I remember before we went to Disney World for the first time with my oldest son, who was about 15 months old at the time, I read a few travel articles, to get tips about our trip. I wanted to know if he would be able to go on any rides, and if it would be worth the difficulty and expense of bringing a baby to a theme part. I remember reading one piece of advice that stuck with me: at that age, a toddler might be more interested in the ducks—Mallard, not Donald—and you have to be okay with that. My husband and I decided that was fine, and we had a great day, riding the carousel, going on the Dumbo ride, taking pictures, and watching our tiny son play in the grass and have fun. It was fun for us, too, and I was glad that we went.
This time, our trip to NYC got off to a rough start (see Part I), and yet, I am still so very glad that we went. Having experiences together and making memories as a family is so important, and while my kids are probably still a little young to remember this trip, other than the pictures, I know that my husband and I always will.
I usually like to do a little research before going to a place for the first time, to get restaurant recommendations, and look for fun things to do. Even if plans change, its nice to have a few things in mind that we’re interested in doing. Before our trip to New York, I read a few articles, talked to friends, and read reviews, and I had a list of a few things we wanted to do. Here are a few suggestions to make a trip to NYC during the holidays extra special, just as being there at this magical time of year surely will!
We planned this trip with friends, and we all agreed this was something on our must-do list! None of us had been to New York during the holidays, and we wanted to see the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, and go ice skating.
Tips: Get there early. We arrived just before the 8:30am skating session, and only waited in line for a short time. I actually called ahead, and they said mornings are usually a good time to go.
Bring ice skates. A few weeks before our trip, I started looking around for gently used ice skates, and I actually found a pair for my son, and one for myself, on Facebook marketplace. We like to go ice skating at home, too, so I knew we would use them, and I had room in my luggage for both pairs.
Skip the lines and opt for a VIP experience. If the lines are too long, the rink offers VIP experiences, including a breakfast and ice skating session with Santa. When I called the rink, the woman I spoke with said she actually takes her family to this breakfast every year. It is expensive, but she said it includes a special session on the ice with Santa; and is a great family experience.
Skate at Bryant Park. We didn’t get a chance to do this during this trip, but a friend who lived in the area told me about it. Bryant Park in Manhattan has a skating rink with free admission, with shopping, food and drinks, also available nearby.
Tips: Take your time. We spent a couple of hours in the museum, with a two, five, and six year old, and it easily could have been longer.
Visit the Discovery Room. I read about this before our first family trip to New York two summers ago; the Discovery Room is a hands-on exhibit for little kids, on the ground floor of the museum. It has two levels, the lower floor is for younger kids, and the upper level has experiments for kids ages eight and up. Our kids loved the exhibits, which included putting together a fossil skeleton, and seeing a couple of live reptiles and bugs. The room is small, and I felt like I easily could have missed seeing it, if I didn’t know about it.
Tips: Get there early. We waited in a short line to get into the store, since it was the weekend before Christmas Day and a busy shopping day. We bought a toy for the kids that they ended up not liking, so we went back the next day to return it. Luckily the line then was short, since the store had just opened, so if this is on your must-do list, visit in the morning; although the line moved pretty quickly the day before as well. The store was fun for the kids, with people dressed like tin soldiers taking pictures outside, lots of fun toys being demonstrated inside, and interactive displays, like this adorable grocery store area where little shoppers can pick out food and put it into their own grocery carts.
Tips: Teatime. I read about this after we had already visited the store, but this looked like a fun idea. For $25 per person for Holiday Tea, the café in the store offers teatime, from 2-4pm. You can make a reservation online. Guests can bring their own doll, or borrow a doll from the restaurant, to join them for tea. I know I would have loved this as a little girl, with my American Girl Samantha doll, that I saved and have now given to my kids.
So, did my toddler probably enjoy the apples at the toy store, just as much as being in the Big Apple? Yes. Was it hard traveling during the holidays with little kids? Yes. Was it worth all the planning and preparation to go on this trip to make Christmas memories with our family? Definitely, unequivocally, yes.