forecasting seven million visitors will visit the City during the 2019–2020 holiday season. From the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to the Christmas Tree Lighting at Rockefeller Center and the New Year’s Eve ball drop in Times Square, New York City offers unparalleled ways to celebrate the holidays with vibrant performances, tours, lightings and more taking place from early November into January.
“New York City’s celebratory spirit and excitement are palpable during the annual holiday season. From iconic attractions and events to hidden-gem activities in all five boroughs, there’s an endless roster of memorable programming to enjoy from November to January,” said NYC & Company president and CEO Fred Dixon.
Here are some of the festive events, performances and activities across the boroughs to celebrate the holiday season in New York City.
• Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, November 28,| Manhattan: The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is a classic New York City celebration of the holidays, featuring larger-than-life helium balloons, fantasy floats, clowns, performance groups, Broadway’s best musicals, celebrity appearances and more.
The 93rd Annual spectacle will feature new balloons including Astronaut Snoopy, Netflix’s Green Eggs and Ham, SpongeBob SquarePants & Gary, Smokey Bear and Yayoi Kusama’s Love Flies Up to the Sky. New floats include Nickelodeon’s Blue’s Clues & You!, The Brick-changer by The Lego Group, Home Sweet Home by Cracker Barrel Old Country Store®, Rexy in the City by COACH® and Toy House of Marvelous Milestones by New York Life. The parade begins at 9 am on 77th Street and Central Park West, snakes around Central Park South and heads down Sixth Avenue before concluding at Macy’s Herald Square at 34th Street and Seventh Avenue.
For serious parade aficionados, head up to the American Museum of Natural History on November 27 from 1 to 8 pm to watch the balloon inflation at West 79th Street and Columbus Avenue but be prepared for long lines.
• Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, December 4, Midtown, Manhattan: The Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center has been a tradition for more than eight decades. Lighting up Rockefeller Plaza, the tree lighting ceremony features performances and classic Christmas songs. The tree will arrive on November 9, light up on December 4 and be on view through early to mid-January.
• Lighting of the Largest Menorah in Brooklyn and Lighting of the World’s Largest Menorah: Manhattan, December 22, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn; Grand Army Plaza, Manhattan: Both the Manhattan and Brooklyn Grand Army Plazas compete in the race for the World’s Largest Hanukkah Menorah. The Largest Menorah in Brooklyn has been lit since 1985, and the annual concert to kick off the holiday will be held on December 22.
• New Year’s Eve Times Square Ball Drop, December 31–January 1, Times Square, Manhattan: Each year, millions of viewers watch the Times Square Ball Drop from New York City and around the globe. The Waterford Crystal Times Square New Year’s Eve Ball sparkles in Times Square for visitors to see all season, but its descent is a spectacular, once-in-a-lifetime way to ring in the New Year.
• New Year’s Eve Fireworks at Prospect Park, December 31–January 1, Prospect Park, Brooklyn: The Grand Army Plaza’s iconic New Year’s Eve Fireworks at Prospect Park offer an alternative to the frenzy of Times Square. This spectacular celebration includes live music, followed by a fireworks show at midnight.
Sparkling Light Festivities:
• NYC Winter Lantern Festival, November 20–January 12, Randall Manor, Staten Island: The NYC Winter Lantern Festival is returning for a second year to Staten Island. Sponsored by Empire Outlets and venue partner Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden, eight acres will be lit up by more than 50 LED installations, accompanied by live performances of traditional Chinese dance and art.
• Holiday Lights at the Bronx Zoo, November 21–January 5, Fordham, the Bronx: Returning for the first time since 2007, the stunning light displays at the Bronx Zoo will cover several acres in a walk-through experience with wildlife-themed LED displays, custom lanterns and animated light shows.
• LuminoCity Festival, November 23-January 5, Randall’s Island Park, Manhattan: Sixteen acres of lights will illuminate themed worlds during this inaugural festival, creating an immersive journey for visitors that includes a castle, skating unicorn and enchanted forest.
• Brookfield Place Light Up Luminaries, December 3-January 4, Battery Park City, Manhattan: This spectacular light installation kicks off December 3 with an evening of free ice skating, snacks and live performances.
• Hello Panda Festival at Citi Field, December 6–January 26, Flushing, Queens: The debut of this international lantern, food and art festival will include 60 global cuisine vendors, arts experiences, live performances and a holiday market.
Winter Exhibits and Cultural Events:
• The Origami Holiday Tree at the American Museum of Natural History, November 25–January 12, Upper West Side, Manhattan: This beloved tradition includes a 13-foot tree and 1,000 origami models. The signature Origami Holiday Tree, themed “Oceans of Origami” this season, has been a part of the celebrations for more than 40 years.
• Gingerbread Lane at New York Hall of Science, November 23–January 12, Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens: Gingerbread Lane at the New York Hall of Science invites visitors to witness the vast collection of gingerbread structures embellished with candy canes, chocolate and frosting.
• New York Botanical Garden Holiday Train Show, November 23–January 26, Fordham, the Bronx: Conveniently accessible via the Metro-North Railroad from Grand Central Terminal, head to the New York Botanical Garden to be enchanted by model trains zipping through a display of more than 175 NYC landmarks, each re-created with natural materials.
• Belmont BID Arthur Avenue Tree Lighting Ceremony, November 30, Belmont, the Bronx: Experience Christmas in the Bronx’s Little Italy at the Belmont BID Arthur Avenue Tree Lighting. The annual event features a visit from Santa, cookies and hot chocolate among the twinkling lights.
• Seaport District NYC Celebrations, Seaport District NYC, Manhattan: Festivities in this neighborhood include the Winterland Holiday Tree Lighting on December 2, Menorah Lighting on December 22, a pop-up tree farm, ice skating and a light display at Pier 17.
• Holiday Workshop Weekend at Wave Hill, December 7–8, Riverdale, the Bronx: Create one-of-a-kind holiday decorations by the gorgeous gardens and galleries at Wave Hill during their interactive Holiday Workshop Weekend.
• Historic Richmond Town Candlelight Tours, December 14–21, Staten Island: This Christmas season, experience the tastes and scents of centuries past at Historic Richmond Town. Step back in time while touring the unique New York City which is illuminated by candles and oil lamps.
• 11th Annual Latke Festival at the Brooklyn Museum, December 16, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn: One of New York City’s most unique and delicious holiday tasting events, the Latke Festival is a charity event that celebrates the best and most creative potato pancakes.
• Melrose Holiday Parranda, December 21, Melrose, the Bronx: The Melrose Holiday Parranda follows in the footsteps of Puerto Rican holiday caroling with a procession based on plena music and holiday songs.
• Radio City Christmas Spectacular Starring the Rockettes, November 8–January 5 | Midtown, Manhattan: The Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes returns to Radio City Music Hall, dazzling audiences of all ages with incredible costumes, festive songs and synchronized high kicks.
• Four Renditions of the Holiday Classic A Christmas Carol
o An unforgettable Broadway experience, Christmas Carol at the Lyceum Theatre will run November 7-January 5 with a new, enchanting interpretation of this holiday masterpiece.
o For a unique venue, head to the 1832 Merchant’s House Museum in Greenwich Village, as an actor portraying Charles Dickens shares this memorable story November 29–January 4.
o The Players Theatre will bring Charles Dickens’ timeless tale to life in their 11th annual A Christmas Carol the Musical December 1–20 in Greenwich Village.
• A Christmas Carol at Queens Theatre transports the audience to Victorian England to experience Scrooge’s iconic journey December 6–22.
• Three Extraordinary Versions of The Nutcracker
o George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker at the Lincoln Center Plaza brings the classic Christmas Eve tale to life with breathtaking music and choreography November 29–January 5.
o The Salzburg Marionette Theatre’s The Nutcracker is coming to Flushing Town Hall in Queens on December 4 with a historical puppet cast bound to entertain children and adults alike.
o The Brooklyn Nutcracker at Kings Theatre transforms familiar characters and scenes to represent the diverse traditions and vibrant culture of Brooklyn on December 14.
• Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at New York City Center, December 4–January 5, Midtown, Manhattan: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s holiday season opens with premieres, new productions and repertory favorites, including the masterpiece Revelations.
• A Holiday Doo Wop Spectacular at the St. George Theatre, December 7, St. George, Staten Island: The famous theatre presents its annual Holiday Doo Wop Spectacular featuring critically-acclaimed performers such as The Vogues, The Crystals and Eddie Holman.
• Holiday Performances at the World Famous Apollo Theater, Harlem, Manhattan: The Apollo Theater, celebrating its 85th anniversary in 2019, hosts holiday events including a Harlem gospel choir performance at Coca-Cola Winter Wonderland on December 14, followed by the Amateur Night Holiday Special. Gospel legends Yolanda Adams and Donald Lawrence headline annual concert Holiday Joy: A Gospel Celebration on December 21. As a grand finale, the annual Kwanzaa Celebration on December 28 features Abdel Salaam’s Forces of Nature Dance Theatre and guest performances.
• New Year’s Eve Concert for Peace, Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine, (1047 Amsterdam Ave. at 112th St., New York 10025, 212-316-7540, [email protected], www.stjohndivine.org), Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019, 7-8:30 pm,: Founded by Leonard Bernstein in 1984, the annual New Year’s Eve Concert for Peace is a signature Cathedral event with performances by the Cathedral Choir and Orchestra led by Director of Music Kent Tritle. Harry Smith, host; special guests Paul Winter, Jamet Pittman, Jason Robert Brown, and David Briggs. General admission seats are free and open to the public on the night of the show. Reserved seats are available now.
• Holiday markets: New York City is full of incredible holiday markets, with must-buy gifts, sweets, drinks and winter activities. This year, the Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park opened earlier than ever on October 31. Other popular markets include the Union Square Holiday Market, Columbus Circle Holiday Market, Brooklyn Flea and Astoria Market.
• Iconic Holiday Windows: Awe-inspiring window displays at stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy’s Herald Square and the new Nordstrom Women’s Store sparkle, inviting visitors to explore the magic of New York City shopping.
• Empire Outlets, St. George, Staten Island: New York City’s first-ever outlet destination, Empire Outlets, will ring in the holiday season with a special Black Friday sale and their first annual tree lighting ceremony. Easily accessible by the free Staten Island Ferry from Lower Manhattan, the outlets will be adorned with thousands of lights, garland wraps and a 40-foot tree.
• 23 Days of Flatiron Cheer, December 1-23, Flatiron District, Manhattan: 23 Days of Flatiron Cheer will include free, holiday-themed events showcasing the intersection of shopping, dining and culture in this vibrant neighborhood.
• Shop at Your Hotel: Several hotels are home to retail pop-ups this holiday season, partnering with iconic stores to make shopping easier than ever for visitors.
o Grand Hyatt New York is partnering with Macy’s Herald Square for a pop-up located behind the check-in desk, featuring New York City-themed gifts, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade apparel and novel gift items November 25–January 1.
o Loews Regency New York Hotel and Bloomingdale’s are teaming up to bring a curated selection of holiday gifts to the lobby lounge November 29-December 24, including on-site monogramming of leather gifts by ROYCE New York.
o Conrad New York Midtown is launching the first FAO Schwarz Holiday Suite, filled with shoppable toys, stuffed animals and gifts that will be restocked for visitors who book a stay in the suite November 18–January 5. Additionally, all guests during this time period will be able to order gifts on demand to their suite or home address.
For additional holiday celebrations and ideas, visit nycgo.com/holidays.
Holiday Express Returns to New-York Historical Society, Celebrating Richard Scarry and Busytown
A holiday favorite returns to the New-York Historical Society this season—reimagined to celebrate the 100th birthday of Busytown series author and illustrator Richard Scarry. Holiday Express: All Aboard to Richard Scarry’s Busytown (November 1, 2019 – February 23, 2020) showcases artwork and graphics of Scarry’s characters like Huckle Cat and Lowly Worm from publisher Random House Children’s Books alongside more than 300 objects from the Jerni Collection’s antique toy trains, stations, and accessories. Using Busytown stories and characters, dynamic displays explore the workings of the railroad, the services it provides, and the jobs required to keep people and goods moving.
An assortment of kid-friendly activities, story times, and crafts accompany the exhibition throughout its run, welcoming families into the world of classic toys and trains. Richard “Huck” Scarry Jr., the son of Richard Scarry, will make a special appearance on December 14 and 15. Holiday Express: All Aboard to Richard Scarry’s Busytown is supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies. Additional support provided by Random House Children’s Books.
“We’re delighted to celebrate Richard Scarry’s centennial by bringing Busytown to life at the New-York Historical Society this holiday season,” said Dr. Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of New-York Historical. “Pairing iconic characters like Huckle Cat with historic toys and trains from our incomparable Jerni Collection is the perfect way for visitors of all ages to explore the history of transportation in a whimsical way.”
Richard Scarry is one of the world’s most beloved children’s authors. In his extraordinary career, Scarry illustrated over 150 books, many of which have never been out of print. His books have sold over 100 million copies around the world and are currently published in over 20 languages.
Just like his father, Huck Scarry was always drawing and would often assist his dad in coloring his drawings. After his father’s passing in 1994, Huck took up the mantle of creating new books about Richard Scarry’s charming and funny characters. “My father would be so thrilled with the Holiday Express exhibition at the New-York Historical Society,” said Huck Scarry. “We would often visit New York City, and when we did, we always took the train. So much to see and do! Like our many Busytown friends, we enjoyed our trip because a train ride is always a bit of an adventure!”
Busytown is the inspiration for a special installation that uses three Scarry stories and objects from the Jerni Collection to illustrate rail travel in 1919, the year of Scarry’s birth. In Waiting at the Station, characters Huckle Cat and Sally Cat eagerly await the arrival of a train, as miniature figures of porters and other workers bustle around the station. In Betsy Bear’s Letter to Grandma, toy trains demonstrate how post offices and railroads worked together to keep people in touch. And in Coal Makes Electricity Work for Us, a miniature underground mine, elevators, and hoppers show how coal was turned into power.
More than two dozen never-before-displayed objects from the Jerni Collection are on view for the first time this year, including Märklin’s rare “Garden Station,” manufactured in 1900. Other highlights include a toy textile factory from 1910 by Ernst Planck and Gebrüder Bing’s English market “Charles Dickens” locomotive with tender and coaches, produced in 1905. Also on view: a Bing Steam Toy Train from 1912, which was once powered by a real, working steam engine, making it an exceedingly risky plaything in its day. To top it all off, eight sets of running trains encircle the displays overhead and are sure to delight children (and adults!) of all ages.
Large-scale cutouts of Scarry’s iconic characters are displayed throughout the museum, and interactive elements, including a crawl-through space leading to a pop-up observation bubble, allow children to get an up-close view of the displays, harking back to the feel of early 20th century toy departments.
Busytown Family Programs
Fun, train-related activities for kids of all ages take place through the exhibition’s run―all free with Museum Admission. These include:
Celebrating Richard Scarry and Busytown! (Saturday, December 14 and Sunday, December 15; 1–3 pm) All aboard! Holiday Express returns this year with a special new addition—scenes from Richard Scarry’s Busytown! On this weekend, families will join Huck Scarry in a draw-along of beloved Busytown characters and chat about his father. Children will decorate their own Busytown vehicles, create finger puppets, listen to Busytown tales, and go on a pretend train journey with our favorite Conductor Abe!
December School Vacation Week (Thursday, December 26 – Wednesday, January 1) Stop by New-York Historical during our annual, train-filled Vacation Week. Take part in an “I Spy” scavenger hunt, play at our train table, listen to a classic train story, and make a rail-themed craft to take home!
Since its acquisition by the New-York Historical Society in 2014, the Jerni Collection has become a highlight of the Museum’s holdings. Assembled over the course of five decades by U.S. collectors Jerry and Nina Greene, the Jerni Collection is considered one of the world’s leading collections of antique model trains and toys. The Jerni Collection includes handcrafted, and hand-painted pieces dating from approximately 1850 to 1940, and features prime examples by the leading manufacturers that set the standard for the Golden Age of Toy Trains, including the German firms of Märklin and Bing, as well as the American firms Lionel and Ives.
Holiday Express: All Aboard to Richard Scarry’s Busytown is curated by Mike Thornton, associate curator of material culture at the New-York Historical Society.
The New-York Historical Society, one of America’s preeminent cultural institutions, is dedicated to fostering research and presenting history and art exhibitions and public programs that reveal the dynamism of history and its influence on the world of today. Founded in 1804, New-York Historical has a mission to explore the richly layered history of New York City and State and the country and to serve as a national forum for the discussion of issues surrounding the making and meaning of history. New-York Historical is also home to the Patricia D. Klingenstein Library, one of the oldest, most distinguished libraries in the nation—and one of only 20 in the United States qualified to be a member of the Independent Research Libraries Association—which contains more than three million books, pamphlets, maps, newspapers, manuscripts, prints, photographs, and architectural drawings. The DiMenna Children’s History Museum at the New-York Historical Society presents 350 years of New York and American history through character-based pavilions, interactive exhibits, and digital games, and the Barbara K. Lipman Children’s History Library. The DiMenna Children’s History Museum encourages families to explore history together through permanent installations and a wide range of family learning programs for toddlers, children, and preteens.
New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West (77th St), New York, NY 10024, www.nyhistory.org.
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