Courtesy Dan White

If you'd rather escape the crowds, here's what to do in New York City the day after Thanksgiving.

November 20, 2015

Black Friday means two things: rock-bottom deals and hordes of shoppers vying for the season’s must-have gifts. In New York City, where entering certain stores means wading your way through crowds any old day, Black Friday can feel like some kind of crazy, consumerist fever dream. Why not skip the chaos and take advantage of a day when most people will be crowding the department stores to experience some of the city’s attractions? Here are seven fun and quirky things to do instead of shopping.

1. Picasso Exhibit at MoMA

Culture vultures should head to MoMA to check out one of this season’s must-see exhibits. The Picasso Sculpture show gathers a hundred of the artist’s 3D pieces, which provide a fascinating counterpoint to his cubist paintings. Also on view starting November 22 is a survey of Jackson Pollock’s work. Take advantage of free Friday nights by visiting between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m.

2. Holiday Train Show at the NY Botanical Garden

The New York Botanical Garden’s holiday train show is an impressive sight to behold. This year’s promises to be larger than ever, with an additional 3,000 square feet of exhibition space in which to showcase models of New York’s most iconic landmarks, including the Chrysler Building, the Flatiron Building, and Saint Patrick’s Cathedral.

3. Have Afternoon Tea at the Pierre

Escape the crowds on Fifth Avenue and duck into the Pierre, a Taj Hotel for afternoon tea. The hotel’s elegant Two E Bar Lounge offers a classic service with tea sandwiches, scones, and pastries for $55 or $85 (the latter with unlimited champagne). The lounge also serves unique and delicious cocktails, like the Basil Smash, made with gin, orange cordial, basil, and olive oil.

4. Attend a Broadway Play

There are plenty of great shows on Broadway this holiday season both with matinees and evening performances. Hamilton, Wicked, and the Book of Mormon are among the most popular. Allegiance, starring George Takei, sheds light on what it was like to be an Asian-American in the U.S. during WWII.

5. Indulge in a Spa Day

For the ultimate in luxury, book a massage or facial at Spa Nalai on the 25th floor of the Park Hyatt New York on 57th Street. With facials starting at $240 and massages starting at $225, the treatments aren’t cheap, but will give you all-day access to the indoor pool. With its tasteful, modern design, excellent views of Midtown, and classical music piped in from neighboring Carnegie Hall, an afternoon at Spa Nalai is blissfully relaxing.

6. Hit the Lower East Side's Hidden Bars

Sure, you can drink at hidden bars anytime, but why not go when everyone else is busy? There are a plethora of clandestine cocktail bars on the Lower East Side, including Attaboy, the Back Room, and Fig. 19. If you want to avoid the crowds, the best time to go is right when they open in the early evening.

7. Magic Show at the Nomad Hotel

For some mystery and intrigue, reserve a spot at the Magician’s show at the Nomad. Charismatic magician Dan White (pictured) has appeared on Jimmy Fallon, collaborated with Kanye West on the visuals for the YEEZUS tour, and consulted with legendary illusionist David Copperfield in Las Vegas. His magic show upstairs at the Nomad will leave you enthralled. Cocktails by bar director Leo Robitschek enhance the mood.

Laura Itzkowitz is a contributing digital editor at Travel + Leisure and author of New York: Hidden Bars & Restaurants. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @lauraitzkowitz.

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