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The best things to do on Thanksgiving

Feast your eyes on the best things to do on Thanksgiving in NYC before and after your food coma

By Collier Sutter and David Goldberg |
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Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade 2015
Photograph: Filip Wolak

Sticking around NYC for Thanksgiving has its many perks, like all the exciting things to do in town during this festive (and glutinous) holiday. Use the holiday stretch as your chance to visit New York’s iconic ice-skating venues like The Rink at Rockefeller Center. Plus, you can get in the Christmas spirit while Black Friday shopping or wandering around NYC’s wonderlands like the Bryant Park Winter Village. Follow our agenda below to optimize your time off with the best activities to do before and after your turkey-filled feast.

RECOMMENDED: A full guide to Thanksgiving in NYC

Best things to do on Thanksgiving

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2014.11.26 Macys Inflation Event
Photograph: Courtesy Kent Miller
Things to do

Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade Balloon Inflation

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 almost prefer it to the main event. Why? We like to weave through the crowds, walking past the inflation stations to see Hello Kitty 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. 

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Photograph: Courtesy Brooklyn Holiday Bazaar
Shopping, Designer

Brooklyn Holiday Bazaar

This Upper West Side mainstay is one of NYC’s oldest and largest marketplaces—and it goes all out every Sunday. Come here after your thanksgiving weekend festivities to kick-off gift-buying season. You can purchase vintage and local artisan presents from hand-selected dealers and craftspeople. Plus, it’s all for a great cause: All profits go to funding four public schools’ arts and classroom necessities.

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Radio City Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall
Photograph: MSG Entertainment
Things to do

Radio City Christmas Spectacular

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.

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Nutcracker Rouge
Photograph: Courtesy Mark Shelby Perry
Things to do, Performances

Nutcracker Rouge

Sure, you can catch Tchaikovsky's beloved ballet at the theater, or even at the multiplex with Disney's new adaptation. But for a distinctly NYC take on the Christmas classic, head to Bushwick's fabulously gothic Théâtre XIV to witness a truly wild spin. You may know Company XIV as the burlesque bastion behind shows like "Ferdinand: Boylesque Bullfight," and their ribald spin on Tchaikovsky promises the same level of high-drama choreography, tassel-twirling and magnificent costumes. Met Opera choreographer and company co-founder Austin McCormick assembles a lit team of opera singers, aerialists, circus performers and burlesque artists for this year's spectacle, running through January. Beyond the dazzling show, you're sure to be awed by the baroque theater space, which looks like a set from the Phantom of the Opera, along with the cheeky cocktail menu. Just be sure to keep an eye out for whoever (and whatever) comes crawling out from under Mother Ginger’s dress.

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Photograph: Courtesy Turnstyle
News, City Life

Turnstyle Underground Holiday Market

Eighteen seasonal vendors join the 39 permanent underground eateries, shops and kiosks inside the bustling corridor that connects to the 59th St–Columbus Circle station. If you want to start your holiday shopping without bracing the cold, you know where to go! 

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Bryant Park Winter Village
Photograph: Courtesy Angelito Jusay
Things to do, Markets and fairs

Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park

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. 

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New York City Ballet: George Balanchine's The Nutcracker
Photograph: Courtesy Paul Kolnik
Dance, Ballet

New York City Ballet: George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker

David H. Koch Theater (at Lincoln Center), Upper West Side

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.

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