The Nutcracker in NYC: 18 Family Picks

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 a 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 in Manhattan this season, plus a few in Brooklyn, including some just-for-kids versions. Many of our picks are abridged versions and inexpensive 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


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

George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker – Upper West Side
Friday, November 25-Saturday, December 31
$79-$285
This magical production is a must-see-at-least-once-in-your-life New York City holiday attraction. We certainly can’t do a post on The Nutcracker without mentioning the granddaddy of them all, at Lincoln Center. It's gorgeous and flawless; the setting is grandiose, and you'll be completely transported, but we don't recommend New York City Ballet's two-hour performance for young kids.

The Ballerina Swan and The Nutcracker – Midtown West
Saturday, November 26-Sunday, December 18
$25-45
New York City Children's Theater stages this simple interpretation of the beloved children's book, Ballerina Swan, which combines an inventive swan puppet with live ballet dancers to tell the story of Sophie the swan preparing to dance her first Nutcracker.

Keith Michael's The Nutcracker – Battery Park
Friday, December 2-Saturday, December 3
Keith Michael's one-hour performance returns to Brookfield Place for a trio of totally FREE performances this season. In addition to catching the show, you can pose for photos with Nutcracker dancers and Santa, who will be holding court at the Winter Garden. FREE

Nutcracker Winter Suite – Upper West Side
Saturday, December 3
$40 for adults, $20 for children
The Valentina Kozlova Dance Foundation performs this one-day classic ballet at Symphony Space. It lasts 2 1/2 hours, which may be too long for younger children.

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Looking for something different? Try The Hip Hop Nutcracker. Photo courtesy of the United Palace of Cultural Arts.

The Hip Hop Nutcracker – Washington Heights
Saturday, December 3
$10-$100
The iconic ballet is given a modern urban makeover at the stunning United Palace of Cultural Arts. Set on New Year's Eve in Washington Heights, this Nutcracker performance features hip-hop dancers, a DJ, digital scenery and the legendary Kurtis Blow as special MC. Once the show closes here, it's heading on a 23-city tour.

The Nutcracker and The Mouse King – Midtown West
Saturday, December 3-Sunday, December 4
$18
This 50-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 $18 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.

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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 9-Sunday, December 11
$34 for adults, $24 for children younger than 13
This heavily abridged version, performed by New York Theatre Ballet, runs just an hour so it's the perfect way to give squirmy preschoolers their first taste of The Nutcracker. Plus, Florence Gould Hall is so intimate kids really feel as if they're part of the show.

The Yorkville Nutcracker – Upper East Side
Thursday, December 8-Sunday, December 11
$45-$85
Set in New York City in 1895, Dances Patrelle's Nutcracker pairs New York City Ballet principals Abi Stafford and Adrian Danchig-Waring 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.

Joffrey Ballet School Nutcracker – Greenwich Village
Friday, December 9-Sunday, December 11
$50 for adults, $25 for children
Students from the esteemed ballet program present their version of the Christmas classic at the Skirball Center for the Performing Arts. This family-friendly, 90-minute performance is an elegant introduction to the holiday classic for kids.

The Nutcracker: A Contemporary Look – Union Square
Friday, December 9-Sunday, December 11
$35 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. Sunday's show is preceded by a tea for children ages 4 to 8.

The Knickerbocker Suite – Midtown West
December 9-11; December 16-18
$32.50 for adults, $22.50 children 
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, as well as a trove of "dancing immigrants who just arrived from Ellis Island." 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.

Brooklyn


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

Great Russian Nutcracker – Prospect Park South
Saturday, December 3
$32.50-$180
The Moscow Ballet brings its annual tour to the city for one performance 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 Nutcracker – Dumbo
Thursday, December 8-Sunday, December 11; Thursday, December 15-Sunday, December 18
$10-$59
Former New York City Ballet principal dancer Gelsey Kirkland, who danced the role of Clara in the 1977 movie version of The Nutcracker alongside Mikhail Baryshnikov, brings her company's interpretation of the classic to the stage at the GK Arts Center. The production showcases Kirkland's company as well as an ensemble cast of 70 graduates and current trainees at Kirkland's ballet academy.

The Nutcracker – Brighton Breach
Saturday, December 10
$25-$45
The Academy of Dance and Creative Arts presents a two-act version of the classic at the Master Theater.

The Hard Nut – Fort Greene
Saturday, December 10-Sunday, December 18
$25-$115
The Mark Morris Dance Group's interpretation of the classic returns to the stage at BAM. A modern take, it includes Tchaikovsky’s original score but transports the story to the 1970s.

Holiday Fiesta: Nutcracker Delight – Park Slope
Saturday, December 10-Sunday, December 11
$12
Equal parts show and festival, this fete at PS 133 features a pair of Nutcracker-inspired dances performed each afternoon by Dancewave students and pros. Food and raffle prizes are on tap.

The Colonial Nutcracker – Flatbush
Sunday, December 11
$15
The Dance Theatre in Westchester performs this full-length version of Tchaikovsky's classic at the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts. Set in Colonial Yorktown during the Revolutionary War, this Nutcracker features a red-coated army of mice and is aimed at children ages 5 and older.

The Nutcracker – Manhattan Beach
Saturday, December 17
$20-$50
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.

Top photo: Great Russian Nutcracker. Photo courtesy of the Moscow Ballet.

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

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