When planning family vacations, I prefer to visit destinations that are dynamic, stress-free and safe. And because I have one last requirement – no car, I want attractions that are within walking distance. It may come as a surprise that I consider New York City to be the ideal destination. Specifically Midtown Manhattan. We stay, and most importantly, remain in the area. Nestled comfortably between Madison and Fifth Avenues, we stay at the Four Seasons Hotel New York, which my daughters (3 and 6) quickly consider a home away from home. We explore, by foot, the local luxuries, museums and limitless shops — and feel like instant New Yorkers.
When we arrive at the airport, we have a car service scheduled to pick us up near baggage claims. Immediately, we can begin our journey into the city, instead of wasting hours hopping shuttles, taking taxis or dealing with the car rentals. We also plan ahead and make sure child car seats, in the proper sizes, are included and installed correctly. But I recommend that you call and re-confirm your car seats the day before your flight and always check the installation yourself.
For my family, the Four Seasons Hotel New York is the ideal hub and urban oasis. We ooh and aah when walking into the I.M. Pei-designed lobby and my daughters delight in the warm welcome that they receive, complete with Beanie Babies offered by the kind and diligent staff (Ty Warner, of Ty Inc., is the proprietor). As they whisk our luggage up to our room, we relax and enjoy lunch at the TY Lounge. The hors d’oeuvres are always a hit, especially the artisanal cheeses and the warm German pretzels.
While it is always a treat to dash around a new hotel room checking out the size of the shower and the grandness of the view, the Four Seasons always wins extra squeals with in-room treats like fresh baked cookies, chocolate milk, favorite board games and kid-sized robes. Take a moment to plan tomorrow’s breakfast with room service. You will be happy to wake up with breakfast for hungry kids on its way.
We rise early and enjoy a scrumptious breakfast delivered by room service. Nourished and ready to go, we explore the local destinations. Remember to relax and don’t over-do it. Setting a time to return to the hotel is key for a stress-free day. Before my daughters wilt, we return to the hotel at 1pm for lunch, naps and to relax with a book, movie or iPad. I recommend not packing too many attractions into a single day. Everyone will be frustrated, tired and miserable (especially mom and dad).
Here are my favorite recommendations of nearby attractions that the entire family will enjoy:
Dylan’s Candy Bar – A candy land cornucopia, brilliantly conceived by Ralph Lauren’s daughter Dylan. The store is a real-world Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory, offering up every piece of candy under the sun. Try a freshly dipped chocolate covered strawberry or just fill your bag with scoops of retro treats and timeless favorites.
Metropolitan Museum of Art – The museum is an outstanding destination that we visit over the span of two days. There are endless programs for families, from audio tours to workshops. Discover the latest exhibit on the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden – which is also the perfect spot for a quick snack. Prepare for your visit at home by reading Jacqueline Preiss Weitzman’s You Can’t Take a Balloon into the Metropolitan Museum of Art with your younger children or visiting the museum’s website to learn about the exhibits and play interactive games. Your kids will love to roam the galleries finding familiar faces as they discover new treasures.
Eloise Shop – Featuring all things Eloise, the spirit of Kay Thompson’s iconic hotel-dweller comes alive at this rawther amazing pink shop. The mirror-lined stage, complete with dress-up box was a huge hit with my little girls and no visit would be complete without a pretend party with Eloise in the vibrant Tea Room. The slouchy pink beanbag chairs and endlessly rolling Eloise cartoons in the Reading Room were also a welcome sight after a warm stroll through Central Park.
FAO Schwarz – Welcome to their world of toys, toys and more toys. The enchanted look on a child’s face as they enter this store is priceless. The costumed doormen usher you into a Technicolor toy box of bigger-than-life plush animals, Barbie fantasy and Legoland adventure. It is impossible not to share your child’s excitement. The store is absolutely huge and fantastically fun (don’t forget to visit the giant piano.)
Central Park – From the Central Park Zoo, riding the Carousel, to model boat sailing – there is endless fun to be found in the Park. Our daughters are still talking about their horse-drawn carriage ride. If you meet a carriage horse named Pickles, give him our best.
Lion King on Broadway – Okay, you may need to catch a taxi to travel to this destination, but the Broadway version of this Disney classic is still a must-see. Brilliant costumes and puppetry and fantastically familiar music will enchant you and your older child.
Serendipity 3 – A rambunctious and fun deli, with delicious desserts aplenty, towering sundaes, hotdogs and chili. This is a popular destination so make a reservation and leave the stroller at the hotel – they are not allowed in the narrow restaurant. Don’t forget to order the Frozen Hot Chocolate (with extra napkins).
Looking for other culinary recommendations? Our family has enjoyed Pop Burger located between 5th & Madison Avenue, Landmarc at the Time Warner Center, Laurent Tourondel’s BLT Market at 50 Central Park South and Le Pain Quotidien on 7th Avenue.
Take advantage of the hotel’s always-reliable babysitting services and remember to reserve an evening just for mom and dad. Make a reservation at the amazing restaurants in the area. Afterwards, enjoy a simple stroll — kid free — through Central Park.
Christopher Parr has been creating things online since 1995. From consulting with brands on web strategy, social media to online marketing – Christopher is also the CEO & editor-in-chief of the travel, style, food and leisure online destination Pursuitist.com.