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.
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
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
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
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.
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.