The Best Family-Friendly Shows to See This Winter
You don't need to dig into your 401K to give your kids a memorable live theater experience in NYC. This winter, there are a slew of family-friendly shows for all ages that cost a sliver of what you'd pay to see a Broadway production.
There are wonderful options for kids of all ages from toddlers to teens, including shows aimed specifically at the preschool set (Taste the Clouds, Gustafer Yellowgold, Sesame Street Live!); stage adaptations of popular picture books (Dog Man, Pete the Cat, She Persisted); a production specifically created for children on the autism spectrum (SUDS); and eye-popping spectacles for the whole family (Thunderbird American Indian Dancers in Concert, Drumfolk).
Best of all, most of these 27 shows are priced at $25 and under, so you can take the whole family for less than the price of one Broadway ticket.
Click through to our listings for all the details, including prices, schedules, and locations.
Family-Friendly Shows Debuting in January
Cartography at the New Victory Theater explores the immigration crisis. Photo by Elman Studio
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Cartography — Midtown West
Friday, January 10-Sunday, January 19
Ages 10 and older
The plight of undocumented immigrants is addressed with sensitivity and optimism in this timely multimedia work at the New Victory Theater. Real-life stories of young refugees are shared as audiences learn how poverty and war are causing mass migration around the world. This empathetic and poignant piece puts a human face on the immigration crisis for tweens and teens.
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The Forest of the Witch by Karagoz Theatre Company plays at Symphony Space. Photo by Kristopher Johnson
The Forest of the Witch — Upper West Side
Saturday, January 18
When Karagoz snips the branches off an enchanted tree, he and his friend are transformed into animals so they can learn the importance of respecting nature. This traditional Turkish shadow puppet play at Symphony Space boasts stunning visuals and a powerful moral about protecting our planet.
Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom — Morningside Heights
Saturday, January 18-Sunday, January 19
Ages 10 and older
Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. and his legacy with the real-life story of Lynda Blackmon Lowery, one of the youngest participants in the historic Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March of 1965. Based on Lowery's memoir of the same name, this show (adapted by The Breakfast Club star Ally Sheedy) uses Civil Rights songs, historical footage, and evocative monologues to chronicle the incredible life of the teen activist, who was jailed nine times before her 15th birthday. It's an inspiring story for politically minded tweens and teens.
Show Up, Kids! is an interactive romp at the Kraine Theater. Photo by Mikiodo
Show Up, Kids! — East Village
Saturday, January 18-Sunday, February 29
Improviser Peter Michael Marino devises an hour-long comedy on the spot just for kids at the Kraine Theater, but he can't do it without your help! My daughter and I saw and loved the adult version of Marino's award-winning autobiographical solo show, which turns the genre on its head by making it about the spectators, too. This family edition has sold out in NYC, LA, and at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. It's a singular experience that's completely different at every performance depending on the audience.
The Thunderbird American Indian Dancers share cultural stories and songs. Photo by Jonathan Slaff
Thunderbird American Indian Dancers in Concert — East Village
Friday, January 24-Sunday, February 2
Ages 5 and older
Traditional Native American culture shines at this 45th annual celebration at Theater for the New City. Families can experience traditional dances, stories, and music from the Native Peoples of the Northeast, Southwest, and Great Plains regions. During weekend matinees, children under 12 get in for just a buck and are invited on stage to take photos with the performers after the show.
Philadanco showcases African-American traditions in dance at LC Kids. Photo by Lois Greenfield
Philadanco — Lincoln Square
Saturday, January 25
Ages 12 and older
Marvel at the dazzling dancers of Philadanco, a Philadelphia-based troupe that's been showcasing African American traditions in movement for 50 years. This hour-long performance features three modern works and serves as an excellent introduction to dance for tweens and teens.
Dog Man: The Musical brings the lovable literary character to life. Photo by Jeremy Daniel
Dog Man: The Musical — Corona
Saturday, January 25-Sunday, January 26
Based on Dav Pilkey's bestselling picture book series of the same name, this TheaterWorksUSA musical at Queens Theatre follows BFFs George and Harold as they try to transform their crime-fighting comic book canine into a stage star. Half human, half dog, and all goofy hero, Dog Man wants to save the city he loves from a cavalcade of kooky villains. But he'll only win if his creators can find a way to finish the show. Written by the team behind the stage adaptation of Click, Clack, Moo and the Emmy-winning PBS series Peg + Cat, Dog Man: The Musical should be catnip for fans.
Charlotte's Web — Manhattan Beach
Sunday, January 26
Bring tissues to TheaterWorksUSA's stage adaptation of E. B. White's classic novel about the unlikely friendship between Charlotte the spider and Wilbur the pig. That bittersweet ending gets us every time.
Warriors Don't Cry — Noho
Friday, January 31-Saturday, February 1
Ages 12 and older
We all know Gen Z is going to change the world, but where do they look for inspiration? To the civil rights movement, of course. In this multimedia show at the Sheen Center, a modern-day teen activist is about to give up hope when she learns about the harrowing story of Melba Pattillo Beals, one of the Little Rock Nine who faced bigotry and hatred as the first black students at an Arkansas high school in 1957. Based on Beals' memoir of the same name, this thought-provoking production is a collaboration between The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts and TheaterWorksUSA.
Packrat is a puppet spectacle inspired by Watership Down. Photo by Stefan Hagen
Packrat — Lower East Side
Friday, January 31-Friday, February 14
Ages 7 and older
Inspired by the iconic novel Watership Down, this puppet production focuses on Bud, a rodent who hoards human junk. When a discarded cigar sparks a wildfire, Bud is blamed by his fellow animals for opening the door to disaster. Shunned and alone, he decides to try to set the world right, learning about the precarious interconnectedness of our species in the process. Created by Concrete Temple Theatre and featuring different types of puppetry, this innovative production runs at Dixon Place.
Family-Friendly Shows Debuting in February
David Darwin: One-Man Sideshow is a solo variety show at Symphony Space. Photo by Tom Castles
David Darwin: One-Man Sideshow — Upper West Side
Saturday, February 1
Ages 2 and older
A man of many unusual skills, David Darwin spins plates, cracks whips, rides unicycles, does rope tricks, and contorts his body into impossible shapes all for your amusement. Seen on America's Got Talent, he should be even more awe-inspiring in person at Symphony Space.
SUDS is aimed at children with autism or other developmental disabilities. Photo by Buatti-Ramos Photography
SUDS — Lincoln Square
Saturday, February 1-Sunday, February 9
Ages 5-8, particularly geared toward those on the autism spectrum
Created specifically for children with autism or other developmental disabilities by the pioneering Bluelaces Theater Company, this multisensory adventure takes place in a magical laundromat, filled with water, soap, bubbles, and fantastical characters such as a dancing sweatshirt and a friendly monster. Young audience members are paired with trained guides who tailor the experience to their interests and sensitivities. While open to all, this LC Kids show is a particularly exciting event for families with special needs.
Taste the Clouds is a perfect introduction to the stage for tots. Photo courtesy of Hit the Lights! Theater Co.
Taste the Clouds — Tribeca
Sunday, February 2-Sunday, April 26
Based on Rita Marshall's picture book of the same name, this 30-minute adventure is a gentle introduction to live theater for tots, as they discover how their five senses help them navigate and appreciate the world. Created by Hit The Lights! Theater Co. and presented by New York City Children's Theater, the story of a girl learning to taste, touch, smell, see, and feel is told through shadow puppetry, music, and interactive elements.
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The Riddle of the Trilobites is a playful evolution story at the New Victory Theater. Photo by Mike Naddeo
The Riddle of the Trilobites — Midtown West
Friday, February 7-Sunday, February 23
Ages 6 and older
Set 500 million years ago when all life on Earth existed in the ocean, this playful musical at the New Victory Theater examines evolution through the eyes of a young Paleozoic marine arthropod named Aphra. When she realizes an epic change is a-coming, she needs to rally her species so it can survive...or, more accurately, evolve. The brainchild of CollaborationTown and Flint Repertory Theatre, the show features bouncy songs, eye-popping puppets, and fun scientific facts. Note: There will be a sensory-friendly performance on February 9.
Doktor Kaboom brings his science experiments to Symphony Space. Photo by Steve Suchman
Doktor Kaboom - Look Out! Science Is Coming! — Upper West Side
Saturday, February 8
Science becomes explosive entertainment as over-the-top German physicist Doktor Kaboom demonstrates the wonders of his chosen field at Symphony Space. Get ready for a series of awesome experiments, all delivered with Kaboom's kooky comedic flair.
The Traveler — Midtown West
Saturday, February 8-Sunday, February 9; Tuesday, April 7
The brainchild of celebrated mime Bill Bowers, this wordless solo show presented by New York City Children's Theater centers on a man who leaves his old life behind in search of a better future, as he tries to find out where he belongs. It's a relatable celebration of imagination and self-discovery.
Alice in Wonderland comes to Queens Theatre. Photo by Marc-Antoine Duhaime
Alice in Wonderland — Corona
Sunday, February 9
Tout à Tracbrings an hour-long stage adaptation of the Lewis Carroll classic to Queens Theatre. All the beloved vignettes are there, though Alice begins her surreal journey not in a garden but in a library full of pop-up books, with each page sparking a new escapade. Note: The 4pm performance is sensory-friendly.
See furry friends on stage at Sesame Street Live! Let's Party! at MSG. Photo courtesy of Feld Entertainment Inc.
Sesame Street Live! Let's Party! — Midtown West
Friday, February 14-Sunday, February 23
Sesame Street's throwing a bash, and everyone's invited! Head to the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden to dance, jump, sing, and clap along as Elmo, Oscar, Cookie Monster, and their furry friends lead fans in a variety of interactive activities. It's a must-see for young fans of the venerable PBS series.
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Goldilocks and the Three Bears gets the puppet treatment at Symphony Space. Photo by Dan Raynor/Stevens Puppets
Goldilocks and the Three Bears — Upper West Side
Saturday, February 15
The classic fairy tale about a little girl who breaks into a family's home comes to life through Stevens Puppets' gorgeous handcarved wooden marionettes. In this version at Symphony Space, she isn't just caught, she's also taught lessons about respect, kindness, and forgiveness.
How to Eat Like a Child (and Other Lessons in Not Being A Grown-Up) — Chelsea
Saturday, February 15-Sunday, March 8
Ages 3 and older
Based on Delia Ephron's TV special of the same name, this musical revue is a humorous how-to for tykes, featuring songs and vignettes about torturing your siblings, begging for a pet, understanding your parents, and avoiding school. As with all TADA! productions, How to Eat Like a Child stars talented NYC-area kids ages 8-18, although the actors for this one skew younger. Tip: If you have a tot, ask for a front-row bench seat. It's an awesome first-time theater experience for preschoolers.
The Gustafer Yellowgold Show at Symphony Space features catchy tunes for all ages. Photo by McCarthy Photo Studio.
The Gustafer Yellowgold Show — Upper West Side
Saturday, February 22
Less a show than a multimedia narrative concert, Gustafer Yellowgold is a mash-up of music, animation, and whimsy. The cartoon adventures of a ray of sun living on Earth are set to singer-songwriter Morgan Taylor's Beatles-esque tunes. Taylor is joined by his full band for this Symphony Space performance, which should make the songs sound extra sweet. Parents, don't be surprised if you dig the tunes, too: Taylor has opened for alt rockers such as Wilco and The Polyphonic Spree.
Pete the Cat — Tribeca
Saturday, February 22
TheaterWorksUSA brings its smash adaptation of the popular picture book series to the Tribeca Performing Arts Center. In this hour-long musical, the cool title feline shakes up his new owners' lives—for the better of course! Read our full review for additional details.
She Persisted, The Musical — Chelsea
Saturday, February 22-Sunday, March 15
Ages 5 and older
Chelsea Clinton's inspiring picture book becomes a musical for all ages at Atlantic for Kids. When a fourth grader visits a women's history museum, legendary ladies past (Harriet Tubman, Helen Keller, Clara Lemlich) and present (Oprah Winfrey, Sonia Sotomayor) appear and school her in how to take a stand. Created by artists with extensive experience making theater for young audiences that also engages adults, this show is must-see edutainment for families raising feminists.
Drumfolk at the New Victory will get you tapping your toes. Photo by Jati Lindsay
Drumfolk — Midtown West
Friday, February 28-Sunday, March 15
Ages 7 and older
This New Victory show from Step Afrika! explores the evolution of African-American percussion and dance, as traditions of stepping and drumming paved the way for tap, beat-boxing, and hip-hop. You'll struggle not to jump up and dance along.
Family-Friendly Shows Debuting in March
Paige in Full — Flushing
Sunday, March 7
Ages 5 and older
Writer, choreographer, and performer Paige Hernandez uses poetry, dance, and music to share her life story as a multicultural girl raised in Baltimore. This hip-hop heavy production tells a universal tale of self-discovery, and the performance at Flushing Town Hall is preceded by an interactive dance workshop.
Rosie Revere Engineer & Friends — Tribeca
Saturday, March 14
Based on Andrea Beaty's book series, this energetic musical celebrates STEM with a trio of young characters interested in engineering, science, and architecture. Produced by TheaterWorksUSA and presented at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center, the show aims to inspire the next generation of innovators.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar — Flushing
Sunday, March 15
The Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia brings three of Eric Carle's iconic tales to life: The Mixed-Up Chameleon; Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?; and the title story. With eye-popping puppets that conjure the author-illustrator's singular aesthetic, this short and colorful show is a wonderful first-time theatergoing experience. Note: It's also playing at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center on February 29.