Free and Fun Things to this Weekend for NYC Kids: NYBG Holiday Train Show, AMNH Beyond Space, BCM IckyFest Nov 19-20

Best Weekend Events for New York City Kids and Families

Here we are at the last sane weekend before the holiday season officially begins. We adore the holidays of course, but we also love to savor NYC at this time of year, when it still belongs to us and not the tourists.

Even though Thanksgiving marks the start of the season, you can enjoy a bit of early holiday fun this weekend. The New York Botanical Garden unveils its annual train show on Saturday and a handful of department stores have put up their holiday windows. (Look for our slide show of all of the big ones soon.)

Of course there's lots of non-holiday fun too, including the Children's Museum of Manhattan's fabulous new installation Eat Sleep Play and the American Museum of Natural History's new Beyond Planet Earth exhibit, which opens on Saturday. Also this weekend, Music for Aardvarks rocks the preschool set, the Brooklyn Children's Museum's annual Icky Fest and live stand-up comedy for kids by kids.

And that's just a few of the great things going on this weekend. Read on for all of our picks and remember, you can find additional options in our Event Calendar.

All Weekend

New York Botanical Garden Holiday Train Show – the Bronx
The garden's annual holiday exhibit opens on Saturday. Marvel at amazing replicas of famous NYC buildings, all made from natural materials like twigs and flowers, and cool model choo-choos. On Saturday at 4pm, you can also watch the Christmas tree light up for the season. Free with all-garden pass: $20 for adults, $10 for children 2-12, free for kids under 2.

Icky Fest – Crown Heights
The Brooklyn Children's Museum invites kids to get yucky (sorry parents!) at this weekend devoted to slimy, disgusting activities. Kids can examine bugs, make slime, dissect owl pellets, create gooey art and enjoy a lot of other icky fun. Free with museum admission: $7.50.

Beyond Planet Earth: The Future of Space Exploration – Upper West Side
It's the opening weekend of the American Museum of Natural History's new space-themed exhibit. I got a sneak peek on Tuesday and it's definitely a winner. (Look for my full review soon.) Kids will love examining the life-size model of a lunar habitat, a walk-through diorama of the surface of Mars, and gear used in previous space expeditions. Free with admission: $24 for adults, $14 for children ages 2-12, free for kids under 2.

AKC Meet the Breeds – Midtown West
Animal lovers can head to the Jacob Javits Center for this massive animal show featuring every single breed of dog and cat (more than 200 in total)! Learn what makes each breed special, catch an agility display, get some grooming tips or watch the cat fashion show. While you're there, you can pick up treats for your own pets from the 100 vendors. In advance: $12 for adults, $8 for kids; at the door: $15 for adults, $10 for kids.

A Christmas Carol – SoHo
Manhattan Children’s Theater mounts a just-for-kids musical adaptation of Charles Dickens' classic holiday tale A Christmas Carol. In advance: $18 for adults, $16 for kids; at the door: $20.

Saturday, November 19

The Handsome Little Devils' Squirm Burpee Circus – Manhattan Beach
My son and I saw this hysterical vaudeville-style show last year when it was at the New Victory Theater, and we just loved it. Today it's playing at Kingsborough Community College. Cool circus acts and wild contraptions are woven into a romantic story about two brothers, a sweet ingenue and an over-the-top villain. $12.

R & R Saturdays – Upper West Side
The free Saturday family fun continues at the JCC in Manhattan with live music from Sruli and Lisa's Family Band, storytelling, origami, art projects, indoor games and outdoor fun in the newly renovated rooftop playground, weather permitting. There are activities for parents too, like yoga and discussions about current events. FREE

Keller Williams Plays for Kids – Williamsburg
This amazing one-man-jam-band brings his unique blend of jazz, folk, rock and reggae to the Williamsburg Bowl in honor of his new album Keller Williams Kids. $20, $60 for a family four-pack.

Archikids – Battery Park City
Tweens learn about skyscrapers with architect Yves Roger, and then build their own models to take home. $5 per child. Advance registration required.

The Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players – Upper West Side
Symphony Space welcomes this kooky band as part of its Just Kidding performance series. This NYC-based family troupe is a must-see, equal parts indie band, performance art, slide show and comedy. Definitely unlike anything you've seen before. $20 for adults, $13 for kids.

Junior Detective Day – Financial District
Kids can help solve a mystery at the New York City Police Museum using CSI techniques, handwriting analysis, invisible ink, fingerprinting and more. Best suited for families with children ages 5-14. Free with museum admission: $8 for adults, $5 for kids, children under 2 free.

Super Sabado – East Harlem
It's the third Saturday of the month which means it's time for El Museo del Barrio's family fest. November's theme is oral history. Kids can create their own puppets and enjoy spoken word programs. Special guest appearances include the Bilingual Birdies with Quiara Alegia-Hudes, author of Welcome to my Neighborhood. FREE

Children’s Book Fair and Peter and the Wolf Performance – Park Slope
Head to the Brooklyn Museum for a one-day fest of kid lit written in the borough. Laura Ljungkvist, John Rocco and other local authors and illustrators will share their latest titles and meet their young fans. At 4pm, the Brooklyn Conservatory Community Orchestra will perform its adaptation of Sergei Prokofiev's classic Peter and The Wolf. Free with suggested admission: $12 for adults, free for children under 12.

Hands on History: Apples, Apples, Apples – Jamaica
Families can learn all about apples and the trees on the grounds of the King Manor Museum through stories, songs and crafts. FREE

Scandinavian Sing-along – Murray Hill
Kids can croon to English versions of classic Scandinavian children's songs. Afterward, stay and play at the revamped Heimbold Family Children's Learning Center. $7 for the sing-along; $8 for the center.

Waltz of the Flowers – Prospect Heights
Budding ballerinas can head to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden for a Nutcracker-themed dance workshop with the American Ballet Theater, followed by related crafts. Free with admission: $10 for adults, free for children under 12. Preregistration required.

Mile Square Theatre’s The Garden of Rikki Tikki Tavi – Upper East Side
The Metropolitan Museum of Art hosts this stage adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s tale of a mongoose who works with his animal friends to get a cobra out of their garden. Our friends at Mommy Poppins New Jersey raved about this production earlier this year when they reviewed the show in Hoboken. $15

When Ghosts Pop Up the Pages: A 3D Christmas Carol – Murray Hill
After a brief tour of the Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol: A Pop-Up Book exhibit, children can make the story's iconic characters come to life in their own three-dimensional pop-up cards. $6 for adults, $2 for kids.

See all Saturday events.

Sunday, November 20

Meet the Author Series Special Reading with Former Mayor Ed Koch — Upper West Side
The Children's Museum of Manhattan recently opened a brand-new permanent exhibit Eat Sleep Play, which encourages families to lead healthy lives. This weekend in conjunction with the installation, former NYC mayor Ed Koch will read from his new semi-autobiographical kids' book Eddie Shapes Up, about an overweight youth who learns how to be healthy. Free with admission: $11.

Puppets on Film – Fort Greene
BAM Rose Cinemas' cool film festival continues this weekend, with these family faves being screened on Sunday: The Dark Crystal and Muppet Treasure Island. $12 for adults, $9 for children.

The Muppet Vault Presents: A Very Muppet Comeback – Park Slope
Speaking of Muppets, every few months, a group of major Muppet fans, gathers at Park Slope's Union Hall to share rare clips and offbeat trivia about their chosen pop-culture fixation. Today, families can watch the long-forgotten TV special The Muppets Go Hollywood as well as a selection of classic clips, all in honor of the new movie. Check out other ways to get your Muppet on in NYC. $8.

JCC 10 Year Anniversary: Music for Aardvarks Family Concert – Upper West Side
Catch the popular NYC kiddie rockers as they belt out Taxi, City Kid, Staten Island Ferry and other family favorites in honor of the JCC's anniversary. In advance: $12, at the door: $15.

Circus and Sebastian – Greenwich Village
Penny Jones & Co. Puppets presents this festive show about Sebastian, who dreams about a life under the big top. $5

The Magic of Bill Blagg – Corona
Enjoy a mind-bending magic show starring Blagg, who walks through steel, levitates people and performs other astonishing feats at Queens Theatre in the Park. $14.

Kids ‘N Comedy: Indoor Kids Show – Chelsea
You can take the whole family to this G-rated stand-up comedy show starring really young comics... a.k.a. teenagers! $15 plus a one-item minimum.

See all Sunday events.

Outside of NYC

You could go to Costco to pick up your Thanksgiving turkey, or you could head to Raleigh’s Turkey Farm in Kings Park, Long Island (my hometown!) for your choice of the best birds around.

In Connecticut, head to the Norwalk Children’s Museum to catch Global Energy the Musical, which teaches kids about green living in a fun way.

Don't forget: We have additional activity options in our Event Calendar.

Planning an event? Submit it to our calendar.

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