The Nutcracker in NYC: 16 Family Picks

Nutcracker Reviews of Ballets in New York City for Kids this Holiday

The Nutcracker ballet is a classic holiday experience for kid and parent alike, 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 too long for some. So we've rounded up more than a dozen variations of The Nutcracker playing in Manhattan, plus a few in Brooklyn, this season, including just-for-kids versions of the timeless classic. 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 address, time and recommended ages. Check our event calendar for more children's shows and holiday theater.



Dance Conservatory Performance Project's Nutcracker Suite – Upper West Side
Saturday, December 5
$40 for adults, $20 for children
Valentina Kozlova's Dance Conservatory of New York performs this one-day classic ballet at Symphony Space. The program lasts 75-minutes, which may be a bit too long for the youngest children.

The Hip Hop Nutcracker – Washington Heights
Friday, November 20-Saturday, November 21
The iconic ballet is given a modern urban makeover at the stunning United Palace Theatre. 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 up shop here, it's heading on an 11-city tour, including five dates in Russia.

RELATED: 12 Must-Do Holiday Events with NYC Kids

Kids clamor to see the nutcracker in a scene from the New York City Ballet's production at Lincoln Center. Photo by Paul Kolnik/courtesy of the ballet.

George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker – Upper West Side
Friday, November 27-Sunday, January 3
Tickets start at $35 for non-peak and go up to $240 for "sweet seats"
This magical production is a must-see-at-least-once-in-your-life New York City holiday attraction, and we certainly can’t do a post on The Nutcracker without mentioning the granddaddy of them all at Lincoln Center. It's gorgeous, flawless, the setting grandiose and you'll be completely transported, but we don't recommend New York City Ballet's two-hour performance for young kids.

Keith Michael's The Nutcracker – Midtown East
Friday, December 11-Sunday, December 13
$34 for adults; $24 for children under age 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 like they're part of the show. Bonus: One week prior, this show will be playing for FREE at Brookfield Place. 

The hour-long Nutcracker performed at Florence Gould Hall is just right for squirmy youngsters. Photo by Richard Termine/courtesy of the New York Theatre Ballet.

The Knickerbocker Suite – Midtown West
December 11-13; December 18-20
$35 for adults; $20 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 like the Statue of Liberty and Macy’s, as well as a trove of “dancing immigrants who just arrived from Ellis Island.” This 70-minute new take on an old classic might be most appreciated by those who have already had their fill of the more traditional Nutcracker production.

The Nutcracker NYC, A Contemporary Ballet – Midtown West
Saturday, December 12-Sunday, December 13
This modern version of the classic at the Ailey Citigroup Theater is 90 minutes and features ballet students from the tri-state area performing alongside seasoned veterans.

The Nutcracker and The Mouse King– Midtown West
Sunday, December 6
This 40-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 to the Nutcracker for the preschool set, and at $10 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.

RELATED: Best Fancy Tea Lunches and Brunch for Kids

The Yorkville Nutcracker celebrates its 20th season in 2015. Photo courtesy of Dances Patrelle.

The Yorkville Nutcracker – Upper East Side
Thursday, December 10-Sunday, December 13
Set in New York City in 1895, Dances Patrelle's Nutcracker at the Kaye Playhouse is celebrating its 20th season this year. New York City Ballet principals Abi Stafford and Adrian Danchig-Waring star as the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier and dance alongside 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.


Highlights from The Nutcracker – Soho
Friday, December 4-Saturday, December 5
In advance: $40; at the door: $45 for adults; free for one child ages 4-7 with every paying adult
Dancers at the Rebecca Kelly Ballet Studio perform solos and duets from the holiday classic in an intimate setting. The show runs just 45 minutes, making it perfect for short attention spans. Added bonus: the Saturday family matinee is followed by a reception and holiday treats.

Joffrey Ballet School Nutcracker – Greenwich Village
Friday, December 11-Sunday, December 13
$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 11-Sunday, December 13
$30 General admission, $15 for children 12 and under
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. On Saturday, December 12th, a reception follows the performance. Tickets for this show are $60 for all ages.

RELATED: Park Slope Restaurants: Where to Eat with Kids

The Hard Nut playing at BAM in Brooklyn is a new take on the Christmas classic. Photo by Susan Millman/courtesy of BAM.


The Colonial Nutcracker – Flatbush
Sunday, December 13
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 up.

Great Russian Nutcracker – Prospect Park South
Saturday, December 5
The Moscow Ballet brings its annual tour to the city for one performance only at the Kings Theater in Brooklyn, where young dancers from the Brighton Ballet will join the company on stage. The touring company annually plays to more than 100 U.S. cities. The show is long—running more than two hours with one intermission.

The Nutcracker – Dumbo
Thursday, December 10-Sunday, December 20
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 dance company's interpretation of the classic to the stage at the newly-opened GK Arts Center. The production showcases the talents of Kirkland's professional company as well as an ensemble cast of 70 graduates and current trainees at Kirkland's ballet academy.

The Hard Nut – Fort Greene
Saturday, December 12-Sunday, December 20
The Mark Morris Dance Group brings a new interpretation of the classic to the stage at BAM this season. The modern take includes Tchaikovsky’s original score yet transports the story to the 1970s.

Holiday Fiesta: Nutcracker Delight – Park Slope
Saturday, December 5
In advance: $12; at the door: $18, FREE for children under age 3
Equal parts show and festival, this fete at PS 133 features a pair of Nutcracker-inspired dances performed by Dancewave students and pros. Food and raffle prizes are also on tap.

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

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