Nobody does the holiday season like New York City. And with kids?—even better. From the grand kickoff of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to St. Nick himself taking up residence (magically!) all over the city, Christmas in New York is the place to be. We’ve also got lightings of two larger than life menorahs (one in the Guinness Book!), and awesome Christmas lights everywhere you look. Plus: classic shows, holiday markets, out of this world train displays, and more! How many can you tackle before the clock strikes 2020? Happy happy!

photo: Mimi O'Connor

Do the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Whatever Way Works

Kick off the season the old fashioned way, with the 2019 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. 

But note there are many ways to baste that turkey. Head over to see the balloon inflation the night (or even afternoon) before, head out at the crack of dawn to knock if off your bucket list, or chill (and by that we mean stay warm) at home and watch while the bird cooks. 

Read our complete guide to doing the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade with kids, with news on what's new, and tips for watching in person. 

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Hop On a Polar Express

To really get in the holiday spirit, take a train ride to the "North Pole", complete with hot cocoa, some caroling, and a peek at the big man in red himself. We've rounded up our favorite Polar Express train experiences here! 

See a Record-breaking Gingerbread House Display

NYSCI's Guinness Book-making display Gingerbread Lane returns. It's free with museum admission, and you can make your own when you visit at a workshop if you want ($15 fee. click here for info.) Don't forget to mark your calendar for the Gingerbread Lane Giveaway on January 12, 2020 from 2-5 p.m.! Click here for more info.

Can't make it to Queens? Sign up for a Gingerbread House Workshop for kids two to eight and a caregiver at Taste Buds in Chelsea! 

47-01 111th St.
Corona
718-595-9123
Online: nysci.org

photo: Chabad of Park Slope

Celebrate Hanukkah

Mark your calendars! Hanukkah on Ice is December 22 at 5 p.m.

You can also celebrate with The Jewish Museum with Hanukkah Family Day on December 15. Click here for more info. The Jewish Museum will also host family-friendly live music concerts on December 25 with funky folky bluegrass band Nefesh Mountain. Click here for details on shows. 

And the 92Y holds its annual Glow in the Dark Chanukah Dinner on December 13 at 6 p.m. Tickets are $36. Click here for more info. 

photo: Carolina Cabanillas Photography

Celebrate Kwanzaa

Head to the Brooklyn Children's Museum for its 11th annual Kwanzaa event—the biggest family-friendly celebration in the city! Five days of culture and fun are dedicated this African-American holiday. Families can explore Kwanzaa’s seven principles: unity; self-determination; collective work and responsibility; cooperative economics; purpose; faith; and creativity.

December 26 - 31. 

Click here for more info!

See ALL the Lights

So. Many. Lights. Tiny and LED, big and colorful, in the center of Manhattan and in the outer boroughs! We've rounded up where to find them, here.

photo: photo: Rachel Wright

Singalong with hundreds of tubas at the 46th Annual Merry Tuba Christmas at Rockefeller Center

Yes, it's a thing, and it happens on Sunday, December 15, 2019 from 3:30-4:15 at the Rink at Rockefeller Center!

Online: rockefellercenter.com

Attend the 10th Annual Blessing of the Animals at Christ Church

Dogs, cats, fish, pigs, chickens, llamas and more will be on hand. Cindy Adams typically hosts; date and time TBD.

photo: Colin Miller

Hit Up a Holiday Market

So many to choose from! Our favorites include the Urbanspace's Union Square Holiday Market, and Columbus Circle Holiday Market, the Winter Village in Bryant Park, the FAD Holiday Pop-up Market in Boerum Hill, the Brooklyn Holiday Bazaar in Gowanus, the Holiday Fair at Grand Central Terminal. 

photo: Radio City Music Hall

Catch the Rockettes and their Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall

Santa and live animals make an appearance during the classic show, too!

Check Out Dazzling Holiday Train Shows

There's a free one in midtown (Grand Central's 18th annual show), and one in the Bronx at the New York Botanical Garden. 

photo: New York Historical Society

Or Hop the Train with Richard Scarry and Friends

If you've got a Richard Scarry fan in the house (who doesn't?) hop the Holiday Express at the New-York Historical this holiday season, which has been reimagined to celebrate the 100th birthday of the Busytown author and illustrator. The installation features the museum's classic and beloved train show, and showcases the artwork and graphics of Scarry, including characters like Huckle Cat and Lowly Worm! 

Nov. 1- Feb 23
New York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
Upper West Side 
 212-873-3400
Online: nyhistory.org

photo: via Queens Center Mall Facebook page 

Get a Photo With Santa Himself

Click here for our suggestions on where to find him. 

Attend a Tree Lighting

Click here for options, which range from the Big Ones, to smaller, local traditions.

photo: Classic Harbor Line

Take a Holiday Cruise

Classic Harbor Line offers a couple of ways to take a special cruise this holiday season The Cocoa & Carols Holiday Cruise invites guests inside the toasty solarium of a vintage classic yacht adorned in full holiday decor for a NY harbor cruise showcasing New York City lights. Listen and sing along to classic holiday carols backed by a live band and enjoy one complimentary beverage of beer, wine, champagne or delicious hot cocoa (spiked if your pleasure). Homemade cookies and treats included! Outings are almost daily through December 29 and depart from Chelsea Piers. Tickets are $72/adults; $48/kids. The company also runs a Holiday Brunch Cruise on a a cozy, elegant 1920s style yacht adorned in full holiday decor. Chow on a four-course brunch while seeing the NYC skyline in holiday glory! Cruise is 2 and 1/2 hours; tickets are $86/adults and $68 for kids. 

Online: sail-nyc.com

photo: Unsilent Night

Make Some Noise on Unsilent Night

Composer Phil Kline started this free event way back in 1992, and now sister events happen all over the world! Participants parade from Washington Square Park to Tompkins Square Park toting boomboxes playing an original composition of Kline's. (Bring your own boombox.) 

Sun., Dec. 15, 5:45 p.m.
Tickets: free
Washington Square Park 
West Village
Online: unsilentnight.com

photo: Photo: Marc A. Hermann / MTA New York City Transit

Ride the Nostalgia Train

For the price of a subway ride you can go back in time with the New York City Transit Museum's Holiday Nostalgia Rides!
All rides depart from 2nd Avenue on the F line in lower Manhattan, and take place Sundays between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

Info: nytransitmuseum.org

Grab a Cup of Hot Chocolate

While one of the best cups of hot chocolate in New York is no longer (we miss you City Bakery!) you can still get a top-notch around town. Click here for our favorite spots! 

photo: NYC Winter Lantern Festival

Take in the NYC Winter Lantern Festival at Staten Island's Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden

Spectacular light sculptures, shopping, live performances, and a "fun zone"! This Staten Island spectacle runs from Nov. 20 to Jan. 12!

Click here for more info!

photo: AMNH

See the Dinosaur-themed Origami Tree at American Museum of Natural History

The theme of this year's 13-foot tree is "T. rex and Friends: History in the Making" and volunteers, including local, national, and international origami artists, fold year-round, contributing to the collection of more than 1,000 models displayed on the tree. Additionally, two large, stainless steel illuminated Barosaurs will greet visitors at the main 79th Street entrance to the museum. 

American Museum of Natural History
Central Park West & 79th St.
Upper West Side 
212-769-5100
Online: amnh.org

photo: City Parks Foundation

Check Out a New Show at a Classic Venue

The Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre rolls out a new show in time for winter. (With a ticket price of $8-$12, it's easy on the holiday-season wallet, too.) Yet, Set, Snow! is the story of a young girl named Widget, and her friend, Twig, who encounter a yeti named Pascetti on the first snow day of the winter season. Unfortunately for Pascetti, who lives on a mountain top nearby,  he dislikes the snow. Through songs and snow day activities, he discovers not only that snow can be fun but also the value of friendship.

Click here for more info!

photo: ToyLab CAMP

Drop in to CAMP, the store that's always changing

CAMP—the magical store/experience that's always changing has morphed into ToyLab CAMP, an immersive shopping experience (with free fun, too) for the holidays. 

ToyLab CAMP is a store/playspace where kids explore the world of toys through play and toy testing. Visitors enter through a “fun-o-vator” from the hustle and bustle of the NYC streets into an immersive world of toys!  ToyLab CAMP features a Surprise Room, Game Room, Character Lab, Santa’s Workshop, a RaceTrack and Play Structure, and more. 

CAMP hosts free events and special workshops and appearances. Click here for more info! 

photo: Brookfield Place

See the Luminaries at Brookfield Place

Make a wish at this interactive light display!

photo: Character Arts

Catch a Holiday Show

There's lots to choose from. Click here to check out our picks of holiday theater fare for the family. 

See a Nutcracker

NYC stages no fewer than a dozen versions of the classic Christmas ballet. Find the one that's right for you here!

photo: FAO Schwarz

Visit FAO Schwarz in Rockefeller Center

The iconic toy store returned last year just in time for the holidays—here's what you'll find there!

photo: via Prospect Park Facebook page/Michael Moran

Hit One of New York City's Best Ice Skating Rinks

Choose from iconic rinks in the center of Manhattan to less-crowded ones for quality skate time. 

photo: Empire Outlets

Snag Some Holiday Bargains at the New Empire Outlets on Staten Island

In addition to outlet stores for brands like Nordstrom, Banana Republic, Old Navy, Brooks Brothers and others, this new shopping destination will have its own holiday market, a giant, 40-foot crystal Christmas tree (lit on December 3 at 6 p.m.), photos with Santa throughout the holiday season, and spots to eat like sushi and hibachi restaurant Wasabi and Shake Shack. (P.S. You don't need a car to get there; it's right next to the St. George Terminal of the Staten Island Ferry, which is a free ride!)

Click here for more info!

photo: Mimi O'Connor

Have Fun on Christmas Day

Yes, New York City is still open on Christmas Day! We've rounded up our favorite things to do on Christmas here!

photo: Kalahari Resorts

Need to Warm Up (or need a vacation week getaway)?

Check out indoor waterparks near NYC, where it's always bathing suit weather!

—Mimi O’Connor

feature image: Magical Winter Lights 

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