My 12 year old son and I really enjoy NYC and have made many memories during our staycations when he has school break.  I am always grateful for the quality time we have together, since life often feels so busy on a day-to-day basis, for our family.

With February school break for many approaching, I wanted to share highlights from our December activities, to give you some food for thought with your children.  Rather than do a hotel stay, we were invited by a friend who lives in Soho to cat sit while she went on a family cruise, and we seized the opportunity.  It was fun to be downtown and experience life there versus our usual midtown stays.

explorerpassFor any New Yorker or NYC visitor, the GO CITY New York City Explorer Pass is an excellent value and convenient way to get access to many attractions and  save up to 45%.  The Pass is sold year round, so is not exclusive to holiday season. It includes over 50 attractions, such as the Empire State Building Top of the Rock Double Decker Bus Tours Statue of Liberty 9/11 Tribute Center Sightseeing Cruises Museums Sightseeing Tours, Radio City Music Hall Stage Door Tour, Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tours and much more!

Available online and at walk-up retail outlets, Go City Cards, including All-Inclusive Passes, Build Your Own Passes, Explorer Passes, and Package Deals, provide admission to more than 400 attractions across eleven North American destinations, including Boston, Chicago, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Oahu, Orlando, San Diego, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.  All passes come with valuable extras including the ability to skip the line at select attractions and comprehensive guidebooks that offer insider tips and bonus discounts on shopping and dining.

starwarsexhibitionWe used the Explorer Pass to see the STAR WARS: THE POWER OF COSTUME EXHIBITION.  For any fan of the movies, this is a must see exhibit.  Featuring 70 hand-crafted costumes from the first six films, you learn about the artists’ creative process and gain insight into how the costumes played an integral role in personifying the characters.  It is a visually stunning exhibit, and the gift shop sells many cool, collectible items.

Two of our favorite things to do at holiday time in NYC are to take special bus tours — THE RIDE and THE CHRISTMAS LIGHTS TOUR led by a Slice of Brooklyn Bus Tours.  On THE RIDE, you are driven through NYC, embarking from the heart of Times Square, in a custom-designed, multi-million dollar vehicle with RIDEINSIDEfloor to ceiling glass windows and stadium style seating. Along the route, entertainers are planted at various locations, and they are miked to be heard in the bus as they perform in the street.  Two comedic hosts onboard the bus narrate the trip, and mini screens are on the bus that add both an informative and humorous touch (allowing the bus to communicate), as trivia about New York is shared, and riders answer questions, with winners receiving token gifts at the end.  The company also now offers THE TOUR.


The CHRISTMAS LIGHT TOURS is a super fun, beautiful, and a unique, memorable way to experience the holidays and enjoy New York in a whole new light (no pun intended).  The 3.5 hour tour starts in Manhattan and highlights the glowing homes of Dyker Heights, the Italian-American section of Brooklyn, a festive destination for New Yorkers for over thirty years.

holidaylightstourEach year, over 100,000 people flock to see dazzling lights, giant nutcrackers, wooden soldiers, animatronic figures, glowing nativity scenes and much more. Some homes featured on the tour are so over-the-top that they’ve been seen on The Learning Channel’s “Crazy Christmas Lights.” Besides Dyker Heights, the tour also takes you to nearby areas with magnificent lights as well such as Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst.

You can see lights from both on the bus as well as escorted on foot through the neighborhoods by tour guides in order to see homes up close and get great photos.  Throughout the tour, holiday music is played on the bus, and on the ride back to Manhattan, nostalgic Christmas television specials are shown on the TV screens of the bus.

A Slice of Brooklyn Bus Tours also offers a neighborhood tour and a pizza tour.


disneywalkingtourThis time, we added a cool tour to our roster, the DISNEY ON BROADWAY: BEHIND THE MAGIC Walking Tour, led by Walks of New York in collaboration with Disney Theatrical Group. You get special access to Disney’s historic New Amsterdam Theatre, getting an up close perspective of the famous stage and admission to an exclusive Prop and Costume Studio that houses original stage pieces from such shows as The Lion King, Mary Poppins, The Little Mermaid, and Beauty and the Beast, where you get to try things on and have fun photo opps.  We enjoyed that! Disney’s New Amsterdam Theatre was famous as home to The Ziegfeld Follies at the beginning of the 20th century before falling into disarray. The theatre was painstakingly restored in the mid 1990’s in a partnership between The 42nd St Redevelopment Fund and The Walt Disney Company.

For the first portion of the tour, you explore the roots of New York theater in the burgeoning 1920s, to the resurgence that has taken place over the past years. Stopping at all the most important theaters and hotspots, you learn about the shows, actors and scandals that have become Broadway lore for more than 100 years.

Walks of New York offers other tours including Statue of Liberty, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and neighborhood offerings.


Aside from touring, we visited these attractions:


I’m a huge fan of this show, and my son, too, has enjoyed it, and this exhibition is very well done. You get a look behind the scenes, past and present, through a mix of artifacts, scenic pieces, props, videos, multimedia presentations and photographs.

snlTimed to coincide with the show’s 40th anniversary, and located at a new space – 417 5th Avenue, the immersive exhibition chronicles the show’s decades-long history as you walk through the process of creating a typical SNL episode, from the writing sessions to the building of sets to the dress rehearsal to the actual broadcast. It begins with a short video narrated by Alec Baldwin, who holds the record for the most hosting stints with 16.

The first room contains the actual desk of the show’s creator, Lorne Michaels, as well as such vintage artifacts including a note to him from Bill Murray early in the show’s run.

Most impressive are the original props and costumes, from such iconic characters as Buckwheat, Stuart Smalley, Church Lady, Wayne and Garth, Hans and Frans, Opera Man and the Coneheads, John Belushi’s killer bee suit, Bill Murray’s Nick the Lounge Singer jacket and Chris Farley’s Matt Foley garb.

Video monitors display classic clips as well as commentary from past and present cast members, writers and directors.

snl2A detailed recreation of the “Wayne’s World” set provides the opportunity for a memorable photo op. You can also, for a $20 fee, have a picture taken of yourself on the “Weekend Update” set with the hosts of your choice.

A replica of the control room provides a behind-the scenes look at the controlled mayhem that goes on during show night, complete with clips of notable mishaps.

It all ends in a mock-up of Studio 8H, including the main stage — sadly, you don’t get to play host — with an original video segment featuring Tina Fey, who invites us to join the afterparty….which is the exhibition gift shop — featuring lots of kitschy, clever gift items that any devotee would love.



kingtutexhibitionArchaeologist Howard Carter uncovered the tomb of King Tut almost 100 years ago and this exhibition provides visitors with an in-depth look at the tomb of famed boy-king, Tutankhamun. Featuring replicas and reconstructions of the burial goods found in the tomb—created by Egyptian craftsmen and Egyptologists, you get to go on an audio tour based on Howard Carter’s diaries, video documentaries, extensive texts and object descriptions. also presented are lectures by Egyptologists and a gallery dedicated to the relationship between New York and King Tut. I’ve long yearned to visit Egypt again — I had a brief visit once to Cairo — so this whet my appetite for more, and piqued my sons interest.



Note: The featured attractions provided complimentary visits, but opinions are our own.

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