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

new years eve nyc times square
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There are many things to do in New York City on New Year's Day, so don't spend the holiday on your couch. Kick your new year off right by enjoying the holiday, whether you want to explore the outdoors or soak up the warmth inside some of the world's best museums. You can continue your revelry by enjoying brunch and a Bloody Mary at the bar where it was first invented, or taking your family bowling or ice skating.

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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 which are open on New Year's Day.

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See the Birthplace of the Bloody Mary

Bloody Mary
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A little hair of the dog can help lift you out of that New Year's Day hangover fog. Celebrate "National Bloody Mary Day" in the heart of Manhattan at the landmark King Cole Bar at The St. Regis New York, where the beloved drink was reputedly created in 1934 by Fernand Petiot. The cocktail—also known as the Red Snapper—has since evolved and is enjoyed by guests of the upscale hotel and discriminating NYC residents under the famous Maxfield Parrish’s Old King Cole mural done in 1906.

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Enjoy a Beloved Museum

American Museum of Natural History, New York City, NY

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While some museums shut their doors on New Year's Day, quite a few remain open, with excellent exhibitions to view. Among the most interesting are:

  • American Museum of Natural History: Located in Manhattan and founded in 1869, this is one of the world's largest and most frequented natural museums. Exhibitions vary from The Butterfly Conservatory filled with over 500 free-flying butterflies to exploring the fossil of a Tyrannosaurus rex dinosaur discovered in the early 1900s.
  • The Whitney Museum of American Art: Also known as The Whitney, this Manhattan museum was founded in 1930 by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney and houses primarily 20th- and 21st-century American art. Check out exhibitions such as Rachel Harrison's "Life Hack" featuring photography, sculpture, drawing, and more. Enjoy Pope.L’s "Choir," a continual exploration and use of water, with a focus on 13 landmark performances the artist did between 1978–2001. 
  • MoMA: The Museum of Modern Art in Midtown Manhattan, established in 1929, is one of the biggest modern and contemporary art museums in the world, with nearly 200,000 works. Exhibitions include "Surrounds," 11 small and large installations done since 1999 by living artists. MoMA is open New Year's Day (the second branch, MoMA PS1, in Queens, is closed on the holiday).
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Check out Holiday Light Displays

Rockefeller Center, New York City.
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If you didn't manage to gather any steam until nightfall on New Year's Day, 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 77-foot tall Rockefeller Center tree and surrounding illuminations, Fifth Avenue storefronts like Bergdorf Goodman and Tiffany & Co., the festive Bank of America 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

The High Line in New York City, NY

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While many locals are still in bed, start off the new year by filling your lungs with a breath of fresh air. Central Park's grand 840-acre (340 hectare) expanse is best explored minus the crowds, so bundle up and head to the park between the Upper West Side and the Upper East Side on New Year's Day for a brisk and rejuvenating jog, bike ride, or stroll.

Or use the day to check out the High Line, a nearly 1.5-mile-long (2.3 kilometer) park elevated above the streets on the city's West Side—its landscapes were built in 2009 to reflect all four seasons.

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Relax 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 attraction includes a children's museum and a variety of exhibitions featuring women's history, as well as important events and people in U.S. history.

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Visit the Zoo

Central Park Zoo in NYC

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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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Experience 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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Take the Family 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. They open at noon, and you can eat, drink, and bowl until closing at 6 p.m.

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