NYC Tourist Filter
April 15, 2005 8:20 AM   Subscribe

We are going to NYC for a long weekend beginning next Thursday (April 21) and bringing our almost-four-year-old daughter along. I have a specific question and a couple of general ones for those of you who live in/know/have visited NYC with kids.

Specific question: We were thinking about taking our child to the Bronx Zoo. We will be staying on the Upper East Side of Manhattan without a vehicle. Apparently there is an express bus -- is it easily doable with a little kid ? (e.g. not a long ride, relatively safe, etc.)

General question (kid-related): We are generally familiar with Manhattan and have some ideas of where we would like to go with our daughter (the Toys R Us in Times Square, Central Park, American Museum of Natural History, etc.). Do you know of any secret gems that would be worth checking out?

General question (not kid-related): We'd also like to squeeze in a few stops that aren't strictly for families. I am particularly interested in "foodie" things -- gourmet shops, must-try take-away places, etc. We've been to Zabar's a couple of times, so where are some other must-visit spots for foodies?
posted by briank to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (25 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: As to the specific question, I take the express bus Manhattan to the Bronx every day for work. If you are getting it from 3rd Ave and 87th St, it will be about 30 minutes till E 180th St (the stop you would get off for the Bronx Zoo). It's about the same amount of time as getting the 5 train to E 180th St Station, which is beside the bus stop for the express bus. The bus is safe (more expensive than the subway, so you won't have to put up with people trying to sell you dvds or whatever either). I don't get off at that stop, so I'm not familiar with the walk from there to the zoo.
posted by gaspode at 8:30 AM on April 15, 2005

If you're into cheese I'd recommend checking out Murray's Cheese Shop on Bleeker in Greenwich Village.
posted by bshort at 8:31 AM on April 15, 2005

For your foodies question, I would suggest putting up a post on the Manhattan board at Chowhound. You will get very specific and very opinionated advice.
posted by spicynuts at 8:32 AM on April 15, 2005

Also on Bleeker Street is Cones, some seriously freaking amazing ice cream.

As for kid-friendly stuff, if the weather is nice I'd seriously consider taking her down to the main playground in Tomkins Square Park, in the East Village, and just letting her run around. It's a blast, there are tons of kids and all manner of things to do, and the people watching opportunities (both kids and parents) are virtually unparalleled.
posted by saladin at 8:35 AM on April 15, 2005

If you are staying on the Upper East Side you might also consider the Central Park Zoo, which would be a short walk away. It is not as extensive as the Bronx Zoo by any means, but you can easily spend several hours there and in the Children's Zoo next to it. Just north of the Children's Zoo, along the eastern edge of the park is a the Billy Johnson playground, not to be missed.
posted by caddis at 8:44 AM on April 15, 2005

There's a Whitney installation at the IBM building that's pretty wild. Called uberorgan, and it plays "music" every hour on the hour. Some of the parts of it are close to the ground where your kid can watch different lights and mechanisms move, and overall the scale is pretty big, so it should blow your kid's mind. Big plus: close to you and FREE.

This page has some photos and details.
posted by lorrer at 8:50 AM on April 15, 2005

The New Victory Theater (website has noisy bings and bongs, beware) is a great family theater with really mindblowingly creative shows. I go there and I don't have a kid.
posted by xo at 8:55 AM on April 15, 2005

Best answer: Another vote for the Central Park Zoo, which is perfectly scaled for pre-schoolers and their parents.

However, the CPZ lacks many of the large mammals you can see at the Bronx Zoo -- if elephants and giraffes are a must, than the Bronx Zoo will be a must.

IIRC, all mass transit options to and from the Bronx Zoo are tough for a family with small kids. The subway and MetroNorth stations aren't right there, so there'd be quite a long walk at the Bronx end. I'd consider a car service, if I were you. Maybe $25 each way, but definitely worth it.
posted by MattD at 9:16 AM on April 15, 2005

I think your four year old would get a kick out of the Children's Museum on the Upper West Side. My daughter loved it when she was 4.
posted by gfrobe at 9:21 AM on April 15, 2005

What about something like riding the Staten Island Ferry? It's fun to ride a big boat, you get great views of the Statue of Liberty, it's free, and it's a nice chance to sit down and rest for a bit if you've been running around all day.
posted by handful of rain at 9:42 AM on April 15, 2005

Response by poster: The Children's Museum is high on our list of places to see, as is a boat ride (we were thinking about the Circle Line tour.

Sounds like the CPZ may be a better option than schlepping out to the Bronx. Thanks for the responses so far. Keep the recommendations coming!
posted by briank at 10:18 AM on April 15, 2005

I’ve visited Manhattan with young daughters four times, and seriously tested the limits of a small child’s energy/crabbiness levels. (Background: we’re suburban types, country mice really. Three visits were with one girl at 5, 6 and 7 years old, the other girl at 5.)

Tip No. 1: Ask friends with kids if they have memberships to AMNH, Children's Museum, etc. They were able to help us save a few dollars that we spent on the kids.

A major factor for us is the walking. Unless you’re already walking miles a day, toting your girl, be prepared. That means taking an umbrella stroller – foldable for subways and buses, and oh how I envied the model with a shoulder strap for hands-free slinging. I don’t mind carrying my daughter, and did for a good way, but it contributed to fatigue by the end of the day.

That said, I’d vote for the Central Park Zoo as well. You don’t need the extra hour-plus of travel time in your day with an excellent zoo mere blocks away. You could spend three hours at the CPZ easy – more than my girls’ attention spans. Do not miss the sea lion feeding, which is a neat show. Recommended: rainforest building, bat cave, penguins.

ALSO: The Tisch Children’s Zoo nearby (50 yards away?) is free with CPZ admission. All sorts of climby-playground stuff with neat zoo features. Zillion parent photo-op sites.

Other kibitzing:

Staten Island Ferry: Absolutely. A free scenic ship tour of NY harbor (Statue of Liberty!) that takes about 45 minutes round-trip. Tell her to get ready for the big boat to blow its horn before it starts going. My girls had never heard anything like it. ALSO: A small park just north of the ferry landing (Battery Park?) has the tallest swings we’ve ever seen. If your girl like to swing, she’ll swing like never before. Three years later, my now 8-year-old still talks about those swings.

Children's Museum: My normally outgoing 5-year-old was intimidated by the yelling crowds of mostly 6-to-8 year olds that ran around like they owned the place. Because to the locals, it's just their living room, with big exhibits. Two of the promised arts-and-crafts sessions were completely hopeless because the "session leaders" couldn't get a grip and ran out of supplies. YMMV.

If you go through Grand Central Station, take a minute and go to the lower level where the food stands are. Go to the squared-off alcove outside the Oyster Bar. If you put your face into the corner, and your girl’s in the other, 30 feet away, she can hear you whispering in her ears, and vice versa. (It’s the tiled ceiling.) She needs to be about four feet up, so one of you will have to lift her up.

About food, I’d check out eGullet’s NYC board. The more specific your request is, the more they can help you. Szechwan food? Turkish spices? The best tikka masala below Canal Street? They’re freaks, in the best possible way.
posted by sacre_bleu at 11:05 AM on April 15, 2005

Forbes Magazine Galleries Malcolm Forbes toy and autograph collection
posted by vega5960 at 11:38 AM on April 15, 2005

I visited the city with my four year old brother a couple years ago, and he adored the central park zoo and the little kids playground above it (someone already mentioned that). He also was completely captivated by the dinosaur skeletons in the Natural History Museum, which would only be across the park for you.
And don't be afraid to take the peanut on the subways- my brother's favorite thing about the city was riding the subway trains.
posted by ohio at 11:43 AM on April 15, 2005

I would suggest putting up a post on the Manhattan board at Chowhound.

I strongly urge that before doing this you browse the site for a while and read other, similar threads. They're a very knowledgeable crowd, but they long ago got sick of people wandering in and saying "I'm coming to NYC, where should I go to have a good dinner/buy some good food?" If you ask such a question, prepare to get flamed until you can be served for dinner yourself with a little parsley. If you have a more focused question after browsing, by all means ask it; I'm not trying to put you off the site, just make your experience there helpful and pain-free.
posted by languagehat at 11:59 AM on April 15, 2005

Dean and Deluca

It's here.
posted by abbyladybug at 12:07 PM on April 15, 2005

Take your daughter to FAO Schwarz, it's possibly the greatest toy store for kids under the age of 12. Also there is a Hello Kitty store on 42nd street. between 7th Ave. & 8th Ave.

Lastly, if you have time, take the *free* Staten Island ferry ride. Just stay on the boat when you reach SI for the return trip back to Manhattan. You'll get a lovely view of downtown Manhattan, Brooklyn, Jersey, and the Statue of Liberty.
posted by riffola at 12:26 PM on April 15, 2005

Oh and while it's not a family place, you could go to Pommes Frites, and enjoy the various sauces and wondeful Belgian frites.
posted by riffola at 12:29 PM on April 15, 2005

Also if you are using the regular buses (non-Express) and subways for more than 4 trips per person in a day, purchase the 1 Day Fun Pass (Subway metrocard) for $7.
posted by riffola at 12:31 PM on April 15, 2005

Forbes Magazine Galleries Malcolm Forbes toy and autograph collection

However, don't believe the link. The bulk (all?) of the Faberge collection has been sold, and is no longer there. The toy soldiers, on the other hand, are still there and are very cool, but a bit high off the floor (you might find that she can't see unless she's on your shoulder).

Take your daughter to FAO Schwarz, it's possibly the greatest toy store for kids under the age of 12.

Agreed -- I love(d) FAO far more than the garish Toys R Us in Times Square -- however! - with FAO's recent bankruptcy is the store on 5th Ave still there? Is it the same as it was? (Note: If it is still there you should absolutely go there instead of the Toys R Us. Ferris Wheel or no, FAO cannot be beaten when it comes to toystore wonderland)
posted by anastasiav at 12:52 PM on April 15, 2005

Response by poster: We have been to both the FAO Schwarz and Toys R Us sans enfant on previous visits. Apparently FAO Schwarz has not closed (though the one here in Boston did, leaving the poor bronze teddy bear behind). Personally, I am not an FAO Schwarz fan, but most likely we'll do both.

The free ride on the Staten Island ferry sounds like a better deal than the Circle Line boat.

Dean and Deluca -- BTDT. But Pommes Frites and Murray's are now on the list.

Don't stop now.
posted by briank at 1:20 PM on April 15, 2005

The kid is four - will she know the difference between the Bronx Zoo and Central Park? I doubt it's worth the extra effort to get out there. (An 8 year old - different story.)
Plus, the CP Children's Zoo, with the mechanical clock with dancing bronze animals, is one of my fondest childhood memories.
(Though if there had been a Dylan's Candy Bar back then, and my parents had taken me, it would have been supplanted.

The FAO Schwartz store is still there - for now. I'd blow off the Toys R Us, unless it's really *that* much better than the mall, and go there instead. FAO Schwartz is legendary!
On preview - yeah. Also, the ferry isn't jammed with only tourists and there usually isn't a terrible line like the tourist boats.
posted by CunningLinguist at 1:22 PM on April 15, 2005

The FAO Schwartz is still open, but it's not what it used to be. It is surrounded on the outside by construction and on the inside, other than the big piano keyboard that you can walk on, it really doesn't look that different from any other big toy store you've ever seen. The big Rube-Goldberg-looking thing that used to sit inside the entrance is gone. So is the big metal teddy bear. (Or is it just hidden by the construction?)

It might be more corporate and not have the history, but a child is going to be far more impressed by the Toys R Us, with its enormous indoor Ferris wheel, life-sized animatronic dinosaur, and walk-in Barbie doll house.
posted by event at 3:06 PM on April 15, 2005

Don't ignore the regular museums--we went all the time when we were little. Keep the visits short, and ask at the front desk of the Met (they can point out things kids love, and art with kids in it, etc)

Definitely do the Staten Island Ferry both ways instead of the Circle Line--shorter, just as fun ride, and much much cheaper.

Walk through Central Park to the Carousel and the little lake/Boathouse too.
posted by amberglow at 3:14 PM on April 15, 2005

Just a note: It is five rides per day before the day pass becomes the cheapest option. Since you get a free $2 for every $10 you spend, a pay-per-ride Metrocard runs you $1.66 per ride. If you only ride four times on a $7 day pass, you are paying $1.75 per ride. At five that drops to $1.40.

Of course, knowing you can ride as much as you want & not pay more may be worth more than nine cents per ride.
posted by dame at 3:32 PM on April 15, 2005

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