Best Things to Do with NYC Kids: November 2013 Go List
Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade may be November's main event but it's certainly not the only must-do outing to put on your family calendar. Even though holiday celebrations kick into high gear in December, many beloved seasonal happenings start in late November. It's when high-end department stores unveil their magical windows, spectacular holiday displays go up in Dyker Heights and other festive neighborhoods, and Santa flies into town for a month-long stay at Macy's Santaland. And if you already feel your inner Scrooge coming on, don't worry: There are some fantastic non-holiday events for families, too, like a kid-friendly performance of Igor Stravinsky's The Firebird, the reopening of the renovated Queens Museum and a live stage adaptation of Jim Henson's beloved Dinosaur Train TV show.
As always, if an event piques your interest, be sure to click through to our listing for all the details, including address and time. And keep in mind: In NYC, really cool things to do with kids often get booked up quickly—especially as the holidays approach. So buy your tickets ASAP or, in the case of FREE events, arrive as early as possible to try to beat the crowds.
Now get your calendars ready! Here are the top 13 things to do with kids in New York City this November, seven of which are FREE.
Sleeping Beauty – Midtown West
Friday, November 1-Sunday, November 10
My daughter and I are very excited to see this sumptuous adaptation of the classic fairy tale at the New Victory Theater. The familiar story of the slumbering princess is beautifully reinvented by Italy's Carlo Colla & Sons Marionette Company with gorgeous handcrafted puppets and Tchaikovsky's lush music. Just watch the short video on the theater's website—the puppets and sets are breathtaking. Parents of princess-obsessed preschoolers take note: This 90-minute show is faithful to the original story which is much darker than Disney's version so it's probably best to heed the age recommendation of 7 and up. $14-$38
Canstruction – Battery Park City
Friday, November 1-Wednesday, November 13
Every fall, my family and I head to Brookfield Place (formerly known as the World Financial Center) for this whimsical display that benefits local hungry families. For the 21st year, inventive teams of architects, engineers, contractors and students are designing amazingly detailed sculptures constructed entirely from full cans of food. Some of my past favorites include the Price is Right big wheel, the red Angry Bird and a massive Converse sneaker. I can't wait to see what's in store this year. It's a great place for photo ops. Once the exhibition is dismantled, all the cans are donated to City Harvest and visitors are encouraged to bring cans of food for the charity, too. It's a wonderful way to kick off the Thanksgiving holiday season. Bonus: Through Friday, November 8, you can also check out some Canstruction sculptures from last year at three other Brookfield properties: One Liberty Plaza, 245 Park Avenue and the Grace Building. FREE but bringing cans of food to donate encouraged
Queens Museum Reopening: Festival of Artmaking for Families – Corona
Monday, November 11
After many months of renovations, the Queens Museum is set to reopen over Veterans Day weekend. At more than 100,000 square feet, it will be double its old size with a cafe, a glass atrium and expanded gallery space to display its extensive Tiffany glass collection. The beloved Panorama of the City of New York has been spruced up and will be back on view, too. In honor of its debut, there will be three days of festivities but the bulk of the activities for kids are on Monday, November 11, which is a public school holiday. Enjoy a museum-wide scavenger hunt, "The World of Tomorrow Photo Booth" inspired by the Futurama Exhibition at the 1939 & 1964 New York World’s Fairs, puppet making, circuit bending, Korean brush painting, collaborative art projects and more. Bonus: On Veterans Day, the museum's suggested admission fee is waived for families with children ages 5 to 12. FREE
Mommy Poppins Holiday Photo Event – Upper East Side
Saturday, November 16
We invite our readers to cross one big chore off their seasonal to-do lists at our second annual Holiday Photo Event at the Upper East Side Kidville. Professional Big Apple Portrait photographers will shoot lively, nontraditional pictures of your kids hanging out with Santa, or against a seasonal background. We've worked with the company before and the photos are always spectacular! Before or after your session, enjoy cookie decorating with Cookie Party, holiday crafts by Kidville and Mommy Poppins storytime. Bonus: Since we love giving back to the community, this event will also help raise funds for the Food Bank for NYC so more local families can have a happy holiday season. Read our post for all the details or book your photo session now. $100 per family includes two hi-res digital photos and $25 credit for holiday cards.
New York Botanical Garden Holiday Train Show – the Bronx
Saturday, November 16-Sunday, January 12, 2014
The NYBG's annual holiday show is a must-see for tourists and locals alike. In fact, it's No. 52 on our list of 100 Things to Do with Kids in NYC. Model trains go whizzing by more than 140 NYC landmarks meticulously made out of acorns, twigs, bark, berries and leaves. Afterward, kids can enjoy hands-on nature activities in the Everett Children's Adventure Garden, a short live performance by Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends (on select dates), and a brand-new dining pavilion. To be clear: The display doesn't change much from year to year but many families I know go annually—it's a fun holiday tradition. Warning: Even though timed advance tickets are required, it gets super crowded. If at all possible, go early or late in the season on a weekday! $20-$25 for adults, $10-$15 for children ages 2-12
Battle of Fort Washington – Washington Heights
Sunday, November 17
Is there any better way to learn history than to watch it live in action? That's exactly what kids can do at the 237th anniversary of this epic Revolutionary War battle in the stunning Fort Tryon Park. In addition to meeting and mingling with members of the Brigade of the American Revolution to find out what life was like during the war, families can watch blacksmith demos, listen to local historians, and try period arts and crafts courtesy of the historic Morris-Jumel Mansion. FREE
Children's Book Fair – Crown Heights
Saturday, November 23
Celebrate quality kid lit at the Brooklyn Museum's seventh annual fest. Brooklyn-based children's book authors including Adam Gidwitz, Edward Hemingway, David Ezra Stein and Oliver Jeffers (one of my personal favorites—if you don't know his work get schooled!) will read from their recent titles. Plus there will be a performance of Sergei Prokofiev's classic Peter and the Wolf performed by the Brooklyn Conservatory Community Orchestra with narration by the Maestrosities. Fair is FREE; Peter and the Wolf is $20 for adults, $10 for children ages 5 to 16 and includes museum admission.
Little Orchestra Society Presents: Stravinsky's Firebird – Midtown West
Saturday, November 23-Sunday, November 24
Growing up in NYC back in the Dark Ages (at least that's what my eight-year-old calls the 1970s), my mother used to take me to see kid-friendly classical concerts by the Little Orchestra Society. The organization is still going strong today and under the new leadership of highly regarded music director James Judd. Even if your kids (or you) usually nod off listening to classical music, Igor Stravinsky's rousing Firebird—an adaptation of an old Russian folk tale about a magical bird—will definitely keep you awake while a parade of puppets and projections will engage the kids. $17-$60
Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade & Balloon Inflation – Upper West Side to Midtown West
Thursday, November 28
I doubt I need to sell you on this iconic NYC tradition. The only thing that isn't family-friendly about this procession of pop-culture inspired floats and giant balloons is the fact that you need to arrive around 6am to stake out your spot. Unfortunately, there is no secret trick to snagging a good viewing location. Arrive early or watch from way in the back. You'll still see something! Or find a friend (or a friend of a friend) who lives on the route. That's what I did. Put a call out on Facebook—you never know. We're still in the process of updating our comprehensive post about the parade and the balloon inflation the night before, but we'll be sharing absolutely everything you need to know three weeks before Turkey Day! FREE
Holiday Windows Walk – Midtown East
Thanksgiving-New Year's Day
Every Saturday after Thanksgiving, fellow Mommy Poppins blogger Stephanie and I and our families get together for our annual department store holiday windows walk. All of the major displays (Macy's, Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord & Taylor, Bergdorf Goodman, Barneys, etc.) are up by the week of Thanksgiving, and the crowds are surprisingly sparse, especially compared to later in the season. While our annual holiday windows walk post won't go up until early December (check out our slide shows from 2012, 2011, 2010 and 2009!), Thanksgiving weekend is a great time to go. You may even run into us! FREE
Dyker Lights – Dyker Heights
Thanksgiving-New Year's Day
Another seasonal sight that goes up around Thanksgiving? The over-the-top holiday displays in Dyker Heights. While paying to go on a guided bus tour may be most convenient if you live outside of Brooklyn, the neighborhood is accessible via public transportation, just be prepared to walk a bit. As someone who loves all things outrageous and colorful, Dyker Heights is a destination I visit year after year, even though most of the displays don't change that much if at all. (That creepy giant Santa is always there!) If you've been and want to see something different, try the Christmas House in the Bronx or Santa's Corner in Whitestone, Queens. You won't find a critical mass of Christmas lights in either of those neighborhoods but those one-offs are worth traveling for! FREE if you go on a DIY tour
Santaland at Macy's Herald Square – Midtown West
Friday, November 29-Tuesday, December 24
Ever since my daughter was born eight years ago, my family and I have taken her to Macy's to sit on Santa's lap and get her photo taken. It's amazing to see all of those pictures in a row! Even though there's usually an hours-long line (we're the dummies who put it off until Christmas Eve), it's worth the wait though I urge you to go early in the morning in November—I hear from friends that it's much less crowded! The famed store mounts an entire North Pole village, with live elves, an enchanted forest featuring animatronic toys and a train display. Even if you do end up on a long line, there's so much to gawk at the kids don't mind the wait (much). Once you finally do make it to the front of the line, there are multiple Santas on duty (all in private rooms so as not to ruin the illusion of one true Saint Nick), and you can even discreetly ask for the Santa of your choice (African-American, Hispanic, I don't know about other ethnicities but it's worth inquiring). There's usually a puppet show, too, but the complete schedule and current prices won't be announced until October 29. We'll update this post once we know!
Jim Henson's Dinosaur Train—Live – Greenwich Village
Friday, November 29-Sunday, December 1 at 11am and 2pm
PBS Kids' popular series hits the stage in this family musical sure to wow preschool paleontologists. Yes I know, some of these TV-to-theater adaptations are really painful. But this show boasts some top-notch behind-the-scenes talent, notably director and cowriter John Tartaglia (of ImaginOcean, Shrek the Musical and Johnny and the Sprites fame). Plus the hybrid puppet costume characters and full-size replica of the Dinosaur Train sound pretty impressive. If your kids are fans of the TV show I don't see how you can go wrong here. $22-$49 but click here for info on how to save 25% on tickets.
NYC always has so many incredible things going on, it's difficult to choose. So here are a few more cool events that are worth considering for your November calendar. Be sure to sign up for our FREE newsletters so you can get our weekend picks delivered to your inbox every Thursday morning.
Go on a DIY fall foliage walk right here in NYC before the leaves are all gone. FREE
Marvel at Elska's breathtaking Icelandic story-songs on bells and vibraphone at the Judith Charles Gallery on the Lower East Side on Saturday, November 3.
Introduce tweens and teens to the groundbreaking graphic novels of Pulitzer prize-winner Art Spiegelman at the Jewish Museum's new retrospective, which opens on Friday, November 8.
See one of the many versions of The Nutcracker that are dancing into town.
More ballet fun: Making Books Sing's brand-new musical Ballerina Swan, which opens on Saturday, November 9.
Learn all about The Power of Poison at the American Museum of Natural History's new exhibit, which opens on Saturday, November 16.
Celebrate Hanukkah (which comes super-early this year) at the illumination of the World's Largest Menorah at the southern end of Central Park November 27-December 5. FREE
Watch the tree at the South Street Seaport light up on Friday, November 29. The exact details are still under wraps but we hear it will be bigger and better than ever, and that there will be a brand-new ice-skating rink, too! FREE
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