New York (with kids)
Before heading to the Big Apple, recommendations of cool bars and fancy restaurants were abundant. But I had a child.
The following is a guide to placating, entertaining and of course feeding a youngster in New York City. Well, it’s what I did anyway.
1/ Visit Central Park (running north to south from 110th Street to 59th Street and east to west from Fifth Avenue to Central Park West). It’s free and it’s huge. Much bigger than I expected. I should be too embarrassed to admit it but we never found the elusive Central Park Zoo. It’s tucked in there somewhere amongst an assortment of fountains, playgrounds and ponds.
2/ Children are inevitably exhausted way before you are, so while still at Central Park jump into a pedicab ( a small carriage pulled along by a bicycle) but make sure you negotiate your fee before you get in. My child was begging to have a ride in what he was calling a ‘tingy’ for no explicable reason. He was grateful for an entire afternoon. Worth every cent and look out for the start and finish line of the famous marathon.
3/ Want a break from traipsing around town? The pumping multi-storey Apple Store, metres from F.A.O Schwarz, is a place to let your child run loose and try out all the consoles, games and I-pads. There are also some very nice “public” toilets.
4/ Jump on board the Staten Island Ferry and sail past the Statue of Liberty. It’s lovely to watch a child’s face light up when they see the beautiful lady and the return trip doesn’t cost a cent. Just hold on tight to your young one as you get on board and disembark because it would be so easy to lose a child in the massive crowds.
5/ Hunger pains strike at the most inopportune time but thankfully New York streets have a food cart on every corner. Make sure you buy your hot dogs from the busy stands where the locals seem to be hanging. A hot dog bought from a stand on Wall Street was tiny and rubbery and the bread roll certainly wasn’t supposed to be that crunchy.
6/ I realized I didn’t have to fear a fancy restaurant. The exquisite Armani restaurant on Fifth Avenue was happy to whip up a spaghettini all’olio (pasta with olive oil and not on the menu ) for my boy, who chirpily chatted to the kindly, elegant staff while he built his newly acquired Lego. I daresay a Lego-copter has never been built in that establishment before my child hit town.
7/ The Lego Shop is worth a look on Fifth Avenue at 50th Street. While Nintendo World, a multi-storey utopia of Mario and all his mates, can be found at the Rockefeller Center. Just outside the store is where the quirky television series 30 Rock was filming. We chanced upon Tina Fey the day we stopped by. I was happy to watch the witty actor do her thing while my child was thrilled with his Nintendo-themed baseball cap.
8/ Don’t be afraid to take the subway. It is a great way to get around unless you have allocated a large amount of your holiday savings towards taxi fares and enjoy sitting in traffic. You might even see the subway entertainers who came in all shapes and styles. We had two brilliant Mariachi guitarists perform while we held on tight, watching the stations fly by.
9/ A classic New York experience is watching the locals play chess outdoors. Head to Bryant Park, a small and extremely pretty place near Fifth and 40th, to watch a game or three. There are ice cream stands and cute bars. Smoking is banned in the park.
10/ Times Square. Just go. Watch out for the fake Naked Cowboy. Yes, there is a person claiming to be The Naked Cowboy but who actually isn’t. They both walk around the street in just underwear and play guitar, even when the mercury drops below zero. Not sure how original Naked Cowboy feels about the imposter cashing in on his look.
11/ Broadway. There are many, many, many shows. You are spoilt for choice with the classics and new productions in the mix.
12/ The Andaz Hotel on Fifth Avenue is modern, sleek and prides itself on creating a family-friendly feel while also accommodating its business clients. The staff, who don’t have a conventional desk but roam the open-plan foyer with I-pads aiming to please, were super kind to my boy, who loves a chat and has a tendency to waffle. The mini-snags, fruit platter and made-to-order juice for breakfast became a morning ritual .
13/ A trip to the American Museum of Natural History (Central Park W at 79th Street) will fill an entire day. Amazing artifacts, incredible specimens, extraordinary creations and so on. It’s a must see if traveling with children who will at least recognize the elephants and dinosaurs from the “Night at the Museum” films. Don’t keel over in surprise when you get to the ticket counter. You will be asked how much YOU would like to pay to enter. No kidding.
14/ Returning to food, there were several visits to Sapporo (Japanese) near the Times Square precinct at 152 W. 49th St. It’s cheap eats with quick service. You might even have to wait a few minutes for a seat but you can feast on dumplings, soups and rice dishes for a pittance. ( Many dishes are around eight dollars).
15/ Find me a child that wouldn’t enjoy building his or her own burger. The Counter is a bustling eatery in Times Square with tables and booths overflowing with people creating their own feast in a bun. On arrival, you receive an order form and a pencil so you can tick your selection. Be prepared for the ordering process to take some time since there are loads of choices and children can be very slow to make up their minds, especially when you happen to be famished.
16/ You will find most major department stores such as Macy’s and Bloomingdales have places to sit down and wait for those not interested in shopping. The “rest stops” are also great areas for children to play games on their phones or DS consoles. Or an old fashioned colouring-book, toy truck or doll might do. According to my child, Saks Fifth Avenue has the comfiest couches.
17/ Nearly forgot the M&M shop in Times Square. Multi-level extravaganza of chocolate themed stuff. The Statue of Liberty chocolate dispenser was a favorite.
I hope this has been of some assistance in accommodating the needs and desires of a child while visiting New York. This list is by no means comprehensive and part of the fun of travel is discovering new places. So enjoy your trip.