Fun Things for NYC Families to Do This Memorial Day Weekend

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Memorial Day is Monday, May 27th. For New York families, this gives us one long weekend to help us make it through the rest of the school year until summer break begins. Since the last month of school is always crazy, I like to find something fun for my family to do over the holiday. However, with all the busyness at the end of the school year, I also don’t want to push myself or my daughters by doing anything too big. With that being said, I’d like to share with you some ideas that will make celebrating Memorial Day easy and fun.

Support the Armed Forces at Fleet Week

Photo: Military News

Photo: Military News

Since Memorial Day is the national holiday to honor those who have served in the United States military, look for ways you can support those currently serving and honor those who have died serving. One way to recognize the military is to attend one of the many Fleet Week events taking place from May 22nd – 27th. Little ones will love seeing all the men and women in uniform as well as the opportunity to tour the ship and meet NASA astronauts.

Check Out Governor’s Island

Photo: Governor’s Island

Photo: Governor’s Island

If your family has never visited the 43-acre park known as Governor’s Island, Memorial Day weekend is a perfect time. During this holiday weekend, they offer several events that are family-friendly. Plus, it is a cool way to see the city.

See a Parade

Photo: Rove

Photo: Rove

Over Memorial Day weekend, you have tons of options for seeing a parade. Again, this is a great way to honor the holiday for reasons beyond the start of summer since the parades celebrate the military. If there is not a Memorial Day parade in your area of New York, you can always make plans to applaud the soldiers at the Brooklyn Memorial Day Parade.

Head to the Beach

Photo: NYC Parks

Photo: NYC Parks

For many, Memorial Day is not complete without a visit to the beach. Fortunately, NYC families can get to a beach – though it may be a crowded one on Memorial Day. As long as you mentally prepare for the crowds and have abundant patience, then a visit to Coney Island or Rockaway Beach is a fun way to celebrate the holiday and get excited about summer vacation. If the weather does not cooperate with all your fun outdoor plans, then head to the New York Aquarium. You’ll be inside, but you can still get that ocean-feeling!

Take a Last-Minute Trip

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Last but not least, it is not too late to plan a short family getaway over the long weekend. You can visit my family’s favorite – Kalahari Indoor Waterpark Resorts. Plus, Hershey, Pennsylvania is a great family-friendly destination for this time of year. It is home to Hershey Park (naturally) where chocolate is celebrated, but it is also close to the Crayola Experience.

If you are wanting a little more grown-up but still kid-friendly, consider the Mohonk Mountain House, in New Paltz, New York. This is an all-inclusive clifftop resort with tons of family-friendly activities.

What is your family planning to do this Memorial Day weekend?

Why I’m Choosing Choice Vacation Rentals This Spring Break

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It’s cold right now, but before you know it, it’s going to be Spring! Like every other family living up north, we look forward to spring break all winter long. And, now that it is March, it is time to start planning my family’s spring break trip. All I know at this point is I want to go somewhere warm and sunny. I want to put all the new sunny vacation goodies I recently splurged on at T.J. Maxx to good use!

Why a Vacation Rental Over a Hotel

Because this ^^^ (PHOTO:  Choice Vacation Rental in Destin, FL )

Because this ^^^ (PHOTO: Choice Vacation Rental in Destin, FL)

Another thing I already know is that this spring break we will opt for a vacation rental over a hotel. Don’t get my wrong – I love a nice hotel! I love resort vacations! But, every now and then, I want to escape to a new locale and still have as much space as I would at home. I want bedrooms and kitchens of my own. With a vacation rental, I get to magically pretend someone else’s home is mine for just a week. It’s a nice change of pace.

Choosing Between Vacation Rental Companies

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Clearly I am not the only one who feels this way as vacation rentals are more popular than ever! Not only are people choosing to book a vacation rental rather than a hotel for their trips, but people are also making a second income by renting out their homes through AirBnB, VRBO and Homestay. The vacation rental industry is booming!

Given that sudden popularity, there are many people jumping on the bandwagon and renting out their homes. While this sometimes works out well for both the homeowners and the vacationers, there are also tons of horror stories. Imagine thinking you are renting an extravagant vacation home and arrive to discover a dump.

Choice Vacation Rentals Gets My Vote

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Honestly, this is the biggest reason why I start my vacation rental hunt with Choice Vacation Rentals. Choice Vacation Rentals offers beautiful homes, private residences, townhomes, and cabins as a part of the trusted Choice Hotels Brand. Instead of dealing with individual homeowners, Choice Vacation Rentals are professionally managed ensuring your rental is of clean, well-maintained, and fully furnished.

Plus, Choice Vacation Rentals offer stunning vacation homes in the most popular destinations in the US. No matter where you plan to book your family’s spring break trip, you will find a vacation home rental you love on their website, which is super easy to navigate.

Finally, Choice Vacation Rentals gets my vote because you can earn Choice Privileges Points for every hotel or vacation home stay. Since my family loves to travel, I look for any opportunity to save money. As your points add up, they can be redeemed for free nights, free hotel stays, digital gift cards to popular restaurants and retailers, and exchange points for airline miles and cruises.

Now, it’s time to decide which spring break vacation destination my family will visit this year!

I’m Dreaming of a WARM Winter and an Escape from NYC

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Alright, Santa, you want to know what I really want this Christmas under the tree? Plane tickets. I want plane tickets to someplace warm and sunny so that I can escape the cold of New York City this time of year. Please, Santa, I’ve been good this year.

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But, for real, Christmas break is an awesome time to travel to sunnier climates. While traveling takes planning, if you already have the days off work, why not be spontaneous and choose to celebrate the holidays on white sandy beaches instead of a snow-covered city? If you can’t make it happen this year, there’s always next year. It’s never too early to plan!

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Here are a few warm weather destinations for your family vacation during the holiday season:

Disney World in Orlando, Florida

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Disney World at Christmastime is even more magical. Everything is dripping in festive lights and colors. With an average high of 73 degrees, it is a safe bet you will enjoy much warmer weather in Orlando than back home in New York.

Hawaii

Hawaii is a hugely popular Christmas vacation destination. Not only is it warm, but it is also stunningly beautiful. Plus, celebrating Christmas at a beach luau sounds marvelous! No wonder so many people head that way during the winter season.

San Antonio, Texas

Head South to San Antonio, Texas for warmer weather and friendly people. San Antonio also turns its historic Riverwalk into an amazing light spectacle that will amaze everyone in your entire family. Plus, the city offers fun holiday events.

The Breakers in Palm Beach, Florida

The average December temperature is 77 degrees in Palm Beach, Florida making it a great place for some warm weather celebrations in the sun. The Breakers Resort is my pick for a family-friendly vacation over Christmas break. It offers tons of activities for both kids and adults.

San Juan, Puerto Rico

San Juan has unique Christmas traditions and festivals that make it a fun place for families to visit over the holiday break. In addition to the festive holiday stuff in the city, there are also beautiful beaches offering just the right amount of sun, warmth, and relaxation.

Nassau, Bahamas

Nassau is home to the mega Atlantic resort which will have your kids mesmerized. Even if you don’t stay at Atlantis, Nassau has several family-friendly resorts and tons of attractions the whole family will love.

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Want to celebrate Christmas with a fiesta and a siesta? Then, head to Mexico for the holidays! Puerto Vallarta is a popular tourist destination because of its beaches, attractions, and numerous all-inclusive resorts which cater to families.

Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Punta Cana is another fantastic place to visit over the holiday break. Offering beautiful beaches and scenery, Punta Cana is an all-inclusive playground. Families have their pick of resorts with excellent dining and entertainment options.

A Cruise to Anywhere Warm

Feeling super spontaneous? Look for last-minute cruise options! Cruises are great for families, but they also do a great job of making being on a boat at sea for a holiday an exciting adventure.

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While you’re dreaming of a warm Christmas this year, go ahead and start planning a trip to Australia for next year’s Christmas vacation.

What to Do in NYC as a Family this Holiday Season

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While there are always plenty of things for families to do in New York City, the holiday season ramps up the fun. The city comes alive even more and making it feel like NYC its truly the best place to be for the “most wonderful time of the year.” Each year, I try to plan out things to do with my family to celebrate Christmas in NYC. Here are my picks for 2018:

Shop at American Girl Place

My daughters have hit the age where American Girl dolls are all they want. Thankfully, there is an American Girl Place in NYC. If you have not visited the store before, it is a whole experience in and of itself. Visiting the store with my girls this time of year also helps me check something off Santa’s list.

Watch the Nutcracker Ballet

Photograph: Paul Kolnik

Photograph: Paul Kolnik

It is a tradition to take in a performance of The Nutcracker Ballet. All whole family loves watching The Nutcracker, and New York City Ballet has the best of the best.

Observe the Trains at the Botanical Garden

The Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden is a city tradition that my family always enjoys. This train display is unique because it travels around over 175 New York landmarks.

Make a Wish List by Visiting FAO Schwarz

Photograph: Courtesy Shutterstock

Photograph: Courtesy Shutterstock

FAO Schwarz has newly reopened, so we are so excited to go visit this famous toy store. Not only will our girls get to make their Christmas wish lists, we will get to see first-hand the toys they really gravitate to making our Christmas shopping easier.

Marvel at the Gingerbread House in Madison Square Park

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Making gingerbread houses is fun, but seeing a life-size gingerbread house is even better! Head to Madison Square Park to see those giant gingerbread houses.

See the Radio City Christmas Spectacular

Photograph: Ali Goldstein

Photograph: Ali Goldstein

Another New York City tradition is the Radio City Christmas Spectacular featuring the Rockettes – and for good reason! It is such a fun show to see as a family! We look forward to it every year.

Go Ice Skating

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Throughout New York, there are several ice skating rinks. The most popular is the ice skating rink at Rockefeller Center. In addition to being iconic, it is also one of the most Christmas-y spots in the city.

Have Holiday Tea at the Plaza

If your kids have read the children’s book Eloise, the holidays are the perfect time to visit the Plaza Hotel and experience Eloise’s life in the hotel. In addition to holiday tea, they also have a cute setup for kids to write letters to Santa.

Visit Santa at Macy’s

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The most popular place to visit Santa is Macy’s. Everyone should visit the iconic (and giant) Macy’s Santaland with their children at least once.

Search for the Best Hot Chocolate

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While you trek around NYC in the cold weather, search for the best hot chocolate. While Serendipity 3 is the most well-known frozen hot chocolate spot, you are bound to find some others that serve warm delicious chocolate-y goodness in a cup.

Which Christmas Festivities Does Your Family Most Enjoy in NYC?

Things to Do in New York for Halloween with Your Family and Kids

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Now that the Halloween season is upon us, I love to find family-friendly Halloween events in New York. This means I look for events that are not too spooky and are mostly geared at encouraging costumes, fun, and treats without too many tricks.

Part of the fun of having kids is that you get to celebrate Halloween all over again as an adult! My girls love any opportunity to dress up, and I love any excuse to celebrate festively. Honestly, there are so many fun, family-friendly Halloween events in New York that the hardest decision I have to make each year is deciding which ones to put on my family’s calendar.

Well, I have done my research and I am happy to share the Halloween events in New York my family is most looking forward to in 2018.

Boo at the Zoo

Photograph - Julie Larsen Maher

Photograph - Julie Larsen Maher

We absolutely love Boo at the Zoo held each weekend through October at the Bronx Zoo. The combination of zoo animals, Halloween decorations, trick-or-treat, and costumes make this event that cannot be missed by families! Add in a spooky hayride, pumpkin carving, and a costume parade and this event will have everyone in my family cheering “Happy Halloween!”

Annual Halloween Festival and Great PUPkin Dog Costume Contest

Photograph: Jasmin Chang

Photograph: Jasmin Chang

Mark your calendars for October 27, 2018, for the super fun and silly Great PUPkin Dog Costume Contest at the annual Halloween Festival at Fort Greene Park Conservatory. In addition to giggling at all the adorably costumed pups, your kids will have a blast since the festival also includes live music and other Halloween festivities.

Halloween Parade and Pumpkin Flotilla

Photograph: Filip Wolak

Photograph: Filip Wolak

You know what is even better than a family-friendly Halloween event? A FREE family-friendly Halloween event! On October 28, 2018, from 4 PM – 7 PM, families can celebrate Halloween in Central Park (near the Charles A. Dana Discovery Center). In addition to the main event (the charming pumpkin flotilla), families can also listen to spooky stories, do some Halloween crafting, carve pumpkins, and march in a costume parade.

The Great Jack O’ Lantern Blaze

Photograph: Jennifer Mitchell

Photograph: Jennifer Mitchell

Families must plan a trip to Hudson Valley, New York this fall season to experience The Great Jack O’ Lantern Blaze running select dates from September 28th – November 24th. A quick explanation – this is the Halloween version of going to look at exquisite Christmas light displays. The long explanation – see over 7000 glowing, intricately carved pumpkins as well as seeing flying ghosts, Sleepy Hollow’s Headless Horseman, and stargazing in the pumpkin planetarium. It will be the highlight of the fall season for your family.

The Village Halloween Parade

Photograph: Filip Wolak

Photograph: Filip Wolak

An event that both kids and families will enjoy on Halloween night (beginning around 7 PM) is the Annual Village Halloween Parade through Greenwich Village. Costumed families can march in the parade or view it as spectators. Want to look your best? 2018’s theme is I AM a Robot! Expect to see elaborate costumes and have some delightfully spooky fun with the family!

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Which family-friendly Halloween events in New York are your favorites? Let me know in the comments!