Our Family Visit to New York City – Off the Beaten Track

Genie Davis October 2, 2011 No Comments

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When you take tots to the city, the world opens up. The city itself is a world to a child, and one as vast as New York offers many different worlds to explore. We were able to go to several areas of this great American city that I hadn’t spent much time in before, and one in particular proved to be a fascinating afternoon for small children.

Just off Lexington Avenue on the East Side of New York City, a particularly wonderful, narrow park is worth exploring. That would be Dag Hammarskjold Park, a narrow, brick paved thoroughfare that leads down to the river, several sleek sculptures representing the harmony of nations, and United Nations Plaza itself.

Dag Hammarskjold Plaza

Our kids loved Dag Hammarskjold Plaza and park, a gateway to the UN

Dag Hammarskjold Park

Dag Hammarskjold has a variety of benches and pleasant trees, and even a small wooden bridge that small children will enjoy scampering across. But its main attraction is a series of modern, faceless brass and stainless silver sculptures of people – people you can stand next to, sit along side, climb over, and pose for pictures next to. It’s truly delightful, and the shiny, reflective surfaces of these sculptures sparkle in sunlight and shine with spooky pleasure after dark. Follow the park down to the river, past squares and orbs representing unity, many nations, and peace, and cross the street to UN plaza. The flags of many countries on display here are great to point out to the kids, and the bright colors will fascinate even the smallest children.

Dag Hammarskjold Park faceless sculptures

We loved the faceless everyman sculptures in Dag Hammarskjold Park.

United Nations Plaza

If you feel your child is up to the visit, take a tour of the UN from the inside. The older children will find history lessons brought to life, and will learn a great deal about the peace keeping and organizational role the UN plays in the world today. The tour does last nearly two hours, and guides give attendees headphones to listen to the guide. So naturally the inside portion of the UN experience is limited to kids old enough to tolerate both the length and the headphones – or young enough to sleep through it, while their elders explore. Regardless of your children’s ages though, seeing the flags of many countries and walking through the park to UN Plaza is a must see that many families visiting New York do not.

Times Square

An attraction that most New York visitors do see is Times Square. The massive crowds, enormous video screens and bill boards, the noise and flashing lights will either enchant or disturb a small child. A viewing platform is now in place in the heart of Times Square, and this is a good place to start. You can hold your small child aloft or let older children simply peruse the view. It’s  a great photo spot, and lifts you high enough above street level to give children of all ages a perspective on the flow of people, traffic, and media through the Square. At night, this makes a great place to enjoy all the color and neon without having to navigate the flow of the steady crowds.

Our Dining Choices

Looking for a place to eat in this area that’s child friendly and not fast food? Try the Stage Deli nine blocks north, with choices for all eaters from potato pancakes and steamed vegetables to rich Reuben sandwiches. Literally across from the viewing platform is Blue Fin, in the W hotel. This upscale Asian restaurant has some of the best avocado and vegetable roll sushi I’ve ever eaten. It’s on the expensive side, but the location can’t be beat, and its a calm oasis in the stream of commerce that is Times Square. There are reasonable and kid-friendly items on the menu besides the veggie rolls. We enjoyed a fantastic vegetable gazpacho with a bread basket, for under $12. The kids ate every last drop.

Spider-Man, Turn Off The Dark

Looking for a Broadway show to please adults and kids alike? We saw parents bringing lap-children to Broadway musical and technical ”Marvel” Spider-Man, which is great for the whole family. The sets are the thing here, ever changing and awesome, as is swinging, jumping, ceiling-circling Spider-Man. A money saving fun tip: take the balcony and watch Spider-Man climb over the edge and sail into the theatrical sky. The New York City references are fun too, and if Bono (of U2 fame) hasn’t constructed the most melodic of scores, the great orchestra will be sure to dazzle.

Times Square Lights and Night

Our kids loved looking at the bright lights and crowd action in Times Square.

Our Hotel Stay, the Roger Smith

Looking for a reasonably priced New York accommodation – no that’s not entirely an oxymoron – then look back toward the UN. Still easy walking distance to Rockefeller Center and Times Square, you’ll find the small, older Hotel Roger Smith with large rooms, and suites with kitchenettes and a separate living area. We were very pleased with the spaciousness – especially by New York hotel standards, and being able to make our own breakfasts and pack up a quick lunch made the suites worthwhile. The hotel is quiet, and seems to cater to families and traveling Europeans. It has an arty vibe, with an adjacent art gallery also owned by the hotel and paintings in the friendly lobby bar and cafe. Delis, a drug store, and even a super market – down on 2nd Avenue – are easy walks. And right around the corner: Dag Hammarskjold park.

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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

Tags: , Reviews, Travel Excursions

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