By Meg A. Parsont
To make your days merry and bright, we’ve scouted out festive events on the Upper West Side throughout the holiday season, from beloved time-honored traditions to new memories-in-the-making. So, mark your calendars and let the fa-la-la-la-la festivities begin!
Monday, November 21
American Museum of Natural History Origami Holiday Tree opens (free with admission)
American Museum of Natural History, 200 Central Park West, in the Grand Gallery, 1st floor
Open daily 10 am-5:30 pm, closed Thanksgiving and Christmas Days
Produced in partnership with OrigamiUSA, the 13-foot tree is decorated with hand-folded paper models created by local, national, and international origami artists. The theme of this year’s tree is Beautiful Bugs. Over 1,000 origami decorations include intricate models of grasshoppers, butterflies, and beetles, as well as pieces depicting beloved mainstays of the Museum’s exhibits like the Blue Whale and Tyrannosaurus rex.
Wednesday, November 23, noon-6 pm
Inflating of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons (free event)
This is an opportunity to experience the larger-than-life Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons up close and personal, as they are inflated outdoors on the perimeter of the Museum of Natural History in preparation for their big day. There is a structured route to follow for the viewing and according to Central Park.org, visitors should enter the queue at West 72nd Street and Columbus Avenue.
Thursday, November 24, starts at 9 am
Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (free event)
The 96th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade welcomes back fan favorites and features four new balloons (Bluey by BBC, Diary of A Wimpy Kid® by Abrams Books, Dino and Baby Dino dinosaurs by Sinclair Oil, and Stuart the one-eyed Minion from Minions: The Rise of Gru from Illumination) and five new floats.
Route: The parade starts at West 77th Street and Central Park West, but there is no (or limited) public viewing there. Macy’s advises that that the best viewing is along the west side of Central Park West from West 75th to West 61st Streets. The parade route turns at 59th Street onto Central Park South and goes along 6th Avenue to Macy’s Herald Square at 34th Street.
Friday, November 25 (through December 31)
Opening of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker®, the New York City Ballet (ticketed event)
David H. Koch Theater, 20 Lincoln Center Plaza
One of the most enduring traditions of the holiday season, this production featuring the full New York City Ballet company and two alternating casts of students from the School of American Ballet transports viewers of all ages to an enchanted land of swirling snowflakes.
Tuesday, November 29, 5:30-8:00 pm
Tavern on the Green Tree Lighting (free event)
67th Street and Central Park West
Tree lighting festivities include complimentary treats and drinks, live music, and songs by The Manhattan Holiday Carolers in partnership with West Side Campaign Against Hunger.
Tuesday, November 29 (through December 24) – Monday to Saturday 11:00 am – 8:00 pm and Sundays 11:00 am – 7:00 PM. Closes at 4:00 pm Christmas Eve
Columbus Circle Holiday Fair
Located at the southern entrance to Central Park at 59th Street
Over 100 booths at this fair include hand-crafted jewelry, artisanal chocolates and other foods, knitwear, Christmas ornaments, toys for children, and more. Stroll with a hot chocolate and homemade gingerbread person to fortify yourself for shopping.
Tuesday, November 29, 5 pm
Annual Winter Lighting at Verdi Square (free event)
73rd Street and Broadway
At the Broadway Mall Association’s annual winter lighting, the malls will be lit, seasonal treats will be offered, and there will be a performance by The Reaching For the Arts Children’s Choir.
Saturday, December 3, 4:30-6:00 pm
Holiday on the Hudson (free event)
West 125th & Marginal Streets
Sponsored by NYC Parks & the Riverside Park Conservancy, this al fresco event features a tree lighting at 5:30 pm, music by Barnard’s Bacchantae, and arts & crafts.
Monday, December 5, 5 pm
Tree lighting at Dante Park, presented by Lincoln Square Business Improvement District (free event)
Between Broadway and Columbus Avenue at 63rd and 64th Streets
Festivities at the annual lighting of the 20-foot Frasier fir in Dante Park include music by CHIA’s Dance Party, led by Martin Vejarano and his Brass Quintet and juggling, cheer, and interactive comedy by Tanya Turgeon and her team of merry performers at the Department of Spectacle.
Friday, December 9 and Saturday, December 10, 7-8:30 pm
Joy of Christmas! Concert at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine (ticketed event)
1047 Amsterdam Avenue
Conducted by Kent Tritle, Director of Cathedral Music, and Bryan Zaros, Associate Director of Music and Choirmaster, the Cathedral choirs, orchestra, and soloists will perform Antonio Vivaldi’s Magnificat, Gerald Finzi’s In Terra Pax (Peace on Earth), and the world premieres of two works by living composers: “In Bethlehem above” by Yshani Perinpanayagam and “The Christmas Bird” by Sheena Philips. Carols sung by all are interspersed with selections sung by the Cathedral Choristers.
Saturday, December 10, 2:00-6:00 pm
Coca Cola Winter Wonderland at the Apollo Theater (free event)
253 W. 125th Street
Under the twinkling lights of its iconic marquee, the Apollo invites audiences to bring the family for holiday-themed activities including picture taking with Santa, a book and toy drive, and various performances. This event is hosted by the Apollo Theater’s Tour Director and Ambassador, Billy Mitchell.
Friday, December 16, Concert 7:00-9:30 pm, followed by reception from 9:30-10:00 pm
Riverside Orchestra Winter Concert, St. Paul/St. Andrew (ticketed event)
St. Paul & St. Andrew United Methodist Church, 263 West 86th Street
This festive program features the Prelude and selections from Humperdinck’s Hansel & Gretel, Debussy’s Scottish March, Korngold’s overture to his pantomime The Snowman, and beloved selections from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite. The ticket includes light bites at the post-concert reception.
Sunday, December 18
Please check back with West Side Rag for updates on public menorah lightings.
Sunday, December 18, 4 pm (but come at 3 pm for a musical prelude)
Candlelight Carol Festival at The Riverside Church (ticketed event)
490 Riverside Drive
This longstanding tradition at The Riverside Church has become an essential part of Christmas in New York City. This service of music and light combines carillon, organ, harp, and all of the choirs of The Riverside Church, culminating in a ritual sharing of candlelight illuminating the Nave. Musical prelude begins at 3:00 pm.
Wednesday, December 21, 7:30 pm
El Nino: Nativity Reconsidered, at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine (ticketed event)
1047 Amsterdam Avenue
American Modern Opera Company (AMOC) and the Cathedral of St. John the Divine present contemporary composer John Adams’ El Niño: Nativity Reconsidered with libretto by Peter Sellars and concept by Julia Bullock, featuring AMOC with The Choir of Trinity Wall.
Friday, December 30, 7:30 pm
Kwanzaa: A Regeneration Celebration at the Apollo Theater (ticketed event)
253 W. 125th Street
An Apollo tradition for 17 years, the annual Kwanzaa Celebration returns after two years in an uplifting program of modern and African dance, music, percussion, and spoken word honoring the principles of Kwanzaa: family, community, and culture. The Celebration features Forces of Nature Dance Theater under the leadership of critically acclaimed choreographer Abdel Salaam and is hosted by actress Stephanie Berry.
Saturday, December 31, 7 pm
New Year’s Eve Concert for Peace, St. John the Divine (ticketed event)
1047 Amsterdam Avenue
A holiday tradition for over 30 years, the Concert for Peace was founded by Leonard Bernstein as a tribute to the people of New York City. This program includes Gustav Holst’s St. Paul’s Suite, David Lang’s Make Peace, and Philip Herbert’s Elegy: in Memoriam. It also marks the world premiere of Joseph Turrin’s Lullaby for Vaska, dedicated to the Ukrainian people.