11 things we can actually look forward to in NYC in 2021

New unmissable parks, exhibits, and programs are promised for 2021.

Shaye Weaver
Written by
Shaye Weaver
Editor, Time Out New York
NYC skyline central park manhattan
Photograph: Shutterstock

2020 was supposed to be our year, but after a global pandemic and subsequent shutdowns, things took a turn. On the upside, next year will now be chock full of even more good things we missed out on over the last 12 months.

From landmark exhibitions at New York City's best cultural institutions to the opening of new parks and programs, there's a lot to look forward to in the city in 2021.

So as we count down the days left in this horrid year, we're also looking toward the future for the return of many of the amazing things that make this city the best in the world.

Here's what we can't wait for in 2021:

1. Yayoi Kusama at NYBG

Photograph: Courtesy Ota Fine Arts/Victoria Miro London/David Zwirner New YorkKusama with Pumpkin, 2010 ©YAYOI KUSAMA. Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo / Singapore / Shanghai; Victoria Miro, London; David Zwirner, New York

One of the most anticipated exhibitions of 2020—the Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama's takeover of the New York Botanical Garden—was postponed until the spring of 2021. Kusama's landmark exhibit, "Cosmic Nature," is at the top of our list this year for things to look forward to. The exhibit will include paintings, sculptures and the artist’s signature Infinity Rooms, two new outdoor monumental sculptures (the "Dancing Pumpkin" and a 13-foot high biomorphic form featuring a polka-dotted face called "I Want to Fly to the Universe") and special flower bed plantings patterned on Kusama’s paintings and an allée of trees wrapped in polka-dotted fabric. It's the massive and whimsical art show we need in NYC.

2. Little Island

Little Island park Pier 55
Photograph: Courtesy Michael Grimm Photography

Little Island at Pier 55, a giant new landmass that has piles rising up out of the river like ancient trees, is on schedule to open in the spring. New Yorkers don't look a gift horse in the mouth when getting a new park—it looks amazing and will be home to 35 species of trees, 65 species of shrubs, and 270 varieties of grasses, perennials, vines and bulbs across 2 acres. It'll also have two amphitheaters where performances of all sorts can take place. Hurry, spring! 

3. Open Culture Program

Cobu Theater for the New City's ChopShop Theater
Photograph: Courtesy Jonathan Slaff

NYC will finally get back some of the culture it's known for starting in March. Thanks to the newly passed "Open Culture" bill, musicians, actors, comedians and other performers will be able to use open streets and spaces to host ticketed events. Instead of going through the city's usual application process, this program would allow applicants to self-certify that they are complying with COVID safety rules and pay just $20 to apply. This is hugely important news and a glimmer of hope not only for arts-starved New Yorkers but for performers who've been out of work since March 2020.

4. Mignone Hall of Gems at AMNH

AMNH, new york city
Photograph: Courtesy AMNH/Denis Finnin

The Museum of Natural History's completely redesigned Allison and Roberto Mignone Halls of Gems and Minerals will reopen in the spring and house roughly 5,000 pieces from 95 countries. We'll be able to gawk at a 3,000-pound block of iridescent green and blue labradorite, the Singing Stone from the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago and the new "Beautiful Creatures" exhibit, which will celebrate historic and contemporary jewelry inspired by animals. There will be some serious earth bling to marvel at and we're here for it.

5. Time Out Market New York reopening

Time Out Market New York
Photograph: Noah Fecks

Because of the uncertainty facing indoor dining over the winter, Time Out Market New York has temporarily closed. That means we'll all have to wait until 2021 to return to the waterfront market to hang, dine and drink. That being said, when it does come back in the new year, it'll kick things off with mouthwatering cuisine, craft cocktails, amazing cultural activations.

6. Broadway, theaters and club reopenings

Moulin Rouge musical 2019 supplied image
Photograph: Matthew Murphy

We'll have to wait over a whole year to enjoy a Broadway show again. In October, the Broadway League announced all shows would be closed until at least June 2021. The Broadway revival of The Music Man, starring Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster, announced that it will now start previews on December 20, 2021, and will open on February 22, 2022. The Michael Jackson musical MJ has said that it will push its previews to September. It is not yet known what effects the announcement will have on the many other productions that are currently in a state of suspension. When things do open again, we'll tap joyfully over to the ticket box.

7. Weed legalization?

Photograph: Shutterstock

New Jersey voters legalized the recreational use of marijuana on election day, so we're wondering, is New York next? It could happen this year as it turns out. Governor Andrew Cuomo told Bravo host Andy Cohen in October that New York may legalize marijuana soon because of its dire financial predicament. State Senator Liz Krueger has also authored a bill currently pending in Albany that would legalize recreational use of the drug in the state. It is possible that legislation could be introduced into the state budget in January with a goal of enacting the reform in April. We'll have to wait and see!

8. A second summer of outdoor dining

Photograph: Shutterstock

Summer was almost over by the time New Yorkers really got into the swing of dining outdoors. Yes, indoor dining is a good old standby, but we learned that eating and drinking outside in the warm weather is actually really nice! There's a certain only-in-NYC ambiance provided by the people passing by and general street sounds. Nothing was better than sipping on a cocktail, safely distanced, with friends.

9. The Shirley Chisholm monument

A monument to Brooklyn's Shirley Chisholm, who became the first black woman elected to the House of Representatives in 1968, will be going up in 2021. Last year, New York State named a new 407-acre park in Brooklyn in her honor and picked artists Amanda Williams and Olalekan Jeyifous to design a monument that will be placed at the Parkside entrance to Prospect Park, according to Gotham Gazette.

10. The West Side Story musical film

West Side Story, Steven Spielberg
West Side StoryWest Side Story, Steven Spielberg

Steven Spielberg's West Side Story was supposed to be released on December 18 this year, but in September, Disney delayed the release date to December 10, 2021, to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the release of the original 1961 film. We're excited to see a bit of NYC portrayed in film again after such a hard year.

11. Final LaGuardia Airport openings

LaGuardia Airport, Terminal B, Public Art Fund, Jeppe Hein, Sabine Hornig, Laura Owens, Sarah Sze
Photograph: Nicholas Knight, courtesy the artist, LaGuardia Gateway Partners and Public Art Fund, NY, © Sarah Sze

This year saw the opening of LaGuardia Airport's new $8 billion Terminal B Arrivals and Departures Hall with 21 shops and restaurants, a new water feature, commissioned artworks, new kiosks and security checkpoints, among other new features. Its second and final phase will be opened at the end of 2021, bringing the number of new gates to 17. The new concourse will serve American Airlines and will house the future American Airlines Admirals Club. A second pedestrian skybridge bridge will connect the Terminal B Arrivals and Departures Hall to the Western Concourse in 2021 and the second section of the concourse and ten additional new gates will open in 2022. While this won't affect most of our daily lives, when we do have to fly next year, it'll be quite nice to not feel like we're in some "third-world country," which is how President-elect Joe Biden once put it.

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