Taking the Kids: NYC and beyond Manhattan during holiday season
IN QUEENS: The Gingerbread Lane at New York Hall of Science is aiming for its fifth straight Guinness World Records title for the Largest Gingerbread Village with more than 1,000 handmade gingerbread houses and structures on display. And if you are on the hunt for some last-minute gifts or souvenirs, Astoria Market Bohemian Hall offers special holiday shopping December 3, 10 and 17 with local crafts, desserts and pastries. All year round, locals know that Queens is the go-to place for ethnic eats, including Indian, Chinese, Thai and Korean.
IN THE BRONX: The New York Botanical Garden’s Holiday Train Show presents trains that travel through a miniature landscape of more than 150 iconic city structures. And then there are The Bronx Zoo’s lighted animal sculptures and special nighttime feedings at one of the largest zoos in the world. (Maybe you can meet Rudolph!)
IN STATEN ISLAND: Just steps away from the Staten Island Ferry (a fun adventure in itself with stellar views of the skyline), the first ever Winter Wonderland SI at Richmond County Bank Ballpark features ice-skating, rides, games, a 34-vendor holiday market and, at dusk each evening, a holiday light and sound show.
Consider staying in an outer borough. (You will find plenty of reasonably priced apartments on www.homeaway.com and www.Airbnb.com.) Download the app for HotelTonight and you will see "GeoRates," special limited-time offers cheaper than the already discounted rates, which you can now book 100 days in advance. The catch: To access the rates, you need to be at certain GeoRate locations like the airports, Penn Station or Grand Central Station. It's great as long as you are either in New York or have someone who can book for you!
If you want to stay in the heart of the action, there are plenty of special -- albeit pricey -- packages like the Nights Before Christmas Package at the Peninsula New York, complete with an in-room gingerbread playhouse and gingerbread cookie decorating kit, among other perks, as long as you can spend $1,145 a night.
Local tourism pros note you might find better deals the week leading up to Christmas, when business people have cleared out or after New Year's Day, as many holiday attractions last another week.
Be forewarned: N.Y. hot dogs and hot pretzels are really hard to resist!