25 Staycation Ideas for the November School Holidays in NYC

Things to Do on Election Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving Activities for Kids

Every time I look at my calendar lately, it seems like my kids are spending more time with me than they are in the classroom, and November in NYC seems to be particularly peppered with days off. Between Election Day, Veterans Day, and the pair of school holidays that make up Thanksgiving break, we've got plenty of time to kill. If you're not heading out of town to celebrate with family and friends, you might be searching for some staycation ideas for you and the kids.

Fear not, though we've already given you a slew of must-do activities to enjoy all month long, here are 25 more ideas for entertaining your brood in New York City on November's school holidays. Find more school holiday fun in our daily Event Calendar.


Learn about democracy on Election Day at the Children's Museum of Manhattan. Photo courtesy of the museum.

1. Immerse yourself in presidential history with a visit to the Children's Museum of Manhattan, which is featuring an interactive exhibition of presidential memorabilia and autographs all month long.

2. Explore a new-to-you neighborhood. We suggest Dumbo, Koreatown, or Chinatown, all of which we recently profiled.

3. Can't take the day off from work? Many NYC kid spots, including the zoos, museums, and maker studios host one-day "mini" camps for the kids, as well as weeklong camps during the winter and spring school breaks.

4. Enjoy some free fun courtesy of the NYC Parks Department, which is hosting Election Day events in Queensbridge and Prospect Parks.

5. Discover a new-to-you spot to get respite from the cold by exploring NYC's many winter gardens.

6. Get your little ones out of the house with a visit to new play space, Tot Town, in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, or another indoor playground around the city.

7. If you've got tweens or teens, head to Democracy Plaza aka Rockefeller Plaza, to watch the returns come in. You'll see the electoral map laid out on the ice rink, and a tracker to 270 will be projected on 30 Rockefeller Plaza. There will also be fun photo ops and, for the first time, a VR component if you don't feel like battling the crowds.


Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times is one of the films playing at a Lincoln Center film festival for kids. Photo courtesy of Warner Brothers/The Kobal Collection.

8. Introduce your children to the concept of a film festival by heading to Lincoln Center's My First Film Fest which closes its run November 8.

9. Bring canned goods to donate while you check out the incredible displays at the 24th annual Canstruction at Brookfield Place. FREE

10. Spend part of your Thanksgiving holiday giving back with one of these family-friendly volunteer opportunities.

11. Brave the crowds to experience the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade for a memorable only-in-New York experience. Also consider making reservations for dinner afterward.

12. Catch the opening of Gingerbread Lane at the New York Hall of Science on Veterans Day and take advantage of FREE admission from 2-5pm.

13. See a kid-friendly show like The Three Little Bears Holiday Bash at the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre, Chotto Desh at the New Victory Theater, or Pip's Island at the Skylight Modern.

14. Take a spin on one of the city's outdoor ice rinks, all of which are open by mid-month.

15. Beat the crowds at the Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden, which debuts replicas of some favorite Brooklyn landmarks this season.

16. Send your bored teens to Sony Square to participate in a pair of escape games inspired by The Blacklist and Timeless. Games are FREE, but advance registration is required.


See the origami dinosaur-inspired tree at the American Museum of Natural History. Photo by R. Mickens/courtesy of the museum.

17. Visit the city's most creative holiday tree: The Origami Tree at AMNH, which opens the Monday before Thanksgiving; then check out the soon-to-open Cuba! exhibit, or the soon-to-close Dinosaurs Among Us, and the live crocodile exhibition.

18. Head to Queens' Museum of the Moving Image on Friday, November 25, for a Sweets on Screen workshop and showing of the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

19. Jump start your holiday shopping with a visit to the Grand Central Holiday Fair. Make sure to stop by the NYC Transit Museum Annex to see its holiday train installation.

20. Visit the Dyker Lights holiday displays in Brooklyn. These jaw-dropping Christmas decorations will illuminate around Thanksgiving!

21. Drop in to the brand-new Brooklyn Children's Museum's play space, Spark on the Dumbo waterfront, conveniently close to all Brooklyn Bridge Park's fun.

22. Sneak in some shopping at one of these kid-friendly stores offering on-site opportunities for play so the kids are occupied while you spend.

23. Beat the seasonal chill with a visit to one of our favorite hot chocolate spots in Manhattan or Brooklyn, or indulge in one of these over-the-top, only-in-NYC desserts.

24. Forget trying to get into the stores on Black Friday, peruse the holiday windows outside where the crowds are thinner.

25. Make sure to get your kid's wish-list in early with a visit to Macy's Santaland or one of these other spots where Jolly Old St. Nick holds court.

Top image: Democracy Plaza at Rockefeller Center. Photo courtesy of the venue.