The best 50 winter activities for kids in NYC

Fight off cabin fever with these winter activities for kids, including family attractions, holiday events and snowy fun
Photograph: Andrew Fladeboe

Winter in NYC might tempt most families to lock themselves indoors, but there are so many winter activities for kids to do during the chillier months that you’ll absolutely be rewarded if you brave the cold. These awesome things to do in NYC include visiting great kids’ ice-skating rinks, holiday shows and even indoor attractions if you need to warm up.

So throw on your coziest sweater, grab a cup of hot chocolate to go and get ready to make the most of NYC in the wintertime!


Best winter activities for kids

November 5, 2014: Tech rehearsal for the 2014 Radio City Christmas Spectacular starring the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall.
Avi Gerver
Things to do

Get in on the very best Christmas events for kids

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.

The Rink at Rockefeller Center
Photograph: Bart Barlow/© RCPI Landmark Properties
Things to do

Go for a spin on NYC's best ice-skating rinks

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.

Photograph: Gregory Raymond
Things to do, Classes and workshops

Sign up for ice skating lessons

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! 

Sledding, kids
Things to do, Quirky events

Cruise amazing sledding hills in New York City

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.

Photograph: Courtesy Random House Children's Books/Per Breiehagen
Things to do

Read new holiday books together

When your family grows tired of the tried and true classics, grab these newer titles to refresh your holiday spirit. These children’s picture books and chapter books will have the little ones gathering around for story time and will very well become their favorite tales season after season.

Macy's Santaland
Photograph: John Minchillo
Things to do

Meet the big man in red at Macy's Santaland

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.

George Balanchine's The Nutcracker at New York City Ballet
Things to do

Get swept away by the The Nutcracker

This is la crème de la crème of The Nutcracker productions across NYC. The New York City Ballet brings out its entire company of ballerinas and musicians as well as younger dancers from the School of American Ballet to pull off this annual grand production. How grand, you ask? A one-ton Christmas tree will grow before your eyes from 12 feet to a 40-foot height. Mother Ginger will elicit giggles as children dance out from under her nine-foot-wide desk. And if your little ones are hoping to someday grace the stage, sign them up for a children’s workshop! Before select matinees, kids ages 5 to 7 can participate in a 45-minute ballet warmup and movement exercise and then put on the cutest show for their family and friends. Ages 5 and up.

Unsilent Night
Photograph: Dorret Oosterhof
Things to do

Walk in Unsilent Night

Join a roving group of revelers as they parade through the NYC streets with boomboxes blaring music. Composer Phil Kline will lead the procession from the Washington Square Arch to Tompkins Square Park. Kline will offer up vintage boomboxes for his collection along with cassettes and CDs for those who bring their own. Or just download the MP3 tracks and you’ll be ready to march and party. Arrive by 5:45pm. All ages.

Things to do

See Christmas Movies at Nitehawk

Every year, this Williamsburg theater screens holiday classics at 11am on Saturdays and Sundays and serves them up with a yummy brunch. Delicious French toast, egg sandwiches and breakfast burritos are just some of the items that can be delivered straight to your seat. So mark your calendars: A Christmas Story will screen November 25 and 26, Home Alone on December 2 and 3, Elf on December 16 and 17, It’s a Wonderful Life on December 23 and 24 and Hook on December 30 and 31. Ages 6 and up with a guardian.

holiday train show. photo by marc a. hermann - mta new york city transit....jpeg
Marc A. Hermann
Things to do, Exhibitions

Check out local holiday train shows

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! 

Best winter activities for kids

Photograph: Shutterstock

Take a winter weekend getaway

It’s tempting to spend the chilly season cozy at home, but we promise there’s so much fun to be had outdoors! Plan a cool winter escape to enjoy skiing, sledding, snowboarding, snow tubing, ice skating and more. The kiddos will work up such a sweat taking part in these thrilling sporty activities that baby might just forget that it’s cold outside.

Photograph: Averill Farm
Things to do, Markets and fairs

Grab a saw and cut your own Christmas tree!

If you really want to go all in on Christmas spirit this year, head to these amazing Christmas tree farms and choose your very own tree to decorate in tinsel and lights. The whole family can trek out on the field darting from one tree to the next until you find just the right one and chop it down with your own hands. And if you don’t want to go through the entire effort, you can select from freshly cut trees as well!

Things to do

Celebrate Hanukkah to the fullest

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. 


Zoom around on a snow tube!

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. 

Things to do, Literary events

Cuddle up with a great Christmas book

After a day of holiday shopping and ice skating, tuck the tired rascals into bed with our ranked list of the best Christmas books for kids. These titles feature magical trains to the North Pole, toys that come to life, snowy scenes, reindeer and a Grinch! No Christmas would be complete without them and are sure to conjure up amazing dreams once the little ones drift off to sleep.

Photograph: Courtesy Twinkle Playspace
Sports and fitness, Gyms and fitness centers

Spend an afternoon at an indoor playground

Indoor playgrounds are a great option for kids when it's rainy, snowy or their favorite schoolyard playground may be closed! Expect awesome features like activity tables, mini slides and plenty of cool toys to share with new friends. 

Photograph: Courtesy American Museum of Natural History

Visit AMNH's "¡Cuba!"

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.

Photograph: Courtesy Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort
Travel, Getaways

Go on a ski trips just outside NYC

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.

Michael V. McAuliffe
Things to do

Peruse the best permanent exhibits for kids

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.

Photograph: Courtesy Timmy Blupe

See a Broadway show

Broadway shows for kids offer some of the best in theater performances and we’ve ranked the ones you need to schedule in this season. Tykes will be enchanted by seeing their favorite characters and stories come to life on screen: Aladdin, The Lion King, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, SpongeBob Squarepants, Matilda and more. Frozen unleashes its force on the Great White Way February 22, 2018 and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is just over the horizon for spring 2018 so mark those calendars!

Best winter activities for kids

Photograph: Courtesy FunFuzion
Attractions, Arcades and amusements

Bring the merriment to an indoor amusement park

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). 

Photograph courtesy of Liberty Science Center

Explore nature with Dora and Diego

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.

Radio City Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall
Things to do

Watch the high-kicking Rockettes in action at Radio City

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.

Bryant Park Winter Village
Photograph: Courtesy Bryant Park Corporation
Shopping, Markets and fairs

Shop for the perfect gift at a local holiday market

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.  

Photograph: Courtesy Evan Joseph Images
News, City Life

Visit One World Observatory's stunning winter wonderland

If you’re wondering which way to go for a magical winter wonderland, look up, way up. Beginning November 17th, One World Observatory will transform into “Winter ONEderland: A Holiday Experience Above It All” complete with interactive activities and visits from Santa. Image: Courtesy One World Observatory At “One World of Wonders,” families can follow the Winter ONEderland mascot Ollie the Owl on an interactive flight around ancient and modern wonders of the world. Fly past the Great Wall of China, the Sydney Opera House in Australia and the Pyramids of Giza through a multi-media experience. The Glacier Cave is an underground winter grotto that meanders through One World Trade Center’s rock foundation. The path leads visitors to the Snowy SkyPod Journey, a bank of high-speed elevators that will whisk them to the observatory on the 102nd floor in just 47 seconds. If the breathtaking 360-degree views of the city that await aren’t enough, the windows themselves offer a cool factor: Three windows will add a layer of frosting to its panels with just a touch.


Sip top-notch hot chocolate of all kinds

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, Jacques Torres and Max Brenner, to name a few.

Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Mark Baylor
Things to do, Games and hobbies

Get creative with your elf on the shelf

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...

Photograph: Courtesy Stuffpoint/Rankin/Bass Productions/Universal Television
Things to do

Have a very merry movie night

There are so many holiday-themed films the family can enjoy, but we’ve boiled the selections down to the very best kid-friendly classics that will get all in the Christmas spirit. So jump into your comfiest PJs, grab mugs of hot cocoa and be glad that you don’t have to weather the snowy weather to join in on the seasonal festivities.

Things to do, Play spaces

Jump around at a trampoline park

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.

Things to do, Exhibitions

Check out Museum of the City of New York's exhibition "New York at Its Core"

The Museum of the City of New York’s 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. All ages.

Best winter activities for kids

Photograph: Shutterstock
News, Shopping & Style

Visit the FAO Schwarz and Toys"R"Us holiday pop-ups

We were so sad when FAO Schwarz and Toys”R”Us closed in 2015, but we’re excited to report that both iconic NYC stores will be temporarily returning this season. Toys”R”Us  (1466 Broadway) is returning in a large three-floor space through the holidays, and, most recently announced,  FAO Schwarz will post up in Bergdorf Goodman (754 5th Ave) through Dec 31, offering exclusive toys and classic favorites—even a chance to dance on the iconic piano featured in Big.


Meet the Museum of Natural History's longest dino

Little museumgoers will be thrilled to meet a 122-foot-long cast fossil of a Patagotitan mayorum, or Titanosaur as it was initially called. The grand name is fitting of the massive beast who doesn’t even fit underneath the 19-foot-high ceilings in the Wallach Orientation Center! Its head and neck stretch out through the gallery doorways and towards the elevators.

Photograph: Courtesy New York Transit Museum
News, City Life

Ride a holiday nostalgia train through the city

'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.  


Hop on a nostalgia train and ride through the city!

It's that magical time of year when riding in an old train car doesn't mean major delays, earsplitting brakes and doors that only open halfway. The MTA and the New York Transit Museum resume their longtime annual tradition this Sunday, trotting out the Holiday Nostalgia Train. The train, which consists of eight cars made in the 1930s that were in operation until the 1970s, features quaint throwbacks like rattan seats, ceiling fans, incandescent bulb lighting, drop-sash style windows and original ads.

<p><em>On The Town</em> (1949)</p>
Things to do

See a flick with Film Forum Jr.'s 2017–2018 season

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. Don’t miss holiday staple It’s a Wonderful Life (Nov 5), the 1970s Superman: The Movie featuring Christopher Reeve in all his superhero glory (Nov 19) and the full-length animated film Gulliver’s Travels in rare 35mm print (Dec 3). All ages.

Rockefeller Center
Things to do

Stop by Rockefeller Center to see the massive tree

A trip to view the massive tree at Rockefeller Center is at the top of every list of things to do in NYC during the holidays. The Norway Spruce is decked out in 30,000 LED lights and topped with a glittering Swarovski crystal star. Catch the tree lighting ceremony November 29 and then return all winter long to ice skate under its dazzling display.

Photograph: Courtesy WPIX
News, City Life

Watch the Yule Log on Christmas morning

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, crackling 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 on to find out why! 


Whip up a hearty meal together

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.


Build a snowman that puts Frosty to shame

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.

Best winter activities for kids

Photograph: Shutterstock
News, Eating

Eat "raw" cookie dough like there's no tomorrow

If you’re a fan of safe-to-eat raw cookie dough, then you’re about to get another option besides the super popular DO, Cookie Dough Confections. DO opened earlier this year in Greenwich Village to the delight of everyone tired of secretly swiping a fingerful of dough before it’s baked! New on the scene, World’s Best Cookie Dough is hoping to become the largest edible cookie dough shop in NYC when it opens its doors at 164 Bleecker Street, just a block away from DO. 

Photograph: Courtesy Galli Theater

See The Snow Queen at Galli Theater

When Kay is taken away by the Snow Queen, his friend Gerda travels across the land to bring him back home. The adventure showcases the bravery of one young girl and the strong tie that binds their friendship through thick and thin. A 40-minute interactive workshop is held after each performance and an actor from the play will guide kids into putting on a show of their own. Ages 5 and up.

Photograph: Courtesy of Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Photo by Mike Ratliff.
Things to do, Festivals

Warm up with First Sundays at Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Brooklyn Botanic Garden hosts a series of fun wintry events for all ages the first 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. All ages.

Photograph: Shutterstock

Visit some of the coolest family attractions on our list!

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!


Treat yourselves to holiday treats at these NYC candy stores

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.

Bryant Park ice rink
Things to do

Best New York Christmas tree lightings

The giant tree at Rockefeller Center might get most of the ooh’s and aah’s out of New Yorkers, but there are many other tree-lighting ceremonies that are just as wonderful—and much less crowded! So bundle up the tots and head to these great events that will fire up those warm and fuzzy feelings within.

Things to do

Go on a thrifting adventure

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.

Photograph: Courtesy National Geographic Encounter
News, City Life

Visit the new virtual reality experience National Geographic Encounter: Ocean Odyssey

Go on a deep sea dive without stepping foot off land. The new 60,000-square-foot immersive installation in Times Square offer visitors a chance to get up close and personal with some of the coolest marine animals and underwater flora. Photo-real animation, giant projection screens, immersive sound, holograms and other interactive features makes you feel as if you’re really swimming with the fishes. Watch curious sea lions, rays, dolphins, sharks and humpback whales as they flip their fins and come close for a “touch.” Fun games and educational experiences will touch on conservation efforts and marine research. If your kiddos have a birthday in the coming months, event rooms can be rented out for special occasions—or just rent out the whole space for a gathering all guests will surely remember!

Museums, Special interest

Learn about trains New York Transit Museum

icon-location-pin Boerum Hill

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.

Photograph: Creative Commons/Flickr/Grufnik
Travel, Getaways

Plan an exciting spring day trip!

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!

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