As an alumnus of Saturday Night Live and a founding member of the Upright Citizens Brigade, Ali Farahnakian has years of improv and performance experience under his belt. But the best show that the People's Improv Theatre founder puts on is often at his Midtown East apartment, using funny accents when reading children's books to his daughters, Ella, 6, and Olivia, 4. Recently, Farahnakian and his wife, Beth, a former television news producer, created Broadway Birthday Bashes, the kids' party division of the PIT. Young partygoers—including Ella, who celebrated her birthday at the space last year—watch a musical improv show, then take to the stage for a dance party. Not surprisingly, Farahnakian's flair for performance is already visible in his children; the girls can often be found putting on shows at school or in the playground.
AFTER-SCHOOL SNACK SPOT
"The girls are big fans of the original custard cream puffs at Choux Factory (*865 First Ave between 48th and 49th Sts, 212-223-0730. *1685 First Ave between 87th and 88th Sts, 212-289-2023). We buy them as a grab-it-and-go snack to eat at MacArthur Park, our local playground. The store also makes a great iced coffee for adults."
"We love exploring the lush greens and gorgeous mazes at theChildren's Adventure Garden at the New York Botanical Garden. The last time we visited, they had a fall project where the children got to identify leaves in the park and learn about the different trees they come from."
"The owner of Pescatore (955 Second Ave between 50th and 51st Sts; 212-752-7151, pescatorerestaurant.com) gives kids tours of the kitchen and shows them how pasta is made from scratch. Our daughters enjoy the pasta with olive oil and Parmesan cheese, and meatballs on the side. And there's nothing like seeing their faces when the chef shows them the calamari before it's cooked!"
"Whenever Ella and Olivia are invited to a birthday party, we go to Kidding Around. The Magna-Tiles they are the perfect gift, and the complimentary gift-wrap is an added bonus. Our girls also love to stock up on the store's amazing sticker books."
"Besides decadent desserts, the Amish Market (240 E 45th St between Second and Third Aves; 212-370-1761, amishmarketeast.com) has an amazing olive bar. Ella and Olivia also love the tomato-cheddar soup and the rainbow rolls."
"Whenever school is out, we take the girls to see a family-friendly show on Broadway. Mary Poppins was the first, when Ella was four years old. We got the CD and played it in the car, so she was a big fan of all the songs. We would dance to the song "Step in Time" in the living room."
"Both of our children learned to swim at the Vanderbilt YMCA. Their indoor pool is open seven days a week for Family Swim, so we go every season. There are a lot of children in the neighborhood who utilize it as well, making it a social event for the kids as well as an opportunity for them to work on their swimming skills."
"In addition to a jungle gym and a sandbox, MacArthur Parkhas sprinklers during the summer months. There is a Parks Department employee named Lydia who keeps the grounds spotless and generously shares a variety of exciting ride-on toys with the kids."
"Summer Streets runs right through our neighborhood. Ali and I have biked the seven-mile course, and the girls love to bring their scooters and bicycles out and watch the performers."
BACK-TO-SCHOOL SHOPPING SPOT
"We do most of our shopping online, but we fill in the blanks at Target in East Harlem."