Best Holiday Shows in NYC for Kids

'Twas The Night Before, the holiday-themed spectacle from Cirque du Soleil returns to The Theater at Madison Square Garden this holiday season. Photo by Michael Last
'Twas The Night Before, the holiday-themed spectacle from Cirque du Soleil returns to The Theater at Madison Square Garden this holiday season. Photo by Michael Last
11/24/23 - By Raven Snook

'Tis the season to get the gang all dressed up to see some holiday shows in NYC! While the city is lucky to have amazing shows on Broadway for kids all year-round, during the holidays there are a range of joyous seasonal productions for families, from inexpensive, low-key offerings perfect for fidgety preschoolers, to over-the-top spectacles that are worth the investment. And you can book discounted tickets to many of them through Mommy Poppins.

From live stage adaptations of classics to amazing circus, dance, and impossible-to-describe performances, here are our top 15 holiday shows in NYC for families, and that's in addition to all those beautiful Nutcrackers playing at local theaters. You can find additional theater picks in our Guide to Children's Theater in NYC and more seasonal outings in our Holiday Fun Guide for NYC Kids.


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Click through to our listings for all the details, including times, prices, and locations.

1. Peter Pantomime – Upper West Side

Sunday, November 26
Ages 8 and older
Shuffles, the popular Upper West Side tap dance and musical theater program, presents an interactive mounting of Peter Pan starring some of its talented students and faculty. Done British panto-style, the show invites audiences of all ages to clap for Tinkerbell, boo Captain Hook, and cheer for the fleet-footed title hero.

2. A Christmas Carol at the Merchant’s House – East Village

Tuesday, November 28-Sunday, December 24
Ages 10 and older
Readings of Charles Dickens' holiday classic A Christmas Carol are as ubiquitous as Santas this time of year. But this one-man version mounted in the 19th-century Merchant's House Museum is charmingly retro. In this historic environment, actor John Kevin Jones plays Dickens performing all the characters, just like the author did in his day. It's an intimate experience that requires attention and imagination, so it's best for tweens and teens.

Best Christmas and Holiday Shows in NYC: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Revelations.
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater performs Revelations and a number of other classic and contemporary hits at City Center this season. Photos by Paul Kolnik

3. Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater – Midtown West

Wednesday, November 29-Sunday, December 31
Ages 5 and older
Every holiday season, New York's venerable Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater performs at New York City Center. While grown-ups can go on any date to see works by the troupe's namesake dance-maker as well as newer pieces by resident choreographer Jamar Roberts, the Saturday matinees are the way to go for families. The programs are little-kid friendly and include a performance of Ailey's celebratory Revelations and a post-show Q&A with some of the dancers.

RELATED: Best Broadway Shows for Kids and Families

Best Christmas and Holiday Shows in NYC: Seven in One Blow, or The Brave Little Kid
Axis Theatre Company takes on the Brothers Grimm with Seven in one Blow, or the Brave Little Kid. Photos by Pavel Antonov

4. Seven in One Blow, or the Brave Little Kid – West Village

Friday, December 1-Sunday, December 17
Ages 4-10
An offbeat stage riff on a Brothers Grimm fairy tale, this annual Axis Theatre Company production follows the misadventures of Kid, a young child who kills seven flies in one shot and gets caught in a tangle of lies surrounding the feat. In the end, Kid learns about love and kindness with help from the children in the audience and his mom, played by Debbie Harry (yes, from Blondie!), who appears on video. Tickets are pay-what-you-can starting at $5.

RELATED: Where to See The Nutcracker in NYC in 2023

Best Christmas and Holiday Shows in NYC: Sleeping Beauty at Abrons Arts Center.
Sleeping Beauty at the Abrons Arts Center. Photo courtesy of the production

5. Sleeping Beauty – Lower East Side

Saturday, December 2-Sunday, December 24
Ages 5 and older
This is the most woke Sleeping Beauty you'll ever see, with the princess and her pals defeating Evil Queen Karen with 40 pies in the face! This over-the-top, vaudevillian version of the fairy tale comes from the outrageous minds of married artists Mat Fraser, an actor, writer, and disability activist, and Julie Atlas Muz, a feminist burlesque performer, who were behind the popular family pantos Jack and the Beanstalk and Dick Rivington & the Cat in seasons past. Although they usually perform for the 21-and-over set, Sleeping Beauty is strictly PG, with a cavalcade of sparkly downtown divas promoting radical joy, equality, lefty politics, and the power of chosen family as they reinvent this somnolent story. Note: Masks are required at the 7pm performances on Thursdays December 7, 14, and 21; ASL interpretation is provided Saturday, December 9 at 4pm and Thursday, December 14 at 7pm; and audio description is provided on Sunday, December 17 at 4pm.

6. Twas the Night Before… by Cirque du Soleil — Midtown West

Thursday, December 7-Thursday, December 28
Ages 6 and older
Cirque du Soleil's Christmas extravaganza Twas the Night Before… returns for the season. The show follows a young seasonal cynic named Isabella who's transported to a magical land where she meets characters from Clement Clarke Moore's beloved poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas." But that's beside the point—families go to see Cirque for the performers and eye-popping design, not the plot. Thankfully, there are plenty of fabulous feats in this magical holiday confection featuring aerialists, contortionists, jugglers, and high-energy elves.

RELATED: Best Children’s Theaters in the US

Best Christmas and Holiday Shows in NYC: White Gold at the New Victory Theater.
White Gold brings a Cambodian circus to the New Victory Theater's season. Photo by Ranuth Yun

7. White Gold – Midtown West

Friday, December 8-Saturday, December 30
Ages 5 and older
The New Victory continues its tradition of presenting an international circus spectacle for the holidays with Phare Circus' White Gold. Founded by Cambodian refugees, the troupe celebrates its nation's heritage as well as the Southeast Asian food staple rice, known in the region as white gold. Marvel at juggling, tumbling, balancing, and other feats complemented by Cambodian music, dance, and the ancient art of rice painting. ASL interpretation is provided Sunday, December 10 at 2pm; audio description is provided Friday, December 22 at 2pm.

RELATED: 50 Things To Do in Midtown Manhattan with Kids

Best Christmas and Holiday Shows in NYC: The Magic Flute at the Metropolitan Opera
The Magic Flute at the Metropolitan Opera. Photos courtesy of The Metropolitan Opera

8. The Metropolitan Opera: The Magic Flute – Lincoln Center

Friday, December 8-Saturday, December 30
Ages 6 and older
For the holidays, the Metropolitan Opera revives its family-friendly version of Mozart's masterpiece. Director Julie Taymor (of Broadway's The Lion King fame) incorporates fantastical costumes and puppets into the production, which is sung in English and whittled down to just under two hours. It's played the Met many times and always receives rave reviews from critics and, more importantly, kids. An ideal introduction to opera for kids.

9. Third Bird by Isaac Mizrahi and Nico Muhly – Upper East Side

Friday, December 15-Saturday, December 16
Ages 5 and older
Isaac Mizrahi's annual presentation of Sergei Prokofiev's children's classic Peter and the Wolf sells out quickly every holiday. So, this year, he's debuting a brand-new companion piece: Third Bird. With a story written and narrated by Mizrahi set to a score by Nico Muhly, it's a musical celebration of individuality and diversity in the bird world and beyond. At just 30 minutes, and starring a colorful cast of avian characters, it's an excellent introduction to classical music for kids.

10. La MaMa Kids: Winter Wonderland – East Village

Saturday, December 16
Ages 4 and older
The legendary avant-garde arts center celebrates the season with an offbeat interactive experience created by some of its kookiest artists. This immersive performance features site-specific works, all inspired by the winter wonderland theme. Leave your expectations at the door: This genre-busting installation includes acting, puppetry, storytelling, and music.

11. Neil Gaiman Performs A Christmas Carol – Midtown West

Monday, December 18-Tuesday, December 19
Ages 10 and older
Goth icon Neil Gaiman, the writer of The Sandman, Good Omens, and Coraline, channels Charles Dickens in this special performance of A Christmas Carol. The celebrated author originally did this a decade ago at the New York Public Library, and the audio recording of that evening went viral. Now he's gluing on a beard and donning a top hat once again to share Dickens' indelible holiday ghost story live on stage, complemented by Christmas carolers and plenty of good cheer.

RELATED: Why Seeing the Radio City Rockettes is a Holiday Favorite

The Joyce Theater: MOMIX : Best Christmas and Holiday Shows in NYC :
MOMIX at The Joyce Theater. Photo by Moses Pendleton

12. The Joyce Theater: MOMIX – Chelsea

Tuesday, December 19-Sunday, January 7, 2024
Ages 6 and older
Is it magic or is it MOMIX? Moses Pendleton's acrobatic dance company creates eye-popping visuals that will have you wondering, how did they do that?! For its holiday run at the Joyce, the troupe presents highlights from its 40 years of innovation, a fantastical cavalcade of flowers, animals, and abstract creations. Saturday, December 23 at 2pm is designated as a family matinee, but it's almost sold out. Thankfully, kids are welcome at any performance.

RELATED: Polar Express Train Rides and Christmas Trains near NYC in 2023

 Best Christmas and Holiday Shows in NYC : Big Apple Circus: Journey to the Rainbow
The Big Apple Circus: Journey to the Rainbow combines the magic of NYC's hometown circus with plenty of European flair. Photo by Christine DiPasquale

13. Big Apple Circus: Journey to the Rainbow – Lincoln Center

Through Monday, January 15, 2024
All ages
There are multiple circus shows, including Circus VazquezFlip Circus, and others we've mentioned a few in this post in town for the holidays, but NYC's homegrown Big Apple Circus is a decades-old seasonal favorite. For the first time, the company is collaborating with another troupe, Germany's acclaimed Circus-Theater Roncalli, on the all-new spectacle Journey to the Rainbow. Marvel at amazing aerialists, acrobatic clowns, jolly jugglers, and other characters, all with a retro European flair.

RELATED: 15 Picture-Perfect Holiday Day Trips near NYC

Best Christmas and Holiday Shows in NYC: Radio City Christmas Spectacular=
The Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes really needs very little introduction. Photos courtesy of MSG Entertainment

14 Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes – Midtown West

Through Monday, January 1, 2024
Ages 3 and older
What can I say about this legendary holiday extravaganza that you don't already know? Santa, Midtown Manhattan, and the superb synchronized dancing of the Rockettes all take center stage, In recent years, there have been some high-tech additions, such as flying fairy drones. But the magic is in the old-school numbers and the Living Nativity, which have been wowing tourists and natives alike since 1933!

RELATED: Macy's Santaland NYC: How to See Santa at Herald Square in 2023

 Best Christmas and Holiday Shows in NYC: iLuminate
iLuminate lights up the holiday season with its special effects-filled performances that wow kids and adults alike. Photo by Christopher DeVargas

15. iLuminate – Midtown West

Through Sunday, January 21, 2024
Ages 4 and older
Light up your holidays with iLuminate. Well known from its stint on America's Got Talent, the performers wear colorful, illuminated costumes as they dance around in the dark. It's a gimmick but a good one. The visuals are an eye-popping delight and there are lots of mind-blowing special effects. A great choice for kids who aren't into traditional theater.

A version of this post first published in 2021.

Places featured in this article:

Big Apple Circus at Damrosch Park at Lincoln Center

Sleeping Beauty at Abrons Arts Center

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at New York City Center

Seven in One Blow, or the Brave Little Kid at Axis Theatre Company

The Magic Flute at The Metropolitan Opera

MOMIX at The Joyce Theater

A Christmas Carol at Merchant's House Museum

'Twas the Night Before... at The Theater at MSG

Neil Gaiman Performs A Christmas Carol at The Town Hall

iLuminate at New World Stages

Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall

Peter Pantomime at Symphony Space

La MaMa Kids: Winter Wonderland

Third Bird at the Guggenheim Museum