Stuff to Do

AllNY.com's look at things to do in NYC written by New Yorkers for New Yorkers and serious New York tourists.


Thinking about Bringing the Kids to New York City for the Holidays: Here’s What You Should Know

With Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s looming, there are more than enough great reasons to bring the family to New York City. Beyond seeing the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall, shopping for dolls at American Girl Place, or donning ice skates to twirl around the rink at Rockefeller Center, there are many things to do that will let you explore beyond crowded Midtown.

The Rockettes

New York City is a real toy box of activities for families. It’s a showplace of the world’s best: a fabulous introduction to great eats, culture and diversity and, without a doubt, fun! So get out, explore, and experience the magic of the Big Apple.

Where to Stay with Kids

Many NYC hotels are family-friendly, offering free cribs on request, high chairs, strollers and other baby-related gear. Younger ones are often free so be sure to inquire. Teens and tweens get perks, too. Specials vary by season and by week. Check out the hotel’s website for the best prices.

Gansevoort Hotel

The Gansevoort Hotel (18 Ninth Ave; 212-206-6700) in the trendy Meatpacking District will hold special appeal for older kids. The area is super-cool with interesting boutiques and the newly reopened Pastis, a perfect place to sit and watch the city’s beautiful people. The hotel itself offers all the requisite baby supplies (including cribs, diapers and bath supplies) and older kids get Sony PSPs and Nintendo Wiis to use during their stay.

The Mandarin Oriental Lobby

With a bird’s-eye view of Central Park and Columbus Circle, The Mandarin Oriental (80 Columbus Circle; 212-805-8800), welcomes kids with an age-appropriate gift and keeps them busy with children’s DVDs, crayons and coloring books. It’s also well situated at the Time Warner Center with its many shops, restaurants, and wonderful holiday decorations. And you’re close to Central Park for an easy stroll to the Christmas Market or even a carriage ride inside the park.

Eventi Hotel Livingroom

Eventi, a Kimpton Hotel (851 Sixth Ave; 212-64-4567) caters to the junior set with the Tween Trap, complimentary rentals of a range of gadgets including Instagram printers, iPad Minis, PlayStation Vita, Beats Pill Portable Bluetooth speakers, Beat by Dre headphones and night-vision goggles. It’s also a dream location if you’re heading to an event at Madison Square Garden.

The Giraffe Hotel Lobby

In the quieter Flatiron neighborhood, the boutique Giraffe Hotel (365 Park Avenue South; 212-685-7700) entertains kids with its selfie-inspiring giraffe sculpture on the roof, kids’ menus and large rooms. To make sure you soak up some of the city’s outdoor pleasures, Madison Square Park is a few minutes’ walk away with an expansive playground, dog run, and the original Shake Shack.

Where to Eat with Kids

Food is a key part of any trip to the Big Apple. Where else can you try dishes from so many countries?  Skip the fast-food or fast-casual chains that you can find anywhere and visit the one-offs that make NYC so special.

Totonno’s

Coal-oven pizza was invented here, and Brooklyn offers some of the best. Try Totonno’s (1524 Neptune Ave, Brooklyn; 718-372-0606) in Coney Island after a walk along the boardwalk. Totonno’s knows just a little bit about pizza – it was founded in 1924. Or if you’re spending the day shopping or touring Little Italy, opt for a tomato pie or a clam pie at Manhattan’s oldest pizzeria, Lombardi’s (32 Spring Street, Manhattan; 212-941-7994) dating from 1905.

Jin Fong

Chinese dim sum is also a kid-pleaser. Did you know that NYC has three Chinatowns? In Flushing, Queens, join the crowd at Joe’s Shanghai (136-21 37th Ave, Flushing; 718-539-3838) for their rich soup dumplings, or in Manhattan go piece-by-piece at Jin Fong (20 Elizabeth St, 212-964-5256), where servers wheel a parade of dumpling carts to your table (hint: get there early to avoid the long lines). For the more adventurous, head to Brooklyn for a veritable Chinese feast of small plates at East Harbor Seafood Palace (714 65th St., Brooklyn, 718-765-0098).

Blue Smoke Photo: Melissa Hom

BBQ lets the kids eat with their fingers. Blue Smoke (116 East 27th St; 212-447-7733) is a great introduction with specially designed children’s portions and meals. If you’re in the middle of Times Square, Virgil’s is your go-to for kid-friendly BBQ with special menus and BBQ tastes from all around the country.  (152 West 44th Street, Manhattan, 212-921-9494). And while you’re in the area, be sure to visit the TKTS booth at West 47th Street for the chance to score discount tickets to family-friendly shows like Frozen, Aladdin, Harry Potter and Wicked

Serendipity 3

For dessert, a touristy “must” is Serendipity 3 (225 East 60th St, 212-838-3531), famous for its frozen hot chocolate, made with more than 30 kinds of cocoa. The concept makes no intuitive sense but it works, and it’s delicious. 16 Handles, a self-service frozen yogurt emporium, is a favorite among families, too, with creative toppings like mochi, Fruity Pebbles cereal, and fresh fruit.  There are numerous locations around the city.

What to Do with Kids

Staten Island Ferry

It’s a good idea to get an overview of the city to get your bearings, and you can do it for “free” by water. Splurge on a taxi downtown to the famous Staten Island Ferry. It costs nothing to grab a seat and see the skyline of New York and the Statue of Liberty, all from the warm, comfortable interior of this legendary vessel. Once you reach Staten Island, just grab the next ferry back to Manhattan.

Central Park Sculpture - Alice in Wonderland

You can create a full-day educational and fun scavenger hunt for the family at the city’s central gathering place, Central Park. Even if it’s cold outside, you’ll see throngs of local kids climbing over the park’s beloved sculptures of Alice in Wonderland, the Three Bears, and Balto, so join them! Then wander through the various playgrounds to the Central Park Zoo and Children’s Zoo (fee required), buy a ticket for a performance at the adorable Marionette Theater at the Swedish Cottage, or take the kids to watch the sailboat races at the pond.

American Museum of Natural History Origami Tree

From the park’s Western edge, it’s a short walk to the American Museum of Natural History (Central Park West at 79th St; 212-769-5100). What child doesn’t like dinosaurs? But there’s much more to keep the little and big ones engaged. The wildlife dioramas are classic, a fascinating mix of educational and creepy, and the Hall of Gems is always a thrill. If it’s butterfly season, wear a brightly colored t-shirt to attract them to your shoulders. Be sure to venture downstairs to see the intricate holiday tree made of origami.

New York Hall of Science Art of the Brick; Dino. By: Nathan Sawaya

Head to the boroughs outside Manhattan for some more child-friendly attractions: the New York Hall of Science (47-01 111th Street, Corona; 718-699-0005) in Queens and the Bronx Zoo (2300 Southern Blvd., Bronx, 718-367-1010) are musts for curious kids.

New York Transit Museum Photo: Marc A Hermann

At the New York Transit Museum (Boerum Place and Schermerhorn St, Brooklyn Heights; 718-694-1600), set in an historic 1936 Brooklyn subway station, kids can explore all manner of urban transportation from buses to subways and trolleys.

For some park time while in Brooklyn, the ever-expanding Brooklyn Bridge Park in DUMBO is a mecca for families and has terrific views of Manhattan plus a historic merry-go-round. On the other side of the river, at the tip of Manhattan, the futuristic Seaglass Carousel in Battery Park is a crowd-pleaser for all ages.

How to Get around with Children

The city is designed for walking. Most of the streets in Manhattan are laid out in a grid, so you can find your way around pretty easily. Wear comfortable shoes and bring a warm coat, gloves and a hat – you’ll be all set.

The outer boroughs are connected by far-reaching subway lines that run all day long. If you get lost, that’s half the fun. Don’t be shy about asking a New Yorker for help; rumors to the contrary, people in New York City are super helpful and love showing off their city.

If the kids are getting tired, there are lots of taxis and ride services (Uber, Lyft, Via) to bring you back to your hotel. Download the Arro, Uber, Lyft and Via apps to your phone for easy summoning.

If you’re traveling with kids, suitcases and, perhaps, a guidebook in hand, get in the queue at the airport for a yellow taxi. From JFK, there’s a flat fee of $52 to New York City plus tolls. Surcharges apply depending on the time of day. A taxi from LaGuardia Airport (LGA) and Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) will cost upwards from $35 or $55, respectively, plus tolls and surcharges depending on your final destination. A new Lyft partnership from LaGuardia has reduced the fee somewhat.  Ubers and other ride shares also service the airports.

Something Special

High Line

It helps to see the city from higher up, especially if you’re a little one. The wondrous High Line, a walking park built in an abandoned elevated train track, traces a route along the city’s Hudson River, with plantings, food carts and art. If you’re cold, you can stop off by the new Hudson River Yards and refresh at the kiosks and counters at Mercado Little Spain or duck into the shopping mall.  For another vista, walk across the Brooklyn Bridge for an astonishing view of downtown Manhattan. And then walk back – you’ll get an entirely different impression of the city.

Cool Mess

Are your children budding chefs? At Cool Mess (137 East 62nd St; 212-355-9834) on the Upper East Side, you can don aprons and make your own ice cream.

Take Walks Backstage Tour

There’s nowhere better than Manhattan to give your kids an introduction to theater, TV and the movies. Are they wannabe actors? Take the kids backstage with Take Walks at the New Amsterdam Theater, home to Disney productions such as The Lion King, The Little Mermaid and Mary Poppins. Here they can try on costumes and play with the actual props from some of these shows.

Older kids will love the Central Park TV and Movies Sites walking tour. They’ll recognize the Literary Walk from Glee, The Smurfs and Trainwreck; the Boathouse from Home Alone 2; the Plaza Hotel from Home Alone and the Bethesda Fountain from Stuart Little. And there are lots of photo ops to make their friends jealous.

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Jet Set back to the 60s at the TWA Hotel

Nostalgia fans and fans of the Jetsons, TWA and the 60s in general, will feel right at home when they enter the TWA Flight Center turned hotel at New York City’s JFK International Airport. Utilizing the striking design elements that defined the space as conceived by Eero Saarinen and opened in 1962, the current-day TWA Hotel, its two unique cocktail lounges, and the Jean-Georges Vongerichten-helmed restaurant, Paris Café, are an instant time trip to a bygone era.  This is midcentury retro at its best, with fun twists like elevator buttons that reference present-day JetBlue and the 1960s TWA Hotel, telephone booths (remember them?), and cars with tailfins that seem to stretch for blocks.

The red and white color scheme of the hotel and the Paris Café restaurant/Lisbon Lounge space is original, using chili pepper red and white carpeting to full futuristic effect.  You can choose to sit at a very-George Jetson looking table or at seats hugging the swirling counter where you’ll be treated to servers knowledgeable in the why’s and wherefore’s of Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s very appropriate cuisine.

The all-day menu varies from light bites to nostalgic faves inspired by food from in-flight TWA menus including burgers, fish & chips, and Parmesan-crusted organic chicken breast. Among the dishes with the most prominent Jean-Georges stamp are the refreshing spring pea soup, crispy salmon sushi, and black truffle pizza.

You should definitely try an expertly prepared cocktail with updated monikers from the 60s like the Passionfruit Whiskey Fizz, made with a savory-sweet combination of Maker’s Mark whiskey, passionfruit and chili.

But you also might want to save a bit of energy for a cocktail at Connie , the original TWA plane converted into a lively cocktail lounge with seating both theater-style and facing each other as in a luxury jet.  You actually climb the stairs to board the plane from outdoors. A reservation and classic in-flight cocktails like negronis and martinis are musts.

The Sunken Lounge sits in the original waiting and check-in area of the TWA Terminal. The original red carpeting is there as are cocktails with 60s names like “Come Fly with Me,” inspired by Frank Sinatra’s tune and adorned with swizzle sticks showing TWA’s original destinations.

Everything is appropriate to the look and period from the clothing worn by servers to the light switches, elevators, coin telephone booths with rotary dialing, and even the rotating panels that show departures and arrivals as well as cheeky messages.

If you’d like to get into the swing of it, you can purchase a TWA flight bag at the gift shop. Or, better still, book a room at the 512-room hotel. And, don’t worry about noise, the windows are outfitted with a glass wall designed to prevent any sounds from planes landing and taking off at the busy airport. The style is mid-century but the infrastructure is definitely current.

I was completely enthralled being back in the iconic TWA Terminal. The setting has the making of a perfect staycation, or at least for a very different evening out. And it’s another good reason to plan for an early flight in the morning – you can overnight here before you leave and avoid rush hour traffic.  https://www.twahotel.com

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It’s a Fine Time to Take to the Water on a Hudson River Cruise from Manhattan Northbound

For years, I’ve joined the mobs of cars heading up to Vermont to catch a glimpse of the yellows, reds, greens and browns of the fall trees. Beautiful to look at, right? But the traffic is killer. This year, I did it right. Taking advantage of Manhattan’s waterside location, I boarded Classic Harbor Line for a four-hour Fall Foliage Cruise up the Hudson River. Departing from Chelsea Piers, Pier 62, the restored vessels travel north until the George Washington Bridge where you can view the Palisades on the left and Morningside Heights on the right, all bedecked in fall’s finest. Food is included, depending on which cruise you choose, plus beverages like spiked hot chocolate to keep you warm. Bundle up — the breeze off the water can be quite intense — even through the fleece blankets that you’re given to help.  If you really want to stay warm, just stay indoors and peer through the oversized windows or through the skylights of the ship’s heated and enclosed observatory.

If you miss the foliage departures, there are three holiday cruises coming up later this month that you won’t want to miss, perfect for a party on the water.

My recommendations:

The Fall Foliage Brunch Cruise on board the Manhattan, weekends only, is a party with a four-course brunch buffet including complimentary bloody Mary, mimosa, beer, wine or champagne.

For something less formal, book a sail on the 80-foot Adirondack, a gorgeous 1890’s-inspired pilot schooner. Bring your own picnic and the boat supplies the drinks (alcoholic, of course, and with warm-up boozy hot cocoa.)

Starting November 23, get festive with a Cocoa and Carols Holiday Cruise. The vintage yachts are kitted out in holiday dress while showcasing New York City harbor all lit up. Listen and sing along to classic carols backed by a live band. It’s definitely a fun time, and you’ll receive one complimentary drink (including the aforementioned spiked hot chocolate) along with homemade cookies and treats.

If you love jazz, the Holiday Jazz Cruise is your ticket to a 1920’s-style soiree. On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays beginning November 26, afternoon and evening departures are all about romance on a luxury 1920’s style yacht resplendent with festive décor. A live jazz trio entertains playing holiday tunes and you’ll enjoy cookies and spiked cocoa, beer, wine or champagne.

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Where to Celebrate Day of the Dead in New York City

Día de los Muertos is a celebration of life, actually. As strange as that seems with all of the imagery of skulls, Catrinas (skeleton women) and shrines (ofrendas), the rationale is a positive one: bring back the spirit of the beloved dead to comfort the living and share in the present.  The holiday manifests its significance with decorations of marigolds, candles, candy skulls, pan de Muertos (a special holiday bread) and the ever-present La Catrina. Costumes with elaborate Catrina makeup, parties, parades, and festive meals are all part of the holiday which kicks off at the end of October and runs into early November.

La Catrina by Meryl Pearlstein

In New York, you don’t have to be Latino or Mexican to participate in the celebration.

For two days, on October 26 and 27, the annual Day of the Dead – Día de Muertos celebration in New York City includes a variety of events and workshops set in the churchyard of St. Mark’s in-the-Bowery in the East Village. Visitors are invited to remember their own loved ones and bring copies of photographs, candles, and marigold flowers to adorn the church’s community altar. Workshops, dance, poetry and music are all part of the celebration.

La Catrina by Meryl Pearlstein

As might be expected in New York City, food plays a large role in the celebration of the holiday.

Vida Verde

Mexican Westside fave, Vida Verde holds a weeklong Day of the Dead celebration with a full range of holiday cocktails, programming and food from October 25-November 2. I especially like the aptly named Dessert for the Recently Departed (panna cotta) made with dragonfruit and chipotle raspberry sauce.

Andaz Tipsy ice cream Day of the Dead

Even ice cream gets a Día de los Muertos twist in New York.  In celebration of Día de los Muertos this year, the award-winning Andaz Mayakoba Resort Riviera Maya has partnered with boozy creamery Tipsy Scoop in Brooklyn to create an exciting and exclusive mezcal-infused ice cream. Not even the dearly departed can resist this creation with a chocolate-cinnamon ice cream base infused with Montelobos Espadin Mezcal Joven and orange bitters.

Dos Caminos Day of the Dead Cocktail

Starting October 31 and continuing throughout the weekend, New York City’s four Dos Caminos restaurants host a Day of The Dead fiesta with special drinks, menu items and DJ music. Try the signature spiced calabaza and smoked bacon guacamole for a special kick – it’s deglazed with Don Julio blanco tequila – paired with a Dos Caminos Garden cocktail made with Don Julio and served in a sugar skull glass.

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“Caesar & Cleopatra” Takes the Throne at Theatre One

Fine acting, a rarely performed play, and a story that moves from period to present are all drawing cards for George Bernard Shaw’s Caesar & Cleopatra at Theatre One -Theatre Row.  With so many Broadway offerings at big-ticket prices and often-limited availability, this show is a dream: the price is right, the actors are in prime form, and the storyline is intriguing. And it’s from the vaults of theatrical history dating from 1898.

In the intimate Theatre One, actors enter from a myriad of directions – from on stage, from above stage, and from the back of house.  You’re surrounded in what is akin to 360 degree staging.

The story is a progression of the development of Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, from a child (a kitten) to a true queen (a lioness) through the guidance of Caesar. If the story sounds familiar, it’s one of George Bernard Shaw’s favorites: the tutelage of an ingénue to transform her into a diva.  The recent restaging of My Fair Lady was that story; Shaw’s Pygmalion-My Fair Lady hints at what can be expected  in Caesar and Cleopatra.

Ftatateeta, Cleopatra’s nurse, is the first character onstage in a role that reminds one of Leading Player in Pippin. She explains what will transpire, she invites you the audience to participate, and she fills in the blanks while also acting her role.  “You will help me. You will all help me. We will all dream together,” she cajoles. And thus the show begins.

Photo Credit: Carol Rosegg

Next come a mélange of Romans and Egyptians, with a story of supremacy, aid and ultimate learning. Humor is interjected in places with characters like Apollodorus the Sicilian milking his heritage for all it’s worth and Cleopatra’s brother Ptolemy, the rightful ruler of Alexandria, depicted as an Avenue Q-like puppet.

Produced by the Gingold Theatrical Group, Caesar & Cleopatra is a show that offers a peek into dominance, greed and power while also extolling the virtues of clemency and wisdom. The themes resonate today, without a doubt.  Director David Staller sums it up, “Caesar & Cleopatra reminds us of the vital importance of being an active part of our lives, of having the courage to make bold personal choices with the caveat that we take responsibility for those choices, and above all, to always leave our hearts open to discovery and to love.”

Photo Credit: Carol Rosegg

Caesar & Cleopatra runs through October 12, Theatre One – Theatre Row, 410 West 42ndStreet.  Tickets are available at https://www.telecharge.com/Off-Broadway/Caesar-and-Cleopatra/Overview?AID=AFF000009900&cm_mmc=Playbill-_-affiliate-_-web-_-AFF00000990.

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Here’s A Delicious Way to Celebrate the End of Summer: Resy Presents Off Menu Week NY, In Partnership with American Express

New York City has its share of restaurant weeks throughout the year, but now there’s a new one that has me quite intrigued.  Resy’s Off Menu Week NY gives you an insidery glimpse into how chefs create their next superstar dish. From September 16-22  Resy and American Express® give you a privileged look at some of your favorite chefs at work. It’s a delicious and exciting way to celebrate the end of summer.

Many of my favorites have extended invitations to experience their inner workings like Wayan, the new French-Indonesian bistro in Nolita from Cédric Vongerichten (Jean-Georges’ son), to Estela, also in Nolita where Mediterranean-influenced plates are popular along with bar seating; Loring Place with its veggie-forward choices; sleek, theatrical Chinese Tuxedo on Doyers Street; and the fiery dishes from Danny Bowien’s Mission Chinese Food in both Chinatown and Bushwick.  Wine lovers will want to reserve at Aldo Sohm’s tony Wine Bar in Midtown West. Master sommelier Sohm’s wine prowess at Le Bernardin is legendary.

Wayan

Mission Chinese Food

Aldo Sohm Wine Bar

I’m intrigued by the chance to try these restaurants’ experimental concepts and off-menu dishes. As usual with most NYC foodie-centric events, seats are very limited, so I suggest jumping on your computer to book now.  Don’t forget to read the fine print regarding cancellations so you won’t get charged if you can’t go.

Here’s the list of participants — click on the name below to make your reservation:

Aldo Sohm Wine Bar • Bar Beau • Tetsu • Grand Army • Celestine • Air’s Champagne Parlor • Loring Place • Estela • Shuko • Cafe Altro Paradiso • Di an Di • Wayan • Charlie Palmer Steak • Aureole • Ferris • Frankies Spuntino at Franks Wine Bar • Wayla • Chefs Club • Mission Chinese Food Chinatown • Mission Chinese Food Bushwick • SUGARCANE raw bar grill • Hanoi House • Chinese Tuxedo • Momofuku Nishi • Fedora • Simon & The Whale • Perry St • Miznon North

https://blog.resy.com/2019/08/resy-off-menu-week-ny-guide/?utm_campaign=Off-Menu-Week-Guide-NY&utm_source=simon&utm_medium=email

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