Home > Top Ten > Top Ten: Family-friendly Holiday Activities Worth Repeating In NYC

Top Ten: Family-friendly Holiday Activities Worth Repeating In NYC

Woodloch2I am one of those people who really, really loves the holiday season, which in our house starts big time with Thanksgiving, but if I’m being totally honest begins with Christmas movies and music shortly after Halloween. However, loving the holidays this much means that I overextend myself in one way or another, and the joy and festivity can be lost in stress and exhaustion if I’m not careful.

Since moving here we’ve come up with some really neat traditions that are fun for everyone in our family, which means that they are generally special needs friendly too. And with so much to do and explore in a place like the Big Apple, you know the activity has to be pretty fantastic in order to repeat it. Even though it’s not quite Thanksgiving, there are already a few festive activities on my list that you can try out!

Top Ten: Family-friendly Holiday Activities Worth Repeating In NYC (in no particular order):

1. New York Botanical Garden Holiday Train Show – we go at least once a year for the Member’s Preview, but often make it out there two or even three times in a season. We get to see our favorite NYC buildings made out of plants, play in the Gingerbread Wonderland, listen to the Westchester men’s choir (amazing!) and watch the tree lighting ceremony. Add hot chocolate, tasty food at the cafe and tons of room for kids to run around and we’re set for hours.

2. Walking around midtown Manhattan after Thanksgiving dinner to see window displays and light shows (and to make room for dessert). I recommend starting at Rockefeller Center and walking down Fifth Ave to end up at/in Macy’s on 34th.

3. Sledding. Shore Road Park, Central Park, and Riverside Park all have mild to awesome-and-dangerous spots. Ryan turns into a big kid at the sight of snow and has passed his enthusiasm onto all of our children. I can’t decide if I like the actual sledding or watching Ryan building luge courses in the park more.

4. Watching the floats be inflated the day before the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. This one is hit or miss – crowds and weather can make this impossible for us with the kids, but going during a light sprinkle seems to keep the big crowd away while we gawk at the spectacular floats being blown up surrounding the Natural History Museum. Even more spectacular is that James has somehow not associated these monstrosities with balloons (weird, right?).

5. Picking out a Christmas tree off the street. Hint to fellow New York City tree-hunters: though there were tree vendors closer to our apartment, we continued to go to the guy on W. 98th and Broadway because he did a fantastic job every year. Now that we’re in Brooklyn we’ve found another great vendor at 93rd and 3rd Ave.

6. Visiting Santa at Macys – never has waiting in line been so fun and beautifully lit! The important thing to know here is to go Monday-Thursday in order to avoid the long lines. If you must go on a weekend, the earlier the better, but for us a short line is a must or else the anticipation gets to be too much for James and he is a nervous wreck by the time we see Santa. Also try to go before the week of Christmas – Macys and Santa’s line are both crazy then!

7. Visiting the Bryant Park Holiday Shops and skating rink. Even if you’re not an ice skater there is a lot to see and do at Bryant Park during the holiday season. Now in its tenth year, there are over 120 vendors and the merry-go-round is open all Winter!

8. Going to the Grand Central Laser Light Show – it’s free and runs every half hour from 11:00AM – 9:00PM. The show itself is really neat, but I equally like watching everyone in Grand Central stop what they’re doing to stare at the beautiful show. There are also dozens of little shops set up here in Nov.-Dec. with local crafts and unique gift ideas.

9. Attending a festive show at the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theater in Central Park. Tickets are very reasonable and there are multiple shows every day. It’s never too crowded and keeps my 1, 3 and 4 year olds entranced for the hour or so performance. The 3 Bears Holiday Bash is playing now through Christmas, and many shows are already sold out (but we’ve got our tickets!).

10. Dyker Heights Lights – a newer but instant tradition, we went last year to see if the neighborhood next to us lived up to its reputation of over-the-top extravagant. It did – my older 3, ages 2-12, were impressed enough to walk around for nearly 3 hours. From what I hear the lights stay up into the first week of January, but I advise going before Christmas week if you want to avoid massive foot traffic. Tip: It’s a bit of a hike but I recommend walking from the R train versus driving, the traffic seemed pretty heavy when we went.

What holiday activities have you found in the city? What special traditions do you have with your family? Share your your own ideas in the comments section!

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