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Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade 2015
Photograph: Filip Wolak

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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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

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Best things to do on Thanksgiving

2014.11.26 Macys Inflation Event
Photograph: Courtesy Kent Miller

1. Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade Balloon Inflation

Things to do

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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Radio City Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall
Photograph: MSG Entertainment

3. Radio City Christmas Spectacular

Things to do

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.

Nutcracker Rouge
Photograph: Courtesy Mark Shelby Perry

4. Nutcracker Rouge

Things to do Performances

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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5. Turnstyle Underground Holiday Market

News City Life

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! 

Bryant Park Winter Village
Photograph: Courtesy Angelito Jusay

6. Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park

Things to do Markets and fairs

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

8. New York City Ballet: George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker

Dance Ballet

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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9. Prospect Park Track Club Turkey Trot

Things to do

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 "great winter hat" as well as a pie! What more incentive does a runner need on Thanksgiving Day? Oh, you want more food? There will be a nice spread of bagels, fruit and hot chocolate waiting for you once you pass the finish line. 

In a turkey coma and need a movie?

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