Best Things to Do with NYC Kids: January GoList

Get your calendars ready. Here are the top 12 things to do with kids in New York City this January, four 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 shows, concerts, 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 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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Join Thomas and Driver Sam on a fun-filled, sing-along adventure at All Aboard with Thomas & Friends at the New York Botanical Garden. Photo courtesy of NYBG

All Aboard with Thomas & Friends at the New York Botanical Garden — New York Botanical Garden, the Bronx
December 29–January 6 (daily); weekends January 12–21
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: Your tickets also grant you access to the Botanical Garden's annual holiday train show where kids can see even more choo-choos.

In How Many Zombies Are Too Many Zombies? players take on the role of scientists helping the “Center for Calamity Control” in a game of zombie tag. Photo by Ann-Sophie Fjelloe-Jensen for the NY Hall of Science

How Many Zombies Are Too Many Zombies? — Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens
January 2–February 15
Sure, the sugary-sweet confections of Gingerbread Lane at the New York Hall of Science are cute and all—but how 'bout an interactive game of zombie tag? This immersive, fun experience teaches mathematical concepts through a game in which kids age 8 and up play scientists attempting to control a zombie outbreak. (You even get to make your own zombie mask.)

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

Three Kings Day Parade — East Harlem
Friday, January 4
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 42nd 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

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

Just Kidding: Stam-Pede — Upper West Side
Sunday, January 6
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 nine 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.

Unbound: Malala Yousafzai — Fort Greene, Brooklyn
Tuesday, January 8
BAM welcomes Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai to talk about her new book, We Are Displaced: My Journey and Stories from Refugee Girls Around the World. Journalist Rukmini Callimachi leads the discussion about the displacement of millions worldwide, using Yousafzai’s own account of the girls she’s met in refugee camps and cities. A powerful must-see for kids ages 10 and up.

Black Comic Book Festival — Harlem 
Friday, January 18 and Saturday, January 19 
​Check out panels, films, workshops, and discussions about African-American comics at the sixth annual Black Comic Book Festival at Harlem's Schomburg Center. Kids and costumes (and kids in costumes) are encouraged. FREE

RELATED: NYC Children's Museum and Art Guide

Explore 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 19–Monday, January 21
Kids can 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, with activities, performances, crafts, and storytelling.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Storytelling and Music Event — Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Brooklyn
Monday, January 21
Award-winning author and Brooklyn daughter Jacqueline Woodson (Brown Girl Dreaming) reads from new works at this annual event at Grace Reformed Church in Brooklyn, where the day-long calendar of kid-friendly activities also includes live music performances, crafts, and lunch. The event is run solely by volunteers, including local high school and college students. FREE

Alternatively, for older kids, on MLK Day BAM in Fort Greene hosts the city's largest remembrance of Dr. King, with musical performances, films, and a talk by keynote speaker Tarana Burke, founder of the #MeToo movement. FREE

The Snowy Day and Other Stories by Jack Ezra Keats celebrates the wonder of childhood in the city. Photo courtesy of the production

The Snowy Day and Other Stories by Ezra Jack Keats — Midtown West
Monday, January 21
We loved this play based on the Caldecott Medal-winning author's works when it played at St. Luke's Theater last year, and it's returning to the stage for two special MLK Day performances. This is a lovely introduction to theater for the youngest audiences, celebrating childhood in the city.

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 26
Regardless of what Mother Nature brings in January, it's going to be a major snow day at the Central Park Bandshell on January 26 (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, so arrive early to beat the crowds, and keep an eye on the weather. FREE

Winter Spooktacular 2019: Boneyard Boogie — Corona, Queens
Saturday, January 26
A Halloween party in January? Why not! Pull your Halloween outfits out of the closet for this long-running family favorite at the Queens Museum, with face-painting, performances, crafts, scavenger hunts, and more activities. The entire second floor transforms into an eerie version of the New York City skyline, and this year's disco theme will have skeletons and ghosts dancing through city streets.

Japan’s New Year’s Day Celebration: Oshogatsu – Midtown East
Sunday, January 27
Celebrate the New Year at the Japan Society with music, crafts, calligraphy, rice pounding, mochi making, and more family activities. 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.

See the breathtaking Winter Lantern Festival at Snug Harbor in Staten Island before it closes January 6, with seven acres of parkland illuminated with colorful LED lanterns.

Create your own year-long vision for 2019 at Wave Hill's Create Your Year weekend and take home your very own hanging calendar on Saturday, January 5 and Sunday, January 6.

Dance off those weekend afternoon crazies at one of Rock and Roll Playhouse's weekly family dance parties, Saturdays at Industry City in Sunset Park and Sundays at Brooklyn Bowl in Williamsburg. Themed boogie fests this month include the music of Abba, Bob Marley, and fierce female funk artist Karina's Funk Revue.

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

Broadway Week 2 for 1 ticket sales begin on Wednesday, January 9, and top shows sell out in minutes!

Kids can picture themselves in Professor Sprout's greenhouse at Hogwarts (no screaming mandrakes included) at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden's workshop about medicinal plants, The Botanical World of Harry Potter Tour Series: Herbology, January 13.

My City, My Song, Carnegie Hall's interactive introduction to world music, rings out on January 19, and is surprisingly affordable at $10 per ticket. Pre-show activities aim to get kids singing and making music along with the performers.

Carry home a gingerbread masterpiece on January 21, when the New York Hall of Science dismantles its delicious Gingerbread Lane and gives away the houses and structures, first-come, first-served.

The Alliance Francaise brings back its popular Animation First Film Festival with plenty of kid-friendly screenings (in French with English subtitles...but much of the comic action needs no translation) Friday, January 25 through Sunday, January 27 .

Kids will relate to Emily Brown and the Thing, a musical adventure opening at the New Victory theater Saturday, January 26, in which heroic Emily and her trusty stuffed-rabbit-sidekick attempt to reunite a sweet monster with his own lovey.

Catch the last performances of this year's girl-power-centric Big Apple Circus before the tent folds January 27.

This post is updated annually.