The holiday season in New York City can be so supercharged with nonstop merriment it can make one glee-challenged human being want to crawl back under the covers. Before settling down to a long winter’s nap, here are 12 of the city’s not-to-be-missed seasonal highlights.
MACY’S THANKSGIVING DAY PARADE
Thanksgiving wouldn’t be complete without pies and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade wouldn't be complete without everyone's favorite master baker the Pillsbury Doughboy. The Poppin' Fresh balloon willm be flying high again in the department store’s annual pageant, which this year will also see the premiere of the Astronaut Snoopy balloon. The usual cast of more than 8,000 Broadway performers, celebrities, marching bands, dancers, athletes and clowns — not to mention St. Nick — will also be in attendance.
WHEN | WHERE 9 a.m.-noon Nov. 28, Upper West Side to Macy's Herald Square
INFO 212-494-4495, macys.com/social/parade
HOLIDAY LIGHTS AT THE BRONX ZOO
No one wants to see the polar ice caps disappear — least of all Santa — so in 2008 the Bronz Zoo suspended its holiday lights display. Now that LED technology permits a vibrant spectacle meeting the zoo’s mission of conservation, the resplendent tradition is back on. Several zoo acres will be decorated with wildlife-themed LED displays, custom-designed lanterns and animated light shows. A kiddie train will zip through historic Astor Court, and entertainment will include holiday tunes, ice carving, caroling, performances, holiday eats and souvenirs.
WHEN | WHERE Nov. 21-Jan. 5, Bronx Zoo, 2300 Southern Blvd.
INFO 718-220-5100, bronxzoo.com
SANTALAND AT MACY’S HERALD SQUARE
You don’t need a flying sleigh to transport yourself to Santa’s magical North Pole. Just stop in at the eighth floor of Macy’s flagship department store in Herald Square. A trip to this glistening arctic wonderland, with its tinsel-draped trees, jolly elves, candy canes, Santa’s helpers and nutcracker soldiers, can culminate in an audience with Father Christmas himself. Admission is free, but reservations to meet the man of the hour should be made in advance starting Nov. 24.
WHEN | WHERE Nov. 29-Dec. 24, 151 W. 34th St.
INFO 212-494-4495, macys.com/social/santa-land
Tired of visions of sugar plums filling your head? Try these potato delicacies made by top chefs served up at the 11th Annual Latke Festival. Latkes are part of the Jewish tradition of Hanukkah, but potato pancakes are also associated with many European and Middle Eastern cuisines. Celebrity judges weigh in on the potato creations; proceeds benefit The Sylvia Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to teaching cooking in underserved communities.
WHEN | WHERE 6:30 p.m. Dec. 16, Brooklyn Museum, 200 Eastern Pkwy.
INFO 718-638-5000, latkefestival.com
DEPARTMENT STORE HOLIDAY WINDOWS
Take a break from the seasonal shop-a-thon to gather inspiration from the extravagant holiday windows of Midtown Manhattan’s department stores. Feast your eyes on glittering vignettes and dazzling dioramas filled with animatronic puppets, LED screens, interactive games and more. Popular displays can be viewed at Saks Fifth Avenue, Barneys, Bloomingdale’s, Bergdorf Goodman, Tiffany & Co. and Macy’s Herald Square. Joining the pack this year will be Nordstrom.
WHEN | WHERE December in Midtown
INFO Visit individual department store websites for more information.
KWANZAA CELEBRATION: REGENERATION NIGHT
Spend a joyful evening of dance and music honoring the principles of the secular festival of Kwanzaa, which include family, community and culture. Showcased this year will be choreographer Abdel Salaam’s newest work, Rise, a tribute to leaders and participants of the past and present struggles of the civil rights, human rights and empowerment movements, including people of the African diaspora in the United States and South Africa. A new work choreographed by actress and dancer Jae Ponder featuring youth dancers will also debut.
WHEN | WHERE 2 and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 28, Apollo Theater Mainstage, 253 W. 125th St.
INFO 212-531-5305, apollotheater.org
DYKER HEIGHTS CHRISTMAS LIGHTS
For sheer luminosity, it’s hard to beat the brilliantly festooned homes of Dyker Heights in Brooklyn. This six-block area sparkles and twinkles with thousands of holiday lights, not to mention the Nativity scenes, inflatable snowmen, oversized nutcrackers, animatronic Santas, glowing angels and other flashy displays that cause tens of thousands of visitors each year to catch their collective breath. Come see why this chunk of Brooklyn is the second home of Glitterex.
WHEN | WHERE December, in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, 11th-13th avenues 83rd to 86th streets
NYC WINTER LANTERN FESTIVAL
Brighten the December darkness with a visit to this electrifying display of more than 1,000 handcrafted lanterns, some of which are 30 feet long. Made in the 2,000-year-old Chinese tradition and lighted with LED bulbs, the lanterns depict everything from giant dragons and pandas to pagodas and poinsettias. The New York Chinese Scholar’s Garden is the backdrop to this lavishly decorated seasonal extravaganza, which is accompanied by live performances of Chinese dances, art and indigenous cuisine. Shoppers can find merchandise by artists and crafters specializing in illustration and Chinese-influenced lanterns.
WHEN | WHERE Nov. 20-Jan. 12, Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden, 1000 Richmond Terrace, Staten Island
ROCKEFELLER CENTER TREE LIGHTING
In an annual tradition with roots going back to the Great Depression, thousands of revelers descend upon Rockefeller Center’s plaza to view dazzling holiday decorations and the annual lighting of an evergreen tree that comes to town on a flatbed and is almost as big as a mega yacht. Music and festivities accompany the lighting of the tree.
WHEN | WHERE Dec. 4, 6:30-10:30 p.m., 30 Rockefeller Plaza
INFO 212-332-6868, rockerfellercenter.com
PAUL WINTER’S WINTER SOLSTICE CELEBRATION
Enjoy a contemporary take on the ancient rituals of the winter solstice, when people gathered on the longest night of the year to welcome the return of the sun. International musicians and vocalists perform in this colossal cathedral with its extraordinary acoustics and seven-second reverberation. This year’s theatrical extravaganza, led by saxophonist, composer and bandleader Paul Winter, highlights the natural world and includes the 25 dancers and drummers of the Forces of Nature Dance Theatre.
WHEN | WHERE 7:30 p.m. Dec. 19-20 and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 21, Cathedral of St. John the Divine, 1047 Amsterdam Ave.
INFO 866-811-4111, solsticeconcert.com
HOLIDAY TRAIN SHOW
Hop aboard this whimsical winter experience, which features model trains chugging along nearly a half-mile of track that winds through a display of 175 iconic New York landmarks. Historical masterpieces, crafted from natural materials such as birch bark, lotus pods, acorns and cinnamon sticks by designer Paul Busse and his team, include the Statue of Liberty and Grand Central Terminal. A focal point of this year’s exhibition is Central Park, with new replicas of its architectural features including Belvedere Castle, the Dairy and more.
WHEN | WHERE Nov. 23-Jan. 26, New York Botanical Garden, 2900 Southern Blvd., Bronx
INFO 718-817-8700, nybg.org
NEW YEAR’S EVE BALL DROP
Usher in the New Year with a million boisterous revelers and 3,000 pounds of colorful confetti. It all happens in Times Square as the world watches when a 12-foot Waterford crystal ball takes a 60-second plunge. Arriving early is recommended, and the best viewing is on Broadway from 43rd to 50th streets, and along Seventh Avenue, as far north as 59th Street.
WHEN | WHERE Dec. 31, Times Square
INFO 212-768-1560, timessquarenyc.org