Months ago, back in the Spring, we decided to spend a weekend in NYC in December, to immerse ourselves in the holiday magic the city provides. It was also to be the first time my husband and both my kids had ever been, and since it is a city I have been to many times I was more than excited to show them.
As the date got closer I was nervous about all the walking that F, at 5.5, would have to do, since he is a Southern boy at heart who lives in a city where walking to get from point A to point B just doesn’t really happen. We did bring our umbrella stroller for L, 2.5, so I knew if we needed to we could carry her and push him.
While many cities are magical during the holidays there just seems to be something special about New York. And there is so much to do with families that this really is the perfect city for a weekend break to get your family in the Christmas (or whatever holiday you may celebrate) mood.
With 2.5 days we had to plan our time appropriately, and with rainy weather when we landed late Friday afternoon we knew we just had to get out and go. We stayed at the Grand Hyatt by Grand Central Station, which is not only a great location but family friendly as well. We headed out on a short walk to Bryant Park, which has not only ice skating and a beautiful Christmas tree but also European style Christmas market stalls.
We headed further on to Times Square, where the kids immediately zoned in on Toys R Us, while we took in the lights and chaos that surrounded us. Everywhere you looked there were people dressed in costumes, posing for pictures, but be prepared that they want a tip if you take one. And they aren’t shy, they came up to F and stood there by him until we took a picture, at which point we handed him $1 and went on our way.
Throughout the city there are spectacular holiday displays, lights and music and display windows, something on every block for kids of all ages to be wowed by. We simply wandered, and observed, and took it all in, without spending a penny (minus the $1 for Elmo. I am still bitter about that!)
One thing I am so grateful we brought was the plastic cover for our stroller. Not only did it keep out the rain on Friday it helped keep out the wind and cold the rest of the weekend, but more importantly on streets that were so full of hustle and bustle with little regard to a stroller it kept L from getting hit in the face with bags as we pushed through crowds.
Saturday morning we woke to clear skies and walked 20 or so blocks to Central Park. Both our kids were mesmerized by the pretzel stands on every corner, and we finally acquiesced and bought one for them to eat on the walk. F declared it the best part of the trip!
We passed more decorated store windows, and headed into the amazing vast space in the middle of this city. While the carousel was inexplicably closed we had ice skaters to watch and, more importantly, rocks to climb.
We met friends for lunch at the famed 2nd Ave Deli, and then headed to Radio City Music Hall for the Radio City Christmas Spectacular featuring the Rockettes. We weren’t quite sure what to expect out of the kids but they loved it and it really is the perfect show for families. It is only about 90 minutes long, but they keep kids engaged with not only the Rockettes but with Santa, a new 3-d feature, fake snow and a live nativity scene. The tickets are not cheap, but well worth it to add to your NYC holiday adventure. The area around the show, right at the Rockefeller Christmas tree, had some of the worst crowds I had ever seen, but that is par for the course this time of year.
While we didn’t desire to wait in the lines at FAO Schwarz I know it is a great place to visit, and I have heard (although I don’t know personally) that if you book an appointment with a personal shopper, which is free, you can skip the lines.
Walking back to the Hyatt we headed down 2nd, away from the crowds, and had a huge choice of restaurants. We really had no problems finding places to eat with our kids, although having our stroller folded when we entered was definitely helpful.
We decided on Sunday morning to venture to Top Of The Rock, to see the views from the top of 30 Rockefeller Plaza, and did not buy tickets in advance. You can book them online on the hour, or you can go and buy them in person, where they are sold in 20 minute increments. You can stay as long as you want once you get to the top, but you must enter in that time frame. Kids 5 and under are free.
The views were fabulous, and we could see all over Manhattan, and more. It is well blocked so I wasn’t nervous about our kids, and we all thought this was one of the highlights of the weekend.
Next stop, Battery Park, where we braved the Subway (every station we went to had elevators but I don’t think they all do. We also had to ask for assistance to go through a special door since the stroller couldn’t go through the turnstile, but F thought it was awesome that he got to crawl underneath the turnstile since he was free), and braved the cold. We didn’t go out to the Statue of Liberty or Ellis Island, but we saw them from faaaar away, and saw the new One World Trade Center building, an amazing monument to 9/11.
- We walked. And walked. And walked some more. We saw Christmas trees and decorations and lights and heard Christmas music and saw Christmas markets and braved holiday crowds and enjoyed the flurries and remarked, more than once, how lucky we were to be able to bring our kids to such an amazing city at such a magical time.