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7 things to do in NYC this weekend with non-exhausting levels of crowds and tourists

This week is utter and total pandemonium in many pockets of the city.

Austinites like to leave town during SXSW. New Orleanians near the parade grounds rent out their houses during Jazz Fest.

But what do New Yorkers do if they’re in town the week between Christmas and New Year’s? No matter how you try to warn them, visitors always want to see the tree or Central Park, or walk the Brooklyn Bridge … along with the millions of other holiday visitors.

While we can’t predict the future, here are some ideas for enjoying this week without the worst of the crowds.

Get tonkatsu and go to Tomi Jazz

Okay, this is definitely still Midtown. But if you’ve been dragged out to brave the tree at Rockefeller Center or have a stop at Grand Central, head east for some of the best Japanese food in the city. Katsu-Hama’s panko-crusted Berkshire pork loin is incredibly light and tender, and their katsu curry and katsudon are also standout options. Nearby Totto Ramen and Okatte Tanto are among the neighborhood’s many offerings. Afterward, a stop at Tokyo-style speakeasy Bar Orai (21+) or Tomi Jazz (kids welcome) should help you settle down from the day.

Park Asia dim sum restaurant

Nathan Bajar for Gothamist

Eat in Sunset Park Chinatown before braving the Dyker Heights lights

Okay, holiday crowds aren’t limited to Midtown. But if you want to avoid a hurried, hangry walk – or worse yet, a standstill drive – through the light display in Dyker Heights, stop off in Sunset Park along the way for regional Chinese options, including standout Cantonese dim sum houses like East Harbor Seafood or Golden Imperial. Or you can find Hunan, Sichuan, Taiwanese food and more around the neighborhood or at famed food courts like the one inside Fei Long Market. For more inspiration, here’s a guide of where to eat in Sunset Park’s Chinatown, from chef Calvin Eng.

Cruise around the island with the Circle Line

It can be easy to forget we’re in an archipelago. For 75 years, Circle Line’s flagship cruise (tickets start at around $46) has taken sightseers around the entire island, offering lesser-seen views by going up the Harlem River and through Spuyten Duyvil Creek. There’s no better way to see the skyline up close and unobstructed. For more info on Circle Line’s schedule and pricing, visit their website. And if you want a cheaper, albeit less comprehensive option, there’s always the ferries: NYC ferries, Staten Island Ferry, Hudson River Ferries and even the free IKEA ferry for scenic views of Red Hook.

The box office at the Metrograph in the Lower East Side

Photo by Jeremy Liebman / Courtesy of the Metrograph

Curate your own film festival

There’s no shortage of rare or unusual screenings this weekend, alongside the regular megaplex fare. Film Forum is showing new restorations of “The Third Man” (on 35mm) and “Days of Heaven” (in 4K). Metrograph adds “Magnolia” to its traditional New Year screenings of “Phantom Thread” and “Eyes Wide Shut” on celluloid, along with other offerings. And the IFC Center is showing morning matinee classics like “The Muppets Take Manhattan” to midnight movie crowdpleasers like Indiana Jones.

Eat in Astoria before settling in at MoMI

If you’d prefer to avoid Manhattan, the Museum of the Moving Image is hosting a retrospective of director Todd Haynes’ work. It’s showing films up through his latest, “May December,” which has already bagged several laurels before awards season even gets into full gear. While you’re there, you can also check out the museum’s long-standing Jim Henson exhibit. To make a day of it, stop through one of Astoria’s many eating enclaves, from the Levantine establishments lining Steinway Street – you can’t go wrong with Zyara or Duzan, and Al-Sham Sweets – to Pye Boat Noodles or the classic Greek restaurants closer to 35th Avenue.

The Big Apple Circus is on now through Jan. 15 at Lincoln Center

Photo by Kerry Shaw / Gothamist

See the Big Apple Circus before it leaves the big top

You won’t find lions, tigers or elephants at this year’s Big Apple Circus. But you will find charming clowns, creative costumes, expressive dancers and a live band. Plus there are several stunning trapeze artists and aerialists who manage to evoke emotion and awe in every act. The show is a little over two hours, with a 20-minute intermission, and there’s an act to dazzle guests of all ages. It’s on now through Jan. 15 under the tent at Lincoln Center. And it’s cheaper than most Broadway shows, with tickets starting at $25. Admission is free for kids 3 and under who sit on their parent’s lap.

La Monte Young, Marian Zazeela, Jung Hee Choi, “Dream House: Sound and Light Environment,” 2023, Installation view, MELA Foundation, New York City.

Photo by Jung Hee Choi. Copyright © La Monte Young, Marian Zazeela, Jung Hee Choi 2023.

Stroll between art galleries and installations

Many New York favorites close down during this strange twilight week of the year. But plenty of year-round gems remain open, from La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela’s Dream House, to the 24/7 viewing window at Mmuseumm. Highlights from the current gallery shows include Delcy Morelos’ stunning warehouse-sized installation at Dia:Chelsea or the massive group show by exclusively women artists at the Shah Garg Foundation, with works from Cecily Brown, Jenny Holzer, Laura Owens and dozens more. Download See Saw to stay informed of exciting art shows in town. The galleries and installations listed here are all open this weekend, but it’s always a good idea to double check holiday hours before heading out.

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