For all its concrete, bright lights, honking cars and nightlife, New York City is a wonderful town for kids. From the gigantic, green oasis of Central Park and Broadway’s memorable musicals, to the classic waterfront amusements on Coney Island, there’s frankly too much to do to fit into one trip.
Let’s start with Central Park: Smack dab in the center of Manhattan is 843 acres of lawn, trees, playgrounds, basketball and baseball facilities, fountains, memorials, lakes, gardens and eateries. Here you can rent a rowboat, take a horse carriage ride, rent a model sailboat or visit the zoo.
One of its grandest attractions is the Carousel, which opened in 1871. Originally, a mule and horse powered the attraction by walking in a compartment underneath it. The current incarnation was built in 1908 and is one of the nation’s largest merry-go-rounds, with 57 hard-carved horses and two decorative chariots. It’s located at Mid-Park and 64th St. $3 cash only.
In Manhattan’s Upper West Side, kids of all ages will gaze in awe at the massive Tyrannosaurus rex in stalking pose at the American Museum of Natural History’s fossil room. I can’t think of a museum more fascinating about our worlds’ creatures and climate. Plus, it’s a New York CityPASS ticket booklet attraction. Current exhibitions include the Power of Poison, Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs, and the 3D Mysteries of the Unseen World.
If your kids are still energetic and eager for more museum fun, the Children's Museum of Manhattan has five floors of interactive activities. Afterwards, you can treat your little lady to a special afternoon tea at Alice's Tea Cup, which also has a huge selection of scrumptious desserts.
In Lower Manhattan, an important, but solemn, stop for the family is to visit the World Trade Center site and the 9/11 Memorial to reflect on the lives lost, the names engraved and how it changed our nation. In addition, use your New York CityPASS ticket booklets to take the ferry out to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Because CityPASS provides, front-of-line access to attractions, you’ll be glad you have it when you see the line to go through security. You should definitely allow at least two hours to visit one island, or five hours to visit both islands.
If you’re keen to hike to the stop of the Statue of Liberty to its crown, you must make reservations well in advance. Plus, it’s not a climb for young kids, as it is a strenuous journey of 393 steps (or approximately the height of a 27-story building). Plus, the climb takes place in an enclosed area with high temperatures in the summer, with no lifts.
A less strenuous option would be to see the Statue of Liberty from the ferry, but stop at Ellis Island. It provides a fascinating review of how our nation benefitted and grew from immigration, and it even has a database to help you see if your ancestors arrived at Ellis Island.
In Midtown Manhattan, a great way to spend an afternoon or evening is at one of Broadway's many kid-friendly theater performances. This season’s most popular shows include Wicked, The Lion King, Newsies, Aladdin and Matilda.
In Brooklyn, ride the subway (an unforgettable adventure all its own) to Coney Island, which describes itself as having a flavor that is rooted in “the traditions of P.T. Barnum, dime museums, burlesque, circus sideshows, vaudeville, and Coney Island itself.” It’s a place that harkens back to fun before televisions, where you can play on the beach, enjoy the view from the top of the giant wonder wheel, ride its famous Cyclone roller coaster, try your luck and drain your wallet at carnival games, and eat a real Coney dog. You think you got something better to do with the kids in New York? Fuhgettaboutit.