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Thanksgiving activities for kids during the holiday weekend

Staying in town over the holiday? We've got the scoop on the best Thanksgiving activities for kids of all ages.

Photograph: Shutterstock

There's more on the menu this Thanksgiving than turkey, cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes. After working off that epic meal on one of our favorite hiking trails for families in NYC, checking out the best fall foliage and catching the Macy's Day Parade balloon inflation, keep the tots entertained all holiday weekend long with our rundown of the best Thanksgiving activities for kids. From musical performances to arts & crafts projects, our list is chock-full of fun family events throughout the city that will keep your crew busy between feasting on yummy Thanksgiving leftovers. Now get out there and earn your turkey-induced nap!


RECOMMENDED: Thanksgiving in NYC for kids


Holiday weekend Thanksgiving events for kids

New York Historical Society Living History Days: Thanksgiving Weekend

History lovers can go back in time- specifically, to Valley Forge in the winter of 1777- at this two-day New York Historical Society event. Kids will meet battle-ready members of the Third New Jersey Regiment, a living history troop, and their commander, Colonel Elias Dayton. They'll get an up-close look at the soliders' historical gear and join them for drills. All ages.

  1. New York Historical Society New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West, at Richard Gilder Way (77h Street), 10024
  2. Until Sat Nov 29
More info

The Annual Post-Thanksgiving Multi-Ethnic Eating Tour

  • Price band: 2/4

Spend Black Friday exploring the various cultures of the Lower East Side through a turkey-burning, tastebud-tingling tour. Tots can sample 10 different Jewish, Italian, Chinese and Dominican treats and snacks at outdoor markets while learning about different ethnicities and their histories. Meet at the southwest corner of Essex and Delancey Sts in front of Chase Bank. Ages 5 and up.

  1. Manhattan
  2. Until Fri Nov 28
More info

Mummenshanz's The Musicians of Silence

Kids will be in awe of this critically acclaimed theater group's imaginative use of light and shadows in The Musicians of Silence. The show will incorporate both new creations and audience favorites. 

  1. Skirball Center for the Performing Arts 566 La Guardia Pl, at Washington Sq South, 10012
  2. Sun Jan 25
More info

"Guitar: The Instrument That Rocked the World"

  • Price band: 1/4

Come discover the evolution of this rockin' instrument through the centuries. Kids can rock out to their own music while using playables. Also, get a closer look at the world's largest guitar and the world's oldest electric guitar. Are you a fan of rock music? Then you'll enjoy the exhibit's display of guitars autographed and owned by icons in music. All ages.

  1. Liberty Science Center 222 Jersey City Blvd, between Philip and Wilson Sts
  2. Thu Dec 18 - Sun Jan 4
More info

Fall Harvest and Husk

Long before the borough of Manhattan was populated by 1.6 million New Yorkers, it was inhabited by the Lenape Indian tribe, who called it 'Mannahatta.' Kids can explore the history of the island and its original residents at this fall-themed exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York. They'll learn what the Lenape ate, where they lived, what they wore and how they survived the elements. Then, kids will make their own corn-husk dolls to celebrate the harvest season. No RSVP required.

  1. Museum of the City of New York 1220 Fifth Ave, between 103rd and 104th Sts
  2. Until Fri Nov 28
More info

A Christmas Carol

  • Price band: 2/4

Literally Alive Children's Theatre presents a musical twist on the classic holiday tale about a Christmas-hating grouch whose bah-humbug life is transformed by a visit from three Christmas ghosts. Arrive an hour before Sunday morning performances for a free preshow family workshop and enjoy festive caroling outside the theatre prior to all shows. Ages 5 and up.

  1. Players Theatre 115 MacDougal St, at Minetta Ln
  2. Thu Dec 18 - Tue Dec 30
More info

"Drawn to Language"

  • Price band: 1/4

Let your pint-sized Picassos discover artistic works that speak to them—literally. Multimedia pieces featuring letters and words that are visualized, spoken, scrambled or made into symbols or patterns will grace the CMA's galleries, allowing young visitors to explore communication through the visual arts. Works from both emerging and established artists including Adam Ames, Jenny Holzer, Jack Pierson and Kambui Olujimi will be featured. All ages.

  1. Children's Museum of the Arts 103 Charlton St, between Greenwich and Hudson Sts, 10014
  2. Thu Dec 18 - Sun Jan 11
More info

BAMkids Movie Matinees

  • Price band: 1/4

Sundays this fall mean catching up on kid-friendly classics (and some more recent films, too) at BAM. Start with the tale of a Coney Island runaway in 50s flick, Little Fugitive (10/12) and the 3D, eerie mystery of the Creature from the Black Lagoon (11/2). Next up: a day in the life of the Beatles in A Hard Day's Night (11/16), and a heartwarming must-see for all kids, The Sound of Music (11/30). Just in time for the holidays, giggle and sing along to The Muppet Christmas Carol (12/14) 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. Until Sun Dec 14
More info

NYTM Train Operators School

  • Price band: 1/4

Kids can play conductor in the New York Transit Museum computer lab when they take control of a NYC subway car and operate it over virtual miles of track. Realistic software program OpenBVE lets youngsters take charge on the tracks! Limited capacity; prior registration recommended. Ages 10 and up.

  1. New York Transit Museum Boerum Pl, at Schermerhorn St, 11201
  2. Until Sat Nov 29
More info

The Amazing Adventures of Harvey and the Princess

On its newest touring production, the arts nonprofit New York City Children's Theater (formerly Making Books Sing) has teamed up with well-known children's musician Laurie Berkner to turn the book Harvey the Child Mime into an original musical. The imaginative story, written by Barbara Zinn Krieger, stars Harvey, an ordinary kid who accidentally ends up on Pink Mountain Island in the company of a princess and her royal family. Set to upbeat, original music, the tale invites families to follow along as Harvey teaches the princess about fun and togetherness. Ages 3 to 8.

  1. Theater Three 311 W 43rd St, between Eighth and Ninth Aves, third floor, 10036
  2. Until Sun Dec 7
More info

Taste Buds Kitchen Thanksgiving Mini Chef Camp

Keep the kids out of your own kitchen on this cooking-heavy holiday weekend and let them go nuts at Taste Buds Kitchen instead. At the Chelsea cooking school's Thanksgiving mini-camp, little chefs will whip up sweet potato treats. Ages 4-8 and 9-14.

  1. Taste Buds Kitchen Cooking Camps 109 W 27th St, between Sixth and Seventh Aves, tenth floor, 10001
  2. Until Fri Nov 28
More info

Grand Central Holiday Train Show

  • Free

While you’re exploring the New York Transit Museum, be sure to visit its vintage Lionel Metro-North, New York Central and subway trains displayed on a 34-foot long, two-level “O” gauge model train layout through February. Kids will love checking out a miniature Grand Central Terminal and seeing vintage Lionel ads from the 1930s.

  1. Grand Central Terminal, Main Concourse 42nd St to 44th St, between Vanderbilt and Lexington Aves
  2. Thu Dec 18 - Sun Feb 22
More info

Breakfast with Santa Cruise

  • Price band: 3/4

What better way to ring in the holiday season than with Santa and a tasty breakfast at sea? Tots can play festive games, dance with St. Nick and gape at the wintry city skyline from the comfort of a heated cabin. Then, when they're ready to refuel, Santa's will serve a breakfast buffet extravaganza with something to please even the pickiest eaters. Plus, castmembers from A Christmas Story: The Musical will be onboard to say hello! All ages.

  1. South Street Seaport, Pier 16 Fulton St, at South St
  2. Sat Dec 20
More info

Transportation Inventions

  • Price band: 1/4

Kids can dream up the car of the future, create a blueprint, and then bring it life using a few unusual materials and their imaginations in the New York Transit Museum's Idea Lab. Ages 6 and up.

  1. New York Transit Museum Boerum Pl, at Schermerhorn St, 11201
  2. Until Sun Nov 30
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 Dec 20 - Sun Jan 4
More info

Film Forum Jr.

  • Price band: 1/4

Today’s 3-D movies and Blu-rays are great, but don’t you want your kids to experience the cinematic classics of past generations, too? At this Sunday series, Film Forum will screen family-friendly movies and musicals. Embark on an epic adventure with Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark (Sept 7), learn lessons along with some rambunctious London high school students in To Sir, with Love (Sept 14) then giggle at an old-school comedy double feature showing The Bank Dick, followed by Buster Keaton short, Cops (Sept 21). Follow a time-traveling scientist in The Time Machine (Sept 28) and an unlikely seaman in Captains Courageous (Oct 5) and enjoy more family flicks through the end of the year: Hippity Goes To Town (Oct 12), The Strong Man (Oct 19), Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (Oct 26), Annie (Nov 2), Pee-Wee's Big Adventure (Nov 9), Bugs, Daffy and Chums (Nov 16), Seven Brides For Seven Brothers (Nov 23), Our Hospitality (Nov 30), Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (Dec 7), Bringing Up Baby (Dec 14) and Mary Poppins (Dec 21 and 28). Ages 5 and up.

  1. Film Forum 209 W Houston St, between Sixth Ave and Varick St, 10014
  2. Sun Dec 21 - Sun Dec 28
More info

Macy's Santaland

  • Price band: 1/4

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. Macy's Herald Square 151 W 34th St, between Sixth and Seventh Aves
  2. Thu Dec 18 - Wed Dec 24
More info

Big Apple Circus: Metamorphosis

  • Price band: 3/4

Gotham's favorite circus troupe kicks off an all-new sawdust spectacular for its 37th season, astounding families and young circusgoers with quick-chance transformation acts and enchanting illusions under the direction of Ringmaster John Kennedy Kane. You can duck under the Big Top to witness fearless trapeze flyers, gravity-defying acrobats, a mind-bending contortionist and a diabolo and foot-juggling team from no more than 50 feet from the action. Francesco the Clown and talented creatures including camels, horses and pups will also enter the ring, performing to tunes from the Big Apple Band. Kids get in free on Wednesdays (two-for-one offer, with purchase of adult ticket) for a 75-minute show with no intermission. Ages 3 and up.

  1. Damrosch Park at Lincoln Center W 62nd St, between Columbus and Amsterdam Aves
  2. Thu Dec 18 - Sun Jan 11
More info

Rubin Museum Family Sundays

  • Price band: 1/4

In honor of its 10th anniversary, the Rubin Museum of Art established new Family Sundays—a year-round, drop-in program inviting families to create art, explore the galleries on special tours and more. In November, try your hand at Tibetan-style grid drawings using strict proportions and inspiration from the "All-Knowing Buddha" exhibition. Close out the year with a 'green' holiday card project using recycled and natural materials, like many Himalayan artists do. Ages 3 and up.

  1. The Rubin Museum of Art 150 W 17th St, at Seventh Ave, 10011
  2. Sun Dec 21 - Sun Jan 25
More info

"Somebody Come and Play: 45 Years of Sesame Street Helping Kids Grow Smarter, Stronger and Kinder"

Go behind the scenes with Elmo, Grover, Big Bird and other furry friends at the New York Public Library's Sesame Street exhibit. Somebody Come and Play: 45 Years of Learning on Sesame Street features a children's area full of books and games for young fans and scripts, scores and photos for older ones. There will also be film screenings and special family programming. All ages.

  1. New York Public Library for the Performing Arts 40 Lincoln Center Plaza, at 65th St
  2. Thu Dec 18 - Sat Jan 31
More info

Swamp Juice

  • Price band: 2/4

Puppeteer Jeff Achtem marvels as he uses everyday items like bits of wood, plastic, and cardboard then transforms them into shadow puppets. The energetic performance centers on life in the swamp so prepare to see alligators, birds, snails and more. Make sure you put on your 3D glasses for a wild finale! Bring all ages to the Barrow Street Theatre to see this incredible one-man show. The running time is one hour with no intermission. All ages.

  1. Barrow Street Theatre 27 Barrow St, at Seventh Ave South
  2. Thu Dec 18 - Sun Jan 4
More info

South Street Seaport Tree Lighting

  • Critics choice
  • Free

Fete the grand opening of the Seaport Ice Rink with live music, family activities and the 31st annual lighting of South Street Seaport's holiday tree. All ages.

  1. South Street Seaport 19 Fulton St, at Front St
  2. Until Fri Nov 28
More info

360 Allstars

  • Price band: 1/4

Get totally amazed by a trio of extreme daredevils: First, kids'll watch a pro BMX rider, followed by a breakdance battle between two B-boys, one from Brazil and the other from New Zealand. Then, Basketball Man takes to the stage for a beatbox performance. Arrive early or stay late to get on family breakdancing workshops (11/15, 12pm, 4:30pm). Ages 6 and up.

  1. New Victory Theater 209 W 42nd St, between Seventh and Eighth Aves
  2. Until Sun Nov 30
More info

"Nature's Fury: The Science of Natural Disasters"

  • Price band: 2/4

If Hurricane Sandy has taught New Yorkers anything, it's that no one is safe from the forces of nature. Though we often hear news of earthquakes, volcanoes, hurricanes, tornadoes and tsunamis obliterating areas around the world, many were shocked that a place like NYC could be hit by such a massive storm. Now families can learn more about these natural disasters through an interactive exhibit that lets kids bone up on the geological causes, the risks to humans, coping in the aftermath and how to predict future destruction. Hands-on activities invite visitors to monitor earthquakes around the world in real time, manipulate an earthquake fault, generate a virtual volcano, stand at the center of a roaring tornado and check out an interactive map of NYC during the hurricane in 2012. All ages.

  1. American Museum of Natural History Central Park West, at 79th St, 10024
  2. Thu Dec 18 - Sun Aug 9
More info

Bloomingdale's Santaland

  • Price band: 1/4

Venture to Bloomingdale's this holiday season for a chance to meet Santa and fill him in on every last trinket you're hoping to get for Christmas. While you're there, take part in the great American tradition of getting your kids all dolled up for a picture with the great white beard himself. FYI: Santa and his elves take a break from 1pm–2pm each day, so plan your visit accordingly. All ages.

  1. Bloomingdale's 1000 Third Ave, at 59th St, 10022
  2. Thu Dec 18 - Tue Dec 23
More info

Festive Fifth

  • Critics choice

Brooklyn's answer to the Upper West Side's Winter's Eve packs a Park Slope–style punch: Along Fifth Ave between Dean and 18th Sts (that's 30 blocks in all!), locally-owned businesses will stay open late for post–Black Friday shopping, but the real fun is centered around the tree lighting (6:30pm, Fifth Ave at 3rd St), where, for the first time ever, a real 20-foot tree will brighten the corner. Afterwards, sip free hot chocolate and say hi to Santa Claus as he makes his way down the street, giving out candy canes. Local children's groups and carolers from Opera on Tap will perform and line the avenue along with other live entertainment. Nearby shops will be decked out in holiday decor also stay open late for the occasion. All ages.

  1. Various locations
  2. Until Sat Nov 29
More info

Family Art Project: Harvest Time Hangings

  • Price band: 1/4

Kids turn nature into wall art by gathering leaves, cones, pods and more from the grounds and weaving them together to form a seasonal decoration. Ages 5 and up.

  1. Wave Hill Public Garden and Cultural Center 675 W 252nd St, at 249th St
  2. Sun Nov 30
More info

"The Butterfly Conservatory: Tropical Butterflies Alive in Winter"

  • Critics choice

It's a balmy 80 degrees in the museum's 1,200-square-foot vivarium, which holds up to 500 tropical lepidoptera. The free-flying butterflies often land on the shoulders of visitors, allowing tykes to come into direct contact with the ethereal creatures. All ages.

  1. American Museum of Natural History Central Park West, at 79th St, 10024
  2. Thu Dec 18 - Mon May 25
More info

Handmade: Artists' Holiday Cards from the Archives of American Art

  • Price band: 1/4

Nothing spreads holiday cheer quite like a homemade gift. Crafty kids can get inspired by the pros at this special seasonal exhibit at The Morgan Library & Museum. Gather cardmaking inspiration from the display of nearly 60 personal, handmade greeting cards created by major modern and contemporary artists for their loved ones. The collection includes cards made by painter Helen Frankenthaler, sculptor Alexander Calder and cartoonist Saul Steinberg, among others. On Nov. 22nd from 2pm–4pm, kids can make their own festive creations just in time for the holidays in a workshop run by educator and artist Stephanie Krause. Ages 6–12.

  1. The Morgan Library & Museum 225 Madison Ave, at 36th St
  2. Thu Dec 18 - Sun Jan 4
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. Thu Dec 18 - Mon Jan 19
More info

A Christmas Memory

  • Price band: 3/4

Treat your family to some southern hospitality at this down-home holiday show at the Irish Repertory Theatre. A Christmas Memory, set in Alabama in 1933, is a musical celebration of the Christmas season. Join Buddy and his eccentric cousins as they gather ingredients for their World-Famous Christmas Fruitcake and rediscover what the holiday season is all about. Ages 8 and up.

  1. DR2 Theatre 103 E 15th St, between Union Sq East and Irving Pl
  2. Thu Dec 18 - Sun Jan 4
More info

Boroughrama

Head to the Museum of the City of New York for a (friendly) battle of the boroughs! On two Tuesdays in November, kids can peruse the large-scale panoramic photos of NYC landmarks and everyday places in the new exhibit "Jeff Chien-Hsing Liao's New York: Assembled Realities." Then, they can rep their favorite borough by crafting a collage. No RSVP required. Ages 6–12.

  1. Museum of the City of New York 1220 Fifth Ave, between 103rd and 104th Sts
  2. Sun Nov 30
More info

More Than Meets The "I"

  • Price band: 1/4

Budding scientists can indulge their curiosities at "More Than Meets The I" at the Brooklyn Children's Museum. The hands-on exhibition exposes kids to STEM (that's science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields with cool exhibits on moleculary biology, nanotechnology, robotics and 3D printing. There's also a science-themed reading area curated by the Brooklyn Public Library. All ages.

  1. Brooklyn Children’s Museum 145 Brooklyn Ave, at St. Marks Ave
  2. Thu Dec 18 - Sun Jan 18
More info

GingerBread Lane

  • Price band: 2/4

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.

  1. New York Hall of Science 47-01 111th St, at 47th Ave, 11368
  2. Thu Dec 18 - Sun Jan 11
More info


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