How to Spend Thanksgiving Break in New York City

I’m here to tell you that Thanksgiving Break is the most epic time to visit NYC! It has always been a dream of mine to see New York in all of its holiday glory. But, I also wanted to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in my lifetime, too. When Jereme asked me what I wanted for my 40th birthday back in September, I immediately responded with a trip and I knew that I wanted to go over a school break so that we would have more time away than a long weekend. We originally decided on Boston, but flights were ridiculously expensive. So, after doing some research, I learned that Thanksgiving is a great time to travel to New York and it was settled! I am beyond thankful that we were able to make this adventure happen!

Day 1 – Arrival and Times Square

We booked an early, 7 am flight out of Dallas and landed at La Guardia around 10:30 am. Thanks to some 100 mph tailwinds, we made it to the city in about 2 hours and 15 minutes. I was shocked but thrilled to basically have a full day to explore! We stayed at The Manhattan in Times Square and taxied straight there from the airport. There were not any rooms ready that early, but the staff was amazingly accommodating and had a place to store our bags while we ventured out. This location was great, we were just a half block away from the Subway and close to all the fun in Times Square! We had been up since 3 am and were tired and starving, so we stopped at the closest place in Times Square without a long wait to eat, which happened to be the Olive Garden. Don’t judge us hah!! We were all hangry at this point and it’s safer to feed our kids what we know they will eat than risk a new place when they’re already cranky. After eating, we walked around Times Square for a bit and then headed back to the hotel for check in. This was also the coldest day of our whole trip, so we were ready to be out of the cold winds before it got dark.

What we loved the most about the hotel was the amazing hotel staff. The lady checking us in thought our boys were so funny and she asked our youngest if he wanted to stay on a high or low floor. He definitely said a high floor, so she got us a room on the top floor, with a view of Radio City Music Hall. When I looked up the parade route, I had saved a map that showed the parade going in front of Radio City. I could not believe that we would have a view of the Macy’s Parade right from our hotel room! (More on this later!!) The room was a little bit bigger than I thought it would be for New York and it was very clean. The bathroom was a little outdated, with pink tile. But again, it was all clean! We ended up just staying in for the rest of the day. It gets dark around 4:30 there and it was already so cold outside. We were tired and the Dallas Cowboys were playing. So, we all agreed to stay in and watch the game. Jereme and our oldest son ended up walking down the street to Krispy Kreme and we had warm donuts for dinner! We are way more fun when were are traveling ha! Then, we all headed to bed fairly early.

Click this link for information about The Manhattan at Times Square

Day 2 – Stature of Liberty & 9/11 Museum

I started day 2 with my alarm set for 7 am. Since it was a Monday, I was up to reserve FREE tickets to the 9/11 Museum. This is only offered on Mondays from 3:30-5:00 pm and you can only get tickets on Mondays starting at 7:00 am. I have traveled to New York City several times, so it made sense to see these two places on the same day since their location is close to one another. I pre-purchased tickets to the Statue of Liberty several weeks in advance, but still had no luck getting tickets for the crown. We did secure tickets to the pedestal and I highly recommend! It is a lot of stairs, but overall you have better access to Lady Liberty and better photos without the surrounding fence in the background.

We ended up taking an Uber to Battery Park to catch the ferry to the Statue. We had tickets for 11:00 am and left our hotel at 10:00 am. You must wait in several lines to go through security screening and then again to get onto the ferry. We made it to Liberty Island at the perfect time and were able to go straight inside to the pedestal as soon as we arrived. We spent at least an hour exploring the pedestal and grounds. Then we headed over to the Café onsite and had an excellent lunch! I had soup, Jereme and the boys had burgers and nuggets. It really is nice to be able to eat here and not worry about your kids getting hungry and not having a place to eat until the ferry returns! Once we had lunch, we ventured over to the museum located behind the Statue. It has a lot of artifacts, my favorite being the Statue’s original torch!

After spending several hours on the island, we got back on the ferry and made it to Battery Park about an hour before we could enter the 9/11 Museum. We had time to check out the memorial fountains and the Survivor’s Tree. We also walked around the Oculus Building before we were allowed inside the museum at our reserved time. I really liked that we had free tickets, but it was really crowded at this time. I have been to the 9/11 Museum once before and went earlier in the day. It felt like I had the museum to myself, but this visit was packed. It could’ve been that it was also during a holiday week. My boys still learned a lot and we were all glad we got to experience this museum, but I would probably recommend trying an earlier time during this week. Full disclosure, this is not a fun and happy museum to visit and I had tears several different times throughout the exhibits. But, we must never forget! They did a beautiful job detailing the events of the day and showing how our country came together during this tragic event in history. I hope everyone gets the chance to visit this museum.

After we left the museum, we rode the subway back to Times Square and stopped for dinner at Dos Caminos. There was no wait, the food was actually pretty good, but the service was very slow. We did enjoy having tacos and margaritas before ending the night walking around Times Square and taking in all the lights and people! We also ventured over by Radio City Music Hall to check out all the holiday decorations and we were enthralled! They do Christmas BIG and I loved every second that I was there! Everywhere decorates and it’s so fun to see all of the holiday spirit! I only wish that we could’ve seen the tree at Rockefeller Center. It was there, but it was surrounded by scaffolding while people decorated it.

Click this link for more information on visiting on the Statue of Liberty

Click this link for more information on visiting the 9/11 Museum

Day 3 – Empire State Building, Macy’s Storefront, Saks Fifth Avenue Lighting Ceremony

My family loves the movie, Elf! So, my boys really wanted to go inside the Empire State Building after watching the movie right before our trip. I got tickets for the next morning, so we left our hotel around 9:30 am and caught an Uber ride over to the Empire State Building. It actually ended up being a really fun experience! The inside is neat and you stop on several floors along the ride up to see different things. There are several replica buildings for photo ops and a floor detailing the construction of this building. Different movie posters and props are also inside and just a lot of opportunities for fun photos as you make your way up to the top. The views are neat, I probably like the Top of the Rock view more, mostly because the Empire State Building is in it! But I enjoyed the inside of the Empire State Building much better! The exit of the tour is probably the best, it’s the iconic Empire State Building entrance area that Buddy the Elf goes inside to see his Dad in the movie Elf. We were so excited to see this! We were pretty hungry afterwards, and my youngest loves pizza. So we walked over to Little Italy right around the corner and had some excellent pizza. It might have been the best and cheapest meal of the week for us! Give it a try if you want something quick and easy and delicious!

After lunch, we walked down the street to see the Macy’s storefront and we even did some shopping while we were there. The window displays are so festive and I was thrilled to see them in person. I don’t have many photos of this, there were a lot of people looking and the glare from the sun made my photos look weird. But, this is a sight you must see if you’re in the city around the holidays! And my boys had some money, so they wanted to shop and we found some great items that were already on sale! One kid got some Crocs and the other got a football jersey. They were both thrilled with their purchases! We headed back to the hotel to rest our legs a little after shopping and got a good nap in before leaving again for the night.

I had heard that Saks would be having their Christmas display lighting ceremony on this night. Even though it wasn’t something I had planned for, I figured it would be fun to see it in person. It ended up being one of my highlights of the entire trip because Elton John made an appearance and even sang right out on the streets in front of the store! We all went crazy and just huddled close to each other singing right in the street along with him. It was amazing and the lighting ceremony is magical and my boys loved all the fireworks! If you are here during the week of Thanksgiving, make sure you look up to see which night this ceremony takes place! It started at 7:00 pm and we got there around 6:30 pm to get a good spot to watch! We ate at Bills Bar and Burger nearby before grabbing our spot for the lighting event and it was really good.

Click here for more information on the Empire State Building

Click here for more information about Saks Fifth Avenue

Day 4 – Central Park and Macy’s Parade Balloon Inflation

This day ended up being another highlight for us! When I was looking for fun things to do in New York, I stumbled across information about walking around the parade balloons while they are being inflated the day before the big event. I knew that this was a must for us! The cool thing about being in NYC, is that the local news stations detailed exactly what we needed to do to see this in person and we followed the directions and had no issues getting to experience this. We took a subway ride to Central Park and the boys played a little and we walked around the lake for a bit. We had some hot dogs and some pretzels from a street vendor in the Park and then walked back over to Columbus and 72nd Street. There was a line forming, so we got in it and waited less than 5 minutes before we started moving into the blocked off areas around the balloons. You do have to go through a security area and if you have a bag, it will be searched. Once you pass this, you follow the crowd to the streets that they have set up the balloons and the floats on, and you get an up close view of it all! The parade staff even told us this is the best way to experience the balloons and we were even told to just watch the parade from TV! This event is free and you do not need reservations at this time!

This area is directly across the street from Central Park, so after we headed back to explore more. This is such a peaceful place and hard to even believe it’s in the middle of NYC. The boys played some football, we found some Home Alone sites, and even walked over to Wollman Rink. We would’ve loved to ice skate, but it was quiet crowded and we opted to skip the wait and find an early dinner. You can spend hours in Central Park after leaving the parade area, but you can also visit the American Museum of Natural History while you’re close by! We have been once and it’s a great museum. My favorite was the dinosaur exhibit!

We actually walked back to our hotel from Central Park and stopped at The Elgin for dinner. It was probably my least favorite meal of the trip. The food was good, there just weren’t many choices and the portions were small. After dinner, we walked around the different Christmas displays around Radio City and Rockefeller Center again before calling it a night!

Click the link for information about The American Museum of Natural History

Click the link for information about Central Park

Click the link for information about the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Day 5 – The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and Flight Home

It was really important for us to get back home to spend Thanksgiving with our families this week. We had planned to book an early flight, but I had a hard time finding a nonstop option and we ended up not leaving until 2:00 pm. It worked out perfect though, because we were able to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade from our hotel window! This was so exciting for us to see and I was thrilled that we didn’t even have to wake up early to find a spot to watch. I had pretty much decided that even though we were in the city the day of the parade, we would be skipping this one. I didn’t want to wake up early, stand outside in the cold, and wait for hours for the parade to start without a bathroom. It could not have been more perfect to have the room that we did! We had an amazing view from above and even caught some of the balloons from the street level right outside of the hotel. It was the perfect way to end our trip before leaving for the airport. We opted to leave the hotel around 10:30 am, even though our flight didn’t leave until 2:00. I wasn’t sure how the traffic would be due to the parade and road closures. We didn’t encounter any traffic on the drive to the airport and had plenty of time to sit down and have lunch before leaving. And we made it home just in time for our first Thanksgiving dinner with family!

All in all, it was just a really good week making tons of memories together! This week is a great time to visit, you get to experience Thanksgiving events and Christmas at the same time! Of course, there were several things I wanted to see and do that we didn’t make it to, so we’ll just have to plan another visit! If you’re going to be visiting New York soon, I highly recommend the City Pass. The savings are amazing! Happy Holidays and Safe Travels!

Click here for information on the New York City Pass

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