As a proud New Yorker who loves the holidays, Thanksgiving is the unofficial kickoff to the holiday season. Thus I’ve spent the last few years soaking in all the fun things to do in NYC on Thanksgiving day & weekend. From the parade, to the decorations to the seasonal food, there’s a lot to enjoy!
And 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. Let’s get into it!
Tips for Visiting NYC on Thanksgiving
Most Stores Will be Closed on Actual Thanksgiving Day
Thanksgiving Day is one of the few holidays that stores in New York City close for. Some stores, like drug stores and bodegas are open at their discretion, but don’t expect 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. While visiting NYC for Thanksgiving you’re going to want walking 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. Whether it’s a restaurant or a show, having your seats secured ahead of time can save a lot of headaches.
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 +3 to avoid). Don’t have time? Here’s our favorite hotel in NYC, hands down.
Things to Do for Thanksgiving in New York City
Table of Contents: Thanksgiving in NYC
Table of Contents: New York City Thanksgiving Guide
- Tips for Visiting NYC on Thanksgiving
- Things to Do for Thanksgiving in New York City
- Attend the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
- Go Ice Skating in Central Park
- Enjoy Thanksgiving Dinner in true NYC fashion
- Enjoy the Rockefeller Tree Lighting Festival
- Stroll Through Chelsea Market’s Fall Decorations
- Watch the Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes
- Try Magnolia’s Seasonal Banana Pudding
- Check out the Dazzling Holiday Window Displays on Fifth Avenue
- Visit the Winter Village at Bryant Park
- Or Check Out the Union Square Holiday Market
- Enjoy a Slice of Pie from Petee’s
- Cheer on the New York Giants Football Team
- Warm Up with Hot Chocolate
- See the Nutcracker at the Lincoln Center
- Enjoy a Meal at a Decorated Christmas Restaurant
- Cons of Visiting NYC for Thanksgiving
- Visiting New York City during Thanksgiving (Post Roundup)
- Map of the best NYC Thanksgiving Activities
- More Helpful Links:
Attend the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
The crown jewel of Thanksgiving in NYC is the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, a cherished tradition since 1924, only suspended during World War II and adapted during the pandemic. Televised nationally for over seven decades, this iconic parade attracts 50 million viewers across the country.
Watching it live is a must during your visit to the Big Apple. For three hours on Thanksgiving morning, 12-foot floats navigate from West 77th Street & Central Park West to Macy’s in Herald Square—the largest department store in the US.
Live broadcasting starts at 9:00 AM, but arriving at least 2 hours early is recommended to secure a prime spot for this epic NYC fall event. For more info I’ve written a full Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Tips & Tricks Guide to make celebrating the holiday in NYC easier.
(Bonus) Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloon Blow Up
Here’s a local’s tip: you can actually see the prepwork that goes into the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on the Upper West Side. The balloons are inflated in the streets surrounding the American Museum of Natural History, and entry is free.
The inflating takes place the Wednesday before the parade from 12-6 PM and is one of the best ways to celebrate Thanksgiving in NYC with kids. I also strongly encourage you show up early because the lines can get massive. Last year I arrived at 1PM and had to wait 2+ hours!
Go Ice Skating in Central Park
Ice skating is one of the most popular things to do during the fall in 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, and it’s become so famous that the rink has been featured in movies. Open 7 days a week so there’s no excuse not to visit during your Thanksgiving NYC trip.
Note: Wollman Rink is CASH-ONLY, but there’s an ATM onsite. You can also get around this by buying tickets online ahead of time.
Enjoy Thanksgiving Dinner in true NYC fashion
You might be thinking you’ll have to give up a traditional dinner while visit New York City for Thanksgiving, but this city rarely disappoints. There’s an abundance of 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. But alas, if you’re a stickler for tradition there’s a plethora of classic Thanksgiving dinner restaurants in New York City.
Most restaurants serve prix 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) per person.
Enjoy the Rockefeller Tree Lighting Festival
The annual lighting of the Rockefeller Christmas Tree, a tradition since 1933, is a must-see during your Thanksgiving visit to NYC, typically occurring at the end of November or early December. A new tree, standing at least 75 feet tall, is selected each year, adorned with over 50,000 lights and crowned by a dazzling Swarovski star.
To fully enjoy this Christmas masterpiece, plan an early visit to avoid intense crowds that follow Thanksgiving. I’ll keep an eye on the Rockefeller Center’s website and update this article when there’s a date for the 2024 tree lighting ceremony.
Stroll Through Chelsea Market’s Fall Decorations
Don’t miss a visit to Chelsea Market during your Thanksgiving trip to NYC, a popular food hall with 35 vendors offering tasty treats and unique shops, adorned with epic seasonal decorations. It’s a must-see, akin to the house on the block that goes all out for Halloween or Christmas.
The market’s vibrant atmosphere and festive decor make it an unmissable Thanksgiving activity, whether you’re shopping or simply enjoying the surroundings. Not to mention, Chelsea Market is a great spot to take a break, warm up with a treat, and escape any unfavorable weather. Highlights include matcha from Chalait, warm donuts from Doughnuttery, tacos from Los Tacos No. 1, and more.
Watch the Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes
Website: Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes
Address: Radio City Music Hall, 1260 6th Ave, New York, NY 10020
Experience the iconic Rockettes’ Christmas Spectacular Show at Radio City Music Hall, a holiday tradition since the 1930s that promises dancing, music, and abundant holiday spirit. The Rockettes, renowned globally, deliver a mesmerizing 90-minute performance filled with awe-inspiring choreography and gravity-defying high kicks.
Perfect for families and enjoyable for everyone, the show runs from November 17th to January 1st, with multiple performances per day and tickets available for as little as $50. Witnessing this spectacular production during your Thanksgiving trip to NYC is a must, and the dedication and skill showcased by the Rockettes make it an unforgettable holiday experience for all.
Try Magnolia’s Seasonal Banana Pudding
Indulge in the best NYC Thanksgiving dessert at Magnolia Bakery, founded in 1996 and famed for its appearance in Sex and the City. While one of the best bakeries in New York City thanks to their decadent cakes and cupcakes, their true masterpiece is the creamy and divine banana pudding.
Elevating the experience, seasonal flavors like pumpkin spice and apple crisp pudding have become favorites. With multiple locations across the city, a visit to Magnolia Bakery is a must during your Thanksgiving trip to NYC. Consider exploring their seasonal offerings, a delightful priority that may just earn you a spot on their payroll, given the sheer number of visits.
Check out the Dazzling Holiday Window Displays on Fifth Avenue
Location: Fifth Avenue between 49th and 59th Streets
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 (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 listed as one of the most expensive shopping streets 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.
Visit the Winter Village at Bryant Park
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 the best in NYC!) or mulled wine as you make your way around the lively holiday market.
Or Check Out the Union Square Holiday Market
Similar to the Winter Village at Bryant Park, the Union Square Holiday Market is a beloved local market that draws folks in by the
boat subway-load. 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. Stop by while visiting New York City for Thanksgiving and pick up a unique souvenir to take home.
Enjoy a Slice of Pie from Petee’s
For a cherished NYC Thanksgiving tradition, indulge in the best pumpkin pie in New York City at Petee’s. The family-owned bakery, founded by Petra “Petee” Paredez, offers a cozy atmosphere and hearty, home-style taste. With baking in her genes, Petee upholds the family’s pie legacy, delivering top-notch quality.
Whether opting for a slice or a whole pie, the experience becomes a delightful tradition. The use of organic flour and grass-fed butter in the crust highlights the commitment to fresh and real ingredients. Once you savor the first bite, the irresistible taste will beckon you back for more, making it a must-stop on your NYC Thanksgiving itinerary.
Cheer on the New York Giants Football Team
Celebrate Thanksgiving in NYC with a time-honored tradition – football. Since the NFL’s inception in 1920 Thanksgiving day games have been a staple, attracting nationwide viewership. The 2024 schedule has yet to be released, but New York has two teams (the Giants & Jets) that could have a game.
For those less inclined towards sports, soak in the spirited atmosphere at a local bar, where passionate fans may add some lively commentary. There’s a wide-variety of sports bars in New York City, and at a bare minimum you can enjoy a drink.
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. If you also 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 classic 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 top-notch.
See the Nutcracker at the Lincoln Center
George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker ballet at the Lincoln Center is a timeless tradition at the Lincoln Center. While many grew up watching it on TV, the live performance by the New York City Ballet offers an unparalleled experience. Commencing the day after Thanksgiving in NYC, this iconic show is immensely popular, and tickets sell out before you can say Lincoln Center three times fast.
Initially skeptical, my first visit to The Nutcracker left me awestruck. The breathtaking talent of the ballerinas, coupled with Tschaikovsky’s enchanting music played by a live orchestra made it an unforgettable spectacle. Despite ticket prices ranging from $100-200, the magical two-hour performance is well worth the expense and an unforgettable memory of a Thanksgiving trip to NYC.
Enjoy a Meal at a Decorated Christmas Restaurant
Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the holiday season in New York City, and countless restaurants have the date circled on their calendars to begin stringing up decorations. They cover every available surface in garlands and baubles, creating a sight to behold.
Some of the best restaurants include Oscar Wilde, Serra by Birreria and Lillie’s Victorian Establishment. If you’re interested in a full guide we’ve written a post covering 15 top-notch Christmas restaurants in New York City (and have included pictures) to help you find the best.
Cons of Visiting NYC for Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving in New York City marks the beginning of the bustling holiday season, attracting tourists worldwide to witness the city adorned with festive lights. As a result, sidewalks are crowded, lines are lengthy, and popular attractions may be sold out. Hotel and prices and flights tend to be higher, and there’s a chance of rain during your visit.
But…. despite these challenges, the holiday atmosphere in New York City is unparalleled, making it my preferred time to experience the city. In the name of transparency I just wanted to tell you the primary reasons somebody might avoid New York City during Thanksgiving, but I wouldn’t shy away from a trip.
Average Temperatures in NYC During Thanksgiving Week
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.
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
- 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
- Enjoy a Meal at a Decorated Christmas Restaurant
Frequently Asked Questions:
Thanksgiving is a fantastic time to visit New York, offering a unique blend of holiday magic, festive events, and the unmistakable charm of the city adorned in autumn splendor.
The most famous event in New York on Thanksgiving Day is the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, a beloved tradition featuring giant balloons, floats, and performances that captivate millions of viewers.
Manhattan is typically busy during Thanksgiving, as the holiday season kicks off with events, parades, and an influx of tourists.
New York is busy at Thanksgiving, with crowds drawn to holiday events, parades, and festive activities throughout the city.
While some places may be closed on Thanksgiving Day in New York, many restaurants, attractions, and shops remain open, offering various activities and options for both locals and visitors.
Map of the best NYC Thanksgiving Activities
More Helpful Links:
The Best Dinner: 15 Tantalizing Thanksgiving Dinner Restaurants in New York City (2024)
Everything About the Parade: Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Guide (Tips & Tricks for 2023)
Things to Do: 25 Fun Fall Activities in New York City (Helpful 2024 Guide)
The Best Fall Foliage: 10+ Breathtaking Spots for Fall Color in New York City
Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth: 15 Festive Fall Treats in New York City (You Don’t Want to Miss!)
More Treats: 10 Amazing Apple Cider Donuts in NYC (The BEST Fall Treat)
Drink Something Warm: 20 Best Cups of Hot Chocolate in NYC (Local’s Guide)
I hope you enjoy celebrating Thanksgiving in NYC and found our guide helpful.
Happy holidays, and until next time. Alejandro.