Thanksgiving in America is a holiday where traditionally, families gather to give thanks and enjoy a hearty meal, but Thanksgiving in NYC can be a party.
The time leading up to, and especially the weekend of, Thanksgiving in New York City is jam-packed with events, great food and a particularly famous parade.
I’m a proud New Yorker who loves the holidays, and Thanksgiving is the unofficial kickoff to the holiday season. Thus I have spent years looking for and participating in all the great things to do in NYC on Thanksgiving day & weekend.
Odds are if you’re reading this post you’re planning a trip to celebrate a New York City Thanksgiving. Or are already here and looking for things to do. Great news, I’m going to be your friend in the city and give you a local’s run down on all the can’t miss events.
I know we’re itching to get to the good stuff. So without further ado let’s dive into the best things to do on Thanksgiving in NYC!
Average temperatures in NYC during Thanksgiving
Expect average temperatures of around 50 degrees Fahrenheit during the day in late November. That might seem cold, but remember that the most common form of transportation in NYC are your own two feet.
The constant movement combined with a sweater is usually plenty for the average person to be comfortable. But alas, you know yourself best. If you run cold or hot plan accordingly.
My only tidbit is to pay attention to the weather report and keep an eye for rain, at which point you’re going to want to bring a rain coat and umbrella.
Tips for visiting NYC on Thanksgiving
Most stores will be closed on actual Thanksgiving day
Thanksgiving day is one of the few holidays stores in New York City close for. Now, not all stores will be closed, drug stores and local bodegas are open at their discretion but don’t expect to have a shopping day on 5th Avenue.
Comfortable walking shoes are a must
The subway is efficient but it doesn’t drop you off at the door, so you will be doing a lot of walking in New York City. During your NYC Thanksgiving visit you’re going to want shoes that will keep your feet dry and comfortable. You’ll be getting those steps in, I guarantee it.
Make reservations now
It should come as no surprise that the holidays are the busiest time for tourism in New York City. Thus it is imperative that when at all possible, you begin deciding where you want to go and when.
Once you have a game plan, try to make reservations ASAP. Whether it’s visiting a restaurant or seeing a show, having your tickets secured ahead of time can save a lot of scrambling.
Visiting New York City? If you haven’t decided where to stay (yet) check out our helpful guide on Where to Stay in New York City (The best neighborhoods for first timers +2 to avoid). Don’t have time? Here’s our favorite hotel in NYC, hands down.
Thanksgiving in New York City Itinerary
Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
How could I begin a list of the best things to do for Thanksgiving in NYC and not begin with the crown jewel of the day, the Thanksgiving Macy’s Day Parade?
The famous New York City Thanksgiving parade has been a staple since 1924, having only being suspended during World War II. Even during COVID, when most of the world was shut down, the parade took place as a broadcast-only event to give folks a sense of normalcy.
The parade has become such a beloved event that it’s been televised nationally from NYC on Thanksgiving morning for more than 7 decades.
To the tune of 50 million viewers cheering them on, The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is a NYC Thanksgiving tradition unlike any other. The only thing better than watching it on TV? Watching it live during your trip to the Big Apple.
For three hours on Thanksgiving day in NYC, 12 foot floats take over the city streets. Starting at West 77th Street & Central Park West the festivities come to a climax at Macy’s in Herald Square (the largest department store in the US).
The live broadcasting starts at 9:00 AM, but if you plan on attending this epic NYC fall event, I suggest showing up (the earlier the better) at least 2 hours early to get a good spot.
Pro Tip: Pack snacks and make coffee at home to take with you. The streets get crowded quickly and lines for coffee shops can run long. Use an insulated water bottle for cocoa or coffee to keep it warm longer.
(Bonus) Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloon Blow Up
If you’re in the Upper West Side, where the parade begins, you can take a peak behind the curtain and see how the balloons come to life. The balloons are inflated in the streets surrounding the American Museum of Natural History.
It’s a great way to get photos with your favorite inflatables and in general just a fun way to spend the afternoon. The inflating takes place the Wednesday before the parade from 12-6 PM.
I just wanted to add that nets and sand bags are used to prevent the balloons from flying away as they begin to take shape. I find it amusing, since they look like they’re trying to escape.
Go ice skating in Central Park
Ice skating is one of the most popular things to do during a visit to New York City, and few locations are as iconic as Wollman Rink in Central Park. The best part? This famous rink is one of the handful of attractions open in NYC on Thanksgiving day.
Located in the southern part of the Park, the rink is encircled by trees and skyscrapers. The setting look like it’s right off of a postcard, it’s beautiful to say the least.
Opened in 1950, the Wollman Rink in Central Park has been a local go-to spot for generations. It’s become so famous that the rink has been featured in movies, and more and more tourists make the effort to join in on the fun.
The rink is open 7 days a week so there’s no excuse not to visit during your Thanksgiving NYC trip. And although you’ll be past the peak, if you’re lucky, you might get to skate amongst scenic fall foliage.
Just note, ice skating at Wollman Rink can get crowded, especially with so many folks wanting to partake on this New York City Thanksgiving during their visit.
Expect to wait in line, but the experience is well worth it. And if you’re more on the impatient side of things consider visiting one of the many other popular New York City ice skating rinks!
- Adults: $14 (Mon.-Thurs.) & $23 (Fri.-Sun. & holidays).
- Seniors (60 & older): $5.00 (Mon.-Thurs.)& $9.00 (Fri.-Sun. and holidays).
- Children (11 & under) $6.00.
- Skate Rental: $11.
- Lock Rental: $7
Note: Wollman Rink is CASH-ONLY, but there’s an ATM onsite. Tickets can also be purchased online.
Address: 830 5th Ave, New York, NY 10065
Enjoy Thanksgiving Dinner ala NYC
Now you might be thinking you’ll have to give up enjoying a traditional dinner if you choose to visit NYC on Thanksgiving, but this city rarely disappoints.
There are so many restaurants open on Thanksgiving in NYC, offering anything from traditional turkey to seafood to Indian cuisine. Being the melting-pot it is, every New Yorker does Thanksgiving a little differently and there’s no excuse not to try something new during your NYC Thanksgiving trip.
Most restaurants serve prixe fixe meals for Thanksgiving dinner in NYC, which is where dinner is served in multiple courses at a fixed price. Expect to pay around $100 (although there are less & more expensive options) for your seat.
Then the courses start rolling out, first appetizers then the main course and finishing with desserts. I strongly encourage you to look into reservations now if this is the route you choose to go.
There are your traditional restaurants too, where orders are served a la carte like any other day. Often though, reservations can be harder to come by simply because the restaurants works on a first come first serve basis.
A few restaurant suggestions for Thanksgiving dinner in NYC:
- Tavern on the Green: Traditional American, 4 courses, $125 per person
- Vestry: American/Seafood, 3 courses, $98 per person
- Victor’s Cafe: Cuban, 2 courses, $45 per person
- Sushi Damo: Japanese, a la carte
- Carmines: Traditional American, 6/8 people, $295 for the table
Local’s Tip: A lot of restaurants have their NYC Thanksgiving dinner reservations open now. OpenTable (a popular reservation website) has a Thanksgiving dinner list I suggest you scroll through and pick from.
Enjoy the Rockefeller Tree Lighting Festival
Lighting the Rockefeller Christmas Tree is an annual Christmas tradition that officially dates back to 1933 (unofficially, construction workers building the Rockefeller Center put up the first tree in 1931).
The tree typically gets lit the end of November/early December, and in 2022 that day lands on Thursday, December 1st. With proper planning, you can celebrate the annual tree lighting while you’re visiting NYC for Thanksgiving.
A new tree is selected every year with an impressive requirement: the tree must be at least 75 feet tall. Decorated with more than 50,000 lights and topped with a breathtaking (and super bright) Swarovski star, seeing this masterpiece in person is one of the best things to do in NYC at Christmas.
My advice is to visit as early as possible (like first thing in the morning). The crowds are so intense at this popular attraction, especially right after Thanksgiving in NYC, and can detract from the overall experience.
In any case, consider this a non-negotiable experience and one you can’t afford to miss (if you’re in town) for Thanksgiving in NYC!
Address: 30 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10112
Stroll through Chelsea Market’s fall decorations
The Chelsea Market is a popular food hall mixed with unique shops, restaurants, and cafes. The market has 35 vendors waiting to impress you with tasty treats and fare.
Checking out Chelsea Market during your visit to NYC for Thanksgiving is a no brainer. Think of Chelsea Market as the house on the block that goes all out for halloween or Christmas. No corners are cut when it comes to decorating, lucky us!
Whether you plan on shopping or just strolling through the epic decorations, swinging by Chelsea Market is a can’t-miss NYC Thanksgiving activity. Not to mention it’s a good place to rest your legs, have something warm and get out of any crummy weather.
Highlights at the Chelsea Market include: Matcha from Chalait (so good), warm donuts from the Doughnuttery (what’s better than a warm donut?), tacos from Los Tacos No. 1, spices from Spices and Tease and souvenirs from Pearl River Mart.
Address: 75 9th Ave, New York, NY 10011
Watch the Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes
The Rockettes’ Christmas Spectacular Show has been performing at the Radio City Music Hall since the 1930s. With a base of loving fans that keeps growing I don’t anticipate it’ll stop production anytime soon.
The Christmas Spectacular is a show involving dancing, music and a ton of Christmas spirit. Not to mention, the Rockette’s are among the most famous dance groups in the world, and their performances never disappoint.
The 90-minute performance is awe-inspiring and guaranteed to impress. It’s a great holiday activity for the whole family but even folks without kids (like myself) will enjoy it.
The entire performance is shockingly good and I can only imagine how long the skit is rehearsed. The choreography is on point and the dancers’ high kicks seem to defy the laws of physics, but hey – you won’t hear me complaining.
Shows begin on November 18th, and are held multiple times a day until January 2nd, and tickets can be had for as little as $50. Making it a priority to visit during your trip to Thanksgiving NYC trip is the understatement of the year.
Pro Tip: Doors open an hour before showtime, plan to be there as soon as they do to avoid missing any of the numbers while waiting in lines and going through security.
Address: 1260 6th Ave, New York, NY 10020
Try Magnolia’s seasonal banana pudding
If you’re looking for the best NYC Thanksgiving dessert you need look no further than Magnolia Bakery. The famous bakery was founded in 1996 and was gone on to take the world by storm, kick-started by appearances in Sex and the City.
The bakery is known for making decadent cakes and delicious cupcakes, but the banana pudding is their true claim to fame.
The classic banana pudding is creamy, fresh and absolutely divine. But that’s not the best part, they’ve began offering seasonal flavors. Last October brought pumpkin spice, and last Thanksgiving boasted an apple crisp pudding that was *chef’s kiss*.
Based on the sheer amount of times I’ve visited Magnolia Bakery, they should just give me an apron and put me on the payroll.
You can find a handful of Magnolia Bakery locations throughout the city, and making the effort to try one of their seasonal flavors should be a priority during your trip to NYC for Thanksgiving.
For those of you who don’t plan on visiting NYC for Thanksgiving but want to try a seasonal flavor, fret not. Magnolia Bakery offers nationwide shipping on a lot of their famous sweet treats.
Check out the dazzling holiday window displays on Fifth Avenue
If you’re visiting NYC for Thanksgiving with the hopes of getting in as many magical experiences as possible then you need to know about the famous window displays on Fifth Avenue.
Fifth Avenue is the most popular shopping area in New York City and one of the most popular shopping areas in the world. It’s always chock-full of people, but especially the day after Thanksgiving in NYC (best known as Black Friday).
This massive shopping district is marked by luxury brands competing for attention by way of stunning window displays. I do not use the term luxury lightly — indeed, Fifth Avenue is often referred to as one of the most expensive shopping districts in the world.
Knowing that window shopping is one of the best things to do in New York City during Christmas, the stores go all out to impress visitors. Spending some time strolling Fifth Avenue is one of the best things to do during your visit to NYC on Thanksgiving.
But some do it better than others. If you’re short on time, the best window displays can be found at Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, the Empire State Building and Bloomingdales.
Address: Fifth Avenue, New York, NY
Explore the Greenwich Village
The Greenwich Village is arguably the most charming neighborhood in New York City. And when you think it can’t possibly be anymore enjoyable, just wait until the fall. Visiting should be on any NYC Thanksgiving visitors agenda.
There’s a plethora of great cafes in the area so grab a warm drink and walk around with your special someone close by.
Greenwich Village in the November is full of life and full of color. Stoops are carefully decorated and Holiday spirit burst throughout the neighborhood.
Admire the brownstones, pop into cozy shops, spend a few minutes appreciating the decorated window displays and walk the streets to your hearts content.
Not everything can (or should) be planned. Make time during your visit to NYC for Thanksgiving to aimlessly wandering – you won’t regret it!
Check out the Bryant Park Holiday Market
One of my personal favorite ways of celebrating Thanksgiving in NYC is to visit the Winter Village at Bryant Park.
The park is transformed into a European-style holiday market, equipped with 100 vendors that line a magical ice skating rink that sits in the shadow of the New York Public Library.
The stalls sell fun Christmas decorations, handmade crafts, unique jewelry and — my favorite — food, lots of good food. Grab a hot chocolate (No Chewing Allowed is my favorite) or mulled wine as you make your way around the lively market.
The 17,000-square foot NYC ice skating rink is free to use if you have your own skates, otherwise rental skates are available. Open 8:00AM to 10:00PM (Mon-Thur) & 8:00AM-11:30PM (Fri-Sun), ice skating should fit into your NYC Thanksgiving trip with ease.
Local’s Tip: Swing by the New York Public Library to see the breathtaking Christmas tree in the lobby.
Or check out the Union Square Holiday Market
The smell of roasting nuts and hot apple cider wafts through the air as crowds of eager locals and tourists alike rub elbows from one cozy stall to the next, in search of fun souvenirs to take home.
Warm up with rich hot chocolate and visit the various vendors selling fun kick-knacks and delicious fare. If you need an extra pep in the your step to combat the winter weather, I suggest the mulled wine.
Enjoy a pie from Petee’s
Looking to keep tradition during your NYC Thanksgiving trip? Why not stop by for a slice of pumpkin pie?
Let me tell you something a lot of other locals would agree with me on, Petee’s makes the best pie in New York City. The family owned business has a quaint and cozy vibe with a hearty home-style taste.
Founder & baker Petra “Petee” Paredez was born to bake. Her parents own a successful pie company in Virginia so it is no surprise she’s able to hold her own amongst the best bakeries in the city.
Stopping by for a slice (or whole pie, no judgement here) has become one of my family’s NYC Thanksgiving traditions over the years, and now it can be one you can partake in with us.
Quality doesn’t waver either, you can taste the fresh and real ingredients with every bite. In fact, the crust is made with organic flour and grass fed butter. You won’t make it down the block without wanting to come back for more.
Address: 61 Delancey St, New York, NY 10002 & 505 Myrtle Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11205
Cheer on the New York Giants football team
Few things are more associated with Thanksgiving than football. In fact, ever since the NFL was created in 1920 games have been played on Thanksgiving day.
The Thanksgiving day games are coveted by teams and players since they are nationally televised and are regularly the most watched games of the season. This year the New York Giants are one of the teams slated to play.
Therefore watching the Giants play on Thanksgiving in NYC should be high on your priorities list, especially if you’re a sports fan.
And if you’re not a sports fan, stop by a bar and watch some slightly inebriated fans yell at the TV as if the players could here them.
Most sport bars will be playing the game on Thanksgiving in NYC, so just pop into your nearest water hole. As far as local favorites I like the Gin Mill in the Upper West Side, Standings in the East Village, and Stout in South Midtown (the Grand Central Station location).
Be sure to tip your bartenders well. They’re working on Thanksgiving instead of being with their families.
Warm up with hot chocolate
You might’ve noticed I suggested getting hot chocolate during your trip to NYC on Thanksgiving more than once. Yes, I admit, I’m a connoisseur of all things cocoa.
As a local, I’m not sure I would have survived the colder months without cocoa to keep me warm. Hot chocolate is a comfort drink for many, regardless of age (don’t let anyone tell you otherwise) and there are many delicious cups begging to be had.
If you like hot chocolate it’s hard to go wrong with just about any cafe in the city, however there are shops that stand out.
If you’re looking for the richest and most thick hot chocolate to sip while you celebrate Thanksgiving in NYC I suggest L.A. Burdick. It quite literally hardens back into solid chocolate if left unfinished.
For a more standard cup of cocoa you should stop by Levain Bakery. Not only do they sell the best cookies in New York City, but their hot chocolate is only $2 for a small and incredibly tasty.
See the Nutcracker at the Lincoln Center
If you’re looking for special things to do during your trip to NYC for Thanksgiving this one is for you. George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker ballet performance at the Lincoln Center has to be the most iconic NYC holiday experience in the Big Apple.
Most folks grew up watching the Nutcracker on TV, but there’s nothing like seeing a live performance by the talented New York City Ballet.
But be forewarned, this is one of the most popular shows and with performances beginning the day after Thanksgiving in NYC (beginning of holiday tourism), tickets sell out quickly.
I must admit, I wasn’t sure I would enjoy seeing the Nutcracker before my first visit. I’m not a ballet person and with tickets clocking in around $100-200 a piece I wasn’t sure it was worth the expense.
However, when my mom and sister visited me during my first Christmas in New York City, I knew we had to go. The 2-hour performance blew me away, I couldn’t stop talking about it!
The talent these ballerinas have is mind boggling and the show is not something you will forget anytime soon. Plus, the live orchestra playing Tschaikovsky’s music is always a nice touch. 😉
Tickets go on sale on September 26th, 2022 and the first show takes place the day after Thanksgiving in NYC.
Address: 20 Lincoln Center Plaza, New York, NY 10023
Cons of visiting NYC for Thanksgiving
Now this goes without saying, but Thanksgiving in NYC is the start of the Holiday season, which is also when New York City can seem the most full. Tourists flock from all around the globe to see the city light up with holiday spirit.
Therefore sidewalks can be crowded, lines can be long, and popular attractions can be sold out. Hotel prices are often on the pricier side and you run the risk of it raining during your visit.
I don’t say this to discourage you from visiting NYC for Thanksgiving, I just want you to be fully aware of the downsides of the holidays in New York City. Truthfully, I would still choose the holidays as my favorite time to visit New York City and hope you will too after your Thanksgiving NYC vacation.
Visiting New York City during Thanksgiving (Post Roundup)
- Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
- Ice Skating in Central Park
- Enjoy Thanksgiving Dinner NYC style
- Rockefeller Tree Lighting
- Explore Chelsea Market
- Christmas Spectacular featuring the Radio City Rockettes
- Try Magnolia’s seasonal banana pudding
- Window Displays on Fifth Avenue
- Explore the Greenwich Village
- Check out the Bryant Park Holiday Market
- Check out the Union Square Holiday Market
- Visit Petee’s Pie Company
- Cheer on the New York Giants football team
- Warm up with hot chocolate
- See the Nutcracker at the Lincoln Center
Map of the best NYC Thanksgiving Activities
I hope you enjoy celebrating Thanksgiving in NYC and found our guide helpful.