Bored? This list ensures you won't miss out on any of the best winter activities for kids this season (woohoo)!
Welcome to wintertime, where things get icy, snow is welcome (most of the time) and you've broken out all of your favorite sweaters and scarves. You've probably already lost a few mittens, too. Fill your days with the most spectacular winter activities for kids and winter events for kids, including fun events like a visit to see the Radio City Christmas Spectacular or explore Macy's Santaland. You can also try these staycation ideas too!
Things to do in the winter with kids in NYC
The best Christmas events for kids are right under your nose! These special picks will have the littles ice skating, checking out gorgeous holiday windows, seeing renditions of the Nutcracker and working together on super fun crafts. You'll want to check out the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, stop by one of many amazing holiday train shows, grab a cup of the best hot chocolate and more.
Lace up your skates and hit the ice! 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. While you're at it, round out a day of wintry activities by checking out the best holiday windows and displays and Santa sightings in NYC.
Sign your crew up for these ice skating lessons for kids at NYC's best kids' ice-skating spots! They'll learn everything from basic ice skating skills to more advanced whirls and twirls, plus there are dedicated options for hockey and figure skating too. Some picks, like the rink at Bryant Park, are even right near NYC's best holiday markets!
The highs and lows of Gotham become so much more extreme—and fun—when it gets cold with the best sledding hills in NYC. You don’t need to go on a ski trip near New York City for hours of down-hill fun, just hit a few of the best NYC parks for families where the slopes are full of local snow-lovers. Just grab your toboggan, or make-shift sledding vessel, and find a spot across the five boroughs.
These holiday books are newer picks that your kids will request season after season; We love The Polar Express as much as the next person, but the younger set definitely deserves its own holiday favorites. Here are newer picture book and chapter book picks that your kids will request season after season.
Head up to the eighth floor of the Herald Square behemoth for 13,000 square feet of holiday cheer! You'll experience the Domino Sugar Bake Shoppe to see cute gingerbread men, the Aflac Ducks putting on their ice skates for the ice rink, a too-cool choir (Bobby Blizzard and The Below-Zeroes), igloos, ice sculptures, a rainbow bridge and Lionel Trains Industrial City, where you'll see six complete sets of trains surrounding a six-foot-tall Christmas Tree.
This enchanting production is the one people have in mind when they ask, "Have you been to The Nutcracker?" The New York City Ballet's full roster of ballerinas, danseurs and musicians—plus children from the School of American Ballet—perform Balanchine's classic choreography. Princess-smitten tots will fall for the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Snow Queen, but all kids will get a kick out of the one-ton Christmas tree that "grows" to 40 feet onstage, and Mother Ginger, who hides little dancers under her nine-foot-wide skirt. Before select matinees, kids ages 5 to 8 can try their toes at the craft during 45-minute workshops, featuring music from The Nutcracker (Dec 5, 19, 20, 29). Ages 5 and up.
This holiday-themed "sound sculpture" involves a roving mass of boom boxes whose joyful cacophony is perceived slightly differently by each person. Your kids can take part in the noise by bringing a boombox that plays cassettes or CDs, downloading the MP3s on the event's website and bringing along an MP3 player, or creating your own sound rig, and marching along with the procession, which begins at the Washington Square Arch and ends in Tompkins Square Park. Arrive by 6:45pm. All ages.
Every year, this Williamsburg cinema offers up all your favorite holiday movies with brunch on Saturday mornings. The menu includes everything from stuffed French toast to huevos rancheros, and the dishes are delivered right to your seat. This year’s lineup includes Home Alone and White Christmas (December 3), Jingle All the Way (December 10), Elf and Love Actually (December 17), and Christmas Vacation and It’s a Wonderful Life (December 24). Ages 6 and up with a guardian.
These holiday train shows in NYC will take your child's choo choo train obsession to a whole new level. Some of the picks on our list (including the famed NY Botanical Garden Train Show) incorporate cool natural materials, while others like the Polar Express mean your tykes can ride a real, life-sized train. If you're lucky, you'll even have the opportunity to meet the big guy in red!
Things to do in the winter in NYC
Head to these spectacular Christmas tree farms for great cut-your-own opportunities (and some cool pre-cut picks as well)! Your children will love the experience of going out in the field to pick their favorite tree, plus you'll work together to get it back to the checkout line (and onto the car)!
The first in a month full of exciting holidays like Christmas and New Year's Eve, Hanukkah kicks off the holiday spirit! Use the family time to see a massive menorah lighting, check as many items as you can off our list of 50 things to do in the winter, go for a skate on one of the city's best ice-skating rinks or take a trip to grab a cup of the best hot chocolate in NYC.
These epic snow tubing parks are a great way to spend the day with your family. Even better, they're all three hours away or less (by car), so it's possible to make a fun day trip of the adventure and have everyone tucked in by bedtime. If you opt to make a family vacation that includes snow tubing, many of the runs are also near resorts...some are even part of family resort properties. Tubular.
If a day spent browsing the choo-choos at a holiday train show and gazing at a twinkly tree lighting isn't enough to get your youngsters in a festive mood, read our ranked list of fantastic Christmas books for kids before bedtime! Tales like The Polar Express and How the Grinch Stole Christmas! are best told while sipping some hot chocolate in your jammies. They'll definitely have sweet dreams about a white Christmas morning.
Learn about the Caribbean island’s diverse ecosystem through this bilingual exhibit that introduces its forests, caves, wetlands, and reefs. Live animals, specimens, artifacts, and models of animal species found only in Cuba will be on display in a variety of recreated habitats. And because Cuba is about so much more than fascinating wildlife, the exhibit also dives into the life and culture of the country. Stroll along an open boulevard that’ll plop you right in the middle of a vibrant Cuban street that’s come alive with music, dance, and performances. Learn about the spiritual teachings of Santeria and how to grow Cuba’s most important cash crop tobacco. If you were ever curious about what the island is about, then grab the family for an interactive lesson. You might just be booking a plane ticket right as soon as you arrive home. All ages.
We're lucky to live in a city where there's plenty to do as a family, no matter what the weather is like—from cool NYC museum exhibits to awesome classes and workshops, there's no shortage of indoor activities for kids. Sometimes, though, the great outdoors beckons, and these seven ski trips for families are the perfect way to heed the call. Whether a day trip or weekend getaway, these fantastic mountain resorts across the Northeast offer great skiing (of course!)—plus tons of amenities and other activities for families who want to make an adventure of it.
These legendary NYC museums never cease to amaze us with their ever-changing offerings, but their permanent exhibits are longtime favorites for a reason! Between the fossil halls at the Museum of Natural History and the cool dig site at the Jewish Museum, there are tons of things to do with dinosaur-loving kids, plus there's a film-centric exhibit for youngsters who want a behind-the-scences peek at the best kids' movies and space-themed minigolf for active tykes. Check out our favorite NYC picks below and hit up the ones that strike your kid's fancy.
Love Broadway shows for kids? So do we. This ranked list of picks should be enough to entertain kids of every age, even those stubborn tweens! We've rounded up great stuff like The Lion King, School of Rock, Matilda and more. There's also plenty of great stuff to look forward to in 2017 too, like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Anastasia! Check back for more updates throughout the year, and while you're waiting, explore our favorite 101 things to do with kids in NYC, all the best kids' movies and NYC's best family attractions.
Things to do in the winter in NYC
These indoor amusement parks and fun zones near New York City are a great fit for restless kids! Sometimes the weather just doesn’t permit a visit to Luna Park, so options like Kidz Village in New Jersey or Bowlmor Times Square can sate your crew’s craving for adventure (at least for an afternoon).
At this exhibit, visitors can play with beloved Nickelodeon characters Dora and Diego in games that encourage animal conservation and environmental awareness. Kids can explore different interactive play areas including Isa’s Flowery Garden, Journey to the Purple Planet, Tico’s Nutty Forest, the Animal Rescue Center, a Rainforest Maze and the Pirate Piggies’ Ship. Ages 3 to 10.
Every year, this holiday stalwart gets families in the spirit with Santa appearances, colorful sets and, of course, one-of-a-kind dance numbers from the impressive Rockettes. Enjoy classic routines like "Parade of the Wooden Soldiers" and "New York at Christmas," in which dancers journey through the city on a double-decker bus, and keep an eye out for exciting new additions as well. The show now incorporates advanced technology throughout, taking the audience on a wild ride via 3D glasses and a flying LED screen, and one number even sends a host of helium-filled, GPS-enabled iridescent snowflakes floating high above the audience, transforming Radio City into a sparkling winter wonderland! All ages.
These holiday markets have every festive trinket, gift and snack you could possibly hope for. Why not make the adventure a family affair (or date!) to pick out some great stuff? After all, people travel from all over the world to take advantage of New York City's world-class shopping during the holidays. You wouldn't want to miss out.
A great cup of the city's best hot chocolate is enough to warm any heart—even one that's three sizes too small! Whether you're celebrating Christmas for kids, Hanukkah for kids or just hunting for something to warm you up (after some kids' ice skating, perhaps?), these picks from hotspots like City Bakery, Jaques Torres and Max Brenner, to name a few.
Kids don't have to wait until Christmas morning to see evidence of Santa Clause around NYC. There are plenty of great places to take pictures with Santa—even some super famous spots like Macy's Santaland! If you're willing to brave crowds, lines and even "elves" as you wait, these great spots are worth a look. Old Saint Nick is getting his reindeer prepped for visits all around town, and he’s waiting to make your little one’s face light up with joy!
When Santa's helpers are watching, kids tend to be on their best behavior, which is a big reason why Elf on the Shelf has become to popular with parents everywhere. But for some, thinking of funny new says to situate the elf is just too much fun to resist! We're so impressed with the creative ideas that Moms and Dads have dreamed up that we decided to share a few of our favorites. Check out the hilarious Elf on the Shelf ideas below to get inspired, and don't forget to help the little ones text Santa their must-have list of holiday gifts for kids, too! Here's what the Elf has been up to while the kids are sleeping...
Make time to watch the best Christmas movies for kids! Getting wrapped up in the Christmastime festivities is exciting, but it's also wonderful when you can carve out time to relax with your children and feel festive without running out to the nearest holiday markets or cool holiday train shows (though those are amazing too).
Even the most energetic kids will meet their match at these trampoline park hotspots for families! They’ll bounce to their heart’s desire on trampolines big and small, even getting in on age-specific playtimes and glow-in-the-dark games! Plus, if you haven’t considered a trampoline park as a spot for your kid’s upcoming birthday party, you definitely should—most have plenty of space for large groups! They definitely top our list of favorite indoor activities for kids, that’s for sure.
The Museum of the City of New York’s new permanent exhibition “New York at Its Core” will present the full 400-year history of the city. From its beginnings as a Dutch settlement to the urban force it is today, the exhibition will guide viewers through the evolution of one of the greatest cities in the world. The attraction features three interactive galleries based on four themes - money, density, diversity, and creativity - and more than 400 significant objects from NYC icons, including Alexander Hamilton, Walt Whitman, “Boss” Tweed, Emma Goldman, JP Morgan, Fiorello LaGuardia, and Jay-Z. The museum will celebrate the opening of the exhibit with a weekend-long public festival Gotham Groove (Nov 19 10am - Nov 20 6pm) with 32 hours of live music, spoken word performances, films, dance, and interactive activities for the whole family. All ages. Advance registration required for Gotham Groove.
Things to do in the winter in NYC
When the kids are out of school over winter break, head to Jersey for 12 whole days of boredom-busting activities that will keep their holiday impatience at bay. Curious kids can channel their inner mad scientist during demos and workshops involving ice- and snow-themed experiments. This year’s lineup is still TBA, but last year, kids got to meet a live penguin and use liquid nitrogen to make ice cream. Ages 3 and up.
Little museumgoers will be pleased to know that the American Museum of Natural History is adding a new addition to its already impressive collection of dino fossils. In January 2016, a 122-foot-long critter will be installed for all to see—and it’s such a new species that the paleontologists who discovered it have not even formally named it yet! Titanosaur, as we’ll call our new friend, will take the place of the Barosaurus (on display since 1996) in the Wallach Orientation Center. Oh, and one last thing…Titanosaur doesn’t even fit in the 19-foot-ceiling gallery—its neck and head will stretch out towards the elevator banks.
'Tis the season for holiday cheer in NYC! From holiday train shows to holiday markets to fun Christmas events for kids, there's plenty to see and do. Perhaps most magical of all, a regular subway fare is all you need to ride on one of the MTA's nostalgia trains or vintage buses.
The American Museum of Natural History opens a new film exploring the inhabitants of the Arctic (Wonders of the Arctic). Through stunning footage and stories from scientists and Inuit leaders, kids can learn all about how humans, polar bears, penguins, huskies and whales have adapted to life on—and under—the ice. All ages.
Your kids may never tire of watching Frozen, but they'll be exposed to plenty of family-friendly classics as well, thanks to this weekly film series. On Sundays, the downtown theater hosts a matinee screening of a bona fide family favorites. This season kicks off with a viewing of An American Tail, a musical about a Jewish immigrant mouse Fievel (Dec 18), Gene Kelly’s classic Singing’ in the Rain (Dec 25) shown in 4K restoration, and silent comedy masterpiece Steamboat Bill, Jr. (Jan 1). Other top-notch picks include Jailhouse Rock (Jan 8), Cover Girl (Jan 15), The Invisible Man (Jan 22), Abbott & Costello Meet The Invisible Man (Jan 29), Time Bandits (Feb 5), It Happened One Night (Feb 12), Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines (Feb 19), Lassie Come Home (Feb 26), Planet of the Apes (Mar 5), Lili (Mar 12), and The Witches (Mar 19). All ages.
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. The tree lighting ceremony will take place December 2.
It’s that time of year again! The air is crisp, the hot chocolate is—er—hot, and all around there’s excitement and anticipation for the holidays to come! Snuggling with our little ones around a roaring fire at Christmastime sounds like the perfect thing to do—but as city dwellers, the vast majority of us don’t have fireplaces in our living rooms, much less a chimney for Santa to slide down. But oh those TV geniuses thought of everything, even our deepest comfy cozy holiday desires! As you may or may not know, each year on Christmas morning, PIX 11 airs a program called the Yule Log, which is basically raw footage of a picturesque, cracking fireplace, burning for four hours with soothing Christmas music playing in the background. It’s a gift to us city folk who want that full on quaint and charming holiday morning experience. So gather around the TV kiddies, and you better not pout, you better not cry, you better not miss the Yule Log...read on to find out why!
Yum! These tasty family dinner ideas from bloggers like Oh, Sweet Basil, Teach Eat Love and One Hungry Mama will have your little ones rushing to the table (and finishing their plates without a fuss)! Be sure to explore our favorite recipes for kids from NYC restaurants, our 50 favorite family restaurants in NYC and top it all off with a cone from one of these sweet ice cream shops.
Celebrate the year of the rooster with an all-new performance from the Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company. The whole family will be enthralled by acrobats, red lions, golden dragons and white peacocks, all moving to the sounds of traditional Chinese instruments. All ages.
Let's be real—city kids rock at building snowmen! Trade your visions of tobogganing, hot cocoa and assembling Frosty up on a sparkling country hillside for city snowmen that know what's up (and definitely chill harder than the rest). When you've had your fill of the best NYC museums and indoor activities for kids, hit the sidewalk or park and build the coolest piece of snow artwork this city's ever seen.
Things to do in the winter in NYC
When Kay disappears with the enchating Snow Queen, his best friend Gerda sets off on a quest to find him and bring him back home. The classic tale comes to life on stage and afterwards, children can try their hand at acting the story out. A 40-minute workshop follows each performance and an actor from the play will help them put on their own show. Ages 5 and up.
Brooklyn Botanic Garden will host a series of fun wintry events for all ages the Sunday of each month. When cabin fever hits the family, a variety of activities at the garden will give visitors a chance to get in touch with nature during the quiet winter months. The series kicks off Dec 4 with a winter bird-watching walk, a pretend petting zoo for toddlers, and indoor crafts and a reading of Mermaids on Parade and other water-inspired children’s stories inside the Steinhardt Conservatory. All ages.
Think sightseeing's just for tourists? These family attractions will have you thinking otherwise—they're too good to pass up, even for local families! Check out our lineup of the best family attractions and plan your visit to iconic destinations like the Empire State Building and American Museum of Natural History, or check out other fun things like our favorite zoos in NYC. Our picks range from popular stuff like the Statue of Liberty and Jane's Carousel to lesser known spots like the Lowline Lab. These great kids' attractions will certainly please the whole crew, so hit the arrows to scroll through our top 50 picks below and wow the littles with your knowledge of the coolest free activities for kids in NYC (many items on our list come cost-free)! For more super cool things to do, check out our top family vacations from NYC and favorite kids' museums!
Visit the best candy stores NYC has to offer when it's time to treat your little ones (or yourself). Believe us—it's totally worth it. At these cool spots, you can find things like handmade chocolates, european candies and even semi cheap bulk candy for when you're really ready to indulge. Local favorites like The Sweet Life and Economy Candy are a must-see. Don't forget to floss! For more delicious treats, check out our favorite cookie delivery services, our favorite birthday cupcakes and great popsicle recipes the whole family can make together.
There is no more wonderful a place in all five boroughs to incite the holiday spirit than in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, where you’ll find some of the most over-the-top Christmas light displays in the country. Having been featured in specials on both PBS and TLC, this neighborhood—which has truly earned the nickname Dyker Lights—attracts over 100,000 people every year, for their spectacle of decorations that you really must see to believe. One way to enjoy the spectacle is a three-and-a-half-hour (heated!) bus tour, held annually by A Slice of Brooklyn, which departs and returns in a convenient Union Square location. Alternatively, you can skip the bus altogether, bundle up and make a walking trip of it–word is the best displays are from 11th Avenue to 13th Avenue and from 83rd to 86th Street. Leaves from Union Square. All ages.
Like Sleep No More but for kids, this interactive theater experience will let adventerous kids be part of the action. In this production, families unlock a portal that leads them onto the shores of a magical island. There, alongside the show’s characters Pip, Pebble and Finn, they explore dozens of different environments, meet and feed fantastic creatures and earn “Spark” badges for completing goals (specially designed in collaboration with childhood development experts).
Finding the best kids' consignment shops and thrift stores in NYC is easy with our list of top-notch picks! You'll find everything from baby clothes and maternity clothes to teen-worthy hipster duds and fun accessories at these cool NYC spots. Many also have locally-made accessory offerings as well! If you're looking for brand new items, try our favorite kids' shoe stores and visit the best kids' clothing stores in NYC too. Need suggestions on what to do with your new pocket money? Check out our NYC events calendar to find fund events coming up near you.
With three floors of family-friendly activities, Brooklyn Bazaar’s new Greenpoint location will be the place to be on Sundays. The Market Place on the ground floor will have lots of options when hunger strikes, including Brooklyn Stars’ new restaurant location with delicious brunch options. In the cellar, you’ll find a play area with ping pong tables, mini golf, arcade games, and four rooms for kids’ karaoke. And if that wasn’t enough to keep energetic children entertained, The Little People Party will host two dance parties in the Concert Hall above the Market Place, one for ages 1-3 (3pm-5pm) and other for ages 4 and up (1pm-2pm). The parties will feature rotating guest performances as well as activities on the dance floor. And while they’re watching their kids rock out to the music, parents can sip on $5 mimosas and beer. All ages.
At this museum, located in an authentic 1930s subway station, visitors can learn about the complex feats of engineering and construction that helped establish the city’s century-old subway system. The museum also allows visitors to climb aboard an exceptional collection of vintage subway and El ("Elevated") cars and explore a working signal tower. Exhibitions cover the history of the city’s rapid transit system, as well as au courant topics.
Give your youngsters a dose of fresh air and introduce them to a variety of exciting East Coast cities this spring. These destinations, each just a short drive or train ride from the city, are bursting with family-friendly activities, making them the perfect spots for spring day trips from NYC. Make the most of the kids' time off school during their spring break or plan a quick weekend outing away from the hustle and bustle to explore awesome museum exhibits for kids, check out unique fairs and festivals and enjoy the great outdoors—NYC will still be here when you get back!