bryantparkskating2Have you decided to stay home in New York City during the winter break? Are you worried about being cooped up at home all week (or two weeks) with the kids while they’re off from school?  New York City has so much to offer during the holiday period, and you certainly don’t have to break the bank while doing them.  Here are some ideas to try out, all for FREE, and have a lot of fun while you’re at it:

Ice-skating at Citi Pond in Bryant Park is one of the ultimate NYC winter experiences for kids of all ages, and it’s free!  The catch is that you need to bring your own ice-skates to make this totally free, otherwise you must pay for the skate rental.  Skating under the stars, under a gorgeous Christmas tree, is an unforgettable experience for anyone. (6th Avenue and 41st Street)

The Holiday Train Show at Grand Central is a smaller (and free) version of the larger train show that’s taking place at the Botanical Gardens in the Bronx.  It’s a model of New York’s regional commuter rail network in miniature form on a multi-level, 34-foot long track through a NYC cityscape towards the North Pole.  Boys and girls of all ages will love the detail involved.

Window shop in the city’s holiday markets, located in Bryant Park, Union Square, Columbus Circle and Grand Central.   You’ll find unique artisans and merchants with handmade hats and gloves, jewelry and other assorted gifts.  If you’re in Brooklyn, head over to the Brooklyn Flea for special items made by mostly Brooklyn designers and artists.

A child’s eyes will open wide while studying the city’s department store holiday windows.  From Macy’s and Lord & Taylor to Bloomingdale’s and Barneys, Christmas in New York City would not be complete without a look at the glitz and glam created by some very smart window decorators.

At Belvedere Castle in Central Park on December 23 and 24, a conservancy volunteer will dress in full Santa Claus garb, with plenty of candy to hand out, to highlight the legendary story of St. Nick.  (Enter at 79th Street and Central Park West)

The Jewish Museum is free to the public on Christmas Day.  They have a full slate of activities for kids, including arts and music.  One word of advice: arrive early.  The lines go around the block by mid-day.

Lastly, if you are looking for dazzling Christmas light displays that will make your family go “ooh” and “ahh,” you simply must travel to Dyker Heights in southern Brooklyn.  It’s a bit of a war of the lights – each house tries to outdo the ones next to it.  You really won’t believe your eyes.   Not only are there millions of lights, but there are large inflatable Christmas decorations and motorized Christmas displays.  (11th Avenue to 13th Avenue and from 83rd to 86th Street)