Thanksgiving Volunteer Options for NYC Kids and Families

Every year around the holidays, readers ask about ways to volunteer with their children in New York City. It's not as easy as you think. Many charitable organizations have age minimums for their projects, and even when you do find family-friendly volunteering opportunities, they often book up weeks in advance.

With Thanksgiving approaching, we want to highlight some great ways NYC kids and their parents can give back to those in need. We're including opportunities for children of all ages so everyone can participate. While kids might not be able to work in a soup kitchen, they can help the homeless, hungry, and elderly in other meaningful ways.

Here are 10 family-friendly ways to put the "giving" in your Thanksgiving.

Polar Express and Santa Trains Near NYC This Holiday Season

The magic of Chris Van Allsburg’s popular Christmas picture book, The Polar Express, comes to life again this winter with festive holiday trains within a whistle's blow of New York City. A huge hit with kids and parents alike, these trains spark the imagination and holiday spirit with seasonal snacks, stories, even token gifts—not to mention a visit from Santa himself.

These old-school cabooses (some harking back to the 1920s) offer a classic holiday ambience. Best of all, families can combine the annual Santa Claus photo op with a sweet adventure that is sure to create lasting memories. Remember: these train rides sell out quickly, often months in advance, so book now if you want to go (a popular train in New Jersey had already sold out by early October).

For more seasonal fun close to NYC, check out our Fall Fun Guide and 30 Fall Day Trip Ideas.

16 NYC Restaurants Serving Family Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving is a time to count your blessings—and to spend hours in the kitchen, right? Eh, we New Yorkers of small space fame and rapid-fire takeout options often prefer to let someone else handle our annual turkey fest. Of course, in New York City we can choose from a number of award-winning restaurants for that amazing dinner. With that in mind, we’ve rounded up a number of options in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens to make this November 24 as easy and delicious as possible.

Now, instead of deep-cleaning your apartment to meet those far-flung relatives (and their expectations), you can spend the night before in a more festive way—say watching the inflation of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade balloons. After all, what could be of a more New York City Thanksgiving experience than that?

Guide to Día de los Muertos or Day of the Dead for NYC Kids

Halloween isn't the only spooky holiday to celebrate in October. Day of the Dead—or Día de los Muertos as it's known in Spanish—is observed by many Latino cultures and is especially popular in Mexico.

Day of the Dead officially takes place on November 1 and 2 to coincide with the Catholic holidays of All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day. However, NYC events are spread throughout October and early November and most of them are FREE. While it's not a Halloween event, it occurs around the same time and features many of the same trappings like skulls and parades. Revelers honor friends and family members who have died by building altars and adorning them with colorful paper flowers, grinning skeletons and candles. It's a joyful way to remember the deceased without freaking kids out. We've rounded up half a dozen Day of the Dead events where NYC kids and families can celebrate the holiday.

You can find more fall activities in our Fall Fun Guide and check out the Halloween Guide for all the best happenings in NYC this month.


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