Wanderlust {New York}

We’ll have a teenager in the house come Thanksgiving and in lieu of a big party or gift, he’s picked at trip to the Big Apple to celebrate!!   I’ve visited NYC quite a few times, but always on a girl’s trip.  This being the first time going with the family – and with all boys – I would love a little help picking the most interesting, fun, don’t-miss-that things.

photo credit

We will have 6 days in the city and will be there the week of Thanksgiving.  John knows he wants to see the Statue of Liberty and visit Ellis Island, but the rest of the week he’s up for suggestions.  We’d love to see the parade and are interested in holiday happenings but don’t necessarily want to be sitting on a curb in the middle of the night.  We have tickets to Hamilton so that is handled already (Yippee!!!!! They were cheaper in NYC than ATL!) Y’all have been spot on every single time I’ve asked for your suggestions so let’s hear them!!!

  • Where should we eat?  Any suggestions for Thanksgiving?
  • What do we HAVE to see / do?
  • What should we skip?
  • What are your best tips?
  • What do I need to do or book in advance?
  • Are there any particular city tours you would recommend?

As y’all know, we love adventure, history, and a good meal!


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34 thoughts on “Wanderlust {New York}

  1. This will be such a fun trip to celebrate 13! Can’t wait to read the suggestions! xo

  2. So you guys are basically 6 months behind us on trips, as we just got back from NYC (after going to DC in Oct!) We stayed at the Omni Berkshire (52nd & Madison), which was nice, perfect location near the park and shopping. We booked through Secret Escapes website and got a steal!! Sign up for their daily emails if you don’t already. We did Central Park, Natural History Museum, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, 9/11 Museum, Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island (I suggest not trying to cram 9/11, Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island all in one day like we did since they are so close to each other, I would have loved to spend the whole day at Ellis Island), My daughter and I saw Hamilton (it was AMZAING!), the boys went to the International Auto Show which happened to be there that week, we saw a basketball game at Madison Square Gardens, sampled lots of yummy food at Chelsea Market, then walked the High Line back towards our hotel. We ate at Max Brenner one night, food was okay, but the desserts were so good! We grabbed a pizza at John’s Pizza before Hamilton, again, it was okay…The best thing we had was a milkshake at Black Tap, it’s like your whole days worth of calories, but you’ll walk it off:-) Here is a link to some amazing looking food places https://picky-palate.com/new-york-city-weekend-for-foodies/ We didn’t go anywhere fancy to eat, as my kids don’t like those places. We walked through Times Square a few times, they did like all the lights. Also, there was a fun Nike store that they custom paint shoes right in front of you. Loved Dylan’s Candy. We also ate at Ellen’s Stardust Diner, food was diner-style, but the staff sings songs throughout your meal. We wanted to go to the Top of the Rock or Empire State building, but the weather wasn’t that great for our trip, also wanted to walk the Brooklyn Bridge. You guys will have a great time!

  3. I love NYC too. For your first trip with the kids, I recommend the Hop on Hop off Bus to see a lot of sights efficiently. I personally love the location of the Marriott Marquis in Times Square with a room overlooking Times Square–it doesn’t get more NY than that. Also, the location is perfect for walking to the Today Show, Macy’s etc.

  4. We have only done NYC as adults to date as well but couple restaurants we enjoy would be great with kids. We love db Bistro Moderne for pre-theater. Daniel Boulud is a Michelin chef though this particular restaurant does not have a star (better prices and better for families though!). It is right by the theater district and the pre-theater menu is a great deal. For a casual meal 5 Napkin Burger is great! The Hell’s Kitchen location is also by a fantastic cookie bakery, Schmackary’s. The line can be very long but it moves quickly.

    Also, if you plan to see any other shows (or maybe grab one at the last minute) check out TodayTix. We have used them on two separate occasions and found the best price for our shows with fantastic seats and the convenience can’t be beat. No searching out discount codes and no waiting in will call lines to pick up tickets. A rep meets you right outside the theater with an envelope for you 30 minutes before show time. Enjoy your trip!

  5. We visited NYC from Australia for Thanksgiving last year, be prepared for the insane crowds for the parade! as well as the crowds around Rockefeller etc.

    We stayed at The Conrad which is downtown, right on the Hudson, the rooms are suite size which for New York from all of the reviews I read, is quite a good size as most are tiny, it was so beautiful and peaceful, and the buffet breakfast was outstanding. It is directly across from Brookfield Place and the 9/11 memorial as well as the Oculus which are all a must see I feel, We walked from the Hotel, right along the Hudson to the Brooklyn Bridge, and back again, such incredible scenery and a pleasant stroll, you can also catch the subway from the Oculus which it is quick, cost effective and easy.

    Have a fantastic time, I can’t believe John will be a teenager…. thats crazy !

  6. I’m local. I’d wait until you know the weather before booking any outdoor tours. If the weather is bad, the ferry will not be running to Ellis Island. Try to keep your itinerary flexible. Have lots of indoor back up attractions to hit should the weather not cooperate.

    You can make an advance reservation to visit Santa in Macy’s. Don’t miss it!

    Visit the original Winnie the Pooh doll and all his friends at the NY Public Library on 42nd St & 5th Ave. Enter on 42nd St the children’s library is to the right of the entrance. You will need to go thru metal detectors.

    For kid friendly ideas, locals use the website “Mommy Poppins”. There you will find parade info, restaurants that offer a brunch with the viewing. Personally, we view it near Tavern on the Green, from the park. It’s all locals and not overly crowded.

    For more kid friendly info, I’d recommend following @diva_moms and @lainieofleisure on instagram. They always know the newest hottest place to check out.

    Have fun and have your son bring pants! NYC is cold in November! ;-)

  7. “The Ride”is a must. It is a theatrical bus ride with bus hosts who show you some of the popular New York spots with lots is silly humor along the way. You do need to make a reservation. But please DO NOT read all about “The Ride”. It will spoil all of the fun and surprises. Your boys will LOVE it. All the seats on the bus face the windows and this adventure is interactive. To this day it is one of the best things we have ever done in New York and my grown children would agree. I know you are a planner and so am I but please do not read all about the adventure. I promise you will laugh out loud and enjoy seeing parts of the city. It is so much fun for all ages. Miriam in Texas

  8. I love the city during the holidays. We usually stay near Central Park. The windows in all the stores on 5th will already be decorated for the holidays. Of course you’ll have to do the parade but unfortunately you’ll have to leave super early in the morning to get a position that will be good for viewing. Think Disney Parade times 10. It’s worth it though. World Trade is a must see. There will probably have ice skating at Rockefeller Plaza and Central Park already. I liked the evening skating at Central Park best. You’ll have lots of recommendations for food I’m sure but The Plaza lower level has lots of restaurants in a type of food court area. I know you’re going to Hamilton (lucky) but I would definitely suggest Radio City Music Christmas Show. I’m looking forward to hearing all about it. Oh and make sure you have a reservation for dinner on Thanksgiving Day way in advance or you may find yourself at subway ordering turkey subs. And I won’t go into how I know this. ?

  9. A food tour is a great way to see a different part of the city. We did one in Greenwich Village. Had a great tour guide and had a snack at 6-7 places. Great way to do lunch.
    Also we did visit the Immigrant museum. Its on the Lower East side I believe. Very interesting and eye-opening for your boys.

  10. We were just in New York last weekend!! My two favorite things were the 911 museum and memorial and renting bikes in Central Park. We also stopped and watched a couple of baseball games that were happening on the Saturday afternoon that we were there. We also LOVED Chelsea Market, but remember to go hungry, and the high line is right there too for a good walk and sight seeing. It is a wonderful city.

  11. Passing on a suggestion… Take a look at the blog thelarsonlingo.blogspot starting date Nov. 28, 2107 for a review of their recent NYC Thanksgiving trip. Have fun planning!!!
    Thanks for your Washington DC trip itinerary. I will keep it in mind for our grandkids!

  12. Definitely download the TodayTix app. Worth it for the price and convenience. I attended the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade several years ago. We stayed in the theater district and found a great spot with a lot of fellow southerners around 6:30 a.m. We wore thermals underneath our clothing and it was fine. We had our Thanksgiving dinner at Carnegies, which is unfortunately now closed. I would recommend going somewhere low key, such as a diner for Thanksgiving, since we really didn’t feel like going anywhere fancy after standing for the parade for several hours. You can watch them blow up the floats the day before (I think near the Museum of Natural History). That should be fun for the kids. If weather permits, definitely spend some time in Central Park and walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. Also, give yourself plenty of time to stroll and view all the Christmas window displays on 5th avenue. I love all the art museums. I know this can be tedious for kids, but you need to at least take them to the MET. They do have an Egyptian tomb and lots of mummies in addition to all the great artwork and they have a museum highlights tour. Take them to the Rockettes’ Christmas show. They have live animals for the nativity scene. Go to Rockefeller Center but skip the ice skating. There are much cheaper places that are less crowded. I was not a fan of Bryant Park. Go to Chinatown and have lunch one day. Also, since you are a big Disney fan, make sure you go to their store in Times Square. They have items that they make exclusively for the NYC store that you can’t buy online. I personally thought their store was much better than the Disney store in Disneyland. Have fun!

  13. We just got back from a quick trip to NYC. Since we’re usually there when it’s very cold we’ve always put off touring The Statue of Liberty. We did it this time and thoroughly enjoyed it. One tip-if you want to walk all the way up into the crown you have to book those tickets way in advance (4-6 months)! A Park Ranger told us next available was September.
    Have fun!!

  14. Send the boys on an outing and then you go to the Holiday House. It’s an annual fundraiser, and decorators design rooms in an NYC mansion for the different holidays during the year. It is usually taking place during the Month of November and is fabulous.

  15. We love :
    * A cool Mess (make your own ice cream)
    * Cooking class at Milk Bar (love those cakes)
    Favorite Hotel: Lotte Palace NY
    Favorite Restaurants:
    The Smith
    The Robert
    Oyster Bar in Grand Central Station
    Mercer Kitchen

  16. I was actually surprised by how much my family loved the 911 Memorial & Museum – we thought we would spend a couple hours there but we were actually there 6+ hours and my 3 boys were 11,12 and 14 at the time. It is emotional, and beautiful and extremely well done. My guys also enjoyed seeing The Christmas Spectacular. We all agreed that we could see it again and again and again! I mean the live nativity is just sooo special! My 3 guys also LOVE the Food Network!! Their fave chef is Bobby Flay so we HAD to dine at Bar Americain and it was FABULOUS!! We had brunch on a Sunday and Bobby Flay was actually there!!! It was so cool and we’re all still dreaming about the mouthwatering beignets!!! I’m planning another visit there soon so I’m excited to read the recommendations you receive. We’re dying to see the new Harry Potter show!!

  17. I think your boys would LOVE getting frozen hot chocolates (or ANY of the insanely decadent and delicious desserts) at Serendipity 3. The lines can be long, but if you time it right it’s not too bad.

  18. What a fun trip to plan. NYC is so fun that time of year! I would suggest eating at Rubirosa in Little Italy. It is small and quaint and has THE BEST PIZZA! Yum! Also the Rockettes are always a favorite! Top of the rock would be a fun thing to do. Also the restaurant Becco by chef Lidia Bastianich has amazing pasta and is family style!! Have so much fun! The plaza has lots of things to eat as well!

  19. Make sure to see the Rockettes Christmas Spectacular. It’s a great way to kick off the Christmas holiday!

    1. you have most of my recs but i definitely second this one! search for discount codes before purchasing! :)

  20. Marriott Marquis Times Square; 9/11; basketball game at Madison Square Gardens; Nike store; Empire State Bldg; outdoor ice skating at either Hyde or Rockefeller; most definitely go see the Rockettes Christmas show!! (my kids were 8, 10, 13 and 15…oldest 3 are rough and tough sports boys…and they all loved it)

  21. I recommend Ellen’s Stardust Diner for breakfast—the line gets long, but moves quickly—get there early—the waiters and waitresses are trying to get on Broadway and take turns singing throughout your meal—they are fantastic. The Burger Joint in Le Parker Merdian Hotel on West 57th has wonderful burgers and fries—that is pretty much the entire menu—it is hidden behind a little red curtain and is a tiny little restaurant—at night a long line forms, but it is worth it. Also, you should try to get reservations at Rolf’s—it is a German restaurant that puts up an insane amount of decorations for Christmas—they put them out in September and leave them up way into the new year—people refer to it as “the Christmas Bar”—the line to get in around the holidays can be hours long. Bubbys has a terrific brunch. The Rockettes Christmas Spectacular is amazing. If Live With Kelly and Ryan is filming the week you are in town, both of your boys are old enough to attend and it is really fun to watch them film the live show—you can get tickets on 1iota.com—they usually release them a month in advance—just check the website constantly. There is an ice skating rink in the middle of Central Park. Oh—and in China Town there is an amazing rolled ice cream place called 33 below.

  22. When we took my daughter (almost 12), we all loved eating in Chelsea Market (and walking around the market as well). We also loved walking along the High Line–one of our favorite things, even in the cold weather!

  23. S’mac is a unique place to grab lunch. The teeny-tiny restaurant serves mac and cheese baked in cast iron skillets. They offer several different varieties and you can also get a big sampler skillet. And it’s around a 10 minute walk from the John Derian store and about 5 minutes from the Strand bookstore. 18 miles of books—I bet John could find an amazing keepsake there!

  24. Mom and I went a few years ago and stayed at the Hudson Hotel and LOVED it. Our favorites were Wicked and the Museum of Natural History.

  25. Don’t miss a boat trip up the Hudson to see the United States Military academy. A meuseum, fine restaurant (make reservation), plenty of statues, and amazing architecture. This is a “can’t opportunity” in New York.

  26. You must do a walking food tour! I go annually, and I’ve done all six that Food Tours of NY offers. The tours are small. You get a great history lesson on the neighborhood. The guides are engaging and well-versed. You get to try so many types of food.
    I recommend the original Greenwich Village Tour or Heart of the Village. Those were my faves. The Brooklyn Tour is also wonderful.

  27. Make sure you reserve your tickets to the Radio City Christmas Spectacular! It’s a must see and the show never lets me down! Head to Little Italy for dinner one evening at the restaurant called Puglia’s. They have a singer there that has everybody up and dancing. It’s like an Italian family party. Very reasonable in price. For dessert, make sure you head over to Ferrara’s For desert and coffee. The pastries and cookies are to die for. These places have been a holiday tradition for us for 20+ years. All in Little Italy. Another restaurant I recommend is le bonne soupe at 48 West 55th Street. They have the best French onion soup I’ve ever tasted.

  28. For tasty and Instagram-worthy desserts, go to Black Tap for their insane milkshakes (the boys will get a kick out of them!) and to Do for this best cookie dough in the world.

    My family has done the parade twice—if it’s going to be cold, be sure to have Hot Hands for your hands AND feet. In 2015, my family did Thanksgiving dinner at Vinegar Hill House in Brooklyn. Great food, great atmosphere—highly recommend if you’re still looking for a Thanksgiving dinner spot.

    Walking along the High Line and the Brooklyn Bridge can be fun if the weather is nice. Central Park is obviously a for first-timers.

    The 9/11 Museum may be too overwhelming for the kiddos, so I’d save that for when they’re a bit older. Very emotional. My husband and I both cried and it definitely impacted our moods the rest of the day.

    Since Atlanta doesn’t have hockey, it could be fun to go to MSG for a Rangers game.

    Petrossian has a small cafe near Central Park. Their croissants are to die for. Casellula is a great wine bar if you and Honey are stepping out for a drink. Cara Mia is a nice Italian spot near the Broadway area that won’t break the bank—good for a pre-show meal.

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