Twenty Ways to Celebrate the Holidays in Brooklyn

Don't have holiday plans? Spend this festive holiday season in Brooklyn, where there are a plethora of activities from famed Christmas light displays to innovative ballet performances. This December is action packed and we've filled your dance card with an assortment of holiday themed events, so there is no excuse not to take part in the festivities. 

If you haven't finalized plans for New Year's Eve, don't fret, because there are a few fantastic New Years plans (and even one for New Year's Day!) sprinkled into this list of holiday cheer. Go out and celebrate the holidays and the end of 2016! 

Happy Holidays!

01 of 20

See the Dyker Heights Christmas Lights

Dyker Heights Holiday Lights
Alison Lowenstein

To truly experience the holidays in Brooklyn, you must head to Dyker Heights and walk down 86th Street to see some of the most stunning holiday light displays. The lights were featured in a documentary, Dyker Lights, and are a true spectacle that's not to be missed. It's best to take public transportation since the streets are gridlocked. You can opt for a guided tour or you can walk around the stretch of Dyker Heights on 11th Avenue and 86th Street and just follow the lights. 

02 of 20

Watch The Hard Nut

Maybe you've scored tickets to The Nutcracker at the Met, but you should definitely add The Hard Nut to your list of holiday shows. This annual "beloved retro-modern reimagining of The Nutcracker," from the Mark Morris Dance Group and BAM is a Brooklyn tradition. The quirky performance which sets the classic tale in the vibrant 1970s is based on the comic book art of Charles Burns. The Hard Nut runs from  December 10th-18th.

03 of 20

Marvel at the World's Largest Menorah

Start the holiday at Grand Army Plaza where you can join others as you watch the World’s Largest Menorah (unless the Manhattan menorah in front of the Plaza Hotel is bigger this year) get lit for the first night. This year, Hanukkah starts on Christmas Eve on Saturday, December 24th and the lighting starts at 7pm. 

04 of 20

Indulge at a Lake Festival

Attention all foodies! Devour delish Latkes at the Latke Festival  on Monday December 19th from 6-9pm. At the festival you can sample inventive latkes from various NYC restaurants at this annual fundraiser, which raises money for the Sylvia Center. This year it's held at the Brooklyn Museum. Watch celebrity judges pick the best latke.  The seventy dollar admission gets you unlimited latke tasting as well as drinks. 

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05 of 20

Be Brave and Join the Polar Bears Club

The New Year doesn't officially begin in Brooklyn until the Coney Island Polar Bear Club takes a dip in the frigid Atlantic Ocean. You don't have to be a member to partake in the annual Polar Bear Club's swim. The event takes place at 1pm and folks assemble at the Boardwalk at Stillwell Avenue. The Polar Bear's suggest bringing warm clothes, surf boots and old sneakers. There is a forty dollar suggested donation, which benefits Camp Sunshine, you can register here or at the event. Don't forget to take a picture. An added plus, weather permitting Deno's Wonder Wheel will be open and offering five dollar rides (profits go to Camp Sunshine), and all swimmers get free admission to the New York Aquarium. 

06 of 20

Celebrate New Years Eve at Brooklyn Cat Cafe

Cat lovers must celebrate New Year's Eve surrounded by their feline friends at the Brooklyn Cat Cafe. This new cafe is hosting a Chill Cat Mellow New Year's Eve from 9pm-1am. The fifty dollar cost includes appetizers, desserts and a free glass of champagne at midnight, and free love from tons of cute cats. If you can't make it, you can watch their live kitten cam and toast the cats as the ball drops. 

07 of 20

Be nostalgic and Watch Old Christmas Cartoons

Head to Syndicated in Bushwick for some brunch and classic cartoons at this dine-in indie movie theater. Jack Frost, Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Somewhere in Dreamland and other holiday classics are on the bill for an afternoon of Classic X-Mas cartoons. The cartoons are shown at 1pm on December 10, 11, 17 & 18th. If you prefer love action, Syndicated has a month long schedule of holiday flicks including National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, Bad Santa and It's a Wonderful Life.

08 of 20

Go Indie Holiday Shopping

You can spend the day hopping around the many Brooklyn Holiday markets or you can shop on Brooklyn's trendy shopping streets filled with indie stores (no Gap, Banana Republic, etc to be found around these shopping rows). Streets to earmark on your trip--Smith Street running from Boerum Hill to Carroll Gardens, where you'll find boutiques and other shops. Franklin Avenue in Greenpoint for books, clothes and home goods. Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg for jewelry, gifts, comics, etc. Fifth Avenue in Park Slope from 16th Street to Flatbush Avenue is lined with gift shops, clothing stores, etc. Still want more recommendations? Check out our Holiday Shopping Guide and list of must visit gift shops

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09 of 20

Spend Christmas and New Years with Sea Lions

Both the New York Aquarium and the Prospect Park Zoo are open 365 days a year. Spend Christmas or New Year's Day at the zoo or the aquarium and see Sea Lions (yes, they have Sea Lions at the zoo). Bundle up since you must be outdoors for both sites. From the penguins in the New York Aquarium to watching the baboons at the Prospect Park Zoo, it's a great way to spend the holidays. 

10 of 20

Spend New Years Eve on the Brooklyn Bridge

If you want a memorable and educational New Year's Eve sign up for a walking tour across the Brooklyn Bridge. Join New York Talks and Walks for the Brooklyn Bridge Walk into The New Year.  Learn about the Roebling family and the history of this iconic bridge on a guided nighttime walking tour. Walks take place at 10:15PM and 11:15PM, and are sixty dollars for adults and thirty dollars for children. The New York City's New Year's fireworks display is visible from the bridge, so you can watch the fireworks display at the end of the tour. 

11 of 20

New Year's Fireworks at Prospect Park

Spend New Year's Eve watching the fireworks display at Prospect Park.  This year marks the 150th anniversary of Prospect Park. Start celebrating this beloved Brooklyn's park birthday on New Year's Eve
The pyrotechnics are brought to you by the Prospect Park Alliance and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams for this annual fireworks celebration and kick off. The festivities begin at eleven with live music and more. Locations for viewing the fireworks include Grand Army Plaza, the Park’s West Drive, and along Prospect Park West between Grand Army Plaza and 9th Street. 

12 of 20

Dine on Krampus Cake with the Folks from the Morbid Anatomy Museum

Think you have the holidays covered with Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanza celebrations? Head to the Bell House on December 16th at 8pm to celebrate Krampus with the folks from the Morbid Anatomy Museum at the Annual Krampus Party hosted by Ghoul a Go Go, which will feature their "infamous costume contest (with prizes), a sing-along with Night of the Krampus author Matt Lake, the alpine exotica tunes Dj Friese Undine, and a variety of thematic drinks sold by The Bell House." You can also "immortalize your costume in a photobooth designed by Kellfire Bray and Rose Callahan, bash a Krampus piñata made by Macabre Piñatas, and delight in a Krampus cake."

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13 of 20

Eat Cookies at the Cookie Takedown

As a serious cookie lover, I'm always on the hunt for the perfect cookie. You can spend the holiday season trying some of Brooklyn's best cookies or you can head to the Royal Palms, a shuffleboard club in the Gowanus for their annual cookie takedown on December 18th from 12pm-2pm. Brooklyn best cookie bakers will compete, and you can watch the excitement as you devour scrumptious cookies. Although the takedown might seem like a kid-friendly event, it's for only those twenty one and older. 

14 of 20

Meet Santa

Brooklyn might have its share of bearded hipsters, but the ultimate bearded fellow is still Santa. If you have a young one, you know that seeing Santa and getting to tour a firetruck in the same day is a mind-blowing experience for the under ten set. On Saturday, December 17th from 11:00am- 1:00pm, head to uber trendy Red Hook (199 Van Brunt Street) and get a picture with Santa, tour a firetruck, as well as engage in some arts and crafts. Skip the line at Macy's and join the locals at this event for a great cause. Twenty dollars per family and five dollars for a picture with Santa. The proceeds go to the Friends of Firefighters

15 of 20

Go to a Kid Friendly Hanukah Party

Enjoy a family friendly Hanukkah celebration at the Jewish Children’s Museum on Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights. The museum, where children can learn about Judaism through a series of interactive exhibits including crawling through an enormous challah in their play area or shopping in a kid-sized kosher grocery store. During the festival of lights, the Jewish Children's Museum hosts a series of family friendly events where kids can make hanukkah candles and eat doughnuts for the holiday. If you don't have enough gifts to get you through the eight days, don't forget to head to the gift shop.   

16 of 20

Art and Christmas merged in Dumbo

The cozy Dumbo Pearl Street Gallery, Museum Quality NYC, will function as a Christmas shop until Christmas Eve. The gallery is open Mon–Sun 11-7. The December project, organized by Savannah Elisabeth Jankosky features work by artists Yasi K, Joseph Bui, Tif XB, Nina Swistel, and Marie La Tourette is "inspired by bodegas in Brooklyn. It is an appropriated shop. It is not a Christmas shop, It is a picture of a Christmas shop. This is a shop that can be recreated within other sites; fundamentally, it is a place for artists to sell handmade goods."

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17 of 20

Watch the Brooklyn Nutcracker

The Brooklyn Ballet is performing the Brooklyn Nutcracker at the Brooklyn Museum from December 7th-11th. The updated version of the classic ballet, "transforms familiar Nutcracker characters and scenes to represent Brooklyn's diverse traditions and vibrant culture."  

18 of 20

Toast the holidays by a Fireplace

Yule log is a holiday tradition, but if the place you're staying at isn't outfitted with a fireplace, you'll have to find one. Here's our list of the best bars with a fireplace. Sip a fireside cocktail and warm up this holiday season. From a quaint wine bar in Carroll Gardens to a casual bar in Greenpoint, there are many spots to drink by the fire in Brooklyn. 

19 of 20

Go Retro at the Awesome Aughts New Year's Eve Bash

Remember when it was the turn of the century and we all worried about the effects of Y2K? Well, you don't need to hop in a time machine to experience a night filled with turn of the century music. Head to Union Hall in Park Slope to the Awesome Aughts New Year's Eve Bash, and flashback to time period that brought you the O.C and  the Cha-Cha-Slide.

20 of 20

Deck the Hall & Oates

Celebrate the holidays and one of the best things to come out of the eighties, Hall & Oates. The Knitting Factory is hosting a "holiday-injected Deck the Hall & Oates*" with "an all-star lineup of fake celebrity singers & more." Crimp your hair and spend the evening of Wednesday December 14th at this Hall & Oates tribute. It's ten bucks if you buy tickets in advance and twelve at the door. Doors open at 7:30, concert starts at 8pm.

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