35 Things to Do with NYC Kids Over Holiday Break
Few places rival New York City for holiday activities, and the holiday school vacation break offers parents and kids a rare chance to sample them all.
We’ve rounded up 35 of our favorite seasonal activities that can be accessed with the ease of a Metro Card. There's no need to leave town! Instead, fill your schedule with awesome museum outings, live stage shows, fancy meals and magical holiday experiences. Call me crazy, but our family even braves the crowds at popular tourist attractions like the New York Botanical Garden Holiday Train Show, the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree and all the department store holiday windows.
The 2015-2016 NYC winter school break runs from Thursday, December 24 through Friday, January 1—leaving parents with a lot of hours to fill! Hope you enjoy our holiday gift to you.
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- See Santa at Macy's or elsewhere before he rides away in his sleigh on Christmas Eve.
- Go Christmas caroling on Christmas Eve in Washington Square Park or other downtown green spaces. FREE
- Celebrate with the Jews on Christmas: The Jewish Museum, the Museum at Eldridge Street, the Museum of Jewish Heritage and the Jewish Children's Museum are all open on the holiday and throwing festive parties.
- Watch little electric trains go whizzing by NYC landmarks made out of acorns, twigs, bark and leaves at the New York Botanical Garden Holiday Train Show.
- Or check out the more modest Holiday Train Show at the New York Transit Museum Gallery Annex in Grand Central Terminal. FREE
- More train fun: Enjoy choo-choo-themed crafts and a gallery scavenger hunt at the New-York Historical Society's seasonal Holiday Express exhibit.
- Marvel at stunning department store holiday windows and other awesome seasonal sights in midtown Manhattan. FREE
- Or hit the outer boroughs to check out over-the-top holiday light displays like all the decked out houses in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn. FREE
- Need more lights? See additional dazzling Christmas displays in Westchester, New Jersey and on Long Island. FREE
- Pose for a photo in front of a giant Christmas tree—Rockefeller Center isn't the only one. You can find lovely large trees in Bryant Park and at South Street Seaport, plus a flotilla of illuminated firs on Central Park's Harlem Meer. FREE
- Head to Queens' New York Hall of Science to ReMake the Holidays with a host of hands-on projects and activities.
- Score some free Blue Marble ice cream and enjoy special interactive activities at the Museum of the City of New York.
- See one of the big Hollywood holiday releases like the revamped Annie, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, Penguins of Madagascar, Disney's Big Hero 6, Into the Woods, and the latest installments of The Hobbit and The Hunger Games.
- Or head to the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria for free-with-admission screenings of Ratatouille, Jim Henson's beloved TV special A Muppet Family Christmas and a host of Chuck Jones animated classics.
- Celebrate Kwanzaa at the American Museum of Natural History's 36th annual festival on Saturday, December 27. While there, be sure to check out its interactive installations about natural disasters and pterosaurs.
- Get geeky at hands-on high-tech installations like Brooklyn Children's Museum's More Than Meets the "I", MoMath's brand-new Robot Swarm and the always FREE Sony Wonder Technology Lab.
- Make art inspired by places and spaces at MoMA and then check out the museum's critically acclaimed Matisse exhibit. Remember, admission to the Museum of Modern Art is FREE on Friday nights!
- Splurge on high holiday culture at Lincoln Center with George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker and the Metropolitan Opera's family-friendly Hansel and Gretel.
- Or catch less highfalutin holiday spectacles like Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas: The Musical, Fancy Nancy Splendiferous Christmas and the Radio City Christmas Spectacular.
- The Nutcracker isn't the only kid-friendly dance spectacle in town. Giggle at the athletic antics of drag ballet troupe Les Ballets Trockadero De Monte Carlo at the Joyce Theater or enjoy Alvin Ailey Family Matinees with post-show Q&As at New York City Center.
- See handcrafted marionettes in action at Puppetworks' Steadfast Tin Solider & Nutcracker Sweets and The Three Bears Holiday Bash at Central Park's Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre.
- Head underground for special hands-on activities at Brooklyn's New York Transit Museum.
- Run away and see the circus: Big Apple Circus: Metamorphosis at Lincoln Center and the Golden Dragon Acrobats' Cirque Ziva at the New Victory Theater both play throughout the holidays.
- Indulge in a fancy afternoon tea at the Russian Tea Room, the Plaza or another high-end eatery.
- Gawk at gingerbread houses: There's a FREE display at La Parker Meridien and a massive GingerBread Lane at Queens' New York Hall of Science.
- Find out what it takes to run the Queens County Farm Museum at its annual three-day holiday open house. FREE
- Hit the ice at one of NYC's outdoor skating spots.
- Too cold for you? Indoor rinks have public skating hours throughout the holidays, too.
- Head to the Bronx Zoo for more freezing fun at its annual Wildlife Ice Carving Week, which includes a playground made from ice.
- Or take a trip to the Staten Island Zoo for Kid Fun Days when you can enjoy animal presentations, special tours, craft sessions and even snag a free T-shirt.
- Ring in the New Year with a bang without spending a buck with no-cost fireworks in Prospect Park, Central Park, New York Harbor and Coney Island. FREE
- Ask yourself, "How on earth did they do that?!" over and over during the Vegas-style magic revue The Illusionists on Broadway.
- Hit nearby slopes for snowboarding, skiing and other outdoor winter sports.
- And on New Year's Day, well, how many activities haven't you done on this list? If you're finished, you can always start on our roundup of 100 things to do with kids in NYC—most of the suggestions are good year-round.
- Of course you don't need to leave the house to enjoy quality family time. See how many of our WeeWork crafts and recipes you can make over the break!