Your weekend plans begin here, with a couple of dozen FREE and cheap things to do this first full weekend in December, including FREE holiday light shows and train shows, and MTA Holiday Nostalgia Train rides.
Get more NYC for less money with NYC on the Cheap. That’s our motto and we’re sticking to it.
Everything on NYC on the Cheap is family friendly, and nearly everything is FREE.
Let’s hope the weather cooperates with outdoor events, but if it doesn’t, here are some rainy day activities in NYC, besides re-arranging your sock drawer.
Know Before You Go
Be sure to check the street closures advisory so you are not stuck in traffic.
Today and tomorrow,
Thursday/Friday Dec. 19 and 20 are
Gridlock Alert Days
Last Chance – Closes Sunday
The first-ever genuine Alsace Christmas Market is open in Bowling Green Park through Sunday, Dec 22.
The STRASBOURG-COLMAR-MULHOUSE features 30 authentic wooden chalets imported from Alsace, France, filled with unique handcrafted products and delicious culinary specialties of Alsace.
There also are family-friendly events for children including Santa’s House and the chance to take photos with an old-fashioned St. Nicholas, , locomotive with hot chestnuts, children’s choir and more.
- FREE, daily through Dec. 22
- Bowling Green Park, Lower Manhattan
Before or after –
Visit the National Museum of the American Indian, with exhibits representing Indigenous cultures from throughout the Western Hemisphere, including Canada and South America.
It’s simply one of the best museums in New York City, and since it is part of the Smithsonian, admission is FREE year-round.ational Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) in Lower Manhattan
- FREE admission to NMAI year-round
Do This on Saturday
Ready to sing? Join the crowd for Holiday Caroling with FAB FULTON and Brooklyn Music School, complete with treats!
- FREE, Noon to 2pm at Fowler Square (Lafayette + Fulton)
Do This on Sunday
Get aboard for a trip back in time, on a vintage NYC subway train.
The annual and popular MTA Holiday Nostalgia Train rides again for five consecutive Sundays from Thanksgiving weekend to December 29th, with vintage R 1/9 cars that were in service 1932 to 1977, and conductors dressed in vintage uniforms.
You might remember light bulbs, woven wicker seats, ceiling fans and windows you could open before air conditioning.
And the straps to hang on to, which are the reason NYC subway riders are called “straphangers”.
Ride the vintage trains for the cost of a MetroCard swipe, $2.75 a full price or less if you have a discount pass.
You may not know the name of Clement Clark Moore, but you surely know his iconic poem, “A Visit from St Nicholas”, which starts with the words “Twas the Night Before Christmas…
Visit Moore’s home in Flatiron and sites with a holiday connection on this special FREE Sunday morning guided walk
This is the final of three Sundays, so go this weekend or wait unti next year.
- FREE, 11am Sunday, Dec 8, 15 and 22.
- Meet at the tip of the Flatiron Building on 23rd Street, just east of Fifth Avenue
German Menorah Lecture & Antique Judaica Roadshow
Join a brief talk about the unique menorahs in the Chanukah-themed pop-up exhibition at the Center for Jewish History while you enjoy and light holiday snacks. Then, show off your own antique Judaica for an “Antique Judaica Roadshow”–style appraisal from the curator, Tsadik Kaplan.
Bring in your old menorahs, Kiddush cups, candlesticks, Torah ornaments, etc. to learn more about their history and significance
Tsadik Kaplan is a collector and appraiser who writes the “Antique Judaica Roadshow” column in The Jewish Press and the author of Jewish Antiques: From Menorahs to Seltzer Bottles. A selection of German menorahs from his personal collection will be on display in the Paul S. And Sylvia Steinberg Great Hall at the Center for Jewish History starting December 16.
The lecture and antiques road show is at 12:30.
You are also invited to join a family program of Chanukah songs from around the world with Elad Kabilio and the MusicTalks ensemble at 11am and the American Society of Jewish Music’s Annual Chanukah Concert at 3pm. Ticket holders for the concerts are welcome to stay or come early for the lecture at no additional charge.
- LBI/CJH/Partner Members, Students, Seniors: $5; General: $10
- Click here for tickets
- The Leo Baeck Institute/Center for Jewish History is at 15 West 16th St.
The world’s largest Hanukkah menorah will be lit every evening for eight nights on Fifth Avenue at 59th Street, starting Sunday, Dec. 22nd, at sundown.
A slightly smaller one also is being lit nightly in Brooklyn, celebrated each evening with live music, latkes, and gifts for children with a live kickoff concert on the first night.
Both menorahs are at their respective Grand Army Plaza locations, at Central Park and at Prospect Park.
Whether you spell it Hanukkah or Chanukah, it’s a festival of lights, commemorating the victory of the Macabees over their Greek-Syrian opressors in the second century BC.
See a screening of everybody’s favorite holiday movie, ELF!
The screening is in a comfy loft-like setting at Showfieds, the new three-floor showcase of specialty brands in Soho.
The $10 admission includes complimentary hot chocolate and movie snacks.
- Sun, December 22, 4pm to 7pm
- Showfieds, 11 Bond Street, Soho
Broadway Show-Themed “Show Globes” in Times Square
“Snow Globes” is the very first holiday snow globe display in Times Square. There are four giant snow globes, modeled after the stage designs of top Broadway shows, Aint Too Proud The Life and Times of The Temptations, Dear Evan Hansen, The Lion King, and Wicked. T
he globes designs feature key aspects of each show including: the fresh style of The Temptations, a touching message from Dear Evan Hansen, and life-size figures of Rafiki from The Lion King and Elphaba and Glinda from Wicked.
Times Square Alliance worked on Show Globes in conjunction with Serino Coyne.For information on the programs and exhibitions put on by Times Square Alliance please visit TSQ.org.
- FREE, on Broadway Plaza, between 44th and 45th Streets, through Thursday, Dec. 26th
Best Museum Exhibits for Kids
This popular display is back at the American Museum of Natural History for its 22nd season with more than 500 butterflies fluttering among colorful tropical flowers and lush green vegetation.
The butterflies are from farms in Florida, Costa Rica, Kenya, Thailand, Malaysia, Ecuador, and Australia.
Beyond being just beautiful, butterflies are important harbingers of environmental change, and the exhibit includes an educational component about the roles butterflies play in ecosystems and the importance of protecting them.
- At AMNH through May 2020
- FREE with museum admission
Experience the world’s largest display of LEGO® art.
Artist Nathan Sawaya created more than 100 pieces for this exhibition using only LEGO bricks. The collection features original pieces, as well as re-imagined versions of some of the world’s most famous art masterpieces, including the famous painting known as Scream.
More than one million LEGO bricks were used to create Sawaya’s sculptures.
In addition to the LEGO artworks on display, there are activity stations where kids of all ages can create and design their own.
- Art & Architecture – Recreate famous building, bridges and structures using LEGO bricks.
- Hidden Hands – Build a mystery object inside a covered box using only your sense of touch.
- Assistive Devices – Design a tool that will allow you to pick up an object on a post through a series of various sized windows.
- Describe It – Build a simple object out of view and describes the object to your friend. Then, see if your friend can build the same object based only on the description.
- Six Bricks – Find out how many different things you can build using only six LEGO Duplo bricks.
- LEGO Drag Race – Build a LEGO brick car and test it out on ramps of different inclines.
- Tilt Maze – Rearrange straight LEGO “bar” bricks to create a maze for a wooden ball to navigate through on a tilt-table.
- LEGO Music Box – Create your own unique song using a special LEGO baseplate. On the baseplate, horizontal lines represent different “tracks,” and vertical columns represent the eight “beats.” Use different colored LEGO bricks as instruments or notes/pitches to create your song. Then put the visual representation of your song under a camera, where simple image processing algorithms will turn it into music.
Art of the Brick is at the New York Hall of Science in Flushing Meadow Park.
- $7 per person, plus NYSCI admission.
- Take the 7 train to the 111th St. station.