10 Things to Do with Kids on Thanksgiving in NYC Besides the Parade

Thanksgiving Day NYC for Children, Families

Looking for something for the kids to do on Thanksgiving besides hover in the kitchen? Sure, there's the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, but if you're forgoing the crowds and dinner doesn't start for another few hours, we have a few suggestions for family activities to keep everyone busy on turkey dinner.

In fact, we found 10 fun ways to spend Thanksgiving Day with your kids that don't involve eating turkey or watching giant balloons. Read on for our picks, and a Happy Thanksgiving to your family from all of the moms at Mommy Poppins NYC! Here's to a happy holiday season.

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1. See a flick. Movie theaters are open on Thanksgiving Day, so your family can get reacquainted with Charlie Brown and his crew in the recently released The Peanuts Movie. Disney's The Good Dinosaur hits theaters on November 25, too. If you've got older kids, catch Katniss on the big screen in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay—Part 2, which hit theaters November 20.

Pack your own skates and you can hit the ice for free at Bryant Park! Photo by Colin Miller/courtesy the Winter Village at Bryant Park.

2. Go ice skating. Thanksgiving is a great day to try out the ice rinks before or after your big feast. The rinks at Winter Village in Bryant Park, Brookfield Place, Wollman in Central Park and Rockefeller Center are all open for skating on Thanksgiving (weather permitting). Note: Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade marches down Sixth Avenue, so it's best to wait to head to Bryant Park until after the parade passes. You can even do some holiday shopping at its Winter Village market, which will be open, too. Too cold for you out there? Four indoor rinks are open as well: Sky Rink at Chelsea Piers, World Ice Arena and Aviator Sports and Events Center and Abe Stark.

RELATED: 21 NYC Holiday Activities Every Kid Should Try Once

3. Take a stroll. Walk off dinner by checking out all of the awesome department store holiday windows in Midtown before the crowds arrive. Thanksgiving is also a great day to take a quiet stroll through one of our city's iconic green spaces that remain open holiday or not. Try Central Park, Prospect Park, Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Brooklyn Bridge Park, the Brooklyn Heights PromenadeVan Cortlandt Park or one of the many, many others.

4. Get a workout before you feast or just watch your brood break a sweat in the Long Island City YMCA's Kids Turkey Dash, featuring short races for various age groups. Families can also sign up for a Turkey Trot in Prospect Park, but no strollers are allowed and it's not a specific kid event, of course. If you prefer wheels, join the Pilgrim Pedal, a multi-mile bike ride beginning and ending on East 23rd Street. The entry fee covers the cost of a mid-ride breakfast at a Brooklyn diner and participants are encouraged to come in holiday costumes.

5. See a show. Big Apple Circus: The Grand Tour and the Radio City Christmas Spectacular both have availability for their Thanksgiving performances. Broadway shows Chicago, Dames at Sea, Finding Neverland, On Your Feet! and Phantom of the Opera, all have performances that day. You can read about all of our favorite holiday shows for kids this year, too.

Meet the sea lions at the New York Aquarium. Photo by Julie Larsen Maher/courtesy the aquarium.

6. Hang with the animals. The New York Aquarium, the Prospect Park Zoo, the Queens Zoo and the Central Park Zoo are all open on Thanksgiving. The Bronx Zoo is closed.

RELATED: NYC Holiday Event and Activity Guide for Families 

7. Go bowling. Balls will start rolling at the Times Square and Chelsea Piers Bowlmor Lanes at noon and 4pm respectively. Lucky Strike on 42nd and 12th Avenue opens at noon. If you'd rather play games, arcade/restaurant Dave & Buster's is open, too.

8. Play tourist. If you're entertaining out-of-towners, the new One World Observatory, Empire State Building and the Top of the Rock are open and possibly not as crowded as they usually are. You can also take a sail on the Circle Line where kids ride for free in November, or visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, which we recently reviewed.

9. Explore a museum. Many cultural institutions close for the holiday, but the no-cost National Museum of the American Indian is open as is Brooklyn's Jewish Children's Museum. You can also hit Midtown West tourist spots like Madame Tussauds, Ripley’s Believe it or Not Odditorium and Discovery Times Square, home to Body Worlds: Pulse, the just opened Star Wars and the Power of the Costume and The Hunger Games: The Exhibition.

10. Help others less fortunate. Although most Thanksgiving volunteer opportunities are already filled up, there are a few that still have room. My son and I often deliver turkey dinners to home-bound New Yorkers through Gods Love We Deliver. Also, the Church of the Intercession's Gobble Gobble Give NYC puts volunteers to work on a first-come, first-served basis on Thanksgiving morning, so arrive early if you want to help! Kids can also help you to round up your old coats (ask the neighbors across the hall too!) and drop them off at one of the many New York Cares Coat Drive locations. Use your zip code to find the closest location to you for this annual coat drive, which kicked off November 17 and provides cold weather gear to those in need.

Top photo: Kids race together in the "Turkey Dash" hosted by the Long Island City YMCA. Photo provided by YMCA. 

This post, originally published in November 2009, is updated annually.