Thanksgiving Activities for Kids in NYC
Thanksgiving is the official kick off of the holiday season in New York City, and along with that comes a variety of kid friendly activities the entire family can take part in. We’re here to offer you ideas on how to fill your four-day weekend with the very best seasonal sensations for your little ones, happening across Manhattan!
Holiday Train Show at Grand Central: November 16th
This annual Midtown East event is always anticipated by NYC parents and tourists visiting with their kids alike! Held at Grand Central through the holiday season, your kids will delight in a 34 foot model train display dripping with twinkle lights and holly, with trains and subways running on eight loop tracks! The display is inside the New York Transit Museum Store (which is inside Grand Central.)
Pro Tip: After watching the free train show, head down to the food court for delicious holiday treats–a hot chocolate with whipped cream from Junior’s Cheesecake, anyone?
Thanksgiving Balloon Inflation: November 22nd
Every Thanksgiving Eve, one of the most looked forward to events of the year happens right on the Upper West Side: The Macy’s balloon inflations! This year, the balloons will be blown up between 1pm to 8pm, right on the streets around the American Museum of Natural History (74th to 81st Streets on Central Park West). Word on the street is you can be expecting a few new characters your kids are sure to love this year, notably furry friends from the hit show Paw Patrol!
Pro tip: Head to the museum earlier in the day with the kids, and then when you exit you’ll have a front row viewing of the balloons! Shake Shack is right there, too, which is an excellent spot to fuel up on a seasonal pumpkin shake and some fries.
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Thanksgiving Day Parade: November 23rd
The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade kicks off at 9am in the Upper West Side of Manhattan on Thanksgiving morning. Remember, if you want to score a good spot along the parade route, plan to arrive early!
Kids will delight in watching the giant balloons and floats, listening to the marching bands and musical acts, and engaging with the clowns and performers as they make their way down Central Park West onto 6th Avenue. Stay tuned for our coming article on tips and tricks for best enjoying the parade live!
Pro tip: If you don’t want to brave the crowds and the cold, and if you don’t have a friend who lives along the parade route, it’s good to know that hotels are NOT just for tourists this time of year! There are plenty of hotels along the parade route with perfect views of the balloons from the comfort of a cozy hotel room. Order room service for your tots and enjoy the parade that way!
Cocoas and Carols Holiday Cruise: November 24th
Beginning the day after Thanksgiving and running through the holiday season, you can join a cozy cruise tailored to families. The fully enclosed boat will feature holiday decor, hot cocoa, cookies, and live holiday carols which adults and children alike are encouraged to join in on. The cruise leaves from the West Side’s Chelsea Piers, and lasts just under two hours, making it the ideal time length for little guys, and you’ll be treated to gorgeous views of NYC while toasting the beginning of the holiday season.
This is the only activity on the list that costs anything to enjoy, but it’s good to know that children under the age of two are free, while children three to fourteen can ride with reduced price child tickets, which are $36. Adult tickets are $64.
Pro tip: If you’re still in need of a picturesque family holiday card photo, there will be plenty of photo ops available as you sail around the island of Manhattan!
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Before You Go
Before heading out to these or any other holiday events with little ones in tow, keep the following tips in mind:
- Dress them warm! By Thanksgiving, temperatures in NYC dip pretty low, and there’ss no better way to make a small kid in a foul mood than by having them be too cold. Except, that is, if they’re hungry! Which leads us to our next important tip…
- Pack snacks and water! Especially if you’re planning to do one of the events that is heavy on crowds, you’ll want to have easy access to food and water for your little ones to keep all parties involved from entering a hangry state!
- Charge all your devices! Finally, it’s essential to keep those devices charged when you’re with your kiddos. Whether you need to use your smartphone to get an Uber, or your camera to take pictures of your kids with Santa for the grandparents, nothing squashes a holiday outing faster than realizing batteries are dead. So stay safe and charge everything up the evening before.