It is late fall and Christmas decor is taking over every square inch of New York City’s seasonal retail space. This can only mean one thing: November is upon us. This month brings lots of family fun to NYC, including mini maker faires, the annual Canstruction, a pair of new museum exhibits, holiday train fun, the debut of a children’s film festival, a live-action magic show, and an immersive theater experience for the youngest audiences. And, of course, families can expect some holiday cheer with the beloved Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and other children’s holiday events kicking off later this month, including Polar Express train rides and Macy’s Santaland.
For a Mommy Poppins Readers’ Night at the New Victory Theater discounted tickets are also on sale for a special showing of the acrobatic Mother Africa: My Home that will include extra pre-show activities for the kids. Grab ’em before they’re gone! Trying to rid the kids (and you) of leftover Halloween candy? Donate it to these charities around NYC and globally.
Be sure to click through to our event listings for all the details, including address, time, and pricing. Keep in mind that the really cool (and no-cost!) kid stuff in NYC books up quickly—especially as the holidays approach—so buy your tickets ASAP or, in the case of FREE events, arrive as early as possible to try to beat the crowds.
Canstruction — Battery Park City
Thursday November 3-Wednesday, November 16
Architects, engineers, and contractors come together in this unique design competition in which participants use unopened cans of food to create large-scale installations. The annual competition celebrates its 24th anniversary this season and once the exhibition is dismantled, all the cans are donated to City Harvest. Visitors are encouraged to bring cans of food for the charity, too. FREE but bring cans of food to donate.
See the beasts of Where the Wild Things Are at a new Lincoln Center film festival.
My First Film Fest – Upper West Side
Thursday, November 3-Tuesday, November 8
The Film Society of Lincoln Center brings its flair for programming to a younger audience this fall with a new—and hopefully annual—film festival geared toward audiences ages 3-8. Hoping to build children’s love of the film festival experience, organizers have put together a slate of programming which ranges from a sneak-peak at this year’s highly-anticipated Trolls to old-school silent classics such as Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times, and new classics like Spike Jonze’s 2009 adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are. Young moviegoers will be treated not only to award-winning films, but also to festival staples such as goodie bags and giveaways.
Mini Maker Faire — Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens
Saturday, November 5-Sunday, November 6
If you missed the big annual Maker Fair at NYSCI last month, here’s your chance to get a bite-sized taste of the fun. Event organizers have teamed up with Barnes and Noble to present this series where mini tinkerers, inventors, or makers can team up with grown inventors to explore virtual and augmented reality, 3D printing, pen-invent technology, robotics, coding, programming, and more. FREE
Election Day in Prospect Park — Prospect Park, Brooklyn
Tuesday, November 8
If you’ve sheltered your kids from the shouting and name calling in this presidential election, they may have little clue as to why they won’t be in school today. Take them to the Lefferts Historic House where they can learn about electoral politics in a G-rated way and cast their own ballot for local and national leaders. Polls here close at 4pm, giving you plenty of time to head home and watch the real returns. $3 suggested donation.
Pip’s Island — Chelsea
Wednesday, November 9-Sunday, January 8, 2017
Take your young theatergoer on an interactive adventure with Pip and his cohorts Pebble and Finn as they explore Pip’s Island in an entirely new genre of theater which meshes live-action characters with technologically-aided storytelling and invites audience members to join in the story and help save the inhabitants of Pip’s Island. The magical animated world lets children step into the story creation process with a Choose Your Own Adventure-type outcome, and in the way no two audiences are the same, neither will the storyline be. Target audience is ages 4-10.
Children’s Book Fair — Prospect Heights, Brooklyn
Saturday, November 12
This annual fest at the Brooklyn Museum celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2016 and in addition to featuring the work of more than 50 Brooklyn-based authors, the fest adds two interactive art-making opportunities. Author Esther K. Smith (Making Books with Kids) puts her ideas into practice and helps kids craft their own tomes, while author Lesley Ware (My Fab Fashion Style File) will lead a paper doll-making session. Other author appearances include Peter Brown (The Wild Robot), Sergio Ruzzier (This Is Not a Picture Book!), Abby Hanlon (Dory Dory Black Sheep), Stephen Savage (The Mixed-Up Truck), Mike Curato (Little Elliott, Big Fun), Jon Burgerman (Burgerworld: A Coloring Book), and more. FREE
Battle of Fort Washington — Washington Heights
Sunday, November 13
Kids can experience history at the reenactment of this epic Revolutionary War battle, which celebrates its 240th anniversary this year. Head to the stunning Fort Tryon Park to see members of the Brigade of the American Revolution perform drills. Find out what life was like during the war by watching blacksmithing demos, listening to live 18th-century music, making crafts, playing games of the era, and touring the battlefield with heroine Margaret Corbin. Dress up for the occasion: Celebrants in the most authentic costumes win prizes. FREE
Jason Bishop: Straight Up Magic — Midtown West
Friday, November 18-Sunday, November 27
Jason Bishop takes over the New Victory stage with his modern interpretation of a magic show, fusing old-school tricks with a decidedly modern-day stage presence. Bishop’s talents range from card tricks to levitation, and his trusty sidekick, Gizmo the terrier, assists throughout. Select guests are invited on stage to investigate the magic, and, as with many New Vic shows, consider booking tickets for a performance that allows time for post-show play to bring you even closer to the action.
Look up and all around to find choo-choos at the New York Botanical Garden’s Holiday Train Show.
New York Botanical Garden Holiday Train Show — the Bronx
Saturday, November 19-Monday, January 16, 2017
The NYBG’s annual holiday show is a must-see for tourists and locals alike. In fact, it’s No. 39 on our list of 100 things to do with kids in NYC. More than 25 model trains (including Thomas the Tank Engine!) go whizzing by approximately 150 NYC landmarks meticulously made out of acorns, twigs, bark, berries, and leaves. This year’s 25th anniversary exhibition brings with it brand-new displays: replicas of Coney Island’s iconic Cyclone and Wonder Wheel as well as the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge. If you didn’t catch the show last year, the 3,000 square feet of extra space and behind-the-scenes documentary about how these gorgeous replicas are made returns after rave reviews. Afterward, kids can hit the Evergreen Express in the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden to make train puppets, march in musical parades, and craft miniature scented sachets. Warning: Even though timed advance tickets are required, it gets super crowded. If at all possible, go early or late in the season on a weekday.
Gotham Groove – East Harlem
Saturday, November 19-Sunday, November 20
Head to the Museum of the City of New York to celebrate the years-in-the-making opening of its new New York at its Core exhibit, which takes over three galleries on the museum’s main floor. To celebrate the exhibition’s opening weekend, MCNY is offering FREE general admission and will be open for a continuous 32-hours in homage to the city that never sleeps. Find your FREE timed tickets on the museum’s website and consider attending one of the special programs and screenings offered. Best bets for families include a Build My City Kids Activity from 11am-5pm each day with the museum’s educators, family dance lessons inspired by Broadway and the salsa craze, an NYC trivia hour, a gospel concert, and an afternoon of Walt Whitman poetry and prose. FREE general admission, though some special programming requires a paid ticket.
Opening of Exhibition Cuba at AMNH — Upper West Side
Monday, November 21
If a direct-flight to the newly-opened isle isn’t in your plans, get a taste of Cuban culture and the island’s incredible biodiversity at the American Museum of Natural History’s new exhibit dedicated to the island nation. You’ll tour a recreation of the Zapata Wetlands where the endangered Cuban crocodile lurks, tour a fossil-filled cave, and see live lizards, boa constrictors, and frogs. The spiritual traditions of the island’s people, their food, music, art, and more will also be on display. Included with museum admission.
Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade & Balloon Inflation — Upper West Side to Midtown West
Wednesday, November 23, Thursday, November 24
We probably don’t need to sell you on this world-famous NYC tradition. The only thing that isn’t family-friendly about this procession of pop-culture inspired floats and giant balloons is the fact that you need to arrive around 6am to stake out your spot. Unfortunately, there is no secret to snagging a good viewing location unless you’re willing to splurge on a hotel room overlooking the route. There is, however, a great trick for beating the lines at the annual balloon inflation the night before: spend the day at the American Museum of Natural History and take in the aforementioned exhibit while you’re there! As for the parade itself, arrive early or watch from way in the back. You’ll still see something. Otherwise, find a friend (or a friend of a friend) who lives on the route. Put a call out on Facebook—you never know. Wherever you watch, expect a thrilling lineup of celebrities, marching bands, colorful floats, kooky clowns, and massive balloons. FREE
Holiday Windows Walk — Midtown East
Thanksgiving-New Year’s Day
All of the major department store holiday displays (Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord & Taylor, Bergdorf Goodman, Barneys, etc.) are up by the week of Thanksgiving, and crowds are surprisingly sparse that holiday weekend, especially compared to later in the season. While we can’t share photos from this year’s holiday windows yet, check out our slide shows from 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, and 2009! So put this on your family calendar for Thanksgiving weekend and work off some of that turkey on your tour. FREE
Dyker Heights puts on an epic light show ever year.
Dyker Lights — Dyker Heights, Brooklyn
Thanksgiving-New Year’s Day
Another seasonal sight that goes up around Thanksgiving? The over-the-top holiday displays in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn. While paying to go on a guided bus tour may be most convenient if you live outside of Brooklyn, the neighborhood is accessible via public transportation, just be prepared to walk a bit. As someone who loves all things outrageous and colorful, Dyker Heights is a destination I visit year after year, even though most of the displays don’t change that much. If you’ve been and want to see something different, try the Christmas House in the Bronx or Santa’s Corner in Whitestone, Queens. You won’t find a critical mass of Christmas lights in either of those neighborhoods but those one-offs are worth traveling for. FREE if you go on a do-it-yourself tour.
Santaland at Macy’s Herald Square — Midtown West
Friday, November 25-Saturday, December 24
My family and I head to Macy’s to sit on Santa’s lap annually and I have the photos to prove it. It’s amazing to see all of those pictures and how our family has grown! Even though there’s usually a line, it’s a tradition we treasure. Last year we grabbed a timed ticket and were in-and-out in 15 minutes, though we missed a lot of the display—the North Pole Village, perpetually happy elves, trains whizzing past, and enchanted forest full of animatronic toys–the long line winds past. Wait times are shorter earlier in the season and during the week, but even if you do end up on a long line, there’s so much to gawk at the kids don’t mind the wait (much). Once you finally do make it to the front, you’re rewarded with face time with the one true Santa. Wink, wink.
The Frost Puppet parade returns to Winter’s Eve at Lincoln Square.
Winter’s Eve at Lincoln Square — Lincoln Square
Monday, November 28
A tree lighting at Dante Park kicks off this huge neighborhood holiday celebration. From the Time Warner Center to 68th Street, enjoy tons of free entertainment and reasonably priced food tastings from the area’s many restaurants. This year, kid-centric attractions include live music from Brady Rymer and the Little Band that Could, a performance by Jack Frost: The Original Mr. White Christmas, face time with Santa, and much more. Of course a lot of the grown-up entertainment sounds great for families including an LED-lit hula hooper, Okamoto Studio’s amazing ice-carved creations, a parade of jaw-dropping giant frost puppets made by the talented folks behind the annual Morninside Lights procession, and DJ D-Nice blasting tunes. While most activities are FREE, attendees are encouraged to drop off new or gently-used coats for New York Cares Coat Drive. Visit the website for a list of drop-off locations and a complete schedule of events. I highly recommend you plan what you want to do in advance as Winter’s Eve is always insanely crowded. FREE
NYC always has so many incredible things going on, it’s difficult to choose. So here are 10 more cool events that are worth considering for your November calendar. Be sure to sign up for our FREE newsletters to receive our weekend picks delivered to your inbox.
Catch the one-man dance show Chotto Desh at the New Victory Theater, playing weekends November 4-13.
Say goodbye to your Halloween Jack-o-Lantern by taking it to Clement Clarke Moore Park on Saturday, November 5, and smashing it to smithereens. Once it’s crushed, NYC Compost Project will compost it.
Another Election Day pick: Head to Queensbridge Park for an afternoon of old-school field-day games and let your kids cast their votes and create their own campaign buttons. Plenty of live musical entertainment is on tap, too.
Explore the Thain Family Forest at the New York Botanical Garden on foot or via a canoe tour on the Bronx River. There will be birds of prey and woodcrafting demonstrations and much more. Weekends November 5-6 and 12-13.
Head to Circus Warehouse on November 12 for the annual New York Regional Youth Circus Festival where circus wannabes can try their hand at various circus arts. No experience necessary, but purchasing tickets in advance is a must.
Introduce your kids to a quartet of composers at the Little Orchestra Society’s newest concert playing the Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College on November 12-13.
Trivia buffs can take on all comers at the Big Family Quiz Thing at Symphony Space on Sunday, November 13.
Tweens and teens will flip for the new Taylor Swift exhibit at the “Taylor Swift Experience,” which debuts at 19 Fulton Street in the South Street Seaport on November 19.
Foodies will appreciate Alton Brown Live: Eat Your Science when the eccentric chef plays the Barrymore Theatre from Tuesday, November 22 through Sunday, November 27.