Fantastic things to do
Star Wars and the Power of Costume: The Exhibition Discovery Times Square; Nov 16–Feb 29 at various times; $27.50
The world is primed to blow up with excitement like it’s just been hit by a Death Star Beam. If your need to satiate your longing for December 18’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens, then head to this comprehensive exhibit of some of the series’s most memorable costumes.
Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree-Lighting Ceremony; Dec 2 at 7pm; free
Reenact the tearful ending of Home Alone 2 and meet your loved ones under the glorious tree at the center of town. See high-kicking numbers by the Rockettes and fabulous performances by guest celebrities as the gigantic spruce lights up for the holiday.
Crafts at the Cathedral Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine; Dec 4 at 5pm, Dec 5 at 10am, Dec 6 at 11am; $6
You’ll have the chance to buy unique and bizarre handmade gifts for your family under the glorious rafters of the cathedral at this lovely indoor market.
Kwanzaa 2015: Energize, Recognize! American Museum of Natural History; Dec 27 at noon, 3pm; free with museum admission
Why wait five days between Christmas and New Year's Eve to party? Celebrate African culture and heritage and this lively day of performances, featuring film screenings, beatboxing shows and dancing.
New Years Eve Fireworks Grand Army Plaza; Dec 31 at 11pm; free
Prospect Park may be a frost kingdom by the end of December, but it’s no less beautiful under the rainbow sparks of firecrackers. Grab a hot cocoa and toast the New Year under an open sky.
Major winter movie and theater premieres
China Doll Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre; Dec 4; $72–$157.50
Al Pacino has reportedly been having trouble with David Mamet’s notoriously exacting language, but we expect the old lion to roar by opening night. This new piece is about a wealthy guy and his trophy wife.
School of Rock Winter Garden Theatre; Dec 6; $59–$145
The Jack Black-rocking-out-with-kids movie comedy comes to Broadway courtesy of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Julian Fellowes of Downton Abbey. Not the young, irreverent all-American creative team we’d expect, but the source material might be inspiration enough.
Lazarus New York Theatre Workshop; Dec 7
Renaissance rocker David Bowie tries his hand at playwriting with this sequel of sorts to the novel that The Man Who Fell to Earth was based on. Michael C. Hall (TV’s Dexter) stars in a production directed by the astonishing European director Ivo van Hove.
The Color Purple Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre; Dec 10; $75–$145
The first Broadway revival of this smash gospel-and-blues-scored musical stars Jennifer Hudson, Cynthia Erivo and Danielle Brooks. Expect British director John Doyle to bring out a more stylized, minimalist side of the life-affirming show.
In the Heart of the Sea Opens in theaters Dec 11
The trailers make Ron Howard’s latest look like a high-spirited adventure on the high seas, but this waterlogged historical epic—the true story of a whale ship in 1820 that was sunk by an attack from its prey—beats with far darker blood.
Star Wars: Episode VII—The Force Awakens Opens in theaters Dec 18
A slightly less long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. At this point, adding a new chapter to George Lucas’s iconic space opera is like adding a new book to the Bible, but J.J. Abrams is going to give it the old college try. If you’re not already waiting in line outside of your local theater, there’s still reason to be intrigued.
Fiddler on the Roof Broadway Theatre; Dec 20; $35–$67
Everybody loves the classic musical about Jewish milkman Tevye and his tradition-breaking daughters, but this one has the potential to kick it up a notch: The marvelous Danny Burstein is Tevye, and the show is directed by revival master Bartlett Sher (The King and I).
Sisters Opens in theaters Dec 20
It doesn’t matter that Baby Mama was kind of a dud: Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are still one of the great comedy duos of our time. And a movie that casts them as estranged siblings determined to throw one last rager at their parents’ house sounds like a sure thing.
The Hateful Eight Opens in theaters Dec 25
You know the insanely suspenseful opening scene from Inglourious Basterds during which evil Nazi Christoph Waltz interrogates a farmer who might be hiding Jews? Imagine that but stretched more than two hours and as a Western. And then imagine that instead of Christoph Waltz, it’s Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell and six other gunslingers with itchy trigger fingers. “Merry Christmas,” says Quentin Tarantino.
The Revenant Opens in theaters Dec 25
Say what you will about Birdman director Alejandro González Iñárritu, but the guy sure isn’t wasting his Hollywood capital. Instead, he’s making the most of his clout, dragging Leonardo DiCaprio to hell and back in this ultrarugged Western about a fur trapper seeking revenge on the men who left him to die.
Hilarious comedy shows
Oh Hello Cherry Lane Theater; Dec 1–20 at 9:30pm; $45
Gil Faizon and George St. Geeland (the curmudgeon Upper West Side alter egos of comedians Nick Kroll and John Mulaney) are making their off-Broadway debut with a limited engagement. Expect to hear plenty of about the splendor of Times Square in the ’70s, Ed Koch as mayor and too much tuna.
Trailer Park Boys Kings Theater; Dec 9 at 8pm; $39–$59
The defiantly lowbrow characters of the Canadian Trailer Park Boys are leaving Nova Scotia on their Dear Santa Tour. Expect plenty of drinking, objects being tossed around, and delightful stupidity.
Employee of the Month Show Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater; Dec 18 at 9:30pm; $20, at the door $25
Catie Lazarus is a podcast host on a mission: She wants to find out what it’s like—and what it takes—to land a dream job. Lazarus makes for a charming host, who keeps her cool in the presence of huge stars. Tonight’s guests include Jason Biggs and MoMA curator Paula Antonelli.
Tom Green Carolines on Broadway; Dec 18–20 at 7:30, 10:30pm; $35–$105
Green may have fallen off your radar in recent years, but the divisive, surreal comic is back to stand-up. Give in to the ’90s nostalgia, and he’ll deliver the goods.
Merry Hanukkah with Judy Gold Carolines on Broadway; Dec 23–25 at 8pm; $30–$100
While your friends combat awkward family moments around the Christmas tree, enjoy a “Merry Hanukkah with Judy Gold.” The Emmy-winning television writer and stand-up has plenty of family stories of her own from around the Menorah.
Sickening shows and concerts
Royal Trux Webster Hall; Dec 19 at 8pm; $25
The Trux, playing their first gigs together since 2001, roll into town for this Webster Hall show that’s sure to be a spectacle—the psych-garage duo are as notorious for their shambling live shows as for their brain-scrambling tunes.
Joanna Newsom Kings Theatre; Dec 7 at 8pm. Apollo Theater; Dec 12 at 8pm. $39.50–$59.50
Newsom has delivered what’s undoubtably one of the year’s best albums with Divers, a lyrically dense, melodically overflowing opus. Here’s your chance to see Newsom's virtuoso harp playing and inimitable voice live.
Dan Deacon Brooklyn Bowl, Brooklyn; Dec 29 at 8pm; $20
The electronics-tinkering party-starter heads up this end-of-the-year party at Brooklyn’s primary concert venue and bowling alley. Expect high-energy, glitchy pop that belies Deacon’s minimalist-classical underpinnings.
Marvelous dance performances
Radio City Christmas Spectacular Radio City Music Hall; Nov 13–Jan 3 at various times; $46–$215
The great, glittering juggernaut will get you someday, so why not succumb? The Rockettes and a host of Santas usher in the season with their contagious brand of over-the-top cheer.
New York City Ballet: George Balanchine's The Nutcracker David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center; Nov 27–Jan 3 at various times; $35–$265
No one is too old (and almost no one is too young) to thrill to The Nutcracker in its grandest New York incarnation, complete with glittering ballerinas, enormous Christmas tree and our loveliest national treasure—Balanchine's ageless choreography.
Mark Morris Dance Group: The Hard Nut BAM Howard Gilman Opera House; Dec 12–20 at various times; $30–$115
If you haven't seen Mark Morris's annual, gorgeously silly '70s reworking of The Nutcracker than you deserve to get your walnuts in a vise: There are few New York pleasures so keen as this gender-bent new classic.
luciana achugar: Church Gibney Dance: Agnes Varis Performing Arts Center; Dec 10–19 at various times; $20
This “sequel” to achugar's titanic achievement Otro Teatro functions as both ritual and installation and will no doubt spiral down into the dark imagination that has made this Uruguayan choreographer so important.
Tere O'Connor: The Goodbye Studies The Kitchen; Dec 2–12 at various times; $15
The great, reflective, eclectic modernist O'Connor offers up a 12-person work, collaborating with electro-acoustic composer James Baker for one of the undoubted dance highlights of the month.
Phenomenal LGBT events
Jackie Beat: White Meat or Dark? Laurie Beechman Theater at the West Bank Café; Dec 18–20 at various times; $22 plus $20 minimum
NYC lost one of our funniest drag queens to L.A. years ago, but she returns a few times a year to remind us just how good she is. Nobody writes a better bawdy song parody and Beat can hold her own with any mainstream cabaret singer. Her improvisation stage banter and crowd work rival those of a veteran stand-up.
The Mad World of Miss Hathaway: The End of an Error The Wild Project; Dec 10–13 at various times; $20
Throughout the run of TV's Mad Men, writer-performer Angela Di Carlo has churned out a musical spoof of every season of the show. For the final installment of the series, Di Carlo has lined up a top-notch cast, including gay essayist and comedian Mike Albo. The show skewers the social mores of the '60s with catchy melodies and fun dance numbers.
Alaska 5000: Your Christmas is Terrible Laurie Beechman Theater at the West Bank Café; Dec 17–20 at various times; $22–$40 plus $20 minimum
There has been a parade of talent clacking its way down the RuPaul's Drag Race runway, but few queens have been as memorably warped as Alaska Thunderfuck 5000. She released a surprisingly good album this year called Anus and she's in town to do four performances of her delightfully twisted holiday show.
Nobodies Talking Shit Don Pedro; Mondays; free
This new party is taking over Monday nights in the 'burg. Every week the Nobodies, a.k.a. Ariel Italic, Lady Bearica Andrews and DJ Accident report, present party with on a different theme. Screenings start at 10 followed by burlesque and drag performances and dancing.
The Ginger Minj & Friends Chistma-Hannu-Kwanzaa-Ka Spectacular Laurie Beechman Theater at the West Bank Café; Dec 17–20 at various times; $22–$40 plus $20 minimum
The runner-up from the most recent season of RuPaul's Drag Race won us over with her hilarious Adele impression. The good-natured, large-and-in-charge Florida showgirl is bringing her sassy humor and Southern charm to NYC for four performances of her heartwarming holiday show.
Astonishing art exhibitions
“Collected by Thea Westreich Wagner and Ethan Wagner” Whitney Museum of American Art; at various times; $22. Through Mar 6.
If you want an overview of market-validated tastes in contemporary art over the past 25 years or so, you couldn't do better than this show of works amassed by the husband-and-wife collecting team of Thea Westreich Wagner and Ethan Wagner. As a noted art consultant, Westreich helped to propel the careers of such marquee names as Robert Gober, Jeff Koons and Christopher Wool, among others. Westreich and Wagner have even penned a how-to manual for neophytes titled, Collecting Art for Love, Money and More. Of the 800 artworks they own, 500 are being gifted to the Whitney with the other 300 being donated to the Centre Geroges Pompidou in Paris, where this show travels after its Whitney run.
“Barbara Rossi: Poor Traits” New Museum of Contemporary Art; at various times; $16. Through Jan 3.
There’s been a great deal of interested lately in the artists of the Chicago Imagist School, and while names such as Jim Nutt, Karl Wirsum and Ed Paschke may be familiar to aficionados, Barbara Rossi most likely is not. This revival offers an opportunity to catch up with her work, which bears all the hallmarks of the Chicago style—especially, a figurative approach that combines Surrealism and Pop Art with a taste for the grotesque. Most notable, are her brightly colored, finely rendered paintings on Plexiglas.
Walid Raad MoMA; at various times; $25. Through Jan 31.
The conflicts and crises of the Arab world are the subjects of this artist born in Lebanon, whose childhood recollections of that country’s devastating civil war seem to reverberate throughout his work. Cooly conceptual yet passionate it their own fashion, Raad’s photos, videos and installations combine to create an art of memory and dislocation.
Mark Bradford, “Be Strong Boquan” Hauser & Wirth New York; at various times; free. Through Dec 23.
Bradford’s dense torn-collage paintings have more than a passing resemblance to the work of such postwar affichistes as Raymond Hains and Jacques Villeglé, and like them, Bradford distills the idea of place as a locus of larger social and cultural forces. Instead of Paris in the 1950s, Bradford ties his work to his native Los Angeles, more specifically to the intersection between the African-American and Gay communities in which he came of age. This show of new paintings, sculptures and video installations centers around the AIDS crisis of the early ’80s and the Los Angeles riots of 1992—traumatic events set a decade apart that bracket his young adulthood.
“Art Brut in America: The Incursion of Jean Dubuffet” American Folk Art Museum; at various times; free. Through Jan 10.
The French artist Jean Dubuffet coined the term "Art Brut" in the ’40s to describe the work of self-taught artists. Dubuffet's definition, however, wasn't nearly as broad as the current catch-all, Outsider Art, since he specifically limited the idea to children and psychiatric hospital patients. Still, it’s hard to imagine the widespread attention being paid to Outsider Art today without the role Dubuffet played. This exhibition of 180 artworks on loan from the Collection de l’Art Brut in Lausanne, Switzerland, examines how his gospel of Art Brut spread to these shores.
Decadent Food and drink events
Battle of the Belgians Jimmy's No. 43; Dec 5 at 1pm; $69.57
Hops heads rejoice! This sixth annual fest returns to Jimmy's No. 43, featuring more than 20 brewers both international (Wild Beer Co., Alvinne) and American (Allagash, Grimm), all tapping Belgian-style beers like Rochefort, Orval and Westmalle. Guzzle limitless samples of every contender, and then cast your vote to crown the best ale.
Meatball & Beer Chowdown, Houston Hall; Dec 6 2–7pm; $37.92
Time Out New York hosts this first ever balls-and-brews extravaganza featuring meaty creations from eight purveyors, including Houston Hall, the Atwood and Crave.NY. After filling up on the gut-busting creations, wash it all down with suds from Greenpoint Beer Works in Clinton Hill.
Juice Crawl Athleta; Dec 12 9:30–11:30am; $50
Like a pub crawl—but significantly healthier—this daytime juice chugathon begins with a morning workout and a pre-game shot (of maple water, that is). Then, you can join your svelte companions for 15-20 types of fruit-and-veggie fuel during a 1.5-hour-long crawl of Vitamin Chick, LuliTonix and Pressed Juicery.
Seventh Annual Latke Festival Metropolitan Pavilion; Dec 7 at 6:30pm; $75
Embrace your inner bubbe at this all-you-can-eat latke fest that will feature chefly versions of the crisp potato pancakes fried up by restaurants including Rouge Tomate, Jacob's Pickles and Shelsky's. Beverages will be provided by sponsors including Tito's Handmade Vodka and Sovereign Cider, and food-industry judges such as the Gorbals' Ilan Hall and Time Out New York's own Christina Izzo will join event-goers in crowning a latke of the night.
The Brooklyn Cookie Takedown Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club, Brooklyn; Dec 12, 13 noon–2pm; $20
Cookie Monster's fantasy come to life, this two-day celebration of everyone's favorite sweet pits home bakers against one another in a friendly competition that results in some seriously delicious fallout: fragrant, fresh-baked cookies for all attendees. Expect both classic treats and newfangled creations; past years have witnessed the birth of bourbon-and-bacon-spiked Drunken Chocolate Pigs and sweet-and-salty Fluffer Nut Jobs. Did we mention the bottomless egg nog?
The best shopping opportunities
Columbus Circle Holiday Market Central Park South; opens Dec 1
Yes, this outdoor market repeats Union Square’s vendors, but it’s right next to Central Park and adds scenic and romantic views for when you’re done shopping and gorging on Wafels & Dinges.
Etsy Holiday Handmade Cavalcade Chelsea Market; Dec 5 10am–8pm, Dec 6 10am–7pm
Calling all craft addicts! This online retailer’s two-day event allows any impatient DIYers to grab a unique handmade present from more than 50 talented makers. Oh, and the first 100 shoppers each day will receive a free swag bag. Score!
Winter Solstice Celebration Queens Botanical Garden; Dec 6 1–6pm
Entertain your out-of-town relatives and the kiddies at this holiday gathering, where you can meet Santa, listen to music and check a few folks off your Christmas shopping list.
Astoria Market Holiday Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden; Dec 6, 13, 20 noon–6pm
Queens’ classic Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden transforms into an NYC-centric artisan market, so make sure to stop by for ace vintage merchandise, eggnog, hot cider and roasted chestnuts. Ah, so festive.