Your weekend plans begin here, with a couple of dozen FREE and cheap things to do this first full weekend in December, including FREE tree lighting ceremonies, 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, Friday, Dec. 6 is a Gridlock Alert Day
Holiday Light Shows
FREE includes the show at the Shops at Columbus Circle, in the Time Warner Center.
Ticketed includes the NYC Winter Lantern Festival at Snug Harbor Cultural Center.
The first-ever genuine Alsace Christmas Market opens today in Bowling Green Park,
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
What to do in NYC Saturday & Sunday
The annual Native Art Market features more than 30 artists representing Indigenous cultures from throughout the Western Hemisphere, including Canada and South America.
It’s simply the best holiday crafts market in New York City, with one-of-a-kind, handmade, traditional and contemporary art, and it’s across the street from the French Christmas Market..
Now in its 14th year, the museum’s Native Art Market invites lovers of art and craftsmanship to meet Native artists and learn about traditional Native arts and contemporary Native creativity.
Pieces include jewelry, bead work, pottery, prints, baskets, textiles and sculpture, and Native artisans are on hand to discuss how their cultures inspired their work.
Allow yourself enough time to tour the museum, as well, since admission to both the museum and the art market are FREE
Click here for the full list of participating Native American artisans and their tribes.
- Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 7 and 8
- 10 a.m.–5 p.m at the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) in Lower Manhattan
- FREE admission to NMAI year-round
Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremonies this Weekend
The trees at Rockefeller Center, Bryant Park and Central Park are already lit and enchanting us all with their briliiance. Attend these ceremonies this weekend:
- Wycoff Farmhouse Museum in Queens
West Harem Piers, at 125th St.
Park Ave. at 91st St.
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, starting this Sunday, Dec. 1, 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
- FREE, 11am Sunday, Dec 8, 15 and 22.
- Meet at the tip of the Flatiron Building on 23rd Street, just east of Fifth Avenue
Friday through Sunday
See a FREE one-hour version of The Nutcracker performed to Tchaikovsky’s cherished score and choreographed by long-time New York Theatre Ballet choreographer, Keith Michael.
There are four FREE performances – two in the afternoon, which are perfect for children ages 3 and up, and two evening performances.
- FREE, Friday and Saturday at 7pm
- FREE, Saturday and Sunday at 1pm
- At the Winter Garden atrium, Brookfied Place
- Seating is first-come, first-served.
- See website for additional info
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.