101 things to do in New York this winter: the full list

Illustration: Jacob Sanders
Neutral Milk Hotel

Winter is here! That means it’s time for roasted chestnuts, festive cocktails and spectacular holiday sights.  Here's the full rundown of the 101 best things to do in New York City this season.

RECOMMENDED: 101 things to do in New York City this winter

Christmas shops in New York

Go guerilla caroling at the Xmas Pop Sing Along

If you’ve perfected your rendition of “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” now’s your time to shine. Belt that tune, along with ones from Run-D.M.C., Justin Bieber and Bob Dylan (yep, he did a Christmas album), at this yuletide karaoke jam. When the official party ends, stragglers can join in the after-party, which may or may not include a group rendition of “Dick in a Box.” Ugly reindeer sweaters aren’t just optional, they’re encouraged. 

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Union Hall 13 Dec 2013

Join the majestic red herd as SantaCon stumbles across the city

Divisive charity-focused bar crawl SantaCon is going ahead this year despite rumors of cancellation and entreaties from the NYPD that publicans refuse to serve participants. As a result, some of us will be avoiding the mayhem in our quiet, vomit-free homes, while others will dust off the old Kris Kingle suit and prepare to get messy. If you fall into the latter camp, follow @santacon on Twitter or check the website for the starting location, as well as updates throughout the day on the route and new Santa Spectacular party. And remember the four fs of SantaCon: Don’t fuck with kids, don’t fuck with cops, don’t fuck with bar staff, and (please) don’t fuck with NYC. Locations and time TBA; visit nycsantacon.com for more information.

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Location TBA 14 Dec 2013 Free

Keep The Boy Who Lived's memory alive at Harry Potter Yule Ball

Revisit the saga of the Boy Who Lived at this annual bash thrown by wizard-rock band Harry and the Potters. Fancy-dress robes are the garb of choice and magical elixirs to induce euphoria await you, along with performances from the Potter Puppet Pals and Lauren Fairweather. A portion of each ticket will benefit nonprofit the Harry Potter Alliance (thehpalliance.org).

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The Bell House 21 Dec 2013

Visit the Rockettes at Radio City

You'll get a kick out of this holiday stalwart, which—after more than eight decades—still features Santa, wooden soldiers and the leggy, spunky Rockettes. In recent years, new music, more eye-catching costumes, and advanced technology were introduced to bring audience members closer to the performance.

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Radio City Music Hall Tue Dec 10 - Mon Dec 30

See the holiday lights in Dyker Heights

More than 100,000 visitors make the pilgrimage to this south Brooklyn nabe every December to see larger-than-life Christmas displays, which in past years have included massive nutcrackers, silicone Santas, and hundreds of thousands of sparkling lights. For the optimum twinkly experience, sign up for Tony Muia’s Christmas Lights and Cannoli tour. The three-and-half-hour bus jaunt takes you through the ’hood’s best spectacles and ends with cannoli and hot cocoa for everyone.

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Fog up the windows at Henri Bendel

Henri Bendel has partnered with the estate of Al Hirschfeld to create window displays inspired by the celebrated cartoonist's work. In one window, you'll see 3-D depictions of celebs like Sarah Jessica Parker, Liza Minnelli and Woody Allen; in the store itself, Bendel's giant tree becomes a playhouse for a model of Charlie Chaplin.

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Henri Bendel Wed Dec 11 - Thu Jan 2 Free

Welcome new corporate overlords Bank of America to Bryant Park

In its 12th season, this outdoor market boasts more than 125 artisans selling everything from clothing and accessories to food and hot drinks. Gift ideas include Diana Warner New York rose-gold necklaces, SOVL NYC recycled messenger bags and Brazilian Home Collection hand-painted lamps.

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The Holiday Shops at Bryant Park Tue Dec 10 - Sun Jan 5

Count the ornaments on the Origami Holiday Tree

Festooned with more than 500 meticulously hand-folded paper ornaments, this year’s tree is inspired by the museum’s new “The Power of Poison” exhibit, meaning you’ll spot toxic mushrooms, poison ivy, spiders, snails and jellyfish. In addition to the venomous flora and fauna, the stationery has been fashioned into popular literary characters well versed in lethal substances, including Macbeth’s witches and Sherlock Holmes. Do some sleuthing of your own in the exhibit proper, where you can use forensic clues (and museum iPads) to solve mysterious poisoning cases.

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American Museum of Natural History Until Sun Jan 5
Read more about the best Christmas events this winter

Arts

Celebrate 15 years of rejected literature at Best of McSweeney's

Dave Eggers’s literary journal has survived and even thrived in an era generally considered hostile to the printed word. Although it has featured such notable authors as Michael Chabon and Joyce Carol Oates, McSweeney’s still sticks to its original premise of publishing only works that have been rejected elsewhere, and has never lost the sense of playful outsiderdom that has defined it since its inception. At this 15th-anniversary event, contributors including Jonathan Ames and Sheila Heti will participate in readings and discussions.

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92nd Street Y 12 Dec 2013

See the gold standard of Nutcrackers...

Since 1954, the New York City Ballet has transported audiences to a world of frost fairies, toy soldiers and towering mice. Tchaikovsky’s score may be hummably familiar, but the choreography still feels magically fresh. Schedule varies; visit nycballet.com for details.

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David H. Koch Theater (at Lincoln Center) Through Sat Jan 4

...and the new Nutcracker on the block

American Ballet Theatre returns to BAM with Alexei Ratmansky's inventive version of The Nutcracker, in which Clara and the Nutcracker Prince grow up before our eyes—braving an ominous snowstorm—and a little mouse nearly steals the show. It's tender, witty and wise, just like Ratmansky.

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BAM Howard Gilman Opera House Fri Dec 13 - Sun Dec 22

Experience NYC's scrappy 1970s performance art scene

New York in the 1970s was a dismal place with high crime and abandoned real estate. Yet it was there that performance art was born with artists claiming space in lofts and outside major institutions. The Whitney Museum tries to recapture that period for this fascinating exhibit; the title, “Rituals of Rented Island,” comes from performance artist Jack Smith's nickname for Manhattan, which he used in his 1976 play, The Secret of Rented Island.

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Whitney Museum of American Art Through Sun Feb 2

Open 2014 on a literary note at the new Year's Day Marathon Benefit Reading

What better way to banish that New Year’s Eve hangover than with verse and good food? On the first afternoon of the year, 140 of the city’s best poets, artists and performers gather at St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery and, one after another, recite their work to a hall full of listeners. Among the many podium-takers this year are composer Philip Glass, storyteller Edgar Oliver, Bowery Poetry founder Bob Holman, and poets Eileen Myles and Anne Waldman. Local joints catering the 11-hour event include Grandaisy Bakery, Porto Rico Importing Co. and more.

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The Poetry Project at St. Mark's Church Wed Jan 1 - Thu Jan 2

Check in with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

The troupe explores a diversified repertory for its City Center season. Highlights include a new work by Aszure Barton, the Ailey premiere of Wayne McGregor's Chroma, Bill T. Jones's D-Man in the Waters (Part I) and Ronald K. Brown's Four Corners. The run—which celebrates Matthew Rushing tenure with the company—also includes restagings of Alvin Ailey's Duke Ellington–inspired pieces The River and Pas de Duke.

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New York City Center Through Sun Jan 5

Hear a stellar lineup read the work of Pulitzer-winning scribe Alice Munro

The Selected Shorts reading event pays homage to the winner of this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature, a supremely talented Canadian scribe whom the committee described as “a master of the short story.” Fellow fiction-writing giant Margaret Atwood will be on hand to discuss her longtime friend, and a to-be-announced roster of performers and actors will read selections from Munro’s staggering body of work, drawing from her upbringing in rural Ontario.

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Symphony Space 22 Jan 2014

Pick up tips from an overachiever at LIVE from the NYPL

The NYPL kicks off its latest series of talks with none other than 2013 National Book Award for fiction winner, James McBride. The Good Lord Bird author is also an accomplished musician (some people!) and will have his jazz-gospel quintet, the Good Lord Bird Band, in tow for a special performance.

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New York Public Library, Stephen A. Schwarzman Building 24 Jan 2014

Get weird at BAM stage show <em>Green Porno</em>

If you’ve been keeping up with the Sundance Channel’s series, you know that Isabella Rossellini acting out the strange sexual behaviors of insects, arachnids and sea creatures is possibly the greatest thing that ever happened in the history of time. Now, she (along with director Muriel Mayette and cowriter Jean-Claude Carrière) is bringing her intricate spandex-and-paper wildlife costumes to BAM, to school us on the birds and the bees live onstage in her soothing Italian purr. (And seriously, those bees have some fucked-up sex lives.)

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BAM Fisher Thu Jan 16 - Sat Jan 25

See Ryan from <em>The Office</em> in person

The former Office writer-director B.J. Novak—and portrayer of Dunder Mifflin’s resident cad, Ryan Howard—has hung up his fake hipster glasses for good. But much like Ryan, he's already onto the next thing: short fiction. To toast the debut of his first book, One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories, the comedian will read from the tome at this Selected Shorts event. His tales take on subjects as diverse as a kid who wins a fortune from a cereal box, an angry rabbit plotting revenge and John Grisham’s inner monologue.

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Symphony Space 05 Feb 2014

Attend the Royal New Zealand Ballet's NYC debut

Dance fans know Ethan Stiefel as the celebrated former American Ballet Theatre principal; dance-movie fans know him as the jerky choreographer who broke Jody’s heart in Center Stage. These days, he’s the artistic director of the world-renowned Royal New Zealand Ballet, which is making its long-awaited NYC debut at the Joyce. The company will perform Benjamin Millepied’s elegant 28 Variations on a Theme by Paganini, Javier De Frutos’s flamenco-inflected Banderillero and Andrew Simmons’s minimalist Of Days.

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Joyce Theater Wed Feb 12 - Sun Feb 16

Weave your way through a tangle of crafty yarn art at "Queer Threads"

Contemporary queer identity is explored in an unusual (and oh-so-crafty) manner in this exhibit: The “thread” that ties the various artworks together is, literally, a thread. Each of the pieces incorporates crochet, yarn, tapestry or embroidery. Be sure to check out Nathan Vincent’s installation of a crocheted men’s locker room, complete with life-size urinals made of yarn, and L.J. Roberts’s quilt-based work, which trails from the wall to the floor.

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Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art Fri Jan 17 - Sun Mar 16 Free

Look inside the apartments of Canal Street at "A Floating Population: Chinatown Photographs"

Frequent New York Times photographer Annie Ling’s pictures of the neighborhood are an entry point into the often insular world of Chinatown, documenting the lives and struggles of the people who live there. This exhibition includes four collections, including “81 Bowery,” a series of images Ling took inside a modern-day flophouse where residents pay between $100 and $200 a month for cubicles not much larger than their mattresses.

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Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) Fri Dec 13 - Sun Apr 13

Explore the interior of a 1960s Eastern European sci-fi spacecraft

For "Report on the Construction of a Spaceship Module," the entire fifth floor of the New Museum has morphed into a retro-futuristic spaceship interior thanks to the constructive nostalgia of Eastern European artist collective Tranzit. Artwork by its various members is installed throughout the space, which has been modelled after the fictional spacecraft from 1963 Czech science-fiction film Ikarie XB-1.

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New Museum of Contemporary Art Wed Jan 22 - Sun Apr 13

See street art indoors at "City as Canvas: New York City Graffiti from the Martin Wong Collection"

Considering the sudden and bleak demise of graffiti hub 5 Pointz, and with all of October’s Banksy hysteria put behind us, this winter seems like an ideal time to look back at the beginnings of street art in NYC. See a host of never-before-exhibited paintings and sketches by the legends who drove the ’70s and ’80s scene, including Keith Haring, Lady Pink, Lee Quinones and more, culled from the holdings of downtown artist and collector Martin Wong.

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Museum of the City of New York Tue Feb 4 - Sun Aug 24

Eat, Drink and Be Literary at BAM

Bookworms are in for a treat with the lineup at BAMcafe’s annual series, which pairs dinner and wine with a reading and presentation by a leading author. The season kicks off with Salman Rushdie, famed scribe of The Satanic Verses and Midnight’s Children. After that, check out Alice McDermott (After This, Charming Billy) February 12 and Jeffrey Eugenides (The Marriage Plot, Middlesex) February 26. The series extends into the spring, concluding on May 28 with an appearance by novelist Meg Wolitzer (The Interestings).

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BAMcafé Wed Jan 29 - Wed May 28

Explore the new Queens Museum

Located on the grounds of two World’s Fairs, the QM holds one of Gotham’s most amazing sights: The Panorama of the City of New York, a 9,335-square-foot scale model of the five boroughs, created for the 1964 exposition and featuring Lilliputian models of landmarks. The museum underwent an expansion to double the size of its galleries in 2013, as well as add public-event spaces, two new entryways and a glass facade facing Grand Central Parkway. A new branch of the Queens Public Library will open in the new space in 2015.

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Queens
Read more about the best arts events this winter

Food and drink

Raise money for the Greenmarket through the power of cassoulet

The iconic French dish of beans and meat, slow-cooked in its eponymous earthenware crock, is perhaps the ultimate winter comfort dish. Warm your soul with tastes of multiple versions at East Village gastropub Jimmy’s No. 43, where for the sixth year running, amateur and professional cooks will compete to make the best cassoulet. Proceeds benefit Greenmarket’s Local Grains Project which promotes regional agriculture, so rest assured your eating—and judging—is for a good cause.

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Jimmy’s No. 43 12 Jan 2014

Enjoy the three Bs at Beer, Bourbon and BBQ Festival

New York may very well be the greatest city in the world, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we are the greatest at everything. There’s some stuff you just can’t get in this Yankeefied town—like actual down-home Southern barbecue. For the fifth year, our Dixie brethren are bringing us some of their finest cultural exports in the form of not just beer, bourbon and whole-roasted pigs, but also bluegrass music and instructional seminars.

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Manhattan 25 Jan 2014

Celebrate the "other white meat" at Cochon 555

The swinecentric cook-off invites chefs to turn a whole heritage-breed hog into a snout-to-tail smorgasbord for 20 judges and a horde of hungry guests. Wash down the gut-busting feast with wine, beer, cider, rum and bourbon. Butcher demonstrations, sustainable oysters and pork-infused desserts round out the festivities.

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Ritz-Carlton Battery Park 26 Jan 2014

Be merry (and tipsy) at the Good Spirits Festival

Locavore magazine Edible Manhattan hosts this evening of alcohol and food pairings. The guests of honor—by which we mean the booze, obviously—include Hudson Whiskey, Dutch’s Spirits and Greenhook Ginsmiths. Grub is provided by Northern Spy Food Co., L&W Oyster Co. and Prospect, among others, with each restaurant whipping up a unique dish to pair with one of the specialty cocktails.

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82 Mercer 13 Feb 2014

Enjoy a multitude of hot cocoas at City Bakery's Annual Hot Chocolate Festival

Regress to childhood with skillfully concocted mugs of hot chocolate courtesy of this downtown canteen. Owner-mastermind Maury Rubin will serve a different flavor of his intoxicating cocoa every day during February. The lineup hasn't been announced yet, but previous years' highlights included Earl Grey Tea hot chocolate, a delicate blend with notes of bergamot, and Sunken Treasure, an indulgent cup with submerged caramel coins and chocolate truffles.

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City Bakery Sat Feb 1 - Fri Feb 28

Try a new bistro at New York Restaurant Week

With all the billion-dollar high-rise condos springing up, this city can sometimes feel like a playground for the super rich. Thankfully, New York’s twice-annual discount-dining opportunity is just around the corner. Over the course of the event (which tends to last longer than seven days, actually—last year’s edition ran for more than three weeks) you can sample a three-course prix-fixe lunch or dinner at one of more than 300 eateries. Sign up online to be notified when this year’s restaurants are announced. Locations, dates and prices TBA; visit nycgo.com/restaurantweek.

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Drink up at New York City Beer Week

For nearly two weeks, independently made suds will reign supreme as the city’s craft breweries stage events in hundreds of venues. The Bronx Brewery, Brooklyn Brewery, Coney Island Brewing Co., Sixpoint and many others will do their best to make sure everything is IPA-okay. Details for the celebration, organized by the New York City Brewers Guild, are still in the offing, but be sure to check out the opening-night party at Grand Central Terminal’s Vanderbilt Hall on February 21. Various locations, times and prices; visit newyorkcitybrewersguild.com.

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Scold the cold with signature winter cocktails

We like drinking in any season, but nothing braces against those dark winter nights like a stiff cocktail. Satisfy your sweet tooth with Maharlika's Sharon Cuneta, an aromatic rum-and-coconut-milk concoction, or raise your core body temperature with Distilled's Mulled Mystic, a snifter of hot honey wine imbued with wildflower, orange blossom and crushed chamomile buds. Sip your way through all ten of our favorite winter cocktails.

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Warm your tootsies by a fireplace

New Yorkers are a tough breed, but when the winter chill really sets in, they tend to flock to a few specific bars—namely, those with fireplaces. We like to curl up in the plush couch near Union Hall's flickering stone hearth sipping a a hot Irish Nut (Bailey’s, amaretto coffee; $10). Find a cosy grate near you with our full list of fireplace bars.

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Get friendly with a street vendor

Winter signals the return of one of the city's most iconic street foods: roasted chestnuts, made immortal by Nat King Cole's "The Christmas Song." Pick up a bag (around $5 usually) of the chewy nuts with the trademark X sliced into each shell on Fifth Avenue between 53rd and 55th Streets or Sixth Avenue between 34th and 35th Streets, two blocks that are especially thick with vendors. Whether it's a vestige of the snack's more popular days or because sellers know the area will be teeming with tourists looking to check off their winter-in--New York to-do list is anyone's guess.

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Read more about the best food and drink events this winter

Theater

See <em>The Life and Death of Marina Abramovic</em> in one of the city's grandest venues

Legendary director Robert Wilson’s music-theater hybrid, which follows the life and work of avant-garde performance artist Marina Abramovic, will have its U.S. premiere in the Armory’s impressive 55,000-square-foot Drill Hall. The artist herself—who famously stared down gallerygoers at MoMA in 2010—stars in the production alongside actor Willem Dafoe. The piece covers Abramovic’s life from her Yugoslavian childhood through her rise to prominence in the American art world.

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Park Avenue Armory Thu Dec 12 - Sat Dec 21

Escape dreary city life via transporting troupe Cirque Eloize

This contemporary-circus troupe from Montreal brings its latest show to NYC, performing classic acrobatics and tightly choreographed dance numbers against a backdrop of original video projections. Expect jugglers, contortionists and Cyr-wheel artists in pieces inspired by the struggle to escape a soul-crushing industrialized city. If that hits a little too close to home, rest assured: At least onstage, humanity wins in the end.

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Skirball Center for the Performing Arts Wed Dec 18 - Sun Jan 5

Catch an eyeful of experimental theater and dance at American Realness festival

This annual performance fest pushes the envelope of dance and contemporary performance. The fifth year’s adventurous lineup includes 13 Love Songs: dot dot dot, a criticism of cheesy pop music; Commentary=Not Thing, a dance play exploring the complexity of relationships through nude performers and repeated text; and myendlesslove, an examination of gay sex and queer grief. Wind down from the performances at the Lounge, a pop-up nightlife hub that American Realness will share with other festivals, housed in the Public Theater.

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Abrons Arts Center/Henry Street Settlement Thu Jan 9 - Sun Jan 19

Explore the avant-garde at the 2014 Coil Festival

P.S. 122, in temporary exile from its home base on First Avenue, schools us all in this sampler of avant-garde subjects, including theater works by Mac Wellman, Tina Satter, Reid Farrington, Okwui Okpokwasili, Phil Soltanoff and Brokentalkers. The shows are spread out at various venues (the Kitchen, the New Ohio, etc.), so check out ps122.org for details and to buy tickets.

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Various venues Fri Jan 3 - Sun Jan 26

Support innovative new operas

Prototype: Opera/Theatre/Now, an opera and musical-theater jubilee created in response to the sudden explosion of great new chamber works, stems from a collaboration between HERE Arts Center and Beth Morrison Projects. The second annual iteration features seven innovative events, including Paul’s Case, an opera based on a 1906 short story by Willa Cather; Have a Good Day!, a chamber piece about retail cashiers; and Thumbprint, about a Pakistani woman fighting back in the wake of a brutal rape. The untimely demise of New York City Opera was a blow to Gotham’s classical scene, but clearly it ain’t licked yet.

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Various locations Wed Jan 8 - Sun Jan 19

Cook up a batch of fun at the new <em>Breaking Bad</em> musical

Meth kingpin Walter White’s TV reign on Breaking Bad may be over, but his legacy continues beyond the annals of Netflix: One World Symphony maestro Sung Jin Hong has reimagined the dearly departed AMC series in his new mini opera, Breaking Bad–Ozymandias, combining it with poet Percy Bysshe Shelley’s ode to impermanence, “Ozymandias.” And get ready for the opera’s pièce de résistance: the “Bitch Aria,” performed by—you guessed it—Jesse Pinkman. The two-night program also includes selections from Wagner’s Flying Dutchman and Berlioz’s “La Captive.”

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Church of the Holy Apostles Sun Jan 26 - Mon Jan 27

See furious fists fly on stage at Kung Fu

Kung fu movies always seem to be just as much about ballet as they are about all-out melees, so it’s perhaps fitting that the story of Bruce Lee’s life is getting adapted into a multidisciplinary stage piece. Directed by Leigh Silverman and penned by noted Chinese-American playwright David Henry Hwang (The Dance and the Railroad), Kung Fu promises a mix of dance, martial arts and opera—and, presumably, lots of jump kicks. Onetime So You Think You Can Dance contestant Cole Horibe stars as the man himself.

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Pershing Square Signature Center Tue Feb 4 - Sun Mar 16

See a celebrated playwright's newest work, <em>Outside Mullingar</em>

Brían F. O’Byrne and Debra Messing (Smash) headline this new dramedy by John Patrick Shanley (Doubt). They play lovelorn, fortyish singletons in rural Ireland, living next door to each other but separated by family feuds and romantic fears. Seasoned Shanley collaborator Doug Hughes directs.

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Samuel J. Friedman Theatre Fri Jan 3 - Sun Mar 16

Find out if Sly Stallone can produce a musical at <em>Rocky</em>

One of the latest films to get the Broadway treatment is this iconic portrait of a Philadelphia thug chasing his boxing dreams. The jury’s still out as to how well the story of a raw-egg-swilling palooka will translate to the stage, but the champ’s got a strong team behind him: golden-boy director Alex Timbers (Peter and the Starcatcher), Tony-winning songwriting team Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty (Ragtime), book writer Thomas Meehan (The Producers), and, cowriting and producing, original movie star and screenwriter Sylvester Stallone.

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Winter Garden Theatre Tue Feb 11 - Sun Nov 23

See if the Polonsky Shakespeare Center measures up to London's Globe theater

Brooklyn might not have the Globe, but the borough now has an impressive stage dedicated to works by the Bard and other classic playwrights. After 34 years of vagabonding, heavyweight company Theatre for a New Audience cut the ribbon on what will be its first permanent home in October. And the opening is a doozy: Legendary director Julie Taymor is mounting a new production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, featuring Homeland’s David Harewood as Oberon (through Jan 12, $20 and up). 866-811-4111, tfana.org

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Read more about the best theater events this winter

Concerts, comedy shows and music festivals

Get a poppy melody stuck in your head

The psych-rock outfit returns home to Brooklyn after crisscrossing the country in support of its self-titled third album. The band’s music has gotten grungier and weirder since the platinum-certified days of “Kids,” but the spectacle in its live shows has held strong, promising the kind of strangeness you don’t often see in an arena setting. If that’s not enough to sell you, we’ll point out that the openers—Dinosaur Jr., godfathers of lo-fi rock—are worth the price of admission in their own right.

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Barclays Center 13 Dec 2013

Dance the night away with Metro Area

Tonight's start-to-finish set comes from Metro Area's Darshan Jesrani and Morgan Geist, who'll be playing their usual top-flight mix of glittering house, boogie, Italo and disco. The pair has been active on the party front lately—we don't know of any new recorded material on the horizon, but if everybody closes their eyes and makes a wish, who knows?

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Cameo 13 Dec 2013

Embrace pop music at Z100's Jingle Ball

Relive the tawdriest pop-cultural spectacle of the year as Disney star turned risqué wrecking ball Miley Cyrus cobills with Mr. "Blurred Lines" himself, Robin Thicke, at Z100's glitzy holiday bacchanal. (Something tells us the former Hannah Montana will go easy on the twerking and foam-finger fondling this time around, but who can say?) A host of other heavy-duty hit makers round out this inevitable teen screamfest.

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Madison Square Garden 13 Dec 2013

Raise a joyful ruckus at Unsilent Night

This trippy musical performance piece, dreamed up by composer Phil Kline, is downtown’s decidedly arty, secular answer to Christmas caroling. Boom-box-toting participants gather under the Washington Square Arch, where they are given a cassette or CD of one of four different atmospheric tracks; you can also download the Unsilent Night app and sync up via smartphone. Everyone then presses play at the same time and marches through the streets of New York together, blending their music and filling the air with a beautiful, echoing 45-minute piece. Those without speakers are invited to join in, too.

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Washington Square Park 14 Dec 2013 Free

Spend some time with official Wayans brother Damon Wayans

As with many no-longer-young comics, this member of the Wayans clan now focuses his material on the vagaries of family and parenting, but he’s still essentially the same guy we fell in love with on In Living Color. And if you look closely, you can still make out the fluffy wig, bulbous red nose and loaded sock of Homey D. Clown.

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Carolines on Broadway Thu Dec 12 - Sun Dec 15

Help Yo La Tengo Celebrate Hanukkah in Brooklyn at the Bell House

Currently without a December home base in the wake of Maxwell's closing last summer, the Hoboken indie-rock heroes reboot their hallowed holiday series in Brooklyn. These shows—each of which features a pair of YLT sets—aren't being explicitly billed as a continuation of the band's long-running Hanukkah series, but it's still safe to expect the usual seasonal themes and array of awesome guest stars.

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The Bell House Fri Dec 13 - Mon Dec 16

Watch musicians emerge from Subway platforms for Make Music New York

Make Music New York, which inundates public spaces with live music every June 21, now brings its magic to the winter solstice, as well. Look out for participatory musical parades on Sat 21 everywhere from G train stations and the High Line to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden and Columbus Circle. Boombox flashmob pioneer Phil Kline has a new piece going down at BAM for the occasion, in case you have to miss his celebrated Unsilent Night in the Village on Sat 14. Check out makemusicny.org/winter-2013 to find out how you can play along.

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Various locations 21 Dec 2013 Free

Light up the darkest night of the year at Winter Solstice Celebration

Having trouble deciding which one of your friends’ apartments will be used to host this year’s solstice bonfire and ritual sacrifice? Avoid all that messy virgin blood and try a more modern tradition: Paul Winter’s annual concert, returning for its 34th year. You can see African-inspired dancing and drumming from the Forces of Nature Dance Theatre as well as the WSC standbys: Brazilian guitarist Renato Braz, and the Paul Winter Consort with Winter himself on sax.

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Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine Thu Dec 19 - Sat Dec 21

Kvetch about the holiday season

The hilariously grumpy Jackie Hoffman is a throwback to the golden age of nightclub acts, when performers overflowed with larger-than-life personality. Her holiday rants at Joe's Pub are particularly invigorating; this time she addresses—among other things—working a gay cruise during Rosh Hashanah.

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Joe's Pub at the Public Theater Fri Dec 20 - Tue Dec 24

Ring in 2014 in a New York state of mind

Hang out with the Piano Man while you're waiting for 2013 to ring the last-call bell. It's Billy Joel's first proper NYC concert since 2008, and while he hasn't released a new record in over 20 years, he's still the beloved, gazillion-album seller you remember. Expect him to bust out the oldies and the goodies for this big gig: "Uptown Girl," "River of Dreams" and, of course, "New York State of Mind."

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Barclays Center 31 Dec 2013

Welcome newborn jokes into the world at 50 First Jokes

Each year in early January, John F. O'Donnell invites 50 of his favorite comics to present their first new joke of the year. It's a meet-and-greet for some of the city's best young comics, and though more than a few jokes come off as a bit too polished, those that play by the rules allow the crowd a peek behind the curtain during the writing process.

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The Bell House 03 Jan 2014

Wage heavy peace with rock legend Neil Young

Every Neil Young fan knows that attempting to predict the iconic Canadian singer-songwriter-activist-raconteur-entrepreneur-visionary's next move is a futile exercise. He spent last year playing epic, mind-melting gigs with Crazy Horse, and in 2014, he's set to unveil his new high-end audio format, Pono. So it's only fitting that Young is reserving some time in between for a whole other type of gig: a series of should-be-rapturous solo shows at one of the swankiest rooms in town. Don't wait to snap up tix, folks—these could be life-changers.

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Carnegie Hall Mon Jan 6 - Fri Jan 10

Take a musical trip around the world at globalFEST

This übercosmopolitan music event will likely be your only chance to hear “subversive Ukrainian punk-folk,” “North African gnawa trance” and a host of other genre-spanning international acts in one night (at least until next year). The bash features a dozen musicians across three stages in Webster Hall. Represented locales range from Mauritania to Arizona; acts include Australia’s the Bombay Royale, Jamaica’s Brushy One String and Appalachian-Chinese folkies the Wu-Force.

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Webster Hall 12 Jan 2014

Brave the weather for the can't-miss multi-venue NYC Winter Jazz Fest

Here’s wishing a very happy tenth birthday to this celebration of polyrhythmic syncopation. Highlights include a kickoff concert with Bobby Previte’s Terminals, featuring John Medeski, Nels Cline and So Percussion (Jan 7 at 8pm), plus an anniversary fete for 75-year-old label Blue Note Records headlined by piano titans Robert Glasper and Jason Moran (Jan 8 at 8pm). Catch more than 90 groups and 400-plus performers, including the Dirty Projectors’ Nat Baldwin, Darcy James Argue and the Revive Big Band, on Friday and Saturday at venues downtown.

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Various locations Tue Jan 7 - Sat Jan 11

Put a face to your favorite comedy podcasts

Capitalizing on the ongoing podcast boom, Jeremy Wein brings together some of the city's popular shows and hosts for a weekend marathon of recordings. Among those participating in this year's New York City Podfest: Keith and the Girl, Proudly Resents, New York City Crime Report with Pat Dixon, Tell Your Friends! and many, many more to be announced.

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Fontana’s Sat Jan 11 - Sun Jan 12

Brush some dirt off your shoulder

In between designing a holiday collection for Barneys, cutting his teeth as a sports agent, performing for six hours at a Chelsea art gallery and, well, just being Mr. Beyoncé, Hova found time to schedule a few shows in support of his latest album, Magna Carta…Holy Grail. Of course, the ubiquitous hip-hop star will play his home borough of Brooklyn before moving on to more far-flung arenas. Expect to hear new tunes like the artist-name-dropping “Picasso Baby” interspersed with killer classics like “Big Pimpin’.”

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Welcome Neutral Milk Hotel back from their extended hiatus

If you’ve been wondering why that music-obsessive friend of yours has been marking off the days until the new year, here’s why: After 15 years of near–radio silence, indie-rock Legends Neutral Milk Hotel are on an international tour, original lineup intact, that will bring them to NYC for six nights in January. Expect to hear hits off their 1998 magnum opus, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, sung in frontman Jeff Mangum’s trademark wail.

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Flip Valentine's Day the bird at The Rejection Show

Valentine’s Day sucks, but you can make it suck less by laughing in the face of love. If you happen to find yourself crushingly alone this year, snatch up a therapeutic (single) ticket to this event, hosted by former Late Night with Jimmy Fallon blogger and Girl Code writer-producer Jon Friedman. Daily Show cocreator Lizz Winstead and xoJane.com deputy editor Mandy Stadtmiller, along with other performers, will share hilarious tales of breakup, heartache and rejection, in between live music and variety acts. Who needs that fancy ol’ prix-fixe dinner, anyway?

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Littlefield 14 Feb 2014

See Todd from <em>The Office</em> in person

You already know this comic as the quintessentially obnoxious Todd Packer on The Office and brash sportscaster Champ Kind from the Anchorman movies. His stand-up is just as bold and hilarious as his onscreen personas, but tends to feature a good deal more self-reflection. Koechner’s routines mine his past for material (he grew up in Missouri and worked for his dad making turkey coops before cutting his comedy teeth in Chicago) and touch upon his current life as a father of five.

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Gramercy Theatre 28 Feb 2014

Be a musical patriot at the American Songbook series

The best in jazz, folk, rock, Broadway, gospel and pop will resonate in the intimate Allen Room during Lincoln Center's celebration of all-American music. With solo gigs by Broadway hotshots such as James Naughton (Jan 28) and Ann Harada (Feb 22), the scuzzy country-rock of Deer Tick (Mar 6) and folk songs of Beth Orton (Feb 14), this roster has roots firmly planted in the land of the free. 212-721-6500, americansongbook.org. Dates and times vary; $75–$140.

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Upper West Side

Raise money for a good cause at Tibet House Benefit Concert

Curated by celebrated composer Philip Glass for the nonprofit dedicated to preserving Tibetan culture, this 24th annual show should feature an eclectic, star-studded cast (last year's included Jim James, Ariel Pink, Rahzel, Patti Smith and Tune-Yards—look for the 2014 lineup in January). It’s one party for peace you won’t want to miss.

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Carnegie Hall 11 Mar 2014

Explore the crossover between classical and pop music scenes at Ecstatic Music Festival

This annual happening showcases music that spans a variety of genres, presenting a series of one-night collaborations between various composers, percussionists, indie-rock bands and instrumentalists. Check out electronic experimentalist Lesley Flanigan alongside Brooklyn’s People Get Ready (Feb 19); Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche with new-music act Victoire (Feb 22); brainy hip-hop artist Saul Williams and string ensemble the Mivos Quartet (Feb 26); and So Percussion alongside hybrid-instrument duo Buke and Gase (Mar 26). 212-501-3330, ecstaticmusicfestival.com. Schedule varies; $25, festival pass $150.

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Things to do

Visit Valhalla with Salzburg Marionette Theatre

The renowned Austrian puppet troupe celebrates its 100th anniversary this year with a visit to the Met Museum, where expert puppeteers will breathe life into a host of beautifully carved wooden marionettes. Check out their imaginative takes on the White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter and the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland (Dec 14, 15), or gawk at miniature versions of operatic giants and flying horses in an abbreviated rendition of Wagner’s sprawling Ring cycle (Dec 13, 14).

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The Metropolitan Museum of Art Fri Dec 13 - Sun Dec 15

Walk on the weird side with cultish podcast Welcome to Night Vale

If David Lynch and Douglas Adams built a town together and then left it to its own devices, it would probably look something like Night Vale, the fictional community that’s the subject of this faux public-radio show. Two-headed quarterbacks, haunted dog parks… You’ll find everything but the demon-possessed kitchen sink in this eccentric, chart-topping podcast. This live session will feature Night Vale’s velvet-voiced announcer, Cecil Baldwin; its resident band, Disparition; and a special appearance from former child actor Mara Wilson as the Faceless Old Woman.

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The Bell House 18 Dec 2013

Check out Prospect Park's shiny new Lakeside facility

Since 2010, the Kate Wollman Rink has been closed to the public as the southeastern corner of Prospect Park undergoes a transformation—the first major upgrade to the rink in more than 50 years. On December 20 (nearly a year behind schedule), the renamed Lakeside complex debuts a 32,000-square-foot skating surface comprising two rinks: One is covered and will transform into a roller rink come summer, the other is open-air and will have a water playground in warmer weather. The LeFrak Center (named for the family that donated $10 million to the $74 million Lakeside project) also includes event space, public restrooms, a café and landscaped terraces with views of the rinks. Entry to the complex is free, whereas skating will cost you $6 during the week and $8 on weekends and holidays (skate rentals $5).

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Prospect Park

Trot on a different path with The Gaits: A High Line Sound Walk

This solstice event from Make Music New York’s Make Music Winter series is a smartphone-powered parade that transforms the High Line into a personalized auditory experience. After downloading the free Gaits app, which comes with a prerecorded composition, participants can plug their phones into portable speakers and move north together through the park. (Fifty speakers will be provided to early arrivers.) As you stroll, your phone’s GPS and accelerometer (the thing that senses motion) will play the music in accordance with your pace and location, creating melodious harmony among the crowd.

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The High Line 21 Dec 2013 Free

Ring in the Seven Days of Kwanzaa at Regeneration Night

Radio personality, poet and songwriter Imhotep Gary Byrd hosts this annual Kwanzaa showcase of music and dance. This year’s roster includes multi-instrumentalist Michael C. Wimberly, rapper F the Elemental and kora player Yacouba Sissoko, along with Abdel Salaam’s Forces of Nature Dance Theatre.

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Apollo Theater 27 Dec 2013

Freeze your cojones off with the Coney Island Polar Bears

Would you believe us if we told you a dip in the Atlantic is great for a hangover? Even if you don't buy it, cheering those brave—or crazy—enough to take the plunge will stir you from your stupor. The Coney Island Polar Bear Club's annual New Year's Day Swim welcomes hundreds of swimmers, without the benefit of blubber, underfur or guard hairs, to venture out into the ocean. Membership is not required for this dip, but if you're planning on taking the plunge, donate $20 to help the organization raise funds for Camp Sunshine, a charity that supports children with life-threatening illnesses and their families. Meet at the Boardwalk at Stillwell Ave, Coney Island, Brooklyn

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Coney Island Beach 01 Jan 2014

Watch the bull riders in Midtown

Escape the chilly weather with some Southern-style, yee-haw-worthy fun at the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) Monster Energy Buck Off at The Garden. Don a cowboy hat and cheer on 35 ace studs as they attempt to stay atop bucking bovines—which can weigh as much as 2,000 pounds—for more than eight seconds.

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Madison Square Garden Fri Jan 3 - Sun Jan 5

Play freeze tag among Wall Street's towering financial institutions

Everyone knows that Wall Street is a place for grown-ups—a place where serious adult matters like watching computers exploit barely detectable price discrepancies in strangers’ mortgages milliseconds before the other guy’s computer can do the same thing. Buck the trend at this ninth annual return to childhood, when a group of New Yorkers occupies Wall Street to play games like Red Rover and Wolf Sheep Rock. No sociopolitical agenda here, though—just playground-style fun. Meet at Broad and Wall Sts.

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Manhattan 12 Jan 2014 Free

Ride the underground in your drawers for the No Pants Subway Ride

If you’re looking to show off those sweet undies you got from Santa to someone besides your significant other or your cat, you’ll get your chance when Improv Everywhere’s annual prank invades the NYC rails. Each borough has its own meeting spot (check improveverywhere.com closer to event for details); from there, the horde takes to the subway in their skivvies. Postride, warm your numb extremities with a bit of booze at an after-party near Union Square. All are welcome, but there will be drink specials for the brave, pantless few (we happy few, we band of untrousered).

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Location TBA 12 Jan 2014 Free
Read more about the best things to do this winter

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