Nutcrackers Cracked: A Guide To “Nutcracker” Productions

There are many different Nutcracker productions around New York City, and selecting the right one for your family can sometimes be a challenge. Two popular family guides, Petite Seat (for live theater and entertainment) and Kid on the Town (for arts and culture) have teamed up to deliver the ultimate roundup of the best family friendly Nutcrackers, and paired them with their own specialized tips and preparation pointers.

For full production details and need-to-knows, visit Petite Seat. Here are the highlights.

Quick Tips:

  • Explain beforehand there will be no speaking, only movement and music.
  • Get familiar with the story.  New York City Ballet has a picture book that follows their version.
  • Listen to the Tchaikovsky score and watch video clips.  Discuss which instruments your kids hear and how the songs make them feel.
  • Practice general theater etiquette: Stay seated and quiet during the performances. Save questions and thoughts for intermission.

Picking Your Perfect Nutcracker

Best for: Children who can sit for 2-plus hours and parents who want a full “experience”

New York City Ballet Presents George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker

November 23-December 30
David Koch Theater – Upper West Side

This is the classic, timeless production that is probably most well known in New York City. While it is big, beautiful and quite a spectacle on stage, it’s a full-length production, and tickets are expensive. Many of the audience members are grown-ups who expect a quiet viewing experience, so before investing in these tickets, make sure your child knows to sit quietly during the performance.

Age Recommendation: 6+
Run Length: Two hours (including intermission)

Best for: First timers and younger children

New York Theatre Ballet Presents Keith Michael’s The Nutcracker

December 14-16
Florence Gould Hall – Midtown East

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 theater space providing excellent views. Special children’s pricing also makes this production a popular choice for families.

Age Recommendation: 3+
Run Length: 60 minutes (no intermission)

Keith Michael’s The Nutcracker at Brookfield Place

December 1-2
Brookfield Place – Battery Park

This is an extension of the New York Theatre Ballet production above and is one of the city’s only free opportunities to enjoy the Nutcracker this season, but arrive early—it can get very crowded and seating is first-come, first-served. You can take pictures with your favorite characters from the production before each performance, but note that this also means that everyone else will also be arriving early for the performance. Bring plenty of snacks to extend your kids’ patience and goodwill to get you through performance time!

Age Recommendation: 3+
Run Length: 60 minutes (no intermission)

Best for: Spotting a classmate in the ensemble

Dances Patrelle Presents The Yorkville Nutcracker

December 6-9
The Kaye Playhouse – Upper East Side

This annual production at Hunter College’s Kay 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. For those looking for the classic, full-length experience but without the higher price tag, this is a great option.

Age Recommendation: 5+
Run Length: Two hours (including intermission)

Best for: Hip hop fans looking for a more modern take

The Hip Hop Nutcracker

December 23
Kings Theatre – Flatbush

Playing at The Kings Theatre on December 23 only, virtuosic break-dancing tells an uplifting, family-friendly story set in the 1980s and today. 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.

Age Recommendation: 5+
Run Length: Two hours (including intermission)

Best for: Those looking for an edgier, witter take on the classic story

The Hard Nut

December 14-23
BAM Opera House – Fort Greene

The Mark Morris Dance Group returns to BAM with their modern dance take on the Nutcracker and it is pretty far from the traditional version. The music and some plot elements remain the same, but this whimsical production features 1970s-inspired technicolor costumes and sets, men in drag, and modern dance choreography. Though the production has been modified in recent years to be more family-friendly, expect an audience of mostly adults: The production is funny, but the witty sense of humor may go over the heads of most kids.

Age Recommendation: 6+
Run Length: Two hours (including intermission)

Best for: Those looking to experience the ballet’s Russian origins

The Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker

December 8

Kings Theatre – Flatbush

Presenting world-class Russian artists, hand-painted sets, Russian Snow Maidens, and jubilant Nesting Dolls, the Great Russian Nutcracker brings the Christmas spirit to life for families.  This production features the “Dove of Peace” role, which is exclusive to the Moscow Ballet, and inspired by a principal dancer of the Bolshoi Ballet.

Age Recommendation: 6+
Run Length: Two hours (including intermission)

Best for: Younger children who would also enjoy a pre-show tea and cookie party

Peridance Contemporary Dance Company Presents The Nutcracker

December 14-16
Salvatore Capezio Theatre – Union Square

Join world-renowned choreographer Igal Perry for an innovative contemporary Nutcracker experience. With over 60 performers, this version is set to excerpts from Tchaikovsky’s original score as well as new music selected by Igal Perry. The story is blended with a fusion of hip hop and contemporary dance to guide you through the falling snowflakes and waltzing flowers. Certain performances have pre-show receptions for children.

Age Recommendation: 4+
Run Length: 75 minutes (no intermission)


PETITE SEAT, founded by Liz Schwarzwalder and Mindy Swidler, is a parents’ guide to family theatre and live entertainment.  Follow them on Instagram for daily tips and updates, and check their website for family friendly theatre listings around NYC!

KID ON THE TOWN, founded by Brittney Jensen, is a curated guide to family culture and experiences around NYC.  Follow them on Instagram and sign up for their newsletter for weekly updates!