New York City with kids...

Several friends have asked what we do with our kids when we hit NYC for the day. It depends a bit on the weather and the kids we bring. Much to my kids' collective groans I usually include a museum in the mix. Then comes THE WALKING! My kids know in advance that NYC day trips mean walking. Dress accordingly!

Train to Penn Station. Taxi to either the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the American Museum of Natural History. Start there. I plan on about 2 hours roaming through the exhibits. I always try to catch a show at the Planetarium at the Natural History Museum and my son has the task of counting mummies at the Met. We usually have something to eat at the museum between floors/exhibits.

We exit the museum and head for the park. These museums are conveniently located at a doable distance from the Central Park Zoo at the southern end of the park. Click here for Central Park Conservancy's website where you can download maps, etc. Another useful site is run by the NYC Park's department.

As we meander from the parks (usually with ice cream in hand) we hit some or all of the following:
The turtle pond
Belvedere Castle
The Boathouse Restaurant - Sometimes Mommy needs a midday cocktail! So while I haven't eaten at the much fancier restaurant, I have used its clean restrooms! I've enjoyed many afternoons in the comfort of the outdoor bar while the kids are entertained feeding ducks. Treat yourself to the cheese plate. My kids loved their crackers.

Relaxed we continue South, hitting one of the playgrounds and the mall. On hot days the kids cool off in the playground's fountain.

We people watch - sometimes we take the Carousel. Generally we save our money and don't do other amusement rides.

We often end up at the zoo. I love the Central Park Zoo. It's clean and not too big. The animals are fun to watch (so are the guest who come from all over the world).

Done with the park - or are we? Sometimes we treat the kids to a horse and carriage tour. About $35 for 20 minutes - it's pricey but not overwhelming if you are 4 people. Tourists love it and if you get a good driver, it's informative and entertaining.

Just south of the park is The Plaza. Another clean bathroom and opportunity to see the stars! But we can't afford to feed the kids at the Plaza - and at $12/glass, we can't afford even the first glass of wine, so we head for more child-friendly environs.

Across the street, FAO Schwarz. Remember BIG? Well, the piano isn't the only treat. You can design and purchase your own barbie or matchbox cars, pick up a cabbage patch doll... and so much more. It's too expensive for my kids to get many treats - much to their disappointment.

Luckily ToysRUs - which is much more in our budget range - has given FAO a serious run for it's Midtown money. For less than $5 you can take the indoor Ferris wheel. There is a "live" dinosaur, huge Lego displays, a 2 or 3 story barbie dream house (that you can walk through), and plenty of toys in the under $10 category. Our helpful rule: if your kid can't carry it through the city yourself, don't buy it.

OK. Now your park snack stops have warn off - where can the kids eat and have fun?

The kids' hands down favorite? MARS 2112. Take the space ship and you land in Mars. It's really fun! The aliens visit your table and the wait staff are rather entertaining. We've had mixed experiences with the food but the ambiance is always a hit. I've had the spaghetti squash several times without complaint. With your bill you get a card for the game room... which is easier to say yes to after a signature drink...

As my kids have gotten older, Jekyll and Hyde's has been a hit. It's rowdy, lively and fun. They don't accept Visa or MC, so either remember your Amex or your cash (and lots of it!).

Both places require an entrance fee.

My kids have also liked the Ellen Stardust Diner if you want music with your food. They've eaten at California Pizza Kitchen and liked it. We have also tried a variety of non-touristy restaurants. Some are very good, others.....

So this is MORE THAN ENOUGH for one day... are you staying for two, check out one of the following:

  • Hit the Intrepid
  • Or try Chinatown (N likes the seemingly endless pokemon card sales, C like the cheap tchotchkies. As she gets older, fake designer bags and sunglasses are catch her eye. My kids love Chinese food, so eating isn't a problem!
  • The Staten Island ferry is how we usually take guests to see the Statue of Liberty (I'm afraid of 4 hours lines, winding stair cases and crowds), the kids love Battery Park's street theater that you can catch before or after the ferry. Oh, and the ferry is free and kids like it! Also, it's walking distance from Ground Zero.
  • Make sure your kids get to ride a subway and taxi
  • If two museums aren't enough - MoMA is fantastic for kids. It's art they know - have them find spiders on Dali paintings, the dots on Seurat, or they can count Water Lilies. The have free headphones to explain the most famous paintings to kids.
  • We've been to both the Empire State Building and the Top of the Rock. Never on the same day, never in the rain.
  • If you have a girl, you can take her to American Girl Place. With the lunch and theater, plus getting the doll's hair done, this is really a 1/2 day venture. Bring a lot of money! It's probably twice what you expect to spend!
  • If you have a boy, I hear that the Sony Wonder Technology Lab is fabulous, but we've not been there - yet.
  • For a calm break in the hectic city, I LOVE the Bryant Park Reading Room. We haven't been to the ice skating rink yet, but I hear it's fabulous. And I believe it's free.... unlike Rockefeller Center which is on the list for a future trip.
Anyway, there is plenty to do with kids in NYC... and we haven't even talked about theater. That'll have to be for another blog. BTW - I have been writing this blog for several days on and off, and if I don't publish it, I won't. Please ignore any mistakes - the editor is in Martha's Vinyard with the Obamas....

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