The Lists

10 Family Events Perfect to Enjoy with Kids this Winter 2021

family outings, events, exhibits, activities and experiences to enjoy with the kids in your life this Winter 2021, including festivals, plays, and museums.

Winter is almost here, and as part of our Winter 2021 Preview, we’re scoping out all the events, experiences and entertainment you should add to your calendar for the upcoming months.  To that end, our correspondent Jillian Tangen has curated a list of the top ten family outings, events, exhibits, activities and experiences to enjoy with the kids in your life this Winter 2021, including festivals, plays, and museums.

Perfect family events to enjoy with kids this Winter 2021

Wintertime definitely has its perks – the holiday season, toasting a new year, ski vacations and lots of opportunities for enjoying decadent hot chocolates. But cold weather comes with its own set of challenges. Like below-freezing temps and the temptation to stay home and hibernate until spring.

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But as we learned last year, being cooped up inside your home with the kids climbing all over the place and let’s be real – also all over you – is no way to spend the winter. Which is why this year we’re planning on getting the kids out of the house.

But where to, you ask?

family outings, events, exhibits, activities and experiences to enjoy with the kids in your life this Winter 2021, including festivals, plays, and museums.

Family outings, events, exhibits, activities and experiences to enjoy with kids this Winter, including festivals, plays, and museums.

Thanks to the approval of coronavirus vaccines for kids and the return of some big annual holiday favorites. Plus some totally new events and openings. There’s no shortage of family friendly winter fun to be had this year.

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From the arrival of some of the oldest predators at the Natural History Museum to a journey to the land of sweets at Lincoln Center. And not one, but two chances of spotting Santa, here are 10 family outings, events, movies, museum exhibitions and festivals to check out this winter.

Best winter outings with kids this year.

10 family events perfect to enjoy with kids this Winter 2021

performing and visual arts

1. nybg holiday train show and NYBG Glow

The Holiday Train Show at New York’s Botanical Garden is celebrating its 30th year with a brand new model of the LuEsther T. Mertz Library building. It will be taking its place alongside about 175 other well-known NYC landmarks.

friendly family Winter events for kids

Best family Winter outings, events, festivals, and activities with kids: NYBG Holiday Train Show. Courtesy Photo.

Little ones will love seeing Rockefeller Center, the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge made out of natural materials like acorns, pine cones, birch bark, cinnamon sticks and lotus pods. Meanwhile, more than 25 model trains, including Thomas the Tank Engine, will be whizzing by. Book your tickets for this Christmas activity in advance. And take note: if you time it right, you can enjoy the enchanting outdoor holiday lights exhibition NYBG Glow. The nighttime light show returns for its sophomore season – Nov 20 – Jan 23

2. encanto

Disney’s 60th animated film Encanto tells the story of the Madrigal family, who live hidden in the mountains of Colombia in a magical place called the Encanto.

friendly family Winter events for kids

Best winter outings, events, festivals, and activities to do with kids this year: Encanto. Courtesy Photo.

The magic of the Encanto has blessed every child in the family with a unique gift. From super strength to the power to heal. Every child, that is, except Mirabel. When she discovers that Encanto is in danger, she concludes that she is her family’s last hope at saving the magic – Nov 24

3. george balanchine’s the nutcracker

New York City Ballet’s family friendly production of George Balachine’s The Nutcracker returns to Lincoln Center this holiday season. Complete, of course, with the awe-inducing one ton Christmas tree that grows from 12 to 40 feet.

friendly family Winter events for kids

Best winter outings, events, festivals, and activities to do with kids this year: The Nutcracker. Courtesy Photo.

It will have an onstage snowstorm and hundreds of elaborate costumes, including one for Mother Ginger that measures nine feet wide and weighs 85 pounds – Nov 25 – Jan 22

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4. inspiring walt disney: the animation of french decorative arts

For the first time ever, The Metropolitan Museum of Art will feature the work of Walt Disney on its walls. Inspiring Walt Disney: The Animation of French Decorative Arts will draw new parallels between the magical creations of the Disney Studios and their artistic models. Learn how Walt Disney’s fascination with European art resulted in the use of French motifs in Disney films and theme parks.

friendly family Winter events for kids

Best winter outings, events, festivals, and activities to do with kids this year: Inspiring Walt Disney at the Met. Courtesy Photo.

The exhibitions will feature about 40 works of 18th century European decorative arts and design alongside 150 production artworks and works on paper from the Walt Disney Animation Research Library and Disney Archives including childhood classics like Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Beauty and the Beast – Dec 10 – Mar 6

5. sharks

Following the opening of the new Hall of Rocks and Minerals, NYC’s iconic Museum of Natural History is opening another new exhibit. It’s dedicated to one of nature’s most misunderstood creatures: sharks.

Friendly family Winter events, festivals, and activities for kids: Sharks. Courtesy Photo.

The new exhibition, aptly named Sharks, will allow visitors to “discover the incredible diversity of this ancient and fascinating group of fishes.” They’re even older than dinosaurs! The exhibit will feature dozens of life-sized models, ranging from 33 feet to 5 inches long. Along with fossils from the Museum’s collections and interactive exhibits. Visitors can take on challenges and learn more in the process. Like going on a hunt like a hammerhead does – Dec 15

activities

6. stranger things pop up

Ahead of its season 4 debut next year, check out the Stranger Things Pop-up Stores in NYC and LA. Part store, part interactive experience, fans can stroll through various iconic settings from the show. Like Joyce’s Christmas-light-strewn living room. The Starcourt Mall. The Palace Arcade (with working ’80’s video games). And the Snowball Dance at Hawkins Middle School. All to an early ’80’s soundtrack.

Friendly family Winter events, festivals, and activities for kids: Stranger Things. Courtesy Photo.

Then there’s the merchandise! Everything from ringer T-shirts and Hawkins Middle School jerseys to special edition boxes of General Mills’ cereal and Scoops Ahoy sailor caps. It’s free to visit, but it’s highly recommended you make a reservation to guarantee entry – Nov 6

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7. adirondack scenic railroad polar express

There are few places that make for a more perfect Polar Express setting than the gorgeous Adirondacks where there’s pine trees, mountains and real snow. The Adirondack Scenic Railroad hosts a seasonal Polar Express Journey to New York’s North Pole, inviting the young and young-at-heart to the famous story during the journey.

Friendly family Winter events, festivals, and activities for kids: Polar Express. Courtesy Photo.

Children get a chance to meet with Santa and receive their first gift of Christmas: a silver bell, meant only for those who truly believe. And to round out the holiday spirit, riders enjoy carols, hot cocoa and cookies throughout the ride – Nov 19 – Dec 20

8. macy’s thanksgiving day parade and balloon inflation

After going spectator-free last year, the 95th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade marches again. Plan on arriving early or possibly booking a hotel room with a view for a full lineup of celebrities and marching bands. And colorful floats ushering in Santa’s arrival. There’ll be massive balloons, from old favorites such as Hello Kitty and the Pillsbury Doughboy to new additions like Baby Yoda and Ada Twist, Scientist.

Best family Winter events, festivals, and activities for kids: Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. Courtesy Photo.

Or simply enjoy the magic of the balloon inflation the night before. Head to the American Museum of Natural History, at Columbus Avenue and West 77th Street. And watch the show the next morning from the warm comfort of your home – Nov 24 – 25

9. saranac lake winter carnival

The country’s longest running winter festival doesn’t mess around. And this year the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival is heading back to the 1980’s. The cornerstone of the event? A giant castle constructed out of blocks of ice carved from Pontiac Bay.

Best family Winter events, festivals, and activities for kids: Saranac Lake Winter Carnival. Courtesy Photo.

A parade, winter games and the crowning of Ice Palace “royalty” are all ​also part of the festivities. The final event of the festival is the “Storming of the Palace,” which concludes with a massive fireworks display over the lake – Feb 4 – 13

10. steamboat springs winter carnival

Way back in 1914, the residents of Steamboat Springs gathered in the second week of February to alleviate cabin fever and the annual Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival was born. Featuring a Western-flavored celebration of ski culture, complete with horse-and-ski races and other rodeo-inspired activities including a marching band that performs on skis is unlike any other winter carnival you’ve seen.

Best family Winter events, festivals, and activities for kids: Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival. Courtesy Photo.

Don’t miss the Night Extravaganza featuring the famous Lighted Man. In his pyrotechnic suit, he shoots fireworks from his body, while skiers jumping through the fiery hoop and the fireworks show that follows – Feb 9 – 13

Ten family events perfect to enjoy with kids this Winter 2021

There you have it, our top ten ten picks for the best events to check out with your favorite little ones this winter. Stay warm, and enjoy!

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This article contains affiliate links to products independently selected by our editors. As an Amazon Associate, Dandelion Chandelier receives a commission for qualifying purchases made through these links. 

Jillian Tangen is the Head of Research at Dandelion Chandelier and a former Senior Research Analyst at McKinsey & Co and Analyst at Shearman & Sterling. She is an avid fan of Nordic design, having owned an independent lifestyle store and sales agency focused on emerging Scandinavian design. Jillian lives in New York and is married with three young children. She loves cross-country skiing, the New York Rangers, reading, travel and discovering new brands.

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