If you have not been to New York City around the holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza etc.), you must add it to your travel bucket list. The Big Apple is at its best during this time of year - from the exquisitely decorated department store windows to the buzz around Rockefeller Center and its carefully adorned Christmas tree - it’s New York City at its best and definitely at its brightest! Consider kicking the holidays off with a fun family visit to the Big Apple. Vacation’s romance expert Carrie Brandt provides her favorite things to do when the holiday spirit takes over the city, including her best travel tips.
Go Ice Skating at Rockefeller Plaza
Rockefeller Plaza is best experienced at night when all of the beautiful lights and decorations are in full glory. We’ve all seen it on television, but to see it in person is spectacular. Rent ice skates and take a spin around The Rink at Rockefeller Center, followed by a steaming cup of hot chocolate and a comforting bite to eat from the Rockefeller Center Café.
Carrie’s NYC Tip: General admission lines for the skating rink can be long. Consider having one adult stand in line while the other takes the kids next door to the Lego or American Girl Doll store. The Rink also offers multiple packages, including a VIP Skate Reservations package and an Engagement on Ice package for you to pop the question in the middle of the rink.
Shop ‘til You or the Kids Drop
For most of us, dragging our kids through stores during the holiday season does not equal fun, but there are some family-friendly stops that will command the attention of a fidgety child. Check out the meticulously decorated window displays on West 34th Street or along 5th Avenue, such as Saks Fifth Ave, Macy’s and Neiman Marcus. Need to warm up? Stop at Dylan’s Candy Bar, a three-story candy store that features a café with flat breads, signature candy cocktails for the parents and out-of-this-world ice cream desserts for the kids.
Carrie’s NYC Tip: This is a great place to pick up some souvenirs. From nostalgic candy from your childhood days to candy themed clothes and jewelry, you can’t beat this store’s range of sweet offerings.
Rock Out with the Rockettes
The Rockettes Christmas Spectacular is a holiday tradition in New York City, and no matter how many times we have seen it, it is always worth seeing again! The Rockettes keep the annual show fresh every year, but keep the crowds coming back with their beautifully choreographed signature kicks and turns. Creative costumes, fun characters and holiday music make this the perfect family-friendly event.
Carrie’s NYC Tip: Buy your tickets in advance to ensure you get good seats and arrive a little early to take advantage of photo opportunities with the Rockettes. Be sure to purchase snacks for the kids before the show starts.
Keep the Kids Busy in Central Park
Central Park is the perfect place to let the kids blow off some steam while enjoying this greenspace oasis in the middle of the city. From sliding hills and ice skating, to the famous zoo, there is so much to see and do in the park to keep parents and kids busy for an afternoon.
Carrie’s NYC Tip: Visit the zoo in the late afternoon when it’s less crowded to see the animals or visit the gift shop. At the end of your visit, hop on a carriage ride to rest your feet and recharge for the next activity.
Embrace a Fun Sensory Overload in Times Square
Although Times Square can be a bit jarring and noisy (to out-of-towners), it’s the quintessential spot for a photo opportunity with you and your family. West 46th Avenue and 7th Avenue is where the glitz of Broadway and entertainment intersect. The awe-inspiring moment here is watching the giant illuminated billboards light up the evening sky. Find a good spot to take it all in, and then visit a few kid-friendly stores nearby to shop or to get more ideas for Santa’s list.
Carrie’s NYC Tip: Get discounted tickets for select Broadway shows (same-day performances) at the TKTS booth in Father Duffy’s Square on Broadway and 47th Street. Arrive early to avoid standing in a long line and to increase your chances in snagging tickets to that show you’ve been dying to see.
Take a Bite Out of the Big Apple
In every nook and cranny you will find a celebrity chef opening their latest restaurant as well as the tried and true pizza shop selling the most amazing pizza by the slice. Foodies should visit neighborhoods such as Little Italy or Chinatown for an unforgettable and authentic food experience. Enjoy a true Southern Italian meal at Angelo’s on Mulberry Street. It includes freshly-made pasta and bread served to you by the owner and chef who immigrated to the city more than 50 years ago. And you may be lucky enough to be serenaded by a three-piece band playing a few holiday songs.
Carrie’s NYC Tip: Make a reservation in advance if you want to experience a hot, trendy restaurant in the city. For a quick bite to eat… NYC has some of the best corner delis and cafes that offer quick seating and service – ideal for parents who want to eat and get those tired children back to the hotel.
Explore More than 80 Museums in New York
Museum lovers will have more than 80 museums to choose from when visiting New York City, including the famous Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Natural History. Head to the Hayden Planetarium where kids can have fun and learn about the universe through fun interactive exhibits, space shows, 3-D films, and a cool butterfly conservatory!
Carrie’s NYC Tip: Buy your museum passes in advance for the special exhibits. Also, drop your gear off at a coat check, and explore the options available for a guided or self-guided audio tour.
New York City is fun anytime of the year, but the holidays make it even more magical. We recommend having a general plan outlined ahead of time to ensure you cross those must-see attractions off your family’s list, but be sure to save some time to explore freely too. Getting lost and finding the hidden gems are just part of enjoying the true enchantment of New York.
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