You might remember I blogged pre-Christmas about our family's planned trip to New York. We spent five nights in the Big Apple, seeing in 2015 in the city that's left a lasting impact on us.
A superb destination at any time of year, New York was particularly magical in the Christmas holidays. Cold, but magical!
The city may have a reputation for being expensive, but those in the know understand that it's all about the planning. There's plenty to keep both the kids and the adults entertained and it's a good idea to base yourself within walking distance of the main attractions in and around central Manhattan.
Our family trip to New York ticked all the boxes as a thrilling and memorable adventure, and with CityPASSES from NYCandCo, we had entry to six of the top attractions in the city!
We've listed some of our favourite moments for you below:
The New York Palace
The New York Palace Hotel was a stunning base for our holiday. We stayed in a Twin Queen room in The Towers, sky-high on the 47th floor. As we entered the room, our concierge opened the blinds for us and we were treated to breath-taking views overlooking St Patrick's Cathedral, the Rockerfeller Centre and 5th Avenue. Even the Hudson River glittered in the distance, through the amost overwhelming number of skyscrapers. It was wonderful to enjoy a sumptuous breakfast in our room overlooking Midtown.
But if it's sweet treats you're after, you can't do much better than the stunning Pomme Palais – a French twist on a classic NYC bakery just off the hotel's grand lobby. With delicious macarons, warm, freshly-baked croissants and sweet fruit tarts, both adult and child tastes are certainly catered for. Delectable savoury dishes are also available.
Our New Year's Eve spectacular!
For the biggest night of the year, we decided to avoid the chaotic Times Square and instead made the short walk to Central Park to enjoy the wonderful NYRR Midnight Run. The race kicked off in spectacular style with an amazing 15-minute firework display. It was the perfect start to the new year, and was definitely a much better choice with kids in tow than any of the hectic NY hotspots for New Year's Eve.
See the whole city at once
One of our favourite moments in New York was a spectacular helicopter ride with Helicopter Flight Services.
My children's eyes nearly popped out with excitement as we flew around the Statue of Liberty, and then off down the Hudson. The kids sat right next to the pilot, who treated us to an informative and entertaining commentary as sight after amazing sight came into view, including the Empire State Building, Madison Square Gardens and Central Park sprawled out below. It was a truly incredible experience, fantastic for adults and kids alike, and was a great way to truly appreciate the size of this amazing city.
To fully realise what NYC had been through in recent years, we walked to Ground Zero after our flight. Fourteen years on, it is still an incredibly moving experience. Still the tourists and city inhabitants flood to the area, and still they cry.
Seeing the sights
On our third day in the city, we opted to experience ice skating in the city. We chose the Wollman Rink, on the edge of Central Park (one of two rinks in the park) and spent an hour laughing and attempting to pirouette! Iconic experience? Yes. Cliche? Possibly. Brilliant? Most definitely.
With our appetite worked up, we had the pleasure of dining at Tavern on the Green for a fantastic lunch in Central Park. It was bustling with resident New Yorkers and has a colourful history, operating as a restaurant since 1934 and attracting many a celebrity since. The kids were delighted as it was where Mr Poppers Penguins was filmed, and I was pretty excited myself as it also featured briefly in Ghostbusters!
Aside from its history and stunning location, the food makes the restaurant well worth a visit. I enjoyed some delicious salmon, and Rachel had a sumptuous roasted vegetable risotto, while the kids had a fantastic mac ‘n' cheese with buttered breadcrumbs and ice cream for dessert.
One of the best treats for the kids was our visit to the iconic FAO Schwarz Toys store – the oldest toy store in the US. A "soldier" welcomed in the kids, and the store features movie props the kids – and adults – could ogle, including the piano from Big!
On our fourth day in the city, we took advantage of our NYCandCO CityPASS to go to the American Museum of Natural History. The planetarium show was truly brilliant and captivated adults and children alike. With exhibitions changing regularly, there is sure to be something, from butterflies to dinosaurs, to keep everyone entertained. We could easily have spent the whole day there!
However, we decided to get the most out of our passes and used them to go to the Top Of The Rock – an amazing observation deck at the top of the Rockerfeller Centre. To make the most of it, you should pre-book a time slot. We went at sunset, and the view was truly spectacular as the city changed from day to night.
Dinner and a show
One of the best experiences of the whole trip was Ellen's Stardust Diner, near Broadway. It's the classic American diner experience, but with singing waiting staff! They were incredible, and it made the dinner really special. The staff are regularly snapped up for Broadway shows, so you could be served by the next big thing.
The kids loved it as we were treated to a rendition of Let It Go (Frozen), as well as hits from Paint Your Wagon, The Princess and the Frog and pop hits such as Taylor Swift's Shake It Off. The kids' eyes were wide as their servers hopped up on benches to belt out a song!
However, the best was left to that night, when we headed to the Gershwin Theatre for a spectacular performance of Wicked. It truly was an incredible production, as is clear from how long the show has been going for – it even featured Idina Menzel as the lead at one point! The performances were spectacular, and the entire family loved every minute of it. It was the perfect show to see in New York.
New York, New York
Overall, our New York experience was the perfect family break. We made the most of all the attractions with our passes, but it was impossible to see everything. New York truly has everything you need for an amazing family holiday – great shopping, wonderful sights, good food and memories we'll treasure forever.