Several are open on New Year’s Day, and there is rarely a big crowd, especially early in the day, so you can get up close and personal with a painting, life-size dinosaur or real, live lions and tigers and bears.
Oh, my, there’s so much to do on New Year’s Day in New York City.
to avoid paying an admission fee.
NYC Museums open New Year’s Day
What could be more appropriate in these scary days of rising anti-Semitism in New York City and around the word than to start the year with a sobering look at what unchecked hatred can do.
“Auschwitz. Not long ago. Not far away.” is a massive exhibit of more than 1,000 artifacts and photos from more than 20 countries.
More than one million innocent souls were murdered in Auschwitz, including more than 250,000 children and relatives of NYCOTC Evelyn Kanter’s own family, in a twisted government policy of racism, hatred and anti-Semitism.
It was not just Jews, Gypsies and political opponents who were murdered. The exhibit includes one section about the little-known extermination of bi-racial children, the product of Germany’s colony in Africa, now the nation of Namibia
Auschwitz. Not long ago. Not far away. is a must-see and must experience.
Afterward, catch your breath in the Zen-like Garden of Stones, on a museum terrace overlooking the Statue of Liberty.
- The Museum of Jewish Heritage: A Living Memorial to the Holocaust is just west of Battery Park in Lower Manahttan
One of the best museums on the planet, also with a planetarium and an IMAX theater. My kids always wanted to see the dinosaurs first and dance or lie down under the life-size model of a blue whale in the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life last.
The legendary Origami Holiday Tree is on display through Jan 12.
Check out the Butterfly Conservatory, where thousands of colorful butterfles flit to charm and fascinate you.
Contemporary artworks are showcased inside an equally famous architectural wonder.
Take a docent-led tour at 2pm.
- Along Museum Mile on Fifth Avenue.
More than 30,000 works of art, artifacts and broadcast media reflecting global Jewish identity, this is one of the world’s top museums of its kind, and housed in a turn-of-the-last-century Fifth Avenue mansion.
The current main exhibit focuses on the remarkable career of Edith Halpert, the trailblazing art dealer whose influence, eye, and passion for American art championed the work of Stuart Davis, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Jacob Lawrence, Georgia O’Keeffe, Ben Shahn, and Charles Sheeler.
- The Jewish Museum is on Fifth Ave. at 92nd St.
Exhibits on all the native peoples of North and South America, from the Arctic Circle to Patagonia, with a special focus on the tribes and cultures of the USA.
Fabulous artwork, sculptures, jewelry and more.
Since this is part of the Smithsonian Institution, entry is FREE.
- NMAI is housed in a historic Beaux Arts building in Battery Park.
The society founded this museum as New York’s first, and includes a children’s museum, women’s history exhibitions, and other exhibitions featuring famous Americans and New Yorkers and how they infuenced important events in our nation’s history.
Be sure to visit the top floor, with a jaw-dropping exhibit of Tiffany stained glass lamps and ornaments, designed and produced in New York City.
And for the kids, Holiday Express is back, reimagined to celebrate the 100th birthday of Busytown author and illustrator Richard Scarry. The installation showcases artwork and graphics of Scarry’s characters (like Huckle Cat and Lowly Worm!) from publisher Penguin Random House alongside Jerni Collection toys.
Children and adults can also experience dynamic displays exploring the workings of the railroad, the services it provides, and the jobs required to keep people and goods moving. (Curated by Mike Thornton, associate curator of material culture)
Kids hop on custom-made Busytown vehicle-themed benches and take photos throughout the gallery with Busytown characters.
Also: Pick up an “I Spy” scavenger hunt at the 77th St. entrance and take your whole family on an adventure through the exhibition.
- New York Historical Society is at Central Park West and 76th St., one block from the American Museum of Natural History.
Visit the Whitney in its airy, light-filled new home in Lower Manhattan, in the Meatpacking District.
Founded in 1930 by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, the museum houses primarily 20th- and 21st-century American art, including photography. Artists represented include Ansel Adams and Roy Lichtenstein.
- The Whitney is at 99 Gansevoort St., just off West 14th St.
Re-opened in October 2019 after a massive renovation that added new exhibit space, MoMa also features films and live performances.
Make the most of your visit by checking the museum’s excellent website page of ten tips of how to make the most of your visit, including staff picks of where to eat in the area, which is midtown.
- MoMA is on West 53rd St., between Fifth and Sixth Aves
While you are in the area, check out the holiday lights between Rockefeller Center and Fifth Ave. and 57th St., including the spectacular sound and light show at Saks Fifth Ave
More than 450 exhibits including Rocket Park Mini Golf, the award-winning 60,000 square-foot Science Playground and Design Lab, this is an innovative hands-on space for those of any age interested in understanding the design and engineering process.
The feeatured current exhibit is Art of the Brick, the world’s largest display of LEGO® art.
Artist Nathan Sawaya created more than 100 pieces for this exhibition using only LEGO bricks. The collection features original pieces, as well as re-imagined versions of some of the world’s most famous art masterpieces, including the famous painting known as Scream.
More than one million LEGO bricks were used to create Sawaya’s sculptures. In addition to the LEGO artworks on display, there are activity stations where kids of all ages can create and design their own.
Through mid-January, it’s also the home of the world’s largest gingerbread house.
- The New York Hall of Science in Flushing Meadow Park.
It’s All Happening at the Zoo
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.
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.
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.
The New York Aquarium
Head for Coney Island to see everything from tiny delicate jellyfish to giant sharks, and everything in between. This is the place to earn about the word’s freshwater and saltwater habitats, and how climate change is affecting their survival.
Located on the Riegelmann Boardwalk in Coney Island, the New York Aquarium is the oldest continually operating aquarium in the United States. It opened in 1896 in Castle Garden in Battery Park, Manhattan in 1896, and moved to Coney Island in 1957.
This New Year’s Day article has been published annually since 2014, and has been updated for 2020.
Evelyn Kanter also is the author of several NYC and Hudson Valley guidebooks, including my latest, 100 Things to Do in NYC Before You Die.