Tag Archives: travel

Visiting New York City – a quick trip with the kids

We’ve returned from our whirlwind Thanksgiving weekend trip: two days for my niece’s wedding, a day for visiting New York City, a morning in Philadelphia, and lots of driving.

The wedding was lovely, and our youngest two kids were delighted to serve as the flower girl and ring bearer. They love spending time with all their cousins, and it was a wonderful celebration.

Of course, the day in NYC was a highlight of the trip. Before we got there, I was nervous about the prospect of trekking through the city with three kids. My husband insisted everything would be fine, so I chose to believe we could handle it for one day!

After we decided to go forward with visiting New York City with our kids, the next obstacle was finding a hotel. We have enough trouble finding hotel rooms that allow five people in spacious suburbs, let alone in a city with notoriously small spaces. Sometimes people suggest that we should just book for four people and make it work. But I don’t like being deceptive. Besides, even rooms that are approved for five can feel cramped!

My husband wanted to stay at New York’s Empire Hotel, but those rooms didn’t accommodate five and I didn’t want to pay for two rooms. Our search led us to the Courtyard by Marriott Midtown East, which fits five people. It had good reviews, and the web site boasted that it has some of the largest rooms in the city, so I was sold on it.

When we arrived, we were so happy with the hotel! I would recommend it to anyone. We used the convenient valet service for our car, checked in a couple of hours early, and had a clean, spacious room with a great view of the Chrysler building. Nice!

Sunrise in New York City - December 2, 2013

Sunrise in New York City – December 2, 2013

From our hotel on Third Avenue, we had a convenient walk to Central Park, FAO Schwarz, Rockefeller Center, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. We squeezed in as much as we could do with three kids on a Sunday without having to get back in a car. We’d had enough driving – it was just a couple of hours from my brother- and sister-in-law’s hometown to the city, but we had a lot of driving ahead the next day. And getting through the Lincoln Tunnel and to the hotel was a bit of a nail-biter. My hubby did a good job handling the city traffic, but we were all glad to be out of the car!

Everyone loved the walk to and through Central Park. The December 1 weather was in the fifties, so it was pleasant to be outside. We were there for the last day before the carousel closed for the season; my daughter and I took a fun little spin on it. The skating rink was open, but I was the only one who wanted to skate, so we had to skip it. The kids were too excited to visit FAO Schwarz next.

Central Park, New York City - December 1, 1013

Central Park, New York City – December 1, 1013

I enjoyed the walk to FAO Schwarz past the stores with their Christmas displays, the Plaza Hotel, and the Apple store’s unique glass cube building. When we entered FAO Schwarz, we were like kids in the candy store – literally, since it’s filled with all kinds of sweets.  We couldn’t make it out without a big bag of candy.  The whole store was like eye candy.  The huge stuffed animals, Lego displays, and the Big Piano – it was amazing everywhere I looked.  We had a great time browsing even though it was packed with Christmas shoppers.

We managed to be in NYC three days before the lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.  I was bummed to realize we’d miss seeing it all lit up in person, but luckily the tree and decorations were already in place, and the other decorations were already lit up.  It was a fun, festive atmosphere on the plaza.

Christmastime at Rockefeller Center - December 1, 2013

Christmastime at Rockefeller Center – December 1, 2013

On our way back to our hotel, we stopped at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  In the midst of its massive renovation, there was scaffolding everywhere.  It was quite the industrial contrast to the historic beauty of the structure.

St. Patrick's Cathedral under renovation - December 1, 2013

St. Patrick’s Cathedral under renovation – December 1, 2013

It was a lovely walking tour, punctuated with Smurfs on the sidewalk and buildings dressed up for Christmas.  When we made it back to our hotel, everyone was exhausted so we settled in to enjoy the skyline view from our 28th floor vantage point.

In the morning, we had to hit the road for our next destinations:  Philadelphia and then home.  We stopped in Philly to give our boys the opportunity to run the art museum steps just like Rocky did in their favorite movie.  They had a great time going up and down a few times, then posing with the statue of Rocky for pictures.

From there it was a long drive home, but we’d enjoyed a fun weekend full of family memories.  I’ve officially put aside my fears of shepherding three kids through NYC, and we’re already thinking about our next visit.  There are so many things still to experience there with the kids!

Fabulous family weekend at Great Wolf Lodge

Now that we’re several weeks into another busy school year, it was a great weekend for a short time away for some family fun.  We surprised our kids Friday with our first visit to Great Wolf Lodge.

Visiting Great Wolf LodgeI say “first visit” because we’re already planning to return.  We enjoyed both the hotel and water park.  We decided that next time we are going to take advantage of the constant 84-degree temperature in the water park during the dead of winter, when we desperately need a break from the cold!

The staff in the hotel couldn’t have been more friendly and welcoming—from the front desk to the housekeeping staff we passed in the hall.  I’m pretty picky about hotels, and I found our room clean and comfortable.

The water park is the main attraction, of course, and it was fun for the whole family!  There are water activities for all ages, with lifeguards for each area. 

My eight-year-old daughter is cautious about trying new things, so she happily went on the medium slides for the first evening.  After my husband and our boys (ages 11 and 13) tried out all the larger slides, they were able to talk her into trying some of them on Saturday.  She was tall enough to ride most, but not all, of the big slides.

Everyone loved the slides.  There are options for single riders, two riders, three riders, and a family ride that accommodated our five.  My favorite was the family raft ride that all five of us could enjoy together.

With the water park open 10-10 on Friday and Saturday, we got in all the water time we wanted.  On Sunday, it closed at 8 p.m.  The lodge allows guests to continue to enjoy the water park after the 11 a.m. check-out time until closing, and it has lockers and a locker room for this purpose.  I appreciate that policy. 

In our case, however, by the time Sunday rolled around, just the guys decided to squeeze in some more time on the slides.  They were there when the doors opened at 10 a.m., they rode three different slides to cap off their weekend, and they were back to our room before 10:30 to get ready to go.

Overall, Great Wolf Lodge was a good value, since the rates include both the water park and hotel.  It was a great destination for family fun!