How to find Disney magic in New York City, from DOLE Whip to a Sea Glass carousel, and even dinner with Jack Skellington!
Not every vacation can be to a Disney park, but do you find yourself searching for some Disney magic wherever you go? Me too! This summer, we took a vacation to New York City. It was seven jam-packed days of entertainment, food, interesting characters, and a lot of walking. So, it sure felt a lot like a Disney Park vacation! There’s actually a lot of Disney-style magic in NYC. Some places are official and well-known spots. But we found a few more places that gave me those Disney vibes and are a little more obscure.
The Disney Store
Probably the most obvious destination for a Disney fan is the Disney Store in Times Square. It’s worth braving the madness of Times Square. One tip is to try visiting the store in the morning as close as possible to opening. Times Square may be a little calmer, and the store will feel less like Main Street Emporium after the nighttime show.
I live in a suburb of Chicago, and sadly, the Disney stores in our area are closed. Even when they were open, they were nothing like this double-decker Disney New York City mashup. Just like in the parks, look for the details. There’s art hidden everywhere, some of it with a New York vibe.
Behind the registers were my favorites with Ralph and friends on the Brooklyn Bridge, Snow White and her prince in Central Park and even the possums from Bambi hanging in a tree with the skyline behind them. The ultimate moment is riding the escalator and feeling like Rapunzel with the lanterns floating overhead. In true Disney fashion there are characters hidden in the trees on the escalator.
Who can you spot in this pic?
Disney on Broadway
Just down the street from the Disney Store is Broadway. As of summer 2023, Lion King and Aladdin are currently showing. Apparently, Aladdin is Broadway’s biggest party.The closest we got to one of these shows was seeing the advertising for both.
Instead we saw Sweeney Todd. Even that had some Disney magic because Jordan Fisher, who sings the main song in the nighttime show Happily Ever After at Magic Kingdom, was in the show. This was a huge and magical surprise because Happily Ever After is my favorite nighttime show in Walt Disney World. His last night in Sweeney Todd was June 18th.
Projection-Mapping Meal at Journey NYC
Speaking of Happily Ever After, one of the many things that show is known for is the projection mapping on Cinderella Castle. Well imagine that but during dinner!
At Journey NYC in the Flatiron District they have a dining experience called Journey 360. Journey calls it “theatrical gastronomy.” And it sure is! The meal starts with entering a room with about 20 other people and you’re surrounded by screens. Every diner’s name is projected onto the table.
This is just the beginning! Throughout the five-course meal, projections and an engaging in-character host are used to take you on a journey that goes from the depths of the ocean, into a volcano and all the way into space.
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Even the plates have dimension to enhance the projections on the table. The attention to detail in the food, projections, drinks, dishes, fashion and story all gave those Disney vibes. And the food? Well, it’s delicious. My favorite course was the Under the Sea octopus dish.
Go Under the Sea in The Battery
Channel your inner Ariel at the SeaGlass Carousel in The Battery (formerly known as Battery Park.)
Climb aboard one of the 30 glowing fish and swirl around the glass-enclosed space to a custom composed song. Fun fact: The carousel was created by the set designer who staged The Little Mermaid on Broadway, George Tyspin!
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I highly recommend visiting at night if you can. The entire carousel and every fish light up, making the colorful lights dance around the park.
Feeling Like a Princess at Beauty and Essex
The entrance to Beauty and Essex in Soho is through a pawn shop.
Through a secret door is a whole new world with chandeliers, a regal spiral staircase, lush banquette seating and a whole lot of peacock feathers.
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The entire time I was in this restaurant, I kept feeling the Disney vibes. We started with the Wonder Wheel, a Ferris wheel of sweet treats. The swinging baskets reminded me of the Pixar Pal-A-Round in Disney California Adventure.
Everything felt fit for a princess with pretty cocktails, little pancakes, and even bite-size grilled cheese and tomato soup dumplings. Even the bathrooms were lush!
With velvet seating, silvery wallpaper and sinks surrounded by vintage perfume bottles, I could picture a few princesses lounging around Ralph Breaks the Internet-style.
Disney Street Art
Not too far from Beauty and Essex at the corner of East Houston Street and Mott Streets in Soho is the Insta famous Mickey Wall.
Street art is one of the many wonderful things about wandering around New York, and Soho has a number of magical finds. You’ll see Star Wars-inspired street art before you hit the famous Mickey Wall.
There’s also a version of Spider-Man posing outside the Liz Christy Garden.
A Selfie with the Incredible Hulk
Over at the LEGO Store in Rockefeller Center you can grab a selfie with the Hulk! This store has a lot of Disney products and photo ops. Currently, the outside windows are shiny with Disney100 decorations.
Inside has a number of great photo spots, including a LEGO NYC taxi protected by Captain America.
You can even climb inside for a photo!
Jack Skellington in New York City
Another dining experience that has a lot of Disney vibes, but more of the Tim Burton variety, is Beetle House NYC (where every day is Halloween).
Every bit of this restaurant is packed with Nightmare Before Christmas, Alice in Wonderland, and other Tim Burton film references – the decorations, the dining, the entertainment, and even the cocktails.
This East Village restaurant has live actors every evening. We saw Jack Skellington, Wednesday Addams, and a magician during our dinner. You’ll want to make sure to take time to walk all around the restaurant, especially into the back room. That’s where you’ll find Oogie Boogie!
In addition to a cocktail called the Coco Skellington, we had the Sweeney Beef, Jack Jambalaya Risotto, and the Edward Burger Hands. I had no idea how accurate the Sweeney Beef was to the Broadway show. There’s even a whole song in the show about that straight-edge razor, which topped the dish at Beetle House.
DOLE Whip at Serendipity3
On the complete opposite end of the spectrum from Beetle House is Serendipity3 on the Upper East Side. This iconic restaurant is all pastels, diner food, and sweet treats. In addition to their famous Frrrozen Hot Chocolate, Serendipity3 has a series of Frrrozen Cocktails with Pineapple, Mango, or Raspberry Dole Whip.
From The Battery to the Upper East Side, Manhattan in New York City is an island full of Disney magic.