Spending a weekend in New York is special any time of the year, but if you're lucky enough to be in the Big Apple during Thanksgiving weekend, you're in for a treat—you can see in person the world-famous Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, shop for Christmas presents on Fifth Avenue, and even ice skate in Central Park.
It's Not Just Any Parade
Most of us watch the world's largest parade on TV, but a lucky few will actually be in NYC on Thanksgiving Day.The whole family will love being up-close to the larger-than-life balloons, which you can watch being inflated on the day before Thanksgiving in front of the American Museum of Natural History.
Classics such as Kermit the Frog and Santa Claus return every year, while new characters are always added. Many hotels offer Thanksgiving Day Parade packages with parade views. To book a hotel room with a view of the parade, you'll have the best options if you reserve nine months to a year in advance.
The parade kicks off at 9 a.m., but many people are already out on Central Park West staking out their spots because seating along the parade route is first-come, first-served. You'll need to bring your own chairs and blankets to stay warm. The weather in late November ranges from mild to quite cold, so pack and dress appropriately.
Kick Off the Holiday With the Rockettes
Take in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular starring the world-renowned Radio City Rockettes. The precision dance company has been performing its Christmas spectacular at the Radio City Music Hall since 1933, complete with dancing bears and Santa himself.
The 90-minute show features more than 100 dancers in elaborate costumes. But the show's grand finale is its most famous feature: In "The Parade of the Wooden Soldiers," 36 Rockettes dressed in toy soldier uniforms intentionally fall down on the stage like a row of dominoes. There's a performance every day over Thanksgiving weekend, but you'll have to score tickets for this popular holiday spectacle early.
Share Turkey Day With a Penguin
Visit the Central Park Zoo, which is open every day over the Thanksgiving weekend from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The Gentoo, chinstrap, and king penguins in the Polar Circle exhibit come out to bob for fish twice daily at 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. The Tisch Children's Zoo, just across 65th Street, caters to the younger kids with potbellied pigs, goats, and lambs, and boasts the only cow in Manhattan.
Weather permitting, don't miss the chance to ride Central Park's fabulously restored 1908 carousel with 57 hand-carved wooden horses and two chariots. Also, join in the age-old winter tradition for New Yorkers and visitors alike: The Wollman Rink in Central Park offers a beautiful outdoor setting for ice skating beneath the city skyline during the day and after dark. Skates can be rented, and private lessons are available.