As the city that never sleeps, New York may have more in common with your children than you think. And while it may seem intimidating, the city is incredibly toddler and baby friendly with a few minor exceptions-if you're taking the subway, be prepared to carry your stroller up and down the stairs, since it's a rare train station that has an elevator and an even rarer train station that has one that works.
As a native New Yorker who has lived in Chicago for nine years, and travels back to my hometown of Greenwich Village every other month with my 3-year-old and infant, I'm always on a mission to expose my kids to the real New York - the one that comes complete with plenty of bagels (Ess-A-Bagel, 359 1st Ave.) and incorporates the best museums and landmarks New York has to offer.
If you want the real New York experience for your kids, make sure you check out my favorite kid-friendly spots and activities.
Union Square Park, 1 Union Square West
Your kids ages 2-10 will delight in this brand new playground, tucked away on the Northside of Union Square Park (which has a fabulous farmer's market Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday throughout the entire year). It's got everything from scary slides to a sandbox to fun climbing statues and water elements.
Ellis Island, (212) 363-3200
Hop on the ferry (try to catch the 8 a.m. ferry to avoid the crowds) and head over to Ellis Island to show your kids how their ancestors arrived in the United States. It's a fun, interactive museum - and you could even pay $5 to look up your own ancestors. Bonus: The kids will love the ferry ride over, which offers amazing picture opps.
Museum of Natural History, Central Park West at 79th St., (212) 769-5200
It may easily be the best museum in the city for kids and grown-ups alike. Live out your Jurassic Park fantasy on the 4th floor by examining the dinosaur fossils, and make sure you pose next to the ginormous Tyrannosaurus Rex. The museum is huge, so plan ahead and figure out which exhibits you want to see, or you could easily spend an entire day here.
Ray's Candy Store, 113 Avenue A, (917) 340-7855
The chocolate egg-cream is probably one of New York's best drinks. They mix seltzer with milk and chocolate syrup and it's heaven. Don't worry-there are no raw eggs in this drink.
The High Line, 122 Gansevoort St.
It's a park built on top of an old elevated train, and you'll get amazing views. OK, so this is actually pretty touristy, but your kids will have a great time running around. Bring a lunch and eat it at one of the many picnic areas, and stop in afterward for a popsicle at People's Pops in Chelsea Market, 425 W. 15th St.
Economy Candy, 108 Rivington St., (212) 254-1531
I may enjoy this spot even more than my 3-year-old does, if that's possible. It's the most classic candy store in the world (the world being New York City) and it's filled from top to bottom with nostalgic candy bars that you may remember from your childhood (Cracker Jack and candy necklaces were my junior high staples), but may not be able to find outside of this tiny shop. Leave the strollers in the hotel for this one, or you'll get many angry glares from the other New Yorkers who are trying to fill their sweet craving in this hole-in-the-wall candy store.
The Strand, 828 Broadway, (212) 473-1452
It's one of the biggest used bookstores in the world, and they have a delightful, quiet children's section tucked in the corner of the second floor. We stop in here whenever the craziness of New York gets to be too much for our 3-year-old, who can spend hours thumbing through the books (and we take turns watching her and running around the rest of the store to thumb through books in our favorite sections, too).
Danielle Braff lives with her two daughters and husband in downtown Chicago.
See more of Danielle's stories here.