Thanksgiving in New York City: 7 Things to Do in NYC on Thanksgiving Weekend 2016

The chance to see Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade live and up close is one big reason why people from all over the US flock to New York City for Thanksgiving. But given that Macy’s parade lasts only three hours on Thanksgiving Day morning, what else can you do in NYC for the rest of your holiday? If you’re spending Thanksgiving in New York and maybe a few days after, we recommend that you include these uniquely NYC must-dos in your itinerary.

Wander through Central Park

autumn in new york
Central Park’s autumn foliage during Thanksgiving in New York City | Charlie Yoon/Pixabay

It’s going to be late in the season and the leaves will begin to fall off, but you can still catch some breathtaking views of Central Park’s magnificent autumn foliage on Thanksgiving weekend. The Park comes alive with brilliant golds and fiery reds on its trees in autumn, and these colors bring a sense of romance in the air. It may be a little bit chilly, but wandering through Central Park, especially after getting all stuffed up on Thanksgiving turkey, can be a rewarding experience.

Aside from the fall foliage, you can check out Central Park’s other attractions that are open all year-round. You can explore Belvedere Castle and take selfies at Bethesda Fountain. You can stroll around the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir. You can go boating using a rented boat from the Loeb Boathouse. If you have your kids with you, you can take them to see wildlife at the Central Park Zoo or let them run around the Great Lawn.

Watch a Knicks or Jets game live

watch a knicks game at madison square garden on thanksgiving in new york city
Madison Square Garden, home of the NY Knicks | Andres Nieto Porras/Wikimedia Commons

Thanksgiving weekend coincides with NBA and NFL season. As it happens, the New York Knicks and the New York Jets will be playing games at their home stadiums then. So, if you’re into basketball or football (or both), why not catch these games live while spending Thanksgiving in New York City?

On Friday, November 25, 2016, the Knicks will be playing ball against Charlotte Hornets at Madison Square Garden. The Jets’ game with the New England Patriots, on the other hand, will be on Sunday, November 27, 2016, at the MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.

Hang out at Times Square

hang out at times square during thanksgiving in new york city
Times Square | Sophie Maus/Pixabay

Times Square is one of the busiest and most popular tourist destinations not just in New York City but in the entire world. Its towering buildings and flashing neon lights make it one of the most recognizable places in the world. Often referred to as “the crossroads of the world,” Times Square becomes even more jam-packed during the holiday season, starting with Thanksgiving Day.

What can you do in Times Square? If you’re into the weird and novel, you can visit Ripley’s Believe It or Not exhibition or Madame Tussaunds Museum. The Square is a premiere shopping and dining hub as well, home to some of the best restaurants in NYC. A short walk will take you to the theaters of Broadway.

See a show on Broadway

catch a show on broadway during thanksgiving in new york city
New York City’s Broadway | Pixabay

After hanging out at Times Square, you can head on to the Theater District and Lincoln Center on Broadway. There, you can see a play, a concert, or a musical of your choice. Most of Broadway’s 41 theaters have a show going on for the season.

You can catch long-running, old-time Broadway favorites like Cats, Phantom of the Opera, Wicked, and Chicago. You can also see something new, like Something Rotten!, a musical comedy about a pair of brothers on a mission to outdo Shakespeare; On Your Feet!, a musical about the lives of pop legend Gloria Estefan and her husband Emilio Estefan; and current Broadway darling Hamilton, a musical on the life of founding father Alexander Hamilton.

Catch the Radio City Christmas Spectacular

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade always features members of the Rockettes, a precision dance troupe considered to be one of the cultural institutions of New York City. Watching the Rockettes perform is a marvelous experience. If you want to see more of them, you can watch them live at the Radio City Christmas Spectacular.

Just like the Rockettes, the Spectacular is one of NYC’s longstanding traditions. This extravagant stage production has been held every holiday season since 1933. The show features hundreds of performers annually, but the Rockettes have been and always will be the stars of the show. This year’s Spectacular runs from November 11, 2016 to January 2, 2017 at the Radio City Music Hall.

Go ice skating at Rockefeller Center

go ice skating at the rockefeller center on thanksgiving in new york city
Ice skating at the Rockefeller Center | David Mark/Pixabay

The Rink at the Rockefeller Center is one of the most famous ice skating rinks in the world. If your family is into ice skating, you shouldn’t miss the chance to skate here. The Rink is open from October 8, 2016 to January 6, 2017.

Only 150 people can use the Rink at the same time, so it’s important that you make your reservations before going there. If it’s your first time to skate, you can get a 30-minute private skating lesson.

Go on a helicopter tour

If you don’t have enough time to see the sights of New York City after watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the next best thing would be to take an aerial tour of the city via helicopter. In that way, you get to enjoy a bird’s-eye view of the city’s major attractions in just a short time.

A helicopter tour will allow you to see aerial views of landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, the 9/11 Memorial, Central Park, and many others. A typical trip can last anywhere between 12 to 20 minutes. While it may sound short, you get to cover a lot of sights within that time.

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade may be the highlight of the festivities for Thanksgiving in New York City, but watching it is not the only thing you can do there on Thanksgiving weekend. So, treat your family to an activity-filled weekend this Thanksgiving.

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Central Park's autumn foliage during Thanksgiving in New York City | Charlie Yoon/Pixabay


Anna is a wandering writer. If she isn't wandering, she's working on other blogs. And if she's not doing that, either she's reading or she's busy with a crafting project.