Wednesday, January 20, 2016

New York, New York

Having always lived within half an hour of New York City, I've never planned a vacation itinerary for it before, but here's what it would look like if I did. These are the activities and restaurants that my kids enjoy most  and some I remember enjoying myself when I was a kid!

What to Do

A brand new attraction in New York City is the SeaGlass Carousel in Battery Park downtown, a magical ride of fiberglass and steel that makes you feel like you're actually swimming underwater. Hop on one of 30 glowing sea creatures, then proceed to spin and bob through the lights and music. Here's a review I wrote of the attraction.

You'll want to catch a Broadway show with the kids (here's a list of my favorites), and there are plenty of great options from Disney. If you're willing to do off Broadway, however, I can guarantee that the kids will have a great time at the Gazillion Bubble Show. It's literally a show centered around bubbles. You'll experience bubble magic, bubble stories and bubble storms that engulf the whole theater. Even the adults won't be able to resist popping a few.

Museums are a big part of the city, and the American Museum of Natural History has always been our favorite. From the ginormous blue whale in the great hall to all the dinosaur fossils on display, you could spend a whole day wandering this fantastic place. My kids' favorites section is actually the Hall of North American Mammals, where the lighting makes the animals look totally realistic.

Two other great museum options are the Guggenheim, with its trippy spiral ramp (here are my tips for visiting), and the Cloisters, a branch of the Met that's like a medieval castle in the middle of New York City (more on that here).

And no trip to New York City is complete without a shopping spree. Get ready to open your wallet for American Girl New York, the flagship store in midtown that's a wonderland of dolls and accessories. It even features a restaurant (where, of course, your doll gets a place setting), a design studio and a doll hair salon. For gamers, Nintendo New York at Rockefeller Center offers the latest in gaming technology, plus two floors of classic memorabilia.

Where to Eat

Shake Shack is currently in the process of taking over the world, but you can find the original at Madison Park. Waiting on that line and then dining alfresco on all that greasy goodness is a quintessentially New York experience.

Max Brenner Chocolate Bar is the closest you'll come to experiencing a real-life Willy Wonka factory, with liquid chocolate pipes crisscrossing the high ceilings and chocolate pizza on the menu. You'd think all that chocolate would get tiring after awhile, but the dishes are actually quite good and we've always left happy.

For an interactive dining experience, there are places like Jekyll and Hyde and Alice's Tea Cup, but my personal favorite is Ninja New York, a restaurant resembling feudal Japan that offers nifty food presentation (think: white smoke and samurai swords) and waiters trained in the art of stealth. Make a reservation for a private room so that all the action happening at neighboring tables remains a surprise!

What's Nearby

Manhattan may be the crown jewel of New York City, but don't forget that there are four other boroughs worth checking out. Take a round-trip ride on the free Staten Island Ferry, which runs every half hour or so from downtown Manhattan and offers fantastic views of the Statue of Liberty. We did this on a whim one day while visiting the SeaGlass Carousel; the dock is literally a block away.

If you find yourself in Brooklyn, be sure to spend an hour or two at the New York Transit Museum, situated in a historic subway station and featuring real old subway cars that you can explore  although my kids' favorite part was "driving" the city bus.

In Queens you'll find Flushing Meadows Corona Park, the site of the 20th century World's Fair. It's home to the iconic globe that you see in movies like Men in Black, and also features a popular science museum and zoo. For an even bigger zoo, the Bronx Zoo (where you can take a spin on the bug carousel) is located right next to the beautiful New York Botanical Garden. Both are definitely kid-friendly destinations worth a visit.

You Might Also Like:
NYC: Best Broadway and Off-Broadway Shows for Kids
NYC: Best Things to Do in Central Park with Kids
How to Visit the Statue of Liberty with Kids: Tips and Tricks
What to See at the Intrepid Museum with Kids