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How to Do New York City Like a Local During the Holidays

If you're one of the many families from around the world planning to visit New York City this holiday season, know this: not every tourist attraction is worth seeing. At least not at the wrong time or on the wrong day of the week.

Here are some tips from a New York City mother of a 10-year-old about what to see, where to stay and what to avoid doing during this busy, exciting time of year.

1. Planning to watch the tree lighting in Rockefeller Center? DON'T

The crowds at Rockefeller Center the night of the tree lighting (which happens December 2, 2015) are absolutely insane. I tried to bring my daughter a few years ago, and she nearly got crushed. If it weren't for a friendly and understanding female police officer who lifted my daughter over the barricade and out of the crowd, she probably would have had a panic attack. So skip the show (or watch it on TV in your hotel room) and visit the tree either during the day or early evening during the week, Monday through Wednesday, when the crowds are considerably lighter and more manageable. It's much easier to take a souvenir photo then, too.

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2. Yes, go to Times Square. But don't walk around aimlessly. Go see a Broadway show!

If you don't have hundreds of dollars to spend on Broadway tickets for the entire family, here's a great tip: go directly to the box office of the show you'd like to see about 30 minutes before curtain. Ask for the cheapest and best seats they have for that performance. My daughter and I saw both "Annie" (which is no longer running) and "Matilda" (still on—go see it—it's great!) this way at about $60 per person. We sat in the orchestra seats for both shows.

You can get tickets for even cheaper (as low as $20), if you're willing to wait in line at TKTS in Times Square, which provides you the opportunity to see all of the neon lights the theatre district offers … without getting in the way of locals in a hurry. Other great shows for kids currently on Broadway include Disney standards like "The Lion King" and "Aladdin," plus new shows like the delightful "Finding Neverland" and "School of Rock."

3. Where to stay if you're on a budget, and where to splurge that's actually worth it

If you're trying to come to New York on the cheap, first of all, don't. Even a cheap trip to New York is an expensive one, and you should know that up front. However, there are plenty of cost-cutting measures you can take to make your vacation here relatively affordable. (If you can afford a trip to Disney, you can afford a trip to New York. At least here the mice are real.)

If you're on a budget: In addition to lots and lots of great airbnb rentals in all five boroughs, believe it or not, there are plenty of lovely hostels you and your family can stay in with relative privacy and at very affordable prices. Check out hostels.com to find one that suits you.

For the splurge: Try staying at an upscale New York hotel like The New York Palace. Rooms start at about $300/night, but if you've got the dough, it's definitely worth it.

My daughter and I were invited to stay as guests of the hotel for a night, and we had an incredible experience.

The rooms are huge, the bedding is luxurious, the room service is great and the view is incredible. So are their specialty éclairs!

4. When in New York … eat like a New Yorker

Again, there are two ways to dine out with kids in New York: the fancy way and the delicious-but-on-the-cheap way. (I'm much more familiar with the latter. Consult the Zagat guide for advice on the former.) Whatever you do when you come to New York City, DON'T eat at places like Applebee's, TGI Fridays and The Olive Garden. Eat New York pizza (no, not from Sbarro). Swing over to 9th Avenue from Times Square and walk up the 40s and 50s where you can eat ethnic food from all over the world for less than $20 a person.

Go to Harlem and get some soul food at Sylvia's or Red Rooster. Try Puerto Rican, Mexican, Columbian or Venezuelan dishes in Washington Heights or Inwood. Get dumplings or banh mi in the East Village. Check out a silly but delicious niche restaurant like S'MAC (that only serves mac-n-cheese) or Peanut Butter & Co. (that only serves peanut butter sandwiches). Then top it all off with some Big Gay Ice Cream.

RELATED: 8 Travel Splurges For Kids You Won't Regret

5. There's more to New York City than Manhattan, you know

Or, well, maybe you don't know. There are so many things to do and places to see in The Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and yes, even Staten Island, that it's impossible for me to list them all here. However, you can pick up a Time Out New York on the street while you're here to see what's happening in all five boroughs.

A quick list of places to go during the holidays includes: The New York Botanical Garden in The Bronx for their annual Holiday Train Show followed by a trip to Arthur Avenue for Italian food; a visit to Jackson Heights, Queens, for Indian food or Astoria and Long Island City for Greek food, art, comedy and more; a stroll across the Brooklyn Bridge and onto the Brooklyn Heights promenade and/or through Brooklyn Bridge Park; and a trip to Historic Richmond Town in Staten Island.

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