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New York City Holiday Travel Tips for Families

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Here are some festive child-friendly activities for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year’s Eve in New York. I interviewed Fodor’s author and New York aficianado, Meryl Pearlstein, to gather these tips for families traveling to the Big Apple during the holidays.

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (Photo Courtesy of Macy's)

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (Photo Courtesy of Macy’s)

Meryl has attended the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade a whopping eight times. Although it is often a chilly affair, the unique experience is worth the low temperatures. She said, “There’s something about watching all those fabulous balloons float overhead that is mesmerizing.  Older kids will also appreciate the music and dance talent on the floats.”

Rockefeller Center Ice Skating Rink and Christmas Tree (Photo Courtesy of Tishman Speyer-Photographer Bart Barlow)

Rockefeller Center Ice Skating Rink and Christmas Tree (Photo Courtesy of Tishman Speyer-Photographer Bart Barlow)

No matter your children’s ages, Meryl advises visiting Rockefeller Center after its famous Christmas tree is already up rather than attending the crushingly popular tree-lighting ceremony. You can take in the beauty of the huge twinkling evergreen tree and watch the skaters, or lace up some rental skates and take a spin on the world-renowned ice rink. Afterward, do some holiday shopping at the center’s 49 shops.

A favorite Christmastime activity is perusing the city’s decorated store windows, which are elaborately dressed up for the holidays. Head to the world’s largest department store, Macy’s on 34th Street, for some of the city’s best window-shopping.

Dyker Heights Home Decorated for the Holidays (Photo Courtesy of Meryl Pearlstein)

Dyker Heights Home Decorated for the Holidays (Photo Courtesy of Meryl Pearlstein)

For a memorable experience, Meryl suggests taking the Slice of Brooklyn Bus Tour: Christmas Lights & Cannoli Tour. The tour takes visitors to Brooklyn’s Dyker Heights to view homes lit up for the holidays with an array of lights and over-the-top animated displays. The tour concludes with a sweet trip to the Mona Lisa Pastry Shop, a family-owned bakery that specializes in Italian goodies like cannoli, biscotti, and pignoli cookies.

Hanukkah Festival at 92nd Street Y (Photo Courtesty of 92nd Street Y)

Hanukkah Festival at 92nd Street Y (Photo Courtesty of 92nd Street Y)

Looking for Hanukkah celebrations? Meryl suggests the Annual Family Hanukkah Party hosted by The Jewish Museum. This fundraiser entertains families with children aged ten and younger with live music, arts and crafts, face-painting, balloon art and more. The 92nd Street Y hosts a Hanukkah Festival each year at which children can build their own menorahs, make candles, and decorate dreidels.

Although tweens and teens may get a kick out of ringing in the New Year in Times Square, Meryl warns the scene is overly crowded and not very family-friendly. Instead she advises traveling families celebrate New Year’s Eve by viewing the craziness of Times Square on television together from the safety of a hotel room. Order some pizzas or rooms service, get some noise makers and party hats, play a few rounds of charades, and toast the New Year with some sparkling cider!

For more tips on what to see, what to do, and where to eat in New York with children, buy a Fodor’s Family: New York City with Kids or enter to win one below. Meryl has been writing Fodor’s New York City guides since 2005. She writes restaurant reviews for and has written for New York Magazine and Boston Herald. She is the mother of two boys, ages 15 and 19. Read her blog Meryl Pearlstein’s Travel and Food Notes for travel and food observations from around the world and everything New York City.

Enter to win one of four copies of Fodor’s Family: New York City with Kids in this week’s giveaway. Fodor’s provided the giveaway copies as well as one copy for me to review. Travel Mamas is picking up the costs of shipping. The winner will be selected at random using You may enter up to three times, using each method of entry once, by November 28, 2009. THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED.

1) Add a comment below about which New York holiday event listed above you would most like to attend and why.

2) Sign up to Become a Travel Mama to receive the Travel Mamas bimonthly e-newsletter. If you are already on our mailing list, instead post a comment mentioning the e-newsletter and stating what you like about

3) Tweet about this contest on Twitter by copying and pasting the entire phrase below. Be sure to post a comment with a link to your tweet!
I love the holidays in NY! Visit @TravelMamas to win a “Fodor’s Family: New York City with Kids” this week

Bottom photo purchased from

About Colleen Lanin

Colleen Lanin is the founder/editor-in-chief of As the author of her book, "The Travel Mamas' Guide," she teaches parents not only how to survive a trip with children, but also how to love exploring the world with their offspring. Her stories have appeared online and in print for such outlets as the "Today" show,, Parenting Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, Expedia, San Diego Family Magazine, and more. Colleen gives tips on television, radio, and as a public speaker. She has a master’s degree in business administration with a background in marketing. She lives in Arizona with her husband and two kids.

  1. Would love to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

  2. signed up for emails

  3. tweet httpss://

  4. Nanette Olson says

    I would like to visit Rockefeller Center Ice Skating Rink and Christmas Tree because it looks specataular and it would be a lot of fun. I love New York.

  5. I’d definitely love to see the Macy’s Parade. I’ve watched it on tv since I was a kid and it’d be a dream come true to actually be there!

  6. I would love to see Rockefeller Center and the lighting of the Christmas Tree!

  7. Genevieve Coutroubis says

    The bus tour sounds great. Sign me up.

  8. susan varney says

    Rockefeller Center Ice Skating Rink and Christmas Tree

  9. I think the Macy’s parade would be a great hit with the kids in my family.

  10. The brooklyn bus tour would be tops with our family!

  11. Meryl Pearlstein says

    If you go on the bus tour, tell Tony I sent you! He also has an amazing pizza tour. Hope you’ll read my blog at and follow me @merylpearlstein on Twitter for more tips. Best, Meryl

  12. Mona Lisa Pastry Shop; we have a sweet tooth!

  13. The Rockefeller Center Ice Skating Rink and Tree. The reason is that my kids (who are now in their 30’s), one of them with 2 kids of their own, enjoyed it so much when they went, and I’d love for all of us to go again, but this time with my two grandchildren.

  14. My children love parades, so the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade would be a favorite!

  15. I would love to attend the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting and ice skate there!

  16. Macy’s Thanksgiving Holiday Parade has been a part of my life since I was a kid and my grandparents watched it without fail, every year, on the television. I would love to see it in person, and give the kids that experience too.

  17. Karen Gonyea says

    I’d love to take the kids to Rockefeller Center 🙂

  18. I love the Rockefeller Center at Christmastime, but I’d have to say the Thanksgiving Parade because my kids were watching it on tv this year with their mouths hanging open…they loved it! It would be so fun to see it without all of the advertisements and actually see the whole thing. Thanks for the contest!

  19. I think the bus tour with the cannoli stop sounds really fun and different. We’ve been dying to take my kids to NYC. We’ve never been there yet. Thanks.

  20. I want to go to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. The kids and I love watching it on TV!

  21. I would love to attend the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade because it sounds very fun!

  22. I signed up for the e-newsletter. I love the contests on your blog!

  23. Meryl Pearlstein says

    Did anyone come to the city for Thanksgiving? What did you love the most. Leave me a note at or


  24. Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

    Thanks everyone for entering to win a copy of “Fodor’s Family: New York City with Kids.” The contest is now closed. Check back again tomorrow to see who won!

  25. Melisa Nike SB DunkBrawn says

    Much appreciation for this post!

  26. Christine M. Loveless says

    I am a regular reader of your site and would just like to say thank you! I have even been inspired to start my own blog.

  27. I took the most amazing helicopter tour over New York City with Zip Aviation. Loved every minute of it and will do it again soon!

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