While jetting off to a tropical climate during your kids’ winter break from school may not be in your family’s budget, there are plenty of affordable activities within the five boroughs to keep them occupied and help create unique family memories. From holiday light displays to ice skating and holiday shows and concerts, the Big Apple has many seasonal-themed events and attractions for children of all ages.
New York City’s public schools are closed from December 26 to January 2, while individual parochial and private schools may vary; all schools are due back January 3.
Staten Island parents won’t have to go far to find kid-friendly activities in their own backyard, including a theatrical julietta casino online performance and a zoological retreat.
“Pinkalicious the Musical,” is based on the popular children’s book, “Pinkalicious,” and debuts on December 28 at 6 p.m. at the St. George Theater. For tickets, which are $25, visit www.stgeorgetheatre.com.
The Staten Island Zoo launches two school break programs for toddlers to tweens with “Zoo Kid Fun Days.” On Wednesday, December 28, “Dinosaur Kid Fun” includes a fossil artifact table, dinosaur and fossil crafts, a dinosaur movie, and other cool activities. On Thursday, December 29, “Biome Blitz” focuses on animals and exploring rainforests, tundra, deserts, and savannahs. Crafts and a movie about the earth’s habitats are included. Both run from noon to 3 p.m. and admission is included in the general zoo admission price of $6 for children ages 3 to 14; $10 for adults ages 15-59; and $7 for seniors ages 60 and over. Children 2 and under are free. Parking is free every day and admission is free after 2 p.m. on Wednesdays.
One of the most popular family events is the Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx, where the 250-acre grounds are transformed into a winter wonderland. Celebrating its 25th year, the train show runs from November 19, 2016 to January 16, 2017.
“This is not your ordinary train show,” said mom Samantha Surat, whose daughters Violet, 12, and Olivia, 9, love the unique scenery, featuring model trains whizzing past 150 New York City landmarks that are handcrafted using bark, leaves, and other all-natural materials. “I remember we saw Yankee Stadium made of twigs, berries and nuts,” the Castleton Corners resident said. “Your eyes are constantly finding something to ‘ohhh’ and ‘ahhh’ over.”
“Model trains are traveling through these masterpieces, such as the Brooklyn Bridge and Statue of Liberty,” recalled Jane Connor, a mother of five, who plans to revisit the show with her husband, Adam Simmons, and children Gabriella, 5; Emma-Sky, 7; Lucian, 7; Lukas, 11; and Madison, 12. She said the train show can quickly become a family tradition. “It really is breathtaking,” Ms. Connor, a resident of Livingston, said.
The Botanical Gardens also has lots to offer, including a toddler village, crafts, photo opportunities, and a Gingerbread Café for hot chocolate and snacks.
“You’re transported into a Christmas village,” Mrs. Surat said, adding that dressing for the weather and wearing comfortable shoes are recommended.
Ticket prices range from $8 for children between 2 and 12; $20 for adults; and $18 for students with valid ID and seniors 65 and older on weekdays. Children under 2 and members are free. Advance reservations are strongly suggested, and Mastercard users save 10% when ordering online by visiting http://www.nybg.org/hts16/.
Westerleigh dad Dave Clark and his wife, Linda, become traditional New York “tourists,” visiting the Christmas light display in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, which is officially lit on November 29, the window displays along Manhattan’s famed 5th Avenue, and Santa Claus at Macy’s in Herald Square with their 10-year-old daughter, Meghan.
Stops at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Holy Innocents, or St. Agnes churches, as well as tickets to the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, and Handel’s “Messiah,” a holiday concert performed by the New York Philharmonic at Lincoln Center, are also on the agenda for the Clark Family.
The 90-minute Christmas Spectacular featuring the world-famous New York City Rockettes runs through January 2. For ticket visit www.ticketmaster.com.
Sites, like Groupon.com and plumbenefits.com, offer discounted tickets, according to Mr. Clark.
He said sight-seeing in the Big Apple with his daughter allows him to “experience the joy and wonder of Christmas again through her eyes.”
Another classic holiday favorite, “The Nutcracker” ballet, will come to life at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center through December 31, with matinees on Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday. For tickets visit: www.newyorkcitytheatre.com.
Families can also visit attractions like the Winter Village at Bryant Park, which features 125 holiday shops and kiosks, food and snack concessions, photo opportunities, a holiday tree lighting through January 2. Kids can visit the ice skating rink and skate for free if they bring their own now through March 5, 2017.
Parents we spoke with said they want their kids to unplug during the winter break – whether they stay close to home or venture into the other boroughs. “Taking your children to all the five boroughs has to offer gives them experiences, broadens their horizons, and gives them something to share when they do go back to school,” Ms. Connor said.
Whatever activity suits your family’s interest and budget, planning ahead helps when traveling to other boroughs. Check online for show times and parking; and leave early to accommodate transportation, admission lines, and overcrowding. And of course, don’t forget your camera to capture all your family’s memorable experiences.
By Christine Albano, a Staten Island-based writer and mother of three who enjoys the Big Apple during the holidays with her children, and hopes Santa brings her a future trip to the Caribbean.