Best Things To Do with NYC Kids: November GoList

November Holiday Events for NYC Kids 2017: Train Shows, Santas, Theater

Up until the last week of October, the weather was in complete denial that fall is upon on us. Until the holiday season truly hits (and the temps drop), you'll have plenty to pack in, including mini maker faires, the annual Canstruction, a new Broadway show featuring someone who lives in a pineapple under the sea, holiday train fun, and a bevy of princesses hitting the ice. Then switch over to holiday mode with the beloved Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and other children's holiday events kicking off later this month, including Polar Express train rides and Macy's Santaland.

Trying to rid the kids (and you) of leftover Halloween candy? Donate it to these charities around NYC and globally.

Read on for 16 of the best family outings in November, and for more options, peruse 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 always for a good cause. Photo courtesy of Brookfield Place 

Canstruction — Battery Park City
Thursday November 2–Wednesday, 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 25th 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.

Play Fair – Midtown West  
Saturday, November 4-Sunday, November 5
A public celebration of play and entertainment for all ages, Play Fair brings new and beloved toy and pop culture brands together under one roof for an interactive and fun-filled live event open to families, fans, and media.

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

SpongeBob Squarepants opens on Broadway this month. Photo by Joan Marcus/courtesy of the production

SpongeBob Squarepants the Broadway Musical — Midtown
opens Monday, November 6
This new show features all the beloved Bikini Bottom denizens including Patrick, Squidward, and the endlessly optimistic title character who lives in a pineapple under the sea and may be one of those rare family shows that works on multiple levels, thrilling the brand's young fans while also winning over grown-ups with its stunning design, quirky humor, and music. The songs are getting the most buzz, with some of the biggest rock stars of all time penning them—including Steven Tyler and Joe Perry from Aerosmith, Sara Bareilles, The Flaming Lips, Lady Antebellum, Cyndi Lauper, John Legend, Panic! At the Disco, They Might Be Giants, and the late David Bowie.

Mini Maker Faire — Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens
Saturday, November 11–Sunday, November 12
If you missed the big annual Maker Fair at NYSCI last month, here's your chance to get a bite-sized taste of the fun. Event organizers have teamed up with Barnes and Noble to present this series where mini tinkerers, inventors, or makers can team up with grown inventors to explore virtual and augmented reality, 3D printing, pen-invent technology, robotics, coding, programming, and more. FREE

American Girl Doll Store Opening — Midtown
November 11
The new flagship, located on 51st Street between 5th and 6th Avenues, offers lots of new, interactive features and aims to put girls at the center of the experience and build a sense of community around the brand. Look for new doll-and-me salon services such as hair styling, manis, and even ear piercing; private party rooms; and the new Signature Studio to create custom looks for dolls.

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Disney on Ice hits NYC with a new fan favorite: Moana. Photo courtesy of Disney on Ice

Disney on Ice: Dare To Dream — Downtown Brooklyn
Thursday, November 9–Sunday, November 12
Moana's skating into NYC! The uber-popular Disney character is the latest to join Belle, Elsa and Anna, and Rapunzel of Tangled, and Cinderella. Kids will likely gawk not only at the dance moves, but the costumes, lighting, and more over-the-top production elements.

Children's Book Fair — Prospect Heights, Brooklyn
Saturday, November 11
This annual fest at the Brooklyn Museum celebrates its 11th anniversary in 2017 and in addition to featuring the work of more than 50 Brooklyn-based authors, the fest offers book readings, illustrator demonstrations, and hands-on art-making activities. Author appearances include Peter Brown (Creepy Pair of Underwear), John Burgerman (Splat!), Beth Handman (Josie Meets a Jaguar), Tad Hills (Duck & Goose Colors), and more. FREE

Battle of Fort Washington — Washington Heights
Sunday, November 12
Kids can experience history at the reenactment of this epic Revolutionary War battle, which celebrates its 241th 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

Michelangelo: Divine Draftsman & Designer — Upper East Side
The Met Fifth Avenue
Monday, November 13–Monday, February 12
Dubbed Il Divino, the Divine One, by his contemporaries, organizers have called the exhibit a once-in-a-lifetime experience for museumgoers. It will include 150 drawings, three marble sculptures, and early paintings. In addition to Michelangelo's own work, complementary pieces from varied artists will be displayed nearby for comparison's sake. The collection was pulled from public and private museum collections throughout the U.S. and Europe and aims to celebrate Michelangelo's legacy as a draftsman and designer. Included with suggested museum admission.

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

Look up and all around to find choo-choos at the New York Botanical Garden's Holiday Train Show. Photo by Kimberly Sinatra Murphy via Instagram

New York Botanical Garden Holiday Train Show — the Bronx
Wednesday, November 22–Monday, January 15, 2018
The NYBG's annual holiday 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 (including Thomas the Tank Engine!) go whizzing by approximately 150 NYC landmarks meticulously made out of acorns, twigs, bark, berries, and leaves. This year's exhibition showcases Midtown Manhattan and debuts all-new replicas of the Empire State Building, Chrysler Building, General Electric Building, and St. Bartholomew's Church. 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. 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.

Our Senses: An Immersive Experience — Upper West Side
Monday, November 20–Sunday, January 6, 2018
Science meets art in a funhouse-like environment at this new exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History. Visitors will journey through a series of galleries to get a sense of how their senses perceive everyday environments. Expect to feel a bit off balance when you enter a gallery that demonstrates what happens when our senses disagree with one another and experience another gallery through the eyes of an insect. In addition to the visual cues, there will be galleries that test your sense of smell and sight, and the entire stimulating experience is followed by a live presentation that drives home the importance of senses to everyday survival.

The giant balloons of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade tend to wow all ages. Photo by Anthony Quintano/CC BY 2.0

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade & Balloon Inflation — Upper West Side to Midtown West
Wednesday, November 22 and Thursday, November 23
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 aforementioned exhibit 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

Holiday Windows Walk — Midtown East
Thanksgiving–New Year's Day
All of the major department store holiday displays (Macy's, Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord & Taylor, Bergdorf Goodman, Barneys, etc.) are up by the week of Thanksgiving, and crowds are surprisingly sparse that holiday weekend, especially compared to later in the season. While we can't share photos from this year's holiday windows yet, check out details from 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, and 2009! So put this on your family calendar for Thanksgiving weekend and work off some of that turkey on your tour. FREE

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

Dyker Heights puts on an epic light show ever 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.

Santaland at Macy's Herald Square — Midtown West
Friday, November 24–Sunday, 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! New this year, visits with Santa are by 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 27
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 Tim Kubart & the Space Cadets, 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 a performance by Micky Dolenz of the Monkees and Ikebe Shakedown, 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. So here are more than a dozen additional cool events that are worth considering for your November calendar.

Skate your way into the month with the opening of the Ice Rink at Brookfield Place on Wednesday, November 1. Enjoy stunning views of New York Harbor and the Statue of Liberty while skating around this downtown spot.

Say goodbye to your Halloween jack-o-lantern by taking it to Clement Clarke Moore Park on Saturday, November 4, and smashing it to smithereens. Once it's crushed, NYC Compost Project will compost it.

Head to the second-annual My First Film Fest at Lincoln Center Friday, November 10 to Sunday, November 12 to take in a range of old- and new-school film, like a sneak peak and animation workshop with the creators of the upcoming movie Ferdinand and 35mm screenings of classics like Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.

Stroll through the award-winning GingerBread Lane when it opens for the holiday season at the New York Hall of Science, Saturday, November 11.

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

Catch mini Broadway performances in a five-week Broadway Under the Stars series kicking off Monday, November 13 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 16. FREE

Head to Circus Warehouse on Saturday, November 18 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.

Grown-ups get a treat this month, too: The Downton Abbey Exhibit opens on Saturday, November 18. Adults can indulge in all the period dramas details while kids will get equally excited about walking through the various recreated rooms (the dining room, Mary’s bedroom, Ms. Patmore’s hectic kitchen, and more) of the immersive experience. FREE for kids under 4.

Head uptown to celebrate Wave Hill's Harvest Festival on Saturday, November 18 to Sunday, November 19. It's full of arts and crafts, activities, and even a "Perfect Pumpkin Pie Workshop."

Burn off that turkey dinner at the Grand Central Scavenger Hunt on Saturday, November 25. Learn about the iconic station and gather clues to race to the end.

Stand beneath the gorgeous Luminaries holiday light show, which returns to Brookfield Place Tuesday, November 28.

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.