The beauty of a family break in New York is that you’ll never hear that irritating refrain of “I’m bored!” from your kids. The city has endless options to keep children of all ages entertained and well fed, whether you choose to enjoy the free delights of a ride on the Staten Island ferry or take in a spectacular Broadway show. Part of the holiday experience is finding your own fun, of course, but here are some ideas to get you started…
IF YOU LIKE MUSEUMS…
MoMA (the Museum of Modern Art) in Midtown and The Met Fifth Avenue on the Upper East Side are welcoming galleries for children, with dedicated guides and activities for different age groups. Both have lovely cafes and outdoor spaces too – the Met’s roof terrace overlooks Central Park and is home to seasonal art installations.
The American Museum of Natural History on the Upper West Side has something for every interest, from dinosaur bones (as seen in Night At The Museum) and a 94ft replica blue whale to a planetarium, to rare gems and the biggest Imax screen in the city.
The Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side tells the story of the city’s many immigrant populations and is suitable for ages 8 and older. Book onto a themed guided tour of the restored apartments and stores, a ‘meet the residents’ session, or take part in a ‘walk the neighbourhood’ tour.
Got more time? Check out the Children’s Museum of Manhattan with its Dora the Explorer play area, or expand your mind at MoMath, a fabulously fun museum of mathematics (yes, really).
IF YOU ENJOY PARKS AND WALKS…
Central Park is the jewel in Manhattan’s crown and as well as green space to run around in, kids will love exploring the patches of woodland, spotting racoons and fireflies at sun down and boating on the lake. Not to mention the famous Central Park Zoo and ice skating at the Woollman Rink in winter.
One the city’s more recent additions, the High Line is 1.5 miles of disused raised railway line transformed into a charming traffic free place to stroll, filled with wildflowers, art and spots to stop and watch the world go by. Offers a host of kids’ activities and seasonal events too.
Take a short ferry ride from Battery Park to Governors Island, a quaint green oasis in New York Harbor, which is home to restored Victorian houses, outdoor sculptures, mini golf and a roster of festivals and free activities. Open May to September.
Got more time? Relax in Prospect Park (Central Park’s cooler Brooklynite sister), or take a walk over Brooklyn Bridge to Dumbo and ride on Jane’s Carousel, which dates from 1922.
IF YOU’RE AFTER ATTRACTIONS…
It would be rude not to go up one of New York’s iconic tall buildings. The Empire State is the classic stop for visitors although we’ve always preferred the Top of the Rock – less queues and you can get photos with the Empire State or Central Park actually visible! On our last trip, we tried the new One World Observatory at the Freedom Tower – its downtown location makes some landmarks more distant but it makes up for it by being breathtakingly high.
Bronx Zoo is home to more than 5,000 exotic species, including snow leopards and gorillas. Kids will also adore the Wild Asia Monorail, Bug Carousel and camel rides.
Coney Island takes a little time to reach but offers a classic American experience – chow down on a Nathan’s hotdog while strolling the boardwalk, then brave the wooden Cyclone rollercoaster in Luna Park. On second thoughts, maybe do them the other way round…
Got more time? Take in a baseball game at Yankee Stadium or Citi Field (home to the Mets), or indulge your sugar cravings at Dylan’s Candy Store, the world’s largest sweet store.
IF YOU’RE HUNGRY…
Shake Shack, Madison Square Park (at E23rd St) – This cool burger brand, that prides itself on doing the classics with quality, has made its way across the pond but the original kiosk can be found in this lovely square beside the Flatiron Building. The signature frozen custard is a must try. Additional branches around the city.
Alice’s Tea Cup, 102 W73rd St – This whimsical tea shop, where waitresses wear butterfly wings and the décor is Alice in Wonderland inspired, offers a charming Wee Tea for 2-12 year olds, with a child’s vegan or gluten-free option also available. There are two further branches on the Upper East Side.
Blue Smoke, 117 E27th St – Stylish southern barbecue food with innovative twists but a relaxed atmosphere and dedicated kids menu. There’s also a second branch in Battery Park City.
Joe’s Shanghai, Pell Street – This small, bustling Chinatown spot is THE place to come for soup dumplings. You’ll need to take a ticket and wait for space at a communal table but the whole family will be charmed by the doughy pockets of goodness, filled with pork and crab, or just pork. Ideal for a quick lunch or dinner. Also has branches in Midtown and Flushing.
Ellen’s Stardust Diner, 1650 Broadway (at 51st St) – Sitting at the north end of Times Square, this kitsch diner is staffed by Broadway hopefuls who belt out showtunes while serving your pancakes and burgers. Brilliant fun.
Still peckish? Try the famous cheesecake at Junior’s (branches in Brooklyn, Times Square and Grand Central) or pizza at Juliana’s, under the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge.