New York Week: Holiday Activities with Young Kids

The holiday season in New York City is by far one of the most beautiful times for a visit. It is a moment when the streets are filled with symbols of holiday traditions and songs, and the city is bursting with festivities and activities for the whole family.

However, there are some popular activities that can be a bit difficult to enjoy with younger children, be it due to the cold weather or the crowds, and families tend to forgo many of the various celebrations.

This doesn’t have to be the case. New York City has fabulous offerings for families with small children and babies.

Photo Credit Ben + Sam on Flickr

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is a wonderful activity for children 5 and older, but for younger kids (and their parents) it can be a tediously long wait, and somewhat of a bother, especially if you have to navigate a stroller through the crowds, or carry your child the entire time. A fun alternative is to arrive early, starting at 3 pm but no later than 6 pm (it goes until 10 pm), to see the humongous balloons being inflated the day before Thanksgiving, along 77th St and 81st St, between Columbus Ave and Central Park West. Anytime later will mean huge crowds, though not as big as the day of the parade.

Another fabulous Macy’s activity that is wonderful to do with little ones is to stop by Macy’s Santaland, which is open from November 27 to December 24. Admission is free, and of course, the sooner you visit before Christmas, the shorter the lines. Early during weekdays is the best time to go.

The lighting of the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center is often regarded as the official beginning of the Christmas season. The tree is lit this year on December 3. It is no surprise that it is surrounded by much fanfare and huge crowds, and getting near enough to see it lit as well as the live performers can be difficult. To do so, you would need to arrive very early on in the day, and thus wait a long time before the celebration begins, which can be a real drag for the little ones.

However, only a couple of days before, on December 1, you and the family can stop by Bryant Park. There you will have chances of much better views of not only the tree but also the performers for the evening. Plan ahead enough and you might even get to skip the lines and enjoy some fun, hassle free ice skating on the Bryant Park Winter Pond.

Photo Credit to Wally Gobetz on Flickr

If ice skating in larger rinks is tricky for your youngsters, but still something they enjoy, a perfect rink is The Polar Bear Rink, located at 79th St and Columbus Ave., adjacent to the American Museum of Natural History. The rink is open from November 21 to March 1, and is often a wonderful place for kids who are intimidated by large crowds or just trying to find their skating feet.

Between holidays, be sure to check out the event listings of your favorite New York City museums. Many favorites have lots going on to entertain the little ones on cold days, and more often than not are celebrating one winter holiday or another.

So if you find yourself in New York City with your children in tow during this festive season, I hope you slip on those coats and mittens and come out to play. The adventures are endless for little ones and all!

Carol Cain is a travel and lifestyle writer based in New York City.  She is always looking for fun things to do with her family, whether it be for a fun time with the kids, or a romantic night out with her husband. She catalogues her adventures, often with her boys, 3, 4 and 12, on her site The Adventures of a NY City Mama, and as well as in NY Metropolista where she serves as managing editor.

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  • Great tips for the holidays in NYC! Another great option for people planning a trip to New York City during the holidays with their family is a guided tour! Family In New York offers custom private New York tours. They can create a tour with your family and all of their unique interests in mind! Plus they will make sure you see the best of what the holidays in New York City as to offer!

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