NYC Winter Family Fun {Besides Seeing the Tree in Rockefeller Center}

For those of us fortunate enough to live close to New York City, a winter visit is a must-do.  Of course, if you visit around the holidays, seeing the tree in Rockefeller Center is a must.  After battling the crowds to get a glimpse of the tree and attempting to take a decent family photo in front of it, now what are you going to do?  Here is just some of the NYC winter family fun to be had!

Free:

Holiday Train Show at Grand Central Terminal – See the New York Transit Museum’s annual holiday train show.

Holiday Windows – Check out the holiday window displays at Barneys, Bergdorf Goodman, Bloomingdales, Lord & Taylor, Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue and Tiffany & Co.

Inside:

American Museum of National History –  The museum is so large that you really can’t see everything in one day.  Current temporary exhibits include Our Senses, the Butterfly Conservatory, Mummies, Inside You, Earthflight, Opulent Oceans and Dark Universe.

Big Apple Circus – The Big Apple Circus is back at Lincoln Center, celebrating its 40th Anniversary. Experience an evening of thrills and laughs through January 7.

Broadway Shows – There are lots of family-friendly Broadway shows.  Charlie on Broadway is closing January 14 and SpongeBob Square Pants just opened December 4. Seasonal show Elf is running until December 29 and the Radio City Christmas Spectacular is playing through January 1. Other family-friendly shows include Aladdin, Anastasia, Cats, Lion King and School of Rock.

Gulliver’s Gate – A recently opened attraction in Times Square.  Step into an interactive world of miniatures.  Read all about our family’s experience! Reserved timed tickets start at $31 (if purchased online).

National Geographic:  Ocean Odyssey – A unique, immersive underwater experience in Times Square.  Read about or family’s recent visit. Reserved timed tickets start at $39.50 (adults).

New York Hall of Science – We have not been to New York Hall of Science yet, but it looks like a lot of fun! This is a hands-on science museum for children (and adults) of all ages. Through January 15,  visit special exhibit Gingerbread Lane.  See a village of homemade gingerbread houses.  On select dates you can even take part in a gingerbread workshop ($15 plus admission).  On January 15, the last day of the exhibit, from 2-5 PM, gingerbread houses from the exhibit will be given away on a first-come first serve basis.

Winter Onderland at One World Observatory – Through January 7, visitors will follow Ollie the snow owl from his home in the forest, past famous international landmarks to One World Observatory.  Reserved timed tickets start at $36.

Outside:

The Rink at Rockefeller – Ice skate under the famous tree in Rockefeller Center.

Winter Village at Bryant Park – The holiday shops are open until January 2.  However, the skating rink is open until March 4.

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Visiting Gulliver’s Gate: Stepping into a Miniature World {Family Fun}

(We were provided tickets to Gulliver’s Gate.  However, all opinions are our own.)

My family and I recently visited Gulliver’s Gate on a recent trip to New York City.  Based on the name alone, you probably aren’t quite sure what exactly this attraction is.  Named after the Jonathan Swift’s classic novel, Gulliver’s Travels, Gulliver’s Gate is an amazing miniature world.  Using the latest interactive technology, the creators of the exhibit hope to “ignite your imagination and challenge your perspective.”

Gulliver’s Gate covers the equivalent area of an entire football field and is divided into eleven different exhibits.  The exhibits have been created by artisans from eight different countries and four continents.  This $40 million dollar attraction took sixteen months to complete and has been open since May of this year.


Before you enter the Gulliver’s Gate exhibit floor, each visitor will be given a key. which can be used to interact with the different exhibits.  Each blue kiosk will tell you what motion element you will activate and some kiosks even have two different interactions depending on which direction you turn the key. For example, the kiosk above started the parade.  After your visit, you are welcome to take your key home with you as a souvenir, or drop it off in the return box in the lobby.

You will also be given a visitor’s guide when you enter the attraction.  Inside, you will find a map of the exhibits as well as a scavenger hunt.  We had a fun time trying to find all of the items in each exhibit.  If you have difficulty, each exhibit has a guide that will help answer questions (and show you where the hidden items are!).  As you can see, we weren’t quite successful in finding everything!

The first exhibit you see when you step off the escalator is New York City.  This miniaturized version of the Big Apple was created in Brooklyn, New York and took 258 days to make.  Here you will find landmarks like the Empire State Building, Central Park and the Guggenheim.  See trucks cross the Brooklyn Bridge, take a peek inside Grand Central Terminal and watch as the subway pulls into the station.

The major monuments and attractions in each exhibit have informational tags to tell you more about them.  Altogether, there are over 100,000 miniature people, 1,000 trains and 10,000 cars placed throughout the exhibits.  Most of the elements are in HO scale 1:87 and many of the vehicles move.

After visiting New England and Niagara Falls you will make your way through Europe and the British Isles.  Great detail was put into all of the exhibits and there is so much to see!  One of our favorites finds was spotting these famous musicians in the British Isles exhibit.

Gulliver’s Gate has done a great job of infusing pop culture icons into the exhibits, some of which are hidden for the scavenger hunt.  Snoopy is in the Middle East, Batman and Spiderman  are in New York City and the Knight Rider Car is in Europe.

We had recently seen a special on Netflix about the Marina Bay Sands hotel in Singapore.  We were surprised to find a model of the hotel in the Asia exhibit!

As you make your way through the exhibit you will come upon the control room.  Here you will see technicians monitoring all of the exhibits and making sure everything is running smoothly.  The exhibit has its own GPS system and self-driving vehicles move via sensors and a computer system.  In the airport, planes actually take-off.

In between the Asia and Middle East exhibits is the Model Workshop.  Behind the garage doors, we could see artisans working on models. When the doors are lifted, guests can actually talk and interact with the model workers.

Special for the holidays, each exhibit has surprise themed miniatures including The Grinch, Grandma getting run over by a reindeer, the Twelve Days of Christmas, lots of Santas, menorahs and much more!  Look closely to see if you can find them all!

If you’d like a memento of your visit, you can have a miniature version of yourself created!  There is a 3D scanner that can make a mini model of yourself  (your choice of three different sizes) for a cost.

The length of your visit will be determined by how long you wish to stop and look at each exhibit.  There is so much to see that you can make multiple visits and probably find something you missed the first time. They are also continually adding to the exhibit.  Currently in the works is an airport system that will connect the different exhibits to the main airport hub.

If you are looking for a fun and unique outing in New York City, visit Gulliver’s Gate!

The Details:

Gulliver’s Gate
216 West 44th Street
New York, NY 10036

Visit the website for the most up-to-date information.

Hours: 10 AM – 8 PM, Daily, seven days a week

Admission:  Timed Tickets – $36/adults, $27/seniors  (65+) and children (ages 6 – 12), Free/children (0-5)
Flex Tickets (allow you to visit any day or time) – $41/adults, $32/seniors and children
Family Flex Ticket – Good for 2 adults and 3 children for $108

Tips:

*Visit early if you can.  We had 10 AM tickets and arrived when the attraction first opened.  There were no lines and the exhibits were not crowded.  By the time we left it was substantially more crowded.

*Try out the scavenger hunt included in the map.  It encourages you take a closer look at the exhibits.

*There is a gift shop that sells all kinds of travel-related souvenirs.

*No food or drinks are allowed in Gulliver’s Gate.  If you are looking for a nearby place to eat lunch or dinner, within a short walking distance you’ll find Junior’sGuy’s American Kitchen & BarCarmine’sSardi’sCity Kitchen and Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.

 

Your Guide To the NYC TKTS Booths


Do you love the theater and seeing Broadway shows?  If you are a fan, then seeing at least one show is a must when visiting New York City.  After all, Broadway is famous for showcasing the best of the best!  There are currently 45 Broadway shows selling tickets.  Some of these shows have previews beginning in March, but allow you to purchase your tickets now.  If you have your mind set on seeing Hamilton, I wish you lots of luck in getting tickets.  If you really want to take your kids to see Aladdin or the Lion King, then you should definitely pre-purchase tickets based on your travel plans.  However, if you are more flexible in what Broadway show you see, then I highly recommend you visit one of New York City’s TKTS booths.

TKTS Times Square

There are four TKTS booths in New York City located at Times Square (pictured above), South Street Seaport, Lincoln Center and Downtown Brooklyn.  The Times Square ticket booth only sells same-day tickets.  The other three ticket booth locations sell same-day evening tickets or next-day matinee tickets.  They all sell tickets to a variety of Broadway shows and plays at up to 50% off!

Here are some tips for purchasing tickets from the TKTS booths.  First off, check the site for each locations hours, since they differ.  Matinees are usually performed only on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Second, plan on getting in line at your ticket booth location of choice approximately one hour before the booth opens.  Yes, you heard me, one hour in advance.  If the booth opens at 10 AM, I’d aim to get in line by 9 AM for best ticket choices.  Bring a book, your phone (with a portable charger!) or a friend to entertain you while you wait.  This ensures that you get the best selection of shows to choose from.

TKTS Show Board

All of the shows with tickets available for purchase that day are listed on the monitor located near the TKTS booth.  You can also download the TKTS mobile app to see the current show listings.  Ticket availability changes daily.  Just because you saw tickets available for a show yesterday does not mean that they will be available at the booth today.  Keep in mind that you will not find tickets available at the TKTS booth for shows like Hamilton, the Lion King or Aladdin, among others.

It is recommended that you have at least 5 different show selections ready.  Depending on your place in line, you may sadly watch your first, second or even third choices disappear from the screen as they sell out.  If you have your heart set on seeing a specific show that is listed, be prepared to sit separately from your party.  Often times, the more popular shows that have tickets at the TKTS booth only have single seat availability.

Plan on spending at $75+ a ticket.  From what I’ve been told and my personal experiences, TKTS only sells Orchestra seats.  This means you are getting amazing seats at up to 50% off regular price.  Keep in mind that regular orchestra seats can run upwards of $350+ depending on the show!  If you have a large party, have more than one person wait in line, as they will only sell six tickets per person.

Please remember, depending on location, you are purchasing tickets to that day’s matinee or evening performance (or the next day’s matinee, depending on which location you purchased your ticket from).  These tickets are also non-refundable.  Before you leave the window, double check you have the correct number of tickets and that they are for the correct show, date and time.  While recently standing in line to purchase tickets I overheard a woman telling an employee that she wanted to exchange her tickets that she had purchased earlier in the week.  Unfortunately, she was out of luck!

While holiday vacations are popular times for visiting New York City, they are also busy times for Broadway as well.  I recommend not trying to get tickets from the TKTS booth during these times.  We learned the hard way, attempting to get tickets over the Christmas break.  The line was super long and by the time we made it up to the window, there were no family-friendly shows available that had four seats together for a matinee show.  We ended up getting back in line later the same day (an hour and half before the booth opened!) and were able to purchase tickets to an evening performance.

While standing in line, there are several TKTS Patron Service Reps walking around, ready to answer any questions you may have.

Finally, no matter how desperate you are for show tickets, it is highly recommended that you do not purchase tickets from scalpers (the guys and gals on the street trying to sell you tickets).  There is no way to tell if the tickets are legitimate or not.

The TKTS booth may not be for everyone.  As I mentioned, if you are visiting New York City and have a specific show that you want to see, I recommend purchasing tickets prior to your visit.  However, if you love musicals and are flexible in what you see, (and don’t mind giving up time to stand in line) then I’d give the TKTS booth a try.  For theater fans, it’s a great way to see Broadway shows at an affordable price.