Best 50 winter activities for kids in NYC

Cabin fever is no match for NYC's winter activities for kids, so grab a heavy coat and get ready for an epic season

Central Park
Photograph: Courtesy Shutterstock

’Tis the season for skating, hot chocolate and all-things cozy. Embrace the cold with the best winter activities for kids in NYC, from holiday events to snow tubing and everything in between.

Though the temperature might bum out some New Yorkers, little ones know how to make the best out of a chilly situation, whether that means staying inside to explore a new museum exhibit or getting involved with a fun book club. There are certainly plenty of things to do with kids in the winter!

After you’ve explored our roundup of activities, head to the library and take out one of the best children’s books of all time, have a marathon of the best family comedy movies or learn a few things thanks to these great podcasts for kids of all ages. Winter, we’re ready for you!

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

Attend a Christmas event

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 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

Ice skating

Lace up your skates and hit the ice! We've rounded up the best ice-skating rinks in NYC from Rockefeller Center to Prospect 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.

Sledding Hill in Central Park

Central Park

We sure love to visit Central Park when the picnic weather is fine, but did you know there’s still plenty to do in the area during wintertime? Don’t miss the annual Winter Jam (typically in January), when Central Park makes snow and lets kids try out some cool winter sports and games. You can also go ice skating at Wollman or Lasker rinks or catch a show at Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre.

Sledding, kids
Things to do, Quirky events

Visit NYC’s best sledding hills

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 a holiday book

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 may very well become their favorite tales season after season.

Photograph: Courtesy Mike Coppola
News, City Life

Macy's Santaland

Macy’s Herald Square transforms into a winter wonderland come the holidays, and this year promises to be especially merry and bright. From Nov 23 to Dec 24, visitors can make their way to the eighth floor to get a taste of Santa’s headquarters, right here in NYC. While wandering around the 13,000 square-foot space—which is filled to the brim with festive decorations—shoppers can help the elves stay busy at the Welcome Station, indulge in treats at  the Kinder Sweet Shoppe and of course, reveal wish lists to the guy in the red suit. For the first time this year, visitors will be able to fasttrack down the Santa Express Lane from Friday to Sunday and skip the attractions if they so choose. No judgment here—Santa’s the most popular guy in town once December hits! We can’t blame kiddos for wanting one-on-one time with Kris Kringle.

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 on Dec 16. All ages.

Photograph: Courtesy Victoria Stevens

Alamo Drafthouse Brooklyn

Who says Alamo Drafthouse's screenings are just for adults? Bring your kids to see An American Tail (Nov 23–25) in November, and be sure to return for Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit (Dec 24–27) and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (Dec 31–Jan 3) around Christmas and the New Year! Check out the full lineup here

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

Holiday train shows

Grab your tickets and hop aboard the best holiday train shows in NYC. Beloved offerings at venues such as the New York Botanical Garden provide visitors a glimpse into a pint-sized NYC display as old-school model trains zip through the festive decorations. If you’re willing to travel outside of the city, you and your family can step onto an old-school locomotive and enjoy holiday-themed activities while on board. Spoiler alert: Santa is among one of the passengers, so kiddies will want to have their wish lists at the ready.

Best winter activities for kids

Photograph: Shutterstock

Winter weekend getaways

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

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

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.


Snow tubing

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.

Photograph: Courtesy Doubleday Books for Young Readers/ Honeyky Hanukah
Things to do

Read a Hanukkah book

Let the joy of Hanukkah extend beyond its designated eight days with the help of these children’s books. There’s a lot to love with selections such as The Dreidel That Wouldn’t Spin and Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins. After the family’s festivities wind down, tuck the kids in with one of these fun stories. One per night? Sounds like a solid plan to us!

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

Indoor playgrounds

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 Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort
Travel, Getaways

Family ski trips

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.

Photograph: Courtesy Jon Miller
Museums, Childhood

The best kids' museums in NYC

These legendary NYC museums never cease to amaze us with their ever-changing offerings, and many of the picks on our list offer exhibits that children can actually touch and play in (vs observing items hiding behind glass). We’re all for playing and learning at the same time, so why not pay CMOM, Brooklyn Children’s museum and Staten Island Children’s Museum a visit?

Photograph: Courtesy Timmy Blupe

See a Broadway show

Broadway isn’t just for the adults. Your children can also bask in the magic of the Great White Way, and there are plenty of ways to get tickets cheaply enough so that the experience won’t break the bank. Long-running shows like The Lion King and Wicked are a must-see any day, and newer additions like Frozen and Mean Girls are great picks for kids and teens respectively. Oh, and if you can get tickets to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, more power to you!

Best winter activities for kids

Photograph: Courtesy FunFuzion
Attractions, Arcades and amusements

Indoor amusement parks

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 Shutterstock
Things to do, Literary events

Book clubs for kids

Prepare for the impending wicked weather with a few good stories. When snow storms descend upon NYC, kids will love getting cozy with a novel from their book club. Tiny readers will be introduced to new series, authors and friends thanks to independent shops’ book clubs. Not only are these offerings great way to get kiddos to socialize, but they’re a wonderful way to make reading fun. Chances are you’ll be inspired to sign up for a group of your own!

Photograph: Courtesy Colin Miller
Shopping, Markets and fairs

Visit holiday markets

There's no doubt about it—the best holiday markets in NYC truly make December the most wonderful time of the year. After you've made the rounds at Rockefeller Center and embarked on the annual Dyker Heights tour, visit the markets to browse unique vendors, indulge in some tasty treats and participate fun family-friendly activities. As much as we love Dec 25, we can't help but swoon over the fun we experience the weeks before thanks to these events.


Hot chocolate in NYC

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

Kids will always want to snag a space on the "nice" list, yet chances are they're participating in activities that are perfect for any "naughty" list contender. No surprise there! That's where the Elf on the Shelf comes in. This little friend is always watching to ensure that youngsters are acting the way they should be during the holiday season. We can't help but love parents' creativity, so if you're curious about where you should hide your teeny holiday friend this year, let this guide be your inspiration. Prepare to LOL at some of the silliest spots. You will love this new holiday tradition!

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

Christmas movies

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

Trampoline parks

Since the weather is frightful, you’ll just have to move the fun indoors. No sweat! Trampoline park spots near NYC will cure a case of cabin fever in no time flat. Thanks to adventurous features such as climbing walls, freestyle jump-a-thons, trampoline dodgeball and other action-packed activities, these venues will have your kiddos quite literally bouncing off the walls. If your crew can’t contain the excitement, peruse birthday party options for a bounce-filled bash!

Photograph: Courtesy Shutterstock
Things to do

Christmas songs for kids

As Buddy the Elf once said,“The best way to spread Christmas Cheer, is singing loud for all to hear.” If you want to make one of the silliest holiday characters in town proud, you’re going to need to jam to the best Christmas songs for kids. From classics like “Here Comes Santa Claus” and “Feliz Navidad,” our roundup has rocking beats that will make the Christmas spirit contagious.

Best winter activities for kids

Photograph: Courtesy Shutterstock
News, Shopping & Style

FAO Schwarz 2018

Our hearts broke and toy chests remained vacant after FAO Schwarz’s 2015 closing in Midtown. Fortunately for the young—and the young at heart—the toy store is making a grand return with a new permanent location at 30 Rock, just in time for the holidays. Mark your calendars for Nov 16, when the beloved shop will open its doors and welcome visitors to peruse the shelves, get creative at the DIY race car station, enjoy magic shows and of course, test out their musical chops with a few steps on the giant piano.

Photograph: Courtesy MICRO

Underrated museums

Although trips to the Museum of Natural History are always crowd pleasers, the long winter offers plenty of opportunities for New Yorkers to spice up their routines. Explore exhibit offerings at smaller venues such as The Skyscraper Museum or Historic Richmond Town—equally exciting places to bring the family. There are plenty of new things to discover, and every once in a while, you’ll need a break from the dinos.

Photograph: Courtesy City Bakery Brands
News, Eating

City Bakery’s Hot Chocolate Festival

We can’t resist a cup of cocoa during the colder months, but you haven’t lived until you’ve sampled the incredible offerings from City Bakery, all of which put a unique flair on the go-to dessert. During the sweet spot’s annual Hot Chocolate Festival, visitors will be able to enjoy a different twist on hot chocolate each day, expanding their cocoa palettes tremendously. Past flavors have included Caramel Hot Chocolate, White Chocolate Waltz, Lemon Hot Chocolate and other unique options. This month-long bonanza is a must. 2019 dates TBD.

Photograph: Courtesy Green Apron
Things to do, Classes and workshops

Try a cooking class

The holidays are a great time of year to test out new recipes and introduce little ones to the ins and outs of the kitchen (and give mom and dad a hand when the preparation becomes excessive). Let your pint-sized chefs help prepare a few meals for the festivities after they’ve mastered one of NYC’s best cooking classes for kids. From sweet desserts to healthy meals, these courses offer something for all ages and palettes. Bon appétit!

Photograph: Courtesy Schmackary's

The best cookie delivery services in NYC

Sometimes bundling up in a winter ensemble is just too much to bear. Swap the coat and scarf for some jammies and let the treats come to you. The best cookie delivery services in NYC—Levain Bakery, Schmackary’s, to name a few—bring top-notch sweets right right to the comfort of your home. If you’re in the middle of a fun holiday movie or can’t quite find the strength to brave the cold, this is the perfect way to snag some dessert without any winter discomfort...just make sure you have some hot cocoa before you order!

Photograph: Courtesy WPIX
News, City Life

WPIX Yule Log

Snuggling with our little ones around a roaring fire at Christmastime sounds perfect, but most city dwellers don’t have a chimney for Santa to slide down. Fear not! Each year on Christmas morning, WPIX 11 airs The Yule Log, which is raw footage of 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 holiday morning experience. 2018 times TBD.


Try these family dinner ideas

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

While adults might not be terribly pleased about commuting in the snow, kids pray for fierce winter weather, and rightfully so. Once NYC is transformed into a bright-white blanket, it’s go time. Grab accessories, carrots and buttons to create a unique, trendy snowman that adds some flair to NYC winters.

Photograph: Courtesy Coco Key/ The Hotel ML
Things to do, Play spaces

Indoor water parks near NYC

Whoever said winter isn’t an appropriate time to wear a bathing suit clearly hasn’t made a trip to one of the best indoor water parks near NYC. These venues keep the spirit of summer alive all year long with cool offerings such as epic slides, whirlpools, lazy rivers and plenty of adventure. Get ready to cannon ball and beat your family in a competitive game of Marco Polo. There’s no need for the coat, but you’re going to want to bring a towel!

Best winter activities for kids

Mickey: The True Original Exhibition
Photograph: Courtesy Mickey: The True Original Exhibition
News, City Life

“Mickey: The True Original Exhibition”

Everyone’s favorite mouse is turning 90 years young, and NYC is celebrating in the most creative way possible—with a psychedelic exhibit. Artists in a variety of media pay tribute to the Disney frontmouse with interactive audio and video experiences that show the character’s progression throughout time. Be sure to take a peek at the archived works that brought him to life!

Photograph: Courtesy Macy's and Kent Miller
News, Events & Festivals

Macy’s holiday windows

When kids hit Herald Square, chances are they have a one-track mind: Santaland. While you’re visiting Macy’s to meet the man in the red suit, don’t forget to do a scan of the store’s exterior, too. This year’s Macy’s windows will get an other-worldly twist thanks to its new character, the sweet and fierce Sunny the Snowpal, who will be at the forefront of the "Believe in the Wonder of Giving" theme. These installations, which will be on display beginning Nov 15, depict Sunny is trying to save Christmas with her BFFs by her side. If your kiddies can't help but fall for Sunny's sweet demeanor, they'll be able to snag an 11-inch plush of the character exclusively in the Midtown store.

Photograph: Shutterstock

Family attractions in NYC

Who said tourists should have all the fun? Snag tickets to one of NYC’s best family attractions—from the beloved American Museum of Natural History to the lesser known but equally loveable New York Hall of Science. Topics vary, as do the experiences, but one thing remains the same: Each venue is worth exploring. Make a checklist and visit all of the spots on your family’s list this winter!


Get holiday treats at a candy store

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.

Photograph: Courtesy DreamWorks Trolls the Experience
Things to do, Quirky events

"DreamWorks Trolls the Experience"

icon-location-pin Midtown West

New York City is going to be treated to a dose of color thanks to "DreamWorks Trolls the Experience." When little visitors enter the 90-minute walkthrough exhibit, they'll fall in love with a bunch of exciting features. Poppy's Party Room will include augmented reality and 3D technology in the midst of musical fun. Before getting wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of Troll Village and playing in the life-size Caterbus, youngsters will want to hit the bright, imaginative Hair-We-Go Salon and Barbershop—which is sure to be an Instagram hit for moms and dads.

Things to do

Go thrifting

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 Crate & Kids

Find Christmas gifts for kids

Dreaming of a unicorn that poops rainbows or a DIY pinball game? Peruse our gift guide for children of all ages and discover your loved one’s next favorite present. With our roundup of quirky games, clothes and accessories, you’ll be able to find something unique that’ll make Dec 25 extra exciting. Move over, Santa—there’s a gift giver who’s hot on your sleigh tracks.

Photograph: Courtesy Pip's Island
News, Theater & Performance

Visit Pip's Island

Back by popular demand, Pip’s Island will establish a permanent NYC home in 2019. The immersive theater experience for kids lets little visitors take control and allows them to be the heroes of their own story. This pop-up-turned-attraction encourages youngsters to wander through immersive sets, exploratory spaces and audiovisual features while attempting to save the island from darkness. 2019 dates TBD.

Photograph: Creative Commons/Flickr/Grufnik
Travel, Getaways

Plan a 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!