One of the greatest “field trips” we have taken was to New York. Nowhere else offers such variety and so much for free. Usually you can find a cheap flight. Hotels though, are a different story. Stay with any relative,
anywhere you can in the five burroughs! Save up hotel points! Airbnb!
New York is a fast paced, do all you can sort of trip, so leave a little rest time on the back end, when you return home. Even if your child seems a little big for a stroller, if they are under 7, bring an easily foldable umbrella stoller anyway. There is quite a bit of walking involved. I got myself some mighty cute boots for my November trip to New York. We walked two blocks through Time Square to a show and had to stop at the drug store for some Dr. Scholls. Ouch! My husband made my wear my sneakers the rest of the time. Smart guy. Even if you do not attend the theater on your trip, take the kids for a walk through Times Square. There is nowhere else that seems like noon at midnight. Caution! While New York has some of the best food in the country, it is not in Times Square. The exceptions are a couple of great cupcake shops. Cricket in Times Square is a great book for older elementary and early middle schoolers that takes place in the subway.
Public transportation is very easily done in New York City and the subway is an attraction in and of itself for kids. We usually buy week passes. Children under 44 inches ride for free! Slake’s Limbo is a short, but intense book about a homeless boy living in the subway.
I will start with my very favorite big apple gem: Free Tours By Foot. You can take these top-notch walking tours for the price of a donation. We have taken the Chinatown Food Tour and the Lower East Side Food Tour. There are lots of tours here that do not involve food as well. But tip generously. This is a job for these excellent guides. A generous tip is still much less than you would pay for a typical tour.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is a must see for all ages! There is an amazing Egyptian wing that is full of history. I recommend becoming familiar with some of the art beforehand. See my post on making the most of a visit to an art museum for tips. Admission is a donation. They suggest a large amount, but New Yorkers mostly hand over a dollar or so donation. This is also true for the Cloisters. Don’t try to see the whole museum in one day. Pick out a floor that interests your family and focus on that. The gift shop is amazing! I picked out Christmas gifts for everyone here. From the Crazy, Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler is a chapter book that takes place in the Met, perfect to read before or after your trip.
The Guggenheim is another amazing art museum. The building itself is worth a look. A round building is an unusual sight, especially one designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. The art is more modern than the Met. It is pricey for adults, but children under 12 are free.
We would not have visited The Cloisters if we were not studying medieval history that year. What a mistake that would have been. It is a beautiful building holding artfully displayed pieces from the middle ages. What a perfect way to show off this very old art – in a very old monastery!
The American Museum of Natural History is a rambling display of dinosaur bones, meteors and plant, animal, and mineral of every kind. This is stuff any kid will love. It is another museum with a suggested donation, but will accept any small donation for admission. Again, pick your favorites. To see it all would be exhausting.
Central Park is the perfect escape from the noise and chaos of the city. Belvedere Castle is my favorite Central Park attraction. I love this park in the fall! There are lots of playgrounds along the way and even tours available. If you decide to visit the John Lennon memorial at Strawberry Fields, The Loeb Boathouse, the Shakespeare Garden, Belvedere Castle or the American Museum of Natural History, stop by Levain Bakery for a warm cookie. They are huge – split one! Central Park Zoo is great for Madagascar fans. But the real gem there is the Tisch Children’s Zoo, perfect for small children.
Speaking of treats, and entirely ignoring education, Dylan’s Candy Bar is a fun tourist spot. There is so much candy here, I get a toothache just walking through.
If you are looking for Broadway tickets, and there are usually a few
appropriate shows for kids, try the TKTS Discount Booths around town. Children under four are not permitted in Broadway shows. Over six is the recommended age to enjoy the experience. If you have older children, definitely give a show a try. There is nothing quite like a Broadway show. When You Meet a Bear on Broadway is a sweet picture book for your little ones.
The Statue of Liberty is an American icon and must be seen! If time, budget or weather does not permit, take the free Staten Island Ferry around the Statue of Liberty for a closer view than Battery Park. Froggie Went A-Courting by Marjorie Priceman is hilariously illustrated for small children and features the Statue of Liberty.
If you have relatives that came to the United States through here, you must see Ellis Island. It is quite a peek into history. Even if your ancestors came over on the Mayflower, it is eye opening look at the waves of immigration that made us the melting pot. It will not likely interest small children, though.
This mode of transportation has always fascinated me and I finally got a ride last November. I have been wanting to ever since I saw the scene in Spiderman where he rescues the passengers on the Roosevelt Island Tram. There is not much to do on Roosevelt Island. It is just jam packed with apartment buildings. I recommend taking a ride over, snapping pictures of New York from up in the air, and turning around and riding back.
MoMA is another modern art museum. If you are a modern art fan, it is a must do. It has a hefty price tag for adult admission, but they make up for it by letting children under 16 in for free. Here is another spectacular gift shop with one of a kind items. The audio tours are enlightening.
Lower East Side Tenement Museum takes you on an eye-opening tour through the life and times of American immigrants. It is a great way to immerse your older students in an historical experience. While tickets are a little on the pricey side, the education is quite valuable. All-of-a-Kind Family is a beautiful book about a Jewish immigrant family in the Lower East Side. Tar Beach or Keat’s Neighborhood are fun picture books about local life.
Fraunces Tavern Museum is an optional if you are studying the George Washington era of history. New York, as our early capital, has quite a bit of colonial history, but it is hard to find around town. Here is where it can be found.
If I had three days in New York with my kids, here is where I would spend my time: Day 1: A walking tour that interested my family, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, that terrific pizza that can really only be found in Brooklyn; Day 2: the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, a peek at the Freedom Towers (the 9/11 Memorial is gut wrenching – go only if you have teens) and dinner at some funky spot in Greenwich Village. Day 3:
The American Museum of Natural History, a cookie at Levain, eaten in Central park, dumplings for dinner in Chinatown, and a Broadway show. If you are traveling with teens check out this post!
What are your favorite NYC spots? Share with our readers in the comments!
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