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I can’t tell you exactly what it is – but there is something special about New York City – especially around the holidays. I have enjoyed taking the train into the city since I was in high school and college, but the idea of bringing the kids into the city seemed overwhelming (AND sounded expensive). My mom had been saying for the past couple of years how she would really love to bring the boys into the city and take them to the Radio City Christmas Spectacular show. So, about a month ago when my mom brought up the idea again – I decided this year we could take on the adventure. Ace is 7 1/2 and Rex is almost 5 – we’d have to leave the baby at home with Dad – but they seemed like they were finally at the right age to take on the next level of day trips.
Now seems like a good time to give my disclaimer – the idea to share about our trip on the blog was a complete after thought. I was sharing some pictures with Shawna, telling her about how much fun it was and the little light bulb went off for us that this could be really fun to share with readers. With that being said – I don’t have the quantity or quality of photos (or specific details) as I wish I did, BUT that’s ok – I spent more time taking in the moments than taking photos and it will make the adventure that much more exciting for all of you to experience!
Once we had decided we were ready to take on the city, we bought the tickets but didn’t really do much planning otherwise. To plan our train travel – we knew we were going to the 2 PM show and sort of worked backwards from there. We figured we could take our time getting to the city, but wanted to get there early enough to have time for a little sightseeing and some lunch before the show. So we decided to head into the city on a 8:50 train out of the New Haven train station on Metro North. We got to the train station from Bloomfield in just over an hour – easily parked right in the parking garage attached to the train station and headed inside to meet up with my parents who had taken the Shoreline East train from Old Saybrook.
Ohhh – I forgot to mention – the boys had NO idea we were going on this trip at all – they woke up that morning and when Ace saw “regular clothes” laid out (He wears a uniform to school) he was so confused. He asked where his uniform was and I asked him why he would want to wear his uniform to NYC. Tired and confused – they asked if I was joking. I am not sure they believed anything I was saying, but they got dressed and we were on our way. I still kept my parents joining us a secret from them. When they saw my parents sitting in the New Haven train station I think they were just officially excited and completely confused about what was going on all around.
The nice part about leaving from New Haven was we were the first ones to board the train – seeing as we were traveling as a group of five – with the kids and my parents – I wanted to make sure we could easily get seats together. The 8:50 train also meant we were arriving at Grand Central Station after 10am, making our train Non-Peak – which basically just means the tickets cost less :). It also meant that the boys’ train tickets would be $1 each way…yes – you read that correctly! Did you know that Metro North has a “Family Fare” which allows up to 4 children per paying adult to ride each way for just $1? What a deal! The only exception to this rule is on morning peak trains arriving into Grand Central Station before 10am – but even then, you could still take advantage of the “Children’s Fare” which is 50% that of a regular adult fare. Another thing to keep in mind – take a look at the Metro North Train schedule before choosing your train – we selected an express train making minimal stops which got us into the city in 1 hour and 45 minutes – some of the other trains take a full 2 hours due stops at additional train stations.
The boys absolutely loved the train ride. There was so much for them to look at out the windows and they enjoyed watching everyone get on and off the train. Their excitement made the train ride go by in no time! We didn’t bring any electronics or toys for the ride (but we did have snacks!) and no one was bored!
We arrived at Grand Central just about 10:40 and decided to take a few minutes to sit down and come up with a game plan.
There are several different exits out of Grand Central Station and we wanted to make sure we were at least heading in the right direction. Like I mentioned before – we had minimal goals for the day aside from making it to the show.
We headed towards Rockefeller Center (about a 10 minute walk) in hopes of seeing the famous Christmas Tree over the ice skating rink. Even though the tree isn’t typically lit until after Thanksgiving, I had read online that the tree had gone up the Saturday before our visit so I was SO excited for the boys to see it. I had talked up the tree the whole train ride in.
It felt like a huge mom fail when we turned the corner expecting to see the big, beautiful tree but instead saw lots and lots of scaffolding surrounding the big beautiful tree – Ughhhh – Rex kept asking all day when we were going to see the tree and finally we gave up on trying to explain it was behind all the scaffolding. It ended up being one of those things we just had to laugh about – but I will certainly add that to my list of things to be mindful of for next year. I actually think the week just after Thanksgiving would be a really perfect time to go.
Anyway – all was not lost even without being able to see the big tree. The boys were very quickly distracted by the ice skating rink and immediately started asking if we could skate. I was hesitant but my mom reminded me it was one of those “you gotta do it once in your life” kind of things so I went down to the skate shop next to the rink to find out some more info. I found out that you pay for a 90 minute session and can skate for as long as you would like during that time period. The current session was going to end at 12 Noon and it was currently 11:35. So yes, in less than a 1/2 hour I experienced my second mom fail of the day when I had to tell the kids we actually wouldn’t be able to skate before the show. A little more planning here could have worked in my favor on this one too – BUT that is why I am sharing with all of you – so you’ll know what to keep in mind before heading into the city.
Luckily for me – just next to the rink was a Lego store!
We went inside to check things out – there was a “create your own MiniFig” table set up that caught our eye. You could make your own Santa, Mrs. Claus, Elf and many other MiniFigs – so we decided to each make one.
They came out super cute and the boys were thrilled over them. My parents were such good sports hanging out while the boys checked out every bit of the store. After paying, we were all getting really hungry, and the boys had to use the bathroom, plus it was REALLY cold out – so convincing them heading to lunch was our best bet didn’t take much effort at all.
I won’t bore you with the details of lunch – we didn’t go to any special place – in fact, the total opposite- it was a chain restaurant you could find just about anywhere – but it was the first place we found so we went with it and had a great lunch. As we ate, we were mindful of the time because I did do some research about the show and read that the line can be VERY long to get into Radio City Music Hall. The doors opened an hour before the show – and some people had shared online that the line formed long before that.
Being that it was still before Thanksgiving I was really hoping that the crowd wouldn’t be too big for the show and the lines wouldn’t be too long either. I didn’t want to totally chance it though so we made the short walk over right around 1 PM (Taking a few pictures along the way) and essentially walked right in.
We waited maybe 5 minutes to have our tickets scanned and then another couple of minutes to get through security at the actual door to the theater. Given how cold it was I was SO thankful the line wasn’t long… keep that in mind if you do visit at a busier time. Just make sure you are dressed to potentially be outside for a bit.
I had also read online that before the show there is a photo op with Santa and/or a Rockette – they warn that the lines do get long for these photos so I just planned that we would skip that part. I did want to leave time to grab snacks, use the bathroom and take some of our own photos before going to our seats.
Once we got inside – it was busy, but not crazy. The staff was handing out santa hats to everyone – It was a special promotion only offered at select shows. We got our santa hats on (took some pics) and then waited a couple of minutes for popcorn and drinks, used the bathrooms and still found ourselves waiting for a bit before they started letting people head to their seats.
Since this outing wasn’t a planned post I didn’t pay as much attention to details I wish I had. When I was doing my research ahead of time I was searching high and low to try and find out just how expensive the snacks were going to be before we got there. I sometimes feel like I get overwhelmed when ordering at places like that and end up not making the smartest choices… but I couldn’t find a thing so I accepted I would just have to order like every other person (haha- this all sounds silly now that I am writing it out)
BUT- for those of you who are like me and like to plan, I will share the tiny bit of information I was able to gather: first, they sell light snacks – I definitely saw popcorn, pretzels and candy. Second, they sell drinks – bottled Pepsi products as well as wine & cocktails and I believe coffee as well. I saw several people drinking a cocktail with a candy cane in it that looked quite fun. As for pricing – A small popcorn in a souvenir container was $10 (I know that for sure because I purchased one) and there was also a larger size available for either $12 or $14. I do believe you are NOT allowed to bring in outside food or drinks so keep that in mind when packing your bag for the day and when planning for spending for the day – if your kids are anything like mine they are always suddenly absolutely starving as soon as we see a concession stand of any sort (even if we JUST left lunch).
The show itself was wonderful. I don’t think there could be a bad seat in Radio City Music Hall, but our seats were really wonderful. – We had Orchestra Seats – Orchestra section 5, row E to be exact. My mom really wanted to get Orchestra seats with the best possible view for the kids. At first, I felt like it wasn’t really a big deal where we sat (and didn’t know if it was really worth the extra money). But she was definitely right, there is just nothing like a straight on view.
I don’t really want to share too much about the show itself – that part is best to experience first hand! I can tell you though that the kids, my parents and myself all really enjoyed it. The boys especially enjoyed the parts we got to wear 3-D glasses for and of course anytime Santa was on stage (Yes – while you won’t catch Santa in the kickline with the Rockettes you most certainly will see the big man himself quite a bit throughout the show).
I, myself was amazed by the music, singing and dancing. Those Rockettes are incredible. I don’t know what else you can say about them. They are insanely talented performers who truly are the stars of the show (Sorry, Santa). The show has several different scenes – they don’t last more than maybe 8-10 minutes each. The show itself is an hour and a half without an intermission. By the last 20 minutes of the show Rex was starting to get tired and wanted to sit on my lap – which I welcomed with open arms. It was late in the day, and after being up early – I think he just really was losing steam. Right about that time – some performers had come into the aisles and one of the singers noticed Rex, came over and was singing right to him. He was a little embarrassed I think, but it was adorable and something I won’t ever forget. All in all the boys did great through the show. I think children under 5 might struggle with sitting still for the entire show – I would say if your little one can sit through a movie at the theater they would be able to enjoy the show.
We took our time leaving the theater to avoid the rush (and once again – used the bathrooms). I knew snow was forecasted for the day, but when we walked outside to find snow falling, we all couldn’t help but just smile and take it all in. It absolutely radiated the spirit of the holiday season in NYC.
We walked back towards Grand Central Station, once again passing the (scaffolding covered) Tree and the beautiful ice rink. It felt like we were in a scene out of a movie – (only it was definitely colder in real life than anyone ever seems in the movies).
We really would have loved to do dinner in the city, but we knew from the forecast that the snow was supposed to come on pretty quickly for the evening commute so we didn’t want to waste any time getting on a train to head back to CT. The Metro North trains run constantly, but just like the ride in – I was hoping to find an express train to get us home as quickly as possible.
If you have been to Grand Central before you know the lower level has lots of quick food options and I wanted to make sure and we had something for the ride home. No one was super hungry but I grabbed the boys some hot dogs & lemonade and we headed to the train.
It was a good thing I unwinded a little on the train ride because by the time we got back to New Haven there was well over 6 inches of snow on the ground (and train platform).
It was a very long and slow ride to Bloomfield but we eventually did make it home safely.
I would also like to give a very special “THANK YOU!” to my parents for treating the boys and I to a wonderful show and day in the city! It was a GREAT day trip, especially for the boys’ first visit to the big apple!
My mom and I have already started planning our next trip – which will include more actual planning and maybe some warmer weather. The boys had a great time, my parents had a great time, I had a great time – and we made wonderful memories with their grandparents that they’ll always remember.
Radio City Music Hall in Rockefeller Center
1260 AVENUE OF THE AMERICAS
NEW YORK, NY 10020
The show runs daily (with multiple shows most days) from mid- November through January 1, 2019
Tickets seem to range widely in price based on show dates and seat locations.
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