Christmastime in New York City - it really is a magical time for kids and parents alike. There are so many things to see and do, and it is completely feasible to do in a day from Saratoga. We are giving you all the information you need to get down there, leave all the stress and worry behind, and enjoy Christmas, New York City style. Getting There
First, there are a number of options for travel. Driving is of course the most obvious, but you then have to worry about parking (and the cost of parking!) and driving through the crowded city streets. A great way to go is the train. Amtrak has many trains running daily between Rensselaer and Penn Station as well as twice a day from Saratoga. The cost is less from Albany and there are more times to choose from and you can park in the lot right next to the station inexpensively. Click here for schedules of trains. Another possibility is driving to Poughkeepsie and taking the Metro line into Grand Central Station. This gets you even closer, allows for easier parking and keeps the cost down. Prices range from $10-$15 on the Metro to upwards of $40 to $53 on Amtrak, one way. There are also the bus lines. Adirondack Trailways of New York has buses that run from Saratoga to NYC and kids between 2 and 12 are discounted 75%. Another option is the Megabus, which has a bunch of different departure times from Albany and it an inexpensive choice. All of these travel options are a delight for the kids. The traveling itself is part of the magical journey for young children. My kids still talk about the subway ride.
And speaking of subways, it is one of the possibilities you can take once your train or bus arrives. Penn Station is located on 34th Street and Broadway, while Grand Central Station is on 42nd and Lexington. Rockefeller Center, where most of the revelry can be found, is at 50th and 6th Avenue. You can walk from Grand Central, but it's a little hike from Penn Station. Don't fret -we have a solution! From Penn Station, take the "1" train Uptown to the 50th Street stop. It is only two stops on the subway. From there, you can walk over (east) two blocks. From Grand Central, you can take the "6" train one stop Uptown to 51st Street and walk one block (west). You have now arrived at Rockefeller Center!
Once here, you have a few options. Take in the giant tree and the beautiful angel lined walk leading up to the ice skating rink right in front of 30 Rockefeller Plaza and take a twirl on some skates on the rink. You can go see "The Christmas Spectacular" at Radio City Music Hall and watch your little ones eyes light up when the Rockettes take the stage. It is an amazing show, and I believe it is something you must do at least once with the kids. St Patrick's Cathedral is also beautiful this time of year - fully decorated in the Holiday spirit.
Where to Eat
It is now probably nearing that time of day, where everyone is getting a little tired, and a lot hungry. We have some places nearby that are perfect for families with young children. Ruby Foo's at 49th and Broadway is a Pan-Asian restaurant serving up a fusion of Thai, Chinese and Japanese food. They have group sharing platters of Sushi and Dim Sum, a gluten free menu and a kids menu. The kids can be as daring as they like, trying some steamin' shrimp dumplings, or play it safe, with PB&J, grilled cheese and chicken fingers. And if you are planning your trip on December 17th, Santa will be there from 12-7pm. You can have lunch or dinner with him and then have your picture taken on his lap.
If you are not in the mood for Asian, and instead are looking for a delicious bowl of pasta or chicken parmigiana, look no further than Carmines at 200 West 44th, between Broadway and 8th Avenue. This family-style Italian restaurant is so good, you may want to make a reservation. It is usually crowded, but it is worth it. They have all kinds of Italian food, and all kids can find something to their liking here.
If a slice is all you're looking for, try Two Boots on 625 Ninth Avenue between 44th and 45th Streets. With many locations around the city, this place gets two thumbs up for taste, price and atmosphere.
Afterward, you can head over to Serendipity 3, on 60th between 2nd and 3rd for one of their famous frozen Hot Chocolates! Another sweet treat to check out is Pinkberry. They are located all over the city, and it's fantastic mamas. I'm an original flavor with mango and fruity pebbles fan myself...
Things to Do
Now, time to walk off that delicious lunch, and head over to FAO Schwartz on Fifth Avenue and 58th Street, a child's fantasy. Seriously, the store features a breathtaking Grand Hall adorned with more than 20,000 computer-controlled colored lights, the famous giant dance-on piano keyboard and "FAO Schweetz," a classic New York candy shop that offers hundreds of scrumptious confections. You may be setting yourself up with your kids, but this is something parents will enjoy themselves - think Tom Hanks, circa 1988.
If you're heading down for a girls day, consider making it Eloise themed and have tea at the Plaza hotel! If your daughter is a fan of this classic children's book you can have tea served to you from 2-5pm in the Palm Court. Afterwards you can stop in the Eloise Shop, sure to delight any little girl! And of course there is American Girl Doll Place, located at 609 Fifth Avenue at 49th Street where you can find shops featuring all of their American Girl characters—from historical favorites to the current Girl of the Year—plus Bitty Baby and the Bitty Twins. Add to the fun by exploring outfits, accessories, and furniture, plus more fun stops filled with adorable accessories, treats to eat, and other surprises.
One of my all time favorite stops in the city has to be the Natural History Museum. I can’t say enough good things about it. I have fond memories of going here as a child and not much has changed. Some tips: if you are going to eat lunch there go to the lunchroom EARLY – at like 11. Not a minute later. Take the train there if you can. The C train stops right in the building and the lines are not as long from that entrance. Definitely get tickets to the Planetarium on-line ahead of time, and just for the record, I would probably not bring a child there until they are at least 5 or 6. And keep in mind this is a HUGE museum and is the type of museum that will take many times to cover but I HIGHLY recommend going to see the blue whale in the Hall of Ocean Life, it is my absolute favorite, and of course the dinosaurs!
If you decide there is too much to do for one day and want to stay overnight, there are a LOT of options. Check out the official guide for NYC and their list of kid friendly hotels here. And over at Mamatoga favorite Babble they have a great list of where to stay with kids in the city.