Thanksgiving Weekend in NYC: Parade, Santaland, Holiday Lights

Guide to Thanksgiving Weekend in NYC for Families and Kids: Nutcrackers, Rockefeller Tree, Store Windows

In NYC, Thanksgiving weekend offers more family and kid-friendly events than almost any other weekend of the year. For one thing, it's a weekend that lasts four days. Thanksgiving weekend is teeming with family- and kid-friendly events, including many holiday kick-off celebrations and other only-in-NYC fun.

Excitement is building for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, which this year features a new Trolls balloon as well as a Felix the Cat balloon restored to its 1927-style glory. Also on tap this weekend, Santa brunches with kids begin and department stores reveal their over-the-top holiday window displays. Christmas tree lights begin to twinkle, too, with a lights display in Brooklyn that rivals the storied lights at Rockefeller Center, which, by the way, go up this week. There's also FREE holiday fun on tap, and holiday-themed day trip ideas, such as a Polar Express train ride or holiday lights tunnel!

For non-holiday events, hit one of the many seasonal skating rinks before the real cold arrives, or check out other outing ideas with our handy November staycation guide

Read on for all of our top weekend picks, and remember, you can find additional listings in our Event Calendar and our November GoList. Find out what's open on Thanksgiving Day in NYC, too. Happy Thanksgiving to all our readers!

Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 24 

The iconic Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade marches through NYC streets. Photo by Anthony Quintano via Flickr.

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade — Upper West Side to Midtown West
Time to get serious about staking out a spot in the wee morning hours for this classic New York City experience—and one of the best parades in the world. Along with many mainstays, this year's parade includes performances by De La Soul and Regina Spektor. If it rains, catch it on NBC, but we prefer to believe it'll hold off! FREE

Kids Turkey Trot — Long Island City, Queens
Get kids moving before they're sleepy and overstuffed with this kooky street race. Open to kids ages 4-17.

Check out our post about what's open on Thanksgiving in NYC for more ideas about what to do while you wait for turkey time.

See all Thursday events.

Friday, November 25

Junie B.'s Essential Survival Guide to School — Flushing, Queens
This all new musical based on Barbara Park's popular children's series has our titular hero holding forth on all she knows about navigating an education while maximizing her fun.

Buy Nothing Day — Staten Island
Not ready for holiday shopping yet? Visit Clay Pit Ponds Park Preserve, where park rangers host recycling relay races, crafting and other amusements for families. FREE

See all Friday events.

All Weekend

Hit Santaland opening weekend for a magical holiday display, plus a picture with St. Nick. Photo by Rose Gordon Sala.

Santaland at Macy's Herald Square — Midtown West
One of our perennial top holiday picks, this event straight out of A Christmas Story mounts an entire North Pole village at Macy's at Herald Square, with live elves, an enchanted forest featuring animatronic toys, and a train display. And, oh yes: Santa. Read our in-depth post about how to skip the line completely. It officially opens on Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. Free admission

Dyker Lights — Dyker Heights, Brooklyn
Accessible via public transportation, but so bananas it also includes a guided bus tour (for a fee), this neighborhood holiday lights display knocks the Rockefeller Center lights from its legendary perch. FREE to walk around.

It's Holiday Time at Paleyland — Midtown West
This crazy cool event at the Museum of Television and Radio's Paley Center might entertain parents as much as kids, with showings of How the Grinch Stole Christmas and the Rankin/Bass nugget The Year Without a Santa Claus. Also meet the big guy in red, and take in costumes made famous by the Rockettes.

The Amazing Max — Upper West Side
Prepare for goofy fun at this truly funny kid-centric show of planned magical mishaps. Show runs through Saturday, December 31.

Holiday Windows Walk — Midtown East
Judging from the photos of our holiday window walk post from last year, this year's Midtown department store displays should provide an entertaining midtown sashay once again. The crowds usually thin out on the Saturday and Sunday after Thanksgiving, too. FREE

George Balanchine's The Nutcracker Columbus Circle
Nutcrackers get going early with this world-renowned production's opening this Friday at Lincoln Center. It's also one of the best and biggest, featuring a revolving, one-ton Christmas Tree. See our post for more Nutcracker performances this season.

The Ballerina Swan and The Nutcracker opens this weekend at New York City Children’s Theater. Photo by Carol Rosegg/courtesy of the theater.

Ballerina Swan and The Nutcracker Opening Weekend – Midtown West
New York City Children's Theater stages this simple interpretation of the beloved children's book, Ballerina Swan, which combines an inventive swan puppet with live ballet dancers to tell the story of Sophie the swan preparing to dance her first Nutcracker.

Saturday, November 26

Thanksgiving in Prospect Park Brooklyn
If the "Bird Nerds Game Hour" alone doesn't get you interested, this bevy of Prospect Park events includes both activities inside and outside, from feeding animals to quilting. FREE

Breakfast with Santa and Elfprov — Midtown West
Enjoy timely holiday laughs and eats with Santa and his helpers at Elfprov. Enjoy an interactive holiday-themed musical comedy show—families actually tell the elves what the show will be about and many kids are invited on stage to participate. Come early for face time and photo ops with St. Nick before the show starts. Continental breakfast is included in admission price. See our roundup for even more Santa brunch outings.

Small Business Saturday Tree Lighting — Park Slope, Brooklyn
This annual tree lighting in Park Slope also features live music, puppets, activities, treats, and a visit from Santa. Shop among the Slope's indie boutiques afterward to support local businesses on Small Business Saturday. For more holiday tree lightings, see our complete roundup. FREE

Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood - Live! — Flatbush, Brooklyn
Journey to Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood of Make-Believe in this interactive live show that incorporates singing, dancing, and lots of good laughs. It's a one-day only affair, so book your tickets now.

See all Saturday events.

Sunday, November 27

BAMKids Movie Matinee: The Muppet Movie Boerum Hill, Brooklyn
Escapism at its best, this 1979 Muppet classic broke the mold as far as star-studded children's movies, balancing true wonder and humor with appearances by Orson Welles, Madeline Kahn, Richard Pryor, Bob Hope, as well as the greatest star of all time (according to her): Miss Piggy.

Nostalgia Subway Trains  Manhattan, Queens
Catch a limited vintage train ride from the MTA along the M line on Sunday. The annual tradition puts out a "Shoppers Special" vintage ride on select Sundays through the holiday season. 

Winter on a Flatbush Farm — Prospect Park
Step back in time to experience winter on an 1800s farming village. Learn to make a candle, check out a master spinster spin wool, and enjoy Dutch treats—a Lefferts family recipe. Added bonus: St. Nick will be there, too! Suggested donations accepted.

Family Comedy Show with Billy Kelly — Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn
Grammy-nominated Billy Kelly is hosting an all-ages comedy show. Enjoy squeaky-clean laughs, perfect for kids and tweens with a very inexpensive price tag.

Craft your very own gingerbread house at the New York Hall of Science. Photo by Andrew Kelly/NY Hall of Science.

Little Makers: Gingerbread Celebration — Flushing, Queens
Bring your Hansel and Gretel dreams to life at this New York Hall of Science class, designed for kids as young as 18 months (with a caregiver). Admission includes one gingerbread house per family. Plus, gawk at the GingerBread Lane for inspiration!

Rock & Roll for Kids — Williamsburg
Head to Brooklyn Bowl for a rockin' good time at this interactive musical workshop. This week, explore the music of The Who.

See all Sunday events.

Don't forget: There's lots more fun in our Event Calendar, and our Thanksgiving and Holiday Fun Guides.

Top photo: Santaland. Photo by John Minchillo/courtesy of Macy's.