10 Best Things to Do in New York City on New Year's Day

new years eve nyc times square
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Don't spend New Year's Day on your couch because there's so much to do in New York City. Kick your new year off right with these top things to do on New Year's Day, whether you want to explore the outdoors or enjoy the warmth inside some of the world's best museums. You can continue your revelry by enjoying brunch and a Bloody Mary or take your family for bowling and brunch.

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Go Ice Skating

Ice skating at Bryant Park, Manhattan, New York City, USA
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Don't let another winter slip away before you have a chance to get out on one of Manhattan's iconic ice skating rinks. Most of them are open on New Year's Day.

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Go Out for Music, Booze, and Good Eats

Bloody Mary
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A little hair of the dog that bit you can help lift you out of that New Year's Day fog. Celebrate "National Bloody Mary Day" at the landmark Manhattan bar where the boozy brunch's favorite sidekick was born: the King Cole Bar at The St. Regis New York. The first Bloody Mary was actually called the “Red Snapper” and the cocktail has since evolved and is enjoyed by hotel guests and discriminating NYC residents under the famous Maxfield Parrish’s King Cole mural.

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Visit a Museum

Museum of Natural History, Manhattan, New York, USA
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While some museums shut their doors on New Year's Day, quite a few remain open, with excellent exhibitions to boot. Among the most interesting are:

  • American Museum of Natural History: Located in Manhattan, this is the largest natural history museum in the world.
  • Whitney: The Whitney Museum of American Art, or The Whitney, is also located in Manhattan. Founded in 1930 by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, the museum houses primarily 20th- and 21st-century American art.
  • MoMA: The Museum of Modern Art underwent a massive renovation and reopened in October of 2019 and is open New Year's Day (the second branch, MoMA PS1 is closed on New Year’s Day).
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Check Out Holiday Lights Displays

Rockefeller Center, New York City.
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Maybe you didn't manage to gather any steam until nightfall on New Year's Day. No problem! Venture out into the darkness for optimized viewing of some of the season's best holiday light displays, before their lights go out for good. Have a last look at the Rockefeller Center tree and surrounding illuminations, Fifth Avenue storefronts, the festive Winter Village at Bryant Park, and the Holiday Under the Stars installation at the Shops at Columbus Circle. 

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Hit Up a Park

USA, New York, New York City, Central Park, The Mall in winter
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While the rest of the city is still in bed, start off the new year right by filling your lungs with a breath of fresh air. Central Park's grand expanse is best explored minus the crowds, so bundle up and head here on New Year's Day for a brisk and rejuvenating jog, bike ride, or stroll. The park is even hosting special First Day Hikes to help motivate you. Or use the day to explore the full expanse of the High Line—its landscapes were built to reflect all four seasons.

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Kick Back and Listen to Music

Options for booze- and music-fueled meals are plentiful across town. The Smoke Jazz & Supper Club is hosting the Countdown Quintet VI featuring Buster Williams and Steve Turre as part of a two-night John Coltrane festival. Smoke's Jazz Dinner will be served from 5:30 to 10:00 p.m. and is a great accompaniment to spectacular music.

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Delve into American History

The New-York Historical Society is open on New Year's Day. The society founded this museum as New York's first. Located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, the museum includes a children's museum, women's history exhibitions, and a variety of exhibitions featuring famous Americans and important events in our nation's history.

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Visit the Zoo

All of the zoos in NYC, except for the Bronx Zoo, are open on New Year's Day. Those open include:

The Prospect Park Zoo: This is a 12-acre zoo located off Flatbush Avenue on the eastern side of Prospect Park in Brooklyn. The zoo houses 864 animals including sea lions, red pandas, and small creatures such as frogs.

Queens Zoo: A completely outdoor zoo, the Queens Zoo covers 18-acres and is located in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens. The zoo includes wildlife from the Americas, domestic animals, a huge domed aviary, and a sea lion pool.

Central Park Zoo: The Central Park Zoo is a 6.5-acre zoo located at the southeast corner of Central Park. The zoo includes a children's zoo, a sea lion pool, and penguins.

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See the Marine Life

The New York Aquarium has freshwater and saltwater habitats. Located on the Riegelmann Boardwalk in Coney Island, the New York Aquarium is the oldest continually operating aquarium in the United States. It was originally located in Castle Garden in Battery Park, Manhattan in 1896. Since 1957, it has been located at Coney Island. You'll find exciting shark exhibits, penguins, and "aquatheater" shows.

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Go Bowling

 Brooklyn Bowl has an annual New Year’s Day Family Bowl event which features a brunch menu, drink specials, a kids’ menu and, bowling. When they open at noon, you can eat, drink, and bowl until closing at 6 p.m.

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