Looking for fun and low-cost things to do with kids in Manhattan? We've hand-picked the best family events in New York City from our December calendar, including a variety of both classic and new holiday shows, the best holiday pop-up shops in the city, a historic holiday on the Upper East Side, a pet-blessing service before the New Year, and a special session with the author of "The Polar Express."
Find even more upcoming family events in Manhattan and the NYC area in our full, searchable calendar of events.
At a special Thalia Kids' Book Club event, author Chris Van Allsburg (pictured), winner of two Caldecott Medals for Jumanji and The Polar Express, talks about a new short story collection, The Chronicles of Harris Burdick, in which 14 skilled storytellers such as Kate DiCamillo, Stephen King, and Sherman Alexie spin imaginative tales inspired by the original illustrations from Van Allsburg's 1984 wordless classic, The Mysteries of Harris Burdick. Van Allsburg will show images that tell the story of how the book was put together. Story contributor Jon Scieszka, author of the Spaceheadz series and other children's books, joins the conversation and performs his story Under the Rug. The authors will then lead tweens in the audience in a writing exercise. December 4. 1pm. $15.
Symphony Space, 2537 Broadway, Upper West Side. 212-864-5400. www.symphonyspace.org.
Step into the holiday season of 1830 when you take a Holiday Candlelight Tour of the Mount Vernon Hotel Museum, one of the oldest buildings in Manhattan. Stop by the kitchen to meet Flora, the "help," and hear about her 19th-century holiday preparations (she might even offer you a taste!). December 9 at 6:30pm, 7:30pm, and 8:30pm; December 10 at 5pm, 6pm, and 7pm. $20; $5 children younger than 12.
Mount Vernon Hotel Musuem & Garden, 421 East 61st Street, Upper East Side. 212-838-6878. www.mvhm.org.
Bless the Pets
For many of us, our pets are just as much a part of the family as their human caretakers. Show your four-legged, furry, feathered, or finned family members some extra love this holiday season in honor of the joy they bring you throughout the year. At the ASPCA's Third Annual Blessing of the Animals, hosted by NYC society leader and New York Post columnist Cindy Adams, animal lovers can gather to have their canines, felines, and other pets blessed by a New York City priest or rabbi. The event will include a concert by the Brooklyn Youth Choir, which will perform holiday songs for all ages and ideologies. There will also be treats for pets and their owners. December 11. 2-3pm. FREE.
Christ Church, 520 Park Avenue. 212-876-7700. www.aspca.org.
Christmas in New York
See the world-famous Rockettes perform new numbers and old favorites in the ever-popular Radio City Christmas Spectacular. This year's show, titled The Rockettes Magical Journey, features a new 3DLIVE scene that uses cutting-edge technology to immerse the audience in the show's magical scenery, which extends beyond the stage and onto the ceiling and walls of the historic Radio City Music Hall. The show also remains true to tradition with classic scenes like the "Parade of Wooden Soldiers" and "The Living Nativity." Multiple shows daily, November 11-January 2; go online for full performance schedule. $45 and up.
Radio City Music Hall, 1260 Sixth Avenue. www.radiocitychristmas.com.
First introduced to the stage in the mid-1950s, Peter Pan has become a musical with ageless appeal, capturing the love of several generations with its magical story of a boy who simply refuses to grow up. This month, the show flies into the New York City spotlight for two weeks only, featuring former Olympic gymnast Cathy Rigby in the title role. (Rigby received a Tony nomination for her portrayal of the mischievous Pan in an early '90s revival of the musical.) Amid the classic NYC holiday performances, this wild card show shines with just the right mix of high-flying action and pixie dust. December 14-30; go online for show times. $35-$99; save $15 on tickets with offer code NYMP: visit www.theateratmsg.com/nymp (case sensitive), go to the Theater at MSG Box Office, or call Ticketmaster at 866-858-0008.
The Theater at Madison Square Garden, 4 Penn Plaza (between 31st and 33rd Streets). www.theateratmsg.com.
Doni Zasloff Thomas (aka Mama Doni) and her band celebrate Jewish culture with irrepressible zest in Mama Doni's Chanukah Fever Show, an interactive family rock concert filled with quirky, offbeat tunes that blend reggae, rock, disco, Latin, klezmer, and "Jewgrass." There will be giveaways, including Mama Doni CDs and free downloads for all in attendance, and the band will debut several new songs. December 18. 3pm. $15.
92nd Street Y, Bronfman Center for Jewish Life, 1395 Lexington Avenue, Upper East Side. 212-415-5500. www.92y.org.
More Delightful Holiday Shows
In classic NYC style, there's no shortage of festive family shows this year, from classics like George Balanchine's The Nutcracker (pictured) at Lincoln Center to less traditional but equally entertaining treats like The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
Search the full line-up in our calendar section, or check out a roundup of our favorites.
Stroll the Shops
As the snow descends, take part in an annual New York tradition by strolling through the city's holiday pop-up shops:
Columbus Circle Holiday Market: This seventh annual holiday market offers items like handmade wooden puzzles, gingerbread houses and kits, French truffles, mother and daughter apparel, and handcrafted home accessories. Local food vendors sell cider and other treats. November 30-December 24. 10am-8pm daily (check website for time changes).
Columbus Circle, Central Park South and Central Park West, Manhattan. 212-529-9262. www.urbanspacenyc.com/columbus-circle-holiday-market.
Grand Central Terminal Holiday Fair: Known for its variety, this fair's 12th season features 76 vendors with a wide array of goods at all price levels, including unique crafts, jewelry, clothing, home furnishings, and children's gifts. Through December 24. Monday-Saturday, 10am-8pm; Sunday, 11am-7pm.
Grand Central Terminal, Vanderbilt Hall, Lexington Avenue at 42nd Street, Manhattan. 212-340-2345. www.grandcentralterminal.com.
The Holiday Shops at Bryant Park: The park's tree-lined alleys are transformed into one of the city's premiere holiday shopping destinations, with dozens of custom-designed jewel box kiosks and food vendors. Through January 8, 2012. Monday-Friday, 11am-8pm; Saturday, 10am-9pm; Sunday, 10am-6pm.
Bryant Park, 40th-42nd Streets between 5th and 6th Avenues, Manhattan. 212-768-4242. www.theholidayshopsatbryantpark.com.
Union Square Holiday Market: This famous market features more than 100 merchants selling unique gifts, including hand-blown glass housewares, locally handmade leather belts, bags and accessories made from recycled plastic, a variety of handmade jewelry, and Tibetan crafts. Food vendors will also be selling sweet and savory treats. Visit the Information Booth for help on finding your gifts. Through December 24. Open daily 11am-8pm (check website for time changes).
Union Square, South Plaza, Manhattan. 212-460-1200. www.urbanspacenyc.com/union-square-holiday-market.