It’s rumored that more than 150 movies are filmed in New York City every year. I’d wager that a good portion of those are made during the holiday season, celebrating the most populous city in the country under a blanket of white. Iconic landmarks, glittering skyscrapers, and some would argue the best slice of pizza in the US. Street food vendors, Central Park, ice skating, the tree in Rockefeller Center. Easy to see why the whole family can find something to love at the most magical time of the year or all year ‘round.
Madame Tussauds NY
The selfsame tourist hit (madametussauds.com) that attracts visitors from all over the world to its iconic location on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles has a sister venue in the Big Apple. Not surprisingly renowned as “the world’s greatest wax museum,” Madame Tussauds is home to some of the most incredible wax attractions you’ll ever lay eyes on.
We thoroughly enjoyed our experience here – sitting in the Oval Office, battling alongside MARVEL’S Avengers, or ringing up the Ghostbusters for a quick post-Halloween chat. Now, inspired by New York’s incredible gala presence, visitors can join an exclusive rooftop party with today’s hottest celebrities including Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande, and Justin Bieber; all in custom illuminated outfits.
Empire State Building
Built between 1930 and 1931, the Empire State Building (esbnyc.com) was recently voted the number one attraction in America to visit with unbelievable views at the center of it all – two observation decks offer unmatched vistas of New York City and a panorama that stretches across six states (views from the 102nd floor span 80 miles on a clear day).
Our teens are big on self-guided audio tours so it was easy to immerse ourselves in the multiple exhibits showcasing the history of the Empire State Building (ESB), from its origins in the 1920s through the construction process and opening day to the specific measures taken to make ESB the modern marvel it is today as world leader in sustainability and energy efficiency.
A 102-story Art Deco triumph in the heart of Midtown Manhattan, the building gets its name from the state’s nickname, and has certainly inspired more than its fair share of cinematic moments. Save money with CityPass or time with an Express Pass: Skip the queue and head straight to the top. A perfect venue for the whole family to scope out the city, ride an elevator that counts floors in tens instead of singles, and get together for a core-memory making photos.
Big Bus Tours
Our family was blessed to have experienced a European vacation last summer. It was in Paris that we discovered one of the best ways to get around and orient yourself in a new city upon arrival: Big Bus Tours (bigbustours.com). Offered in cities all over America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East, their hop on, hop off tours give you a front row view of landmark sites and attractions. An audio tour of pre-recorded commentary offers a particularly great way to learn a bit of history/background on each of the 10 “stops” along the route and determine which were “must-see” destinations for the coming days.
If you’ve never heard of the company, you’re in for a treat. Especially with kids in tow. No whining that their feet hurt, no sore backs from trying to piggyback a toddler 20 blocks at a time. Incredibly priced, you can choose to hop off at a particular sight to explore a bit more or stay on the bus for the entire time to snap crystal clear photos from the open-air deck for the duration of the 2.5-hour ride. Pick the option that works best for you – 1 day, 2 days, or 3 days at a time – downtown or uptown loops. Times Square, the Empire State Building, Brooklyn Bridge, Statue of Liberty and more await.
Edge New York City
There’s a fascinating and exhilarating experience now open at 30 Hudson Yards. Suspended in mid-air, and overlooking 100 stories of New York skyscrapers, Edge (edgenyc.com) stakes its claim as the highest outdoor sky deck in the Western Hemisphere. With a unique design, 360-degree views, and an incredible glass floor, lean out over the Big Apple on angled glass walls and sip champagne in the sky. I guarantee you’ve never seen the city this way before – from the rooftop garden of your favorite hotel or even from the Empire State Building. If you’re really brave, scale the outside of the skyscraper Edge sits atop and lean out more than 1,200 feet above the ground – the highest open-air ascent in the world. No more challenging than a typical staircase, though it is perched at an exposed 45-degree angle on the side of a building.
Chinatown + Little Italy
Full disclosure: my husband, Tim and I fancy ourselves fledgling foodies. Over the years, we have found that taking a walking tour with an entertaining local guide has often been the highlight way to experience a city’s offerings. So I was particularly thrilled to stumble upon the Ahoy New York Tours and Tasting website (ahoynewyorkfoodtours.com) when planning our itinerary.
Literally the best of both worlds, our family enjoyed a flavorful tour of the culture and history of Chinatown and Little Italy. Winding our way through a maze of streets while regaled with fascinating tales and stopping to indulge in eight different tasting locations (think authentic Chinese dumplings and popular Asian pastries, homemade mozzarella paired with prosciutto, fresh pasta with outstanding marinara and super yummy imported cheeses and olives) – family-owned shops, off-the-beaten path locations and establishments that have been in operation for over a century. With advance notice, Ahoy even tailored our intimate tour to accommodate Tim’s shellfish allergy.
Rockettes Christmas Spectacular
I know a way to keep the Christmas spirit alive in your family’s heart every holiday season: attend the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes’ Christmas Spectacular (rockettes.com). Could be the classic high-kicks, the chorus line entertainment, the magical and seemingly instantaneous costume changes, or just the exquisite feeling of New York under a blanket of snow that makes it such a memorable experience. Perhaps it is a bit of each – but it’s most definitely a not-to-be-missed spectacular (pun intended).
One World Observatory
The glittering gem of lower Manhattan’s skyline towers amongst iconic and historical buildings at One World Trade Center. Now also known as the Freedom Tower (oneworldobservatory.com), the gorgeously designed monument exists as a living museum, observation point, registry of global guests to the Big Apple, and reveals the New York skyline from its unsettled heritage to today’s uninterrupted swath of skyscrapers. Enter into a multimedia extravaganza viewable from One World Observatory where 145 screens tell the story of each face, moment, and place viewable from the climate-controlled space. All you have to do is step aboard the SkyPod Elevator, and you’ll be to the top story is less than a minute (47 seconds to be exact). What else could unite the family for an afternoon than one of the most iconic views in New York City, from one of the state’s most remarkable foundations?
Circle Line Cruises
For truly unique means of experiencing some of the city’s most famous landmarks on both the Hudson and East Rivers, there’s perhaps no better option than boarding a Circle Line Cruise Landmarks Cruise (circleline.com). This 1.5 hour from-the-water perspective features breathtaking views of Manhattan’s downtown and midtown skyline and the up-close spectacle of the Statue of Liberty, while the 2.5 hour Best of NYC tour is the only cruise that completely circles Manhattan (or for the most beautiful view of the NYC skyline at night, opt for the Harbor Lights cruise).
In the city that never sleeps, every minute counts so purchasing a CITYPASS (citypass.com) is a great way to save time and money. The best-selling option offers 42% off your choice of five of NYC’s most popular attractions including the Empire State Building, 9/11 Memorial and Museum, Top of the Rock Observatory and the Museum of Modern Art.