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Photograph: Courtesy New York Botanical Garden

10 things to do on Black Friday in NYC instead of shopping

Why buy more material stuff when you can put your hard-earned money toward a super-cool, NYC experience instead?

Edited by
Will Gleason
Written by
Jennifer Picht
Annalise Mantz

As an epicenter for capitalism, Black Friday in NYC can be intense. All those stores! So many deals! And believe it or not, but people still go out to shop in person. If the thought of crowded storefronts in a pandemic world sends shivers down your spine, or if browsing the web for discounts just doesn’t do it for you anymore, we’ve come up with 10 foolproof things to do in NYC that are guaranteed to spark more joy than a cashmere sweater. Yes, even if it’s 50 percent off! Trust us—no discounts or deals can compare to the memories you’ll make at these New York attractions and top NYC art museums. But if you’re really itching to go shopping in NYC, we encourage you to resist the urge until Small Business Saturday so you can support the city’s independent shops.

Things to do on Black Friday besides shopping

  • Museums
  • Art and design
  • Central Park

Make a post-Thanksgiving trip to the museum your new family tradition. Luckily, most museums open their doors on Friday and the Met is a great choice for the whole family. There's something for everyone: your dad the history buff, pretentious cousin who insists on reminding everyone she went to art school and little brother who just wants to see the mummies. 


Head out to Queens for a guided tour of peaceful Alley Pond Park. Home to more than 300 species of birds and other wildlife, this park also offers plenty of opportunities for foraging. Think tons of fresh herbs and vegetables like field garlic, sassafras and dandelion greens. Your guide will teach you how to identify and pick the best greens—don’t forget to bring a bag so you can take home your spoils!

Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Gail Frederick

New York Botanical Garden
  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens
  • The Bronx

Ditch the concrete jungle and head into nature at the New York Botanical Garden. The holiday train show is sure to delight kids of all ages. Watch model trains zip around miniature versions of the Statue of Liberty and Rockefeller Center made entirely out of natural materials. After dark, take in the garden’s light show—NYBG GLOW—a 1.5-mile colorful experience with thousands of energy-efficient LED lights and festive installations to ogle. It’s a photo op, for sure! 


Keep the spirit of stuffing your face alive the day after Thanksgiving during this pizza tour in Greenwich Village. Aside from going home with a belly full of ‘za, participants also gain prime knowledge about the iconic food and its history in America. You’ll also receive a take-home Pocket Pizza Journal to use as field notes for future tastings. It’s the event in which amaetur food blogs (or successful ones!) are made. More info:

  • Museums
  • Art and design
  • Meatpacking District

Take a more artsy crowd to the Whitney. The avant-garde museum showcases contemporary American Art, and you’ll see pieces by Edward Hopper, Georgia O’Keeffe, Andy Warhol and many more. While you’re there, don’t forget to check out the outdoor galleries for some stunning views of Chelsea and the Hudson River.

  • Things to do
  • Markets and fairs

It's officially the most wonderful time of the year. And New York has one of the most wonderful holiday markets to match! Get a head start on your holiday shopping list at the Bryant Park Winter Village. Peruse handmade jewelry, artisan soaps and candles, art prints and more with a cup of Max Brenner’s silky hot chocolate in hand. 

  • Dance
  • Ballet
  • Upper West Side

Watch the New York City Ballet company bring a little girl's dream to life, complete with the sparkling Sugar Plum Fairy, evil Mouse King and Christmas tree that grows from 12 to 40 feet. The enchanting choreography, extravagant costumes and elaborate set will capture your imagination. Make the memory extra special with VIP Sweet seats: Take in all the mesmerizing magic with premium seating and leave with a complimentary souvenir book and a keepsake photo. 

  • Museums
  • Science and technology
  • Upper West Side

If you have little ones in tow, opt for the family-friendly American Museum of Natural History. Jaws will drop when you enter the rotunda to discover the enormous Barosaurus skeleton replica, and that’s just the beginning. Combat the cold weather inside The Butterfly Conservatory, an 80-degree, verdant oasis where you can wander among 500 butterflies. Majestic! To celebrate the holiday season, the museum partakes in a tradition more than 40 years old: the 13-foot Origami Holiday Tree. Volunteers started folding the paper decorations last spring!

Still want to get a little holiday shopping done?

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