• Tuesday, September 29, 2020

New York for Families

Families NYC Galavante
November 22, 2011
By , Families Contributor

When we’re not galavanting to fabulous far-flung destinations, we let the world come to us. For the holidays, we shamelessly devour a city that is infectious in its energy and spirit––and we toast (and, okay, also boast) the fact that we call this dazzling city home. 

Even the smallest New Yorkers possess an unmistakable je ne sais quoi. They can expertly maneuver their way through busy intersections on their scooters and usually know what aisle their organic cheese snacks are in at the local grocery store. Their social circle includes doormen, local firefighters, and food truck operators. New York’s youngest residents grow up quickly: They dabble in Mandarin in preschool, know everybody by name at their local bookstore, and play with a diverse crew at community playgrounds, which are the city’s backyard (minus the white picket fence).

Whether your family is native to New York or simply visiting the city in its holiday glow, let our insider’s guide be your road map.

You can experience the holidays in New York in two distinct ways. Head Uptown for the ultimate romanticized Christmas where you can almost hear the sleigh bells ringing as you glide along Fifth Avenue with your shopping bags in one hand, and gripping your toddler’s fuzzy mittens in the other. Or, for something less traditional, but just as magical, head Downtown, where the holidays are edgier and more organic. Our advice: Mix and match a little of both for the true New Yorker’s holiday experience.

I’m dreamin’ of an Uptown Christmas

To experience Christmas Uptown is to gaze into the fabulously decorated windows along Fifth Avenue, smell the chestnuts roasting near Central Park, and be dwarfed by the enormous Christmas tree looming over Rockefeller Center.  This is the quintessential big-city holiday – the winter wonderland of lucky little celebs like Suri Cruise.

Ice, Ice, Baby

Where better to start than Central Park? Be among the first at the gates of Wollman Rink to ice skate in the city’s most magical wintry setting. Carry that holiday spirit with you to the nearby Wild Holiday Party in December at the Central Park Zoo,which will impress even the tiniest animal lover. Watch the resident polar bears, snow monkeys, red pandas, and penguins tear open their Christmas presents. 

Get Arty

When the mittens and earmuffs are no longer of use in combating the season’s chill, ditch the skates and head to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, for your chance to warm up in the city’s most elegant indoor space. From late November to early January,  the museum’s annual Christmas tree and Baroque crèche is on display for daily lighting ceremonies and festive music in the Medieval gallery. If you experience an unseasonably warm day, visit the Ancient Playground in Central Park on 84th Street, adjacent to the museum, before taking a walk to the park’s spectacular reservoir – an unexpectedly serene natural setting in the shadows of the towering cityscape.

Sugar & Spice

Treat ravenous bellies to an early dinner at whimsical New York favorite Serendipity 3. A cozy and quirky spot, be sure to make reservations and leave your strollers at home. The highlight is dessert, where sundaes and frozen hot chocolate will provide more than enough caloric fuel (as much for the wee ones as for their parents) to take on the night. With dessert on your brain, swing by Dylan’s Candy Bar to munch on the most incredible selection of gummy candies on the planet. Can you say sugar high?

Play Time

New York is the city that never sleeps, so dinner is just a prelude to an evening charged with family fun. FAO Schwarz’s large gallery of stuffed animals invites sugared-up little feet to tap on its famous piano. Evenings are also best to briefly digest the blinding madness that is Times Square. And, because everything here is obnoxiously large and bright, don’t miss the world’s largest Toys“R”Us, complete with Ferris wheel and a midnight closing hour.

On your second day, kick start the morning with a hearty brunch at Fred’s, New York’s favorite dog-themed restaurant.  Nothing to fear – you won’t find any dog food here, only the most delicious mini-muffins caked in strawberry butter. Shop at West Side Kids for an admirable collection of educational toys. For precious children’s Tees and gifts, look no further than Roam, a unique boutique for the smart and chic. Hit the Museum of Natural History to walk among live butterflies and the world’s most impressive collection of dinosaur fossils.

Wee Tea (and Martinis)

No Uptown Christmas is complete without a proper holiday tea. Pop in to Wee Tea at Alice’s Tea Cup, where the under-10 set can enjoy scones, tea sandwiches, and chocolate mousse.  If you prefer something stronger with your scone, then the Bemelmans Bar at the Carlyle Hotel comes to the rescue with a potent martini, shaken not stirred. On Saturdays, sophisticated tots and their boozing parents can enjoy the Madeline Tea, with piano music and cocktails. The bar’s walls are adorned with murals painted by Ludwig Bemelmans, the author of the Madeline books.

Style & the City

Get ready to max out the plastic: It’s impossible to resist Madison Avenue, which is lined with the city’s most elegant children’s boutiques. Find the softest essentials at Petit Bateau, fabulous occasion dresses at Spring Flowers, and a taste of France at Jacadi and Bonpoint. Then, head to the 9th floor of Barneys and plan to stay awhile – they have the most fashionable children’s clothing of any department store.

Show Time

In the evening, it’s dinner and a show. Landmarc at the Time Warner Center has excellent views of Central Park and a winning menu for children that includes petit filet mignon and green eggs and ham. As for shows, you name it, New York has it. Good options include the one-hour Nutcracker at the New York Theater Ballet, Elf on Broadway, and Wintuk by Cirque du Soleil. If you’re toting a train connoisseur, go to the annual Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Gardens in the Bronx. You’ll be able to tour the city again, this time as you witness model trains chugging past 140 miniature replicas of the city’s most famous landmarks.  Sometimes, a birds-eye view of New York is just what you need to realize how grand  it really is.