10 Things to Do on Thanksgiving Day with NYC Kids

Kid-Friendly Activities In New York City on Thanksgiving | What's Open?

Looking for something for the kids to do on Thanksgiving in New York City 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 a few hours, we have some suggestions for family activities to keep everyone busy on Turkey Day, and the long weekend.

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, from zoos that are open to bowling, and even movies. A Happy Thanksgiving to your family from all of the parents at Mommy Poppins NYC. Here's to a happy holiday season

Find more Thanksgiving weekend events in our Event Calendar, and November staycation ideas.

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If the kids aren't begging you to see Trolls yet, they probably will after seeing the Thanksgiving parade! Photo courtesy of Dreamworks.

1. See a flick. Movie theaters are open on Thanksgiving Day, and there are a few family-friendly flicks playing. Catch the new Disney animated film, Moana; Dreamworks' Trolls (after its stars make their parade debut, of course); and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

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 open for skating on Thanksgiving, weather permitting. Note: The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade marches down Sixth Avenue, so it's best to head to Bryant Park after the parade passes. You can even do some holiday shopping at its Winter Village market. Too cold for you out there? World Ice Arena offers indoor skating.

3. Take a stroll. Walk off dinner by checking out 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. Take a hike within the five boroughs to catch the final fall foliage with these seven spots. Or try Central Park, Prospect Park, Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Brooklyn Bridge Park, the Long Island City waterfront—one of these lesser known NYC parks—or a new-to-you playground

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. If you prefer wheels, join the Pilgrim Pedal, a multimile 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.

RELATED: NYC Holiday Event and Activity Guide for Families 


Catch Cirque du Soleil's Kurios: Cabinet of Curiosities, before it leaves NYC. Photo by Martin Girard. Costumes by Philippe Guillotel/courtesy Cirque du Soleil.

5. See a show. The just-opened Radio City Christmas Spectacular and soon-to-close Kurios: Cabinet of Curiosities from Cirque du Soleil are both playing on the holiday. Broadway shows ChicagoFiddler on the Roof, Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, Paramour, and Waitress are all playing on the holiday. You can read about our favorite holiday shows for kids this year, too.

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

7. Go bowling. Balls will start rolling at the Times Square and Chelsea Piers Bowlmor Lanes at noon and 2pm, respectively. Lucky Strike on 42nd and 12th Avenue opens at 5pm. If you'd rather play games, arcade restaurant Dave & Buster's is open, too.

8. Play tourist. If you're entertaining out-of-towners, One World Observatory, the Empire State Building and Top of the Rock are open and perhaps not as crowded as usual. You can take a sail on the Circle Line, or visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

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 such as Madame Tussauds, which is offering FREE children's admission, and Ripley’s Believe it or Not Odditorium.

10. Help others less fortunate. Although most Thanksgiving volunteer opportunities are filled, a few still have room. My son and I often deliver turkey dinners to homebound New Yorkers through Gods Love We Deliver. Although the volunteer slots for the Church of the Intercession's Gobble Gobble Give NYC are filled by this time, the church still accepts food donations on Thanksgiving morning. You can also donate online to FeedingNYC's effort, which packs and supplies meals to thousands each Thanksgiving, including local shelters, such as Win, which focuses on homeless women and children. Kids also can help you 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 location nearest you.

Top photo: Bring your skates and you can hit the ice for free at Bryant Park. Photo by Colin Miller/courtesy the Winter Village at Bryant Park.

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

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