Skip the Parade: The Best 15 Things to Do in New York City for Thanksgiving

things to do in new york city for thanksgiving

We the People Style

Whether you're a tourist making your way to the Big Apple for the long Thanksgiving weekend, or you're a Manhattanite who's planning to stay close to home over the holiday, you're in for a treat. During these brisk four or five days at the end of November, New York City takes on a whole new look and feel as the holiday season reinvigorates the streets with glittering lights, festive decorations, and a cozy ambiance. And, if you're lucky, you might even get treated to the first dusting of snow

But before you venture into Midtown and get stuck in the parade-generated traffic for hours on end, consider a few activities that we hand-picked: From stellar dinner experiences to breathtaking performances, these are hands-down the 15 best things to do in New York over Thanksgiving.

We promise you won't regret staying local over the long weekend—and visitors will love these ideas, too.

01 of 15

See the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall

Best Things to Do in NYC on Thanksgiving

Kevin Poh

Since 1933, the Rockettes have performed their annual holiday show at Radio City Music Hall—that's more than 3,000 women who've performed since the group's inception! This impressive show offers a mix of singing, dancing (fun fact: Their shoes are mic'd up so you can hear every tap), and humor that will leave even the skeptics mesmerized.

These high-kicking ladies are synonymous with New York City, but did you know that they were originally known as the "Missouri Rockettes" because they originally got their start in St. Louis?

02 of 15

Enjoy the Old-School Charm of Bemelmans Bar

Bemelman Bar

The Carlyle, A Rosewood Hotel

Bemelmans Bar is the place to hunker down on the Upper East Side and grab a drink when the city is empty, and the weather is frightful. The Carlyle Hotel's piano bar features beautiful hand-painted murals by Ludwig Bemelmans (a recognized artist for The New Yorker back in the day) in a cozy atmosphere. The bar hosts live jazz shows most nights. Try the Carlyle Punch made with raspberry vodka, Southern Comfort, St-Germain, bitters, cranberry, pineapple, and lime.

03 of 15

Stroll Around a Holiday Market

things to do in New York City over Thanksgiving

Bryant Park

Find someone for everyone on your nice list this year at one of New York City's many holiday markets. Comprising dozens of kiosks in an open-air, European-style market, the Winter Village at Bryant Park is a go-to for locally made gifts. Rather do your holiday shopping indoors? Head to the Grand Central Terminal Holiday Fair to browse jewelry, home décor, paper goods, clothing, and much more—without having to brave the cold.

04 of 15

Treat Yourself to a Feast at Manhatta

manhatta restaurant

Emily Andrews

While Manhatta may not offer your typical Thanksgiving fare, this Danny Meyers French restaurant is perched at the top of a high-rise in the Financial District and offers an incredible dining experience with unparalleled views. Reservations can be hard to come across, but the holidays are the perfect time to book ahead as the city empties for the long weekend.

Opt for their three-course prix fixe menu, which might include a chilled white asparagus salad with baby lettuces, duck confit, and a warm date cake with hazelnut whiskey sauce.

05 of 15

Work Off the Turkey at Fithouse

Things to Do in New York City on Thanksgiving


If you've eaten your way through the city all weekend, burn off some steam and calories at Fithouse in Tribeca. Fithouse is an all-class fitness club featuring great workouts in a stylish environment. Movement formats include barre, dance, high-intensity interval training (known as HIIT), sculpt (total body conditioning), boxing, kettlebells, and all iterations of yoga.

06 of 15

Volunteer at FeedingNYC


Anthony Pasini

Because Thanksgiving is also about being grateful for what we have and helping others who are more vulnerable, the long holiday weekend is the perfect time to volunteer. For over 18 years, FeedingNYC has delivered over 80,000 boxes filled with a frozen turkey and all the fixings to cook a Thanksgiving meal to families in need in New York.

07 of 15

Peruse the Turnstyle Underground Market


Mitch Trotter / Unsplash


This unique underground food and retail market spans an entire city block, and you don't need a metro card to browse its offerings. To get to Turnstyle Underground Market (which is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner), choose from one of seven street-level entrances located beneath 8th Avenue—between 57th and 58th Streets. There, indulge in everything from dumplings and bubble tea to pizza and Bolivian fare. Retailers include a pet supply store, a stationery shop, and a wine and spirits shop.

08 of 15

Hop on a Holiday Nostalgia Ride With New York Transit Museum

Holiday Nostalgia Ride with New York City Transit Museum

The New York Transit Museum 

Time travel with the New York Transit Museum's holiday nostalgia rides. Beginning in December, the museum dusts off its vintage 1930s train cars (which were once part of the first subway company operated by the city) every Saturday between Thanksgiving and the New Year. Check the website for schedules; trains will have different departure locations.

The museum notes on its website that all holiday nostalgia rides operate as weather permits, so make sure you have a plan B just in case.

09 of 15

Pedal for a Cause With Cranksgiving

group of people biking

Bo Zaunders/Getty Images

Do good and get moving on two wheels at the same time during Cranksgiving. It's an annual charity bike ride that asks participants to ride to a few grocery stores, buy specific food items, and cycle the quickest route to the finish line, all in the name of donating the goods to a local charity.

The annual event began in 1999 with a group of New York City bike messengers and has since grown into a nationwide, locally organized event in cities including Austin, Columbus, Ohio, and Raleigh, North Carolina.

10 of 15

Hit the City's Ramen Hot Spots

Young woman eating ramen

 d3sign / Getty Images

Bar-hopping over Thanksgiving weekend? Been there, done that. Try something a little different this year by embarking on a self-guided tasting tour of New York City's best spots for ramen. After all, once the mercury starts to drop, there's nothing like a steamy, brothy meal to warm you up.

Start with a bowl of miso ramen at Zurutto in the Upper West Side, then make your way south, stopping at Karakatta in Greenwich Village (order the spicy ginger stamina ramen) before slurping the final bowl of your outing at Kuu Ramen in the Financial District (go for the Kuu chili ramen if you can handle the heat).

11 of 15

Hike for Free With Urban Park Rangers

Autumn in Central Park, NYC

Douglas Sacha/Getty Images 

Urban Park Rangers have been connecting people to New York City's natural spaces since 1979. This Thanksgiving, lace up your hiking boots for a free, ranger-led guided hike during their annual Day After Thanksgiving Hike. Accommodations can also be made for individuals with varying language and accessibility requests.

12 of 15

Adopt a Pet From Best Friends Animal Society

Young rat terrier runs through house


Sami Multasuo / Getty Images 

Give a pet their forever home by adopting a dog or cat through Best Friends Animal Society. With an end goal of eliminating euthanasia in animal shelters, this organization operates an open-admission shelter in SoHo. There, to-be pet parents can get up close and personal with adoptable dogs and cats in an inviting, gallery-like setting.

Not ready for the commitment of pet ownership? You can still contribute to the Best Friends cause by volunteering at the shelter or fostering a homeless pet.

13 of 15

Take a Haunted Tour With Ghosts of New York

Washington Square Park at night

Darieus/Getty Images 

Group walking tours with Ghosts of New York begin at 8 p.m. and include themed outings like The Edgar Allen Spook Tour, centered around the spirits of Edgar Allen Poe, Aaron Burr, Washington Irving, and more throughout Washington Square Park; and the Phantom Pub Crawl. Each leisurely tour lasts 90 minutes and covers less than a mile of ground––meaning ample time to commune with the paranormal environment.

14 of 15

Welcome Winter With Ice Skating

ice skating rink

Pola Damonte/Getty Images

For classic fall family fun, head to one of New York City's most beautiful ice skating rinks, the rink at Bryant Park, which typically opens in late October. There are other rinks to choose from, too, both indoor and outdoor. For example, there's the iconic one at Rockefeller Center and the Lasker Rink in Harlem.

15 of 15

Soak in the Roman-Style Baths at AIRE

things to do in New York City over Thanksgiving

AIRE Ancient Baths DK

Conquer holiday stress before it can begin at AIRE Ancient Baths in TriBeCa. Housed within a 19th-century former textile mill replete with ambient lighting, the luxury spa offers access to six thermal baths, each heated (or not) to a different temperature, from icy cold to toasty warm.

After experiencing weightlessness in the saltwater flotarium (a must-do here), make your way to the aromatherapy steam room or the relaxation area, the latter of which is equipped with heated marble, a DIY salt exfoliation station, and complimentary tea. Make note: This place is co-ed, but bathing suits are required.

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