New York City for Families – Part 1

Genie Davis November 9, 2010 1 Comment

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New York City is a wonderful place to take the kids. You can spend days just enjoying Central Park and the magnificent skyline that surrounds it. You can push those strollers up and down 5th Avenue, take in the ice skaters swirling through Rockefeller Center. Older kids will love the color and lights and perpetual motion of Times Square. Sure, New York is an expensive town, full of adult activities in fine dining, nightlife, and theater. But it’s an urban reality version of Disneyland for kids, and this “garden of sky scrapers,” as my children once described it, grows many delights.

Rockefeller Center New York

A great time in NYC - just looking at the sights - like Rockefeller Center

Naturally, you’ll take the kids to Central Park, but there’s a new park in town that children of all ages will enjoy. The High Line is a park built on what used to be a long abandoned rail line rising above the city streets from 20th to Gansevoort on Manhattan’s west side. The walkways of this park make a wonderful ramble and offer a literal birds-eye-view of this part of Manhattan’s sky line and the Hudson River. You’ll love the feeling of being above the streets and so will the kids.

When it’s time for a snack, you’ll enjoy The Standard Grill, under the Highline at Washington and 13th Streets in the New York Standard Hotel. The dining room is old fashioned-diner in style with red leather booths and a floor made of real pennies. The kids will love the small cinnamon and sugar house- made donuts served warm.

Replenished, it’s time to go uptown to Central Park. This is an incredible eight hundred plus acres of refined wilderness and tranquility in the heart of the bustling city, and kids will love being turned loose to take a run across Sheep Meadow or the Great Lawn or taking a ride on the Friedsam Memorial carousel. With many a stroller accessible winding path and echoing tunnel to run through, bridges to cross and flowers or autumnal foliage to admire, Central Park is a destination within the city that can’t be missed. The Central Park Zoo offers lions and tigers and bears, oh my; in the summer you’ll find free and family friendly concerts and arts festivals as well as Shakespeare in the Park. In winter months, you’ll enjoy watching skaters cruise the ice skating rinks. The Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir serves up a lovely lakeside view, and friendly ducks; the walk around it offers a stunning view of the New York sky line.

Another great stroll takes you away from the natural wonders of New York and into the man made variety. Take in the casual, interesting galleries of the Lower East side and the New Museum of Contemporary Art at Bowery and Prince streets. This Japanese-designed structure looks like a collection of boxes, and the colorful, fascinating art inside will keep your kids entertained by its form as you study its substance.

Time for a sugary break? Try Economy Candy on Rivington Street. From pixie sticks to old fashioned boxes chocolates, Nickle Nips and gummi candies in shapes ranging from rat to cat, you’ll love browsing and buying some of these surprisingly inexpensive treats.

And nothing beats a street vendor’s hot chestnuts, hot peanuts, or hot dogs. There’s something purely pleasurable about picking up a snack right on the street and taking it along with you to your next excursion.

Always a hit with the kids – and fairly gentle on the pocket book – you’ll find pizza, pastas, and welcoming wait staff throughout Little Italy perched on the edge of Chinatown. We liked Little Moon with its fragrant pizzas and heaping platters of spaghetti, but there were plenty of attractive and delightfully aromatic cafes to choose from.

We walked off our pasta by heading for the Staten Island Ferry. This free transportation attraction takes you in twenty-five minutes from Lower Manhattan to Staten Island. Along the way you’ll get a great view of the Statue of Liberty and New York Harbor; and yet another perspective of the lower Manhattan skyline. The fun of a boat trip and awesome views – at no cost. You’ll disembark on Staten Island which has its own pleasures to explore; we got back on the boat and headed to the city again for another view of Manhattan’s flowering skyscape.

Staten Island Ferry New York

Taking a ride on the Staten Island Ferry - great views, free ride

If you’d like a closer look at lady Liberty, the welcoming icon to millions of immigrants in search of a new life in America, you can take a short ferry ride directly to Liberty Island. Here your family will be able to closely admire the monument’s pedestal and observation deck. Note that the crown area of this renowned landmark is only open through a limited reservation; book well in advance. You can also take a second ferry ride and get admission to the nearby Ellis Island Immigration Museum. The museum is housed in the building that was first port of entry to the U.S. for more than twelve million immigrants. In the American Family Immigration History Center you can look through ship manifests for passenger names. Is there an immigrant in your family tree who passed this way, and marveled at the view of Manhattan from the island?

For a view you can marvel at, take a look at the city from above. You have two marvelous viewing choices: the Empire State Building or Top of the Rock at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. Both offer unobstructed, gorgeous city views. The Empire State rises higher to an 86th floor observation deck. Top of the Rock affords a view from the 70th floor. Both stay open until very late; an evening view of the sparkling city lights will be something that your kids will remember for years to come. If you come at twilight, you can watch the lights come on in so many windows. It’s great fun to point out some of the land marks you’ve seen from the street or park. Signage at both locations helps you find your way around the islands’ most famous spots.

This New York day is done, but in my next article we’ll talk about more New York City explorations and memory making.

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Genie Davis is a multi-published fiction author, screen and TV writer, and travel writer. If it was possible, she'd like to spend every day traveling. www.geniedavis.com

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One Comments to “New York City for Families – Part 1”
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