The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons being inflated

Watching the parade and stuffing yourself with a delicious Thanksgiving meal are excellent ways to spend the holiday, but if you are looking for a new way to celebrate this year, we have some suggestions. From seeing the parade balloons before they float down 6th Avenue, to walking or running off that extra slice of pumpkin pie, check out our picks for unique Thanksgiving events happening in New York City this year:

1. Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloon Inflation

If you want a sneak peek of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons, you can watch them be inflated the night before, from 1:00pm through 8:00PM on Wednesday, November 27th, the balloons will take shape as they are filled with helium outside the Museum of Natural History. The path of inflation winds all the way around the Museum, starting at the public entrance on 74th Street and Columbus Avenue. This year, balloons you will see include astronaut Snoopy, Olaf, Spongebob and more. 

It is advised that you arrive early to secure a spot. The balloons start to take shape between 1pm-3pm. All spectators will go through a security checkpoint and enter the inflation area at 74th Street and Central Park West. The exit is at 81st Street and Central Park West. There have been reports that the wind may be too strong for the balloons to fly at all or very high for this yea’rs parade, so the balloon blowing may be your best time to catch them! The 93rd Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is scheduled to take place on Thursday, November 28, 2019, from 9 AM to Noon ET. You can watch from a spot along the 2.5 miles of public viewing space, or from the comfort of your home on NBC.

2. Behind-the-Scenes Hard Hat Tour of Ellis Island’s Abandoned Hospital

Hard Hat Tour of the Abandoned Hospital on Ellis Island

Grab a hard hat and venture into the abandoned halls of Ellis Island’s hospital complex. The hospital on the south shore of Ellis Island has been closed for more than sixty years and it was built more than 100 years ago. During the years the site was active, it also served as offices for the FBI and a training facility for the U.S. Coast Guard.

This Thanksgiving weekend, you can explore the site on a behind-the-scenes tour. Throughout the 29-abandoned buildings you will find pieces of an art installation by artist JR, life-size images that have been curated from Ellis Island’s historical archives, and pasted on the walls, furniture, windows, doors and floors. Guests will learn about the history of the site and plans for its future. 

Behind-the-Scenes Hard Hat Tour of the Abandoned Ellis Island Hospital

3. Run in a Turkey Trot

NYC Turkey TrotPhotograph by Ayelen Fumis, Courtesy of NYC Turkey Trot

Run off the the extra food you stuffed in on Thanksgiving at New York City Turkey Trot. This year, the 5k and half marathon races will take place in Flushing Meadows on Saturday, November 30th. There will be locally made doughnuts from Doughnut Plant waiting for you at the finish line and everyone who completes the run gets a commemorative medal. Runners and walkers are welcomed to participate. 

4. Holiday Train Show

New York Botanical Garden Holiday Train Show

See the spectacle that is the 2019 Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden. The train show is bigger than ever this year as it moves into a new space adjacent to the Haupt Conservatory (the historic glass building is under renovation). The train show features miniature replicas of New York City’s most beloved structures, and they are all made out of natural materials!

New to the show this year are historic structures from Central Park, such as the Bethesda Terrace and Belvedere Castle. These structures join the leaf, seed, nut, twig and bark covered versions of other well-known sites such as the New York Public Library, the Brooklyn Bridge and the Little Red Lighthouse to create a winter wonderland version of the New York City. Model trains chug along a maze of tracks that wind through the festive scene. The show runs through January 26th, 2020.

5. Take an Underground Tour of the NYC Subway

Take a ride through the living history of the world’s largest rapid transit system (in area) by weaving in and out of the past and present transit hubs of lower Manhattan. This unique tour is designed to give a comprehensive history of the NYC Subway system, from its groundbreaking in 1901 up through the creation of the three different proprietary lines which were unified into the system we know today. We’ll uncover information and learn about spaces even the most seasoned commuter might not know about.

This tour will stop in stations that are all open to the public. Using the 6 train as our own ten-car time machine, we will ride through and see three abandoned ghost stations that 4, 5, and 6 riders unknowingly pass through everyday: Worth Street, 18th Street and the famed City Hall Station. (We will not stop inside these stations, but our guides will have flashlights to show you the details).

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6. Watch a Movie at the Paris Theatre! 

Paris Theatre playing Marriage Story from NetflixPhoto courtesy of Netflix, by Marion Curtis

Netflix has taken out a lease at the shuttered Paris Theatre in Midtown, saving the iconic theater for special events, screenings, and theatrical releases of its films. This week until Friday, the critically acclaimed movie Marriage Story starring Scarlett Johannsson, Adam Driver, and Laura Dern will be showing. The public can book tickets here.

From Thanksgiving through New Years Eve Nitehawk Cinema will host The Nitehawk Holiday Show Spectacular, a series of movie screenings that include all of your holiday favorites. Both the Prospect Park and Williamsburg locations will show movies that include Christmas Vacation, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Home Alone, and more.

The best part about Nitehawk movies is that you can enjoy a meal and a drink in the theater. Screenings are often accompanied by special food and beverage pairings, plus some of screenings happen during brunch time. 

7. Ride a Vintage Subway Car

Vintage nostalgia rides on NYC subway

See what train travel used to be like with the Transit Museum’s Holiday Nostalgia Rides. Every year, on select days during the holiday season, vintage 1930s R1-9 train cars are mixed in during regular service on the F, A, C, and D lines of the New York City subway. The trains start running between 2nd Avenue in Lower Manhattan all the way up to 125th street on Sunday, December 1st.

For the price of a regular MetroCard swipe, you can travel back in time and ride in one of the original cars of the IND, the first subway company operated by the City of New York. The cars feature rattan seats, paddle ceiling fans and vintage advertisements. Head to the Transit Museum’s website for a full list of schedules and routes for the vintage subway cars and buses.

8. Take a Scenic Walk

Staten Island Greenbelt

Enjoy the last days of warmish weather in New York City with a scenic Black Friday Walk hosted by the NYC Parks Department. Led by an Urban Park Ranger, these walks will take hikers through some of the city’s most bucolic settings, in parks throughout the five boroughs. Catch the last bit of foliage in along the Staten Island Greenbelt on the White Trail, visit the Alley Pond Giant (a massive Tulip Tree that is the oldest and tallest in New York City), or walk through the wetlands of the Northwest Woods in the Bronx. Check the NYC Parks Department website for times and meeting locations for these free guided hikes!

9. Start Your Holiday Shopping

The holiday market inside the Oculus.

Check out some of New York City’s many holiday marketplaces for a one-of-a-kind gift. This year you will find marketplaces in the usual spots, Grand Central Terminal, Bryant Park, and Union Square, as well as in the Oculus at the World Trade Center. In Brooklyn, you can find handmade wares and unique items at the Holiday Bazaar and Bust Craftacular in Industry City. If you are looking for something even more offbeat, check out the Oddities Flea Market, which features vendors that offer goods such as taxidermy animals, antique medical instruments, and obscure handmade jewelry and decor.

10. Hop on Your Bike for Cranksgiving

A man in a turkey costume celebrates with a crowd of people at CranksgivingImage Courtesy of Cranksgiving

“Part bike ride, part food drive, part scavenger hunt,” Cranksgiving is a fun charity event on wheels. Held annually in New York City since 1999, this crowd-sourced event has helped to provide thousands of needy families with food during the week of Thanksgiving. Individuals set up Cranksgivings all over and on multiple dates, so you can pick when you want to participate. the last available Cranksgiving will set off from Brooklyn on December 7th.

All you need is a bike, a bag, a lock, and about $15-$25 to buy food. There is no registration cost and there is no advance registration necessary. You simply show up to a meeting location, grab a grocery list, and head out to collect your supplies. All donations collected are then given to a local charity. Prizes will be given away to the first-place male/female/out-of-towner, and to best costume and most generous donor/rider!

Next, check out The Top 10 Secrets of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in NYC and Throw Back Thursday 1924: The First Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade