RECOMMENDED: Thanksgiving for kids in New York City
Planning on getting up bright and early to snag a spot along the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade route? After watching the massive balloons go by, track down some more fun in the area before heading home or to one of these family restaurants open on Thanksgiving Day to chow down on turkey. There are plenty of family attractions to see and things to do with kids near the parade path, from the ferris wheel at Toys "R" Us to a festive train show at Grand Central Terminal. Have a Happy Thanksgiving!
Things to do with kids near the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
Gotham's favorite circus troupe kicks off its 38th season with a brand-new production, transporting families to the Roaring 20s when ships, planes, trains and automobiles transformed travel as we knew it. Under the direction of Ringmaster John Kennedy Kane, the professional performers will wow young circusgoers with acts inspired by far-flung places like Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and South America. Duck under the Big Top to witness fearless aerialists, gravity-defying acrobats, impressive jugglers and silly clowns perform alongside talented ponies and pups, accompanied by live tunes from the seven-piece Big Apple Circus Band. Families with special needs can attend autism-friendly shows (Oct 28–29, Nov 17). On select days, grab two-for-one tickets for a 75-minute show with no intermission. Ages 3 and up.
The odds are definitely in your favor at this super–interactive, totally immersive exhibit insipired by The Hunger Games. Kids will learn about science, technology and problem–solving as they follow Katniss Everdeen's inspiring and action–packed journey through seven different galleries, including Tribute Train, District 12 and The Capitol. Super fans will flip for the authentic costumes and artifacts from the films on display, as well as the interactive map of Panem and stunt choreography feature. Tickets go on sale April 21; preregistration is recommended.
Feast your eyes on this train display featuring vintage Lionel Metro-North, New York Central and subway trains leaving a miniature Grand Central Terminal on a 34-foot-long two-level "O" gauge model train layout. Guests can check out model Lionel trains from the museum's collection as well as old-school Lionel advertisements from the 1930s. All ages.
During the winter months, Bryant Park opens a no-charge 17,000-square-foot skating rink. Don’t get too excited: The admission may be free, but you gotta pay $14 to rent skates (or BYO). On the upside: The complex holds 500 people, holiday shops, an indoor pavilion and the Canadian-themed lounge Celsius, which conveniently offers a full children's menu and plenty of hot chocolate.
In the nearly 90 years since the Rockettes first performed their now-iconic kick line, the Radio City Christmas Spectacular still charms locals and tourists with old-timey numbers, from the wooden soldiers to the arrival of Santa Claus. Recent years, however, have brought in flashier costumes and technology to appeal to savvier audiences, like 2013’s new number “Snow,” where stage decor transforms the theater into a wintry wonderland. This year, the Rockettes also took to the stage during warmer weather for the New York Spring Spectacular, which—fingers crossed!—returns next year, too. Tickets from $46.
Bryant Park's Le Carrousel pays homage to the greenspace's Parisian influence with 14 animals that revolve to French cabaret music. But don't expect European snobbery here: Activities for families abound. This summer, the carousel's mascot, Flaubert Frog (aka children's storyteller about town, Dan Kitrosser), will hang with local kids on Saturdays from 1-2pm for games and stories and on Sundays from 1-2pm magicians from Monday Night Magic will astound tots with their sleight of hand. Check website for a complete schedule of this year's events. Le Carrousel is open from 12–9pm on Thanksgiving Day.
Four teal turrets announce the Moira Ann Smith playground, named for the only female NYPD officer to perish on September 11, at the northern end of lush Madison Square Park. Variously sized play structures, plus a colorful area with a towering waterwheel and water-spouting alphabet blocks, mean the space is packed with mini fun-seekers year-round.
This Times Square toy store is the closest thing Manhattan has to an indoor amusement park—there’s a 20-foot high animatronic T. rex, a life-size Barbie doll house, and not to mention the iconic 60-foot Ferris wheel in the heart of the store. Elsewhere in the 110,000-square-foot space: a Willy Wonka candy shop, Lego replicas of NYC landmarks, and a robot lab where kids can activate their very own.
You may not be able to schmooze with celebs on the red carpet, but at this kitschy Times Square classic, you’ll get the next best thing: wax statues made in their likenesses. Among the 200 statues, kids can sidle up on Oprah’s couch, sit on E.T.’s bicycle, play guitar next to Taylor Swift, and cheer for Carmelo Anthony to score the winning basket.
As the tallest building in the world—well, at least it took the title when it was completed in 1931—this marvel of art deco architecture still offers arguably the best view of Manhattan around. Take your time enjoying the scene from the 86th floor, the open-air observatory, and the enclosed rotunda on the 102nd floor, where kids will be shocked to learn they’re standing nearly a quarter of a mile above the streets below. To avoid hour-plus-long wait times, try your best to arrive when the building opens to the public at 8am—though if you can’t, no worries—it stays open until 2am every night.