The new astronaut Snoopy balloon

Everyone knows the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is the biggest Thanksgiving event in the country, but it’s not the only exciting thing happening this week in New York City! As we prepare to stuff ourselves with turkey, mashed potatoes, and pie, there are a variety of fun Thanksgiving events in NYC to take part in. From Native American hoop dancing performances to a food donation scavenger hunt, check out the best Thanksgiving events happening this year in New York City!

1. Celebrate Evacuation Day at Federal Hall

Federal Hall exterior

Evacuation Day is a November holiday in New York City that was once bigger than Thanksgiving. Observed on November 25th, this early American holiday marked the date on which the last British soldiers left Manhattan after the Revolutionary War in 1783. While Thanksgiving has certainly grown to overshadow this historic marker, there are still ways to celebrate.

This year at Federal Hall, Park Ranger Ryan Ventura will give a talk on Wednesday, November 23rd at 11 AM about the loyalist factions that supported the British, what New York City was like under British rule from 1776 to 1783, and Martial law in New York City.

2. Uncover the Secrets of Rockefeller Center

Aerial view of 2020 Rockefeller Center Christmas tree
Diane Bondareff/AP Images for Tishman Speyer

There are few places in New York City that embody the holiday spirit quite like Rockefeller Center. Throughout Thanksgiving week, you can join an expert Untapped New York tour guide for a trip to this iconic Art Deco site where you’ll uncover surprising secrets like a model plane designed by Cartier, the last bolt hammered in by John D. Rockefeller himself, and you can peek at that famous tree. Untapped New York’s Secrets of Rockefeller Center tour will show you a side of Rockefeller Center that the hoards of tourists and visitors usually miss! Don’t forget, Untapped New York’s Black Friday sale is happening now!

Rockefeller Center

Secrets of Rockefeller Center

3. Cranksgiving

A man in a turkey costume celebrates with a crowd of people at Cranksgiving, one of many Thanksgiving events in NYC
Image Courtesy of Cranksgiving

Cranksgiving is a part bike ride, part food drive, and part scavenger hunt event that takes place every year in the city. The concept of Cranksgiving is simple—you show up, grab a map, figure out the best route, and start when they say “go”! The organizers of Cranksgiving essentially create a master list of items requested by local charities and places to buy them. These items are broken down into individual “manifests” that volunteers grab. The idea is to ride to a grocery store, buy food/items, and take them to the designated charity centers—thus helping hundreds of families have food on their tables during the week of Thanksgiving.

Cranksgiving events are locally organized and you can find one in your area on this map. This year there a re three Cranksgiving organizers in New York City, one in Brooklyn, one in Manhattan, and one in Queens. Each local event is a little different, and you may be able to compete for a prize!

4. Uncover Remnants of Dutch New Amsterdam

A tour guest touches an 18th century wall

Learn more about New York’s earliest settlers on Untapped New York’s tour of Dutch New Amsterdam! With the first map of Manhattan in your hands, you’ll walk the streets of 1667 New York while uncovering the myths and legends of its first colony. You’ll even get a chance to physically touch remnants of early New York, from the historic fence at Bowling Green which dates to 1771 to an 18th-century stone wall hidden in plain sight in a subway station. Join Untapped New York’s licensed city tour guides for a trip back in time!

Dutch houses on Williams Street

Remnants of Dutch New Amsterdam

5. Watch Native American Hoop Dancing Performances

Alexander Hamilton Customs House

Visit the National Museum of the American Indian in Lower Manhattan on Thursday, November 25th to learn about the meaning and history of hoop dancing in Native culture. Top-ranking hoop dancer Joseph Secody (Navajo), who has performed at the Dubai World Expo and World Champion Hoop Dance Contest in Phoenix, will conduct demonstrations of the colorful dance.

This event, which will take place beneath the stunning rotunda of the museum building, is free. Performances will go on throughout the day at 11 AM, 1 PM, 2:30 PM, and 4 PM.

6. See the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloons Being Inflated

Workers attach an air hose to one of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons, a beloved Thanksgiving event in NYC

Want a sneak peek of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons? You can watch them being inflated the day before! From noon through 6 PM on Wednesday, November 23rd, the balloons will take shape as they are filled with helium outside the Museum of Natural History. Be sure to get there early for a good spot, and enter the line at West 72nd Street and Columbus Avenue.

The balloons really start to take shape between 1 PM and 3 PM. New balloons that will debut this year include Stuart the one-eyed Minion from “Despicable Me 2,” a new green dinosaur, an Apatosaurus, and animated sensation “Bluey.”

7. Revisit the Gilded Age on a Tour of NYC’s Fifth Ave Mansions

Ukrainian Institute

Take a stroll along Fifth Avenue as it was during the Gilded Age when grand mansions of millionaires lined the illustrious street on Untapped New York’s Fifth Ave Gilded Age Mansions Tour. As you walk up and down Millionaire’s Row, you’ll discover works of architecture lost to time and some that remain today with a new purpose. You’ll learn about the architecture of the homes, see stunning historical images, and hear the scintillating stories of the affairs that took place inside.

Vanderbilt Mansion nyc

Fifth Ave Gilded Age Mansions Tour

8. Explore NYC Parks on a Post-Thanksgiving Day Hike

The Alley Pond Giant

Walk off that delicious Thanksgiving dinner and explore the natural beauty of New York City’s parks on a Post-Thanksgiving Day Hike. These hikes are led by Urban Park Rangers and take you past some of the city’s most special natural sites such as the oldest and tallest tree in Alley pond Park and a former landfill turn scenic recreation area. You can see a list of all participating parks here.

9. Explore the Secrets of Grand Central Terminal

Christmas wreaths deck the main concourse of Grand Central Terminal

Close to a million people pass through Grand Central Terminal every day, yet very few know the many stories and secrets that you will learn on this tour. As you hear about the terminal’s original, its glittering glory days, and near demolition, you’ll see hidden features, design quirks, and much more. With the aid of your expert Untapped New York Tour guide, you’ll peek into the entrance of the glass walkways, see Grand Central’s hidden tennis court, locate the hidden symbols of the family that built Grand Central, and more!

Grand central aerial

Tour the Secrets of Grand Central

10. Walk Through NYC’s Largest Outdoor Holiday Light Display

Image Courtesy of the New York Botanical Garden

The twinkling topiaries, a glittering gazebo walk, and spherical white pollen puffs will illuminate the grounds of the New York Botanical Garden this week with NYBG GLOW, New York City’s largest outdoor holiday light display. This light experience accompanies the garden’s beloved Holiday Train Show, which also returned this year for its 31st iteration.

New to the light show this year is a dazzling display on the water feature at the Native Plant Garden. Historic buildings such as the LuEsther T. Metz Library will be transformed into canvases for mesmerizing light projections. Check the NYBG website for exact NYBG GLOW dates and tickets.

Next, check out 10 Secrets of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade