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Traveling a few thousand miles from home on holiday with young children can be joy or horror! It's true, we often think first of the challenges - the airport delays, the sleep cycles gone amok, the toddler or teen tantrums over non-emergencies. It's all true. Those things often are part of the package when we take long trips with our children. But I'd like to present a new thought. Why not look at these experiences as just that - an opportunity to see and "experience" the world in a new way, not only through our adult eyes and expectations, but also as a way to see the world and feel the joy of new discoveries along with our children?
Kids see things differently. Let's face it - they get excited more than we do! They aren't as fussed with the notion of cramming in every "historic" site or getting a reservation at the hippest restaurant of the moment. They seem to want to just "be" and play to absorb their surroundings. I recall a recent plea from my trio - a case of uncommon teamwork of my 9, 7 and 5 year old - petitioning me "no more sightseeing" on our last trip. They just wanted to hang out and why not? So this year on a trip to New York City I decided to take it easy and plan activities that we all could enjoy - something for everyone - while still feeling like we got the full New York experience.
On your next trip to New York City, check out my top 10 list. The best is many of these activities and sites are free or close to it!
Manhattan is an island surrounded by water. What better way to see the iconic skyline than by boat! The ferries servicing NYC are one of the best, and most inexpensive, ways to take in the NYC skyline and the many landmark sites - the Statue of Liberty, One World Trade Center, and the Brooklyn Bridge. Many ferries leave from Lower Manhattan, some like the famed Staten Island Ferry are free! NY Waterway offers the East River Ferry, while Statue Cruises combine the ferry ride with tours of Liberty and Ellis Island. Be sure to check schedules online and make advance reservations for this option.
See the famed Met and City Skyline from the Rooftop
(Templa of Dendur, Egyptian temple replica in Metropolitan Museum of Art )
Lure your kids into the enormous, world class Metropolitan Museum of Art by assuring them they can spend time outside on the roof! My boys love the Department of Arms and Armor with weapons and armor from dynastic Egypt, Ancient Greece, Africa and Oceania, while I loved the amazing collection of Egyptian and Roman art. After perusing some of these world-class collections spanning five millennia and the entire globe - make a beeline for the Roof Garden!
The Met Roof features an ever-changing rotation of exhibits. On our trip, they had a huge sculpture of the iconic Bates family mansion from Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho created by British artist Cornelia Parker. The 30 foot installation was set against the backdrop of Central Park and made for an unusual pairing. Regardless of the exhibit, try to go In the early evening and enjoy snacks and cocktails from the Roof Garden Bar, while watching the sunset over the city. It's magical.
Go to the Governors!
(Aerial view of Manhattan and Governors Island)
Governors Island is an expansive 172-acre island in the heart of the New York Harbor. It's open every day of the week from late May to September 28th. This is an absolute must destination for families, a dynamic mix of arts and cultural events set against a stunning backdrop. The island has a lengthy history originally as a fishing camp used by Native Americans, then later by the Dutch settlers and the British. Today it is a sprawling public park space with biking paths, art installations, playgrounds, events and incredible views of the Statue of Liberty and lower Manhattan. Access it by ferry, save time by booking online via the New York Waterways web site.
Walk the High Line
Take in Manhattan's Westside by walking along the High Line. This one and a half mile linear park was built on an elevated section of abandoned freight railroad line. Open every day from 7am until 11pm, the High Line has gourmet food carts, open air cafes, art installations and amazing scenery, not to mention great people watching! Start in midtown at West 34 Street between 10th and 12th Avenues and walk south all the way down to Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District. If at any point you are tired, or see something interesting, at the street level below use the many access points to exit the High Line by staircase or elevator.
Eat your Way through the Chelsea Market
One of the all-time great indoor food halls, Chelsea Market is a foodie's delight! It's a whole city block long and a block wide and features nearly every cuisine imaginable, thanks to the dozens of vendors. My favorites are the spicy tuna tacos and the amazing sandwiches from Num Pang's shop. Don't miss trying the market's signature dish - the whole lobster from the Lobster Place. Bring home a Chelsea Market Cookbook to reinvent some of these dishes when your holiday ends! It's open 7am to 9pm and located the Meatpacking District on 9th Avenue between 15 & 16th Streets.
Explore and be Wowed - A Visit to the Intrepid
The Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum is an adventurer's paradise! It's a military and maritime history museum with a collection of vintage fighter planes and modern marvels. A current special exhibit is Galileo, the legendary Star Trek shuttlecraft! Your kids will love this place! It's probably the only museum where you can go inside a submarine, the USS Growler, see a Concorde, a Supersonic reconnaissance plane and the Space Shuttle Enterprise all in one day. Open daily from 10am, book tickets online to save time.
New York's Central Park - Worthy of Many Return Trips!
(Bryant Park's Le Courrousel)
Central Park never fails to please. Choose from more than a dozen children's playgrounds sprinkled at every corner and in between. Our favorites are the Ancient Playground near the Met and the Wild West Playground which was recently renovated and modernized near 93rd Street and Central Park West. Or choose to visit the Central Park Zoo, Victorian Gardens Amusement park or take a trek up to Belvedere Castle's amazing observation deck. While in the park walk over and see the famous "bubble artist" put on a show on the park pathway entrance at 5th Avenue and 85 Street.
If Central Park is too overwhelmingly large for you or your little one, midtown's Bryant Park is another great option. Located on 42nd Street between 5th and 6th Avenues, Bryant Park's Le Courrousel features 14 delightful animals that revolve to the sounds of French cabaret music. For your older children, check out the ping pong tables, chess and backgammon area!
Be dazzled in a massive magical garden: New York Botanical Garden
The New York Botanical Garden is a wonderland for everything that grows. Located on a 250-acre site in the Bronx, easily accessible by train or bus, this lush and sprawling space features more than a million species of flora and fauna. It's a fabulous super kid-friendly destination. Book tickets online in advance and be sure to check out the special exhibits.
Satisfy their sweet tooth - and yours - with a tour of NYC's best candy shops.
(Photo Courtesy Shimona Shahi)
It's your holiday after all, why not treat yourself? Plan a visit to one of NYC's best treat boutiques as you move about the city site seeing. Don't miss: Dylan's Candy Bar a utopia for candy lovers with every type of candy imaginable. Locations on the Upper East Side and Union Square. Or try the Fat Witch Bakery and LiLac Chocolates in Chelsea Market for divinely delicious chocolates. Then there's Economy Candy on the Lower East Side, in business since 1937, with a massive selection of old time favorites!
Get sporty at Chelsea Piers
When you've taken in all the museums and restaurants your kids can tolerate in one trip, don't worry! Plan a day of activities at Chelsea Piers, a huge facility offering everything from ice skating to golf practice. For daring teens try the 15,000 foot Skatepark outside with its custom-design using structural foam to create awesome and challenging shapes. It's outside on Pier 62 and is open for all skateboarders and in-line skates and roller skates from 8am to sundown. Oh one more thing - it's free.
Whatever you decide, travel with ease knowing New York City has so much to offer for you and your children regardless of budget.
This article is written by Tina Chadha.
About the writer
Tina splits her time between Bangkok and New Delhi with her husband and three young children. She is an avid yogi and certified teacher, writer, brand strategist and clean air ambassador. She is a co-founder of Care for Air (http://careforair.org), a New Delhi-based education and awareness NGO on the issue of air pollution. Travel, trend-spotting, fashion and reading are her passions.