New York CityPASS — For all its concrete, bright lights, honking cars and nightlife, New York City is a wonderful town for kids. From the gigantic, green oasis of Central Park and Broadway’s memorable musicals, to the classic waterfront amusements on Coney Island, there’s frankly too much to do to fit into one trip.
Let’s start with Central Park: Smack dab in the center of Manhattan is 843 acres of lawn, trees, playgrounds, basketball and baseball facilities, fountains, memorials, lakes, gardens and eateries. Here you can rent a rowboat, take a horse carriage ride, rent a model sailboat or visit the zoo.
One of its grandest attractions is the Carousel, which opened in 1871. Originally, a mule and horse powered the attraction by walking in a compartment underneath it. The current incarnation was built in 1908 and is one of the nation’s largest merry-go-rounds, with 57 hard-carved horses and two decorative chariots. It’s located at Mid-Park and 64th Street; $3, cash only.
In Manhattan’s Upper West Side, kids of all ages will gaze in awe at the massive Tyrannosaurus rex in stalking pose at the American Museum of Natural History. I can’t think of a museum more fascinating, with so much to teach about our world’s creatures and climate. Plus, it’s a New York CityPASS ticket booklet attraction. Current exhibitions include Picturing Science and Natural Histories, as well as The Power of Poison and Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs, both available to CityPASS holders at a discounted price.
If your kids are still energetic and eager for more museum fun, the Children’s Museum of Manhattan has five floors of interactive activities. Afterwards, you can treat your little lady to a special afternoon tea atAlice’s Tea Cup, which also has a huge selection of scrumptious desserts.
In Lower Manhattan, an important, but solemn, stop for the family is to visit the World Trade Center site and the 9/11 Memorial to reflect on the lives lost, the names engraved and how it changed our nation.
In addition, use your New York CityPASS ticket booklets to take the Statue Cruises ferry out to Liberty Island for an up close and personal view of Lady Liberty herself.
If you’re keen to hike to the stop of the Statue of Liberty to its crown, you must make reservations well in advance. But note that it’s not a climb for young kids, as it is a strenuous journey of 393 steps (or approximately the height of a 27-story building). And the climb takes place in an enclosed area with high temperatures in the summer and no lifts.
And while the Statue of Liberty herself is a big draw, don’t forget to stop at Ellis Island. It provides a fascinating review of how our nation benefitted and grew from immigration, and it even has a database to help you see if your ancestors arrived at Ellis Island. You should definitely allow at least two hours to visit one island, or five hours to visit both islands.
In Midtown Manhattan, a great way to spend an afternoon or evening is at one of Broadway‘s many kid-friendly theater performances. This season’s most popular shows include Wicked, The Lion King, Newsies, Aladdin and Matilda.
In Brooklyn, ride the subway (an unforgettable adventure all its own) to Coney Island, which describes itself as having a flavor that is rooted in “the traditions of P.T. Barnum, dime museums, burlesque, circus sideshows, vaudeville, and Coney Island itself.” It’s a place that harkens back to fun before televisions, where you can play on the beach, enjoy the view from the top of the giant wonder wheel, ride its famous Cyclone roller coaster, try your luck and drain your wallet at carnival games, and eat a real Coney dog. You think you got something better to do with the kids in New York? Fuhgettaboutit.