Best Things to Do on Thanksgiving Weekend in New York City

New York City

 

Alexander Spatar/Getty Images 

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 that there's plenty on hand to make sure that your Thanksgiving holiday in the city is a memorable one.

Enjoy Manhattan's thriving cultural scene and festive holiday spirit with one of these recommended fun things to do on Thanksgiving weekend.

  • 01 of 11
    90th Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
    Getty Images/John Lamparski

    Thanksgiving is synonymous with the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. 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 the vibrant floats, festive marching bands, dance troupes, celebrity guests, old St. Nick, and those massive helium balloons pass by.

    The parade typically kicks off at 9 a.m. 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, 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 good front-row spot. 

  • 02 of 11
    90th Anniversary Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade - Inflation Eve
    Getty Images/Jamie McCarthy

    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.

    During the late afternoon and early evening on the day before the parade, visitors can get a sneak 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
    New York City's Eleven Madison Park
    Getty Images/Spencer Platt

    New York City never sleeps and that includes Thanksgiving day. There will be a restaurant, a take-out place or a grocery store 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 5 Manhattan grocery stores offer standout Thanksgiving to-go menus (including delivery).

  • 04 of 11
    Shop window, Madison Avenue, Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA
    Getty Images/Ingolf Pompe/LOOK-foto

    Shoppers will find no shortage of retail therapy options in NYC, and the "Black Friday" post-Thanksgiving sales 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" (though many deals run through the remainder of the weekend, too.) Our ​guide to some of the Thanksgiving sales and Black Friday deals in Manhattan will give you a start in checking off gifts on your holiday shopping list.

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  • 05 of 11
    Radio City Music Hall

    joe daniel price

    Head to Radio City Music Hall where you can see 36 Rockettes in each performance of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, one of New York City's most iconic Christmas events. Their precision 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 that are 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 9-week run, and they can sometimes be spotted outside of Radio City getting exercise. 

  • 06 of 11
    Food Bank For NYC Provides Food Pantry And Soup Kitchen To Harlem Families
    Getty Images/John Moore

    Don't miss out on the true spirit of the season—to give thanks and to give back. There are many rewarding volunteer opportunities in NYC throughout the year, with a special need for helping hands in soup kitchens, homeless shelters, and for families in need around the city for the Thanksgiving holiday.

    For some ideas on current volunteer needs for Thanksgiving, the Thanksgiving volunteering opportunity referrals maintained by New York Cares will give you a head start in lending a helping hand.

  • 07 of 11
    Union Square, Manhattan in Autumn
    Getty Images/James and Karla Murray

    If stuffing yourself with turkey and watching TV doesn't fully satisfy your desire to do something special on your day off, there are a few NYC attractions that open their doors even on Thanksgiving Day.

    These include the city's three major observatories: Top of the Rock, the Empire State Building, and One World Observatory; and bucket-list sites like the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

    With kids in tow, Madame Tussauds Wax Museum or the Central Park Zoo might be just the ticket.

    If museums are more your speed, you can pop into a handful of institutions with Thanksgiving hours, like 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 all year long, like Central Park, the High Line, and Times Square.

  • 08 of 11
    People skating at Central Park
    Getty Images/Manuel Hurtado

    Just as soon as Thanksgiving passes, Manhattan's Christmas spirit kicks into high gear. This ultimate guide to 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.

    Or, get a glimpse of the winter wonderland by taking 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
    Bloomingdales

     Peter Kramer / Staff

    Thanksgiving marks the arrival of many department store's impressive window displays. A great pre or post-dinner activity, stores such as Macy's, Bloomingdale's, Saks, and Barneys go all out, creating elaborate, holiday-themed displays that will 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 the stores and reflecting the year's theme.

  • 10 of 11
    Central Park Zoo

     

    Desiree Navarro / Contributor

    If you want a bit of wild fun on Thanksgiving, several of the city's top zoos—Prospect Park Zoo, Queens Zoo, and Central Park Zoo—are all open on 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. The Central Park Zoo may not be big, but it's home to penguins, snow leopards, and other unique animals.

  • 11 of 11
    Hudson Valley farmer's market
    rRobert Nickelsberg / Contributor

    If you want to escape the holiday hustle and bustle, you can catch a Metro-North train up 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.

    Charming towns like Cold Spring and Tarrytown have plenty of small restaurants, boutiques, and more.