The Bronx Zoo's Holiday Lights are bigger and better than ever! Photo by Julie Larsen Maher for WCS
The Bronx Zoo's Holiday Lights are bigger and better than ever! Photo by Julie Larsen Maher for WCS

20 Things to Do Thanksgiving Weekend in NYC With Kids

The Thanksgiving holiday break is nearly here, and while Thursday is likely filled with giant helium balloons and hearty portions of Thanksgiving dinner, you've got three more days to entertain the kids after everyone's stuffed.

Whether you're entertaining out-of-towners or enjoying a family staycation, we've got you covered. From only-in-NYC experiences to fun holiday happenings and a slew of kid-friendly shows, we've rounded up 20 fun ways to spend some quality time with your family over the long weekend.

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1. Light Up the Night

Five holiday light shows are set to twinkle this season and will be ablaze for the long holiday weekend. Take the ferry to Staten Island for the NYC Winter Lantern Festival at Snug Harbor; head to the Bronx Zoo for the return of its Holiday Lights show, see a brand new lantern show at the Queens County Farm Museum, or catch the sparkling displays at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden's Lightscape or NYBG's Glow.


2. Dive Into a Slimy Good Time

Roll up your sleeves for a visit to the Sloomoo Institute in Soho for an over-the-top sensory experience.

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Take a spin on the revamped Wollman Rink
Wollman Rink has re-opened just in time for the holiday season. Photo by Jody Mercier

3. Go Ice Skating

The holiday season heralds the opening of ice skating rinks around the city including a revamped Wollman Rink. It's also the perfect excuse for a mug of hot cocoa.

4. Go to CAMP

Check out the PAW Patrol Experience at the Hudson Yards branch of CAMP. There's more fun to be had at CAMP's other locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

5. See a New Exhibit at an Old Standby

The American Museum of Natural History's Color of Nature exhibit is a must-see—and closes Sunday, December 5—and you can check out the return of the Butterfly Conservatory and origami tree while you're there.

6. Visit the Statue of Liberty

Whether or not you've got family in town, Lady Liberty is still a worthy outing. While the crowds are focused on Midtown's shopping hot spots, head way downtown and hop a ferry to visit Lady Liberty. The lines will be shorter, the crowds lighter, and the views just as stunning. Make sure to visit the Statue of Liberty Museum and save time for Ellis Island, too.

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American Dream is a great day trip destination
Play with Legos and much more at New Jersey's mega mall, American Dream. Photo by Diana Kim

7. Check out the Mega Mall

There's plenty to see and do at American Dream. Check out the Nickelodeon Universe Theme Park or indoor ice rink, the Dreamworks Water Park, the Legoland Discovery Center, and Sea Life Aquarium, plus plenty of high-end shopping.

8. Visit Hudson Yards

There are so many things to do in Hudson Yards, it's a perfect way to spend an afternoon during Thanksgiving weekend. Marvel at the views from thrilling heights at Edge, take on a terrifying open-air climb from even higher, or just peruse the shops and marvel at its beautiful holiday lights.

9. Book a Tour

Whether you go by boat or double-decker bus, you just might learn something new on a tour of your hometown.

RELATED: 12 Must-Do Holiday Activities and Christmas Events in NYC for Kids in 2021

We can't wait to see what this year's holiday window displays have in store. Photo by Jody Mercier

10. See Midtown's Holiday Windows

Our annual holiday windows walk is one of our favorite holiday traditions. The best part: It doesn't cost a thing. Start at 59th Street and work your way down to Macy's, where you can visit Santa and get your requests in early.

11. Scale the Skyline

Take the glass-enclosed elevators to the top of Summit One Vanderbilt and snap an only-in-NY holiday photo.

12. Support a Small Business

Skip the big-box stores and direct some of your holiday spending to your favorite local business. Park Slope marks Small Business Saturday with a holiday tree lighting and plenty of neighborhood cheer. Other options: Check out the booths at the holiday pop-up shops in Union Square, at Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park, Central Park, and more—many are owned by local artisans.

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Dyker Heights Christmas lights
Dyker Heights is a destination for the over-the-top decorated houses and Christmas cheer. Photo by Marley White

13. See the Dyker Lights

There's nothing quite like the spectacle that takes over the neighborhood of Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, each holiday season. Block after block is decorated with over-the-top twinkling lights. It's a must-see marvel for city families.

14. See the Trains

The beloved train show at the New York Botanical Garden welcomes visitors again, while the New-York Historical Society's antique display is chugging throughout the holiday season, too.

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Stranger Things pop-up store
The Stranger Things pop-up store offers plenty of photo-ops and cool-themed merchandise. Photo by the Diana Kim

15. Shop at a Pop-Up Store

If you've got a Stranger Things fan in your life, create some unique gift bags with one-of-a-kind merchandise and memorabilia from the newly opened Stranger Things pop-up in Times Square.

16. Run Away to the Circus

For a unique, immersive circus experience, step right into the Empire Circus, an open-air performance allowing audience members to choose their circus adventure. Or revisit a revamped classic in the Big Apple Circus, which contains plenty of star power with Nik Wallenda.

RELATED: Guide to Holiday and Christmas Events in NYC

Winnie the Pooh takes the stage in a new musical adaptation
Winnie the Pooh—in puppet form—stars in a new musical stage show. Photo courtesy of the production

17. Enter the Hundred Acre Wood

Winnie the Pooh takes to the stage in stunning puppet form. This live adaptation of the beloved kids' classic is the perfect way to introduce theater to your kids.

18. See a Seasonal Show

It's the opening weekend for The Nutcracker at Lincoln Center, plus a handful of other more kid-friendly iterations, the Rockettes are kicking at the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, and A Sherlock Carol begins its off-Broadway run.

19. Celebrate Hanukkah

The Festival of Lights kicks off on Sunday, November 28, and we've found menorah lightings, concerts, and more family-friendly celebrations to mark the Jewish holiday.

20. Get Out of Town

If you're hoping for a quiet moment before the craziness of Christmas sets in, consider one of these picture-perfect seasonal day trips, ranging from Santa trains to Christmas lights and more low-key destinations.

This post, originally published in November 2018, has been updated for 2019.

The New York Botanical Garden - 5:00 PM Pick
The World's Largest Hanukkah Menorah: Manhattan
Grand Army Plaza - various times Pick
The Largest Menorah Lighting: Brooklyn
Grand Army Plaza - various times Pick
Dyker Heights Christmas Lights
Dyker Heights Christmas Lights - various times Pick
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