What to Do in NYC in Thanksgiving 2024: Your Ultimate Holiday Guide

What to Do in NYC on Thanksgiving? I’ve spent hours curating the best Thanksgiving activities in New York City, ensuring you can experience the holiday’s enchantment, from the famed Macy’s Parade to the city’s gourmet dining.

Key Takeaways

  • Thanksgiving in NYC is an enchanted time marked by parades and holiday festivities.
  • Culinary experiences range from traditional turkey dinners to innovative holiday dishes.
  • The holiday season’s start is celebrated with outdoor activities and cultural performances.

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

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Each year, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade marks a highlight of Thanksgiving in New York City. I’m thrilled to discuss the parade’s route, its rich history, and the exciting highlights, including massive character balloons and star-studded performances.

Parade Route and Viewing Spots

The parade starts at 77th Street and Central Park West, going south to Columbus Circle and east along Central Park South. It continues down 6th Avenue before finishing at Macy’s Herald Square on 34th Street. There are about 2.5 miles of public viewing, with some of the best spots along Central Park West and 6th Avenue. I recommend arriving early to snag a good view!

History of the Parade

Inaugurated in 1924, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has become a cherished holiday event in America. Initially featuring Macy’s employees, floats, live music, and animals from the Central Park Zoo, the parade now welcomes over 3.5 million spectators lining the streets and millions more watching from home.

Parade Highlights

The parade is a dazzling collection of floats, performances, marching bands, clowns, and celebrities. Past parades have featured performances by Brandy, David Foster, Katharine McPhee, and Ashley Park. Notable balloons often include Beagle Scout Snoopy and Monkey D. Luffy among the 16 character balloons flying high above. From the historical floats to the joyful music and dance, there’s something magical for everyone.

Holiday Season Beginnings

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As the leaves in Central Park transition to amber hues, NYC transforms into a holiday wonderland with vibrant displays and festive markets. Initiating the season, Thanksgiving weekend marks the start of celebrated traditions, fulfilling shopping sprees, and rich cultural events that fill the air with anticipation for the holiday festivities.

Black Friday Shopping

Manhattan becomes a shopper’s paradise on Black Friday, with major retailers like Macy’s on 34th Street and luxury brands along Fifth Avenue rolling out some of the year’s biggest sales. It’s an opportunity for me to snag incredible deals and immerse myself in the holiday hustle. Just imagine the iconic window displays alight with a festive glow!

Holiday Markets and Fairs

Holiday markets like the Union Square Holiday Market are essential to the NYC holiday tradition. These markets are sprinkled throughout the city, from the Winter Village at Bryant Park with its free admission ice skating, to festive stands at the Columbus Circle Holiday Market. Unique gifts, artisanal crafts, and delicious treats await all who attend these enchanting, twinkling venues.

Thanksgiving Weekend Cultural Events

The Thanksgiving weekend in NYC is not only about shopping and markets. It’s a time when the Radio City Music Hall lights up with the high kicks of the Rockettes and Broadway shows offer memorable performances. Museums, like the Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, often have special holiday hours and exhibits, while the New York Botanical Garden showcases the enchanting Holiday Train Show. Even the Central Park Zoo can be part of a perfect family outing amidst the crisp fall air.

Dining and Cuisine

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When I think about Thanksgiving in New York, my mind immediately goes to the city’s diverse and delicious dining options. NYC has something to please every palate, from traditional Thanksgiving dinners with all the trimmings to unique festive treats.

Thanksgiving Dinner Options

In NYC, Tavern on the Green is an iconic spot where I can indulge in a Thanksgiving meal that truly captures the holiday spirit. This elegant restaurant, with views of Central Park, provides a classic dinner that makes me feel like a true New Yorker as I dine in style.

Bubby’s is my go-to recommendation for those who prefer a homely and rustic setting. They serve up Thanksgiving dinners that remind me of a homemade meal, filled with comfort and bursting with flavors that harken back to childhood traditions. It’s perfect for sharing this special day with friends or family.

If convenience is key, places like PJ Bernstein offer Thanksgiving feasts to-go. For those celebrating solo or with a smaller group, they provide a dinner for one, ensuring nobody misses out on the holiday’s comforting flavors.

  • Thanksgiving dinner in NYC Restaurants:
    • Tavern on the Green: Traditional and elegant
    • Bubby’s: Homely and rustic
    • PJ Bernstein: Convenient to-go options

Festive Foods and Treats

Thanksgiving isn’t just about the dinner—it’s also about the festive treats you can savor throughout the day! I always make sure to wear my comfortable walking shoes because exploring the city for the best pie and hot chocolate is a must on my list. There’s something about walking the streets of New York, wrapped in the early Christmas spirit, and warming up with a cup of steaming hot chocolate that feels like a holiday hug.

For that extra touch of Thanksgiving, several bakeries across the city offer an array of pies, from traditional pumpkin to inventive flavors that add a surprising twist to the end of my Thanksgiving feast.

  • Festive Treats Highlights:
    • Pies: From timeless pumpkin to creative flavors
    • Hot Chocolate: A comforting sip to warm up the holiday stroll

Outdoor Activities and Performances

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During the Thanksgiving holiday, New York City comes alive with various festive outdoor activities and performances. Whether you’re gliding across an ice rink or taking in the vibrant fall foliage, there’s no shortage of fun things to do. Let me guide you through some prime spots and events that capture the spirit of Thanksgiving in NYC.

Ice Skating Spots

The Rink at Rockefeller Center: One of the most iconic ice skating experiences can be found here. Skating under the gaze of the golden Prometheus statue and the towering buildings is a must-do. The rink typically opens in October and offers a magical atmosphere well into the holiday season.

Wollman Rink in Central Park: Head to the Wollman Rink on Central Park South for a more natural setting. Nestled within the park, this rink combines ice skating fun with stunning views of the city skyline and the park’s autumnal beauty.

Parks and Recreation

Central Park: With its majestic trees displaying vibrant fall foliage, Central Park is a dreamy spot to spend a Thanksgiving morning. You can join local running clubs like Prospect Park Track Club and participate in holiday-themed runs like the Turkey Trot.

Prospect Park: On the Upper West Side, Prospect Park offers a more tranquil experience compared to Central Park, with ample space for leisurely walks, cycling, and even bird watching near Columbus Circle.

Specialty Attractions

Performance Groups: While exploring the city, don’t miss the spontaneous performances by various groups. Thanksgiving weekend often features musicians, dancers, and flash mobs, turning places like Columbus Circle into vibrant stages.

Green-Wood Cemetery and Summit One Vanderbilt: For a blend of historical exploration and breathtaking views, consider visiting the Green-Wood Cemetery or the Summit One Vanderbilt observation deck. Offering unique perspectives on the city, these sites combine solemn tradition and modern marvels.

Holiday Train Show: The Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden is a special Thanksgiving treat. It’s a delightful exhibition that combines the charm of model trains with replicas of New York City landmarks.

Remember to plan ahead since Thanksgiving is a busy time in the city and some attractions may require advanced tickets. Enjoy every moment of your long weekend, and may your Thanksgiving trip be filled with joy and festive spirit!

FAQ – What to Do in NYC in Thanksgiving?

What is the most famous event in NYC on Thanksgiving?

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is the most iconic event, known for its giant balloons, elaborate floats, marching bands, and performances, attracting thousands of spectators each year.

Can I watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in person?

Yes, you can watch the parade in person along its route in Manhattan. It’s advisable to arrive early to secure a good viewing spot, as prime locations along the parade route can become crowded.

Are there any Thanksgiving dinner options in NYC?

Many NYC restaurants offer special Thanksgiving menus, ranging from traditional turkey dinners to innovative takes on classic dishes. It’s recommended to make reservations in advance due to high demand.


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Martin Lange
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