Annual Events

Holiday Markets

Quaint holiday markets are set up for the winter season in Bryant Park, Union Square, Grand Central and Columbus Circle. The individual stalls (which tend to look something like wooden winter huts) offer food, clothing and crafts of various kinds, and browsing these markets is always fun, even if you don’t end up buying anything.

Laughter in the Park

This is a series of free outdoor comedy shows from established and aspiring comedians on Sunday afternoons over 5 weeks in the summer, primarily in Central Park and Washington Square Park. The comedy tends to be quite good, and as long as you get a good seat (on a bench or on the grass) within earshot, it’s a really fun and unique experience – highly recommended! Website

Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks

Macy’s has been hosting the 4th of July fireworks display in NYC since 1976. After 5 years of the display taking place over the Hudson River, the display was moved back to the East River side in 2014. These fireworks are a big deal, and people stake out their spots hours in advance. The fireworks are impressive, of course, and worth seeing at least once, but it’s probably not worth the crowds and long waits to leave when the show is over to see them annually. Website

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Every Thanksgiving since 1924, Macy’s has hosted this famous parade, featuring celebrity performances, marching bands, clowns, floats and giant helium balloon characters. It’s at least worth seeing once, even if you’re not really into parades. Website


Around May 28 and July 12 (depending on when the Summer Solstice is) each year, people flock to the streets of Manhattan to see Manhattanhenge. This is a cool, though perhaps over-hyped, phenomenon where the setting sun happens to align perfectly with the East-West street grid in Manhattan, making for a really cool sight to see. Ideal streets for viewing  are 14th, 34th, 42nd and 57th(generally wide streets that continue uninterrupted from East to West).

Midsummer Night Swing

What a fantastic idea! Every summer, Damrosch Park in Lincoln Center is sectioned off for about a three week period for outdoor evening dance lessons and parties. Every day is a different style and you can choose from a rotating variety, including salsa, swing, disco and countless others. The first 30-45 minutes, you are taught the basics of the dance as a large group (hundreds of people), which is followed by a break. After the break, you return for the night time dance party where you dance the night away, practicing what you learned and also watching those that are better than you. There are always some amazing, even professional dancers, who show up just to dance and watching them is always fun. It can sometimes be a bit too crowded or can be difficult to see the instructor’s movements on the screen, but you can generally pick up the moves by watching those around you as well. Despite these annoyances it’s still a very fun, unique experience that we highly recommend. Tickets are $17 and should probably be booked online in advance as some of the popular sessions sell out quickly. Website

MP3 Experiment (1)
Release of Balloons at the MP3 Experiment

MP3 Experiment

Every year in mid to late summer, the folks at Improv Everywhere (who describe themselves as a prank collective that causes scenes of chaos and joy in public places) put on an event in a chosen location in NYC. Participants download a 45 minute MP3 file ahead of the event and are asked not to listen to it. They then show up by the hundreds to the specified location at the specified time and all begin playing the same MP3 file simultaneously on their own device with headphones. The voice in the recording then tells them what to do, as bystanders puzzledly look on at the masses of people the doing bizarre things as a huge group. This is a great way to get together with strangers, let go of your inhibitions, and just have some pure goofy fun. We highly recommend it. Website

Museum Mile Festival

On a single day in June, 10 museums (including the Met and the Guggenheim) open to public for free. There is an accompanying festival on Fifth Avenue (along the so-called “Museum Mile”, where these museums are located), and the street is closed off to traffic. Yes, there are crowds, but it’s a cool chance to get in for free. Website

New Year’s Eve in Times Square

A million people gather each year to watch the crystal ball drop from One Times Square tower. Prime spots fill up many hours ahead of time and once you stake out a spot among the police barricades, you can’t leave (whether to eat or to go to the bathroom) without losing your spot. Of course, temperatures are also generally freezing, making this a pretty unpleasant experience, but one you may consider having once if you’re willing to brave it in light of how famous it is. You may want to consider staking out a spot nearby like at the McDonald’s on the corner of 46th and 7th and waiting indoors until as close to midnight as possible before joining the crowds. You will have to keep ordering food and the employees might close the place early, but this could still save you hours out in the cold with no bathroom. Website

New York City Marathon

The NYC marathon is held on the first Sunday in November and runs through all five boroughs. The marathon is the largest in the world, with about 50,000 runners finishing the race each year. This is a big event – parts of the city shut down for the race, making navigation difficult and congested, and hotels are booked well in advance, but thousands of people join to cheer and support the runners. Website

New York International Fringe Festival

This fringe theater festival, founded in 1997, is held over 16 days in August. The festival hosts more than 1,000 performances across 20 venues throughout downtown Manhattan. Unlike most other fringe festivals, a jury system is used, where the 200 or so shows are specifically selected. In many fringe festivals, any act can sign up and perform, so there is a bit of quality control here. Website

The Nutcracker
The Nutcracker at Lincoln Center

The Nutcracker at the New York City Ballet

This is a spectacular performance, and you don’t have to like ballet to thoroughly enjoy it. The ballet contains a few of the most loved and most recognizable pieces of classical music, and the story is very much secondary to the music, the impressive performances, and the overall spectacle. Website

Open House New York

This open house, similar to the event in London, occurs on the first or second weekend in October each year. During this weekend, over 300 uniquely designed buildings across NYC are opened to the hundreds of thousands of visitors, with many free tours available (though popular spots require reservations and fill up quickly). Noteworthy buildings that have been opened to the public include City Hall, the New York State Pavilion (from the 1964 World Fair in Queens), the Grand Lodge of the Freemasons, the Google headquarters in Chelsea and the Department of Transportation Traffic Management Center. Website

Oyster Week

Oyster Week actually takes place over more than two weeks in September. One of the events is the Stone Street Oyster Festival, which features fresh oysters, drinks and live music on the iconic FiDi street from a variety of vendors. Website

Radio City Christmas Spectacular

This much beloved Christmas show contains various skits and musical numbers, as well as excellent choreography with the world famous Rockettes, the famous dancers at Radio City. The show is slightly different each year, but there are some staples like the nativity scene and the delightful toy soldiers skit. Always a good way to get into the Christmas spirit. Website

Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting

Every November or December since 1933, a free ceremony takes place to light this giant, iconic Christmas tree in the middle of Rockefeller Center. There are also special performances at the tree-lighting by high-profile acts, which have previously included the likes of Lady Gaga and Sting. There is a lot of security around and huge crowds that line up hours in advance, but it is free and open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis. Website


Each December on a pre-determined day, thousands of people dress up in Santa costumes and hit up various bars around the city. The event has become controversial due to vandalism, extreme drunkenness, rowdiness and general disruption around town, but most of the people who join are good natured. Feel free to participate if you want an excuse to bar hop. Otherwise, you will at least have some idea of what is going on when you see hoards of people getting on the subways and walking around town in Santa costumes. Website

St. Patrick’s Day Parade

This parade, which takes place on March 17 (i.e. St. Patrick’s Day) of each year, spans Fifth Avenue from 44th to 79th Streets and was first held in the 1700s. Despite being less of a spectacle than the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and despite the fact that alcohol is still prohibited while viewing from outside, the parade remains quite popular. Website