(Reprinted from an article in Mount Vernon Patch)
To celebrate his eleventh birthday, my husband and I told our son, Julian, that we would take him on a special weekend anywhere we could drive to. He didn’t hesitate — we were going to New York City! Julian loves theater, food, and “fancy” hotels so I can’t say I was surprised.
The New York weekend seems to be a DC-area rite of passage. I have talked to many families who have taken their tweens up to the Big Apple for a special celebration. Here are some tips for making the most out of the weekend.
While New York is only a half day’s drive, it’s not a fun city to drive in and it can be difficult and pricey to find a place to park. The bus is a great option. A long bus ride is probably a first for a lot of kids so it’s something they will probably look forward to. I recommend the Bolt Bus for being clean, affordable, comfortable, and reliable. They offer several trips a day from DC to NY.
Hotel prices in New York are notoriously high but you can get a pretty good deal using Hotwire or Pricleine. I’ve had good luck with both many times in the past. Make sure you look at their maps to help you choose the neighborhood. We used Hotwire on this trip and had a fantastic stay at the Benjamin Hotel on East 50th, within walking distance to the theater, Central Park and Rockefeller Center. Julian’s favorite part was the pillow menu, which lets you choose among a dozen or so different types of pillows.
The thrill of a Broadway show is even more special when seen through young eyes. We went to see “Billy Elliot” on our weekend with Julian. Many websites offer discounts on Broadway tickets, including Entertainment Link and Broadway Box. I’ve used them both successfully. Do check out off-Broadway shows as well. We saw a fantastic off-Broadway show last year, “The 39 Steps,” and it cost a fraction of the price of a Broadway show.
If you’re one of those people who needs an excuse to indulge in sweet treats (I am decidedly not), having a child along works perfectly! Do check out these two New York sweet spots. A New York institution since 1954, Serendipity serves up some seriously delicious ice cream. Try their specialty frozen hot chocolate. If candy is more your speed, head over to Dylan’s Candy Bar for a huge assortment of candy, chocolate, and candy-related paraphernalia.
While I could spend hours browsing through New York boutiques, Julian had some specific shopping destinations in mind on this trip. He had saved up some pocket money and wanted to go to the Lego Store at Rockefeller Center and FAO Schwartz at 767 Fifth Avenue. The Lego Store was a disappointment. It didn’t have a huge selection and only a few large models on display. FAO Schwartz, however, was magical, from the moment we were greeted by the iconic doorman. We channeled our inner Tom Hanks and tickled the ivories in our socks on the giant piano and spent over an hour browsing at the vast array of toys.
What made the trip so special for us weren’t just the bright lights of New York City, the great hotel, or the show—although those were all amazing—it was the chance to spend an entire weekend alone with our oldest son, something we hadn’t done since his brother was born eight years earlier. It’s hard to get away and I don’t know when we’ll be able to do it again, but I know the memory of that trip will stay in our minds and hearts forever.