101 things to do in the winter in New York City 2011
Mark your calendar for classic holiday events, warming treats, cultural highlights and more!
Fri Dec 2 2011
Photograph: Lizz Kuehl
Hot chocolate at City Bakery
Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson
Super Bowl viewing party at Standing's
Hedda Lettuce in Lettuce Rejoice
Rufus Wainwright's Prima Donna
Photograph: Joseph DeSciose
New York Botanical Garden
"The Invention of Santa Claus" at MCNY
91. Watch the Harlem Globetrotters do their athletic antics
Whistle along to the familiar strains of "Sweet Georgia Brown" as you watch these basketball stars shoot from midcourt and spin balls on their fingers. Players to watch include Tiny (No. 55), the world's tallest pro basketball player at 7'8"; Hops (No. 17), who has a 50" vertical jump; TNT (No. 18), the team's first female player since 1993. Madison Square Garden, 4 Pennsylvania Plaza (Seventh Ave) between 31st and 33rd Sts (212-465-6741, thegarden.com). Feb 18 at 7:30pm; $15--$250.
92. Fight for a handbag at Barneys Warehouse Sale
Well, don't literally resort to fisticuffs—that's likely to get you kicked out of this bargain bonanza. But do arrive early—shoppers have been known to line up hours before doors open—and be prepared to move quickly if you want to snag deeply discounted items. The shop slashes prices up to 75 percent, making pieces by designers such as Nina Ricci, Marc Jacobs and Rodarte slightly more affordable. Dates and info TBA (barneys.com).
93. Go to a TV show taping
Play hooky from work and while away a few climate-controlled hours at tapings with some of the city's talk-show talent. Everyday with Rachael Ray tapes Tue--Thu at 11:30am and 3:30pm (222 E 44th St between Second and Third Aves, rachaelrayshow.com/show-info/audience-tickets) and The Martha Stewart Show films at various points in the week at 10am and 2pm (221 W 26th St between Seventh and Eighth Aves, marthastewart.com/get-tickets). If you're willing to put in some time in the cold, you could wait for a stand-by ticket to Saturday Night Live—tickets are distributed at 7am for either the live show or the 8pm dress rehearsal (30 Rockefeller Plaza, between Fifth and Sixth Aves, nbc.com/tickets).
94. Sip creative cocoas at City Bakery's Hot Chocolate Festival
Each February, City Bakery augments its delicious, rich hot cocoa with different flavors—previous infusions include bourbon, stout, chili pepper and Chinese cinnamon. Look for 2012's calendar of flavors, which change each day of the month, around January 20. City Bakery, 3 W 18th St between Sixth and Seventh Aves (212-366-1414, hotchocolatefestival.com). Feb 1--29.
95. Watch the Super Bowl
The big game is in Indianapolis this year, but plenty of bars across the city will be showing the action on February 5. Arrive two to three hours before kickoff at Professor Thom's (219 Second Ave between 13th and 14th Sts, 212-260-9480, professorthoms.com), where small groups can watch the game from a TV in the privacy of their own booths. Or head to Standings (43 E 7th St between Second and Third Aves; 212-420-0671, standingsbar.com), which will offer brews from the hometowns of the competing teams. The game will be shown on the bar's eight HDTVs.
96. See three holiday shows—with a twist
Who better to get you into the holiday spirit than potty-mouthed, polyester-wearing drag acts? In Lettuce Rejoice 2011 (Metropolitan Room, 34 W 22nd St between Fifth and Sixth Aves; 212-206-0440, metropolitanroom.com; Dec 17, 18, 21, 23, 28 at 7:30pm; $22), Hedda Lettuce puts a kooky spin on classic Christmas tunes (example: "Here Comes Tranny Clause"). For A Murray Little Christmas (Knitting Factory, 361 Metropolitan Ave at Havermeyer St, Williamsburg, Brooklyn; 347-529-6696, bk.knittingfactory.com; Dec 11 at 7:30, 9:30pm; $25--$50), entertainer Murray Hill welcomes friends such as Dirty Martini, Bridget Everett and Moisty the Snowman for his annual raunchy extravaganza. And in Jackie Beat: The Nutcracker (Laurie Beechman Theatre, 407 W 42nd St between Ninth and Tenth Aves; 212-695-6909, beechmantheatre.com; Dec 14--Dec 18 at 7:30pm, Dec 17 at 7:30, 10pm. $22, advance $20; plus $15 minimum), the self-proclaimed bastard child of Bette Midler and Weird Al devotes her interfaith holiday show to the enduring power of STDs, with such numbers as "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Syphilis."
97. An acclaimed opera company travels to Brooklyn
City Opera's plan to leave Lincoln Center and become an itinerant arts institution may have ruffled some devoted fans' feathers when it was announced earlier this year, but Lincoln Center's loss is Brooklyn's gain. Two of its new season's most anticipated offerings will premiere at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in February: British director and humorist Jonathan Miller's production of Verdi's La Traviata, and Prima Donna, the first opera by singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright. BAM Howard Gilman Opera House, 30 Lafayette Ave between Ashland Pl and St. Felix St, Fort Greene, Brooklyn (212-870-5600, nycopera.com). La Traviata: Feb 12 at 1:30pm, Feb 14, 16, 18 at 7:30pm; $25--$150. Prima Donna: Feb 19 at 1:30pm, Feb 21, 23, 25 at 7:30pm; $25--$150.
98. Pretend that you're on a Caribbean vacation—in the Bronx
If you're not heading to warmer climes at any point this winter, take refuge at the New York Botanical Garden, which opens its annual "Caribbean Garden" exhibit in January. The Enid A. Haupt Conservatory will be heated to a pleasant 75 degrees, and you can amble through rainforest mists, towering palms and deserts inspired by the landscape of the Caribbean islands. Bronx River Pkwy at Fordham Rd, Bronx (718-817-8700, nybg.org). Tue--Sun 10am--6pm; $8--$20. Jan 21--Feb 26.
99. Grab your gloves and have a snowball fight
Impromptu games of frozen dodgeball or capture the flag occasionally spring to life on social media sites once the forecast predicts flakes—school and work cancellations help, too. One page to check out is the NYC Snowball Fight Club. Both kids and kids at heart answered the organization's call following a late January blizzard and gathered at Madison Square Park to create a flurry of their own. Visit NYC Snowball Fight Club's Facebook page for updates.
100. Get into the spirit of the season at holiday-themed exhibits
St. Nick wasn't always portrayed as a jolly man in red; earlier incarnations of the big dude were far more stern. A new exhibit, "It Happened Here: The Invention of Santa Claus" (New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West between 76th and 77th Sts; 212-873-3400, nyhistory.org; Tue--Thu, Sat 10am--6pm; Fri 10am--8pm; Sun 11am--5pm; $15, seniors and educators $12, students $10; through Jan 8) traces the shift in Santa's character through 19th-century depictions, including Thomas Nast's iconic drawings in Harper's Weekly, and Clement Clarke Moore's famous poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas" (better known as "'Twas the Night Before Christmas"). Or learn about the evolution of a classic holiday tune at the Morgan Library & Museum's new show, "Robert Burns and 'Auld Lang Syne'" (225 Madison Ave at 36th St; 212-685-0008, themorgan.org; Tue--Thu 10:30am--5pm; Fri 10:30am--9pm; Sat 10am--6pm; Sun 11am--6pm; $15, seniors and students $10; through Feb 5). Look for Burns's 20-page letter, written in 1793, in which he penned the words to the song for the first time; it comes at the very end, almost as a postscript.
101. Celebrate Festivus on December 23
This nondenominational meal, introduced to the world by Seinfeld, varies depending on whom you're asking; we suggest meatloaf, turkey or ham, followed by a Pepperidge Farm cake decorated with M&Ms, a favorite of Festivus term-coiner Dan O'Keefe. The holiday also includes such novel practices as the Airing of Grievances, which takes place after dinner and entails each person telling everyone else all the ways they have disappointed him or her over the past year. The Feats of Strength are also performed after eating. This involves each guest wrestling the head of the household to the floor, with the celebrations ending only if the head of the household is actually pinned. No tree is necessary, for on this day—a holiday for the rest of us—an unadorned aluminum pole is the sole decoration.