New Year’s Day Polar Bear Swim
Get the blood flowing for 2015 with a bracing dip in the Atlantic, off the boardwalk at Coney Island. If you start to lose your nerve, just look around – thousands of other people will be there, plunging into the icy water at your side. Swim time is 1pm.
Where: Coney Island boardwalk (1000 Surf Ave, Brooklyn)
More info: polarbearclub.org
Holidays, held over
A few holiday trimmings are still on view after Christmas. New York City Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker runs through January 3, the Rockefeller Center tree is lit through January 7, and the big department stores on Fifth Ave leave their elaborate window displays in place through at least the first few days of the month. The longest-running option is the New York Botanical Garden Holiday Train Show, through January 19. In the garden’s glass conservatory, large-scale model trains course through a landscape of miniature NYC landmarks built out of twigs, bark and other green stuff.
Where: New York Botanical Garden (2900 Southern Blvd, Bronx)
More info: nybg.org
'Somebody Come and Play' Sesame Street exhibition
Check out this exhibit of 45 years of that essential NYC-based children’s program, Sesame Street, in the form of scripts, storyboards, models and of course plenty of clips from the show and behind the scenes.
When: until Jan 31
Where: New York Library for the Performing Arts (40 Lincoln Plaza Center)
More info: nypl.org
Opera is a lot more than divas in giant dresses. This nine-day festival focuses on the fringiest, most avant-garde edge of the art form, with world premieres of such works as Toxic Psalms, which blends a Slovenian women’s chorus with feminist commentary. Only in its third year, the festival is still under the radar – it’ll be you and some serious music geeks in some very cool downtown venues, plus the excellent St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn.
When: Jan 8–17
Where: Various venues in Manhattan and Brooklyn
More info: prototypefestival.org
Matisse vs Picasso
Two giants of modern art, Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso, have had competing shows this fall, and both are ending soon. Until January 10, a personal and eclectic selection of Picasso’s work inspired by his last wife, Jacqueline Roque, is on view at Pace Gallery – for free. All month long at the Museum of Modern Art, you can see the paper cut-outs of Henri Matisse (Picasso’s contemporary and rival), also composed late in life. This has been a blockbuster, and is open only with timed tickets – reserve ahead.
When: Picasso: until Jan 10; Matisse: until Feb 8
Where: Picasso: Pace Gallery (32 E 57th St); Matisse: Museum of Modern Art (11 W 53rd St)
More info: thepacegallery.com, moma.org
No Pants Subway Ride
You’ve probably seen videos of Improv Everywhere’s stunts – hundreds of people freeze in the middle of Grand Central, or a team lays down a 'tourist lane' for slow walkers. Here’s your chance to participate. The catch: you’ll have to take off your trousers. It’s for the annual restaging of one of the group’s classic gags, in which the subway is overtaken by riders who look normal in every way, except for an absence of pants. (No, this is not a nudist thing! You must wear underwear – the wackier, the better.)
When: Jan 11
Where: all over the city
More info: improveverywhere.com
Twice a year (and for more than a week, but who’s arguing?), you can snap up two tickets to a Broadway play for the price of one. It’s a relative bargain, with the added benefit of being able to plan ahead (instead of waiting for deals at the TKTS booth). Not every show participates, but big hits such as Kinky Boots as well as dramas such as The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time are available. Tickets go on sale January 9 at 10:30am local time – have your travel schedule set and be ready to click 'buy'! (The other 'week' is in September.)
When: Jan 20–Feb 5; tickets on sale Jan 9
Where: various Broadway theaters
More info: nycgo.com
Brooklyn tribute to Dr Martin Luther King Jr
Now in its 29th year, Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) hosts programming dedicated to the civil rights leader, whose birthday is observed as a national holiday. This year, charismatic professor and activist Dr Cornel West will give a keynote speech, followed by music from a local choir and a performance by the soul singer Sandra St Victor.
When: Jan 19
Where: BAM (30 Lafayette Ave, between Ashland Pl and St Felix St, Fort Greene, Brooklyn)
More info: bam.org
Snow in Central Park
If a winter storm hits while you’re in the city, don’t hide in your hotel – go straight outside! Snow transforms the streets into a muffled wonderland and thaws the hearts of even the frostiest New Yorkers. To see this in action, head to Central Park, where kids and adults alike may be making snow angels, building snowmen and sledding down Pilgrim Hill (near 72nd Street on the east side). If there’s no snow forecast, plan on hitting the Winter Jam, one day late in the month when snowmaking machines cover the area around the bandshell with white stuff, for skiing, snowshoeing and more.
When: Winter Jam: Jan 24
Where: Central Park
More info: Winter Jam: nycgovparks.org
Though born in England, rock icon Billy Idol was formed by New York – he spent part of his childhood on Long Island, then returned as an adult, in 1981, to make a career in the punk scene. As part of his current tour (supporting a new album, as well as his autobiography, titled, you guessed it, Dancing with Myself), he appears at the Beacon Theatre, an elegant ex-movie palace with seats for close to 3,000.
When: Jan 28
Where: Beacon Theatre (2124 Broadway, at 74th St)
More info: beacontheatre.com
New York is having a renaissance in ice rinks. Two new venues in Brooklyn – Lakeside Center at Prospect Park and the renovated McCarren Rink, in Williamsburg – are great places to hit the ice with locals. In Manhattan, Bryant Park’s Winter Village, behind the main public library, has The Pond. And the classic spots – Wollman Rink in Central Park and the rink at Rockefeller Center – are still going strong. (Of these two, we recommend the larger Wollman Rink for skating; spectating is preferable at the tiny, pricey Rock Center rink.)
When: until mid-Mar
Where: Lakeside Center: 171 East Dr, Prospect Park, Brooklyn; McCarren Rink: 776 Lorimer St, Williamsburg, Brooklyn; Bryant Park: 42nd St & Sixth Ave; Wollman Rink: southeast corner of Central Park; The Rink at Rockefeller Center: Fifth Ave btwn 49th & 50th Sts
More info: lakesidebrooklyn.com, nycgovparks.org, wintervillage.org, wollmanskatingrink.com, therinkatrockcenter.com
Woolworth Building tours
Bitter January might not be the best time to visit this lower Manhattan landmark, since part of the tour involves standing on the street in front, listening to your architect tour guide. But as of a month ago, this is the first time in this century that the 101-year-old tower has been open to tourists. Fortunately the tours go inside as well, giving you a little chance to defrost while you admire the ornate lobby. They don’t build ’em like this anymore.
When: ongoing, every day but Mon
Where: 233 Broadway
More info: woolworthtours.com
Spa Castle Premier 57
Just opened in December, this new branch of a deluxe Korean spa brings all the perks of its original location (in the epically inconvenient neighborhood of College Point, Queens) to a handy spot in Midtown. It’s three floors of relaxation, with six types of saunas, heated Jacuzzis, skin-scrubbing spa treatments and even a food court. Check in for the day and get warmed up!
Where: 115 E 57th St
More info: spacastleusa.com
Brooklyn Winter Flea
The tastemakers of the Brooklyn Flea move indoors for the season. Among the more than 100 vendors, you'll find antiques, records, vintage clothes, craft items and enticing food stalls stuffed with tasty treats. There’s a stroller and coat check, for easier browsing. Next door is partner operation Berg’n, a festive beer hall.
When: weekends until Mar
Where: Crown Heights, Brooklyn (1000 Dean St btwn Classon & Franklin Aves)
More info: brooklynflea.com