Things to do in NYC this winter

Get out and about with our winter list of things to do in NYC

Photograph: Lee Wexler
Dance Concert and Powwow at Theater for the New City

Put down the cookie and get off the sofa: Our picks of what things to do in NYC this winter will have you lacing up your duck boots faster than you can say "two tickets for the ice rink, please." Besides skating at one of NYC’s beautiful ice rinks, why not soak up a cultural soiree, or get a new experience of the High Line with a sound walk? For quirky happenings, play freeze tag on Wall Street, join New York's famed Polar Bear Club dip or take part in the city's annual No Pants Subway Ride.

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

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

See a game of NHL hockey al fresco

It’s a matchup as old as time—nearly as old as Coors versus Bud, in fact. The grudge will be settled once and for all—er, until the next time they meet—when Metropolitan Division rivals the New York Rangers take on the New Jersey Devils in a rare outdoor game on Jan 26. Three days later, the Blueshirts will take on the New York Islanders from that big landmass to the east. Global warming makes alfresco hockey a dicier proposition than it once might have been, so enjoy it while you can.

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Yankee Stadium Sun Jan 26–Wed Jan 29

Wish people gong xi fa cai at the Lunar New Year Parade

The Chinese calendar is entering its 4,712nd turn around the sun. To ring in the Year of the Horse, the streets of Chinatown will give way to one giant party. Expect food vendors hawking traditional eats, colorful costumes, and a major parade running from Little Italy through Chinatown and lower Manhattan, along with a host of equine-themed floats and colorful decorations. You’ll have confetti stuck in your hair for days.

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Manhattan Sunday February 22 2015 Free

Celebrate Groundhog Day with Staten Island Chuck

Get up early to check in with Staten Island Chuck, whom the zoo describes as “New York City’s only weather forecasting groundhog.” Judging by his shadow, the creature will weigh in on whether we’ll have a short winter this year.

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Staten Island Zoo Monday February 2 2015 Free

Head to Jersey for the Super Bowl (or more realistically, watch it on TV)

For the first time ever, the NFL’s signature event will be played outdoors in a cold-weather setting—and right across the water from NYC, no less. Unfortunately for New Yorkers, it doesn’t look like either the Giants or the Jets will be playoff-bound this season. But we should be all the more excited for having two quality teams in town, if only for an extended weekend.

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MetLife Stadium 02 Feb 2014

Feel the burn at the Empire State Building Run-Up

A quarter-mile dash is child’s play, right? Not when it’s vertical, Mr. Cocky Shorts. In this annual New York Road Runners race, stair-climbing masters sprint to the iconic structure’s 86th-floor observation deck. The stampede goes faster than you may think: The record time is a speedy nine minutes and 33 seconds (achieved by Australian Paul Crake in 2003)—with 1,576 steps to cover, that’s 2.75 steps per second. Start training now so you don’t burn out halfway up the skyscraper.

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Empire State Building 05 Feb 2014

Donate your old coat to New York Cares Coat Drive

Looked at from a certain angle, at least, this city appears more prosperous than ever. But peer beneath the surface and you’ll still find a lot of hardship out there. That’s where New York Cares comes into play. For 25 years, this charitable event has provided winter outerwear for the city’s thousands of homeless and working poor, who need a warm coat to make it through the winter. You can donate a jacket at a public collection site, or start a team to drum up support in your community. 212-402-1101, newyorkcares.org.

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Brush up on Native American culture with the Thunderbird American Indian Dancers

Here’s your cheat sheet when it comes to Native American culture: Johnny Depp as Tonto is, ahem, less than authentic, but Theater for the New City’s annual event is the real deal. The Thunderbird American Indian Dancers—celebrating its 51st anniversary this year—performs traditional songs and dances, and tells stories inspired by Native American cultures across the continent.

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Theater for the New City Friday January 30 2015 - Sunday February 8 2015

Name as many breeds as you can at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show

At this fancy-pooch parade, people from all walks of life and varying degrees of dog snobbery are given a chance to gawk at the country’s most perfect purebred specimens. Monday’s competition hosts dogs of the hound, toy, herding and nonsporting variety; Tuesday is when the sporting and working dogs and terriers come out to compete. Only one dog will be named Best in Show. But who can top last year’s winner, a precious affenpinscher named Banana Joe? Only time will tell.

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Various locations Mon Feb 10 - Tue Feb 11

Canoodle at the planetarium's Romance Under the Stars

Eschew the dinner date on Valentine's Day and snap up tickets to this swanky soiree at the American Museum of Natural History's Rose Center for Earth and Space. The night begins among the asteroids (have a "heavenly bodies" quip ready) with an open bar of cocktails and champagne, passed hors d’oeuvres and chocolate, while a jazz quartet sets the mood with standards. An hour later, cozy up in the Hayden Plantarium while an astronomer tells lovey-dovey stories based on the mythology of the cosmos.

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Hayden Planetarium at the Rose Center for Earth & Space 14 Feb 2014

Exercise your thumbs at "Indie Essentials: 25 Must-Play Video Games"

The newest consoles from Sony and Microsoft were recently released with all the optimized graphical representations of war we’ve come to expect from big-budget video games (initial offerings include murderfests Battlefield 4, Call of Duty: Ghosts and Killzone Shadow Fall). But there’s more to games than shoot-’em-ups, just like there’s more to beer than lite lager. This exhibit features innovative titles like Minecraft and winners from IndieCade 2013, including cyberpunk hacking tale Quadrilateral Cowboy and Kentucky Route Zero, which allows players to explore a secret subterranean cave highway.

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Museum of the Moving Image Sat Dec 14 - Sun Mar 2

Remember why you loved The Little Prince

Most people are familiar with Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s beloved story about an asteroid-hopping boy and his flower, but not many know that the French author wrote and published the illustrated novella in New York City at the the height of World War II. To celebrate the writer-aviator’s time here, the Morgan is curating "The Little Prince: A New York Story," an exhibition featuring his working manuscript and drawings, letters to and from family members about his progress, and other ephemera.

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The Morgan Library & Museum Fri Jan 24 - Sun Apr 27

Commemorate the 50th anniversary of Beatlemania

On the 50th anniversary of the Fab Four arriving stateside, the Public Library for the Performing Arts and the Grammy Museum showcase memorabilia, recordings, videos and photos of the mop-topped musicians, and the Beatlemania that followed them.

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New York Public Library for the Performing Arts Thu Feb 6 - Sat May 10 Free

... and Brookfield Place

Located on the plaza in front of the erstwhile World Financial Center Winter Garden (it's now called Brookfield Place Winter Garden), this rink brings a much-needed cold-weather option to the seasonally popular outdoor spot overlooking the North Cove Marina. At 7,350 square feet, it's even bigger than the Rink at Rockefeller Plaza.

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Battery Park City

Frolic with nature's sea-dogs

Beginning in the fall, thousands of seals travel south from Canada and New England to spend their winter in the relatively warmer waters of New York. During low tide between November and May, they hang out along the local coastline at spots such as Orchard Beach in the Bronx. Reserve a place in the next seal-spotting adventure hosted by the New York City Parks Department (Dec 29 at 2pm; free), and keep an eye on nycgovparks.org for announcements regarding future tours.

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Scale the Cliffs in Long Island City

Are you ready to rock out? With more than 30,000 square feet of terrain to ascend, including a 16-foot bouldering area and a 45-foot cave, this became NYC’s biggest rock-climbing gym when it opened its LIC location on October 5. A $25 day pass grants you access to all of it, even the on-site fitness center. Instruction is available for all skill levels (90-minute beginners’ classes are $49). 718-729-7625, thecliffsclimbing.com/lic

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Hurtle down a hill

Flying saucers slide even faster than you remember, so as soon as it starts to snow, go sledding! Some of our favorite spots: Central Park's famous Pilgrim Hill (near 72nd St and Fifth Ave), Riverside Park's Hippo Playground (91st St at Riverside Dr) and Clove Lakes Park (Clove Rd at Victory Blvd, Staten Island), where rangers have been known to organize races. For more info, go to nyc.gov/parks.

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Catch a movie at Williamsburg's hybrid movie theater

Sick of your apartment but afraid that if you venture into the frigid outdoors you'll end up like (spoiler alert) Jack Nicholson at the end of The Shining? Well, get yourself quick to Videology, the Willamsburg video store that doesn't only rent movies, it screens them, too. New indie releases, midnight fare—there's even an in-house bar that serves cocktails, beer and wine. Fill your body with fortifying booze—so you don't become a human popsicle—then grab a disc to go.

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Williamsburg

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