If you're staying in NYC during this food-heavy holiday, chances are your folks are in town and they’re looking for awesome things to do on Thanksgiving weekend. In which case, this is the perfect time to take them to festive sights—like iconic ice-skating rinks or yuletide holiday markets at NYC parks—while the city's delightfully deserted. On the other hand, if you're here and want to avoid Christmas in New York entirely, we've got your agenda for a cultured couple of days away from all the turkeys. Check out our list of the best Thanksgiving events below.
RECOMMENDED: A full guide to Thanksgiving in NYC
Best things to do on Thanksgiving
This pre–Turkey Day ritual, held near the American Museum of Natural History, has become almost as crowded as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, but we prefer it to the main event. Why? We like to weave through the crowds, walking past the inflation stations to see SongeBob SquarePants at our own pace. Inflation takes place from 3 to 10pm. Arrive later in the evening, when the gigantic characters have taken shape; the crowds are at their peak, so you can also show off the famed New York sidewalk shuffle. Enter at W 79th St at Columbus Ave.
Bryant Park’s 17,000-square-foot outdoor rink is free and open late. Don’t get too excited—the admission may be gratis, but you’ll have to shell out $20 to rent skates (or BYO). Still, it’s a veritable winter wonderland: After your time on the ice, warm up at spacious rinkside restaurant Public Fare. If you want to practice your lutzes and axels with ample spinning room, try visiting during off-peak hours.
You'll get a kick out of this holiday stalwart, which—after more than eight decades—still features Santa, wooden soldiers and the leggy, spunky Rockettes. In recent years, new music, more eye-catching costumes and advanced technology were introduced to bring audience members closer to the performance.
This family-friendly 10-mile ride has all your Thanksgiving fixings covered. Midway through a brisk cycle of Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens, you'll stop with your new riding buddies for a pancake diner breakfast, then hit the road again. If you're looking to show off your athletic figure beneath your turkey costume, now's your chance. Starting point: 23rd Street and the East River, Manhattan.
Preemptively burn off a few pounds (just as you're about bound to gain some extra weight) by running through the verdant foliage of Prospect Park. If you can race to be the top of the pack at this 5K, you win a pie. What more incentive does a runner need on Thanksgiving Day?
Just because you violated all of your dietary restrictions over yet another Thanksgiving doesn't mean you can't get back in shape immediately. Detox from your holiday of food, TV and family anxiety with an adventure in the lush Blood Root Valley park. Greenbelt Nature Center educators will guide you along on this 2.5-mile hike, with a stop at the historic David LaTourette House, constructed in 1836.
Grab a gift for everyone on your list at this market curated by e-commerce site Brooklyn Makers. While a DJ spins all day, you can buy beautiful art prints from Christine Joy Design, charming twee stationary from Hart Paper Co. and gorgeous jade jewelry from Sparkle Farm. Grab some warm scones from Ovenly and get your purchases wrapped for free.
This magical 1954 production, set to Tchaikovsky's incredible score, includes the full New York City Ballet company and two casts of School of American Ballet students, as well as an onstage blizzard and a Christmas tree that grows from 12 to 40 feet. In the end, however, Balanchine's choreography is what holds it all together. It's enchanting.
Prepare to feel horn aplenty at this carnal Dionysian feast. Eat food off nude models, witness Surrealist art installations, and get intimate with curious strangers in dungeons, hot-wax play areas and even a “cuddle puddle lounge.” Queen of the Night star Katherine Crockett and a harem of uninhibited performers help you fulfill all of your Thanksgiving sins beyond just eating a second slice of pie.
Don your dopest turkey garb, bring your bike and hit the streets for this brisk mash-up of a scavenger hunt and a race. Ride to grocery stores all over town to purchase food, then deliver the goods to the Bowery Mission. You’ll help feed NYC’s hungry and get an excellent workout in the process. After the ride, join an endorphin-high after-party at Patagonia Soho to celebrate.
Nervous about seeing your childhood friends when you go home for the holiday? Ease into the nostalgia at this immersive high-school–themed bash. House of Yes’s dancers, burlesque artists and aerialists dress as jocks, cheerleaders and sexy nerds, and they invite you to act out your deepest adolescent fantasies on the dance floor. You’ll never want to wake up from this teenage dream.
GirlNATIONnyc welcomes the women of Manhattan to get down with thumping beats from DJs Mary Mac and Nikki Lions, while enjoying go-go dancing and dishes from the Suite 36 menu. Who knows? You may leave the party with a new date to bring home to your parents.
Iconic Studio 54 DJ Nicky Siano welcomes you to this blowout inspired by the vibe of his beloved ’70s club, the Gallery. Dance to deep house and disco on two floors late into the morning of November 24. You may be delirious at the family dinner, but at least you can placate your hangover with stuffing.
In a turkey coma and need a movie?
Thanks to a special licensing agreement with its namesake brewery in Munich, Paulaner brews its beer on-site in the same German tradition. The storied 265 Bowery location also gives Paulaner the same scope as most expansive Bavarian beer halls: long communal tables stretch from end to end of the space. Sip one of the five or so house beers—on a recent visit, the selection included a lager, hefeweizen, dunkel and bock (all $7 for a small, $9 for a medium, $16 for a large). Man cannot live on beer alone, so you’ll probably want to order some food. Paulaner offers a wide selection of Bavarian classics, like warm pretzels ($6), bratwurst with sauerkraut ($12) and a crispy pork knuckle with roasted potatoes in a dark beer sauce ($32). Interested in taking the taste of Germany home with you? Sign up for one of Paulaner’s cooking classes to learn the ins and outs of making your own sausage or strudel.