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55 amazing things to do in NYC in December

Jennifer P

Dynamite things to do 

Dyker Heights Christmas Lights Tour meet at Union Square; Starts Dec 1; $50
The maxim “a little goes a long way” is not one Dyker Heights residents adhere to: Every year various homeowners in the south Brooklyn ’hood trick out their abodes with thousands of twinkly lights as well as oversize decorations (illuminated Nativity scenes, animatronic snowmen, giant nutcrackers). 

RECOMMENDED: Full NYC events calendar

Northern Pole Territory: A Santastical Bit of Holiday Nonsense Northern Territory; Starts Dec 1; free admission, rooftop access $5, photos with Santa $15
Ah, the holidays. They're perfect for ice-skating, drunk Santas and getting tipsy on rooftops! That's why Greenpoint's Northern Territory is turning its three-floor bar and rooftop into a twisted holiday wonderland. Non-traditional Santas will be onhand for some lap-sitting photo shoots, including hunky Santa, Sexy Mrs. Claus, the Jewish Santa Hanukklaus, and Elvis Santa. On the roof, there will be plush snowball fights, a mistletoe grotto (come with or without someone to kiss) and a Christmas tree forest where the Krampus lurks. 

Bank of American Winter Village at Bryant Park Tree Lighting; Dec 2; free
This year, the Winter Village plans to make this beloved event the best to date—and we have a feeling it will be. Expect the usual theatrical ice-skating show, starring Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje from the No. 1 world-ranked ice-dancing team in Canada as well as Javier Fernández (four-time European Champion) and Kimmie Meissner (former Olympian). Jazz group Lapis Luna provides the jams, and you’ll definitely want to stop by to see this year’s celebrity host in the flesh. Check out more than 125 holiday shops and food vendors while you’re there. 

The Poetry Brothel House of Yes; Dec 4; $30–$75
The House of Yes transforms into a literary bordello at this sultry event featuring live jazz, burlesque, vaudeville, aerial performances, fortune-tellers and more. Poets offer up their verses throughout the evening, and for a small fee you can sneak away for a private reading with any of the night's bards.

Women of Letters Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater; Dec 7; $20, two drink or $12 minimum
The Australian literary salon returns stateside, inviting notable women writers and performers to air their dirty laundry in the form of personal letters crafted just for the occasion. The October edition features Amber Tamblyn, Orange Is the New Black's Laura Gomez, Clinton media advisor Zerlina Maxwell, and other notable writers.  

SantaCon locations TBA; Dec 10; $10 suggested donation
Divisive charity-focused bar crawl SantaCon is going ahead this year, despite rumors of cancellation and entreaties from the NYPD that republicans refuse to serve participants. Those not dissuaded and determined to dust off the ol’ Kris Kringle suit should 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 just because you’re wearing a Santa suit doesn’t mean all bars love you. Make sure you know if your desired bar has SantaCon policies. Locations and time TBA; visit for more information.

Santa Suit 5K Prospect Park; Dec 11; Rockaway Beach Boardwalk; Dec 17; $50
If SantaCon sounds like a cool idea but you wish it involved more jogging, this is the holiday event for you. Throw on your best St. Nick suit (or some red-and-white running apparel) and hit the streets for 3.1 miles of running, walking, or at the very least shuffling alongside fellow Kringleophiles, with dancing and eating afterwards.

Unsilent Night meet at Washington Square Park; Dec 18; free
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 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. 

Hilarious comedy shows

Adrienne Truscott’s Asking For It Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater; Dec 1; $15, plus $12 minimum
This provocative, risqué show stars Adrienne Truscott, whose career spans from choreography featured at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival to circus acrobatics and now comedy—in seminude attire. Truscott jokes about controversial social topics, including rape whistles and Bill Cosby and impersonates characters like Robert de Niro and Louis C.K. Whether she’s asking for criticism or not, her one-woman show is worth some laughs.

Forty Minutes in the Style of Wes Anderson Peoples Improv Theater; Dec 1; $5
Binoculars, precocious children and phenomenal neckwear are just three of Wes Anderson’s favorite things, but the aesthetically minded filmmaker uses at least two dozen other tropes. Here, costumed improvisers apply the indie director’s quirks to mainstream films like Jaws and the Silence of the Lambs, and they're ready to craft an entire idiosyncratic show based on your suggestions. 

Transplants Q.E.D.; Dec 2; $7
The performers at this stand-up show all have two things in common: they're new to New York, and they're real funny. Show up to hear Maria Wojciechowski, Katie Boyle, Diego Lopez, Cate Weinberg, Ethan Simmons-Patterson and Katie Hannigan share their tales of how and why they ended up here.

Tonight’s Special with Shane Shane Sid Gold’s Request Room; Dec 6; suggested donation $5
This bizarre improv-variety show puts you in complete control over hard-working one-man act Shane. At the start of the night, audience members are given a “menu” of jokes, songs, video clips and shticks for Shane to perform in the order and style of their choosing. The night ends with piano karaoke. Make sure you give this guy a tip—and a drink. 

Pulitzer Surprises Union Hall; Dec 6; $6–$8
Did you know that anyone can nominate anything for a Pulitzer Prize? At this ongoing comedy show, The Daily Show correspondent Eliza Cossio and Full Frontal writer Caroline Schaper invite comedians to perform their best attempts to score the prestigious award. Afterward, they interview an actual Prize winner, and at the end of the evening, you'll cast your vote for the best performance, which will be submitted for real. 

Funhouse Comedy Show Pete’s Candy Store; Starts Dec 7; free
Local comedians Gabe Pacheco and Sameer Naseem host this free weekly stand-up night in Williamsburg. Show up for some midweek laughs courtesy of both seasoned and rising comics.

Clip Show: A Sketch Show The Creek and the Cave; Dec 10; free
In this half-hour show, NYC sketch troupe PEP presents clips from fake shows that never actually aired. Prepare for a lot of brutal spins on your favorite ’90s sitcoms. 

Not Right Now Comedy Teddy’s Bar & Grill; Dec 13; free
Best buddies Candyce Musinski and Meagan Walsh welcome you to gather around the bar and watch a free roundup of excellent local standup at this monthly show. This month's lineup includes Lindsay Goldwert, Harrison Greenbaum and Noah Gardenswartz. 

Test Pilots The Creek and the Cave; Dec 17; free
Hardworking funnyman Dan King writes a pilot script for a new sitcom every month. Watch as fellow comedians help him bring his doomed-yet-hilarious ideas to life in a late night table reading. 

Can't-miss LGBT events

Distorted Kristmess Laurie Beechman at the West Bank Café; Dec 2, 9; $22, plus $20 minimum
Holly Dae, Bootsie Lefaris, Pixie Aventura and Brenda Dharling share the bill for this holiday send-up, now in its fifth year. Expect high-energy dance numbers, glittery costumes and wrongheaded twists on Christmas classics like "The 12 Drunks of Christmas," plus a special tribute to Bea Arthur.

LGBT Night at The New York Botanical Garden; Dec 2; $25
The New York Botanical Garden’s annual LGBT Bar Car night celebrating the annual Holiday kicks out the kids and brings out the bar as you enjoy live music, ice sculptures, spiked cocoa and more. 

Ryan, We’re Jewish: The Christmas Spectacular Feinstein’s/54 Below; Dec 6; $30-$40, plus $20 minimum
There’s no Christmas like a gay Jewish Christmas, and comedian Ryan Rafferty (beloved for his one-man shows about Anna Wintour and Andy Cohen) is here to help you celebrate with very special holiday parodies and tales of childhood anxiety from a half-Jewish, half-Irish Catholic home. 

Alaska Christmas is Gay Laurie Beechman Theatre at the West Bank Café; Dec 14-19; $30, VIP $50, plus $20 minimum
Now that she officially wears the RuPaul crown, recent Drag Race winner Alaska Thunderfuck will help you sing in the gayest time of the year with a musical tribute to top all her past Christmastime performances combined.

Jinkx Monsoon and Major Scales: Christmas Mourning Laurie Beechman Theatre at the West Bank Café; Dec 15-Dec 20; $24, VIP $42, plus $20 minimum
Drag Race winner Jinkx Monsoon focuses her quirky comedy style on the holidays with longtime collaborator and accompanist Major Scales for an evening of new original songs and imaginative arrangements of pop covers. 

Chad Michael’s All-Star Christmas Cher Stage 48; Dec 16; $40–$750
O, come all ye gypsies, tramps and queens to midtown for this blockbuster drag event. Chad Michaels leads a roster of Drag Race alums like Courtney Act, Adore Delano, Willam, Detox, Ginger Minj and many more for a show that's a half-breed of Cher worship and gay Christmas pageant. 

Jackie Beat: The Ghost of Christmas Trash Laurie Beechman Theatre at the West Bank Café; Dec 16, 17, 18; $22, plus $20 minimum
Meatier, wronger and more delicious than a turducken, this comedy queen's holiday show is the one to beat. Jackie's classic carol parodies like "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Syphilis" and "Santa's Baby" are hilarious, and her powerhouse vocals are impressive. But it's her improvisations and crowd work that demonstrate what a natural-born entertainer looks like in the spotlight. 

NYC Gay Men’s Chorus Holiday Spectacular the Town Hall; Dec 18; $45-$75
The Gay Men's Chorus belts out a cheerful holiday show packed with classics of both the soul-stirring and campy varieties, plus a guest spot from hunky string quartet WELL-STRUNG. 

Delicious food and drink opportunities 

Lucky Peach Power Vegetables! Rizzoli Bookstore; Dec 6; $38.11
Momofuku megachefDavid Chang joins forces withLucky Peach editorial director Peter Meehan to discuss Meehan’s new cookbook,Lucky Peach Presents Power Vegetables!

Ten Restaurants that Changed America the New York Society Library; Dec 7; $10 advance/$15 day-of
Food historian Paul Freedman discusses hisnew book Ten Restaurants that Changed America,which traces the indelible influence of storied eateries like Le Pavillon and Delmonico’s on the country’s current gastronomic scene.

Beer Freak Bash Coney Island Brewery; Dec 17; Free 
Tap into the nascent Brooklyn brewery’s special reserve kegs, served for the first time at this suds-soaked bash.

Eighth Annual Latke Festival the Brooklyn Museum; Dec 19; $70-$120
This annual event has gotten bigger and better over the past decade, and its eighth edition promises even more delectable, chef-ified versions of everyone’s favorite potato pancake.

Green Fairy at the Red Room KGB Bar; Dec 1; $10-$20
This iteration of the classic LES dive bar’s monthly showcase of absinthe tasting and entertainment will featureLucid Absinthe Superier, with fun facts on the anise spirit’s history and rituals provided by Kellfire Bray of “vintage nouveau” magazine,Zelda. 

Spectacular dance performances 

The Lucinda Childs Dance Company at the Joyce Theater; Nov 29 through Dec 11; $26–$71
The first week of Childs’s run is devoted to a new collection, Lucinda Childs: A Portrait, that surveys more than 50 years of the modern dance icon's work. The second is given over to Dance (1979), set to music by Philip Glass, which juxtaposes live dancers with projections of the dancers who originally performed it. 

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at New York City Center; Nov 30 through Dec 31; $25–$150
Returning to City Center for its 46th season, the venerable troupe offers a diverse selection of more than two dozen works, in different programs each night. Selections include premieres by choreographers Kyle Abraham (Untitled America), Boykin Jackson (r-Evolution, Dream) and Mauro Bigonzetti (Deep).  

Sonya Tayeh: you’ll still call me by name at New York Live Arts; Dec 9–17; $40–$70
A two-time Emmy nominee for her work on So You Think You Can Dance, Tayeh now presents an evening-length work about a complicated mother-daughter relationship, with a cast of ten and an original score composed and performed by the Bengsons.

Reggie Wilson/Fist & Heel Performance Group: Citizen at BAM Harvey Theater; Dec 14–17; $16–$50
Wilson and his company explore notions of community, identity and belonging in a piece inspired by black men and women—including James Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston and W.E.B. DuBois—who faced adversity in realizing themselves as Americans.

Noche Flamenca at West Park Presbyterian Church; Dec 26 through Jan 7; $42.50–$62.50
The modern flamenco company, led by the married team of Martin Santangelo and Soledad Barrio, offers a double bill of La Ronde, inspired by Arthur Schnitzler's romantic-daisy-chain play, and Creación, in which Barrio stars alongside hip-hop dancers TweetBoogie (Dec 26–31) and Nubia Néné (Jan 2–7).

Amazing art shows

“Francis Picabia: Our Heads Are Round so Our Thoughts Can Change Direction”Museum of Modern Art (MoMA); through Mar 19, $25
This is the first comprehensive retrospective in the United States of the work of Francis Picabia, a leading light of the Dadaist movement. A close friend and frequent partner-in-crime of Marcel Duchamp, Picabia was a stylistic shapeshifter, but while his work varied widely in tone and medium it was never lacked in radically innovation.

“Marilyn Minter: Pretty/Dirty” Brooklyn Museum; through Apr 2, $16
Minter had already been working in New York for 30 years before her career breakout in the 2006 Whitney Biennial, and in the ensuing decade, she’s dialed up her exploration of how women are objectified by fashion and the media to a Nigel Tufnel–worthy 11. Focusing on various details of the female anatomy, her photos and hyper-realist paintings demolish cultural conventions of beauty and femininity with increasingly garish élan. As the title of Minter’s first-ever career retrospective suggests, her work draws a connection between "sexy" and "filthy." 

Kai Althoff Museum of Modern Art (MoMA); Sept 18–Jan 2, $25
Working in ceramics, textiles, drawing, painting and sculpture, this German artist weaves together dreamy, surreal amalgams of Expressionist and Symbolist motifs that seem to spring from his fantasies, reveries and personal memories. This career survey is his first in an American museum

“Max Beckmann in New York” Metropolitan Museum of Art; Oct 19–Feb 20, suggested donation $25
Max Beckmann (1884–1950), one of the most prominent modernist painters of Weimar-era Germany, spent the last year of his life in New York City, the final stop in a 12-year journey of exile that began when he fled Hitler in 1937. The Met is an appropriate venue for this show: Beckmann died from a fatal heart attack on the corner of 69th Street and Central Park West just as he was making his way to the museum to see his freshly-installed, Self-Portrait in Blue Jacket.

"Pipilotti Rist: Pixel Forest” The New Museum Of Contemporary Art; Oct 26–Jan 8, $16
This Swiss video artist’s provocative productions started out in the late 1980s with depictions of female subjects committing various social transgressions (a women smashing car windows, for example, an image later appropriated by Beyoncé). More recently, she’s focused on trippy, immersive, 360-degree installations backed by hypnotic soundtracks.

Marvelous theater experiences 

The Babylon Line Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater through Jan 22; $77–$87
Richard Greenberg’s latest play is about a night-school fiction teacher on Long Island (Josh Radnor) and his curious group of adult students.

A Bronx Tale Longacre Theatre; opens Dec 1; $45–$162
First it was a one-man show, then a movie starring Robert De Niro. Now Chazz Palminteri’s coming-of-age tale becomes a glitzy Broadway musical.

Othello New York Theatre Workshop; through Jan 18; $125
Shakespeare’s classic tragedy returns to New York starring Daniel Craig and David Oyelowo directed by Sam Gold (Fun Home). 

Dear Evan Hansen Music Box Theatre; opens Dec 4; $49–$155
One of the fall’s most eagerly anticipated new musicals concerns a painfully awkward teen and a misunderstanding that becomes a social-media phenomenon. 

The Dead, 1904 American Irish Historical Society; through Jan 7; $300
James Joyce’s famous story (and John Huston movie adaptation) form the basis for this site-specific holiday attraction. Kate Burton stars.

Major movie premieres 

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story; in theaters Dec 16
Already the trailers are killing it and rising British actor Felicity Jones makes for a strong, appealing hero.

La La Land; in theaters Dec 16
Believe the hype: Damien Chazelle’s modern-day musical—staring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling—is inspired.

Silence; in theaters Dec 23
Martin Scorsese has wanted to make this drama about faith under fire for decades—it should be something special.

Toni Erdmann; in theaters Dec 25
Can the year’s funniest comedy actually come from Germany? Believe it. It’s also wise, witty and heartbreaking.

20th Century Women; in theaters Dec 25
This 1979-set drama has fine performances by Greta Gerwig, Elle Fanning and Annette Bening as confused Californians.

Awesome concerts 

The Magnetic Fields at Brooklyn Academy of Music; Dec 2, 3; $30
Stephin Merritt's upcoming 50 Song Memoir is a vast conceptual collection of charming yet cuttingly sardonic ditties. Here you’ll be able to catch the group playing the collection in its entirety over the course of two nights. 

Bon Iver at various locations; Dec 3–14; various prices
Bon Iver visits for a two-week run of shows at venues from the intimate Pioneer Works to the grand Kings Theatre. The occasion: the release of the group’s new album, 22, A Million, in which the ex-folkster dives into full-throttle sonic maximalism while retaining his unmistakable ear for intimate, heartfelt lyricism.

Mariah Carey at Beacon Theatre; Dec 5–17; $59.50–$255; Get tickets!
For the third year, the megawatt singer gets festive at the Beacon for her “All I Want for Christmas Is You” series. Come ready to sing-along to all the holiday hits including the inescapable titular tune.

Mac Miller at Terminal 5; Dec 12; $30
Young hip-hop act Miller landed a hit with this year's utterly surprising concept album, The Divine Feminine, a record that explicates the nuances of intimacy, distance and the "divine feminine energy of the planet." It also features guest turns by Ariana Grande, Kendrick Lamar and Anderson Paak.

Japanese Breakfast + eskimeaux at Shea Stadium; Dec 17; $12–$14
Two of our favorite rising indie-pop songwriters—Japanese Breakfast's Michelle Zauner and eskimeaux's Gabrielle Smith—coheadline this show with play solo sets. You'll want to get familiar with the most recent albums by each, which combine emotionally charged songs about love and intimacy with bubblegum sonic textures and memorable melodies.


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