Thanksgiving marks the official start to the holiday season, and New York is a world capital of holiday cheer. From the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to the lighting of the iconic Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center—and of course the opening night of The Nutcracker at Lincoln Center—it will be hard to avoid the festivities. However, if you’re looking for something a little more serious, consider catching the play Eclipsed before it closes. Should you need to escape all together, enjoy a respite at the Mohonk Mountain House in the Hudson Valley.
November 26 | Thanksgiving parade
Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
Nothing says Thanksgiving in New York like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Whether you brave the crowds (and the cold) or you watch from home on television, the parade—now in its 89th year—is a city institution. The spectacle features dozens of oversize balloons and decked-out floats, 12 marching bands from around the country, dance and cheerleading troupes, snippets from Broadway shows, and performances from superstars such as Mariah Carey and Pat Benatar. As always, Santa—fresh from the North Pole—brings up the rear to usher in the next holiday. If you’re planning on staking out a spot along the parade route, aim to arrive a few hours early in order to see all the action.
9 a.m. | 77th St. and Central Park West to 34th St. and 7th Ave. | Free | website
November 27 | Ballet opening night
Another hallmark of the holiday season, The Nutcracker opens the day after Thanksgiving at the New York City Ballet at Lincoln Center. Featuring the choreography of legendary George Balanchine (cofounder of the NYC Ballet), this classic Tchaikovsky ballet boasts 90 dancers and 62 musicians—not to mention a Christmas tree that weighs one ton and grows from 12 to 41 feet on stage. It is pure holiday joy, a magical performance that can be appreciated by people of all ages. Everyone will leave with visions of sugar plum fairies dancing in their heads.
Times vary | David H. Koch Theater, 20 Lincoln Center Plaza | From $75 | website
November 29 | Last chance theater
For something more serious, time is running out to see Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o in Eclipsed at The Public Theater. This acclaimed feminist play, with a strong cast of five African American women, takes place during the Liberian Civil War that was raging in the early 2000s. The women are the “wives” of a rebel officer, and they must band together for survival while also figuring out individually their best course of action. Each woman represents a facet of the war and shows how trying it is to live in such dire conditions, but each also demonstrates the strength and resilience of the people. Hurry: Tickets for the last few nights of the show are almost sold out.
Times vary | The Public Theater, 425 Lafayette St. | From $90 | website
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December 2 | Holiday spirit
Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting
The lighting of the Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center is one of those really touristy things that still gets New Yorkers’ attention, and it’s definitely something to see in person at least once. This will be the 83rd annual tree lighting, and will be attended by thousands of people—so definitely get there early if you want a spot. This year’s tree is an 80-year-old, 78-foot-tall Norway spruce that weighs a whopping 10 tons! It will take 45,000 multicolored LED lights on five miles of wire to illuminate the tree, which will be topped by a 550-pound star encrusted with 25,000 Swarovski crystals.
7 p.m. | Rockefeller Plaza, btwn. W. 48th and W. 51st Streets and Fifth and Sixth Avenues. | Free | website
Mohonk Mountain House
Whether you want to get away for Thanksgiving itself or escape after the big meal, Mohonk Mountain House is the perfect retreat. Set in the picturesque Hudson Valley, this Victorian castle resort will transport you worlds away. If you don’t feel like cooking, they’re offering a Thanksgiving grand luncheon buffet with all the fixings. There are plenty of ways to work off all the turkey and stuffing you may have consumed, including golf, hiking, rock climbing, fitness classes, and more. There’s also a world-class spa should you need to unwind after all that family time. As an added bonus, the resort is all-inclusive (and features some pretty stellar food), so there’s truly no reason to leave.
A native New Yorker, Katherine is a freelance food and travel writer who has eaten her way across the globe and is always on the lookout for her next great meal. She is an avid reader, insatiable traveler, sometimes photographer, and mom to an inquisitive toddler.