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42 sensational things to do in NYC in January

Written by
Jennifer Picht

Dynamite things to do

Coney Island Polar Bear Club New Year’s Day Swim Coney Island Boardwalk; Jan 1; $20 suggested donation

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 invites hundreds of swimmers (without the benefit of blubber, underfur or guard hairs) to venture out into the ocean. All that’s required to take part in this brisk tradition are warm clothes, sneakers you don’t mind ruining (or surf boots, if you’ve got them) and the fortitude to actually go through with it.

Harlem Globetrotters Barclays Center; Jan 2; $10–$255

Consider yourself a die-hard Globetrotter? Watch the Harlem all-stars show off their b-ballin’ skills in honor of the team’s 90th anniversary world tour. You’ll be mesmerized as the basketball wizards shoot from midcourt, spin balls on their fingers and go head-to-head for two epic games, which are bound to keep you on the edge of your seat. Make sure to stick around until the very end to snag an autograph, photo and high-five session from your favorite players, plus you can add a legendary Marques Haynes bobblehead to your collection.

One Step Beyond American Museum of Natural History; Jan 8; $25

This long-running series of nighttime planetarium soirees combines the moon, the stars and the love of dance with a party deejayed by wild and rowdy artists like Neon Indian and Airbird. A psychedelic multimedia demonstration about Earth and beyond, narrated by Liam Neeson, follows in the Hayden Big Bang Theatre. 

No Pants Subway Ride Various locations; Jan 10; Free

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. There are meeting spots in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens; from there, the horde takes to the subway in their skivvies.

Winter Jam Naumburg Bandshell Central Park; Jan 23; Free

Amid all the subway delays and slushy streets, we sometimes forget that winter in New York is kind of awesome. When does the air ever feel cleaner than on a crisp January day? With its annual winter sports festival, the Parks Department reminds us why we should love the colder months. You can learn or take part in snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and snowboarding on the manufactured white stuff. (Or just sip hot chocolate and enjoy the outdoors.)

Major movie and theater premieres

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi Opens in theaters on January 15

Yes, we live in a world where the first (and hopefully last) Benghazi movie is directed by the guy who made Armageddon. Set before, during and after the September 11, 2012 terrorist attack on the American diplomatic compound in the infamous Libyan city, Michael Bay’s bro-tastic take on the controversial event will probably be more interested in massive explosions than in fueling right-wing conspiracy theories.

The 5th Wave Opens in theaters on January 15

You thought YA movies were finished after the release of the final Hunger Games? Think again! Chloë Grace Moretz stars in the latest film franchise to be adapted from a popular series of post-apocalyptic tween adventures, the Clouds of Sils Maria star playing a girl who’s trying to save her younger brother during the most recent wave of attacks from a deadly alien force. Brace for sequels.The 5th Wave opens on January 15.

London Has Fallen Opens in theaters on January 22

Remember Olympus Has Fallen? It was like White House Down, but with half the budget and none of the charm. Well, it’s getting a sequel. And this time, it isn’t just America’s problem. Gerard Butler returns as Secret Service agent Mike Banning, traveling to London after the Prime Minister dies under mysterious circumstances. Soon, Banning will find himself protecting all of the world’s leaders from a dastardly plot. Isn’t January the greatest?

The Finest Hours Opens in theaters on January 29

Was The Perfect Storm too depressing for you? Then slap on your most waterproof duds and get ready for the Disney version, which reaches a little farther back into American history in order to tell the true story of the rescue mission that saved two sinking oil tankers from the squalls of a 1952 nor’easter. Starring Chris Pine, a lot of terrible Boston accents and an ocean of CGI effects, The Finest Hours looks like the month’s best bet for old-fashioned spectacle.

Kung Fu Panda 3 Opens in theaters on January 29

Po the panda is back for another hyper installment of Dreamworks’ animated franchise, as the tubby karate master (still voiced by Jack Black) reunites with his birth father and returns to his hometown. Kicks will be thrown, rice will be inhaled, and fat jokes will be made as this series—once a staple of the summer movie season—carves out a new home for itself in the depths of winter.

Hilarious comedy shows

Ted Greenberg’s The Complete Performer Huron Club; Jan 2; $20

Emmy-winning former Late Show writer Ted Greenberg performs an hour of boisterous interactive stand-up that ends with one audience member being whisked home in a taxi by Greenberg, who is a licensed NYC cabdriver.

Sarah Silverman and Friends BAM Howard Gilman Opera House; Jan 2; $45–$60 

Need any further evidence that comedy’s lowbrow is becoming accepted in the hallowed halls of high culture? Silverman takes her acerbic, off-color act to the BAM opera house. Bring Mom—if BAM approves, she’d be wrong to disagree.

Jerry Seinfeld: The Homestand Beacon Theatre; Jan 7; $79–$175

The affable New Yorker thrills fans by returning to both his comedic and geographic roots for his roughly-once-a-month year-long residency at The Beacon. By the end of the run, we imagine he’ll dub the house of laughs as his second home. 

Jana and Lauren Presents Magnet Theater; Jan 8; $7

Comics Jana Schmieding and Lauren Olson provide stage time for local performers who like to do ridiculous characters.

Puffs, or: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic and Magic Peoples Improv Theater; Jan 22, Jan 29; $10

The creative minds behind Kapow-i GoGo bring you a Harry Potter parody of epic proportions. The gentle Hufflepuffs often live in the shadows of J.K. Rowling's universe, and this show follows the forgotten lives of the students sitting next to the hero. Wayne Hopkins was just a boy from New Mexico till he found out he was a wizard. Find out how he and other mediocre Puffs fare at the school of magic and magic.

Awesome shows and concerts

They Might Be Giants Music Hall of Williamsburg; Jan 1; $25

After an excessively prolific year releasing two studio albums worth of collected "Dial-A-Song" weekly singles, TMBG kick the year off right with yet another Williamsburg gig. Stay tuned for this night's "special theme" yet to be announced.

A Sunny Day In Glasgow Rough Trade NYC; Jan 2; $15

Montreal outfit A Sunny Day in Glasgow (don't be fooled by the extra-continental name) imbues its effects-heavy, atmospheric ambiance with the occasional burst of driving space-rock bliss—shoegaze never sounded so sky-high. The towering sound should fill out Rough Trade's intimate record store space nicely.

Cass McCombs Bowery Ballroom; Jan 7; $18

Dusty, dusky song man Cass McCombs melds plaintive indie-folk and slow-burning psych-pop—a rustic Americana medley he ships over to us city-folk this night at the Bowery. Hopefully we'll hear some deep cuts from his sprawling collection of B-sides and rarities, A Folk Set Apart, released last year.

Metz + Bully Bowery Ballroom; Jan 13; $18; Music Hall of Williamsburg; Jan 14; $18

Expect Toronto trio Metz to pull no punches in its explosive noise-punk assault on New York, as it returns for two gigs in support of its 2015 sophomore effort II. The crew is joined by Nashville grunge-rock outfit Bully which peddles in power-pop catharsis.

Winter JazzFest 2016 Various venues; Jan 13–17; marathon $45, two-day pass $75

This year's installment of the city's not-to-miss jazz festival features an enormous and diverse lineup of acts: drum maestro Dave King of the Bad Plus flexes his stupefying solo chops, Dutch jazz-punk outfit the Ex makes a rare appearance, saxophone jazz-man Kamasi Washington (the latest addition to Flying Lotus' Brainfeeder label) shows off his ambitious ensemble... And that's the least of the killer offerings.

Marvelous theatre performances

Noises Off American Airlines Theatre; through Mar 6; $67–$137

Michael Frayn’s farce-within-a-farce has been called one of the funniest plays ever put on a stage. No pressure on Roundabout Theatre Company! They’ve assembled a pretty amazing cast, though: Andrea Martin, Jeremy Shamos, Megan Hilty and Tracee Chimo.

Our Mother’s Brief Affair Samuel J. Friedman Theatre; through Mar 6; $60–$140

Delectably dry comedy diva Linda Lavin teams up with wryly witty playwright Richard Greenberg for this story of a mother and her indiscretions.

Under the Radar 2016 Public Theater; Jan 6-17; $25

The annual smorgasbord international experimental returns to the Public Theater, with mind-expanding fare from Chilé, France, Japan and right here at home.

The Humans Helen Hayes Theatre; Jan 23-July 24; $39–$145

Stephen Karam’s bittersweet portrait of a family grappling with unusual misfortune reaped some of the season’s best reviews; it has just transferred to Broadway with impressive cast intact.

Mother Courage and Her Children Classic Stage Company; through Jan 24; $61

The unstoppable Tonya Pinkins takes on one of modern theater’s hardest roles: Bertolt Brecht’s war-profiteering matriarch. The Classic Stage Company revival is directed by Brian Kulick.

Can’t-miss LGBT events

Iron Lady Tender Trap; Jan 5, Jan 19; Free

Comedian Max Bernstein welcomes his favorite LGBT (and LGBT adjacent) comics and performers to Greenpoint from big and small stages across New York.  

Doodz The Living Room; Jan 8; $5 suggested donation

Chris of Hur presides over a menagerie of alternative drag performers at this monthly Williamsburg art party.

Crimson Kitty: LADYQUEEN! Stonewall Inn; Jan 10; Free

Female-on-female drag pioneer Crimson Kitty serves up this new monthly "femme dragstravaganza," where a girl can be an exaggerated cartoon of a girl. Dottie Dangerfield and Mx Macabre are this month's guests and DJ Chauncey Dandridge pumps out the jams. 

Nightgowns Bizarre; Jan 14; $10 suggested donation

Brooklyn alt-drag star Sasha Velour presents a new group of arty, intelligent acts every second Thursday for this thinking-queen's drag show. 

Drag Queens of Comedy Irving Plaza; Jan 16; $44.50

An all-star lineup of hilarious gender benders take the stage for some delightfully bitchy comedy and music. Performers include Bianca Del Rio, Sasha Soprano, Ginger Minj, Lady Bunny, Willam, Alaska Thunderfuck, Coco Peru, Shangela and Pandora Boxx.

Astonishing art exhibitions

“Alberto Burri: The Trauma of Painting” Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; Jan 1­­–6

Burri (1915–1995), an Italian abstractionist, is generally associated with Art Informel, the Continental analog to American Abstract Expressionism, thoughhe rebuffed such comparisons. 
His use of throwaway materials—plywood, plastic sheeting, burlap—anticipated Arte Povera. But what distinguishes Burri’s compositions is his violent treatment of the canvas, which he tears or dots with holes burned through the surface.

“Jim Shaw: The End is Near” New Museum of Contemporary Art; Jan 1–10

A fixture of the L. A. art scene for more than 30 years, Shaw was part of the famous coterie of CalArts graduates that included Tony Oursler, John Miller and Mike Kelley, whom Shaw had known previously when the two performed together as part of the alt-rock art band, Destroy All Monsters, in Ann Arbor, MI. Much as Kelley did, Shaw dives into the underbelly of American pop-culture and history to create his work, which spans painting, sculpture and drawing, with the last characterized by meticulous draughtsmanship.

Peter Doig Michael Werner, Jan 1–14; Free

Born in Scotland, Doig lived in Trinidad as a child before moving to Canada. This background perhaps explains the meeting of northern reticence and equatorial effusiveness—of abundant sunshine shadowed by personal gloom—that’s been a hallmark of his paintings.

“Unorthodox” The Jewish Museum; Jan 1–Jan 11; Free

The venue and title for this show suggests some focus on religion, but in this case, unorthodox simply means "unconventional," which is certainly an apt descriptor for contributions here by 50 contemporary artists whose works “highlight the importance of iconoclasm and art’s key role in breaking rules and traditions."

Delicious food and drink opportunities

East Ville des Folies Webster Hall; Jan 16; GA $50, VIP $60

Nightclub Webster Hall resurrects the boozy 1920's at this fourth annual beer-and-whiskey affair paying homage to the venue's history of boldly ignoring Prohibition. Four three hours (or four for VIP), imbibe your way through four flours of brews and spirits while enjoying with era-appropriate entertainment like burlesque, trapeze, jazz bands and circus performances.

Southern Chef Tasting Dinner Chef's Club by Food & Wine; Jan 20; $200

To fete 50 years of Southern Living, the magazine will host a feast prepared by four female chefs from top restaurants located below the Mason-Dixon line. Your ticket is good for appetizers and four mouthwatering courses from Ashley Christensen (Death & Taxes in Raleigh); Kelly Fields (Besh Restaurant Group in New Orleans); Sarah Gavigan (Otaku South in Nashville); and Asha Gomez (Cardamom Hill in Atlanta). Beyond bites, master sommelier June Rodil will curate wine pairings, while Tennessee Brew Works’ Laura Burns provides the beer. 

New York City Pinot Days City Winery; Jan 23; $75

Pinot-philes, rejoice! This three-hour festival gives you a chance to sample 100 pours from pinot regions spanning the globe—including the Russian River Valley, Santa Rita Hills in Oregon and Anderson Valley in Burgundy. As you sip and swirl through the diverse offerings, chat up the talented vintners and industry pros who help create them.

Cochon 555 Andaz 5th Avenue; Jan 25; $125-$200

The 18-city, nose-to-tail culinary tour lands in New York for a whopping eighth year, feeding 500 hungry guests with craft suds and 2,000 pounds of heritage-breed pork. Nosh your way thorough 36 porcine dishes and endless booze while five chefs—including Danji's Hooni Kim, the Cannibal's Francis Derby and Casa Mono's Anthony Sasso—throw down in the kitchen for the coveted title of "Prince or Princess of New Porc City."

Beer, Bourbon & BBQ Festival The Tunnel; Jan 30; $199

At this seventh annual party, indulge on all-you-can-eat whole-roasted hog, prepared in dishes like tender pork brisket and zesty ribs by pit-masters from the deep South and New York City alike. Between plates, guzzle limitless pours of craft brews and spirits, including special, two-decade-old bourbons. Still hungry? There's a bacon-eating contest where you can test your marathon-feasting abilities for bragging rights and a goodie bag.

Stellar sample sales

Kiki de Montparnasse sample sale Warehouse; Jan 1-3; Free

Exquisite lingerie from this luxury brand normally costs $185 to $375, but at this sale, you can nab bras ($40 to $50), panties ($30 to $40), gorgeous teddies ($75) and ready-to-wear for less than a C-note.

Paz Collective sample sale Showroom; Jan 1, Jan 4–7; Free 

Up your accessory game or nab the perfect gift for your mom (or Netflix-and-chill buddy) at this sale, where goods are up to 70 percent off. Don’t hesitate to snag handmade sterling silver earrings ($75, once $188), rings ($20, usually $60) and natural fiber scarves ($30 to $55, formerly $73 to $110). But if you’re willing to splurge, there’s a sterling silver statement necklace ($350, was $850) with your name on it.

Desigual sample sale Clothingline; Jan 5–7; Free

Your rustic, lumberjack wardrobe takes precedence during the chilliest time of the year. But don’t be too timid to try a bold print, especially when you can snag colorful garb for up to 70 percent off. Scoop up wares like women’s sleeveless chiffon rose-print dresses ($45, used to be $200). Dudes, don’t fret: You can still stick to the aforementioned lumberjack style with plaid button-downs ($40, previously $124).

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