Come December, NYC is well into its holiday stride – but the opportunities for things to see and do during the festive period extend beyond Christmas-themed events, as you’ll see below.
One thing’s for sure, December is one of the most atmospheric times of year to be in New York, with both locals and visitors alike embracing the downturn in temperatures, wrapping up warm, and enjoying all that the city has to offer in the action-packed lead up to Christmas. If you’re heading to the Big Apple over the coming weeks, here are 10 great events running through December to look out for.
Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting
Tree lighting ceremonies are a dime a dozen in the US in the build up to Christmas, but perhaps the most famous of all takes place in the grounds of the iconic Rockefeller Center in New York. Drawing thousands of New Yorkers and tourists to the adjacent sidewalk each year, the event sees a huge 80-foot Norwegian spruce illuminated by 50,000 multi-coloured LED lights on approximately 5 miles of wire and crowned by a Swarovski crystal star. The lighting ceremony is accompanied by an equally dazzling programme of live music and other performances.
Rockefeller Center / 1 December 2021
Union Square Holiday Market
While some Christmas markets are best suited for a quick wander, you could easily set aside an entire day to explore this internationally renowned event in the heart of Manhattan. As well as more than 150 vendors showcasing handcrafted goods and other eclectic items, there’s also a whole host of entertainment, including a kid’s craft studio and live musical performances. Some great gift ideas to be found here include brew-your-own beer kits and monogrammed stuffed animals. There’s also plenty of food and drink on offer, either to enjoy as you walk or to take home.
Union Square Park, NYC / 18 November – 24 December 2021
‘Surrealism Beyond Borders’ exhibition
Nearly from its inception in Paris in the 1920s, the cultural movement of Surrealism has had an international scope – but knowledge of the movement has been formed primarily through a Western European focus. This exhibition reconsiders the true “movement” of Surrealism across boundaries of geography and chronology. Including almost eight decades of work produced across 45 countries, the exhibition offers a fresh appraisal of these collective concerns and exchanges – as well as historical, national, and local distinctions – that will recast appreciation of this most revolutionary and globe-spanning movement.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 5th Avenue / Through 30 January 2022
Radio City Christmas Spectacular
There’s no more traditional festive activity than a trip to the theatre and in New York the high watermark of holiday shows is the much-cherished Radio City Christmas Spectacular. An annual tradition since way back in 1933, the classic Christmas spectacle features sensational tap dancers, a flying Santa Claus and, of course, the world-famous synchronised precision dancing of the Rockettes. This year’s production will feature more Rockettes numbers than ever before, including the return of the beloved lyrical number, “Snow,” which transforms the stage into a magical winter wonderland.
Radio City Music Hall, Rockefeller Center / 5 November 2021 – 22 January 2022
‘Noguchi: Useless Architecture’ exhibition
In the mid-20th century, acclaimed Japanese-American artist Isamu Noguchi visited India’s Jantar Mantar in Delhi and Jaipur, two of the original five campuses of astronomical devices created by the 18th-century Maharaja Jai Singh II. Following his trips, Noguchi described the conglomeration of instruments at each site as “useless architecture, useful sculpture.” Directly inspired by this phase, this exhibition features around fifty works mostly drawn from the Noguchi Museum’s collection that speak to the artist’s ambition to sculpt spaces free from the specific responsibilities of architecture and imbued with more than purely theoretical, aesthetic purpose.
The Noguchi Museum, Queens / Through 8 May 2022
If you’ve ever wanted to dress up in a Santa costume but have never quite summoned the courage, then you can do so in almost absolute anonymity at the annual SantaCon. This distinctly unserious bar crawl sees participants dress up as well-known Christmas characters – with the majority opting for the big man himself. Inspired by the surrealism movement, the charitable event starts mid-morning where organisers will accompany you to watering holes across the city for a full day of hard-core – but ultimately rather ridiculous revellery.
Venues TBC / 11 December 2021
‘Head to Toe’ exhibition
While garments are typically the focus of fashion exhibitions, it is accessories that serve as integral components of the full ensemble, often communicating vital messages about the wearer. Indeed, over time accessories have become powerful tools in articulating ideas about femininity, sexuality, modesty, power, class, and race, as well as an important outlet to express style and individuality. Exploring approximately 200 years of women’s dress from 1800 to the early 21st century through the lens of accessories, this exhibition details the intricacies and etiquette of Euro-American women’s fashion, showing its evolution over time and its changing social context.
Fashion Institute of Technology, 227 West 27th Street / Through 8 May 2022
‘At Home in 1869’ tour
Launching Thanksgiving weekend is this new guided tour from the Tenement Museum. During the tour, visitors can visit the recreated tenement apartment of Joseph and Bridget Moore, Irish immigrants raising their three children at 97 Orchard Street in 1869. They’ll also hear about the couple’s experiences in a mostly German neighbourhood, and learn how they maintained their Irish identity in the face of discrimination. The museum on the Lower East Side of Manhattan offers daily guided tours of two historic tenement buildings that explore the real stories of the immigrant and migrant families who lived there in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Tenement Museum, 103 Orchard Street / Thanksgiving Weekend 2021 through May 2022
New York is one of the world’s most photographable cities and each year public spaces across the Big Apple play host to a unique photography exhibition. From parks to plazas to bridges, over 70 outdoor exhibits are erected, each providing a platform for both established and up-and-coming photographers from across the world to showcase their art and engage with audiences. As well as the exhibits on display, there are also outdoor installations, talks & panel discussions, walking tours, and workshops for all ages
Venues across NYC / Through 1 December 2021
‘Bronx Calling: The Fifth AIM Biennial’ exhibition
Created as part of the 50th anniversary of The Bronx Museum of the Arts celebrations, this exhibition showcases the work of 68 early career artists from the 2018 and 2019 cycles of the museum’s AIM Fellowship program, which was launched in 1980 to offer artists access to robust career management resources. The fifth edition of Bronx Calling series, it considers the multiple crises of health, grief, the environment, and identity that define our contemporary moment, bringing to light the stories, voices, and visions of artists seeking a more just and equitable world
The Bronx Museum of the Arts, 1040 Grand Concourse, Bronx / From 10 November 2021 – 20 March 2022
Created in the 1960s, Kwanzaa is a raucous celebration of African American culture, unity, and family Kwanzaa that is marked with great enthusiasm and energy in New York each year. Events and activities take place across the city including live songs, dances, African drums, storytelling, poetry reading and – in individual households – an extremely large and hearty traditional meal. There are also panel discussions relating to diverse topics such as “The State of the Black Family” and “The Role of Creativity in Liberation,” plus vendors and live DJs.
American Museum of Natural History, 200 Central Park West / 28 December
New Year’s Eve in Times Square
A Times Square New Year’s Eve celebration is not only a New York tradition, it’s a global phenomenon. On the last day of December, an estimated one million revellers flock to the land of LED screens to celebrate the occasion and enjoy an array of live entertainment, including performances by eminent musicians. The event’s centrepiece moment is the world-famous ball drop, which sees a time ball located on the roof of One Times Square descend down a specially designed flagpole before resting at midnight to signal the start of the new year.
Times Square / 31 December 2021
By Paul Joseph