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The holiday season in the city comes with a lot of headaches (just try walking down Fifth Avenue amid a thousand selfie-snapping tourists). But there are plenty of December happenings that even the Grinchiest of New Yorkers can get on board with. Here’s what to see, eat and do all month.

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summer in winter botanical gardens
Plamen Petkov

1. All those dead leaves got you down? Make a beeline for Summer in Winter, a pop-up botanical garden designed by “urban Edenist” Lily Kwong and produced by art publisher Visionaire. The lush space—created to raise awareness about climate change—features plants from 37 countries on seven continents. (Plants on Antarctica. Who knew?)

2. Pick up some of Breads Bakery’s sufganiyot—pillowy doughnuts with strawberry, chocolate, vanilla or halvah filling—for Hanukkah. Better pick up a babka pie, too, just to be safe.

3. Speaking of Hanukkah, the Olympics of potato pancakes (aka the Latke Festival) comes to the Brooklyn Museum tonight, December 3.

4. Need even more crispy, starchy goodness? Katz’s Brooklyn outpost will be giving away free latkes every night of Hanukkah, starting at 6 p.m., to the first 100 people in line.

5. Dearly departed Carnegie Deli is back, briefly: It has teamed up with The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel for a one-week pop-up through December 8. Best of all, the proceeds from those towering pastrami sandwiches will benefit the Lower Eastside Girls Club.

nickies tacos
Lauren Volo

6. Head to Austin via downtown Brooklyn at Hill Country Food Park, a new concept from the folks behind the popular barbecue spot. The Texas-sized space features six stalls including Nickie’s (Tex-Mex), Austino’s (pizza) and South Congress (coffee and breakfast tacos).

7. Or take a mini trip to Tokyo (at least in terms of ramen, tempura, onigiri and okonomiyaki) at Japan Village, a brand-new Japanese food hall in Industry City.

8. No seasonal gathering has a better guest list than Cyndi Lauper & Friends: Home for the Holidays (December 8). Featuring acts like Regina Spektor and A$AP Rocky, the charitable concert supports efforts to end homelessness among LGBTQ youth.

9. There’s a Broadway or off-Broadway show for every mood this month, from To Kill a Mockingbird (based on the Pulitzer Prize–winning novel) to The Jungle (a poignant, acclaimed show born in a refugee camp) to Clueless: The Musical (like, way existential).

winter lantern festival
Courtesy of Winter Lantern Festival

10. A Chinese tradition comes to Staten Island’s Snug Harbor with the Winter Lantern Festival, an enchanting light installation with features like an Instagrammable light tunnel, a glowing garden and light-up pandas. 

11. Experience a different kind of holiday magic with Wonders at Dusk, a new illusion show at the McKittrick Hotel. Afterward, stick around for a drink at Gallow Green’s winter incarnation, the Lodge.

12. The Apollo Theater never fails to bring the holiday cheer. This year, catch a free Winter Wonderland event, the Amateur Night Holiday Special, a holiday concert with Cynthia Erivo and Shoshana Bean, a gospel night and a Kwanzaa celebration. It’s a Christmas miracle.

la conca de sogno
Jury Insigne/Courtesy of La Conca del Sogno

13. Can’t swing a food-cation to the Amalfi Coast anytime soon? Tide yourself over at Chefs Club, where Italy’s famed restaurant La Conca del Sogno will be in residency until December 31. (The photo above shows the restaurant’s actual seaside location, in case your dinner inspires a follow-up trip.)

14. Get all the Prohibition-era vibes of one of summer’s best parties—except, you know, indoors—at the Jazz Age Tea Dance (December 16).

15. Drinking mulled wine and eating fondue is good. Drinking mulled wine and eating fondue in a yurt is better. Have it all at the Standard East Village’s charming Winter Garden, which also features a Christmas-tree market this season.

16. Skip the off-key caroling and leave it to the pros—specifically the New York Pops and Broadway's Ashley Brown (aka Mary Poppins and Belle), who'll be putting on a holiday concert, Under the Mistletoe, December 21 and 22.

queens plaza train
Richard Levine/Corbis via Getty Images

17. Marvel at the meticulously constructed cityscape at the New York Botanical Garden’s Holiday Train Show. Grown-ups should stop by for one of the Bar Car Nights, where the Bronx Night Market will be curating the food lineup.

18. Even the MTA is getting dressed up for the season with its Holiday Nostalgia Rides: Sundays throughout the month, you can hop aboard a vintage 1930s train for the price of a regular MetroCard swipe.

19. ’Tis the season for absurdly decadent holiday treats, like lavender hot chocolate pie from Maman, pretzel peppermint snaps from Milk Bar and eggnog zabaione ice cream from Republic of Booza.

20. Jazz up your December with Big Band Holidays at Lincoln Center (December 19 to 23), an evening of toe-tapping renditions of classic holiday songs with Wynton Marsalis and a roster of talented guests.

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the water tower
Liz Clayman

21. Remember those secret water tower parties? Now you can have one whenever you want at The Williamsburg Hotel’s new aptly named bar, the Water Tower.

RELATED: A Complete Guide to Williamsburg Hotels

22. For more high-altitude drinking, head to R17, the newly opened rooftop cocktail bar atop Pier 17 in the Seaport District.

23. Avoid an icing-covered catastrophe in your own kitchen and instead admire the world’s largest gingerbread village at the New York Hall of Science.

24. The New York Philharmonic takes on one of the most iconic Christmas-movie themes of all time—Home Alone—with live-scored screenings on December 20 and 21.

christmas lights ny
Richard Levine/Corbis via Getty Images

25. The residents of Dyker Heights put the extra in Xmas with holiday light displays that can probably be seen from space.

26. Make the longest night of the year (December 21) a little more palatable with Make Music Winter, a free interactive outdoor festival that brings sound-driven parades to unexpected places across the city.

27. Paul Winter Solstice Celebration, meanwhile, commemorates the changing season for three nights (December 20 to 22) with music and dance inspired by ancient rituals, set in the breathtaking venue of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.

28. Feeling brave? Dig out your swimsuit and take the plunge with the Coney Island Polar Bear Club’s annual New Year’s Day swim. (Yes, in the ocean.) 

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