Best Things to Do on Thanksgiving Weekend in New York City

New York City skyline

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New York City doesn't skimp on holiday revelry, so whether you're in town for the big parade or sticking close to home for the turkey-centric feast this year, rest assured there's plenty to make your Thanksgiving in the city a memorable one. Enjoy Manhattan's thriving cultural scene and festive holiday spirit with one of these popular activities on Thanksgiving weekend.

01 of 11

See the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Float
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Thanksgiving is synonymous with the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. This year it takes place Thursday, November 28, 2019.

It's one thing to watch the parade at home on TV, but the spectacle takes on an entirely new dimension when you view it in person. You'll thrill as vibrant floats, festive marching bands, dance troupes, celebrity guests, old St. Nick, and those massive helium balloons pass by. This year there are new balloons including Snoopy in an astronaut suit and Smokey Bear celebrating his 75th birthday.

The parade typically kicks off at 9 am from Central Park West and West 77th Street and follows a 2.5-mile path that traces Central Park around to 6th Avenue, before making its way down to 34th Street, the site of Macy's flagship department store.

Curbside viewing is first come, first served, so be prepared to show up hours early if you want a front-row spot.

02 of 11

Watch the Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloons Inflate

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Inflation Eve
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Can't get enough of those Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons? Get your fix of those helium-filled behemoths on Thanksgiving Eve, when the parade balloon inflation is held. It's as much of a beloved annual Thanksgiving tradition in NYC as the parade itself.

From 1 pm to 8 pm on the day before the parade, visitors can sneak a peek at the balloons taking shape on the Upper West Side near the parade's starting point around the grounds of the American Museum of Natural History.

03 of 11

Savor a Thanksgiving Feast

New York City's Eleven Madison Park
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New York City never sleeps, and that includes Thanksgiving day. There will be plenty of restaurants, a take-out places, and grocery stores open on Turkey Day.

Certainly you can cook, but you can also leave the cooking to the pros. Check out our some of the best Manhattan restaurants serving up Thanksgiving dinners.

Or, if you prefer to enjoy the big meal at home, don't overlook the possibility of ordering in a catered Thanksgiving meal. These Manhattan grocery stores offer standout Thanksgiving to-go menus (including delivery).

04 of 11

Shop Black Friday Deals

Shopping on Madison Avenue, Manhattan
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Shoppers will find no shortage of retail therapy options in NYC, and the Black Friday post-Thanksgiving deals can be downright jaw-dropping.

Stores across the city compete to lure shoppers in with bargain-basement deals. If you're up for braving the masses (it's the single busiest shopping day of the year), you can score some major deals on Black Friday. Although if you'd rather skip the crowds, many deals run through the remainder of the weekend too.

People watching is almost as fun as actual shopping during this time-honored tradition.

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05 of 11

See the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall

Radio City Music Hall
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Head to Radio City Music Hall where you can see the famous Rockettes perform in the annual Radio City Christmas Spectacular, one of New York City's most iconic Christmas events. Their precise dance moves and high kicks are truly impressive to experience in person.

The show features a number of live animals, including camels, sheep, and donkeys featured in the “Living Nativity” scene at the end of the production. The animals, live in Radio City Music Hall with their handlers throughout the show's run, and can sometimes be spotted outside of Radio City getting exercise.

This year the show runs from November 8, 2019 until January 5, 2020.

06 of 11

Give Back and Volunteer

New York City Food Pantry and Soup Kitchen Provides for Harlem Families
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Don't miss out on the true spirit of the season: giving back. There are many rewarding volunteer opportunities in New York throughout the year, with a special need for helping hands in soup kitchens, homeless shelters, and families around the city for the Thanksgiving holiday. Check out New York Cares for volunteer opportunities around Thanksgiving.

07 of 11

Take in the Sights

Union Square, Manhattan in Autumn
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If stuffing yourself with turkey and watching TV doesn't fully satisfy your desire to do something special on your day off, there are plenty of New York attractions that will be open on Thanksgiving Day. These include the city's three major observatories: Top of the RockEmpire State Building, and One World Observatory, as well as bucket list sites like Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

If you have kids in tow, Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum or Central Park Zoo might be just the ticket. There are also a handful of museums with Thanksgiving hours such as the 9/11 Memorial Museum or the National Museum of the American Indian. And, of course, don't overlook the open-air public space attractions that are free and open to the public year long like Central Park, the High Line, and Times Square.

08 of 11

Get Into the Christmas Spirit

People Skating at Central Park
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As soon as Thanksgiving is over, Manhattan's Christmas spirit kicks into high gear. Christmas in New York City includes holiday light displays across the city, festive holiday shows, and more Christmas-themed fun that will be mostly up and running by the Thanksgiving weekend. You can also take to the ice on one of the city's ice-skating rinks, most of which are well underway by Thanksgiving weekend.

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09 of 11

Go Window Shopping

Bloomingdale's in New York City
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Thanksgiving marks the arrival of many department store's impressive window displays with stores like Macy's, Bloomingdale's, Saks, and TIffany & Co. going all out by creating elaborate, holiday-themed displays that delight adults and children alike.

Most stores host a special event to mark the unveiling of the year's designs, and in recent years, there has been a greater amount of commercial support for the windows, with merchandise, books, and souvenirs available for sale at stores, reflecting the theme of that year.

10 of 11

Visit New York's Zoos

Central Park Zoo
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If you want wild fun on Thanksgiving several of the city's top zoos (Prospect Park Zoo, Queens Zoo, and Central Park Zoo) are open Thanksgiving Day.

New York City has five zoos, one in each borough. The Bronx Zoo is the largest, with 750 species from all over the world, but it's closed on Thanksgiving Day. The Central Park Zoo may not be big, but it's home to penguins, snow leopards, and other unique animals.

11 of 11

Take a Day Trip

Hudson Valley Farmer's Market
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If you want to escape the holiday hustle and bustle catch a northbound train to the Hudson Valley. With roadside farm stands, historic markers, scenic overlooks, and hiking trails dotting the photogenic landscape, New York State's pastoral Hudson Valley region promises a peaceful getaway from the city during Thanksgiving. Charming towns like Cold Spring and Tarrytown have plenty of small restaurants, boutiques, and more. Kingston is an up-and-coming food with great bars and shopping.

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