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Top 10 tips for a NYC holiday visit with kids

This is a guest post by Mommy Poppins, a great blog for family-friendly info about the New York City area.

New York City Christmas lights on Wall Street (courtesy wallyg at flickr's CC)Christmas is a wonderful time to visit New York City; the city is alive with wonderful special events, it’s beautifully decorated and lighted and there is a wonderful energy humming through the streets.

If you are lucky enough to get some flurries of snow while on the streets of New York during the holidays, you can dream that you are in your favorite Christmas movie.

Unfortunately, you’re not the only one who knows this, and the incredible crowds that swarm upon the typical holiday sights can be so overwhelming that you could end up with a nightmare instead, especially when traveling with children.

But don’t let a few crowds put you off from visiting New York during the holidays. With some insider knowledge and some off-the-beaten-path destinations, you can get all the magic from a New York holiday, without all the pushing and shoving.

Here are the top ten tips and destinations for getting the most out of New York City with kids for Christmas:

1. Visit a Victorian Santa. Skip Santaland at Macy’s and the 3 hour line, and head straight for ABC Carpet & Home. They have a really beautiful Victorian Santa and virtually no lines. Weekends 12-5PM through December 22.

2. See a Nutcracker created just for kids. Many children can’t sit through the New York City Ballet Nutcracker at Lincoln Center, but there are several Nutcracker performances in New York that are created just for children and even toddlers. Most of them are only one hour long and adapted for children, including New York Theatre Ballet’s Nutcracker.

3. Go ice skating where New Yorkers go. Rather than fighting the crowds and waiting in line for an hour at Central Park or Bryant Park, head to Brooklyn’s Prospect Park ice skating rink. It’s a wonderful setting, and after skating you can go to the Brooklyn Museum or shopping in Park Slope.

4. Shop in Brooklyn. Park Slope is one of New York’s most child-friendly neighborhoods and Seventh Avenue is lined with wonderful little neighborhood shops rather than the chain stores that have taken over much of Manhattan. Williamsburg’s Bedford Avenue is a hipster’s paradise that is becoming a hipster parent paradise. Check out the cool boutiques like Sam and Sebs.

5. The other amazing Holiday Train show. New York Botanical Garden has an amazing holiday train display, but it’s a pain to get to, can get pricey for a group and is mobbed on the weekends. Unknown to many, there’s an equally incredible train show right in midtown Manhattan that is free. In the basement of the Citigroup Center building on 53rd and Lexington is a phenomenal train display.

6. Go multicultural. You’re in New York, after all. Why not take advantage of some of the more unique ways to celebrate the holidays from different cultures? Solve the problem of what to do on Christmas Day in New York (when most of the city is closed) by learning about klezmer music and Jewish culture during “Klezmer for Kids” at the Eldridge Street Synagogue. On December 29th, there’s a big Kwanzaa celebration from 12-5 pm at the American Museum of Natural History.

7. Other beautiful trees. The famous tree in Rockefeller Center gets seriously mobbed; there are some other really great trees to see without crowds, or at least fewer crowds. The tree outside the New York Stock Exchange is almost as big and stands in front of the beautiful landmark NYSE building. No crowds will block your view here. The Museum of Natural History has a beautiful origami tree (decorated with origami, not made out of) and free origami workshops for kids.

8. Holiday Lights. You can find incredible holiday light displays all over the city. Some of the best are at Grand Central Station.

9. Good feelings. Kids will love the Operation Santa Claus at the main New York Post Office. You’ll find a room full of letters to Santa from children in need, and a gathering of good-hearted New Yorkers sharing stories and picking out wishes to fulfill. Pick your own letters and go shopping with your kids to fulfill the dreams of a child less fortunate.

10. Don’t skip the big stuff. Tourists have one big advantage over New Yorkers — you’re not working. Use your privileged status to your advantage, and visit the places that are going to be mobbed during the week. Go early. If you’re lucky, you could find yourself virtually alone.

Find out more about these and other ideas about what to do with kids
in New York in the Mommy Poppins Holiday Guide.

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