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21 things to do with kids this Christmas in New York

Mark your calendars for New York holiday train shows, tree lightings, winter festivals and things to do with kids this Christmas

American Museum of Natural History's Holiday Origami Tree

American Museum of Natural History's Holiday Origami Tree Photograph: Jessica Lin

Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year in New York—the holiday windows and displays in the department stores are decorated with festive scenes, holiday trees are lighting up across the boroughs and we can't get enough of the spectacular seasonal events. Though there are countless things to do with kids this Christmas in New York, we rounded up 21 of the can't-miss happenings, including annual favorites like the NYBG Holiday Train Show and Radio City Christmas Spectacular, plus new family shows like Junie B. in "Jingle Bells, Batman Smells." We guarantee you'll want to put all these events on your family's seasonal must-do list. Scroll through our slide show to see all of our Christmas in New York picks.


RECOMMENDED: All Christmas for kids in New York


The Three Bears Holiday Bash

  • Price band: 1/4

This seasonal offering of song, dance and, of course, puppetry comes from the talented folks at the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre. Tots will see a mix of Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Christmas themes incorporated into the company's take on Goldilocks and the Three Bears. The plot snowballs after Baby Bear invites St. Nick to star in Mama and Papa Bear's festive spectacular. Be sure to check the website for an updated schedule; showtimes are subject to change. No performances on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Ages 3 to 9.

  1. Central Park Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre west side, at 79th St
  2. Wed Nov 12 - Tue Dec 30
More info

Holiday Train Show

  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

Some 150 landmarks featured in NYBG's popular diorama are made entirely out of plant-based materials such as twigs and acrons. Little locomotives zip along their tracks against a backdrop of diminutive sights that kids should recognize, the Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty among them. Tickets must be purchased in advance. All ages.

  1. New York Botanical Garden Bronx River Pkwy, at Fordham Rd, 10458
  2. Sun Nov 16 - Mon Jan 19
More info

"Fancy Nancy: Splendiferous Christmas"

  • Price band: 2/4

Based on the children’s book series by Jane O’Connor, this new holiday musical tells the story of Nancy, who loves all things posh and glamorous. When her plan to decorate the Christmas tree with her brand-new, sparkly tree topper doesn't exactly work out as planned, she has to find a way to accept that Christmas can still be splendiferous. Ages 3 to 10.

  1. Vital Children’s Theatre 2162 Broadway, at 76th St, fourth floor
  2. Sat Nov 22 - Thu Jan 1
More info

Swedish Christmas Children's Workshop

  • Price band: 1/4

Prep for the holiday season the Swedish way during this julpysseldag, or "Christmas craft day." Projects include woven hearts, yarn tomtar (benevolent elves) and paper angels. Reservations recommended. Ages 5 to 10.

  1. Scandinavia House: The Nordic Center in America 58 Park Ave, between 37th and 38th Sts
  2. Sat Dec 6
More info

Holiday Kids' Event at Coco Le Vu

  • Price band: 1/4

Add Coco Le Vu to your holiday shopping itinerary for some kid-friendly fun, including gingerbread candy house and gingerbread cookie decorating. The shop's Master Baker will provide supplies and candy and help the kids with their creations. Ages 4 and up.

  1. Coco Le Vu 202 E 110th St, between Second and Third Aves
  2. Sat Dec 13
More info

Winter Solstice Celebration & Holiday Marketplace

  • Free

Enjoy nature, music, food and shopping at the Queens Botanical Garden’s celebration of the Winter Solstice. Children can take a garden tour, get to work on botanical crafts, take in musical performances and nibble on a seasonal treat. The festival will close with a tree-lighting ceremony at 4:30pm. All ages.

  1. Queens Botanical Garden 43-50 Main St, at Dahlia Ave
  2. Sun Dec 7
More info

Winter Family Day

  • Price band: 1/4

Celebrate winter with the Morgan’s annual Winter Family Day! This year, the festivities are dedicated to the library and museum's collection of medieval illuminated images and Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. There will be a craft workshop, costumed characters and opportunities for tots to dress up in literary ensembles. Ages 3 to 12.

  1. The Morgan Library & Museum 225 Madison Ave, at 36th St
  2. Sun Dec 7
More info

American Ballet Theatre's The Nutcracker

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

The American Ballet Theatre is back for another year of performing this inventive version of the wintry classic. With set and costume design by Richard Hudson (The Lion King) and direction and choreography from Alexei Ratmansky, the show boasts a live orchestra, a mischievous mouse king and, of course, a growing Christmas tree. Ages 4 and up.

  1. BAM Howard Gilman Opera House 30 Lafayette Ave, between Ashland Pl and St. Felix St
  2. Fri Dec 12 - Sun Dec 21
More info

Holiday Sing-A-Long with Dan Zanes and Friends

  • Price band: 2/4

Celebrate the season with the ubiquitous kindie vet, Dan Zanes, who'll present songs from his holiday album, Christmas in Concord, for a traditional holiday sing-a-long and family dance party. Doors open at 10am. All ages.

  1. City Winery 155 Varick St, at Vandam St
  2. Sun Dec 14
More info

Ice skating at the best rinks in New York City for families

Take the kids to one of our favorite ice-skating rinks in New York City for a day of ice-filled fun. We've rounded up the best ice-skating rinks in NYC from Rockefeller Center to Brooklyn's McCarren park so you can get your glide on all winter long. No skates? No problem—you can rent a pair at most of these rinks. Don't forget to bundle up!

Kids 'N Comedy: Christmakwanzukah

  • Price band: 1/4

In this all-teen stand-up show, holiday cheer is spread in the form of goofy monologues and witty sarcasm. Try to hold back your laughter as Gen Y-ers discuss unpleasant Christmas gifts, itchy sweaters, and other not-so-joyful joys of the holiday season. Ages 9 and up.

  1. Gotham Comedy Club 208 W 23rd St, between Seventh and Eighth Aves
  2. Sun Dec 14
More info

Holiday Craft Weekends at Torly Kid

Let this Tribeca kids' shop help keep the tots occupied while you finish your Christmas shopping. Every Saturday and Sunday in December, the store will be handing out holiday-themed crafts for little ones. All ages.

  1. Torly Kid 51 Hudson St, between Duane and Jay Sts
  2. Sat Dec 6 - Sun Dec 28
More info

Macy's Santaland

  • Price band: 2/4

Head up to the eighth floor of the Herald Square behemoth for 13,000 sqare feet of holiday cheer, igloos, an enchanted forest, ice-skating penguins, a chorus of teddy bears and of course, Santa Claus' abode, where his elves will escort little ones up to the man in red.Though visiting this Christmas wonderland won't cost you much, the trip will be a time commitment. Families can expect to wait 90 minutes or more on a weekend afternoon to visit with old Saint Nick—just enough time for your little one to make his own list and check it twice (or a few more times).  All ages.

  1. 151 W 34th St, (between Sixth and Seventh Aves)
More info
Bloomingdale's holiday windows 2013

Peruse festive holiday window displays

Explore the festive window displays at NYC's famous department stores when they put on their holiday best. High-end shops like Bloomingdale's, Macy's, Barneys, Henri Bendel, Saks Fifth Avenue, Tiffany & Co. and Lord & Taylor all boast intricate decorations to ogle while on your quest for holiday gifts.

Junie B. in "Jingle Bells, Batman Smells"

  • Price band: 3/4

Beloved literary first-grader Junie B. is the star of this Christmas-themed show based on the book by Barbara Park. During the holidays, the spunky girl must figure out how to keep Tattletale May from ruining her festive spirit, even when she finds out that she's drawn May's name in the Secret Santa pool. Ages 5 and up.

  1. Tilles Center for the Performing Arts Long Island University, C.W. Post Campus,, 720 Northern Blvd
  2. Sat Dec 13
More info

The Colonial Nutcracker

  • Price band: 2/4

Perfect for children (and parents) who are passionate about U.S. history, this interpretation of the ballet moves the action to colonial Yorktown during the Revolutionary War and features redcoat army mice. Just an hour in length, the condensed show is designed to keep kids from getting antsy. Ages 4 and up.

  1. Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts (at Brooklyn College) 2900 Campus Rd, at Hillel Pl, 11210
  2. Sun Dec 14
More info

BAMkids Movie Matinees: The Muppet Christmas Carol

  • Price band: 1/4

Sundays this fall mean catching up on kid-friendly classics (and some more recent films, too) at BAM. Just in time for the holidays, families can giggle and sing along to The Muppet Christmas Carol to close out the series. Ages 7 and up.

  1. BAM Rose Cinemas 30 Lafayette Ave, between Ashland Pl and St. Felix St, 11217
  2. Sun Oct 12 - Sun Dec 14
More info

Visit Rockefeller Plaza

  • Free

A picturesque ice-skating rink and the famous Christmas tree make Rockefeller Plaza a favorite winter destination. Wander around near the massive spruce, take a spin on the rink and take an opportunity to do some holiday shopping at the great retail options nearby.

  1. Fifth and Sixth Aves, (between 48th and 49th Sts)
More info

The Snow Maiden

  • Price band: 2/4

This holiday musical tells the story of a young girl who is tranformed into the beautiful Snow Maiden by Grandfather Frost (that's the Russian version of Santa Claus, in case you didn't know). Performed in Russian with English subtitles, the production features traditional Russian music, dance, and dress. Bonus--all children in attendance will receive a free box of Christmas candy. Ages 6 and up.

  1. Walt Whitman Theatre at Brooklyn College 2900 Campus Rd, at Hillel Pl, one block from junction of Flatbush and Nostrand Aves
  2. Sun Dec 21
More info

Peruse NYC's best holiday markets

It's worth braving the cold to peruse items from hundreds of vendors at the Union Square, Columbus Circle and Bryant Park holiday markets annual mazelike fair. Said to have been designed with Copenhagen and Munich in mind, the holiday hot spots are the perfect place to meet a friend, shop for the family or simply enjoy the novelty of browsing the mazelike fair. Look for handmade wooden puzzles, gingerbread houses and kits, and lots of sweets from local vendors. All ages.

"Gingerbread Lane" at the New York Hall of Science

GingerBread Lane

Kids will adore this totally sweet, Guiness World Record-winning exhibit at the New York Hall of Science. Details for this year's event are still TBD, but last year's GingerBread Lane, designed and decorated by chef/artist Jon Lovitch, featured a 450-square-foot, 1,000-house village constructed entirely from hundreds of pounds of edible gingerbread, icing and candy.  Catch the opening celebration on November 13, then line up on January 11, the exhibit's last day, for a chance to take home a house. Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas. Ages 2 and up.



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