Top 10 Annual Events in New York City

From SummerStage to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, here are 10 good reasons to visit the city

Macy's Great American Marching Band at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Macy's Great American Marching Band at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Macy's

Tribeca Film Festival

Tribeca Film Festival
(Tribeca Film Festival)

April 17-28, 2014

Actor Robert De Niro and producer Jane Rosenthal founded the Tribeca Film Festival in 2002 in an effort to help lower Manhattan recover after 9/11. Since then, Tribeca has screened more than 1,400 films—independents, documentaries and shorts—from 80 different countries. This year, a new award for female filmmakers, in honor of the late Nora Ephron, a director and novelist, was added to the lineup. For ticket information, visit the festival’s box office online.

Museum Mile Festival

Museum Mile Festival
(Flickr user superamit)

June 2014

For one day in June, 10 museums, located from 82nd to 105th streets on Fifth Avenue, open their doors to the public for free and play host to a block-party style festival. The stretch of 23 blocks, closed to traffic, features live music, street performers, face painting and chalk drawing. Participating museums include the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim, the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum (which will open its doors in 2014 after a renovation) and the Jewish Museum.

Central Park SummerStage

Central Park SummerStage
(City Parks Foundation)

June to August, 2014

SummerStage, held in 17 parks in all five New York City boroughs, is a series of 100 free shows, featuring American and international music, modern dance and spoken word performances, and family-friendly concerts. This year’s series includes performances by the band She & Him, the Metropolitan Opera and several dance companies. Since space is limited, get to the venues early; lines often form more than an hour before gates open when popular artists are set to perform. SummerStage’s main site—also its best—is the outdoor stage in Central Park’s Rumsey Playfield.

New York International Fringe Festival

New York International Fringe Festival
(James Wulfsong)

August 8-24, 2014

The New York International Fringe Festival is the largest multi-arts festival in North America, bringing together people from multiple disciplines: playwrights, composers, choreographers, directors and performers. More than 200 theatrical companies from around the world perform in 20 downtown venues. Visitors can take in any of the festival’s 1,200 performances over 16 days in August. Tickets cost $15.

U.S. Open

U.S. Open
(Flickr user Bengt 1955)

August 25 to September 8, 2014

Every year, the 26-match U.S. Open takes place in Queens. For two weeks starting in late August, professional tennis players take a swing at winning the final major in the Grand Slam, which also includes Wimbledon and the Austrailian and French Opens. It was here that Tracy Austin, a pigtailed 16-year-old, beat tennis great Chris Evert to earn the title in 1979 and Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi got a standing ovation before the fourth set of a well-contested quarterfinal in 2001 (Sampras prevailed). In recent years, the daily average attendance has inched up to 28,000 at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Event officials hope to add 10,000 bleacher seats to the site in the near future. A variety of ticket plans are available for the general public.

Feast of San Gennaro

Feast of San Gennaro
(Flickr user Phil Davis NY)

September 11-21, 2014

The Feast of San Gennaro, an annual, 11-day Italian festival draws nearly 1 million visitors to Little Italy each year. The feast celebrates Italian-American culture with religious processions, parades, live music, food vendors and a cannoli-eating competition. The contest is a serious endeavor, endorsed by the International Federation of Competitive Eaters; challengers must eat as many cannoli as they can in six minutes. Halfway through the festival, a statue of San Gennaro, the patron saint of Naples, is carried from its permanent home at Most Precious Blood Church along Mulberry and other streets in Little Italy.

New York Chocolate Show

New York Chocolate Show
(Flickr user ajagendorf25)

November, 2014

Each year in November, chocolatiers and pastry chefs from around the world convene at a chocolate festival, staged in a massive 13,000 square-foot exhibition space. The expo includes live demonstrations by confectioners and chefs, book signings with food writers and free samples from numerous chocolatiers. Visitors can watch chefs make cake and pastries from scratch in live demonstrations and peruse chocolate sculptures. Previous shows have featured fashion shows with chocolate-clad models and workshops for kids, who can make candy jewelry and decorate their own chef hats. The chocolate show allows local confectioners to debut and sell their newest creations.

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
(Macy's)

November 27, 2014

New York City is known for parades of all kinds, but the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade reigns supreme. A tradition since 1924, the celebration gets bigger, with more live performances and larger floats and inflatable balloon characters each year. Today’s parade features more than 10 marching bands, 30 parade floats, 1,500 dancers and cheerleaders and nearly 1,000 clowns. The spectacle draws more than 2.5 million spectators to the 2.5-mile route, which begins at 77th Street and Central Park West and ends at Macy’s flagship store in Herald Square at 34th Street and 6th Avenue. Parade regulars know to arrive early, before 6:30 a.m., and many do so to compete for the best viewing spot, between 61st and 72nd on Central Park West.

Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting

Rockefellar Center Tree
(Flickr user angelocesare)

December, 2014

Hundreds brave the sometimes frigid temperatures and try to get as close as possible to the giant evergreen, coated with more than 25,000 lights, at the annual Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting in early December. The ceremony, televised live since 1966, features live musical performances. The first tree at Rockefeller Center, located west of Fifth Avenue from 47th Street to 51st Street, was placed in 1931. In 1948, the tallest tree to date was lit up: a 100-foot-tall Norway spruce from Connecticut. Rockefeller Center scouts spend the year searching for the perfect evergreen in backyards, and people mail in photos to nominate their trees. The Rockefeller Center tree remains lit until the week after New Year’s Day.

Times Square New Year's Eve

Times Square New Year's Eve
(Countdown Entertainment)

December 31, 2014

Every December 31, 1 million people crowd into the heart of Manhattan to ring in the New Year and watch the crystal ball drop from the One Times Square tower. The celebration in Times Square dates back to 1904, with the first held to commemorate the official opening of the new headquarters of The New York Times. The paper of record moved out of the tower a decade later, but by then the tradition had firmly taken root. In 1948, CBS broadcast the first televised celebration, which today attracts more than 20 million viewers. The evening features musical performances, fireworks and a classic shower of confetti at the stroke of midnight. The best places to watch usually fill up hours before the New Year—the dedicated usually arrive at 43rd Street and Broadway at 3 p.m. As sections fill up, police officers seal them off, and crowds can reach all the way to Seventh Avenue and 59th Street.