Here Comes SantaCon 2017: When It Starts and Where It Goes

Santacon NYC
(Source: Alex Fitzpatrick via Flickr Creative Commons)

Last December, as I was wrapping up a morning run along Second Avenue, I was brought to a complete stop. My heart started racing. I felt like I was in Jurassic Park, in the scene when the children see the water rippling as a T-Rex approaches them. And, what caused this reaction, you might ask? A woman dressed in a skimpy Santa outfit and a man dressed as a claymation snowman. It was happening, and I needed to get to the grocery store to stock up on snacks for the day before barricading myself inside my apartment. SantaCon 2016 had arrived.

And like clockwork, here we are again. SantaCon 2017 hits NYC this weekend. Here are some need to know deets:

When is SantaCon NYC 2017?

Santacon 2017 is on Saturday, December 9, 2017. For serious SantaCon revelers, The official start time is 10 am. Other less devout revelers show up when they feel like throughout the afternoon.

Where is SantaCon NYC 2017?

Most of the bars participating will be in Midtown or in the East Village. Make sure the pubs on your crawl allow SantaCon participants. SantaCon NYC has gotten a bad rap among local bars, causing some places to refuse service to anyone dressed up. There’s typically a $10 cover charge to enter participating bars, which is then donated to charity.

Where Does SantaCon NYC 2017 Start?

As is SantaCon tradition, the start location of the pub crawl is not announced until the night before. THe Facebook page for SantaCon NYC 2017 recommends the following for navigation tips:

Text “FOLLOW SANTACON” to 40404 for route updates. Text “STOP” to end texting. You can also follow at @santacon for route updates throughout the day.

How SantaCon NYC Got Started

According to, the event began as a small, but seemingly rowdy, street party in San Francisco in 1994. After two successful cons in San Francisco, the event spread next to Portland, and then grew in popularity from there. Today, there are 24 cities around the world, from Albuquerque to Shanghai, that will be hosting SantaCon events in December. New York City’s is on Saturday, Dec. 10.

SantaCon NYC
(Source: Matthew Hurst via Flickr Creative Commons)

In its NYC debut, the event seems to have been nothing like the egregiously massive pub crawl that it is known as today. According to reports, in 1998, a San Franciscan transplant led a merry group of Santas up Fifth Avenue in a flash mob, singing Christmas carols to passersby as improvised performance. As the number of participants in the flash mob-style event grew each year, so the innocent nature of the event has diminished. Recently, as many as 30,000 people have joined in the event and I don’t think any New Yorker would go on record saying that it is a day full of simple and fun holiday spirit.

From Carols to Noise Complaints

Since 2012, various neighborhoods along the typical SantaCon route have lodged complaints about event participants, citing rampant and destructive public drunkenness, intoxication, vomiting, and urination. While the official SantaCon guidelines do not condone public intoxication, everyone knows that this doesn’t deter anything.

According to Naked Apartments’ research, noise complaints recorded by 311 skyrocket on SantaCon Saturdays. Over the past five years since SantaCon has hit NYC, the neighborhoods that have figured as the epicenter of activity have seen surges in noise complaints that Saturday over typical Saturdays. 311 complaints begin to amass much earlier in the day on SantaCon than they do on any other given Saturday, in line with the event’s early afternoon start time.

Midtown East, famous for its Second Ave stretch of sports bars and other bro-heavy hang-outs like the Ginger Man and Foxy John’s, sees a 252 percent increase in noise complaints on SantaCon Saturdays. Head further north on Second Avenue and the revelry continues on the UES and in Yorkville where the spike in noise complaints on SantaCon Saturdays clock in at 182 percent and 173 percent above normal. (These percentages represent the five-year average between 2011 and 2015.)

SantaCon NYC
(Source: Marques Stewart via Flickr Creative Commons)

SantaCon NYC Hits the East Village Hard

Although Greenwich Village and the East Village both see significant increases in noise complaints on SantaCon Saturdays (159 percent and 146 percent above average Saturdays), it is interesting to note that the Lower East Side does not record major changes in noise complaints. The LES was once the nadir of SantaCon hellions, but after public outcry following a particular egregious SC celebration a couple years back, Community Board 3 (which oversees the Lower East Side and Chinatown) has officially banned conning activities from their neighborhoods.

In response to limited Manhattan territory, SantaCon organizers tried to move the event to Bushwick for a few stops on their trek, but when residents of the neighborhood caught wind of this, they proposed a ban on Santas, with many bars agreeing to put up signs saying that they would not be serving costumed revelers. Eventually, the city refused to issue a permit to the organizers who wished to kick off the event in a park in the neighborhood. As result, grateful Bushwick residents avoided the storm that typically descends Murray Hill, East Village, and Williamsburg haunts during SantaCon.

SantaCon NYC
(Source: Marques Stewart via Flickr Creative Commons)

Where Do All These SantaCon Crazies Come From?

It’s not a cold, hard fact, but a very probable hunch is that most of the SantaCon revelers are not local patrons of the bars and streets they are trashing. In fact, many of the people attending the event do not even live within the five boroughs.  Enough people travel into NYC for the hedonistic mess each year that the MTA regularly bans drinking on their commuter trains for the day.

SantaCon NYC
(Source: Matthew Mendoza via Flickr Creative Commons)


You may choose to hole up in your apartment and take to becoming a social media hater or you may wish to don your sexy Santa suit outfit, grab your pocket flask and wreak havoc. Either way, it’s a tradition and encapsulates a lot that we hate and just a tiny, tiny bit of what we love about living in NYC.