17 ways to make today more festive

Holiday cheer is all around in NYC this time of year, and there are tons of festive activities to enjoy with the whole family

Photograph: Teddy Wolff

This winter has been one of the warmest in years, but don't let the lack of snow turn you into a Scrooge! There are tons of ways to get in the holiday spirit with the family, whether tracking down the best things to do in the winter or gearing up for a great Christmas for kids. It's definitely the most wonderful time of the year in New York City, so take a break from hunting down holiday gifts for kids to have a bit of festive fun with your youngsters.

1

Glide around on one of NYC's sweet ice-skating rinks

Sure, your little ones might do more wobbling than actual skating, but few things top the festive feel of NYC's ice rinks. We've rounded up the best skating spots, 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. For those who need to learn to skate first, we also have some information on the best ice-skating lessons in town.

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By: Hannah Doolin
2

Sip some stellar hot chocolate

Your youngsters might be bouncing off the walls after a cup of chocolate-y goodness, but hot cocoa is just the thing to warm you up after a day out and about with the family. These places whip up some incredible versions of the steamy drink—don't kids with adventurous palates miss out on all the unique flavor concoctions!

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By: Allie Early
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3

Belt out classic Christmas carols

Fa la la la laaaa! There are plenty of opportunities to get the kids singing along this season, whether it's with a group of trained professionals or with volunteer groups. You'll get a break from hearing "Do You Want to Build a Snowman?" on repeat, and a few singing sessions will really get the little ones in the holiday spirit!

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By: Allie Early
4

Chug on over to a holiday train show

All aboard! Get your choo-choo fix at a holiday train show or real-life train ride in the tristate area. Kiddos can check out huge model train sets on display or embark on a festive adventure aboard cool locomotives. You may even get a chance to visit with St. Nick! Hurry before these activities pull out of the station for the season.

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By: Allie Early
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5

See a whimsical performance of The Nutcracker

Every holiday season, one of our favorite Christmas books for kids springs to life when The Nutcracker ballet comes to town. What families might not know, is that George Balanchine's performance at Lincoln Center is just one interpretation of the story! There are several versions of the classic tale, from one set during colonial times to another, right here in NYC! Make sure your family gets tickets to one of many festive shows coming up this season.

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By: Hannah Doolin
6

Gaze up at the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree

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An annual pilgrimage here never fails to remind us why we love New York City in December. A chance to gawk at this year’s behemoth, decorated with 30,000 LED bulbs and a Swarovski crystal star is well worth the fighting the crowds.

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Until Wed Nov 29
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7

Hunt down awesome gifts at a holiday market

People travel from all over the world to take advantage of New York City's world-class shopping during the holidays, but the crowds can turn department stores into a nightmare. Forget about battling the hordes, and stroll through a holiday market instead. You and the kids can track down thoughtful gifts sold by local vendors beneath twinkly lights, plus spots like the Union Square Holiday Market offer tasty snacks and treats to keep the kids happy while you check off your Christmas list. Don't miss the CMA art-making booth!

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By: Dorkys Ramos
8

Scope out some seriously awesome holiday decorations

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More than 100,000 visitors make the pilgrimage to the south Brooklyn nabe of Dyker Heights every December to see larger-than-life Christmas displays, which in past years have included massive nutcrackers, silicone Santas and hundreds of thousands of sparkling holiday lights. Hop on a bus in Union Square and head out for a three-and-half-hour jaunt that takes you through the ’hood’s best spectacles.

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Until Fri Dec 30
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9

Spend the afternoon in Bryant Park Winter Village

 Every winter, families look foward to the opening of the Bryant Park Winter Village—an NYC winter staple. The ongoing festival brings tons of family-friendly activities to the space, including a holiday market with prime shopping and an awesome rink for some of the best ice-skating in NYC. One of our favorite ways to celebrate the season is grabbing a cup of the best hot chocolate from a local vendor, gazing up at the gorgeous tree and paying a visit to Santa in the village.

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By: Hannah Doolin
10

Browse the beautiful holiday window displays

While you're shopping (and battling the crowds) on Fifth Avenue, take a few minutes to stop and check out the amazing holiday windows at the iconic department stores! There's plenty to see this year—including a custom ice-carving chamber, the PEANUTS gang and a French bakery filled with mouth-watering treats.

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By: Allie Early
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11

Take a mouthwatering stroll down GingerBread Lane

No matter how crafty you are, your at-home efforts will pale in comparison to this Guinness World Record–winning gingerbread metropolis made from more than 600 pounds of dough and 750 pounds of candy. The 500-square-foot village features sweet additions, like a double-decker carousel, two trains, a candy factory and S.C. Kingle & Co., an edible riff on the historic Gimbels department store. Line up on January 11, the exhibit's last day, for a chance to take home a house (line opens at noon, giveaway starts at 1pm).

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Until Sun Jan 14
12

Enjoy a holiday-themed performance with the kids

If you and the kids are looking for more festive fun, look no further than NYC's fantastic lineup of kids' Christmas shows. These holiday-themed performances, including everything from a Hanukkah show called Judy and the Maccabees to musicals and Christmas plays are just the thing to keep your family's spirits high throughout the season.

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By: Allie Early
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13

Take the kiddos to see Santa Claus up close

There are plenty of opportunities to track down the man in red over the holidays in NYC, but you can always count on seeing him at Macy's Santaland! One of our favorite Christmas events for kids, the 13,000-square-foot wintry wonderland takes over Macy's Herald Square every year. You'll see caroling snowmen, reindeer, twinkling lights, trees and more on your way to get a photo of the kids sitting on Santa's lap. Get in line as early in the day as possible—on weekends families should expect to wait 90 minutes or more to see Saint Nick.

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By: Allie Early
14

Head to Radio City for the annual Christmas Spectacular

Your youngsters haven't truly experienced the holidays in New York City if they've seen the dazzling Radio City Christmas Spectacular! The annual show has become a holiday tradition since its start in 1933. Set to original music—and with some classic Christmas tunes thrown in—the Spectacular stars Santa Claus himself, alongside the famed Rockettes dance troupe known for their high-kicking chorus line. Families can look forward to iconic numbers like "Parade of the Wooden Soldiers" and "Living Nativity" to get them in the holiday spirit!

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By: Hannah Doolin
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15

Spread some cheer by helping others

This season is all about giving—and the holidays are the perfect time to introduce your kids to giving back to the community. Believe it or not, there are plenty of opportunities for the little ones to help out…you just need to know where to look. Get involved in a food, toy or clothing drive to lend a helping hand to the less fortunate.

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By: Allie Early
16

Snuggle up to watch your family's favorite holiday flick

There's a long list of essential things to do in the winter in NYC, and by the time you've finished decking the halls, you'll definitely be ready to cuddle up to watch our favorite Christmas movies for kids. Kick off family movie night with a bowl of popcorn (maybe some candy canes, too) and queue up favorites like The Muppet Christmas Carol or Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas to get everyone in the holiday spirit. Keep an eye out for holiday screenings at local theaters as well!

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By: Allie Early
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