Best Things to Do with NYC Kids: January GoList

The Best Family Events in New York City in January Include a Central Park Snow Day, a Maker Fest, and More

Get your calendars ready. Here are the top 12 things to do with kids in New York City this January, five of which are FREE.

While January traditionally is a mellow time—especially when compared with the nonstop action of the holidays—there's no way you can hibernate all month, not with kids around. Luckily, you don't have to. Our January GoList is packed with annual favorites such as the Three Kings Day Parade in East Harlem, Central Park's Winter Jam sports fest, plus some new, exceptional-sounding shows, concerts, art festivals, and other special experiences for kids. Don't forget that Martin Luther King Jr. Day is coming up, too, and the Brooklyn Children's Museum and others will host special events just for families.

Find more seasonal fun in our NYC Winter Guide for Families.

If an event piques your interest, click through to our listing for all the details, including addresses, times and recommended ages. And remember: Cool things to do with kids in NYC often book up quickly. So buy your tickets ASAP, or, in the case of FREE events, arrive as early as possible.

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All Aboard with Thomas & Friends at the New York Botanical Garden — the Bronx
December 30–January 7 (daily) and January 15; weekends January 13–21
Join Thomas and Driver Sam as the friendly train finds his way from Knapford Station to Brendam Docks using teamwork, friendship, and discovery in this fun-filled sing-along, mini-performance adventure. Bring your phone/camera, as pictures are encouraged. Bonus: Go before January 16 and tickets also grant you access to the Botanical Garden's annual holiday train show where kids can see even more choo-choos.

RELATED: NYC Kid Classes Guide: Sports, Music, Theater, Cooking

The Three Kings Day Parade marks the biblical adoration of baby Jesus by the kings. Photo courtesy of the museum

Unfortunately, this parade was canceled due to cold temperatures. Instead, a new, free family event will take place at the museum on Saturday, January 20.
Three Kings Day Parade
— East Harlem
Friday, January 5
While there are many ways to mark Three Kings Day (aka the "12th day of Christmas" or the feast of the Epiphany) in NYC, El Museo del Barrio's 41th annual procession is the biggest celebration. Watch as kids march alongside colorful floats, festive bands, live camels, and the massive Three Wise Men puppets, which lead the parade and stay on display in the museum after the event. Find a spot at the start, on 106th Street and Lexington Avenue—there's always room—and then head to the end at La Marqueta for live music and delicious eats from local vendors. When it's all over, visit El Museo, where admission fees are waived all day. FREE

Discover your inner artist as families are invited to create their own artwork. Maris Hutchinson/EPW Studio for The New Museum 

New Museum Family Day: Alternative Migrations — Lower East Side
Saturday, January 6
Artist Petrit Halilaj draws inspiration from his hometown of Runik, Kosovo, where some of the earliest Neolithic settlements and archaeological findings have been discovered. Hundreds of objects and fragments are recreated and refashioned as birds, serving as reminders of movement and temporary residence, and offer up a minimal, modern, and wondrous exhibit. Families are then invited to experiment with clay and create their own sculptures that are both artifact and creature. FREE

Owen & Mzee — Upper West Side
Saturday, January 6–Sunday, February 11
The inspiring true story of two great friends, a baby hippo named Owen and a 130-yr-old giant tortoise named Mzee, is brought to life on stage. When Owen was stranded after a tsunami, villagers in Kenya worked tirelessly to rescue him. Then, to everyone's amazement, the orphan hippo and the elderly tortoise adopted each other, offering up a joyous reminder that in times of trouble, friendship is stronger than the differences that too often pull us apart.

RELATED: NYC Children's Museum and Art Guide

Delve into MLK's life and legacy at The Brooklyn Children's Museum. Photo courtesy of the museum

MLK, Jr. I Have a Dream Celebration — Crown Heights, Brooklyn
Saturday, January 13–Monday, January 15
Let your kids do a deep dive into MLK, Jr.'s life and his legacy at the Brooklyn Children's Museum. Every age group is covered throughout the three-day celebration and remembrance: Create Freedom Hands, hear an interactive story reading of Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and decorate a canvas tote with MLK, Jr inspired quotes, along with loads of other activities (including a Totally Tots intro to stunning artist Kehinde Wiley).

Alternatively, if your kids are ready for a more active MLK event, join eighth-graders from Manhattan Country School as they march for peace in honor of Martin Luther King Day on Monday, January 15. FREE

This charming puppetry performance at The New Victory Theater about a creature of habit and his kindhearted coterie will warm your heart. Photo courtesy of the theater

A Sick Day for Morris McGee — Midtown
Saturday, January 13–Sunday, January 28
This charming 2-D puppet performance centers on a caring zookeeper and his doting animal friends who come to his aid when he gets the sniffles. Based on Philip C. and Erin E. Stead's Caldecott Medal-winning picture book, A Sick Day for Amos McGeethe charming 50-minute show from the Israeli Train Theater, is ideal for little ones, ages 2 to 5.

Oran Etkin: Timbalooloo Soho Space Grand Opening Celebration Concert — Soho
​Saturday, January 13
To celebrate the launch of Timbalooloo Soho, his first flagship class location for his Timbalooloo music project, composer and educator Oran Etkin is holding quite a grand opening: a parade from the venue to the new space for a special ribbon cutting ceremony and a concert featuring Etkin’s jazz quintet and his instrument friends Clara Net (his clarinet) and her mother Big Mama Tuba.

See five companies perform and don't miss the pre-show activity center for samples and more. The Darrah Carr Dance Company photo by Whitney Brown for Stam-Pede

Just Kidding: Stam-Pede — Upper West Side
Sunday, January 14
If you want to introduce your kids to (or perhaps convince them of) the cool factor of dance, bring them to get into the rhythm of percussive dance by five celebrated companies at Symphony Space. From quick-stepping Irish dance and pounding body percussion to non-stop tap and fast-paced clogging, your crew will walk away appreciative of the power and precision of the varied forms of this art.

2018 Children's Album Grammy Nominees: Live Showcase — Upper West Side
Saturday, January 27
Watch a Grammy performance without booking a flight to Los Angeles (or a babysitter). Symphony Space hosts an all-star lineup of artists nominated for 2018 Grammy Awards for Best Children's Album, including Lisa Loeb, Justin Roberts, Alphabet Rockers, and Gustafer Yellowgold. Kenny Curtis, from SiriusXM Satellite Radio's Kids Place Live, will emcee the show.

RELATED: Indoor Family Fun Guide to NYC Play Spaces and Sports Zones

Enjoy a multisport snow day in Central Park at the annual Winter Jam. Photo by Daniel Avila/courtesy NYC Parks.

Winter Jam — Central Park
Saturday, January 27**
Regardless of what Mother Nature brings in January, it's going to be a major snow day at the Central Park Bandshell on January 28 (we hope). The Parks Department's annual winter sports festival features fresh-blown snow courtesy of Gore Mountain, so families can try cross-country skiing, sledding, snowshoeing and snowboarding, or just frolic in the fluffy white stuff. Equipment is provided or bring your own. Signed waivers are required for certain activities. This fest is traditionally crowded, and last year's was canceled due to extra cold temps, so there could be even more fans eager to check it out. Arrive early to beat the crowds, and keep an eye on the weather. *Note: This year's event from changed from Sunday to Saturday, January 27. FREE

Winter Spooktacular 2018 — Corona, Queens
Sunday, January 28
Pull your Halloween outfits out of the closet for the Queens Museum's annual fundraiser. Designed and produced by Queens Museum artist and educator Gregory Corbino, the museum's second floor transforms into an eerie version of the New York City skyline, with various performers, a Quaking Queens photo booth, Ghosts and Godzillas scavenger hunt, ghoulish goodies, face painting, and sideshows. A family pack of five tickets comes with a FREE family membership to the museum.

Japan’s New Year’s Day Celebration: Oshogatsu – Midtown East
Sunday, January 28
Celebrate the New Year at the Japan Society with music, crafts, calligraphy, rice pounding, mochi making, and more family activities to welcome the Year of the Dog. There will also be lion dances and live Taiko drumming performances and workshops. 

Honorable Mentions

NYC always has incredible things going on, so it's difficult to choose what to include in our monthly GoList. Here are a dozen more cool events worth considering for your January calendar. 

Watch (or if you're brave, join) members of the Coney Island Polar Bear Club on their annual New Year's Day swim in the Atlantic Ocean, on Monday, January 1. FREE, although donations are encouraged for Camp Sunshine.

Broadway Week 2 for 1 ticket sales begin on Friday, January 5, and top shows sell out in minutes!

Create your own year-long vision for 2018 at Wave Hill's Create Your Year weekend and take home your very own hanging calendar on Saturday, January 6 and Sunday, January 7.

Sip tea with your stuffy at this historical Teddy Bear Tea at the Mount Vernon Hotel Museum and Garden on Sunday, January 7.

Now two days! Check out panels, films, workshops, and discussions about African-American comics at the fifth annual Black Comic Book Festival at Harlem's Schomburg Center on Friday, January 12 and Saturday, January 13. FREE

Bring your tots to Please Bring Balloons this winter when it reopens on Sunday, January 14.

Grab an artistic holiday treat to take home as the New York Hall of Science dismantles its massive GingerBread Lane display on Monday, January 15.

Catch the opening of The Snowy Day and More Stories by Ezra Jack Keats at St. Luke's Theatre on Monday, January 15.

Take your aspiring tweens and teens to the Girls in Gear BRIC Media talk on Thursday, January 18, where they can meet the women behind the technical aspects of media production. FREE

Tweens will be drawn to TADA! Youth Theater's new play, The Perfect Monster, opening Friday, January 19, which tells the story of young scientist Sybil's quest for a "perfect friend" and her plan one in her basement.

Score more discounted Broadway tickets with the 20at20 promo that runs Tuesday, January 23 to Sunday, February 11.

Get into the winter spirit with the Winter Carnival at Bryant Park, running Saturday, January 26 to Saturday, February 3, that offers musical and other performances and winter sports fun.

Revel in all things NYC at the Children's Museum of the Arts' New York City Cultural Festival on Sunday, January 28, featuring all manner of art projects inspired by the city.