The holiday season is in full swing, and that means the kids will be off from school for more than a week soon. (NYC public schools are off from December 23 to January 1.) A lot of that will likely be filled with festive happenings, but eventually, you might be looking for something to do with the kids. We have suggestions! Use the time to get out and explore the city: head to a museum you’ve never visited, climb, jump and roll at a play space, catch a movie at one of the city’s deluxe theaters or dine at a special spot. That’s just the tip of the idea iceberg. Read on for the best things to do with kids during winter break 2019!
Visit the New Year's Eve Wishing Wall
Now's your chance to be in Times Square on New Year's Eve—sort of. Stop by a Wishing Wall, located on the Times Square Plazas and write your wishes and hopes for the new year on a piece of confetti. It will be added to the masses of paper that rain down on revelers as they ring in 2020.
Visit the Museum of Ice Cream
The pop-up that seemed to start it all, The Museum of Ice Cream, is back in a big way. The three-story immersive experience dedicated to ice cream (and all things fun) includes a serious spiral slide, an ice cream-themed playground, a "ride" on an interstellar subway to "Starlem", a mini disco party and an even bigger sprinkle pool. (There's more, but why ruin the surprises?) Plus, lots of chances to eat sweet treats and a good vibes-inducing soundtrack. Honestly: we think kids might enjoy this iteration even more than grown-ups! Click here for our review and a peek inside!
Tickets: $39; kids two and under are free
The Museum of Ice Cream
Feel the Force at a Free Star Wars Exhibit
To celebrate the release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Dolby Soho has mounted a free exhibit dedicated to the blockbuster franchise. Revisit the 42-year history and get pumped for the latest installment.
Join the Circus
It's a big season for flipping and flying in New York. Take your pick: The Big Apple Circus is in town until February 2, The New Victory Theater hosts Cirque Mechanic's 42FT – A Menagerie of Mechanical Marvels and Cirque du Soleil performs its holiday show 'Twas the night Before through December 29.
Get Rolling with Lola Star at City Point
Everyone's favorite roller girl Lola Star has opened a pop-up roller skating rink at City Point! Drop in for family skating fun or a lesson. There's even a session for kids six and under! Word to the wise: get there early, as skate rental is first come, first served.
Drop in to Union Square Play for Its Holiday Pop-up
Union Square Play has partnered with Sawyer to program activities and events in December. Drop in to the 5,000-square-foot space for free and paid events and classes for children, parents, and caregivers from some of New York’s best kids activity providers and brands. Expect cooking fun, singalongs, crafting, story times and more!
Meet a Sloth
There are many cool museum exhibits to check out this winter (see all of them here) but we're especially excited about the Brooklyn Children's Museum's "Survival of the Slowest" show and its star attraction, Roger the Sloth. Yes, you can meet him and other animals that are slow and/or small and learn how they survive in a world of big and fast predators.
Head to the Children's Museum of Manhattan for a Full Week of Fun
This museum is always a happening place, but it's got tons of festive and holiday-themed activities all week long. Invent your own games and design your own toys, all while exploring a variety of holiday traditions! Activities include: making snow that doesn't melt; creating a stuffed animal, race car or board game; learning about the annual celebration of Las Posadas; crafting Kuumba drums for Kwanazaa; making dreidels and a "spin-off" contest, Nutcracker story time and more! See web site for specific days and times of each activity.
Mon., Dec. 23 - Tues., Dec. 24, & Thurs., Dec. 26 - Sun., Dec. 29
212 W. 83rd St.
Upper West Side
Go On a Holiday-themed Scavenger Hunt
The Scavenger Hunt pros at Watson Adventures have designed a special NYC holiday season hunt for you and the kids. On your quest, visit iconic spots like Rockefeller Center and Fifth Avenue windows, as well as locations made famous in movies like Home Alone 2: Lost in New York and Elf! (Recommended age is 10 and up.)
Get Your Sled On
Don't forget—it might snow! If so, grab your sled, bundle up, and get ready to to sled a hill or two. If you're not sure where to go, check out our list of great sledding spots in NYC.
Or Head for the Hills for Snowtubing!
There may or may not be snow here, but up north, it's falling—and they make their own, too. Check out our favorite places to tube here!
See a Light Festival
Just because it's late December doesn't mean the holiday lights are gone. In fact, there are several festivals of lights and lanterns ready to wow you and the kids. Click here for the full rundown!
Catch a Flick (or Three)
So many movies, so much time! Will it be Frozen 2 or Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker? Or perhaps a vintage favorite? Take your pick at one of the many deluxe movie theaters for kids and families in NYC, including dine-in theaters like The Nitehawk Cinema Prospect Park, iPic in the Seaport District and the Alamo Draft House. Click here to find all of NYC's family-friendly theaters!
Head to the Microsoft Store for a Minecraft Build Challenge and Frozen 2 Coding
From December 23-31 from 3-5 p.m., kids can join a Minecraft Build Challenge at the store. Players will put their creativity, teamwork, and Minecraft skills to the test in these fun 90-minute events. Attendees will be given imaginative topics and placed into teams where they must quickly assign roles, plan their project, and race against the clock to build their structure.
Also from Dec. 23-31, the store will host a Mini Makers Series: Disney Frozen 2 Coding Kit Workshop. This free, one-hour workshop introduces students ages six and up to the foundational concepts of coding. Kids can see the code behind any creation, then tweak it to make snowflakes, create blizzards, and conjure an ice palace. Participants will follow simple steps with drag-and-drop code blocks and discover new powers. By the end of the workshop, students will be able to define basic coding concepts; use their imagination to customize their own coding projects, and explain the relationship between hardware and software in coding.
Dec. 23-31, See store website for times
677 Fifth Ave.
Get a Mani/Pedi
Sure, you can get a mini mani or pedi at one of the regular salons around town, but why not make it extra fun with a kiddie-focused place? These are our favorite salons for kids!
Warm Up at an Indoor Playground
If your kids are suffering from cabin fever, take them to a local indoor playspace so they can burn off some of that excess energy. Kids can climb and jump their little hearts out, without the worry of wrecking your furniture. Check out this list of the best indoor playgrounds in NYC. For our favorite Brooklyn spots, click here. For our favorite Queens spots, go here! (Mini Play Land, pictured above, is one of them.)
Drop in to Sony Square NYC for a Free Jumaji VR Experience
Sony is celebrating the release of Jumanji: The Next Level with a free installation and VR experience dedicated to the new movie. "Sonic Surf VR" combines advanced audio processing with a multi-channel speaker technology to create spatial, dynamic soundscapes. Visitors experience themed soundscapes without needing headphones, as they "trek through" Jumanji’s desert, jungle, and snowy mountain top—viewed on Sony's 26-foot-wide Crystal LED screen.
Through Jan. 5, 2020
25 Madison Ave.
Get Cozy with a New Book
Head to one of our favorite NYC indie bookstores for kids to stock up for some winter reading!
Explore "Vanishing" New York
NYC is full new and exciting spots, but it's also home to treasures rich with history, character and even secrets! We rounded up a few of our favorites here with Vanishing New York author Jeremiah Moss. Click here to start exploring!
Catch the Trolls Before They Leave Town
Poppy and friends are packing up and hitting the road in January, so if you wanted to make it to Trolls The Experience, now is the time! At this interactive and colorful experience, Troll lovers get to dance and hug and sing with their favorite characters from the film. You can even upgrade your experience to get decked out like your favorite Troll. Click here for our writeup of a Troll-tastic birthday party at Trolls The Experience!
Skate a New Rink
We've got nothing against the tried and true ice skating rinks around town, but NYC has seen some strong contenders come on the scene this season. Lace up on one of the new additions over the break. Click here to find them!
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.
Stroll Down GingerBread Lane
There's still time to head over to NYSCI for some educational fun and to check out this year's GingerBread Lane. (FYI: They give it all away on January 21 on a first-come, first-served basis.) GingerBread Lane is the record-holder of the Guinness World Records for largest gingerbread village and year after year creator Jon Lovitch bakes and builds the entire thing from scratch. This year's storefronts include Pickles and Ice Cream Pregnancy Boutique, 8 Maids a Milking Dairy and Milk Bar, 6 Geese a Laying Brunch Café, 5 Golden Rings Jewelry Store. The exhibit is free with museum admission.
47-01 111th St.
Visit NYC's Most Famous Tree
Likewise, the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is also hanging around until January 17. If you want to avoid the holiday crowds, you likely won't make it to Rockefeller Center before Christmas, but after Christmas, the crowds lessen significantly, making it a great time to play tourist in your hometown. Marvel at the famous tree, then stop and watch the ice skaters down below.
Make a Wish at the Luminaries at Brookfield Place
This magical and colorful light display in not only beautiful and musical—it's interactive!
Chug Along to a Train Show
It's a holiday tradition, but that doesn't mean you can't go see these after the holidays have died down. Grand Central's 18th annual show is free and centrally located. Can't get enough? Check out the impressive annual train show in the Bronx at the New York Botanical Garden.
Grand Central Terminal
89 E 42nd St.
New York Botanical Garden
2900 Southern Blvd.
Build Robots with Nory
NORY is dedicating its winter break camp to all things robots. Camps are for kids ages three to 10, with age-appropriate activities including building structures, programming and coding. Camp is offered at several locations through out the city; the Upper West Side, the Upper East Side, Tribeca, Gramercy, Chelsea, FiDi and Downtown Brooklyn. Full- and half-days are available, starting at $360.
Dec. 23, 24, 26 & 27