Friday, March 20, 2015

New York City with kids

There are a couple of things that are essential to a fun and successful trip to New York City.
  1. Your kids (and you) need to be used to walking.  If your kids don't like to walk or don't do much walking I would actually suggest warming them up by going for walks or hikes in the weeks before you go because the museums alone will require quite a bit and then you have to get from place to place.   There are of course other ways to get around in NYC but you don't want to drive in NYC (seriously, trust me on this one!)  So that leaves, subway, taxis and walking. Taxis solve the issue of parking but you are still constantly fighting traffic and they can get expensive fast.  The subway is great but I was shocked at how inefficient it is, a lot of times it is faster to just walk than to find the subway station that has the right line running to it and then waiting for the subway and then the actual trip and then walking the three blocks from the subway (assuming you don't come out the wrong exit and it is actually five blocks).  So, that leaves walking.  Not only is it the cheapest option (the subway is $2.75 per person per ride; you can save a bit of money by buying a preloaded metro card but not much) but it also allows you to see all kinds of interesting things along the way. For my family, half the fun was seeing tall buildings, people breakdancing, people dressed up as Captain America etc.  Plus we stumbled upon some stores that we probably wouldn't have found otherwise like the Lego Store on Fifth Avenue.
  2. The next most important thing is to pick a hotel that is centrally located for the things that you want to do.  This probably means Midtown.  In my opinion it is worth spending an extra few dollars a day to get a good location.  If you have to spend an hour just trying to get into Manhattan young kids will be done before you even make it to a museum of monument.  We stayed at The Salisbury on W57th Street between 6th and 7th Avenue and it was perfect.  We could walk to Times Square and Broadway, Central Park, Rockefeller Centre, American Museum of Natural History, The Museum of Modern Art, Carnegie Hall and Radio City Music Hall. 
  3. There are several different discount ticket options for attractions in New York.  Once you have an idea of what you want to see and do pick the one that works for you.  We bought the City Pass which allowed us to go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The American Museum of Natural History, The Museum of Modern Art, Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty and either the Guggenheim or the Top of the Rock.  We used our air miles to buy the adult ones and the kids got theirs as gifts from their grandparents for Christmas. We used all but one of our passes (the Guggenheim/Top of the Rock one) so we definitely got our money's worth out of the pass.  Having said that, if you want to go to the crown of the Statue of Liberty you will have to buy tickets online and those tickets will include the ferry boat ride which is what the pass is for so that one is worthless unless you only do the pedestal tour.  You can use that pass for a sightseeing cruise though if you don't use it for the Statue of Liberty.  The adult ones definitely pay for themselves but I'm not as convinced about the child ones since the MOMA and Met are both free for kids under 12 anyway.
  4. The price of food and drinks will break most families' budgets.  I would strongly recommend finding a grocery store or well stocked drug store and getting things like apples, baby carrots, yogurt, goldfish and drinks and keeping them in the bar fridge in your hotel. Even just getting four drinks at a museum cafeteria will set you back $15 so it adds up fast.  We had a small grocery store right across from our hotel so we bought bagels and cream cheese and yogurt parfaits for breakfast which probably saved us $100 over the course of a few days.  Delis are also your friend!  They usually have great salad bars and hot food buffets for much cheaper than a sit down restaurant.  Kids can pick what they like and you pay by weight so you're not paying full price for a meal that will only be half eaten.
  5. I would recommend looking at a map to get a sense of where everything is and I would also recommend New York City with Children, a guide book organized by area.  
  6. You can get the kids excited about the trip to New York City by reading some books set in New York.  You can find a long list on goodreads.  We read, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, All-of-a-Kind Family, Harriet the Spy, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and When You Reach Me.  
  7. A word about the subways!  They are designed for locals who use them all the time and not for tourists. For instance, we rode the subways probably a dozen times and only one station had anyone working at it (the 57th Station) so if you need help figuring something out your only options are to rely on the kindness of strangers or find a call box and ask for assistance.  You pay for your ride using the MetroCard kiosk in every station.  They are pretty easy to use but there are a couple of things to keep in mind.  You can only get $8 maximum returned to you in change so if you are paying for a single ride and only have a $20 you are out of luck.  You will have to find somewhere to break that $20.  You can get a metro card and put $20 on it and use it over the course of your stay but there were no instructions anywhere (that I could find) saying whether more than one person could use the same Metro Card (the answer is yes, I did ask the guy who worked at the 57th Station).  Little kids seem to be free although I couldn't find anything official saying that.  The nice man working at the 57th street station told me my youngest (who is 7) could duck under the turnstile.  Also, they don't have much in the way of signs so, for example, when you arrive at the station for the Empire State Building there is no sign anywhere to be found telling you what exit to go out to get to the Building.  Don't worry, you'll find it but it holds true at lots of stations. 
Assuming you stay in a central location you can pack a lot of stuff into a few days so you can do four or five days in New York and see a lot.  We were there for four days and we did the following things:
We also managed to catch some of the St. Patrick's Day parade.  This is the one time when having kids who wake up at the crack of dawn is a good thing!  My kids are up at 6:00 in the morning anyway so we were always ready to go by 8:00 so we were able to hit places like Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty first thing in the morning when they aren't as busy and still have the rest of the day to do other things.

No comments :

Post a Comment