The Nutcracker ballet is a beloved holiday tradition - here's how to make it one for your family, whatever your kids' ages and attention spans.
Productions vary in length, setting and style. Note the age recommendations are subjective, you're the best judge of your kids ability to sit through a show. Feel free to email us with any questions and check our our guide to more NYC holiday shows.
NUTCRACKER WITH MOZART FOR MUNCHKINS
Various dates | Throughout NYC | $40
Best for a relaxed, intimate experience with live music
Hear holiday favorites and selections from the Nutcracker with professional musicians and special guest ballet or tap dancers. A great introduction to the classic holiday ballet for all ages - the audience is welcome to roll, crawl, squeal and dance along while experiencing professional performances.
Interact with the musicians and dancer throughout and try out instruments after.
NEW YORK CITY BALLET PRESENTS GEORGE BALANCHINE’S THE NUTCRACKER
Nov 25-Dec 31 | Lincoln Center | $90-$305
Best for parents looking to splurge on a classic experience for kids who can sit still and quiet for 2 hours
The timeless, gorgeous production that started it all in 1954 is a rightly beloved holiday tradition. The first act is full of action with (actual) children playing at a party, mischievous giant mice battling toy soldiers and a blizzard of ballerinas. The costumes, sets, dancing and theater are stunning but kids can get restless during some lengthy, plotless second act dance numbers. Pricey but priceless.
NEW YORK CITY BALLET FAMILY SATURDAY: A NUTCRACKER ADVENTURE
Dec 17 | Lincoln Center | $22-$32
Best for kids not ready for the 2 hour version
Host and Principal Dancer Megan Fairchild introduces the joys and wonder ofGeorge Balanchine’s The Nutcracker in this special, one-hour program of highlights suited for young audiences who might not make it through the two-hour version.
Dec 3-21 | Midtown | $32.25
Best for young kids looking for a friendly introduction
Join Clara and the Prince as they travel to a magical kingdom filled with delicious treats, dancing flowers and a pesky mouse king in this holiday classic reimagined by New York City Children’s Theater. Clara’s narration throughout the performance helps young theatergoers follow the classic holiday story.
THE STEADFAST TIN SOLDIER WITH NUTCRACKER SWEETS
Nov 26-Jan 2 | Brooklyn | $10-$11
Best for young puppet lovers
See classic Christmas tales adapted for Puppetworks hand-painted marionettes - The Steadfast Tin Soldier by Hans Christian Andersen' and Tchaikovsky's 'Land of Sweets' dances.
AJKUN BALLET THEATRE’S THE NUTCRACKER
Nov 26–Dec 18 | Midtown | $54
Best for getting up close with dancers
A small local ballet company presents the classic Nutcracker story in an intimate studio setting featuring new choreography by artistic director Chiara Ajkun. Includes complimentary photos with the dancers.
NEW YORK THEATRE BALLET'S THE NUTCRACKER
Dec 9-11 | Upper East Side | $24-$34
Best for first-timers and young kids interested in a full production
This one hour adaptation, set in Art Nouveau style circa 1907, includes clockwork imps, an owl that flies above the audience, mice dressed in polka dots, and dancers dancing with huge chopsticks. This production takes place at Florence Gould Hall, an intimate theatre space providing excellent views. A popular choice for families that sells out
* See free performances at Brookfield Place on Dec 2-4 of the same production. Arrive at least one hour early for stand-by tickets.
DANCES PATRELLE’S THE YORKVILLE NUTCRACKER
Dec 11-12 | Upper East Side | $69, $26.75 at this link
Best for spotting a classmate in the ensemble & local settings
This annual production at Hunter College’s cozy Kaye Playhouse features dance students, ages 5 to 85, alongside professional artists. The lavish Olde New York settings give this production a more local vibe. Expect ice skating in Central Park, Teddy Roosevelt at Gracie Mansion and a sleigh-ride to the New York Botanical Garden.
NAVIDAD: A MEXICAN-AMERICAN CHRISTMAS
Dec 10-11 | Queens | $25-$35
Best for Latin flair
Calpulli Mexican Dance Company presents Christmas traditions from both sides of the Rio Grande in a dance musical about a young person caught between two worlds, where Mariachi music melds with Tschaikovsky.
Dec 16 | Soho | $37-$57
Best for something totally different
The Bang Group’s beloved, witty response to The Nutcracker takes inspiration from all corners of the dance canon, from tap riffs to en pointe ballet, by way of bubble wrap, disco, and Chinese take-out noodles. Choreographer David Parker finds beauty in the ridiculous, waltzing through many incarnations of Tchaikovsky’s score, including versions by Duke Ellington and Glenn Miller, as well as the traditional orchestral suite.
Dec 17 | Brooklyn | $30-$115
Best for a multicultural vibe
A culturally inclusive production of the beloved holiday ballet fuses ballet, hip-hop and a myriad of world dance genres to create a new tradition for today’s audience. rom the landscape of the old Dutch Brooklyn to the iconic Flatbush Avenue, familiar Nutcracker characters and scenes transform to represent the diverse traditions and vibrant culture of melting pot Brooklyn.
LOS KIDS: TCHAIKOVSKY IN NEW YORK!
Dec 17-18 | UES | $23-$61
Best for those who like humor with their culture
Meet Tchaikovsky in an interactive, entertaining concert with Zany Professor Treblemaker, Maestro Miller, a professional orchestra and dancers celebrating the season with Nutcracker excerpts.
Dec 17 | Newark | $29-$69
Best for those more into breakdancing than ballet
Virtuosic break dancing tells an uplifting, family-friendly story set in the 1980s and today at the opulent Kings Theatre . The music is still mostly Tchaikovsky’s classic score, though some songs are sonically updated with live electric violin. This version of the Nutcracker is much louder than its traditional counterparts with a pre-show by hip-hop legend Kurtis Blow. For families with younger children, consider seats further back for less of an auditory overload.
** The Radio City Christmas Spectacular has a cute 10-minute Nutcracker section danced by giant bears that little kids love. **
GET YOUR KIDS NUTCRACKER READY
Explain that the performers don't talk
Let kids know the story will be told through dance, movement and music only.
Get familiar with the score
Also watch video clips online. Talk about how different songs make them feel or imagine.
Practice general theatre etiquette
Remind kids to stay seated and that there is no speaking during the performance. They can save their questions and thoughts for intermission or applause between songs.
Get familiar with the story
New York City Ballet has a picture book that follows their version of the story.
Each production is a little different; look for a synopsis in the program before the show.
The Nutcracker by New York City Ballet
Prep for the ballet with a gorgeous picture book that mimics George Balanchine’s choreography and illustrations inspired by the backdrops and scenery from the actual production. A holiday favorite with stylish and modern sensibility.