The Bethesda Fountain in Central Park in New York City is a great place to begin the day with kids — young and old — when visiting the Big Apple. (FILE PHOTO)
Ten really fun things to do in NYC with kids under 10
BY KATHLEEN JAY
New York City is filled with parks and lots of fun things for even the youngest kids to enjoy. Pictured here is Tecumseh Playground, located at 77th Street and the corner of Amsterdam Avenue on Manhattan’s Upper West Side neighborhood. (Photo: KATHLEEN JAY)
Unlike adults, kids under 10 years old really don’t enjoy the typical New York City experience that their parents do — ambling through beautiful neighborhoods, enjoying the diversity of New York’s restaurant scene and spending hours oohing and ahhing through galleries at fine art museums. Honestly, kids really don’t. You can get away with some of the above with a non-walking baby, but even a baby can’t sit still too long at a restaurant.
Walking — unless kids are walking to a destination, such as FAO Schwartz or the subway station that will take them to a Yankees game — can also be challenging. Kids love to run around and play endlessly on a playground — but the act of walking for walking’s sake isn’t on the top of most kids’ favorites list.
No worries. Every kid I know who has been to New York City — loves it. At least mine does. Below is a list of places and things to do — that make for great fun when visiting the Big Apple with kids.
1. Riding the subway
There is always a bit of a thrill riding the New York City subway — the hustle, the bustle, the street musicians — and let’s face it, it’s also the fastest, least-expensive way to get around the city.
Certain stations are stand-outs, such as Grand Central Terminal – located at 89 East 42nd Street and is accessible 4, 5, 6, 7, and S Subway Lines; this historic station — which just celebrated its 100th birthday this year — has 68 shops, 35 eateries and an impressive market — on par with the San Francisco Ferry Building Marketplace.
As far as train lines, my favorite is the 1, 2 or 3 line, which can take you from the Upper West Side to SoHo.
The fare for a subway — or local bus ride — is $2.50. Up to three children 44 inches tall and under ride for free on subways and local buses when accompanied by a fare-paying adult. Infants (under two years of age) ride express buses free if the child sits on the lap of the accompanying adult.
2. An afternoon at the Children’s Museum of the Arts in SoHo
The Children’s Museum of the Arts is a hands-on art museum dedicated to engaging young artists ages 10 months to 15 years old. Hosting open workshops lead by a staff of teaching artists, this wonderful museum features a 2,000-square-foot gallery, a media lab and sound booth for budding D.J.s and sound-mixers, a clay bar for young sculptors, a fine art studio — and every little kid’s favorite room — the lofted ball pond (pictured, at left) — a playroom filled to its capacity in yoga-exercise balls for climbing. In addition, the museum offers a quiet room for down time; for the youngest artists, there is a WEE Arts Studio for kids ages one-to-five years old.
Note: On most Saturdays, the museum holds two-hour drop-off workshops for kids ages eight-to-15 years old.
To get there, take the 1 train downtown to Houston Street. Walk south on Varick Street, turn right on Charlton Street and you’re there. The museum is open daily, but closed on Tuesdays. Admission — for both kids and adults — is $11; infants under one-year old, seniors and members are free. The museum also offers pay-as-you wish hours every Thursday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
3. Going to a drop-in class Chelsea Piers
Located at 23rd Street and the West Side Highway, Chelsea Piers – a spacious sports complex featuring a field house, golf simulator and driving range, a year-round ice-skating rink, and a bowling alley — offers drop-in, recreational classes for kids all year long. Drop-in activities include gymnastics, trampoline, foam pit, rock climbing, dance, soccer and basketball.
A favorite class is called Rock-N-Roll — geared for five-to-16 year old kids — which features 45 minutes of rock climbing and 45 minutes of gymnastics. The 90-minute class is $30 per participant.
4. Visiting Central Park Zoo
The 6.5-acre Central Park Zoo is a lovely place to spend a couple of hours as you explore Central Park. Open 365 days a year, the zoo — popularized by the “Madagascar” film series — has two sections — a Main Zoo and the Tisch Children’s Zoo. One ticket is valid for admission to both areas. Snow leopards, red pandas, sea lions and penguins make this a very fun place to explore. Admission prices are $18 for adults and $13 for kids; book online and save 10-percent off your tickets.
Alas, in case you didn’t read about this last week, the zoo recently lost one of its most-beloved inhabitants — Gus, the polar bear.
5. Going to a show
There are several shows both on Broadway and Off-Broadway that are kid-friendly. Current shows include: “The Lion King” at Minskoff Theatre, “Wicked” at the Gershwin Theatre, “Newsies” at the Nederlander Theatre, “Stomp” at the Orpheum Theatre, “Peter and the Starcatcher” at New World Stages, “Annie” at the Palace Theatre (Note: “Annie” is set to close in Jan. 5, 2014), “Blue Man Group” at the Astor Place Theatre, “The Fantasticks” at the Snapple Theater Center/Jerry Orbach Theater, “Gazillion Bubble Show” at New World Stages, “The Berenstain Bears Live!” at Manhattan Movement and Arts Center, and “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” at St. Luke’s Theatre. A couple of things to note: most shows run more than two hours — so really little kids may not have the patience to sit through it; also, tickets are expensive — but keep in mind, going to a Broadway show is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Oct. 1 , 2013 update: Leapin’ Lizards, kids go free to “Annie!” For evening performances through Oct. 31, 2013 ticket buyers will receive one free ticket for a child, with the purchase of any adult regular-priced ticket; note: there is additional fine print. Kids Go Free tickets to “Annie” may be purchased online through TicketMaster.com or visiting the Palace Theatre box office (Broadway at 47th Street) and using the code: GPFAM. The show’s final performance is scheduled for Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014.
Another popular choice is the Big Apple Circus, which is set to return to Lincoln Center with the performance of news show, “LUMINOCITY.” Performances are set to run from Oct. 25, 2013 to Jan. 12, 2014, and tickets are $25.
Lastly, if you’re planning to be in New York City during the holidays, don’t miss the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall — and ice skating across the street at Rockefeller Center. This year, the show will run Nov. 8 to Dec. 30, 2013
6. Walking around Times Square area right after sunset (and visiting a toy store)
As overwhelming as Times Square can be, kids love the over-the-top display of lights, billboards, and toy stores.
Inside the 110,000-square-foot Toys R Us store, kids can ride a Ferris wheel, check out a life-size T-Rex model, and walk through Barbie’s “dream house.” At the Disney Store (disneystore.com) located at 1514 Broadway at 44th Street, kids can interact with a life-size interactive Disney princess castle or relax in children’s theater, which screens a constant flow of movies and shorts (And in the city that never sleeps, the Disney Store in Times Square is open daily until midnight.).
7. Ordering room service
There is not a single kid I have ever met who doesn’t enjoy the thrill of ordering room service — or at the very least, delivery.
Below is a list my favorite kid-friendly hotels:
>> NYLO New York (Upper West Side)
Located on the Upper West Side at 77th Street and Broadway, we love NYLO New York because its 285 rooms all got recently renovated, and its loft-style suites are amazing (Located on the top three floors, the deluxe rooms and suites even have their own private balconies.). For all guests, there is a terrace on the 14th and 16th floors, at which the hotel holds a complimentary happy hour. In terms of room service, the hotel is serviced by two restaurants– Serafina, which features northern Italian cuisine and great pizza, and RedFarm, a new restaurant that brings a green market sensibility to modern Chinese food and dim sum. The hotel also offers guests a special rate of $5 for admission to the nearby Children’s Museum of Manhattan – a saving of more than 50 percent off regular ticket prices.
Also, for other take-out options, NYLO New York is nearby two of my favorite markets: Fairway, located at 2127 Broadway at 74th Street, and Zabar’s, located at 2245 Broadway at 80th Street.
>> Yotel New York City (Times Square)
Located near Times Square, the hotel offers “cabins” — some which have an upper bunk for a kid. The hotel offers room service as well as a an a la carte breakfast menu and all-day dining menu. It’s restaurant Dojo also offers guests complimentary tea, coffee and muffins from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. on weekdays and until 10:30 a.m. on weekends.
>> Holiday Inn Manhattan 6th Ave (Chelsea)
Located in the trendy Chelsea neighborhood, the Holiday Inn Manhattan 6th Ave also offers great value and comfort. The hotel — which went through a complete renovation a couple of years ago — is located just a few blocks from Eataly –Mario Batali’s giant Italian food market, a foodie destination even for kids! — which has seven sit-down restaurants with table and bar seats. The eateries — positioned next to the market area that provides its fresh ingredients — include Le Verdure (produce), La Piazza (fresh mozzarella), Il Pesce (fish), La Pizza & Pasta (bakery), Manzo (butcher) Pranzo (cooking school) and Birreria (rooftop restaurant and brewery).
>> GEMSoho (Soho/Lower East Side)
If downtown is your choice, I really like the GEMSoho, located on the Lower East Side one block away from Katz’s Delicatessen. This boutique hotel has very comfortable rooms, a cheerful staff — and is in easy walking distant to the Village, Nolita, Chinatown, Little Italy and Canal Street. And if you are staying in the Village, go to my favorite, family-friendly, Italian restaurant: Ill Corallo Tratoria at 176 Prince Street, between Thompson and Sullivan Streets. It has the best Italian restaurant in the city — for both food and price — and is known for its home-made pasta.
>> New York Palace Hotel (Midtown)
For shopping on Fifth Avenue (F.A.O Schwartz, American Girl; see below), I also like the New York Palace Hotel — located behind St. Patrick’s Cathedral at 455 Madison Avenue. The most beautiful time of the year to stay here is during the holidays — when the museum is festively-decorated.
>> Ritz-Carlton, Battery Park (Battery Park)
Last, but certainly not least, the Ritz-Carlton, Battery Park is a wonderful, family-friendly hotel — and offers the best room service on this entire list. For such luxury, the hotel offers outstanding value. The hotel — which serves the Wall Street community — offers some of its best rates on the weekends (Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights); it is also in close proximity to several interesting attractions, such as the ferry to the Statue of Liberty, Skyscraper Museum, Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian, Wall Street, the 9/11 Memorial, the New York City Fire Museum, the Tribute WTC Visitor Center and SoHo.
8. Riding the ferry to the Statue of Liberty
The Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World was a gift of friendship from the people of France to the United States and is a universal symbol of freedom and democracy. The Statue of Liberty was dedicated on October 28, 1886, designated as a National Monument in 1924 and restored for her centennial on July 4, 1986.
Following Hurricane Sandy, Liberty Island was closed to repair storm damage; Liberty Island has since reopened — including the Statue (Ellis Island remains closed).
To get there, visitors can purchase ferry ticket through Statue Cruises, with limited tickets to the pedestal and crown. From New York City, ferries depart from Battery Park, at the southernmost tip of Manhattan.
I highly recommend buying advanced tickets — otherwise you will either be forced to wait in a very long line, or the ferry will be sold-out — particularly on the weekends. If you book a “reserve with crown” ticket, you’ll have access to the Crown of the Statue of Liberty, priority entry into the boarding queue, which saves wait time at the departure point, access to the grounds of Liberty Island, and an audio tour of Liberty Island. Tickets are $20 for adults, $12 for kids two-to 12-years old.
Lastly, take note of the security process for visiting Liberty Island and the Statue of Liberty:
- Visitors to the Park are required to submit to airport style security screening before boarding vessels departing from Battery Park and Liberty State Park. Visitors to the Monument undergo additional security screening.
- All persons and property are subject to search on Liberty Island. All items considered inappropriate or prohibited will be confiscated and retained by the United States Park Police. >> Large bags are not allowed on Liberty Island.
- There are no locker facilities at the New York and New Jersey embarkation points
- Backpacks, strollers and large umbrellas are not permitted in the Monument
- Food (even unopened) and drinks (including water) are not allowed inside the Statue of Liberty
- All weapons are prohibited, including: Firearms, explosives or flammables, knives or sharp objects (including tools), pepper spray and mace
9. Visiting either American Girl Place New York City and/or Eloise at the Plaza
Perhaps this is more geared toward girls, but both American Girl Place — located at 609 Fifth Avenue at 49th Street — and Eloise at the Plaza — nearby at Fifth Avenue at Central Park South in the Plaza Hotel — are two one-of-a-kind experiences that any little girl will treasure.
American Girl Place is about the size of a large department store. Located on three floors, the store features all of the brand’s characters—from historical favorites to My American Girl dolls to current Girl of the Year—plus Bitty Baby and the Bitty Twins. Visitors can purchase dolls, outfits, accessories and furniture; in addition, there are matching kids-and-doll outfits. The store also has an American Girl Cafe for brunch, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner, and parties; a photo studio, where visitors can pose for a picture and take home a souvenir issue of American Girl magazine with her face on the cover. And lastly, there is a doll hair salon, for which you can treat your doll to have a professionally-trained stylist brush, braid, and twist your doll’s hair to to create a fabulous look. For $14, you can get your doll’s ears pierced with silver stud earrings, or treat her to a spa visit ($12), which includes a facial, nail decals, spa flip-flops and a faux face mask.
Eloise at the Plaza offers a much gentler experience. Located on the Plaza Hotel on Central Park South, the literary-inspired store — from the “Eloise” book series — includes a stylish living room, a fashion room, and a tea room where family and friends can come together for tea and birthday parties and other celebrations.
10. Explore the parks
New York City has more than 1,700 parks, playgrounds, and recreation facilities across the five boroughs. Parks properties range from swimming pools to wetlands and from woodlands to skating rinks.
If you are traveling to New York City in the summer, make plans to visit Victorian Gardens at Wollman Rink in Central Park. This traditional, family-friendly amusement park is specifically geared to kids two-to 12 years old.
The top 10 largest parks are:
- Pelham Bay Park, Bronx: 2,765 acres
- Greenbelt, Staten Island: 1,778 acres
- Van Cortlandt Park, Bronx: 1,146 acres
- Flushing Meadows/Corona Park, Queens: 898 acres
- Central Park, Manhattan: 843 acres
- Marine Park, Brooklyn: 798 acres
- Bronx Park, Bronx: 718 acres
- Alley Pond Park, Queens: 655 acres
- Franklin D. Roosevelt Boardwalk, South and Midland Beaches, Staten Island: 638 acres
- Forest Park, Queens: 544 acres
Post-script: More resources
NYCgo.com — the official travel guide to New York City — just launched a new section of their Web site devoted to traveling with kids, “Explore With Waldo,” the city’s unofficial travel ambassador to kids visiting New York City. Here, you can find links to recommended parks and cultural institutions — as well as to several of the city’s best attraction passes.
— Kathleen Jay
Copyright 2013 by Kathleen Jay. All rights reserved.