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17 things to do over winter break 2013 for NYC kids

Spend winter break exploring the city's best holiday activities, everything from gingerbread villages and festive displays to annual shows and exhibits.


While little ones are off from school, you’ve got nearly two weeks worth of activities to plan. Lucky for city parents, there’s tons to do over winter break, including an animated film festival at the IFC Center, snowy day trips, a family fitness fair and no less than three places to see sculptures made entirely out of gingerbread! Plus, there are tons of Christmas, New Year’s Eve and Kwanzaa celebrations and free events. Click through our slide show to see the rest of the best things to do over winter break.


RECOMMENDED: All winter break activities for kids

  • Photograph: Beth Levendis

    1. Visit a holiday exhibit
    Plan a trip to one of our favorite festive museum exhibits, including the NYBG's Holiday Train Show (through Jan 12), the New York Transit Museum's Holiday Train Show (through Feb 23) and "The Grinch's Holiday Workshop" at CMOM (through Dec 31). Bring mini scientists to the four-day ReMake the Holidays at NYSCI (Dec 27–30) or 12 Days of Science at the Liberty Science Center (Dec 21–Jan 1), where they'll meet penguins, use liquid nitrogen to make ice cream and more. 

  • Photograph: Lauren Spinelli

    2. Go ice-skating
    Thanks to this season's flurry (pun intended!) of new rinks, families can now choose from a range of ice skating experiences. We're especially excited about the LeFrak Center in Prospect Park, which opens Dec 20, as well as McCarren Rink, See/Change Unseasonably Cool at the South Street Seaport and the Rink at Brookfield Place. And, of course, as city veterans know, there's always Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park, the Rink at Rock Center and Trump Wollman and Lasker Rinks in Central Park. 

  • Photograph: Karen Melanson NYS Parks

    3. Book a day trip
    Embrace the outdoors (or not) with our ten winter day trip ideas, from snowshoeing upstate to finding refuge from the cold at an indoor water park.

  • Photograph: Taste Buds Cook

    4. Sign up for a day camp
    We found the best day camps to keep kids busy over their break, whether they're into fashion design or dream of starring on the Food Network.

  • Photograph: Jessica Lin

    5. See a holiday show
    Snag tickets to this season's crop of Christmassy classics, like A Christmas Story, the Musical (through Dec 29), the Radio City Christmas Spectacular (through Dec 30), Angelina Ballerina: The Very Merry Holiday Musical (through Jan 5), Literally Alive's A Christmas Carol (through Dec 30) and The Three Bears Holiday Bash (through Dec 30) at the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre.

  • Julie Larsen Maher

    6. Bundle up for Ice Carving Week
    Visiting the Bronx Zoo over the winter-holiday break may not have crossed your mind, but it turns out you could hardly pick a better time for making the trip. From December 26 through December 31, families will embrace winter head on, taking in ice-sculpting demos, frolicking in a marine-themed play space with a 25-foot-long ice slide and having their photo taken on a walrus-themed ice throne. Those at the zoo on December 28 will be treated to the Wildlife Ice Carving Competition and get to vote for their favorite animal sculpture. While there, kids can also sing along with a trio of holiday carolers, catch a 4-D screening of Ice Age and explore an igloo.

  • Photograph: Courtesy AMNH

    7. Celebrate Kwanzaa
    Honor the holiday with fests at two city museums on December 28. The American Museum of Natural History hosts its 35th Anniversary Celebration, which features dance performances and an international marketplace, while the Brooklyn Children's Museum invites families to make Kwanzaa-themed crafts and take part in a dance workshop. 

  • 8. Spend December 25 at a Jewish institution
    On a day when many city venues are closed, Jewish families can head to the Museum at Eldridge Street for a special performance by Greg Wall and Klezmerfest or hit up the Jewish Museum for a two-show concert by the Macaroons

  • Photograph: Grace Chu

    9. Run away to the circus
    No less than four circus shows will perform over winter break this year. The hard part? Deciding which one is right for your brood! City families can choose from the New Vic's Mother Africa (through Jan 5), the annual Holiday Circus in Brighton Beach (Dec 20–29), Cirkopolis at the NYU Skirball Center (Dec 18–am 5), and of course, the Big Apple Circus's Luminocity, which ends its fall run at Lincoln Center on January 12.

  • Photograph: Courtesy Big Onion Walking Tours

    10. Take a walking tour
    View your city in a whole new light by joining in a holiday-themed walking tour, like the Christmas Lights and Cannoli Tour (through Dec 31), which leads onlookers through the massive Christmas displays in Dyker Heights and Bay Ridge, or the Christmas Stroll in Greenwich Village (Dec 24), which explores the homes of writers and artists in the historic nabe. Not celebrating Christmas? Check out the 23rd annual Jewish East Side Tour on December 25, or the Brooklyn Bridge Walk Into the New Year (Dec 31).

  • Photograph: John Minchillo

    11. Go see Santa Claus
    Remind the big man what you want for Christmas by visiting Santaland at Macy's or Bloomingdale's, both of which stay open through the first weekend of winter break. 

     

     

  • Photograph: Courtesy of New York International Children's Film Festival

    12. Watch animated flicks on the big screen
    The folks who produce the annual New York International Children's Film Festival host a two-week retrospective of GKids' most beloved animated tales at the IFC Center (Dec 20–Jan 2), offering the perfect indoor (read: warm!) activity while the kids are out of class. Film favorites like A Cat in Paris, The Secret of Kells, My Neighbor Totoro and more will screen, as well as the theatrical premieres of Welcome to the Space Show, Nocturna and Eleanor's Secret

  • 13. Have a holday-themed family movie night
    There's no better time to have a family movie night than during the Christmas seson. Read through our list of the 20 best Christmas movies—everything from a Muppet version of A Christmas Carol to a classic tale about a department store Santa—to find the best fit for your crew.

  • Courtesy The Jim Henson Company

    14. Revisit a Jim Henson classic
    Over the entire NYC public school holiday break (Dec 21-Jan 1), the Museum of the Moving Image is offering kids the chance to take in a screening of a Jim Henson classic, Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas (1pm), and get creative in an hour-long puppet workshop (2:15, 3:30pm; $10 per child), in which they'll use techniques similar to Henson's to fashion their own puppets and take turns making a short televised puppet show. While you're there, be sure to check out the new exhibit "Indie Essentials: 25 Must-Play Video Games."
     

  • Photograph: Jessica Lin

    15. Drool over a gingerbread village
    Over winter break, kids can visit not one, not two, but three structures made entirely of gingerbread! Head to Le Parker Meridien for their 5th Annual City Harvest Gingerbread Extravaganza, where you'll see sweet versions of Gotham landmarks, or make the trek to NYSCI to see the 300-square-foot "Gingerbread Lane" before it closes on Jan 12. Got a gift to deliver? Stop by the James A. Farley Post Office and snap a photo with the massive gingerbread house in the lobby.

  • Photograph: Prospect Park Alliance/Paul Martinka

    16. Count down to 2014
    Fete New Year's Eve with the kids at these festive parties and end-of-the-year events, including holiday-themed craft workshops at city children's museums, the midnight run in Central Park and the annual fireworks display in Brooklyn.

  • Photograph: Grace Chu

    17. Work up a sweat at the JCC Fitness Fair
    Get your family moving in 2014 with this fun-filled New Year's Day event at the JCC in Manhattan. Everyone can participate in fitness classes for all levels, like yoga, zumba, martial arts and more. After you've worked up a sweat, stick around for giveaways and raffle prizes.

Photograph: Beth Levendis

1. Visit a holiday exhibit
Plan a trip to one of our favorite festive museum exhibits, including the NYBG's Holiday Train Show (through Jan 12), the New York Transit Museum's Holiday Train Show (through Feb 23) and "The Grinch's Holiday Workshop" at CMOM (through Dec 31). Bring mini scientists to the four-day ReMake the Holidays at NYSCI (Dec 27–30) or 12 Days of Science at the Liberty Science Center (Dec 21–Jan 1), where they'll meet penguins, use liquid nitrogen to make ice cream and more. 


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