This Sunday, more than 80,000 people will descend
on MetLife stadium for the Super Bowl and roughly 500,000 visitors
are expected to come into NYC to take part in the pregame
festivities. While I can't imagine a worse time to visit, it does
once again highlight how much demand there is for NYC. So while I
am not suggesting you go today, I do encourage you to think about
visiting for a few days with your kids at a future date. It really
can be a wonderful and educational trip for families. I might be
biased as I was born and raised there but I don't think
Having grown up there and visiting as often as I
do, I am often asked what our top picks are for families visiting
the Big Apple. Here are the things I love to show my kids
anytime I bring them to my hometown:
Central Park - What is more synonymous with NYC
then Central Park. This 840 acre park feels like it was just
magically dropped right in the middle of the bustling city. During
the winter, nothing is more fun than renting skates and taking a
few turns around the ice at Wollman Rink. On a warm day, I love to
take my kids to the Central Park Carousel and then grab an ice
cream and wander along the winding paths. A stop to let your kids
climb the Alice in Wonderland Statue by the
77th street boat pond on the East Side is
always a must. And, if you happen to be visiting between May and
September, you'll want to check out Victoria
Gardens, a charming traditional amusement park
with rides geared for kids ages 2-12. (Victoria Gardens replaces
Wollman Rink in the summer months).
American Museum of Natural
History - You're most likely going to need a few
hours to really see everything that you want to see in here.
Through August 14, they're featuring an interactive exhibit called
The Power of Poison. This exhibit explores poison's role in history
and how it is used as a lethal weapon, a defense against predators
and also as a critical component in medicines. Among other things,
you'll see cool poisonous frogs, learn why we say "mad as a hatter"
and understand how howler monkeys can eat poison and not feel it's
effect. All of my kids (ages 12,7 and 4) were captivated by this
exhibit and no one ever uttered the words "Can we go now?"
(Score!). The museum also has huge areas dedicated to dinosaurs,
animals, space and the not to be missed butterfly
Bar - Yes it's always crowded with throngs of
tourists but my kids still want to make a pit stop at this candy
emporium every time we visit the city. Parents will love seeing
many of their nostalgic favorites while the kids will probably
relish in the newer candy novelties and Dylan's branded candies.
There's a candy café where you can sit and enjoy ice cream
creations and let your kids take a selfie to show their
Lester's - If
you have a daughter between the ages of 7 and 12 and she's dying to
come home with something to remember her trip to The Big Apple by,
then bring her to Lester's. This is an uber-popular clothing store
for babies, toddlers, and tweens. The clothes are very on trend.
They also have a large selection of novelty items and fun
accessories for lockers, desks and camp bunks.
Top of the
Rock - I know that you're supposed to go to the
top of the Empire State building but I actually think Top of the
Rock is more fun for kids. It's typically less crowded and it still
has one of the best views of the city. In fact, you can clearly see
Central Park from the three floors of observation decks here, which
is not possible from the Empire State building. The elevator ride
up to the top floors is also quite a thrill. And an added benefit
is that you'll be in the famous 30 Rockefeller Center home of NBC,
TODAY and SNL.
Schwartz - If you only visit one toy store during
your stay, then this is the one to go to. There is no store like it
in the world. You probably remember the giant piano from the movie
"Big," but you'll be amazed at how much else there is to see and
experience in here. Upstairs, you'll find the giant piano but they
also have a lovely book area where you can sit and linger with your
kids for a moment of quiet. Throughout the store, their friendly
staff is typically demonstrating paper airplanes, magic tricks and
so many other toys. They've also added a "create your own Muppet
bar" in the back. Just set expectations with your kids before you
head in, otherwise they'll ask for everything and prices can get
Locals wants to spend as little time as possible in
Times Square, but it seems like visitors always want to come and
see it. Here are a few places that are worth battling the crowds to
Toys 'R' Us Times Square - There are two real
reasons to come to this toy store. First, is the enormous dinosaur
on the second floor that roars. All kids seem to really like it.
The second reason is the cool two story indoor Ferris wheel. I
suggest that you go early if you are hoping to ride it though
because otherwise you'll be waiting in a long line.
The Bubble Show - All kids are enamored of bubbles
and you will be too when you see The Gazillion Bubble
show. Fan Yang, the creator of the show, will
amaze you with what can be done with simple bubble solution. If you
want a really fun experience then try and book seats in the front
row, but I caution you, you will get wet. At the beginning of the
show, your kids can have their picture taken from inside an actual
bubble (for an additional charge) which is cool.
The Art of the Brick - Back by popular demand,
this amazing Lego show is returning to the Times Square Discovery
Center on Feb 14. Artist Nathan Sawaya recreated over 50 famous
pieces of art out of Lego bricks like the Mona Lisa and American
Gothic. In some works, like Lady Liberty, he puts his own creative
interpretation into his artistry. He also creates incredible
original works like the 20-foot-long Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton
made out of 80,000 Lego bricks. If you don't already have a Lego
enthusiast, you will after taking them to see this.
- This is a cool and alternative way to experience NYC. The
Ride is an interactive bus tour of NYC guided by two "hosts" who
are really more like performers. You sit on the bus, stadium style,
with all passengers facing out one side. As the bus travels
throughout midtown you'll see hidden performances throughout the
city. It's a really unique way to experience and engage with NYC
street life. Check their website for hours of operation.
Museum - This relatively new museum is a
great place to take the kids for a couple of hours. I promise you
that I'm no math wizard so don't worry if your kids aren't total
math geeks. MoMath, as it's now referred to, is a kid friendly
interactive museum illustrating how math comes into play in our
daily lives. If you're expecting flashcards and multiplication
tables think again. Throughout the two floors there are puzzles to
solve, games to play and cool building materials to try. There's
also a roller coaster demonstration and my kids' favorite: the bike
with square wheels. Neither one could believe what a smooth ride it
The High Line
- What was once an old elevated train track is now one of the
more beautiful and serene parts of NYC. Let your kids run a
few steps ahead as you take a stroll through this beautiful park.
Along the way there are stops for hot chocolate and something
stronger if you wish. The High line park runs on Manhattan's West
Side from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to West
Market - After walking the High Line and doing a
bit of shopping in the nearby Meatpacking district this is a fun
place to stop in and refuel. This urban food hall and mall is
housed in the old National Biscuit factory. You'll find vendors
selling soups, seafood, awesome Thai dishes and a vast assortment
of authentic Italian delicacies. My kids always ask to stop in and
pick up a sweet treat at the famous Eleni's cookies and Fat Witch
Bakery. This is a great place to grab breakfast or lunch or in the
nice weather even a picnic-to-go.
- I feel like I'm giving away an insider secret with this
one. Tucked away on east 73rd street is
this wonderful café and paninoteca where all the locals go. After
running around with the kids all day you deserve to rest your tired
feet and enjoy one of the best cappuccinos and lattes this side of
the Atlantic. They also have a huge selection of made-to-order
Panini's. I do have to warn you though that this place is tiny. So
if you have a huge stroller with a lot of stuff or a large party
then I suggest you grab something to go as you head into the park
or to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, which are both
- There are seven of these totally kid friendly, great
quality Italian restaurants throughout the city, making it a great
choice for families. It doesn't matter where you're staying or
what's on your itinerary, you are bound to be near one of them.
They serve great thin crust pizzas, hearty pastas. If you're
looking for something lighter they also have a number of delicious
salads on their menu. They are very accommodating to children and
are happy to rush out a kid-sized portion of pasta to satisfy
- Danny Meyers calls this his take on a "roadside" burger
stand. Let me be clear, this is not like any burger that I've had
when I've been on the road. Shake Shack consistently delivers
delicious burgers, hot dogs, crispy fries and unbelievable shakes
(about which I know a thing or two). You'll place your order and be
given a ticket. You'll then have to jockey for a table. But once
you get your food it will all be worth it. With six locations in
Manhattan, this is another great option for a quick lunch (the
location in Madison Square Park is the only one without indoor
seating though). There is one near the Math Museum, Natural History
Museum and The Times Square Discovery Center (not that I'm trying
to talk you into going or anything).
You'll notice that I didn't suggest a specific
hotel. New York is an incredibly expensive city so I suggest that
you look online and try and find a deal on a room. Anywhere in
Midtown would be very convenient but Downtown would also be fun and
possibly less crowded. Besides, you won't be spending much time in
your room anyway with so much to see and do.
Have a great trip! I'd love to hear about your Big
Chrissy Jones is a local Chicago mom blogger with three children (12,7 & 4). Her blog Beyondthepark.com showcases the best special events, activities, restaurants and products for Chicago families.
See more of Chrissy's stories here.
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