Skip the Parade: The Best 15 Things to Do in NYC For Thanksgiving

things to do in new york city for thanksgiving

We the People Style 

For both travelers making their way to the Big Apple and the Manhattanites who stick around for the long Thanksgiving weekend, you're in for a treat. During these brisk four or five days at the end of November, New York City takes on an almost magical life of its own around Thanksgiving: The streets are empty (and so are the best bars and restaurants) and glimmering under the holiday lights and decorations. 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 14

See the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall

Best Things to Do in NYC on Thanksgiving

Photo: 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 14

Enjoy the Old-School Charm of Bemelmans Bar

Bemelman Bar

Courtesy of 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 14

Stroll Around the Brooklyn Holiday Bazaar

Best Things to Do in New York City on Thanksgiving

Courtesy of Brooklyn Holiday Bazaar

If Brooklyn is more your speed, head over to Gowanus, where the Brooklyn Holiday Bazaar is hosted. Bringing the best local talent under one roof, it's the perfect place to do some holiday shopping (and nosh on incredible local food while doing it).

Expect more than 40 makers, a photo booth, crafts for kids, and bites and beverages from the best Brooklyn has to offer.

04 of 14

Treat Yourself to a Feast at Manhatta

manhatta restaurant

Photo: 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 14

Work Off the Turkey at Fithouse

Things to Do in New York City on Thanksgiving

Courtesy of Fithouse

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 14

Volunteer at FeedingNYC

feedingnyc

Photo: 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 14

Peruse the Turnstyle Underground Market

subway

Photo by Mitch Trotter on 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, pasta, bubble tea, pizza to Bolivian fare. Shops include a pet supply, stationery, and a wine and spirits shop.

08 of 14

Hop on a Holiday Nostalgia Ride with New York Transit Museum

Holiday Nostalgia Ride with New York City Transit Museum

Courtesy of 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 193's 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 also makes a note on its website to say that all holiday nostalgia rides operate as weather permits, so make sure you have a Plan B just in case.

09 of 14

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 14

Try Matcha Ramen From Mentoku

Young woman eating ramen

 d3sign/Getty Images

When the weather begins to prickle, there's nothing like a steamy, brothy meal to warm you up. And while most ramen-lovers may be most familiar with tonkotsu, a pork-flavored broth, Mentoku serves a vegetarian version. It's made with matcha green tea and topped with kikurage (wood ear mushrooms) and konjac (a member of the potato family.)

If green tea soup isn't your style, check out another option from any of the city's seemingly hundreds of ramen shops and Japanese restaurants, including Totto Ramen, Ippudo West, and Nippori.

11 of 14

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 14

Adopt a Pet From Best Friends Animal Society

Young rat terrier runs through house

 

Sami Multasuo/Getty Images 

In 2019, Best Friends Animal Society offered free pet adoptions in Soho between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Here's to hoping they'll do the same in 2020 and beyond. The Center lets people meet and play with some of the adoptable animals from local shelters and rescue organizations from their Soho location. What could be better than a furry friend on Thanksgiving?

13 of 14

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 8pm 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 14

Welcome Winter With Ice Skating

ice skating rink

Pola Damonte/Getty Images

For classic fall family fun, head to one of arguably one of New York City's most beautiful ice skating rinks (in Bryant Park), which begin opening as early as October. From indoor to outdoor rinks, take your pick. For example, there's the iconic one at Rockefeller Center, Lasker Rink in Harlem, and the unique outdoor Runway Rink at the TWA Hotel.

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