Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

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.

Celebrate Christmas in NYC with the Holiday Train Show, Department Store Windows and Santa Claus

It’s almost Christmas in New York City — well, not really. But Christmas festivities and sales start earlier and earlier each year and decorations are popping up all over the city.

Here are three don’t-miss activities to consider:

Credit: AP Photo/Julio Cortez

This year, you’ll have to do a bit more planning if your children hope to sit on Santa Claus’s lap.  Macy’s wants to make the process more efficient and handle the huge number of people lining up to visit Saint Nick. Santa makes his appearance at “the world’s largest department store” from Thanksgiving through Christmas Eve, but you’ll need to reserve online to get a spot. Starting just before Thanksgiving, you can book a spot at Macy’s Santa Land at Macy’s Herald Square, 8th floor, at https://www.macys.com/social/santa-land/. No walk-ins are allowed, so don’t delay. Spots will go quickly, particularly after the ads sure to come during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade on Thursday. 151 West 34th Street, Manhattan.

Holiday windows are starting to appear all over the city. Now is the perfect time to visit before the mad Christmas rush.  Particularly appealing, Bergdorf Goodman’s “To New York with Love” windows showcase some of New York City’s most iconic places this year, including the New York Botanical Gardens, the Museum of the Moving Image, the New York Historical Society Museum & Library, the American Museum of Natural History, and the New York Philharmonic. www.bergdorfgoodman.com, 754 Fifth Avenue, Manhattan. Look for others at Saks Fifth Avenue (“Once upon a Holiday”), Barney’s New York (“Hass for the Holidays”), Bloomingdale’s (“The Greatest Showman”), Lord  & Taylor (“The Best and the Brightest”), and Macy’s Herald Square (“The Perfect Gift Brings People Together”).

The 16th annual Holiday Train Show at Grand Central Terminal is brought to you by the New York Transit Museum.  A favorite among children of all ages (and their parents), the show includes movement, lights, sound and color and gets increasingly crowded as shoppers throng the major transit hub closer to Christmas. In the exhibit, model trains travel through tunnels, from subway stop to subway stop, and around skyscrapers as they meander through New York City locations. The show is free and runs from 6am-8pm, through February 4, 2018. 89 East 42nd Street, Manhattan. http://www.grandcentralterminal.com/event/holiday-train-show/

5 Broadway Shows to Add to Your Wish List This Year

After the December frenzy winds down, you might actually be able to fit some shows into your schedule.  Here are two don’t-miss shows for you, two for the family, and one that everyone can enjoy. Theater tickets also make great stocking stuffers!

Dear Evan Hansen – Treating a serious subject with an innovative set, production and score, Dear Evan Hansen is important viewing for adults and teenagers. From the brilliant director of Rent, Grey Gardens and Next to Normal, Michael Greif, the play, score and subject matter might seem familiar, but the production is anything but. Starring Ben Platt, a serious contender for a Tony Award, this musical deals with feelings of not mattering, of not fitting in, and other angst, particularly relevant today. How do you feel about promulgating lies and deception? This musical tugs at every emotion. www.dearevanhansen.com.  Longacre Theatre, 220 West 48th Street. Tickets: www.telecharge.com or 212.239.6200.

Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812 – Based loosely on a portion of Tolstoy’s masterpiece War and Peace, the Great Comet is a revelation on Broadway. Sit on the stage, next to a runway where characters and musicians frequently travel, or in a perch in the mezzanine, and you’ll be privy to an experience akin to being in a Russian salon. The music is part-Russian, part-club, part-folk, part a-lot-of-styles, and it’s magnificent as is the talent. Breakout star Denée Benton is brilliant as Natasha, the countess engaged to Andrey (Nicholas Belton)  but seduced by Anatole (Lucas Steele). Josh Groban’s acting debut is as amazing as his tenor (or baritone), with a presence that is magnified with each statement and each song. The other leads are every bit as wonderful and you’ll find yourself wishing they could all sing even more, despite the fact that the musical is virtually an opera with minimal spoken dialogue. Prepare yourself for a boisterous and wondrous ride, special effects included. www.greatcometbroadway.com. Imperial Theatre, 249 West 45th Street. Tickets: www.telecharge.com or 212.239.6200.

Wicked – One of the longest-running musicals on Broadway, Wicked has a charm that appeals to all ages, to anyone who has ever loved The Wizard of Oz. Glinda, the lovely and bubbly “Good Witch,” is a perfect foil to green-skinned Elphaba, her schoolmate and the eventual Wicked Witch of the West.  Bring the kids, come early, don an authentic Wicked costume, and have your photo taken in the Photo Booth. This pre-quel to the Oz story will be around for a long time.  http://wickedthemusical.com. Gershwin Theatre, 222 West 51st Street. Tickets: www.ticketmaster.com or 877.250.2929.

Cats – Now in its second life on Broadway, this smaller-set Cats is a great musical to introduce your family to Broadway. Try to sit in the orchestra, where the Jellicle Cats routinely slither down the aisle, making eye contact and feline gestures as they move. The play, based on the poems of T. S. Eliot with music by legendary Andrew Lloyd Webber, doesn’t have much a story. It’s pretty much a succession of profiles about each of the cats. But the music, dance, and energy of the show make for a fun afternoon or evening. And Mamie Parris’s version of “Memory,” the song that helped win Betty Buckley a Tony in 1983, will make your own hairs stand on end. www.catsbroadway.com.  Neil Simon Theatre, 250 West 52nd Street. Tickets: www.ticketmaster.com or 877.250.2929.

Photos by Matthew Murphy

Cirque du Soleil Paramour – Part Cirque du Soleil, part musical, completely theatrical, Paramour is a creative take on the Golden Age of Hollywood.  Watch for the breathtaking aerial pas de deux that flies over the audience in this first Cirque du Soleil musical spectacle, specially created for Broadway.  Actors and singers mix seamlessly with Cirque du Soleil performers in 15 different circus acts. www.paramouronbroadway.com Lyric Theatre, 213 West 42nd Street. Tickets: www.ticketmaster.com or 877.250.2929.

7 Shows Closing on Broadway: Tickets Make Great Holiday Gifts

If you’re thinking about something to give the theater lover in your family this holiday season, tickets to one of these shows soon ending their runs are the perfect gift.

Hurry now to get tickets to these seven gems:

The Color Purple – The musical version of Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel closes its Tony-winning revival on January 8. The powerful story of an abused African-American woman in the American South won Cynthia Erivo a Tony Award. The show also features Danielle Brooks (Orange is the New Black) and Tony and Grammy-winner Jennifer Holliday. The gospel, blues and ragtime tunes are brilliant.  www.colorpurple.com.  Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, 242 West 45th Street. Tickets: www.telecharge.com or 212.239.2600.

The Encounter – Unlike anything you’ve ever experienced on Broadway, this smash from London surrounds you in immersive sensory brilliance.  Told by actor Simon McBurney and using 3D audio, it is the startling story of National Geographic photographer Loren McIntyre who was lost among the people of the remote Javari Valley in the Amazon rainforest. Be prepared, there’s no intermission and you can’t leave your seat as you’re tethered to it by your headphones. Closes January 8 as well. John Golden Theatre, 252 West 45th Street.  www.theencounterbroadway.com. Tickets: www.telecharge.com or 212.239.6200.

Photo by Joan Marcus

Fiddler on the Roof – The 50th anniversary revival of this wondrous show ends its run on December 31. Danny Burstein plays Tevye, a character that is truly larger than life, in this musical about a Jewish community on the eve of the Russian Revolution. The show revolves around the marriage of Tevye’s three daughters and includes songs that have become part of Broadway legend like “Sunrise, Sunset,” “If I Were a Rich Man,” and “Tradition.”  www.fiddlermusical.com.  Broadway Theatre, 1681 Broadway. Tickets: www.telecharge.com or 212.239.6200.

Jersey Boys – The boys from New Jersey will play their final show on January 15. The story of the rise of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons will have you on your feet as you join the quartet in singing “December 1963 (Oh What a Night).” You know all the songs (“Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” but even if you don’t, you’ll still be humming and tapping along to the story behind those wondrous voices that took the radio waves by storm in the latter part of the 20th century. www.JerseyBoysBroadway.com. August Wilson Theatre, 24t5 West 52nd Street. Tickets: www.ticketmaster.com or 877-250-2929.

Matilda the Musical – This brilliant, Tony-Award winning show about the children in Roald Dahl’s book, will no longer be “a little bit naughty” after January 1. Another West End transplant, the musical tracks the life of precocious Matilda, her abusive parents, and her disheartening school experiences and how Matilda decides to change her destiny. The music is catchy and the kids are fantastic. www.matildathemusical.com.  Shubert Theatre, 225 West 44th Street. Tickets:  www.telecharge.com or 212-239-6200.

Photo by Joan Marcus

Oh, Hello on Broadway– In this season of less-than-funny news and change, Oh, Hello has brought welcome laughs to Broadway audiences. John Mulaney and Nick Kroll of Saturday Night Live and Comedy Central fame play two crusty Upper West Side bachelors who have a flair for the theatrical. You’ll have to pay attention to catch all the lines and fabulous zingers, which can sometimes get lost under the audience laughter. Each night’s performance features a surprise performer. For New Yorkers, this is a must-see. Closes January 22. www.ohhellobroadway.com. Lyceum Theatre, 149 West 45th Street. Tickets: www.telecharge.com or 212.239.6200.

Photo Joan Marcus

Something Rotten – Shakespeare was never as cool as in this wonderful musical about the creation of the world’s first musical. Adam Pascal from the original production of Rent plays the Bard. But all good things must come to an end, and so must the Renaissance: Something Rotten closes on January 1.Broadway musical fans should pay attention to all the shows mentioned especially in the opening number. Something Rotten is a tribute to every musical that ever was and is. www.rottenbroadway.com.  St. James Theatre, 246 West 44th Street. Tickets: www.ticketmaster.com or 877.250.2929.

@ Joan Marcus

Want to See the World’s Largest Gingerbread Village? It Opens November 13 in Queens

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, although it feels like the Fourth of July. Did we skip Thanksgiving? It’s so confusing, but at least we have the time to start our holiday shopping (Christmas, Black Friday) without wearing a winter coat or heavy boots.  And you can also get your holiday inspiration going by visiting the New York Hall of Science starting November 13 to see what might just be the world’s largest gingerbread village. Again.

Jon Lovitch, master chef and creator of GingerBread Lane, has achieved the Guinness World Record for the past two years for building the largest continuous gingerbread village in the world. While others have contended that theirs might be larger, GingerBread Lane has been the winner hands down, meeting all criteria: only edible ingredients, handmade craft, and contiguous structures.

Last year’s village was laid out in a circle, allowing a complete circumlocution around the village. This year’s version promises to be even more creative, covering 500  square with more than 1050 houses, a double-decker carousel (like the historic one on the Coney Island boardwalk), and the S.C. Kringle & Co. Department Store reminiscent of New York City’s own long-departed Gimbels of the 1900s.  Also new will be a candy factory you can see inside of as you climb the stairs to view the exhibit.

The exhibit runs from November 13-January 10, 2016.  On the last day at 1pm, all gingerbread houses are given away free.  The line starts early, sort of like getting into a Rolling Stones concert.  Kids unable to visit due to illness or other personal situations can contact info@gingerbread-lane.org to have a house shipped to them. www.gingerbread-lane.org.

New York Hall of Science, Flushing Meadows Corona Park, 47-01 111th Street, Queens; www.nysci.org.

Caroling, Cocoa and Jazz Cruises: How to Tour the City This Winter

Caroling, Cocoa and Jazz Cruises: How to Tour the City This WinterDo you hate the commotion in the city this time of the year? Instead of feeling like Santa Claus, are you scowling like Scrooge? We completely understand it.  A simple taxi ride takes four times as long as it should, assuming you can even find a taxi. Busses are full up at 7am. And you have to endure police stringing “do not enter” tape across streets near Rockefeller Center in the most simplistic and makeshift type of traffic management technique ever concocted.  Help! we need a way to enjoy our city at this most magical time of the year.

Enter Classic Harbor Line. I really love what they’re offering to get you off the city’s crowded streets and out of the crazy NYC commercial scene. Grab your spouse, your significant other, your BFF and all of your family for a tour of the city decked out in its holiday splendor…. from the water. On a cruise leaving from Chelsea Piers (Pier 62, West 22nd Street and Hudson River), you’ll get to see the city lights on a one and a half hour sail, seated indoors in complete comfort, with live carolers or jazz musicians as your hosts.

Pretty cool?  Actually, quite warm. You’ll be back to singing “it’s a holly jolly Christmas” in a flash as you snuggle up in a heated back-deck salon on a 1920s-style sailing vessel.  Aboard the Luxury Yacht Manhattan, you’ll soak in the scenery as you stay toasty with cocoa and cookie treats.  (Adults have a choice of beer, wine, spiked hot cocoa or champagne as well).

Caroling, Cocoa and Jazz Cruises: How to Tour the City This WinterBattery Park, South Street Seaport, and the Financial District are your twinkling downtown sights, along with gorgeous views of Governor’s Island, The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.  Depending on the weather and the course taken, you’ll also see some areas of Brooklyn and Queens, and, of course, the Manhattan skyline.

Jazz concerts take place Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Caroling (with guest participation encouraged) is scheduled for Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Now through January 2.  Adult tickets are priced at $56; children’s tickets are $36. Cruises start as early as 4pm, with the latest sailing at 8pm. Check https://www.zerve.com/SailNYC/Cocoa for available dates and sail times.  www.sail-nyc.com

Planning a trip to NYC?