As the holidays get into full swing in NYC, it’s a great time to head out and enjoy the free family-friendly events that the city has to offer! Take in the cheerful atmosphere in the December holiday markets, watch tree and menorah lightings, listen to live music, and so much more. There’s something for everyone among these free December events for NYC to visit with the kids!

photo: Times Square Alliance

New Year's Eve Wishing Wall in Times Square

Leave a wish or some kind words in the heart of Times Square. Your words will join those left by hundreds of other visitors. On New Year's eve, everyone's wishes will be launched into Times Square as a confetti of dreams. (Can't make it but want to participate? You and the family can even leave some wishes online!)

Sun., Dec. 1-Sun., Dec. 29
11 a.m.-8 p.m.
Times Square
Broadway btwn 43rd and 44th St.
Midtown
Event Details

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Le Carrousel Magique at Bryant Park

Bring some magic into your life with magic shows at the carousel in Bryant Park. Two magical performances will be held in December, led by Ben Nemzer and Mike Patrick on the first two Sundays of the month. 

Sun., Dec. 1 and 8
2 p.m.
Bryant Park
40th St. btwn 5th Ave. and 6th Ave.
Midtown
Event Details

Brooklyn Holiday Bazaar at 501 Union

Shop, eat and support local makers at this year's Holiday Bazaar. Over 40 vendors will be presenting their wares at this year's bazaar, and you'll find plenty of family-friendly fun like a photo booth and kid craft station.  

Sundays Dec. 1, 8, & 15
501 Union St.
Gowanus
Event Details

photo: Winter's Eve

Winter's Eve at Lincoln Square

Visit "NYC's largest holiday festival" for an evening of fun and food, in and outdoor along Lincoln Square. This year, Ronnie Spector & The Ronettes will be kicking off the event with the tree lighting ceremony in Dante Park (Broadway, between 63rd and 64th Ave). Explore the area to sample food, make arts and crafts and enjoy live performances in many different genres, from jazz and swing to contemporary and Creole jams. There's something for the kids, too: catch a performance by the bright and poppyTwinkle Time ice sculpting, dragon dances and more! 

Mon., Dec. 2
5:30-9 p.m.
Lincoln Square
From the Shops at Columbus Square to 70th St. along Broadway
Event Details

photo: The Shops at Columbus Circle

Broadway Under the Stars at Columbus Circle

Light shows and live Broadway tunes liven up the Shops at Columbus Circle on the first two Mondays in December. This month's music picks include Phantom of the Opera, Tootsie, Wicked, and others!

Mon., Dec. 2-9
5 p.m.
The Shops at Columbus Circle
10 Columbus Circle
Midtown
Event Details

photo: Brookfield Place

Luminaries at Brookfield Place

Luminaries is back on display this holiday season, and it's just as mesmerizing as ever. Brookfield Place will be decorated with hundreds of lit-up colorful lanterns which blink and shift colors for special light shows throughout the day, set to classic music — and the more modern rendision of “Let it Snow” by Pentatonix. Following the shows, you can even create your own mini-light show by "sending a wish" to the lanterns though any of the three wishing stations. And it's for a good cause: Brookfield Place will donate $1 (up to $25,000) to the Cookies for Kids’ Cancer charity.

Wed., Dec. 4-Fri., Jan. 3, 2020
10 a.m.-8 p.m.
Brookfield Place
230 Vesey St.
Battery Park City
Event Details

Tree Lighting at Rockefeller Center

The holiday season wouldn't be the same without this iconic tree lighting, where the gigantic tree will be placed on display and lit up for a spectacular sight. Live music and festivities accompany this yearly event, and it does draw large crowds (fair warning!). Worried about waste? Don't be: When the tree is taken down on January 17th, it'll be donated to Habitat for Humanity and be turned into lumber and put to good use. 

Wed., Dec. 4
8-10 p.m.
Rockefeller Center
Between W. 48th and 51st St. & 5th and 6th Ave.
Midtown
Event Details

Holiday Market at Columbus Circle

The shops are back at Columbus Circle! Stop by for a festive way to warm up on frigid December days, a great place to find presents for everyone on your holiday list and the best spot to grab some delicious food. Over 140 vendors will be selling everything from jewelery and homemade goodies to teas, spices and cultural food. Not sure where to start? Urbanspace has put together a handy holiday guide for visitors you can peruse before you go. 

Wed., Dec. 4-Tues., Dec. 24
Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m.-8 p.m. & Sun., 10 a.m.-7 p.m.
Columbus Circle
59th St. and Central Park West
Midtown
Event Details

photo: Elizabeth Shrier Photography

Tree Lighting Singalong at Bryant Park

Bryant Park comes to life for a spectacular Christmas celebration featuring singalongs led by the Harlem youth DREAM Choir, skating performances by world-renown skaters, visits from Santa, a fireworks show, and more! 

Thur., Dec. 5
6 p.m.
Bryant Park
40th St. btwn 5th Ave. and 6th Ave.
Midtown
Event Details

Family Astronomy at Highbridge Park

Look to the stars — and learn a bit about them, too. Join the Urban rangers for an evening of telescope-powered stargazing and learn about the science, history and folklore of the stars above us. The time of year is perfect to see other stars in the Milky Way, observe the stages of the moon, and even catch a gimpse of some meteor showers.

Fri., Dec. 6
6-7:30 p.m.
Highbridge Park's Water Tower Terrace
2301 Amsterdam Ave.
Inwood
Event Details

photo: Alexa Hoyer

Mommy and Me Double Dutch in Far Rockaway

Hop on over and skip some rope at this family-friendly double dutch competition. Register as a team of two or three and have fun skipping rope! All skill levels are welcome.

Sat., Dec. 7
11 a.m.-4 p.m.
Sorrentino Recreation Center
1848 Carnaga Ave.
Far Rockway
Event Details

Wildlife Workshop in Washington Heights

Get up close and personal with NYC's wildlife in this event, led by wildlife rehabilitator, Bobby Horvath. Kids (and adults) will be taught all about the animals that live in and around NYC, while getting a chance to greet, hold, and pet rescued animals like foxes, red-tailed hawks, eagle owls, and more.

Sat, Dec. 7
2-3 p.m.
J. Hood Wright Recreation Center
351 Fort Washington Ave.
Washington Heights
Event Details

photo: Riverside Park Conservancy

Holiday on the Hudson

This winter edition of the "Summer on the Hudson" program will have tree lighting, hot cocoa drinking, holiday decoration making, as well as live music and dancing. There's a limited supply of the crafts and cocoa, so stop by early!

Sat., Dec. 7
4:30-6:30 p.m.
West Harlem Piers
125th St. and Marginal St.
Harlem
Event Details

photo: Eryn Hatzithomas

Christmas in the Garden at the Queens Botanical Garden

Celebrate the holiday season in the Garden, with live music, tree lighting, and crafts for the kids! For a fee, kids can also get a photo with Santa and get their faces painted. This event is free but registration is encouraged.

Sun., Dec. 8
12-5 p.m.
Queens Botanical Garden
43-50 Main St.
Flushing
Event Details

photo: David Zwirner Gallery

Yayoi Kusama at David Zwirner

One of our picks for kid-friendly museum exhibits and shows this season, the latest from the high priestess of polka dots and amazing mirrored rooms at David Zwirner gallery is totally free. But it will cost you time—lines for the Infinity Mirror Room, a new one, are long. The exhibition also features paintings, sculptures and an immersive installation. 

Tickets: free
Nov. 9 - Dec. 14
537 W. 20th St. 
Chelsea
212-517-8677
Online: davidzwirner.com

Winter Nature Crafts in Staten Island

Get inspiration from nature and make some artwork! Led by Urban Rangers, this event will lead families on a quest to find materials in Blue Heron Park, then create crafts from them.

Sat., Dec. 14
11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Blue Heron Nature Center in Blue Heron Park
222 Poillon Ave.
Staten Island
Event Details

photo: iStock

City of Science in Park Slope

This yearly event lets kids get hands on with science through interactive stations and demonstrations. Learn about science, tech, engineering and math with presentations on everything from the Earth to the moon… and beyond! This year will feature a chance to build boats, smash atoms and even get hands-on with some brains (and more!). RSVP isn't required but it's encouraged.

Sun., Dec. 15
10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Park Slope Armory YMCA
361 15th St.
Park Slope
Event Details

photo: Rockefeller Center

Merry Tuba Christmas at Rockefeller Center

Nothing says Christmas like… a live tuba performance, of course! Now in its 46th year, the Merry Tuba Christmas show will be held at the Rink in Rockefeller. Get your best caroling voices ready, because the tuba ensemble will play holiday favorites for visitors (and singing is encouraged!).

Sun., Dec. 15
3:30 p.m.
Rockefeller Center
49th and 50th St. btwn 5th and 6th Ave.
Midtown
Event Details

Tinker Fest & Tree Lighting at the Lewis Latimer House Museum

Crank up the tech and make this a STEM-friendly holiday season at this Tinker Fest. Kids will be led in activities like making pop-up cards inspired by architecture and creating "jingle-bots" and light-up ornaments (that they can then take home). Finish off the tinkering with a tree-lighting ceremony in the museum garden, and some delicious hot cocoa.

Sun., Dec. 15
2:30-5:30 p.m.
Lewis Latimer House Museum
34-41 137th St.
Flushing
Event Details

photo: Unsilent Night

Unsilent Night in The Village

Give your kids a taste of the 90s by grabbing a boombox and parading through NYC blasting music in unison and enjoying good company. Composer Phil Kline will gather visitors and lend out vintage boomboxes from his personal collection and cassettes — or you can download the tracks on your phone beforehand to participate. 

Sun., Dec. 15
5:45 p.m.
Meets at the arch in Washington Square Park and ends in Tompkins Square Park
Greenwich Village
Event Details

Make Music Winter Festival

For a day in December, NYC turns into a musical playground, featuring performances and many different musical styles. Make your own music with Piano City (which places pianos in odd locations around the city), join in for some ukulele caroling, watch the harmonica parade, and many other musical moments.

Thur., Dec. 21
9:30 a.m.-10 p.m.
Various locations
Event Details

Renegade Craft Fair at the Brooklyn Expo Center

Escape from the cold with this cozy market, featuring over 230 local vendors, DJ sets and interactive stations and art. Explore the space, enjoy the festive feel, and take home the perfect indie gift.

Sat.-Sun., Dec. 21-22
11 a.m.-5 p.m.
Brooklyn Expo Center
70 Franklin St.
Greenpoint
Event Details

photo: Chabad Park Slope

Lighting of the Menorah Kickoff Event in Grand Army Plaza

How do you light a huge menorah? With a 60 foot boom lift, of course. Come watch the spectacular event, which kicks off with the first night and continues for the duration of Channukah (you can find the lighting times on the website). Each night brings with it hot latkes and drinks, as well as special gifts for the kids.

Sun., Dec. 22
4 p.m.
Grand Army Plaza
Flatbush Ave., Eastern Pkwy & Prospect Park
Park Slope
Event Details

Christmas Eve Caroling at Washington Square Park

Join in and sing along with holiday favorites in this mass caroling event, coordinated by the Washington Square Association. Not sure if you remember all the words to "Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men"" No worries: Booklets containing the lyrics to the songs will be distributed by the association at the event.

Tues., Dec. 24
5-6 p.m.
Washington Square Park Arch
Washington Square N.
Greenwich Village
Event Details

—Yuliya Geikhman

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