The I (heart) New York t-shirts are cute, but they’re so prolific you get a little sick of seeing them in all the tourist stores. So what kind of New York souvenirs do you bring when you visit friends and family elsewhere? Or where do you point your visitors to get something unique to take home? Here are some ideas:
I’m not a big Toys R Us fan in general, but I do like the one in Times Square (Broadway at 44th Street). Not that I actually shop there, but it’s a fun place to hang out. Here are five things not to miss when you go!
The Ferris Wheel – You can’t miss this four story Ferris wheel, which is the first thing you see when you walk in. While waiting in line (you buy timed tickets) you can try to figure out which car would be the best for you – the Cabbage Patch Kids? The Scooby Doo car? The Little Tykes car? The Monopoly car? My Little Pony? Mr. Potato Head? The M&M car? The Toy Story car? The Rug Rats? At $4.50 a person per ride, it’s not cheap, but the proceeds do benefit the company’s charity.
If you are able to get to the Park Avenue Armory by March 30, you must go. Here’s why:
I dragged the kids and husband – who did not understand my desire to see quilts hanging from the ceiling. I tried to explain – it would be 650 quilts – all in red and white. They still didn’t get it. But once they walked into the fabulous armory (which itself is an architectural masterpiece), they were also awestruck.
On our first visit, we gave the kids the regular map and told them to pick two things they each wanted to see. And then we had them lead the way. The kids picked the Temple of Dendur and the Egyptian wing, the instrument room, the swords and armor, and I can’t even remember the fourth. We had a fabulous time exploring…until Zachary had a melt-down at the end, in the instrument room. He was tired. He was hungry. It was time to go. We were there almost two hours, and considered that visit highly successful.
The next trip was with Alison Lowenstein, author of City Kid New York: the Ultimate Guide for NYC Parents with Kids ages 4-12 (plus she’s the author of City Weekends: Greatest Escapes and Weekend Getaways in and Around New York). She’s a pro at visiting the Met with kids. For this visit, Alison led us to the lower level, where the (free with admission) tours and programs for kids are held. We did an Art Trek, where the Met guide took us to several works of art, and discussed them a kid’s level. At the end, they got to draw one of the pieces. The program lasts an hour, and is for kids ages 5-12 (they divide them into age-appropriate groups). The kids liked the program, though that guide didn’t leave enough drawing time for them at the end.
The Met offers hundreds of family programs each year, including drop-in drawing sessions, festivals, the “Discoveries” program for learning-disabled and developmentally disabled kids, holiday programs (including select Mondays), story times and more.
In the search for kid-friendly Broadway shows, Billy Elliot was on the list. After all, it centers on a pre-teen boy, with plenty of peers in the cast.
But would my 7 year old son want to watch a boy doing ballet? Would he fall asleep during the three hour production? Would he understand the plot about the British coal-workers’ strike? How would he react to the curse words used during the production?
I needn’t have worried. Both he, and my 9 year old daughter, loved the show, and so did I. Even in nose-bleed seats.
It’s time for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. If you want to be one 3 million on-site viewers, you’ll want to do some research first. Jersey Kids has some places for you to start. And once the parade is over, we have ideas for what you can do in New York City.
Where to watch:
It’s most congested around Macy’s, at the end of the route. The parade starts at 9 a.m. but takes about 90 minutes to get to Macy’s. The performers apparently don’t stop along the way to perform, but do in front of the viewing stand. Most suggestions we got are to get to your viewing spot at 6:30 a.m. and wait in the cold like idiots. Look for us! We’ll be those idiots. Best viewing spots are in the 60s and 70s along Central Park West. You can watch the balloons get deflated right by Macy’s. So if you’re late, maybe head over there.
When my 9 year old daughter and I planned a girls’ day in New York City, we wanted to see a show. We’ve already seen Mary Poppins (we loved it), and do want to see Lion King and Wicked (still too expensive). I looked off-Broadway and found ImaginOcean, which just celebrated its 100th show.
ImaginOcean is created by John Tartaglia, best known as the creator (and Tony nominee) of Rod and Princeton in Avenue Q. I love, love, love that show (and the music), but it is NOT appropriate for kids. Like Avenue Q, ImaginOcean also uses puppets and is a musical (though you can’t actually see the puppeteers during the show). ImaginOcean started as a cruise ship show, and was expanded to the current off-Broadway production.
The show revolves around three fish friends, Tank, Dorsal and Bubbles (with an octopus, seahorse, and jellyfish thrown in as well). With the help of a treasure map, they’re trying to work together to find a treasure (spoiler: they’re rubber bracelets that you can buy in the gift shop after the show) and realize the value of friendship. Dorsal is a neurotic, fearful and annoying fish who is probably channeling children’s fear of failure and the unknown. The plot was a bit boring for adults, but the kids loved the whole thing.
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Whenever friends and family members with children ask where to eat in New York, I always ask several questions: How old are the little ones? How much of the family vacation budget do mom and dad want to dole out on three squares a day, plus snacks? And most importantly, just how important is good, authentic Big Apple food to parents and children alike?
Some folks after all, are more than happy to quaff breadsticks at the Olive Garden in Times Square or silence their children’s whines with a Sbarro calzone. Hey, when money’s tight and you’re in a crunch, why not?
Well, here’s why not. With a little resourcefulness and prior research, you can do something different than big box restaurants and fast food chains when you hit the town in New York. Your city probably has twelve Olive Gardens anyway.
A visit to Ellis Island with kids is emotional no matter where you come from. The facility, which processed 12 million immigrants from 1892-1954, was the first stop for many coming to the U.S. The Statue of Liberty was the symbol of freedom – Ellis Island was the gateway to obtain it. They estimate that more than 100 million Americans have a connection to Ellis Island.
To take advantage of what Ellis Island offers, make sure you have plenty of time to peruse the galleries. The exhibits downstairs are not nearly as interesting as those upstairs. There’s plenty to interest even the younger kids.
When you enter Ellis Island, you might even feel like you’re an immigrant yourself. After all, those around you speak a multitude of languages and might be wearing outfits traditional to other lands And you come from a crowded boat that you waited in lines to board. Granted, your passage from New Jersey’s Liberty Park or New York’s Battery Park took only 15-30 minutes (two boat rides from New York, one from New Jersey) and you weren’t packed on like sardines, stuck in a dimly lit hold or subjected to motion sickness-inducing waves.
You’ll be shuffled inside the building with your fellow boat-mates, unsure where to go and what you’ll see. After entering the glass doors, straight-ahead look for the collection of luggage and photos from those early arrivals. It’s a perfect teaching moment for the kids – showing how little luggage newcomers brought, and the lines they had to wait in (in heat and cold). Now’s a good time to remember your ancestors. Continue reading “Ellis Island with Kids”