December in Manhattan can be summed up in two words: holiday feels! From sparkly tree lighting to seasonal bakery confections, museum disco parties to gospel church concerts, our recommendations for this month will make your heart sing (and tame any inner Grinch tendencies). So cozy up with your eggnog latte and read our ideas for the best events to attend to close out 2019.
Tree lightings can be found in all five boroughs but nothing compares to midtown’s OG Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting at Rockefeller Plaza, now in its eighth decade. Join thousands of visitors and millions tuning in to witness the 77-foot tall Norway Spruce (by way of Florida) come to life with over 50,000 sparkly LED lights and a Swarovski star on top (Wednesday, December 4, 8pm).
If two words could sum up the city’s mood in December, it’s “let’s party!” The Whitney Museum’s Member Night Disco is where you can put on your most festive, disco-themed outfits and enjoy after-hours access to all exhibitions, artmaking, mini tours, cash bars, and more (Thursday, December 5, 7:30pm-10pm). Or, if you’re looking for something more lowkey, relax and enjoy a free Friday evenings at the exquisite Morgan Library, where the atrium will be filled with the sounds of instrumental jazz ensemble BeBimBop, and you can casually dine at the Morgan Café (Friday, December 6, 6:30pm to 8:30pm).
Fitness for a cause is another way to lift your spirits, especially in the invigorating (still Autumn) air. Join the runners flocking to Central Park in honor of Ted Corbitt (1919–2007), the first president of New York Road Runners and first African-American to compete in the Olympic marathon. Get inspied by this ultramarathon pioneer who ran more than 200,000 miles in his lifetime as you take on the Ted Corbitt 15K (Saturday, December 7, 8:30am).
Did you know that “DOG” spelled backwards is “GOD”? Bring your furbaby and direct line to the spiritual world to Christ church for a holiday blessing (Sunday, December 8, 2pm).
World renowned trumpeter Chris Botti’s smooth sounds and intimate sets bring all the music, magic and romance your holiday season needs, so don’t miss his 15th Annual Holiday Residency at the Blue Note Jazz Club (Monday, December 9, 8pm). Another historic venue, Tavern on the Green, has been capturing the spirit of New York City since 1934 and since reopening in 2014, successfully merges old and new New York, making it a must for holidays drinks and eats (Tuesday, December 10, 5-11pm).
Made famous by the show Sex and the City, Magnolia Bakery brought cupcakes into the mainstream and has since expanded well beyond its original West Village location on Bleeker Street. Magnolia’s Upper West Side shop invites you to BYOW (bring your own wine) and learn how to ice Magnolia’s classic cupcakes with a signature swirl (Wednesday, December 11, 6-7:30pm).
One surefire way to get into the holiday spirit is to take a stroll through the UrbanSpace Union Square and Columbus Circle holiday markets with over 300 vendors, many of whom are local artisans. The hot cocoa, baked goods, creative ornaments and cute crafts, Insta-friendly photobooths, and even a warming station/lounge are great places to slow down, treat yourself, and joyfully get through your holiday shopping (Thursday, December 12).
Oh what fun it is to attend iHeartRadio and Z100’s Jingle Ball, a huge party with pop performances by none other than Taylor Swift, Camila Cabello (could Shawn Mendes be the night’s biggest surprise guest?), Jersey hometown heroes Halsey and Jonas Brothers, plus Lizzo, Lewis Capaldi and more (Friday, December 13, 8pm)!
Holiday-themed entertainment is in excess supply this month but if not now, when? Enjoy Cirque du Soleil’s first-ever Christmas show ‘Twas the Night Before, an exhilarating spin on the beloved Christmas classic that follows a young girl as she is, “whisked away to, an upside-down, inside-out world where she meets characters inspired by the original timeless poem” (Saturday, December 14, 4pm and 8pm). At the Guggenheim’s Rotunda Holiday Concert, experience a night to remember with holiday classics and a new commission of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Caroline Shaw, plus the Grammy award winning ensemble Roomful of Teeth and percussionists of Tigue (Sunday, December 15, 7pm).
Broadway is abuzz about director Ivo van Hove’s cutting edge and exciting new interpretation of West Side Story starring Shereen Pimentel as Maria and Isaac Powell as Tony. It features a cast of 23 talented young performers making their Broadway debuts and begins previews this month (Monday, December 16, 8pm). Founded just one year after the debut of Broadway’s original West Side Story (1957), Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre has been entertaining audiences since Alvin Ailey and his troupe of African-American modern dancers premiered at the 92nd Street Y in 1958. This year, catch the debut of Ailey choreographer Camille A. Brown’s ‘City of Rain,’ a quietly intense work inspired by the loss of a friend, alongside Mass, Ella and the must-see Revelations (Tuesday, December 17, 7:30pm).
Bryant Park’s Winter Village is open seven days a week but on this night, Swiss Ski Club of New York invites you to Ice Skating and Happy Hour at Bryant Park where you can socialize with SSC members and learn about upcoming ski trips (Wednesday, December 18, 6-9pm). Meanwhile, if you’ve been wondering where to snag a photo of your little ones with Santa, the answer is lower Manhattan at Brookfield Place. Pro tip: schedule an appointment ahead of time through Santa Fast Pass (Thursday, December 19).
As winter fast approaches, the American Museum of Natural History’s Astronomy Live: Winter Solstice and the Year Ahead embraces the change of seasons and helps you get ready for the cosmic year ahead with a tour around the Sun with previews of important astronomical and scientific happenings on the way (Friday, December 20, 7pm). And on the first day of the new season, Piano City @The Oculus is a joyful rendition of Eric Satie’s Vexations (“a short enharmonic composition performed 840 consecutive times”) performed for eleven straight hours by a rotating cast of professional and student pianists inside the Oculus (Saturday, December 21, 9am-10pm).
Hanukkah comes late this year, but there is no delaying special events to celebrate Jewish culture and heritage. This includes the inaugural YIDDISHFEST, nine days of Yiddish and Jewish inspired shows, screenings, and talks including Chanukah Concert: Celebrating Yosl Papirovsky – The Miracle of Joseph Papp, a musical tribute to Shakespeare Festival and Public Theatre visionary and founder Joseph Papp (Sunday, December 22, 3pm).
After the weekend, you may have the day off and stay on the couch watching holiday cat videos but if you do venture out, A Very Frantic Christmas at the Stand features a lineup of powerhouse comedians including Von Decarlo and Shane Gillis (Monday, December 23, 10pm).
USA Today once dubbed the MatzoBall “The Number 1 Holiday Party of the Year” and you can spend Christmas Eve finding out why at Capitale (Tuesday, December 24, 9pm-3am).
Christmas will always be as long as we stand
heart to heart and hand to hand.
This Christmas, stand heart to heart and hand to hand with The Harlem Gospel Choir of Mt. Olivet Baptist Church at their Holiday Celebration in Harlem (Wednesday, December 25, 11am) followed by lunch (including the most epic desserts) at Seredipity3 restaurant on the UES. It is hard to imagine a holiday season without George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker® and the gold standard production is at Lincoln Center, where for 65 years the New York City Ballet has told Clara’s story to heartwarmed audiences from around the world (Thursday, December 26, 2pm).
To put a final (and slightly quirky) button on your Christmas themed outings, the 37th annual Wreath Interpretations exhibition displays wreaths by more than 40 artists who reinterpret the traditional holiday symbol with humor, fun, and unexpected materials ranging from woven dog leashes to plastic trophies, foil coffee wrappers to wigs (Friday, December 27, 9am-5pm).
As the month (and decade!) comes to a close, consider going inward out with a wind down rather than a wild party turn up. Quietly sip the best hot chocolate in the city at Burdick Chocolate Cafe (Saturday, December 28) and step into the transformative world of former Talking Heads frontman David Byrne’s American Utopia (Sunday, December 29, 3pm). After that, cozy up with a page-turner at the Ace Hotel’s Silent Book Club, dubbed a “happy hour for introverts” (Monday, December 30, 6pm-9pm).
How on earth do you spend the last day of the year and decade? One, diffuse the pressure by recognizing it’s not only New Year’s Eve, it’s also Tuesday (and you can stay home to watch Billy Porter host Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve ). If you are venturing out, an elegant meal at Gotham Bar & Grill followed by a nightcap down by South Street Seaport is our recommendation. Weather permitting, you can say goodbye to 2019 and look ahead to 2020 while taking in fireworks over Brooklyn’s Grand Army Plaza (Tuesday, December 31, 10pm).
Whatever you do, it is sure to be a month full of joy. Enjoy it and get ready for a great 2020!