Whatever age you are New York City has got to be one of the most exciting holiday destinations around. Having previously been there as one of the childless party people – it was now time for me to go as a parent – and believe me it’s just as fun as being with the party people just in a different way!
There is so much to do in NYC with kids – and we didn’t have the time or the funds to even touch the sides. No Broadway shows or helicopter tours for us this time sadly, but we did plenty of great things – and here are 10 of our favourite experiences:
1. Play The Big Piano
Being massive fans of the 80s film Big – we were really rather upset to find that FAO Schwartz (or quite simply the Hamleys of NYC and home to the Big piano) had closed down, as we were heading there on our very first day to play the Big piano. Luckily it has been relocated to Macy’s – which we found out just by chance a couple of days later. And yes playing ‘that song’ certainly did live up to expectation.
2. Take A Boat Trip
Whether it’s a Circle Line tour or a free ride on the Staten Island – seeing Manhattan from a boat is a brilliant way to put the island into perspective and really enjoy its man-made beauty. On a tightish budget and with limited time we opted for the free Staten Island Ferry which was fab, although I’ve heard that the 3-hour Circle Line tour is hard to beat.
3. Go Up Something
There are so many things to go up – and all of them have different advantages. The Empire State Building is a classic that features in so many superb movies and TV shows. The Top of the Rock is taller – well located for views over the park and the city not to mention the Empire State itself. However on this trip we opted for the One World Tower – the tallest sky-scraper in the Western Hemisphere on the site of the old Twin Towers. It was an amazing experience. Pricey – yes – but worth it. Fabulously theatrical and really impressive.
4. Walk In The Park
Central Park is just beautiful and there literally is something different at every turn. Climb the rocks, take in the views, wander around the lake – but make sure you do this in the right direction – we didn’t and got suitably chastised by busy New Yorkers!
5. Go Ice-Skating
Again it’s a pricey pursuit but a must if you’re in New York in the right season. We opted for the Rockerfeller ice rink – it was nice and empty and brilliantly maintained – however with the $25 per head entrance fee not including skate hire (a further $12 per head) it’s not a cheap family activity.
6. Sail A Remote Controlled Boat
This was unexpectedly good fun and at $11 for half an hour slap-bang in the middle of Central Park (well towards the south east actually but we happened upon it whilst looking for the Met) it is a beautiful spot and a great way to while away half an hour and feel like a New Yorker!
7. Enjoy Some Art
There are so many great art galleries in New York and sadly we didn’t have time to see them all. However my kids really enjoyed the Guggenheim (the gallery itself very much impressed them) and the Met. The art at The Met was slightly underwhelming – however the roof top views over Central Park more than made up for it – even though they got told off by the angry security guard for standing on the benches to get a better view!
8. Visit A Diner
There’s nothing to make you feel more like you’re embracing American culture than sitting in a booth of a diner at an odd time of day or (more likely due to jet lag) night and eating delicious food. We enjoyed both a midnight feast and a big American style breakfast – and both were much fun.
9. Go To Times Square
When the night falls and the lights turn on there is almost nowhere more ‘New York’ than standing in the middle of Times Square and taking it all in. We all loved it there – and found it even more exciting in retrospect watching US election coverage live from the same spot we were standing. Plus, if you want a quick drink with a view you can whizz up to the revolving bar and restaurant on the top floor of the nearby Marriott hotel on 1535 Broadway.
10 a) Ride The Subway & b) Hail A Cab
Although I went armed with an itinerary of things to do during our 5-day trip, two of the activities that the kids most enjoyed were taking the subway and hailing a yellow cab. The subway is definitely a better way of getting from A to B as you are not at the mercy of the unpredictable traffic – and believe me the fare quickly clocks up when you’re stuck in a jam. The subway is great as it’s full of interesting New Yorkers up for a chat, and each station platform has a different look and feel. My one criticism is that there is no equivalent to a one day rail card, so each journey whether you’re a child or an adult, and if you’re going just a couple of stops or from the Bronx to Brooklyn costs $2.80. I think if you’re there for 3 days or more there is a great value and easy-to-use travel card option which could be worth investigating. Getting a taxi is great fun though, and something you need to do at least once on your trip. Half the fun is stepping out into the road and hailing it cos you feel like you’re in a movie! Then you get to watch the exciting world of Manhattan through the window.