My family and I are not fans of winter. Sledding, snowball fights, and snowmen? Eh, my kids and I get cold. From now through March, our Family Saturdays pretty much consist of us hanging out at home in front of our respective screens and then yelling at each other about too much screen time.
But this winter we will be better! We will do things! Since we need a good reason to get out of the house, I collected 24 of them. From classic cold-weather NYC activities (numbers 3, 12, and 14) to brand-new attractions (numbers 1, 4, and 10), I present our Winter of Actually Doing Things Bucket List. Put on your snow pants and get out there with us!
The WSWD Winter of Actually Doing Things Family Bucket List!
1. Slide down Snowzilla, wander through the Enchanted Tree Maze, and take a family photo inside a giant snow globe (Grandma’s gonna want a copy!) at the highly anticipated WinterFest at the Brooklyn Museum, opening November 23. [Update, 12/5/18: Unfortunately, we can no longer recommend WinterFest. As other media outlets have noted—and as WSWD saw on a visit there—the organizers did not follow through on their original plans for the event. We hope that the pop up, now under new management, will improve.]
2. On Thanksgiving eve, head to the areas around the American Museum of Natural History to watch the giant parade balloons—including Hello Kitty, SpongeBob SquarePants, and the Pillsbury Doughboy—come to life up close. Inflation begins at 1 p.m., but the balloons really start to take shape around 4:30–5 p.m.
3. Go ice-skating! Yes, Rockefeller Center and Bryant Park can be crowded, but they’re absolutely classic. Plus, there’s plenty to do, see, eat, and buy while you wait your turn on the ice. For a more low-key skating experience, head to Lakeside in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park.
4. Go roller skating! Dreamland Roller Disco is popping up at Sunset Park’s Industry City with a groovy indoor rink, opening December 7, featuring Roll-a-Rama Family Skate Extravaganzas on Saturdays from 1 to 4 p.m.
5. Breeze through the Warhol retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art, then sip hot chocolate while watching the ships on the Hudson from the eighth-floor windows of the museum’s Studio Cafe.
6. Explore the Brooklyn Children’s Museum’s latest exhibition, “TapeScape,” a giant interactive web made entirely of the sticky stuff. Hide the duct tape when you get home!
8. Let your kids pick out holiday gifts for you and for each other at the just-opened Five Below, a fun and kitschy discount chain where everything is less than, you got it, five bucks.
9. Visit one or two of the historic homes where kids can get a taste of life in New York in the 18th century and beyond. I dragged one of my reluctant sons to the Merchant’s House Museum in NoHo and we were both completely charmed, but Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum, Mount Vernon Hotel Museum & Garden, Van Cortlandt House Museum, and the Morris-Jumel Mansion are all great.
10. Put your kids’ heads on a platter and play poker with four versions of yourself at the fun and funky Museum of Illusions.
11. Even if you’ve been to One World Observatory already, try to go again after it has snowed. Seeing the city blanketed in white is something else.
12. Speaking of One World Observatory, it makes its miniature debut at the magical Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden, where model trains zip through a Manhattan meticulously made of twigs, acorns, seeds, and leaves.
13. Eat all the pie.
14. Meet Santa! You can book a time to pull his beard at Macy’s iconic Santaland starting November 18. My prize for most authentic Santa, though, goes to the big guy in red at ABC Carpet & Home, where he’ll be fulfilling kids’ wishes between November 24 and December 22.
15. Say “choo-choo!” a bunch of times at the Holiday Train Show at Grand Central, a favorite tradition for railroad enthusiasts of all ages. The models, designed by the experts at the New York Transit Museum, are fascinatingly detailed.
16. Come light the “Largest Menorah in Brooklyn” at Grand Army Plaza every night of Hanukkah. Expect live music and hot latkes!
17. Celebrate Kwanzaa with live music, dance, and storytelling on December 29 at the American Museum of Natural History’s 40th annual holiday event. Peruse the handmade crafts and art by local artisans at the Harlem Art Alliance’s marketplace while you’re there.
18. Drive or walk through Dyker Heights, the South Brooklyn neighborhood that single-handedly keeps the holiday lights industry in business by blanketing its homes, lawns, and streets in blinding Christmas decor.
19. Hop on an old-timey Christmas trolley tour of New York City. Santa himself leads the way—past the Rockefeller Christmas tree and the decorated storefronts all the way to Dyker Heights—and an elf serves hot chocolate.
20. Buy buttons (yes, buttons!) at the cutest wittle shop in NYC.
21. Cold days are for matinees. Snuggle with your kids at one of our favorite family-friendly theatrical performances.
22. Learn something new with your kids at a family class.
23. Have an early dinner of chili and burgers at this 200-year-old, everyone-should-eat-or-drink-here-once New York City pub.
24. Belt out Bowie songs (or, more likely, “Let It Go”) with your kids at a daytime karaoke sesh.