Festive Season in NYC with Kids

Written by Nakia Gordon

Who doesn’t love Christmas or “The Holidays”, as it is commonly known in our adopted nation.  New York City offers many great attractions and activities during the festive season, appropriate for singles, couples and families, so while you may be missing the beach and summer in Oz, you can distract yourself with one of these great activities:

Ice skating: Wollman Skating Rink in Central Park is probably the most famous of the NYC ice rinks and the most photographed. Other great options are Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park, The Rink at Brookfield Place, Standard Hotel in the Meatpacking District, LeFrak Center Prospect Park & Trump Lasker Rink.

Polar Express: On the Hudson Valley train ride set to the soundtrack from the movie, passengers will relive the magic of the story on a round trip to the ‘North Pole.’ The trip takes about 90 minutes and includes hot chocolate, a sing along time and a visit from Santa. Cost is $48 per adult, $38 per child.


The Rockettes: What would the holiday season in NYC be without a visit to see the world famous Rockettes at Radio City Hall.  I took my kids last year and from the moment we walked into the foyer of the theatre they were already mesmerized by all the lights, glitter and Christmas charm. You can also see Santa and have your photo taken before or after the show. The actual show is not just The Rockettes dancing around, but tells a child friendly Christmas story.

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree: It’s so great to see the iconic Rockefeller Christmas Tree but always sooooo busy!! I usually take the kids in for a look at the tree at night (all lit up) and wander across to Saks for the amazing window light display with accompanying music.  You can be in and out in 20 minutes…but if I was kid free, I would take advantage of the great atmosphere and head for a glass of wine or bubbles at a nearby bar or restaurant..including The Rainbow Room and Polo Bar.

Holiday Window Displays: At Saks, Tiffany’s, Bergdorf & Goodman &, Macy’s and Bloomingdales, on and around 5th Ave.


Santa Meet ‘n Greet: Santaland at Macy’s is great, but always busy. Macy’s Santaland is a 13,000-square-foot holiday display that makes your kids feel like they’ve entered the North Pole. You’ll find caroling snowmen, reindeer, twinkling lights, trees, elves – the whole shebang. The winter wonderland path to Santa is worth it: Kiddos can sit on his lap, share their Christmas wishes and get a photo from a professional photographer. They do have an online reservation system which can help with the big queues and from this year 2017, you must make a reservation in advance.

Less crowded Santa alternatives: Other less crowded options to visit Santa include Bloomingdales, ABC Carpet & Home store in Flatiron, and the food court of the Plaza Hotel which is never busy! 

Holiday Markets: A must-do holiday event is a visit to the amazing Urbanspace Holiday Markets at Union Square, Bryant Park and Columbus Circle. These markets actually sell quality gifts and are a perfect way to spend an afternoon strolling around with a cup of hot chocolate. They do have a few food stands as well.

Nutcracker Ballet: Take a waltz through a blizzard of ballerinas for an irresistible treat for all ages. The Nutcracker at Lincoln Center is the perfect holiday show, open from Nov 24-Dec 31.

Holiday Train Show: The New York Botanical Gardens in the Bronx showcases more than 150 landmark replicas like Grand Central Terminal and The Statue of Liberty made of plant materials such as bark. The Holiday Train Show runs from November 19 until January 14.

I hope you enjoy the festive season in New York City and as we say over here, “Happy Holidays”.

Event: Women of Letters NYC

Women of Letters is everyone’s favorite literary salon!

What is Women of Letters NYC?

Each month, host Sofija Stefanovic introduces a lineup of six women, from various walks of life.  The most interesting and acclaimed writers, musicians, actors, comedians and politicians appear together on stage, in an intimate setting, with the purpose of celebrating female talent and the lost art of letter-writing.  The shows are funny and sad, and never recorded or filmed – part of the magic is that they exist in the moment, and the events are a safe story-telling space.

Women of Letters veterans include: Molly Ringwald, Jean Grae, Kathleen Turner, Margo Jefferson, Martha Wainwright, Aparna Nancherla, Siri Hustvedt, Edie Falco, Elaine Welteroth, Susan Orlean, Emma Straub, Alexis Okeowo, Sonia Manzano, Eileen Myles, Suki Kim, Tavi Gevinson, Yael Stone, Amber Tamblyn and many more.

This Month’s Theme:

“A LETTER TO MY CREATION” is hosted by special guest, Angela Ledgerwood (of the Lit Up podcast) and features, together on stage for the first time ever:

  • Esteemed writer of essays, fiction and humour, KASHANA CAULEY
  • Eminent storyteller and author of Burn Down the Ground, KAMBRI CREWS
  • Award-winning poet, actress and playwright, DAEL ORLANDERSMITH
  • Beloved cult comedian and chanteuse, LADY RIZO
  • Legendary singer, songwriter, performer, author and actress, SUZZY ROCHE
  • Acclaimed author of “The Interestings”, MEG WOLITZER

Event Details:

Date: Wednesday, November 29th.
Time: Doors open at 6 pm for an 8 pm start
Location: City Winery, 155 Varick Street, New York.
Tickets: Purchase your tickets through City Winery. Women of Letters is a very popular event and regularly sells out so please get your tickets soon if you’d like to come along. Ticket prices range from $20 – $40
Promo Code: Use the PROMO code AWNY at the checkout and receive a $5 discount.

Join the Aussie Contingent:

There’s an Aussie contingent sitting in seats 270-276 so sit nearby if you are coming along. Please feel free to contact Amanda and Helen, through the Australian Mums and Dads in New York Group, to arrange to meet up.

Stick around afterwards as we have been invited to grab a drink with the organisers and letter writers of the night!

Event: AWNY Christmas Lunch 2017

The silly season is almost upon us! You can’t run from it, so why not embrace it?

Join AWNY for our annual Christmas Lunch and welcome the holidays the right way: with a good meal, great company and lots of laughs.

We’ve secured a member’s only private dining room on the 30th floor at the Metropolitan Tower, where you will be greeted with a cocktail on arrival, followed by a delicious three-course meal. Oh, and did we mention the great company?

Event details:

Date: Friday, December 8, 2017
Time: 12.00pm – 2.30pm
Location: Member’s only private dining room, booked under member “Berzack” – Club Metropolitan – 146 West 57th Street, 30th Floor
Cost: $60 for members | $75 for non-members
Included: 3 course meal, cocktail on arrival, tax and gratuity

Buy tickets

Places are limited and pre-registration is required, so sign up now!


How To: NYC Kindergarten Admissions

Updated by Angela Tohl from a previous post written by AWNY.

Overview of NYC Kindergarten

In this post, we’re looking at the admissions process for Kindergarten in NYC.

Firstly, let’s clarify the terminology.  In Australia, “Kindergarten” (aka “Kindy” or “Kinder”) depending on the state, can either refer to the year of pre-school preceding prep/reception at primary school or the very first year at primary school. In the US, “Kindergarten” is part of the K-12 educational system and refers to the very first year of elementary school preceding first grade.

There are three different approaches depending on whether you are looking at Kindergarten at private, public or gifted and talented schools.

Private Schools

Kindergarten at a private school is a whole other ball game. Your nursery school will help you with everything you need, so this part will be brief. But if you’ve just moved and you’re looking to start at a private school, the best thing to do is find a consultant. The city is full of them and they know all the schools (and the schools mostly know them). A quick assessment of your family’s needs will help them guide you to the right places. They’ll also know where it might be possible to get in. This is one – http://www.nyadmissions.com/ – but there are plenty of others if you google them.

Luckily, if the process, cost and everything else that goes with it isn’t your thing, most of the city has fantastic public schools.

Public Schools

Important Dates For 2018 Commencement:

  • Eligibility: To commence Kindergarten for 2018-19 school year, your child must turn 5 during 2018 calendar year, i.e. your child was born in 2013.
  • Applications Open: Tues Nov 28, 2017
  • Applications Close: Fri Jan 12, 2018


The NYC Dept of Education site has a good overview of elementary schools admission. The DOE offers open houses and events, where you can visit elementary schools and learn about the admission procedures. Applications are accepted between Nov – Jan. You can choose up to 12 schools in order of preference. An offer is sent in March. In April you can accept the offer and pre-register at the chosen school.


Photo credit: freeimages.com/Rohan Baumann


Two years ago, Ella Colley of Inside Schools wrote us a post covering An Inside Guide to NYC School Applications. Not a lot has changed since this guide was published, and Inside Schools is the best website that goes into great detail on each school. They have photos, info and all the stats, ranging from how the kids do in tests to how much the parents and teachers recommend the head of the school.

New York City’s roughly 700 public elementary (generally K-5) schools are divided into 32 districts (six of them in Manhattan). The schools within each district are strictly zoned.

Generally admissions priority for a particular school is given to students who reside in the school’s zone. However some schools will still need to wait-list kids who live within their zone, when they receive more applications than they have places available.  Conversely some schools are able to accept students from outside their zone, subject to availability of places. An AWNY member personally knows of a few families who fall into this category, so it never hurts to contact the school Principal directly.

The subject of school zones and school choices, is complex and extensive, and we are planning a follow up story on this. If you have any questions in the meantime, drop AWNY a line via email or Facebook page DM.

Admission into any public school requires proof of address (rental agreement, utility bill etc.) and the child’s birth certificate. The high demand schools – like 234 and 41 will take admissions from the previous November. But you can walk up to any admissions on any day and enroll your child in the school (if they have a place), even after term has started.

Gifted and Talented Programs

Important Dates for 2018 Commencement:

  • Eligibility: children entering K through Grade 3 in 2018 can sit the test
  • Request For Testing (RFT) for G&T Test Opens: early Oct, 2017
  • Request For Testing (RFT) for G&T Test Closes: apply online by 11.59 pm Mon Nov 13, 2017.


The NYC Department of Education site has a good overview of the G&T (Gifted and Talented) program.  The G&T program follows the same curriculum as the general education classes but at a possibly accelerated or enriched pace.

The program is available for students entering K through Grade 3 in 2018. In order to be offered a place in the program, the child must sit the G&T Test and meet the qualifying score.

District G&T programs: are located within district elementary schools (i.e. there will be a G&T class for students enrolled in the G&T program, along with classes for all other students taking the general education curriculum). These programs give admissions priority to students who live in the school district.

Citywide G&T programs: are located within a school dedicated to the G&T program (i.e. all students at this school are enrolled in the G&T program). These programs give no admissions priority to students who live in the school district. The Citywide programs are highly sought after and there are five schools: three in Manhattan – Anderson, Nest+M and TAG. There is also one in Queens – 30th Avenue School, and one in Brooklyn, the Brooklyn School of Inquiry.


The process begins at the G&T website. In mid-October, registration opens for testing (RFT) and it closes mid-November. You need to register your child to be tested, and you want to do it early to get a convenient test centre. Testing takes place largely in January.

Students scoring 90 or more can apply to District G&T Programs.  Students scoring 97 or more can apply to District and Citywide G&T Programs.  However in reality it’s more like above 99 to get into a Citywide program. There is a high demand for places in the G&T program and regardless of the child’s test score, there is no guarantee a student will receive an offer.

In addition to the practice questions in the G&T handbook provided by the DOE, lots of parents prep their children further for these tests. It’s totally up to the individual – you can prep them and they may get in. But if they don’t get in on their own, they may have a tough time once they’re there. So while some test prep – so they know what to expect – is important, lots of the educators don’t recommend doing too much. Which sounds good to me, it’s expensive and time consuming so I’ll take the advice!

And then, of course, last but not least there is Hunter Elementary which is a school for gifted and talented students, administered by Hunter College, of the City University of New York. It has a very low acceptance rate, despite the $400 cost to test for it, and you can’t prepare. They take 25 girls and 25 boys in Kindergarten, with more admissions in high school. It’s only open to people living in Manhattan. Famed New Yorker, Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of “Hamilton” is a graduate of Hunter College High School.

And that is it!

Do you have any NYC Kindergarten tips or tricks?

Let us know in the comments section, and enjoy the school year!

Stay tuned for upcoming posts in our “School Series”.



AWNY Mums and Dads Update, August 2017

Written by Helen McWilliam

It’s been pretty quiet on the Mums and Dads front this month, so I thought I would report on my progress with visiting all the Central Park playgrounds before it gets too cold. To date, I have visited 13 out of 21, six since I started the challenge. It all gets a bit tricky from 14 on as the playgrounds are not as easy to access by subway, but I am committed!

Here’s a run down of the six I have visited since starting the challenge:

Diana Ross (West 81st St and Central Park West)
I’m not sure if Diana Ross is aware, but her namesake playground is in quite a state of disrepair. It felt quite unsafe for my two- and four-year-old. A section of the playground had been blocked off with signage stating it was unsafe. I personally won’t revisit this playground until it has been completely upgraded. It’s such a shame, because it is well shaded and in an easy to access area of Central Park.

West 110th Street Playground
This is a perfect playground for pre-schoolers. Well shaded, with a range of activities for different levels of ability.  It’s easy to access by public transport (no lift at either 110th St stations), but there was no close access to public toilets. As an additional positive, no school or camp groups visited whilst we were there.

East 110th Street Playground
What makes this a great playground option is that it is just above the Harlem Weir. It’s worth the trip to visit a very beautiful part of Central Park. The playground was easy to access via public transport (again, no lift at the subway station), but a negative was that it was very busy with school and camp groups. There was plenty of equipment to climb on, however they were a little challenging for pre-schoolers who, like my children, assume they have far greater abilities. Additionally, there was open access to the swings, which can be a little hairy at times with the aforementioned pre-schoolers. I would recommend this playground for ages 5 and above. Another plus for this playground was that it was very close public toilets.

Tarr Family Playground (West 100th St and Central Park West)
Full sun. This playground was hot. It’s a shame because it was a relatively quiet playground with a range of activities for different ages, with plenty of space to run around.  The sprinklers were good fun but it again had no nearby public toilets.  It was quite a hike from the subway, too.

Rudin Family Playground (West 97th St and Central Park West)
Beautifully shaded, but definitely more for younger children.  My 4-year-old appeared bored at this one, while my 2-year-old thought it was amazing.  I did too for the shade. A few school groups came through, but it wasn’t overwhelming.  As with the Tarr Family Playground, there is no access to public toilets and it’s quite a walk from the subway.

James Michael Levin Playground (East 76th St and Fifth Ave)
This was a very small but popular playground, with some sprinklers.  My two children enjoyed playing here, but there wasn’t much play equipment and I don’t think all of the sprinklers were working.  Nice large space though with some shade.  I can’t advise on access from public transport as I walked, but, again, there was no access to public toilets.

Still eight more playgrounds to go.  I could be cutting it close before school starts but I should definitely be able to get it done before it gets too cold.

We’d love to hear what you think about the playgrounds in Central Park, so please contact us through our Facebook page or email AWNY.

Enjoy the rest of your summer and Amanda and I will be back with more events planned for the fall.