There are some things in New York you can always count on: the mind-blowing fireworks display over the Hudson River on July 4th, delightful department store window displays at Christmas time, and if you see an empty subway car during rush hour, it probably doesn’t have air conditioning. OK, that last one isn’t so much an annual event as New York’s version of Murphy’s Law, but you know what we mean. New Yorkers know that the annual events our city is known for just get better every year. So why not plan your trip around one?
You don’t have to be a kid to enjoy the sight of a giant Buzz Lightyear floating over Times Square. Millions of New Yorkers line up hours ahead of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade for prime viewing spots. One way to avoid the wait would be to book your stay in the city at a hotel with a view of the parade (like the Millenium Broadway, for example). Another way to see the balloons up close is to watch as they’re blown up by the American Museum of Natural History the night before the parade.
The other main event that kicks off the holiday season in NYC is the annual tree lighting at Rockefeller Center, featuring performances by stars so big they rival the one at the top of the tree. Even if you miss the lighting, you can see the tree throughout the holidays. Take a spin around the outdoor rink or head up to the Top of the Rock while you’re at Rockefeller Plaza.
Of course, the holiday season’s biggest event is New Year’s Eve in Times Square. A million visitors from around the world attend this massive street party every Dec. 31 to see the famed Waterford Crystal ball drop.
Spring, meanwhile, brings its own bevy of annual events: the New York International Auto Show at the Jacob Javits Center gives car lovers a sneak peek at new models every April; in late May, the Parade of Ships kicks off Fleet Week, an annual event that brings thousands of sailors to the streets of New York. The week of events includes ship tours, military demonstrations, and free Broadway performances at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum.
Cinephiles look forward to the Tribeca Film Festival, which screens hundreds of new films every April at various locations around lower Manhattan. Post-film Q&A’s with the director and actors make seeing the internationally acclaimed new films a truly exciting experience. The New York Film Festival, meanwhile, kicks off in late September each year. Produced by the Film Society of Lincoln Center, this festival features an average of 28 feature films and 12 short films selected each year. At the same time (early October) the New Yorker Festival hosts dozens of panel discussions and Q&A’s with actors, performers, writers and great thinkers, as well as film screenings, readings, and performances.
A number of notable sporting events also take place every year in NYC. Of course, the Yankees’ and Mets’ season openers are big draws in the spring. But so are the Belmont Stakes, the third and final leg of the US Triple Crown Thoroughbred horse racing series each June, and the U.S. Open, which brings tennis fans to nearby Queens for five different event championships over two weeks at the end of August.
Back to the July 4th fireworks: Sponsored by Macy’s, the legendary display launches 40,000 shells from six barges on the Hudson River. The fireworks can be viewed Hoboken and Weehawken in New Jersey and from any point on the West Side Highway, south of 45th Street. An even better way to enjoy the fireworks would be from the water aboard a boat. New York Water Taxi and Manhattan by Sail, among others, host special tours for prime firework viewing.
The summer months are also parade season in NYC, with thousands of visitors joining locals in celebrating, among others, the Pride Parade (June), the Puerto Rican Day Parade (June), Dominican Day Parade (August), and the West Indian-American Day Parade (Labor Day), the largest cultural event in the city that gathers nearly 3 million people to celebrate Caribbean culture.