Updated: Jun 2, 2019
Every year we go into the City to see a Broadway show and eat lots of good food. We live in the Hudson Valley close to NYC, so we don't need to stay in a hotel. But both kids LOVE to spend the night -- something about the electricity and excitement in that Manhattan air.
We take care to put our money into things we really enjoy and skip the expensive tourist attractions and shopping. If that resonates for you, keep reading!
What to See: Broadway!
We started making these Broadway trips when our youngest turned six. There are always lots of shows on for little ones. The theaters recommend age eight and up for audience members, but it obviously depends on the kid. My oldest saw The Wiz when he was three. My youngest took longer to be ready for a 2.5-hour live performance! I noticed there were some little ones at the Frozen performance who spent a lot of time watching the live feed from the lobby and some who were totally fine.
We've seen The Lion King, Wicked and Frozen. These are all really great shows to see as a family. Since Frozen is a new show, I will say a bit about it -- avoiding any spoilers! First, I have to say that we don't do Disney vacations or would necessarily call ourselves Disney fans. So even though my daughter was super psyched, the rest of us didn't have the highest expectations for Frozen on Broadway. But it was WONDERFUL. I highly recommend. The storyline was slightly changed for the stage in some really great ways, while it did not lose the essence of the story or the epic 'Let It Go!" They also have magical lighting effects and special touches that left the audience feeling different from how they did walking in, which is really what makes the investment of seeing live theater worth it!
Heads up! They sell adorable special edition Elsa and Anna dolls plus Olaf and Sven plush toys. They are available in the lobby, but also people walk around with them baseball stadium-style at intermission. It was Elodie's birthday, so we splurged for a $35 Elsa. It was worth the spend. The toys look handmade and make a lovely keepsake.
Where to Stay
OMG. So many hotels in NYC! We've stayed in lots over the years. I will recommend only one, though: the Ace Hotel on West 29th at Broadway. This hotel is what your kids would probably imagine. From the DJ jamming in the dimly-lit lobby, to the old school photo booth, to the super cool decor, it has a swagger to it. This isn't the best deal (we spent $400) or even the nicest hotel in the City, but they put a lot of effort in making it memorable, which is why we will go back. It's also close to Penn Station and Grand Central, which is awesome if you're traveling by train. There is a parking garage next door, which we used. The Ace is located reasonably close to the theater district, and it's easy to get anywhere in Manhattan by taking a cab or the subway. It's surrounded by endless food options, as well.
What made it so memorable? A tuned Martin guitar, ancient artifacts such as an old pencil sharpener and a record player with a nice little selection of vinyl, a Smeg refrigerator stocked with yummy treats. And we had a view of the Empire State Building! For the grown-ups, there is a lovely cocktail bar in the lobby and perhaps the best coffee around at Stumptown, just off the lobby.
What to Eat
Brunch. Again, so many options! Since we were staying near Chelsea, we went to Forager's. What we love about this place besides the delicious farm-to-table menu was that they take reservations! Nothing worse than waiting an hour for a table with hungry children!
The little one ordered two side dishes: silver dollar pancakes and roasted potatoes. The big kid ordered the waffles and was in heaven, pictured below:
Side note: The market connected to the restaurant is a good place to grab healthy snacks to bring back to the room. Also, if you are cat people and/or flower people, go across the street to Chelsea Florist after brunch. The have an amazing cat who is nicknamed The Mayor of Chelsea. He is super friendly and hangs out to greet the humans. They also have so many incredible, giant orchids and a friendly staff in there. I love these little discoveries while traveling!
Dinner. There are too many good options to list, but for picky eaters, I would suggest Pio Pio -- definitely a crowdpleaser. They have several locations and serve roast chicken, fries and hot dogs (the ultimate little kid comfort food, right?). They also have delicious sangria for tired and stressed adults! Another safe option would be 5 Napkin Burger, which has a pretty standard kids menu.
Our kids really like Chinese food, but we don't have any good places near us, so we took them to Congee Village on the Lower East Side. It was super good, and it's always nice to get something we can't get in our town.
And for dessert we went to a Lady M (around the corner from the Ace). They have beautiful cakes by the slice, which we brought back to the room for the kids to enjoy while my husband and I went for cocktails in the lobby. We also special ordered a birthday cake for Elodie to take home with us! I usually bake all the birthday cakes, but this was a strawberry shortcake masterpiece beyond my capabilities.
What Else to Do?
Since spring had sprung, we decided to walk the Highline, which is a beautiful public park on top of an old train rail. This is a great people watching spot, by the way. We saw some great fashion and heard many foreign languages. We walked uptown to where the Highline ends at Hudson Yards (34th street).
Hudson Yards is a new development with art, shops and public space. There is a huge spiral staircase called "Vessel" that you can climb for free, but you need to book tickets in advance. Within the mall, there are all the fancy shops one can imagine plus an art gallery. There is one shop, B8TA, that would be great for kids who love technology and "discovering, trying, and buying the most interesting tech products in the world."
If you don't have good walking weather, we like Bowlmor Lanes (West 44th St.) for bowling and classic snacks. The music is loud and the scene is not like any bowling alley back home. You can also play pool or go crazy in the arcade, which has new and old school games (pinball!).
I will continue to update our list of recommendations, but these are our current favorites. I would love to hear your favorites too! Happy travels!