Best Things To Do with NYC Kids: November GoList

November Holiday Events for NYC Kids 2018: Train Shows, Santas, Theater

Fall in NYC has well and truly arrived—the days are crisp and cool, and the leaves are changing color all around town. While the holiday season is creeping up on us, too, there's still plenty of fall fun to pack in, including the annual Canstruction, a new pop-up devoted to everybody's favorite mouse, and Día de Los Muertos and Diwali celebrations.

If your family kicks into Christmas mode the minute your Halloween costumes come off, we're not judging—in fact, we're right there behind you in the Santa hats! Reserve your spots for Polar Express train rides and Macy's Santaland, which is by (FREE) reservation only again in 2018. Meanwhile, the NYBG's holiday train show returns this month with new creations, along with the beloved Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, and iconic NYC toy wonderland FAO Schwarz.

Read on for the best family outings in November, and for more options, check our Event Calendar and Fall Fun Guide

As always, be sure to click through to our event listings for all the details, including address, time, and pricing. Keep in mind that the really cool (and no-cost!) kid stuff in NYC books 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.

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The displays at Canstruction are always creative and are always for a good cause. Photo courtesy of Brookfield Arts

Canstruction — Battery Park City
Friday, November 2 through Thursday, November 15
Architects, engineers, and contractors come together in this unique design competition in which participants use unopened cans of food to create large-scale installations. The annual competition celebrates its 26th anniversary this season and once the exhibition is dismantled, all the cans are donated to City Harvest. Visitors are encouraged to bring cans of food for the charity, too. FREE but bring cans of food to donate.

Día De Los Muertos Celebrations — Crown Heights and Upper West Side
Saturday, November 3
The traditional holiday commemorating and celebrating family members who have passed on inspires an annual series of events and festivals around the city, including two FREE events just for kids: the Día de los Muertos Festival at the Brooklyn Children's Museum, and a day-long festival at the American Museum of Natural History.

Diwali Celebrations — Citywide
Saturday, November 3, Sunday, November 4, and Saturday, November 10
India's Festival of Lights, Diwali, sparkles at Manhattan's Asia Society and Queens' Forest Hills library on Saturday, November 3. On Sunday the 4th, you can make sculptures out of light at the Children's Museum of Manhattan's Indian Arts program. On Saturday, November 10, the historic Flushing Town Hall hosts a day-long celebration of Diwali, with an all-ages festival and dance party featuring performances, food, crafts, henna painting, and dance workshops.

Battle of Fort Washington — Inwood
Sunday, November 4
Kids can experience history at the reenactment of this epic Revolutionary War battle, which celebrates its 242nd anniversary this year. Head to the stunning Fort Tryon Park to see members of the Brigade of the American Revolution perform drills. Find out what life was like during the war by watching blacksmithing demos, listening to live 18th-century music, making crafts, playing games of the era, and touring the battlefield with heroine Margaret Corbin. Dress up for the occasion: Celebrants in the most authentic costumes win prizes. FREE

Holiday Windows Walk — Midtown East
Monday, November 5 – New Year's Day
All of the major department store holiday displays (including Macy's, Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord & Taylor, Bergdorf Goodman, and Barneys) are up by the week of Thanksgiving at the latest. While we can't share photos from this year's holiday windows yet, we do know that Macy's holiday windows will be unveiled on November 15, and the Bloomingdale's windows, inspired by the new Grinch movie, light up November 5. In the meantime, you can check out details from last year's windows. Put this on your family calendar for Thanksgiving weekend and work off some of that turkey on your tour. FREE

RELATED: Thanksgiving in NYC Guide: Parade, Restaurants, Volunteering

A new Disney exhibit displays works by historic and contemporary artists that explore Mickey's lasting influence. Photo courtesy of Disney and the event 

Mickey: The True Original — Chelsea
Thursday, November 8 through Sunday, February 10, 2019
The beloved Mickey Mouse is 90 years old, but his gentle humor, goofy smile, and stylin' red shorts have never looked fresher than in this immersive pop-up experience from Disney, opening this month for a limited run. Works by historic and contemporary artists explore Mickey's lasting influence on popular culture.

RELATED: Outdoor Ice Skating Begins in NYC at These Rinks

The iconic toy store FAO Schwarz returns to Rockefeller Center. Sketch courtesy of the store

FAO Schwarz Store Opening — Midtown
Friday, November 16
The iconic NYC toy wonderland returns with a new 20,000 square foot flagship store in Rockefeller Center, with the life-sized toy soldiers and famous dance-on piano parents will remember from the original Fifth Avenue location.

Brooklyn Children's Book Fair — Prospect Heights, Brooklyn
Saturday, November 17
This annual fest at the Brooklyn Museum celebrates its 12th anniversary in 2018, with book readings, illustrator demonstrations, and hands-on art-making activities. Author appearances include Abby Hanlon (Dory Fantasmagory), Sharee Miller (Princess Hair), Steven Savage (Polar Bear Night), and more. FREE

New York Botanical Garden Holiday Train Show — the Bronx
Saturday, November 17 through Monday, January 21, 2019
The NYBG's annual holiday train show is a must-see for tourists and locals alike. In fact, it's No. 39 on our list of 100 things to do with kids in NYC. More than 25 model trains go whizzing by approximately 150 NYC landmarks meticulously made out of acorns, twigs, bark, berries, and leaves. Afterward, kids can hit the Evergreen Express in the Everett Children's Adventure Garden to make train puppets, march in musical parades, and craft miniature scented sachets. Word to the wise: 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.

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade & Balloon Inflation — Upper West Side to Midtown West
Wednesday, November 21 and Thursday, November 22
We probably don't need to sell you on this world-famous 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 to snagging a good viewing location unless you're willing to splurge on a hotel room overlooking the route. There is, however, a great trick for beating the lines at the annual balloon inflation the night before: spend the day at the American Museum of Natural History and take in the balloon inflation sights while you're there! As for the parade itself, arrive early or watch from way in the back. You'll still see something. Otherwise, find a friend (or a friend of a friend) who lives on the route. Put a call out on Facebook—you never know. Wherever you watch, expect a thrilling lineup of celebrities, marching bands, colorful floats, kooky clowns, and massive balloons. FREE

RELATED: NYC Holiday Fun Guide: Santa Fun, Train Shows, Theater, Holiday Lights

Dyker Heights puts on an epic light show every year. Photo by Mommy Poppins

Dyker Lights — Dyker Heights, Brooklyn
Thanksgiving–New Year's Day
Another seasonal sight that goes up around Thanksgiving? The over-the-top holiday displays in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn. 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 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 do-it-yourself tour.

RELATED: 100 Things to Do in NYC with Kids Before They Grow Up

The magic never fades at Macy's Santaland. Photo by Mike Coppola for Macy's

Santaland at Macy's Herald Square — Midtown West
Friday, November 23 through Monday, December 24
Many of our NYC staff and their families head to Macy's to sit on Santa's lap annually and have the photos to prove it. It's amazing to see all of those pictures and how our family has grown! In an effort to contain the lines again this year, visits with Santa are by (FREE) reservation only. Head online or visit an in-store kiosk to grab a pre-selected time slot between 30 minutes and five days in advance of your visit, which might help minimize the wait time. We're assuming you'll be in and out earlier in the season and during the week, but even if you do end up in a line during more popular times, there's so much to gawk at the kids don't mind the wait (much). Once you finally do make it to the front, you're rewarded with face time with the one true Santa. Wink, wink.

The Frost Puppet parade returns to Winter's Eve at Lincoln Square. Photo courtesy of the event.

Winter's Eve at Lincoln Square — Lincoln Square
Monday, November 26
A tree lighting at Dante Park kicks off this huge neighborhood holiday celebration. From the Time Warner Center to 68th Street, enjoy tons of free entertainment and reasonably priced food tastings from the area's many restaurants. This year, kid-centric attractions include live music from Mister G, a performance by Jack Frost: The Original Mr. White Christmas, face time with Santa, and much more. Of course a lot of the grown-up entertainment sounds great for families including performances by Arlo Guthrie and Judy Collins, multicultural dance troupes, ice sculpting, Jazz at Lincoln Center, youth choruses, jugglers, stilt-walkers, and more. FREE

Honorable Mentions

NYC always has so many incredible things going on, it's difficult to choose: Here are additional family-friendly events around town that are worth considering for your November calendar.

Catch the enchanting Harry Potter: A History of Magic exhibit at the New-York Historical Society before it vanishes like a Patronus.

Bring a pair of sunglasses to sparkly world of Trolls: The Experience in Midtown. Kids can explore the elaborate world of everybody's favorite wild-haired wee folks, try on troll hair, dance to troll-y tunes, and have their faces painted.

Run off to the Big Apple Circus, with performances at Lincoln Center featuring a new ringmaster, Stephanie Monseu of the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus, plus lots of female-driven acts.

Catch a performance of the new musical inspired by Roald Dahl's classic James and the Giant Peach, with tunes by the award-winning team behind Dear Evan Hansen.

Head to Circus Warehouse on Saturday, November 3 for the annual New York Regional Youth Circus Festival where circus wannabes can try their hand at various circus arts. No experience necessary, but purchasing tickets in advance is a must.

Hit the third annual My First Film Fest at Lincoln Center Friday, November 9 to Sunday, November 11 to take in a range of old- and new-school films.

Stroll through the award-winning GingerBread Lane when it opens for the holiday season at the New York Hall of Science, Saturday, November 10.

Salute and honor our service men and women at the NYC Veterans Day Parade on Sunday, November 11, which marches up 5th Avenue from 26th Street to 53rd Street.

Say goodbye to your Halloween jack-o-lantern by taking it to Clement Clarke Moore Park on Sunday, November 11, and smashing it to smithereens. Once it's crushed, NYC Compost Project will compost it.

Catch mini Broadway performances in a five-week Broadway Under the Stars series kicking off Monday, November 12 at the Shops at Columbus Circle. FREE.

It might be smaller than the show in the Bronx, but the Holiday Train Show at Grand Central is FREE and kicks off Thursday, November 15. FREE

Head uptown to celebrate Wave Hill's Harvest Festival on Saturday, November 17 to Sunday, November 18 with arts and crafts, activities, and a performance by the renowned Thunderbird American Indian Dancers.

See one of the many versions of The Nutcracker that are dancing into town.

Skip Black Friday mayhem in favor of a holiday day trip to cut your very own Christmas tree.

This post is updated annually.