The holiday season is upon us, and that means it’s time to start making plans for festive, family-friendly outings. Of course, there’s a list as long as Santa’s of places to go and things to do on Long Island this time of year, but we’ve whittled it down to just over a baker's dozen of the very best for your family to enjoy.
From Thanksgiving runs to Christmas shows and holiday train rides, we’ve got what you need to get your family into the spirit of the season. For more ways to make seasonal memories this holiday season, check out our Holiday Fun Guide and our Event Calendar.
Disney on Ice: MIckey's Search Party skates into Nassau Coliseum this November. Photo courtesy of Feld Entertainment and Disney
1. Disney on Ice: Mickey's Search Party— Uniondale
November 15-November 25, 2018 (except November 19-22)
This is a great way to kick off the holiday season, especially if your child loves Disney movies. Mickey and the gang must search for missing Tinkerbell using Captain Hook's treasure map. The show features some of Disney’s most beloved characters, including the fab four, Moana, Aladdin, Belle, and Elsa. This is also the Disney on Ice debut for Coco's Miguel.
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Thrill to the return of Magic of Lights to Jones Beach. Photo courtesy of Magic of Lights
2. Magic of Lights — Jones Beach State Park
November 16-December 30, 2018
Pile your family into the car and drive through this enthralling, 2½-mile-long light show that returns to Jones Beach. Enjoy the "Enchanting Tunnel of Lights," animated figures, and holiday characters. Returning this year is a holiday festival village, where families can walk around and enjoy cocoa, s’mores, holiday music and movies, a hay maze, and pictures with the big guy himself, Santa. Tickets purchased online can be used at any show.
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Join in the adventure as Jenny and Frosty combine to save Chillsville. Photo courtesy of The John W. Engeman Theater
3. Frosty at The John W. Engeman Theater — Northport
Various dates, Saturday, November 23-Sunday, December 30, 2018; sensory-sensitive performance on December 28
Frosty and friend Jenny are united again in their adventures as they try to save the town of Chillsville. Kids in the audience help the duo in their quest to stop evil Ethel Pierpot from melting all the snow. Be sure to take a stroll along Northport’s picturesque Main Street after the show.
4. Elf the Musical at The John W. Engeman Theater - Northport
Various dates, November 15-December 30, 2018
Based on the beloved film, Elf the Musical follows Buddy the elf, a human who after crawling into Santa's bag, grows up in the North Pole as an elf. Buddy journeys to find his birth father, restoring New York City's Christmas spirit along the way.
5. Thanksgiving Native American Feast — Glen Cove
Saturday, November 17-Sunday, November 18, 2018
This more-than-25-year-old tradition is held at Garvies Point Museum and Preserve. It’s a wonderful way to celebrate the history and culture of Native Americans. Enjoy hands-on educational activities throughout the weekend, including pottery making, primitive fire building, and fire cooking with samples (don’t miss the famous popcorn soup). Tools and artifacts are on display. There’s also face painting, spear-throwing demonstrations, and more.
6. Turkey Trots — Islandwide
Saturday, November 18 and Thursday, November 23, 2018
If it’s not already a family tradition, this might be the year to start. Get the whole family outside for a run or walk before you sit down to a delicious, but calorie-filled Thanksgiving feast. From a 5k race or walk to a fun run for little ones, turkey trots are held all across Nassau, Suffolk, and the East End. Most take place in the early morning on Thanksgiving Day, so even if you’re hosting you still can participate—or at least get everyone out of your kitchen for an hour or two.
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Meet Santa on an East End Polar Express Trolley Ride this holiday season. Photo courtesy of North Fork Trolley
7. Polar Express Trolley Ride — Riverhead and Southampton
Friday, November 23-Sunday, December 23, 2018
Inspired by Chris Van Allsburg’s award-winning book The Polar Express (that, in turn, inspired the movie, starring Tom Hanks), families take an interactive trolley ride while listening to actor Liam Neeson’s reading of the book and interacting with a character from the story. A visit from Santa and his elves along with hot cocoa and cookies await passengers as they disembark at the “North Pole.” For full effect, families are encouraged to wear their pajamas (Children must be 2 and older.) Trolleys depart from Riverhead and Southampton.
Barnaby Saves Christmas will delight the littlest theatergoers. Photo courtesy of the Theatre Three
8. Barnaby Saves Christmas — Port Jefferson
Weekends from Friday, November 23 to Saturday, December 29, 2018; sensory-sensitive performance Sunday, November 25
An hourlong musical is just long enough for the littlest theatergoers. Celebrating its 14th season, Barnaby Saves Christmas follows the journey of the little elf and his reindeer as they set off to save Christmas, ultimately learning the true meaning of the holiday season. After the show, enjoy the many restaurants and shops that line the streets of nautical Port Jefferson.
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Port Jefferson's Charles Dickens Festival climaxes with a reading of A Christmas Carol. Photo by Jennifer Trotta Sam
9. Charles Dickens Festival — Port Jefferson
Saturday, December 1-Sunday, December 2, 2018
For more than 20 years, Port Jefferson has held an annual tribute to the great English writer. The Dickens Festival is held in the village center with characters in costume, including chimney sweeps, Scrooge, and the town crier. Weekend-long festivities include ice skating, musical performances, magic shows, a bonfire, Theatre Three’s annual production of A Christmas Carol, and more. It's fun for all ages.
10. Brookhaven Town Holiday Spectacular — Holtsville
Saturday, December 1-Sunday, December 16, 2018
For several weekends in December, visitors can enjoy this indoor, walk-through holiday light show at the Holtsville Ecology Site. There are raffles, and children can have their picture taken with Santa. Proceeds help to take care of the more than 100 animals who live at the site.
Children (and adults) will be mesmerized by The Eglevsky Ballet's performance of The Nutcracker. Photo courtesy of the ballet
11. Eglevsky Ballet Presents The Nutcracker — Brookville
Saturday, December 15 and Sunday, December 16, 2018
Nothing says Christmas like the enchanting story of Clara and her Nutcracker. For a real treat, catch the Eglevsky Ballet’s annual production at the Tilles Center for the Performing Arts on the campus of Long Island University. The performance features Unity Phelan, soloist at New York City Ballet, as the Sugar Plum Fairy; Jared Angle, principal dancer at New York City Ballet, as Cavalier; and film and stage actor Chris Comfort as Drosselmeyer. Music is performed by the Massapequa Philharmonic Orchestra.
12. Candlelight Evenings Holiday Show — Old Bethpage
Friday, December 21-Saturday, December 29, 2018
Experience how the holidays were celebrated on Long Island in the 19th century. Walk among the historic houses, barns, and buildings at Old Bethpage Village Restoration. Enjoy traditional music, performances, storytelling, a vintage model train show, and a roaring bonfire.
Drive among thousands of twinkling lights at Riverhead's new holiday light show. Photo courtesy of the show
13. Holiday Lights Show — Calverton
Friday, November 16-Saturday. December 29, 2018
Thrill to more than 60 lighted displays at this new attraction at the Long Island Sports Park, five miles from downtown Riverhead. Some displays reach as high as three stories. The drive-through attraction is 1½ miles long and takes about 25 minutes to complete. It is open on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays beginning at 5pm. Tickets, priced at $23 per car, can be used any day during the show's six-week run.
Top image: Usher in the holiday season with a dazzling performance of The Nutcracker. Photo courtesy of Eglevsky Ballet
Writer Gina Massaro contributed to this post.