I find myself in New York quite regularly for different reasons, and my boys always ask if they can come! Since I’m normally just in and out for meetings or an event, I haven’t taken them along, but the timing of a recent trip worked out for my husband and me to bring our 6- and 4-year-old sons to see the city they have read about and seen in the movies. Liza stayed home with Lolli while we had this adventure, so it was more geared toward boys (They say the LEGO store and climbing rocks in Central Park were the most fun parts of the trip!). We had a list in our minds of things to see “in real life” and we fit most of it in; however, there’s only so much we could do in to two and a half days! These are the highlights:
The Plaza Hotel
We decided to stay at The Plaza due to its location near Central Park and kid-friendliness (They have an Eloise-themed kids menu for room service and lots of convenient food options in the Plaza Food Hall on the basement level!) and booked the Home Alone 2 Package: Escape to New York for the boys! The Home Alone 2 experience started immediately upon arrival, with a note from main character Kevin and a backpack with his map of the city, a DVD set, and a coupon for an over-the-top, 10-scoop ice cream sundae delivered bedside on an ice cream cart.
High Tea with Eloise
One of New York City’s most famous residents is Eloise at The Plaza, so of course her High Tea is a must, and you don’t have to be a guest of the hotel to book a reservation. Book a table for Afternoon Tea in The Palm Court and tell your server you are there for the Eloise Tea. They will provide the correct menu and place settings–cotton candy included! Instead of hot tea, my boys opted for pink lemonade to complement the finger sandwiches and sweet treats.
Photo via The Plaza NY
Central Park Zoo
Central Park is walking distance from The Plaza, a big perk when traveling with small kids. The boys enjoyed “rock climbing” in the park almost as much as actually visiting The Tisch Children’s Zoo. Open year-round, the exhibit is home to sheep, goats, zebu, and more, plus plenty of opportunities for kids to crawl, jump, climb, and pretend to be animals. Not to mention, it has the only cow in Manhattan! You can catch the Delacorte Clock’s dancing animals every half hour and then head to the main Central Park Zoo. The balmy tropic zone is a great spot to warm up for a few minutes during colder weather. We ran into a live peacock there, then also enjoyed the penguins and puffins exhibit followed by watching the sea lions do tricks with their trainers.
Visit the Empire State Building
Visiting the Empire State Building was a “must” on the boys’ agenda. Having seen movies like Elf and other references to “the tallest building in the world” in games and books, they were eager to see the city from this historic vantage point. Here are some tips for this popular tourist attraction:
- Get Express Passes online and skip all the lines!
- Beat the crowds by going on a Monday morning. For more space and less wait, visit between 8AM and 11AM.
- Kids under six are free. If you’re bringing a stroller, you’ll need to fold it before entering the elevator.
- Plan your breaks. Make sure to use the restrooms on the second floor before getting in line for the elevators.
- Bundle up in winter, as it’s windy up there! The boys thought it was so fun to “blow away.”
Visit FAO Schwarz
You can’t visit NYC with children and not spend some time at the iconic FAO Schwarz! This treasured toy store just reopened at Rockefeller Plaza and is as magical as I remember it from my own childhood. The “Big Piano” is still a feature, along with the singing clock, every plush toy imaginable–and a big FAO Schweetz section! They also have a “Build Your Own Race Car” station, two-story rocket ship, live magicians, and sections for all the trending, of-the-moment characters and toys. Each child got a $50 budget — which was a great way to teach budgeting and math, as they chose wisely (hard decision!) what to bring home to Texas.
Dylan’s Candy Bar Tour
There’s no better city for #TuesdayTreats than NYC! Dylan’s Candy Bar is a confectionary destination founded by Dylan Lauren, daughter of Ralph Lauren, to make everyday sweet. We took the boys on an exclusive, personalized store tour to ensure a memorable experience! Offered for a limited time, a candy tour specialist will take you “behind the scenes” and unwrap some treats as you fill a customized bucket of bulk candy and other sweets. It’s like a modern Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory! Not only was this a special experience for the boys, but I also left with some great party, décor and gift inspiration:
Ice Skating in Rockefeller Plaza
Another “must-do” on the list is ice skating in Rockefeller Plaza. I have fond memories of this tradition from my own youth, and the boys couldn’t wait to try it! In the heart of Midtown and open until April 25th, The Rink at Rockefeller Center is a New York City destination the whole family will enjoy. We missed the crowds by going on a weekday morning. It’s right next to the LEGO store and FAO Schwarz, so a great location for an activity and lunch after shopping.
Dinner at Carmine’s Italian Restaurant
If you’re hoping to experience a Southern Italian family feast in New York’s Times Square, Carmine’s is a great family place to enjoy before a show. Located just down the street from St James Theatre, it was an easy stop before FROZEN on Broadway!
Disney’s FROZEN on Broadway
It was Kids Night on Broadway when we were in town, so we ended our trip by by seeing Disney’s FROZEN on Broadway! Kids Night invites children to experience a free show with a paying adult. Acclaimed as “the best show in town,” FROZEN on Broadway didn’t disappoint, and our 6-year-old sang along to the familiar film’s tunes as if he were on stage himself! My heart melted. They want to see The Lion King next time, and we can’t wait to go back for more #intentionalmemories in NYC!