Other than the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, is there really anything else to do in New York City on Thursday, November 22? You bet! We found fun ways to spend Thanksgiving Day in NYC with kids that don't involve eating turkey or watching giant balloons. Many of these events are FREE, and some of them occur only this year. Some, like the public art exhibit B. Wurtz: Kitchen Trees, are both free and here only in 2018.
Read on for our picks, from zoos to bowling alleys to movies, and even a super fun exhibit dedicated to Trolls. 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. In town for the whole holiday weekend? Here are 16 fun things to do in NYC over Thanksgiving break.
And finally, a very Happy Thanksgiving to your family from everyone at Mommy Poppins NYC. Here's to a festive holiday season.
For more events happening over Thanksgiving weekend, check out our Event Calendar and November GoList.
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The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is a new twist on the classic tale. Photo courtesy of Disney
1. See a flick. Many movie theaters are open on Thanksgiving Day, and there are a few PG family-friendly flicks playing. Disney's The Nutcracker and the Four Realms opened on November 2, the animated The Grinch on November 9, and another Disney sequel Ralph Breaks the Internet opens November 21. For the PG-13 crowd, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald opens November 16, and Creed II and a (surprise!) re-boot of Robin Hood both hit the screen on November 21. For more comic-based PG-13 fare, Venom 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? Check out these indoor skating options.
This year, everyone’s favorite storied green sourpuss tells his story at Bloomingdale’s. Photo by Joe Schildhom for BFA
3. Take a stroll. Walk off dinner with the awesome department store holiday windows at Macy's and Bloomingdale's—by Thanksgiving they'll all be revealed, including Saks, Tiffany & Co., and Barneys. Go for a walk through City Hall Park where B. Wurtz's playful installation Kitchen Trees will be on display until December 7. 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 (fair warning: many of the reservations may be snapped up by now).
RELATED: NYC Holiday Event and Activity Guide for Families
The Big Apple Circus is in full force on T-Day. Photo by Juliana Crawford
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 a 1pm show on Thanksgiving. Broadway shows The Phantom of the Opera and Waitress are 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; check the website for times. 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 Candytopia and Trolls: The Experience, and the 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, which has extended hours for the day from 10am-5pm. Kids can explore the Hebrew alphabet at the Aleph, Bet, Ship exhibit, with hats, ship barrels, and a captain’s wheel. 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 might not be 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.
This article originally published in November 2009; it is updated annually.