Photo ©AMNH/ R. Mickens
On Thursday, the week-long holiday Kwanzaa kicks off as a celebration of African American culture and heritage in the United States. From Dec. 26, through Jan. 1, New Yorkers can learn about the seven principles of Kwanzaa, or Nguzo Saba, through traditional music and dancing, kinara lighting, African folklore storytime, and a bar crawl featuring only black-owned businesses. Ahead, find the best places in NYC to celebrate Kwanzaa, from family-friendly arts and crafts and lectures at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum to live performances at Harlem’s iconic Apollo Theater.
The full list, ahead
The Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center may be the most popular conifer in New York City, with 125 million people visiting the tree each year, but it certainly is not the only one. Every holiday season, spruces adorned with colorful lights and ornaments pop up across the five boroughs. The city’s many holiday trees each offer a unique take on the tradition, which began in NYC in 1912 when the first public Christmas tree was erected in Madison Square Park. For those looking to skip the Midtown crowds this year, we’ve rounded up 20 of the best holiday trees and lighting ceremonies, from the origami tree at the American Museum of Natural History to the flotilla of trees in Central Park’s Harlem Meer.
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Photo via Flickr cc
This year, the American Museum of Natural History celebrates its 150th anniversary. Though best known for its spectacular T. Rex skeletons and incredible hanging blue whale, the story of this Upper West Side museum isn’t just one of dinosaurs and dioramas. For example, did you know that Ulysses S. Grant laid the cornerstone? Or how about that in the 1930s, there was a proposal to build a promenade through Central Park to connect the Museum with the Met? Ahead, we’ve rounded up eight things you might not know about the American Museum of Natural History.
A rendering of the front façade of the Gilder Center (L) by Studio Gang, 2019; Center interior (R) by MIR and Studio Gang, 2019.
Following delays caused by a lawsuit aimed at protecting the adjacent, city-owned Theodore Roosevelt Park, a groundbreaking ceremony on June 12 officially kicked off construction of the American Museum of Natural History’s new Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation. Designed by architect Jeanne Gang—who was initially brought on board the project seven years ago—the $383 million Center will add new galleries, classrooms, a theatre, and an expanded library while linking 10 museum buildings for better circulation throughout the campus. Originally slated to open in 2020, the construction process is expected to last three years.
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It’s sometimes hard to see New York’s romantic potential, considering the city’s sheer quantity of subway rats and mysterious street sludge. But despite some of New York’s less love-inspiring qualities, there are a lot of beautiful, heart-stopping spots that set the right tone for romance, even if you have to contend with yellow snow on your way home. Just in time for Valentine’s Day, we’ve rounded up our 10 favorites, from a medieval monastery to a cozy restaurant haunted by Aaron Burr to tried-and-true favorites like the top of the Empire State Building.
Love is in the air
Rendering via Studio Gang
In October, plans by Studio Gang to expand the American Museum of Natural History and create the Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education and Innovation were stopped in their tracks after New York State Supreme Court Justice Lynn Kotler issued a temporary restraining order. A lawsuit had been filed by a community group opposed to the expansion on the grounds that it would destroy public parkland and threaten the surrounding environment. Judge Kotler on Monday ruled in favor of the museum in a decision confirming that all appropriate procedures in preparation for the project were followed. The decision will allow the museum to proceed with the $383 million expansion project.
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Rendering via Studio Gang
As 6sqft previously reported, last October the architects at Studio Gang tweaked their proposal for the American Museum of Natural History expansion to preserve more public parkland–and the Landmarks Preservation Commission unanimously approved the plans. Now, Curbed reports, those expansion plans have been put on hold after a temporary restraining order (TRO) was issued against the Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education and Innovation by New York State Supreme Court justice Lynn Kotler. The TRO follows a lawsuit filed by a community group that has been opposed to the expansion, saying it will destroy the park, cause trees to be removed and endanger the safety and environment surrounding the construction area.
How big a setback is this?
Photo of the Theodore Roosevelt Park via Wikimedia
Surrounding the American Museum of Natural History, the Theodore Roosevelt Park stretches from 77th to 81st Streets between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue. For years, the city has fenced off its green space, not allowing park visitors to touch the lawns. But this summer, as part of a pilot program, the city’s parks department will open two lawns in the Upper West Side park, according to the West Side Rag. From Memorial Day Weekend until September 30, the Northwest and Southwest Lawns will open to the public, officials announced at a community board meeting.
Details this way
Photo courtesy of the American Museum of Natural History Library
Back in 1968, the staff and contractors at the American Museum of Natural History got to constructing, mounting, and finally hanging the 94-foot fiberglass-and-polyurethane blue whale model that’s become an icon of the museum. Though the hulking whale looks like it’s been hanging from the Hall of Ocean Life ceilings since the museum’s opening, it’s actually the second version of the installation. According to Slate, the museum made the decision in the early 1960s to overhaul a paper-mâché model hung in the early 20th century because it looked outdated. The replacement was set to be nothing less than dramatic: a display to “create the illusion of having joined the whale in its own domain,” as As Alfred E. Parr, oceanographer and past director of the AMNH, wrote at the time.
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The holidays turn New York City into a bright, illuminated wonderland that even the biggest Scrooge among us can enjoy. While there are plenty of events to choose from, like alternative holiday markets and glittering art installations, many of these activities can be jampacked with tourists. For those looking to learn more about their own holiday traditions, or understand others, there are lots of low-key, educational events perfect for history buffs looking for a quieter holiday experience. Ahead, check out 6sqft’s guide to the best holiday events in New York City that come with a historical twist, from Christmas to Hanukkah to Kwanzaa.
This way for our top-10 picks