Looking for something to do with the kids to prevent boredom over winter break in New York City? Look no further!
We’re deep in the NYC holiday season, and that means the kids will be off from school for more than a week soon. (NYC public schools are off from December 24 to January 2.) You won’t want to stay at home when there’s so much to do in NYC while the kids are off from school! Check out fun things for kids to do in NYC over the winter break, both indoor and out.
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1. Celebrate with Winter and Holiday Events
There's so much to do this holiday season that we made a huge list of over 80 events, many of which are completely free. Find something perfect for your fam in our roundup, which includes Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa celebrations, photos with Santa, explorations of nature, ice skating, Nutcracker and holiday shows, and so much more. During the winter break, you can take your pick of activities, whether you want to make gingerbread houses with Taste Buds Kitchen, do some caroling at Washington Square Park, or join a Kwanzaa dance party at the Staten Island Children's Museum—to name just a handful of the many options.
2. Visit a Museum
School's out, but it's cold outside… it's the perfect time to head to a museum! NYC has a huge selection of museums, and many of them are designed in a way that's meant to engage the whole family, from the smallest tot all the way up to grandma and grandpa. Some of our favorite kid-friendly museums include the NY Hall of Science, where touching the exhibits is a part of the fun and learning experience, as well as the younger-child-oriented Children's Museums in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Staten Island. For more ideas, check out our favorite NYC museum exhibits in this roundup. Or, find a museum that offers free admission for a more affordable day out by scrolling to the last section in our monthly free events post.
3. Visit Governors Island Winter Village
Governors Island is open year round for the second year, which means the Winter Village is back! The winter wonderland includes a 7,500-square-foot ice skating rink open Thursdays through Sundays as well as all DOE holidays—so you can skate all winter break! Plus, Thursday skating is free (though it's first-come, first-serve, no registration is available). The Winter Village also has plenty of fun to keep the family busy when they're not on the ice including lawn games, fire pits (Thursdays through Sundays), sled and bike rentals from Blazing Saddles, holiday lights galore, and a rotating selection of food trucks that offer bites and beverages for sale.
4. Dine Out at a Festive Restaurant
Part of the fun of the holiday season is the decor. After all, there are entire tours done of the most festively decked-out houses in NYC! Why not bring the festivities to your lunch, as well? These 11 restaurants have some of the most Christmassy, over-the-top decorations to fill you with holiday cheer and brighten up the whole family's dining experience. This holiday break, enjoy your meals in a cozy rooftop glass cabin, eat at the bedazzled Rolf’s Bar & Restaurant, and more.
5. Take a Wintery Daycation Outside of the City
Winter break is a great time to put on your hiking boots and go explore. Head out of the city for a daycation in the wintery landscapes and attractions within driving (or train) distance from the center of the city. Places like Bear Mountain, the Storm King Art Center, and Sleepy Hollow are all within two hours of NYC and make for excellent day trips even in the cold of winter. We have a whole list of other great winter family day trips to get you inspired, as well as a list of some great hikes that are even better when made in the winter.
If you prefer to stay indoors, you could always pay a visit to an indoor family hot spot like the American Dream Mall for indoor winter sports, ice skating, a water park, and amusement park, and stores a plenty, or the Liberty Science Center to take a Holiday Adventure complete with a snowflake maze, sock skating rink, winter train ride, laser light and music show, dance party, and more.
6. Be Dazzled By a Light Show
Take advantage of the early evening hours by visiting a light show. There are spectacular light attractions within and outside the city, where whimsical sculptures are lit by thousands upon thousands of twinkling lights for a mesmerizing experience. Some light shows let you wander around among the lights, while others let you stay in the warmth of the car and drive through amazing displays. Check out our roundup of this year's most dazzling light shows here!
7. Get in Touch with Nature
Can't get enough of those hikes we mentioned in the previous section, or just have a family that thrives outdoors no matter the weather? NYC's parks and outdoor spaces have plenty of offerings to keep you going out and exploring nature throughout the winter break. Check out the NYC Parks page for events during the break, and you're sure to find something to lure the fam to the great outdoors. Whether you're avid or amateur bird watchers, want to hone your yoga and dance skills al-fresco, or just want to take a hike closer to home, the city's got you covered.
8. See One of the Big Train Shows in Town
Train enthusiasts young and old will enjoy the train shows NYC has lined up this year. Marvel at model trains zipping through an enchanting display of more than 175 famous New York landmarks at the New York Botanical Garden, or check out the historic collection of model trains over the years at the NY Historical Society. If you're feeling particularly adventurous, you can take a ride on an actual train heading to the "North Pole," complete with hot cocoa, performances, and visits from Santa himself!
9. Visit Your Local Library
There's always something to do at your local library. Public libraries in NYC are like community centers, from free art or coding classes, to read-alongs and magic shows.Libraries across all the city's boroughs are closed on Christmas weekend (Sat.-Mon. in Brooklyn and Queens, Fri.-Sun. in the other boroughs) and New Year's weekend (Sat.-Mon. everywhere). This means you can visit during the holiday week for events like bilingual storytimes, STEAM-oriented crafting and designing workshops, kid coding sessions, book clubs for different age groups, and so much more.
NY Public Library (Manhattan, Staten Island, Bronx): nypl.org
Brooklyn Public Library: bklynlibrary.org
10. Send the Kids to a Mini-Camp
While there's plenty to do around the city this winter break, you may still want to avoid kids bouncing off the walls on days when you need a break. On those days, you can keep kids engaged and active by sending them to a mini-camp at one of the many locations that offer winter break camp around the city. For instance, Speak Italy is offering a three-day mini-camp, where kids will cook, draw, sing, and more. Book a day (or a few) at Aviator's mini-camp and rest easy knowing your kids are climbing, skating, leaping, and tumbling in the space's excellent physical education center. If your child prefers to create and design, The Fashion Class offers kids ages 6-12 a fashion and design themed winter camp, which will see kids design, sketch, and sew their very own wearable garment.
These three are just the tip of the iceberg of NYC's vast offering of winter camps—check with nearby schools, community centers, afterschool programs, and other kid-oriented spaces to find a camp that'll suit your child's needs and likes.
11. Attend an Interactive Experience
Ever wanted to step into a painting, swim in a sea of ball pit balls, or help Batman capture a villain? You can do all that and more at NYC's many special experiences and pop-up exhibits. There are many to choose from, but here are our favorites:
- Sloomoo Institute lets kids play with deliciously scented and textured slimes, and even design their own concoction at the slime bar.
- Cricket's Candy Creation gives kids the tools and know-how to make their own edible creations. The space's Sweet Snowflake Celebrations event has many winter- and holiday-themed treats to discover.
- Color Factory is an interactive exhibit that plays with colors, with vibrant and whimsical rooms themed around different hues—including a "Slide into the Blue" ballpit room.
- Wonderland Dreams is an immersive exhibit that turns the space itself into a work of art inspired by Alice in Wonderland.
- Batman x SPYSCAPE is a spy-gadget-filled experience where you help Batman stop a criminal empire from taking over Gotham City.
12. Catch a Show at the Circus
The circus is back in town for a limited time, so head out to the ring to witness some spectacular shows! The Big Apple Circus is celebrating its 45th anniversary through January 1st, featuring incredible acrobatics, hilarious antics, and an entertaining experience for the whole family. Or, head to the Circus Abyssinia for something a bit different: a high-flying act inspired by Ethiopian runner Derartu Tulu’s 1992 gold medal Olympic win.
Online: bigapplecircus.com and newvictory.org
13. Get Cooking with Freshmade NYC
Freshmade is coming to your home—both literally and virtually! If you live in Manhattan or Monmouth County, NJ, you can book a cooking class for the little ones in your very own kitchen. Or, join from anywhere with Freshmade's online classes and cook as a family along with the instructors. From curries to flatbreads, classes focus on using fresh and in-season ingredients to make delicious meals that anyone can whip up.