My annual New Year’s Eve last-minute guide to events that are still available to do on New Year’s Eve 2020 (when 2019 turns into 2020) in New York City
New Year’s Eve in New York means the dropping of the ball in Times Square, the fireworks in Prospect Park, the annual concert at St. John the Divine, the midnight run with fireworks in Central Park, the annual Time’s Up Bike Ride — all FREE, and all things you can decide to do at the last minute.
It also can mean obscenely expensive shows and extremely loud parties, an annual arena concert featuring Phish and a new cabaret act starring Annaleigh Ashford, a cruise in the harbor, or a dinner for two in your favorite eatery — not all of which are sold out weeks in advance.
Or you can stay at home and watch the festivities online — on this very post.
Only eight percent of Americans reportedly plan to go out on any given New Year’s Eve. For those New Yorkers (and New York visitors) who haven’t made those plans yet, here are some ideas:
From the organizers comes an overview of New Year’s Eve in Times Square, so you know what is in store for you if you decide to stand at the Crossroads of the World on December 31st.
But if you’re reading this before Saturday December 27, you might consider attending “Good Riddance Day” from noon to 1 p.m., in which participants shed bad memories of 2019? (an old bill, an ex-love note, a bad report card, a Playbill of a show you’d rather forget?) in a ceremonial shredding
on the Broadway Plaza between 45th & 46th Streets
On Tuesday — New Year’s Eve — revelers will start arriving at Times Square in the afternoon. By approximately 3:00 PM., the Bowtie of Times Square (42nd to 47th Sts. between Broadway & 7th Ave.) is fully closed to traffic. The crowd, which in the past has reached in the millions, could go as far uptown as Central Park, 17 blocks away.
Another way of saying this: If you want to be within naked-eyesight of the Times Square ball, arrive in the afternoon, and be prepared to stand immobile until the ball drops at midnight. Huddle with friends and loved ones for warmth – or make new friends.
Times Square offers an outdoor evening of entertainment, culminating in confetti, “2020” sign in lights, lots of hugging and wishing for a Happy New Year
I’ve spent three New Year’s Eves in Times Square, which is probably two more than necessary, but found each memorable. Do remember that the highlights will be televised. See What’s on TV, below.)
DINING OUT ON NEW YEAR’S EVE
Open Table lists more than 100 restaurants with “New Year’s Eve offers” Most of them offer a choice of seatings – either earlier in the evening, so that you can make it in time elsewhere for the stroke of midnight, or party-hat-equipped seatings that lead up to midnight, where you can often turn on a TV so that you can watch the ball drop in Times Square. Open Table provides all sorts of filters — you can look for a table for 2 at a “charming” French restaurant at 7 pm in your specific neighborhood.
Have a favorite neighborhood eatery that’s not listed on Open Table? Go to the place NOW, and ask them whether they will take reservations.
THEATER ON NEW YEAR’S WEEK
No Broadway shows will be offering performances on New Year’s Eve. But all but one of the shows currently on Broadway have performances on the Monday before New Year’s, 15 of them both matinee and evening performances (Mondays are usually the day off) and 9 of the shows will offer performances on Wednesday, New Year’s Day, three of them both matinee and evening performances. (You’ve got to feel a little for the casts of those shows.)
The titles are linked to my reviews.
Performance Times for New Year’s Week
If tickets are not available through the box office, try buying tickets here
(I haven’t seen five of the shows, three of which haven’t opened yet, which explains why those have no link to my review.)
Of course, New York theater is far more than just Broadway, and some Off-Broadway and Off-Off Broadway shows are not just happening, but getting into the whole excess thing that means New Year’s Eve to so many in New York. Prime example is Sleep No More, which for New Year’s Eve adds the option of a dinner plus a party, or any combination. (“Guests are to come dressed in luxe shades of midnight blue, gold, silver, or black…) The cost is astronomical — and much of it sells out.
Similarly, XIV Company offers its “Nutcracker Rouge,” (a “baroque, burlesque” not-for-children take on Nutcracker Suite) at its theater in Bushwick, followed by a party with the cast.
FAMILY SHOWS NOT ON BROADWAY
Radio City Rockettes Christmas Spectacular (two performances on New Year’s Eve, at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m..)
Big Apple Circus> (noon.)
AT NIGHTCLUBS & WEIRD PLACES (including home)
There’s a New York for almost any taste, so why would it be surprising that Eventbrite lists some 1,000 New Year’s Eve parties? .
You can dance at parties set up in Times Square venues, such as the Marriot Marquis and the AMC 42nd Street movie theater, “six floors of fun” for as little as $49 (that’s after 12:30 a.m. admission) and as much as $3,300. Most promote a great view of the ball dropping (which — do you mind my pointing out? — is an insane pitch, but apparently an effective one)
Then there are the super-hip parties in Brooklyn and Queens.
For the second year in a row, BangOn!NYC is presenting its annual bash to Maspeth, Queens, at the (aptly named?) Knockdown Center, with three musical stages, a silent disco, live painting, interactive art installations and performances, a bartering blackjack table, and more cosmic creations to transcend time and space.”
Many suggest throwing your own New Year’s Eve party, and offer vaguely insulting step-by-step tips on how to do so. The most memorable advice for throwing a party came from Joan Crawford, who was quite a partier in her day (see above). Her advice (see below) can be summed up as:
(P.S., don’t do this.)
Some concerts that will be sold out or too expensive will be available in your home, live, depending. (See TV listings below.)
An annual FREE event since 1984, when it was founded by Leonard Bernstein. Guest performers this year include Paul Winter, Judy Collins, Jamet Pittman, Jason Robert Brown, and David Briggs. (You can pay in advance to reserve a seat. Otherwise it’s first come, first served.)
This year, the New York Philharmonic will present ‘Celebrating Sondheim” with host Bernadette Peters and Katrina Lenk (The Band’s Visit, soon to star in Company), with music from Company, Into the Woods, Sunday in the Park with George, Sweeney Todd. The cancert will also be broadcast Live from Lincoln Center on PBS. (See TV listings below.)
For the 13th year in a row, Phish will perform at Madison Square Garden The bad news is that their New Year’s Even concert is already sold out. “But more tickets may become available soon.”
The Strokes, with opening act Mac DeMarco, Barclays Center, Brooklyn (indie rock)
Music Hall of Williamsburg (rock)
Gov’t Mule,Beacon Theatre (indie rock)
Kaskade, Terminal 5, Hell’s Kitchen (electro house music)
With the repeal in 2017 of the hated 91-year-old Cabaret Law, which banned dancing at all but a handful of licensed venues (fewer than 100), you could argue that life is a cabaret (or at least could be) at all 25,000 eating and drinking establishments in New York City. But “cabaret” has come to define specific genres of intimate entertainment at just a few, relatively small venues, such as those below.
Tip: Most cabarets offer two seatings on New Year’s Eve. The one earlier in the evening is far less expensive. Many of these performers return to these venues every New Year’s — a wonderful tradition that makes last-minute tickets chancy, but worth trying.
Sandra Bernhard at Joe’s Pub, late show
Natalie Douglas: A Very Natalie New Year at the Duplex — her 21st New Year’s there
Seth Sikes Celebrates New Year’s Eve with Twenty ’20s Songs for 2020 at Feinstein’s/54 Below (early show)
Annaleigh Ashford on New Year’s Eve at Feinstein/54 Below (late show)
Marilyn Maye at Birdland, early show
Annual Prospect Park Fireworks – free. at Grand Army Plaza
Big selling point of all these cruises — a close-up of the New Years Eve fireworks over the water. Most include a buffet, open bar, and dancing with a dj. Drawbacks: These cost up to hundreds of dollars (but some of the links below are to Goldstar discount deals), and many are already sold out (but there are cruises during the day on New Year’s Eve)
WHAT’S ON TV (and other home devices)
I can’t help quoting what Anderson Cooper said in 2013: “I don’t know anybody who has a fun time at a party at New Year’s Eve. That’s why I work on New Year’s Eve.”)
It will be preceded by A Toast to 2019! will air from 8 to 10 with hosts Hoda Kotb and Jenna Bush Hager, and Martin Short, Kirsten Bell, Maya Rudolph on the year’s biggest pop culture moments
Starting on December 17th — the 30th anniversary of the premiere of The Simpsons — FXX has been showing all 661 episodes. Starting at 4:30 p.m. ET on Dec. 31, FXX will air a “Best of the Marathon” marathon beginning with The Simpsons Movie and The Longest Daycare, followed by the 11 greatest The Simpsons episodes as determined by the series’ creators and viewer usage.
The Simpsons New Year’s Eve binge has been FXX’s annual tradition for a number of years, but never so extravagant.
Since 1996, WPIX has broadcast The Honeymooners marathon and this year is no different. Twenty-seven episodes of the Jackie Gleason TV series will be broadcast from 11pm to 5 a.m. on New Year’s Day.
This New Year’s Eve, catering to Binge Nation, there are an astounding number of additional TV marathons.
The Twilight Zone (12 a.m. – 12 a.m., SYFY)
Sex & the City (12 a.m. – 12 a.m., E!)
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (6 a.m. – 12 a.m., USA Network)
Doctor Who (12 a.m. – 12 a.m., BBC America)
Unearthed(4 a.m. – 10 p.m., Science)
Ridiculousness (12 a.m. – 11:30 a.m., MTV)
Moonshiners(11 a.m. – 12 a.m., Discovery)
Say Yes to the Dress (4 a.m. – 12 p.m., TLC)
Dr. Pimple Popper(12 p.m. – 12 a.m., TLC)
Log Cabin Living (12 p.m. – 4 a.m., Great American Country)
BRAVO’S BIG PICTURE (11:30 a.m. – 12 a.m., Bravo)
Flipping Vegas (12 a.m. – 10 a.m., FYI)
Ghost Hunters(12 p.m. – 12 a.m. FYI)
Love It or List It (6 p.m. – 3 a.m., HGTV)
Live PD (7 a.m. – 3 a.m., A&E)
See No Evil (4 a.m. – 8 p.m., ID)
Buying Alaska (6 a.m. – 12 a.m., Destination America)
Everybody Loves Raymond (8 p.m. – 3 a.m., TVLand)
South Park (9 a.m. – 2 a.m., Comedy Central)
The Hunger Games Trilogy(9 a.m. – 5:00 a.m., AMC)
CSI: Miami (10 a.m. – 5 p.m., WETV)
Building Alaska (10 a.m. – 7 p.m., DIY)
Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives (8 p.m. – 4 a.m., Food Network)
Law & Order: Criminal Intent (10 a.m. – 3 p.m. WETV)
Law & Order(3 p.m. – 1 a.m., WETV)
Criminal Minds (1 p.m. – 1 a.m., Ion)