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!
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.
Get a Tree!
Find a nice live one at one of our favorite NYC area Christmas tree farms!
Not up to the outing? Here's how to get a Christmas tree delivered to your door in NYC!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
Washington Square Park
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.
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!
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!
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
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.
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!
See the Luminaries at Brookfield Place
Catch a Holiday Show
There's lots to choose from. Click here to check out our picks of holiday theater fare for the family.
Grab a Sled and Hit the Hills
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!
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!
Hit One of New York City's Best Ice Skating Rinks
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!)
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!
Need to Warm Up (or need a vacation week getaway)?
Check out indoor waterparks near NYC, where it's always bathing suit weather!
feature image: Magical Winter Lights