New York City’s multiple Jewish museums are open and all have special family programs, concerts and must-see exhibits.
The Big Apple Circus has several performances each day this week, and NYC zoos and the aquarium are open, too.
Here’s what to do FREE and cheap in NYC on Christmas Day, and also the rest of the week.
Donate your old one to New York City’s poor and homeless, via the annual New York Cares Winter Coat Drive.
This historic Lower East Side synagogue offers a toe-tapping Klezmerfest‘s Klez For Kidz program.
It’s a high-energy romp through klezmer, Yiddish, and Jewish culture that will have everybody dancing in the aisles of the historic and beautifully restored sanctuary.
Clarinetist Greg Wall’s band Klezmerfest! will have the whole family singing, dancing and dabbling in Yiddish at this popular annual Christmas Day event.
- Concerts are at 12pm and 2pm.
- After the concerts, visitors are welcome to stay and enjoy the Museum’s exhibitions
- Tickets are $14 for adults, $8 for seniors and students. Children 5 and under are free.
- Museum at Eldridge Street is at 12 Eldridge Street on the Lower East Side
On Christmas Day, hear the vibrant blend of bluegrass, Celtic, and Appalachian tunes with a Jewish soul, as Nefesh Mountain performs original melodies from their heralded album Beneath the Open Sky.
Enjoy a full morning program incuding Picture This! gallery tour, Studio Art Session art workshop, storybook reading, and the concert within one ticket price: $25 per person and $22 for Jewish Museum family members.
- Concert tickets are $18 (same price as as year) and include museum admission
- Nefesh Mountain performs two concerts, at 11:30am and at 2pm.
- Purchase tickets here
- Museum admission is $18 adult, $12 senior and $8 student
- Jewish Museum is at 1109 Fifth Ave. at 92nd St.
- Admission is FREE on Saturdays
About Nefesh Mountain
The multi award winning singer, songwriter and author Doni Zasloff has a unique background in singing, musical theatre and Judaism. Also known as Mama Doni, she produced 8 children’s albums relating to Jewish themes and holidays with a playful funky twist.
Multi-instrumentalist Eric Lindberg brings his Jazz and Classical background to the acoustic forms of Bluegrass and Old-Time music. After graduating with honors from Mason Gross School Of The Arts with a degree in Jazz performance he has toured extensively throughout the United States, Europe, and the Middle East.
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See the Core Exhibition of hundreds of photos and other artifacts of the Jewish experience, and special exhibitions, including special FREE docent tours. There is a special tour at 3pm on 12/25, as there is every Tuesday at 3pm. All three floors of the Core Exhibition are covered: Jewish Life a Century Ago; The War Against the Jews; and Jewish Renewal.
Be sure to visit the Zen-like Garden of Stones, overlooking the Hudson River. It’s a quiet, contemplative spot, ideal any time of year, including on Christmas Day.
Man’s inhumanity to man is on display here, too, in a massive and sobering 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, in a twisted government policy of racism and anti-Semitism, which – sadly – is on the rise again around the world.
The Museum’s café, LOX at Café Bergson, will be open.
The Museum of Jewish Heritage is near Battery Park, at 36 Battery Place.
- Admission is $12 adult, $10 senior, $7 student and FREE to NYC public school students and educators, and to active duty military personnel.
- The Auschwitz exhibit requires a timed-admission ticket.
The only museum in North America dedicated to math, and far from boring. Explore the connection between math and music, discover how a bicycle with square wheels rides smoothly over a rough surface, ponder why a pentagon-shaped bathroom sink is more efficient than a square one; play with algorithms that make lights change color when you move your body, and more.
Featured current exhibit is Math Unfolded, an Exhibit of Mathematical Origami Arti, through January 5, 2020
- $18 adults, $15 children, students and seniors
- National Museum of Math, also known as MoMath, is at 11 East 26th St.
Go to the circus
Like seeing real-life superheroes in action, enjoy some of the world’s top circus acts and sets them lose in an intimate one-ring setting, under the Big Top in Lincoln Center..
Big Apple Circus is a vital part of showstopping New York entertainment. Its brand new show hits Lincoln Center for more of the wild and boundary-pushing circus entertainment you’d expect.
It’s an annual treat for visitors, and also for those of us lucky enough to live year-round in the greatest city on the planet.
- Discount tickets start at $25 for performances during Christmas Week and New Year’s Week.
- Prices drop to as low as $10 after January 5th.
Visit the Animals
Go to the Movies
Spend the day with dance, in a special 3D showing of Cunningham, about the legendary dancer and choreograher.
Here’s the review:
One of the most visionary choreographers of the 20th century, Merce Cunningham could also be counted among its great modern artists, part of a coterie of important experimenters across media that included Robert Rauschenberg, Brian Eno, Jasper Johns, and his long-term romantic partner John Cage.
This painstakingly constructed new documentary both charts his artistic evolution over the course of three decades and immerses the viewer in the precise rhythms and dynamic movements of his choreography through a 3D process that allows us to step inside the dance. Director Alla Kovgan has created a visceral experience that both reimagines and pays tribute to Cunningham’s groundbreaking technique. A Magnolia Pictures release. An NYFF57 selection.
Spend the day with the iconic Frank Capra classic It’s a Wonderful Life, The Two Popes or The Irishman and other films.
- Subways and buses will run on a Sunday schedule.
- Staten Island Railway will run on a Saturday schedule.
- LIRR trains will run on a weekend schedule with off-peak fares all day.
- MetroNorth trains will run on a special holiday schedule with hourly service on most line segments, and regular weekend service on all branch lines.
What are your plans for Christmas Day?
Posted originally in 2015 and updated annually, including for 2019
I’m also the author of several NYC and Hudson Valley guidebooks, including my latest, 100 Things to Do in NYC Before You Die.