Where to See the Nutcracker in NYC: 14 Family Shows in 2018

The free, one-hour version of the Nutcracker at Brookfield Place is colorful and kid-friendly. Photo courtesy of Brookfield Place
The Classic Holiday Ballets Gets a Traditional and Updated Treatment in New York City This Holiday Season

The Nutcracker ballet is a classic holiday experience for kids and parents, and NYC offers dozens of wonderful interpretations of this beautiful Christmas show.

While many children love the energy and drama of The Nutcracker—from the sweet Sugar Plum fairy visit to the frantic battle with the Rat King—it can be long for some. So we've rounded up more than a dozen variations of The Nutcracker playing this season in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens, from the classic showing at Lincoln Center to just-for-kids versions. Many of our picks are abridged versions and inexpensive (or FREE) while still possessing the charm to keep kids wide-eyed.

Click through to our listings for all the details, including addresses, times, and recommended ages. Check our event calendar for more children's shows and holiday theater.


Manhattan Ballet School Nutcracker Suite – Upper East Side
Saturday, November 18 and Sunday, November 19
One of the earliest Nutcrackers of the season, the Manhattan Ballet Company presents children and graduates of the Manhattan Ballet School in a production of the Nutcracker Suite at Hunter College.

RELATED: 15 Must-Do Holiday Events for Kids in NYC

The Nutcracker comes to life at Lincoln Center in George Balanchine's classic. Photo by Paul Kolnik for the New York City Ballet.

George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker – Upper West Side
Friday, November 23 through Sunday, December 30
We certainly can’t do a post on The Nutcracker without mentioning the granddaddy of them all at Lincoln Center. This magical production is a must-see-at-least-once-in-your-life New York City holiday attraction. It's gorgeous and flawless; the setting is grandiose, and you'll be completely transported, but we don't recommend a two-hour performance for young kids.

The Nutcracker at Brookfield Place – Battery Park City
Friday, November 30 through Sunday, December 2
This one-hour version of the beloved holiday ballet, performed in the Winter Garden at Brookfield Place, is one of the city’s only FREE opportunities for kids aged 3 and up to enjoy a holiday must-see performance. Seating for these popular performances is first come, first served: We recommend arriving early.

The Nutcracker and The Mouse King – Midtown West
Sunday, December 3
This 75-minute, pared-down Nutcracker at the Manhattan Movement and Arts Center is danced by the youngest performers of The Ballet Club. It offers a great introduction for the preschool set, and at $28 per seat it’s hard to find a reason not to give it a try. Expect mischievous mice, toys that come to life, snowflakes, and of course, a young female lead who is dazzled by a mysterious Nutcracker doll.

The Yorkville Nutcracker – Upper East Side
Thursday, December 6-Sunday, December 9
Set in New York City in 1895, Dances Patrelle's Nutcracker pairs New York City Ballet principals Abi Stafford and Ask La Cour with young students from Ballet Academy East and elsewhere. Watch as they dance through classic NYC locales such as Gracie Mansion, Central Park, and the New York Botanical Garden.

The Knickerbocker Suite – Midtown West
Friday, December 7-Sunday, December 16
Adults $32.50, students $22.50
New York City stars in this modern take on the Nutcracker presented by Manhattan Youth Ballet at the Manhattan Movement and Arts Center. The opening act includes a satirical animated film, while the second act turns favorite Nutcracker moments into fantastical NYC ones. You’ll see plenty of local landmarks, including the Statue of Liberty and Macy's. This new, 70-minute take on an old classic might be most appreciated by those who already have had their fill of the more traditional production.

Keith Michael's The Nutcracker is just an hour, making it perfect for younger kids. Photo by Rachel Neville/courtesy of New York Theater Ballet

Keith Michael's The Nutcracker – Midtown East
Friday, December 14-Sunday, December 16
$26 for adults, $14 for children younger than 13
This heavily abridged version, performed by the New York Theatre Ballet, runs just an hour so it's the perfect way to give squirmy preschoolers their first taste of The Nutcracker. From clockwork imps to a luminous owl that flies above the audience, this re-imagined classic bursts with energy.

The Nutcracker: A Contemporary Look – Union Square
Friday, December 14-Sunday, December 16
$40 general admission, $15 for children 12 and younger
Peridance Capezio Center's artistic director and choreographer Igal Perry debuted this new take on the classic in 2014. The piece combines excerpts from Tchaikovsky's original score with new music in a 75-minute production, with a children's tea party preceding the Sunday matinee.


The elaborate Great Russian Nutcracker from the Moscow Ballet can be seen in Brooklyn. Photo courtesy of the Moscow Ballet.

Great Russian Nutcracker – Flatbush
Saturday, December 8
The Moscow Ballet brings its annual tour to the city for two performances on one day at Kings Theatre in Brooklyn, where young dancers from the Brighton Ballet join the company on stage. The touring company annually plays to more than 80 U.S. cities. The show is long, running more than two hours with one intermission.

The Hard Nut – Fort Greene
Friday, December 14-Sunday, December 23
This modern reinterpretation by the Mark Morris Dance Group is a lavish, gender-bent version of a classic transplant's story, lasting from the straight-laced 1890s to the swinging 1970s. Prepare for raucous parties, dancing G.I. Joes, whimsical costumes, and a "Waltz of the Snowflakes" like no other. For ages 5 and up.

The Nutcracker – Manhattan Beach
Friday, December 14
Designed with families in mind, this abridged Nutcracker at Kingsborough Community College features more than 80 young dancers from the Brighton Ballet Theater and School of Russian American Ballet, along with spectacular design and costumes. Recommended for ages 4 and older.

The Hip Hop Nutcracker – Flatbush
Sunday, December 23
The iconic ballet is given a hip-hop makeover at the beautiful historic Kings Theatre. This Nutcracker features a dozen hip-hop dancers, digital scenery, a deejay, and the legendary Kurtis Blow as special MC doing an opening set of old-school classics.

The Joffrey Ballet School presents its full-length Nutcracker in a family-friendly 90 minute performance. Photo courtesy of the Joffrey Ballet


Joffrey Ballet School Nutcracker – Long Island City
Friday, December 14-Sunday, December 16
$45 for adults, $25 for children under 12
Students from the esteemed ballet program present their version of the Christmas classic at the LaGuardia Performing Arts Center. This family-friendly, 90-minute performance is an elegant introduction to the holiday classic for kids.

This '70s Nutcracker – Flushing Meadows Corona Park
Saturday, December 22
This psychedelic version of The Nutcracker is set in the '70s. In a twist on the classic tale, a man is transported magically into the Land of Television by his strange relative Chick and discovers ballet for the first time.

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