Other than the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, is there really anything else New York City can offer on the holiday? Of course! We found 10 fun ways to spend the day with your kids that don't involve eating turkey or watching giant balloons. And by 10 events, we mean almost 20, as you'll see below. Many of these events are FREE, and some of them occur only this year. Some, like Ai Weiwei's Good Fences Make Good Neighbors, are both free and here only in 2017.
Read on for our picks, from zoos to bowling alleys, or movies, and even an exhibit dedicated to Downton Abbey. Got a car? Loads of events right outside New York City are open on Thanksgiving. See our guide to 10 picture-perfect holiday day-trips near NYC.
Oh, also: 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 GoList.
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The new Disney/Pixar animated film Coco opens November 22. Photo courtesy Disney/Pixar
1. See a flick. Many movie theaters are open on Thanksgiving Day, and there are a few family-friendly flicks playing. Disney/Pixar's animated Coco opens November 22; the animated Sony/Henson production The Star opens November 16. On November 17, the film version of RJ Palacio's bestselling Wonder hits the screen, and DC's Justice League drops the same day. For more comic-based PG-13 fare, Marvel's Thor: Ragnarok might still be in scattered theaters on Thanksgiving.
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 with the awesome department store holiday windows at Macy's, Bloomingdale's, or actually all of them will be revealed by Thanksgiving, including Saks, Tiffany & Co., and Barneys. Go for a walk-through or around of any one of the many public sites where Ai Weiwei's Good Fences Make Good Neighbors installations will be up until February. 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, or hit the park for family touch football or freeze tag. When you finally do feast, and if you don't feel like cooking, see our guide to 25 NYC restaurants serving family Thanksgiving dinner, although all the reservations may be snapped up by now.
RELATED: NYC Holiday Event and Activity Guide for Families
The Rockettes are in full force on T-Day. Photo by Stacey Huggins/Flickr
5. See a show. The Rockettes always dance on Thanksgiving in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. This year, The Big Apple Circus is in town, and does an evening show on Thanksgiving. At press, Broadway shows Chicago, Cats, and Waitress were all playing on the holiday, and plenty more play the following day.
6. Hang with the animals. The New York Aquarium, Prospect Park Zoo, Queens Zoo, and Central Park Zoo are all open on Thanksgiving. Sadly, the Bronx Zoo is closed on Thanksgiving Day.
7. Play Indoor Games. Balls roll at the Times Square and Chelsea Piers Bowlmor Lanes at 2pm and 3pm, respectively. (Note: In early November 2017, Chelsea Piers Bowlmor Lanes sadly dismantled its fun climbing installation). If you'd rather play video games, local gaming stalwarts Modern Pinball and Chinatown Fair are open, and there's always arcade restaurant Dave & Buster's.
Gulliver's Gate's version of the parade is far less chaotic. Photo by William Warby/Flickr
8. Explore a museum. Many NYC cultural institutions close for the holiday, but several big new exhibits are open, including Downton Abbey: The Exhibition, and the brand-new underwater-themed National Geographic Encounter: Ocean Odyssey. Catch a miniaturized version of the Thanksgiving Day parade, and more, at the astounding Gulliver's Gate in Times Square. The no-cost National Museum of the American Indian is open, as is Brooklyn's Jewish Children's Museum, where kids can make a racket in the JCM's new, interactive Music Room exhibit. You can also hit Midtown West tourist spots such as Madame Tussauds or Ripley’s Believe it or Not Odditorium, both open on Thanksgiving every year.
9. 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 also take a sail on the Circle Line, or visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
10. Help others less fortunate. Although most Thanksgiving volunteer opportunities are filled, a few still have room, but act quickly. The volunteer slots for the Church of the Intercession's Gobble Gobble Give NYC are filled by this time, but the church still accepts food donations on Thanksgiving morning. The slots to deliver turkey dinners to homebound New Yorkers through Gods Love We Deliver on Thanksgiving Day are filled, but there are plenty of slots open for volunteering in the group's kitchen or on its delivery teams on other days. 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, or give $40 to the NYC Common Pantry to supply a full thanksgiving meal to a family in need. 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 article originally published in November 2009, but is updated annually.