Correctly called “the greatest city in the world,” New York City packs in more activities per square kilometer than any other locale on the planet. So this guide may only scratch the surface, and further exploration is urged for every parent or guardian charged with educating and entertaining the youth in their care. From Manhattan and the Bronx through Queens and Kings (Brooklyn) across the Hudson by ferry to Staten Island, visit kids’ museums, theaters, gardens, zoos, parks, beaches, monuments, skyscrapers, battleships, schools, stadiums, arenas, exhibits and so much more, taking tours on foot, taxi, bus and boat, topped off with a fun meal at restaurants catering to children! It’s guaranteed that ‘the Big Apple’ is never boring. (The only two disclaimers are to be financially prepared, and to please be careful in very busy or deserted areas.) All are in the borough of Manhattan unless otherwise noted.
Listed here are the ones best for youngsters, with recommended age range, location, cost and a summary of highlights:
The Children’s Museum of the Arts – Ages 2 to 10, 182 Lafayette St., $5. Filled with work areas where kids can create their own art with a variety of provided materials, including a creative play area for the littler ones, art studios for the older child, an actor’s studio for dress-up play, a ball pond, a place to rebuild great masterpieces with magnetic puzzle pieces, and much more.
Children’s Museum of Manhattan – All ages, Tisch Building at 212 West 83rd St., $6. Includes exhibits of all sorts, for example PlayWorks for Early Learning, an interactive exhibit for ages 1 day to 4 years; Brain Games puzzle extravaganza for kids age 5 and up; City Splash, fun with water (warm months only); and Little West Side, a model city where the littlest kids rule. There is a lot more here (see http://www.cmom.org.)
The Brooklyn Children’s Museum – Ages 5 and up, 145 Brooklyn Ave at St. Marks Ave in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, $4. Offers a variety of activities for different age groups that change daily, such as Little Scientist workshop, Tales for Tots, X-Plorers Club, and so on, often geared to the holiday or season. An interactive community center that let’s kids explore the city at ‘Together in the City”, gets little ones to learn in “Totally Tots”, and encourages kids a bit older in “Greenhouse Garden”, “Animal Outpost” and “Music Mix.” Read a lot more at http://www.bchildmus.org.
Rose Center for Earth and Space – All ages, 81st St at Central Park West, $6 and up. At the American Museum of Natural History, which is the potential tourist trap highlighted in the movie ‘Night at the Museum,’ the Rose Center “replaces” the well known Hayden Planetarium, presenting a variety of shows. The museum itself has many items, like huge dinosaurs, that kids love, and not only budding astronomers or video game animators truly enjoy the space and digital ‘music & lights’ shows at the Rose Center. Call first to make sure that what you think is playing actually is playing. Also remember that the admission fee is for the most part a “suggested donation.”
Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum – OOPS! They moved the aircraft carrier to Philly, but there is still some sort of museum at 46th St. and the Hudson River (Pier 86) if you’re in the area.
Sony Wonder Technology Lab – All ages, 56th St & Madison Ave, Free. Kids learn about technology through interactive exhibits in audio, video, robotics, design and so forth. Not bad at all for the price and near Central Park, Jekyl & Hyde restaurant, and lots of great shopping. See http://www.sonywondertechlab.com.
South Street Seaport Museum – Age 5 and up, 207 Front St., $3 kids, $6 adults. Billed as the place where the city’s maritime past comes alive, and boasts exhibits on board tall ships, with the port being both an outdoor mall and a museum with cobblestone streets and quaint buildings. Also a place where one can book one of many short cruises offered. Can be part of a visit to downtown Manhattan, near Wall Street, Ground Zero, Fraunces Tavern (where George Washington gave an important address), Federal Hall, the Federal Reserve, Battery Park, and so much more, including the Bodies exhibit. See http://www.SouthStSeaport.org.
Staten Island Institute of Arts & Sciences – Age 5 and up, 75 Stuyvesant Pl, Staten Island, $2.50. Offers science clubs for kids, craft events and more, but first be sure to call 718-727-1135. Take the Staten Island Ferry past the Statue of Liberty.
There are so many more museums to mention, but depending upon a child’s interests look up the ones that make sense. Some examples are New York City Fire Museum, New York City Police Museum, New York Hall of Science, Museum of Television & Radio, Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met.)
Zoos, Parks, Gardens and an Aquarium
Once again, a sample of the what, where and when.
Central Park Zoo & Tisch Children’s Zoo – All Ages, 64th St and Fifth Ave., $.50 to $3.50. Arranged in a circle around a sea lion pool with indoor and outdoor pens and exhibits. Great for smaller kids since it’s not so large, and across the street is the Tisch petting zoo with mostly farm animals. Explore Central Park while there, keeping an eye out for Great Meadows, Strawberry Fields, the Alice in Wonderland statue, and so many other famous locations.
The Bronx Zoo/Wildlife Conservation Park – All Ages, Fordham Rd & Bronx River Parkway, The Bronx, Donation. As folks from the Bronx like to say, only two well-known places in the world begin with “THE,” The Vatican and The Bronx! This zoo is a day trip or two by itself, since it’s the largest metropolitan zoo in the USA. Over 500 acres, the animal’s habitats are built to look like their native surroundings. Over a thousand species, all the larger animals not found in the smaller city zoos can be found, like rhinos, giraffes, elephants, gorillas, bears, lions, tigers, etc. Some of the exhibits cost extra, such as the World of Darkness, Congo Gorilla Forest and Wild Asia Monorail. There are also rides including a Skyfari, Zoo Shuttle and Camel Rides, and plenty of indoor exhibits if weather is less than ideal. Also found in The Bronx is the New York Botanical Garden at 200th St. & Kazimiroff Blvd.
New York Aquarium – All Ages, Surf Ave, Coney Island, Brooklyn, $6 – $10. An energetic place, with over 8000 animals, and an emphasis on our need to maintain and enhance healthy oceans. Exhibits include Alien Stingers (jellyfish), Sea Cliffs (walrus) and a Sea-Lion Spectacular. For more see: http://www.nyaquarium.com/, and check out the famous Astroland amusement Park while you’re there!
Queens Wildlife Center – All Ages, 53-51 111th St., Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens, $.50 – $2.50. Part of the Wildlife Conservation Society in the city, a great place to visit if you are out at Shea stadium (or the new Citifield later in the decade) to see the up and coming NY Mets!
Brooklyn Botanic Garden – All Ages, 1000 Washington Ave, Brooklyn, $3, kids free. Ponds full of turtles and fish, themed gardens, such as Japanese & rose gardens, fountains with giant goldfish, wandering rabbits, meandering paths and mostly outside, so go on a nice day. Check the website, http://www.bbg.org.
If additional New York City parks, playgrounds and play places were to be listed here the folks might need another server. Suffice it to say that further exploration will turn up more than you think.
Exhibits & Monuments
Many of these are world famous yet are only a sampling:
Empire State Building – Ages 4 and up, 34th St & Fifth Ave, $12 – $18. Great to say you did it, and of course for the views on a beautiful day, but pricey with long waits (tough for smaller kids) at the elevators going up to the 86th floor (1050 feet); and it’s an extra $15 to get up to the 102nd floor observatory!
Statue of Liberty – All Ages, Liberty Island, Free. Various activities, including The Pedestal observation deck with an excellent view of New York Harbor that can be reached by elevator, and museum exhibits located in the Statue’s pedestal which explain how the monument was conceived, constructed and restored. Ferry tickets from Battery Park run from $4.50 to $11.50.
Bodies – Ages 10 and up, In the Exhibition Center, South Street Seaport, $20.50 to $27.50. This critically acclaimed exhibit shows real human bodies, and in a fascinating manner the many complex systems of organs and tissues that support all aspects of our lives. This is a tremendous educational experience for everyone.
Other less notable buildings and monuments include the Chrysler building, Grant’s Tomb, the Cloisters, walking across the George Washington Bridge, and, well, use your imagination.
These are again some of the most popular, and in most cases best enjoyed in the spring, summer and fall on a nice day.
United Nations Headquarters – Age 7 and up, 46th St and First Ave, $6 – $10.50. Guided tours are conducted every day it’s open, and lasts 45 minutes to an hour.
Walking Tours – There are all types of these, but one of the favorites, for older kids and teens would be the haunted and ghostly tours including the Edgar Allen Poe tour, Ghosts in the City, Ghostly Greenwich Village, Great Hoaxes, etc. The price for most of these is $15 for most. Go to the website for more info. http://www.newyorktalksandwalks.com/
Circle Line Tour – There are two of these ranging in cost from $10 to $24. The downtown Liberty tour leaves from Battery Park and the Zephyr leaves from South Street Seaport, Pier 16. They are excellent for seeing a large part of the city from offshore and hearing her stories while on board a large boat. For all the details visit http://www.circlelinedowntown.com/.
NBC Studio Tour – Age 7 and up, Rockefeller Center, $15.50 – $18.50. The tour includes the NBC History Theater, covering the company’s early days in radio, and visits some of their most famous studios: Studio 3C, Home of NBC Nightly News, Studio 3B, Home of Dateline, Studio 3K, Home of NBC Sports, Studio 6A, Home of Late Night with Conan O’Brien and Studio 8H, Home of Saturday Night Live.
Gray Line Bus Tours – There are two varieties: A fully escorted city tour on a double decker open-top bus which includes a lunch ferry ticket to the Statue of Liberty and the World Trade Center Memorial; and a double decker tour with over 50 stops for getting off and on the bus which includes downtown, uptown, Brooklyn, a ferry ticket to Statue of Liberty and more. The kids love being on the top deck, which is open, so good weather is required, and prices vary. See http://www.graylinenewyork.com.
Restaurants for Kids
Jekyl and Hyde Club – Sixth Ave. & 57th St. There are several spooky themes, levels and rooms in the place, with a show every half hour involving zany characters. It’s a fun experience for children and the child at heart. The food is good but a little high priced, though entertainment comes with it. It may be a little scary for the little ones.
Hard Rock Café – Times Square and 221 West 57th St. This provides a fun atmosphere for teens and pre-teens with a variety of food and drink.
Dirty Water Dogs – Don’t forget to stop by any of the approximately 38,328 hot dog carts in the city and have a dirty water dog with the works. Not for the faint of heart (or stomach.)
Honorable Mention – Other places to keep in mind if you are in the neighborhood.
Toy Stores – Special for kids on their visit to the city because they’re bigger and flashier than the ones at the mall. Here is a brief list with the address:
Build-a-Bear Workshop – 46th St & Fifth Ave
American Girl Place – 49th St & Fifth Ave
FAO Schwarz – 58th St & Fifth Ave
Nintendo World Store – 10 Rockefeller Plaza
Scholastic Store – 557 Broadway between Prince & Spring Streets
Toys R Us – Times Square (26 million visitors a year, don’t miss this one if you’re there with kids.)
Theaters, Shows, Sporting Events – Depending on when you are there and the common interests of the children, a list of possibilities centered on the young.
Radio City Music Hall – Christmas Spectacular, 50th St & Sixth Ave.
Broadway Shows: Beauty & The Beast, Tarzan, The Lion King, Hairspray, etc.
Yankee Stadium – NY Yankee baseball, The Bronx
Shea Stadium – NY Mets, Flushing, Queens
Madison Square Garden – Ringling Brothers Circus, Knicks basketball, Rangers hockey, concerts
Finally, in a category all its own is Madame Tussauds wax museum at 234 West Forty Second St., near Times Square. Visit your favorite celebrities and stars to see how life like these figures really are. Not for the littler children, and not inexpensive.
One thing is certain. There is so much to do with young people in New York City, especially once you start to research the possibilities, it is mind boggling!