20 Things To Do Thanksgiving Weekend in NYC with Kids

The Winter Lantern Festival: Journey to the East transforms SIUH Community Park into an immersive world of light. Photo courtesy of the festival
The Winter Lantern Festival: Journey to the East transforms SIUH Community Park into an immersive world of light. Photo courtesy of the festival

The Thanksgiving holiday break is nearly here, and while Thursday is likely filled with giant helium balloons and hearty portions of Thanksgiving dinner, you're going to need more things to do Thanksgiving weekend to keep kids and guests entertained after everyone's stuffed.

From only-in-NYC experiences to fun must-do holiday happenings and a slew of kid-friendly shows, we've rounded up 20 fun things to do Thanksgiving weekend in NYC.

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1. Light Up the Night

The 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 its new location in the SIUH Community Park baseball stadium; head to the Bronx Zoo for its popular Holiday Lights, see the second year of Illuminate the Farm at the Queens County Farm Museum, or catch the sparkling displays at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden's Lightscape and NYBG's Glow. Citi Field hosts a brand new experience and the largest light show in the country with its Amaze Light Festival.

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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Things To Do Thanksgiving weekend in NYC; LeFrak Center at Lakeside ice skating rink
Ice skating at LeFrak Center at Lakeside opens just in time for the holiday season. Photo courtesy of Lakeside Brooklyn

3. Go Ice Skating

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

4. Go to CAMP

Check out Disney Encanto x CAMP at the Flatiron branch of this popular chain. There's more fun to be had at CAMP's other locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

5. 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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Things To Do Thanksgiving weekend in NYC: AMNH Origami Holiday Tree
Nab your tickets to visit the American Museum of Natural History's Origami Tree, which debuts in time for the holiday weekend crowds. Photo courtesy of AMNH

6. See a Nature Exhibit and Catch Some Holiday Cheer

The American Museum of Natural History's Extinct and Endangered exhibit highlights the outsized impact tiny insects have on our planet and features the macrophotography of Levon Biss. Check out the beautifully bedecked origami tree while you're there.

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, and get a jump-start on the holiday season with 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.

RELATED: See the 2022 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloon Inflation with Kids

Things to do Thanksgiving weekend in NYC: Union Square Holiday Market
The Union Square Holiday Market welcomes more than 160 vendors. Photo courtesy of Urbanspace

9. 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, Bryant Park, Central Park, and more—many are owned by local artisans.

10. Book a Tour

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

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Things to do Thanksgivint weekend in NYC: Dyker Heights Holiday Lights
Dyker Heights is a destination for over-the-top decorated houses and Christmas cheer. Photo courtesy Dyker Heights Lights

11. View 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.

12. 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.

13. Scale the Skyline

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

RELATED: Guide to Holiday and Christmas Events in NYC

Things to do Thanksgiving weekend in NYC: Gingerbread NYC: The Great Borough Bake-Off
See the cool culinary creations at the Museum of the City of New York's new gingerbread installation. Photo by Jody Mercier

14. Watch NYC's Own Bake-Off

Marvel at the results of the Gingerbread NYC: The Great Borough Bake-Off, which asked bakeries from each borough to create a gingerbread display following the theme of Winter in New York. The sweet creations will be on display at the Museum of the City of New York through Sunday, January 8, 2023.

15. Take in the Trains

The beloved train show at the New York Botanical Garden amazes visitors of all ages, while the New York Historical Society's antique display is chugging throughout the holiday season, too.

16. Hop Aboard

Dive right into the holidays on this Santa Brunch Cruise featuring a three-course brunch, including bottomless drinks for parents. Kids can spend some quality time with Santa and the whole family can snap a photo with the city skyline as the backdrop.

RELATED: Best Holiday Lights Drive-Thrus and Christmas Light Shows near NYC in 2022

Things to do Thanksgiving weekend in NYC: The Nutcracker Ballet at Lincoln Center
Bring your family to celebrate the holiday season at Lincoln Center with The Nutcracker. Photo courtesy of the Nutcracker

17. 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, which intros a new, tech-powered number this season, and A Sherlock Carol begins its annual off-Broadway run.

18. Run Away to the Circus

The Big Apple Circus returns to Lincoln Center for its 45th anniversary season, once again featuring the star power of Nik Wallenda and his talented friends and family.

19. Travel Back in Time

Revisit the thrilling saga of the famous ship at Titanic: The Exhibition. Using photographs, handwritten letters, and other personal belongings, the exhibition tells unforgettable stories about the fates and heroic deeds on board.

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.

Originally published in 2018.

Madison Square Holiday Tree Lighting
Madison Square Park - 4:00 PM Pick
LuminoCity Festival at Eisenhower Park
Eisenhower Park - 4:30 PM Pick
Santa Claus at Harry's Table
Harry's Table - 4:00 PM Pick
Broadway Under The Stars
The Shops at Columbus Circle - 5:00 PM Pick
Neighborhood Guides
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