Things to Do on Christmas Eve with NYC Kids 2012: Festive Ways for Families to Celebrate
Christmas Eve falls on a Monday this year. While we realize some of you may need to pick up a few last-minute gifts, we hope you and your family are able to find time to get into the spirit of the season (beyond shopping).
Whether your family has set Christmas Eve traditions or you decide to wing it, there are lots of ways to celebrate in New York City. From holiday shows to Christmas pageants, family films to Christmas caroling, here are festive things to do on Christmas Eve in NYC with kids, both during the day and after dark.
1. Go ice-skating Most of New York City's indoor and outdoor ice-skating rinks are open today (though many close early). The city's only no-cost rink, Citi Pond at Bryant Park, is open until midnight. It's also a great day to check out NYC's two newest rinks, the Bronx's Van Cortlandt Park Ice Rink and Liberty View Ice Rink in Battery Park City. Or brave the biggies: Central Park's Wollman Rink and Rockefeller Center. If you opt for Bryant Park, you can also shop at the holiday market and take a spin on the carousel.
2. Buy your Christmas tree My family and I often wait until Christmas Eve to purchase our tree (as of today, we still don't have one. So we may do that again this year). You can often negotiate a better price, and decorating the tree is a wonderful way to spend time together as a family. We have posts on where to get cheap Christmas trees in NYC or places you can cut your own on Long Island, in New Jersey and Connecticut.
3. See a holiday train show The beautiful annual exhibit at the New York Botanical Gardens is open until 3pm, and the more modest display at the New York City Transit Museum in Grand Central Terminal is open until 6pm. (The one at the Dimenna Children's History Museum is closed today.)
4. Visit with Santa The big guy in red is still holding court at many spots around town, but he'll probably leave early since he has such a big night ahead. So go in the morning if you want to see him.
5. Catch a holiday show Although theaters are normally dark on Mondays, many seasonal spectacles have special matinees today including the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker, Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical, the Holiday Circus in Brooklyn, Angelina Ballerina the Very Merry Holiday Musical and my personal favorite A Christmas Story the Musical. You can find discounts to most of them on BroadwayBox.com.
6. Watch a festive movie There are some wonderful family films out right now including Rise of the Guardians, Wreck-It Ralph, the Pixar classic Monsters, Inc. in 3D and, for families with older kids, The Hobbit, which is rated PG-13. Or if you have cable, you can stay home and catch classic Christmas flicks like White Christmas, A Christmas Carol, Miracle on 34th Street, Babes in Toyland and Meet Me in St. Louis on AMC and TCM.
7. Explore a museum Lots of museums with fun, kid-friendly exhibits are open today, including MoMA and its interactive Art Lab: People, the brand-new Museum of Mathematics and Discovery Times Square's Harry Potter: The Exhibition. But for a more festive experience, head to one of these culture spots: At the Children's Museum of Manhattan, you'll find the The Grinch's Holiday Workshop where you can make Who-ville holiday cards to send to victims of Hurricane Sandy. The Brooklyn Children's Museum teaches tots how Christmas is celebrated around the world. Work on winter-themed art and stop-motion shorts at the Children's Museum of the Arts and gaze at the gorgeous Origami Holiday Tree at the American Natural History Museum.
8. Attend a religious service or Christmas pageant Even if you're not religious, many churches host family-friendly services on Christmas Eve where all are welcome. That said, they do get crowded, so call ahead to see if you need to make reservations or if you can just show up. Ones that sound particularly good for children include the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine's Service of Lessons and Carols at 4pm, Trinity Wall Street's Christmas Eve Service for Children and Families at 4pm, Riverside Church's Christmas Eve Service for Children & Families at 4pm, Church of St. Luke in the Fields' Christmas Pageant at 5pm, and the Church of the Heavenly Rest's pair of Christmas Pageants featuring more than 100 children reenacting the Nativity story at 3:30pm and 5pm.
9. Marvel at department store windows, Christmas trees and holiday light displays In Manhattan, you can gawk at massive twinkling Christmas trees and amazing department store windows. (The Disney animated short at Barneys and the Cirque du Soleil windows at Bloomingdale's were the biggest hits with my kid.) But if you head to the outer boroughs or nearby suburbs, you can see some truly spectacular holiday displays. My daughter and I already went on our annual pilgrimage to Dyker Heights in Brooklyn and we're hoping to do the Bronx Christmas House over the break. If you have a car, you can also see awesome holiday light displays in New Jersey and on Long Island.
10. Go Christmas caroling Every year, revelers gather under the Washington Square Arch next to the illuminated tree to sing traditional holiday songs at 5pm. The Rob Susman Brass Quartet accompanies the crooners, and songbooks are provided. My daughter and I went last year for the first time and it became an instant tradition. There will also be candlelight caroling at West Stuyvesant Square Park and Gramercy Park, both at 6pm.
11. Track Santa with NORAD See Kris Kringle during the day and then track his progress online at night as he travels around the world bringing presents to all good little boys and girls. Just make sure your kids go to bed before he hits NYC!
Find out about more seasonal fun in our Holiday Fun Guide.
- What's Open on Christmas Day in NYC 2012: 12 Things to Do with Kids After Opening Gifts
- 45 Favorite Holiday Traditions for NYC Families
- Fun Holiday Activities in New Jersey: The Mommy Poppins Guide
- This Week: Dyker Heights at Christmas, Restaurants with Kids' Entertainment, New Battery Park City Ice Rink