Travel with toddlers to NYC. Looking for fun, amenities, e
January 7, 2012 7:53 PM   Subscribe

Travel with kids filter: Going to NYC with young kids, wife busy with work, I need to entertain, suggest fun fun fun! Hotels. Cool toy stores. Weirdness! I heart NYC, I want my kids to heart NYC, enlighten me.

I used to go to NYC with much regularity, but less and less now that I have kids. I am going in a couple weeks and will be taking my 1.5 year old and 4 year old. We live in a major metropolis, so they are already β€œmeh” about skyscrapers, light rail, rats the size of bovines, but I've always had a happy warm spot for NYC. If anyone has suggestions for fun spots, kid-friendly-hotels in Manhattan, and other interesting stuff for the stroller toting in January please enlighten me.

We are arts minded and already have planned to go to the Met (Egyptian wing a must), there is a fun Japanese toy store in the Village I always try and hit (or did in the old days) so we'll go there. I will drag my 4 year old to experience the Max Neuhaus audio sculpture under the subway grate on the traffic island in Times Square (no sign, almost no one knows about it, cool stuff)

I don't want to bog down in too much culture/taxonomy/death march of sights. They are too young and will probably get a lot more out of the lights of Times Square than Ellis island at this point.

Unless it is artic freezing I plan to walk great distances about which is my MO when in Manhattan. I may head to Brooklyn to visit friends, but I have only the tiniest of agendas and about 2-3 open days.

This is a fun and interesting group of people. What amuses you in NYC.
posted by Ponderance to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (29 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Teardrop Park. Don't miss it, probably the awesomest kid spot in Manhattan. It's obviously better in the middle of summer but it's still pretty nice even in the cold & gray of winter.

We (== my 8 year old niece and I) also love walking Bleecker between 6th and 7th for all the tasty food in there- gelato, CHEESE, etc.

Belvedere Castle in Central Park is always a big hit.

Hot Chocolate from City Bakery.

Winter Garden at WFC is another favorite spot for the huge staircase & the palm trees.
posted by lyra4 at 7:59 PM on January 7, 2012

FAO Schwartz, followed by frozen hot chocolate at Serendipity.
posted by decathecting at 8:03 PM on January 7, 2012

Are you thinking of Toy Tokyo on 2nd Ave? That's still there and it's still awesome.
posted by cazoo at 8:18 PM on January 7, 2012

My boyfriend and I walked the Highline when we were there last week. It was pretty cool; it's a neat way to do a park and the benches, stairways, etc are all pretty cool and modern-looking.

Also I really liked the Natural History Museum, but that's mostly because I'm a space geek and I'm really not yet over my childhood adoration of all things dinosaur-related. However, even I was getting antsy/tired of standing by the time we made it through most of the museum; not sure how long little kids would last, so you'd have to plan your exhibits carefully.
posted by olinerd at 8:38 PM on January 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

The High Linepark on the East Side is pretty awesome. I love the Liberty Science Center, but that is in NJ.

Top Of The Rock is the standard tourist advice, but you may not be willing to do it with children your age.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:40 PM on January 7, 2012

Does your major metropolis have skyscrapers that let you go outside on high floors? If not, the Empire State Building during less crowded hours really is worth the trip. I was already twelve or so when I first went up there, and had been up on the observation floor of the tallest building in my home city, but I was mesmerized -- feeling the wind and being able to hear the city below me just blew my kid mind entirely.

I think the Brooklyn Bridge is still under construction, but walking across the Manhattan bridge still gives you a great view if you don't mind the trains running by.

5th Ave in Park Slope has become a great place for strolling, and is increasingly dense with kid-friendly shops and restaurants. It's also MUCH less crowded than comparable parts of Manhattan. You could also hit up Prospect Park while you're there, which is great for wandering -- particularly near the center, where it feels more like a forest than a park.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 8:40 PM on January 7, 2012

The High Linepark on the East Side is pretty awesome.

It's on the west side of Manhattan, not the east.
posted by dfriedman at 8:48 PM on January 7, 2012

My brother reports that my five-year-old nephew enjoyed the transit museum in Brooklyn.
posted by craichead at 9:01 PM on January 7, 2012

I think the baby isn't going to care about much other than ooh! shiny and nice dogs on the street. The 4 year old will probably like pigeons and taxis. You can go to the Met but don't be disappointed if the 4 year old is more impressed by something completely random that has nothing to do with culture.

Are you taking a stroller for the kid(s)?
posted by Ideefixe at 9:04 PM on January 7, 2012

Response by poster: This is great! Thanks! I am taking a compact double stroller, they are big boys and I am old Dad.

I'm delighted Toy Tokyo is still there. I think Giant Robot has a store near Chinatown too.

The park suggestions are great, in all my visits I must confess I did not appreciate that part of the city.

I need to buy them the a bagel and half white, half mocha cookie at the deli near Canegie Hall (I don't think it was the Carnegie Deli, proper, I'll know it when I see it). Yum.

I think this trip will be more fun when they are a bit older, but opportunity has presented itself and I can't miss a chance to kick around NYC for a couple days.
posted by Ponderance at 9:16 PM on January 7, 2012


It's a must, seriously. Cheap admission, easy to get to, fantastic kid-oriented content, decent food options nearby.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 9:26 PM on January 7, 2012

As a kid growing up in NYC, two of my favorite places were the Bronx Zoo and the Museum of Natural History (I LOVED the giant blue whale.)

The Staten Island Ferry! Boat ride, great views of the Statue of Liberty, and it's free. Fun stuff.

The carousels in Central Park. (Are they running during the winter?)

The Toys R Us in Times Square is always a giant mess of kids and parents, but worth it for the Lego sculptures and the candy section, not to mention the giant animatronic dinosaur.

I remember there being a children's museum in Manhattan that I also loved. I think it was in the upper east side. Anyone know?

That awesome playground with the pyramids in Central Park--90-something and fifth? The playground on the west side near Chelsea Piers.

Max Brenner's in Union Square--will probably be above the baby, but the older kid might like it. Everything is chocolate!
posted by Emms at 9:35 PM on January 7, 2012

Last time I was in New York, I stopped by Dylan's Candy Bar and thought, "This is what my childhood was missing."
posted by hypotheticole at 9:37 PM on January 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

Nthing Max Brenner's β€” I've been to another location, not the one in New York, but it has all kinds of chocolate loveliness. (I personally recommend the hot chocolate β€” never too hot, never too cold, Goldilocks-certified juuust right.)
posted by hypotheticole at 9:40 PM on January 7, 2012

Nthing the transit museum. And if your kids have a "favorite" subway line, you can buy them a small teddy bear or other tchotchke with the subway line on it at Grand Central Station.
posted by emily37 at 9:51 PM on January 7, 2012

If you go to the Transit Museum, try the Moxie Spot, a saloon-for-kids that's a ten-minute walk away. From there, Brooklyn Bridge Park is the natural next step - swings, forts, slides. But it's cold on the waterfront. The north end of the park has a carousel, too, and the attractions of DUMBO (incl. much-televised bridge views, cobble stones, Jacques Torres chocolate, Almondine madeleines).

The SI Ferry is a great idea, as is the pricier circle line. Avoid the helicopter tours; they seem to crash a lot.
Union Square Greenmarket.
Zuccotti Park?
The NYPL main building also has a kids section. Don't know what they do there, but the entrance is on the north side of the building.

Maybe too young, but the Tenement Museum is great.

TimeOutNY has a version for kids.
posted by mahorn at 9:59 PM on January 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

My kids have always get a kick out of the revolving rooftop lounge at The View.
posted by apparently at 11:50 PM on January 7, 2012

My only real memories of being a toddler living in New York is of the Natural History Museum, which I am given to understand I convinced my parents to take me to over and over and over - the blue whale is definitely the best thing ever, and the dinosaurs and the African mammals are pretty sweet as well. My sister is a New Yorker now, and she has repeatedly sung the praises of Dylan's Candy Bar, so I second that as well, despite not having been there myself.
posted by naoko at 12:13 AM on January 8, 2012

I suspect that a couple of weeks doesn't mean early February, but I'll still mention Central Park's Winter Jam. They bring in snow making machines and make a lot of snow and there's always something to watch.
posted by sciencegeek at 4:58 AM on January 8, 2012

Preschool Place at the NY Hall of Science is perfect for those young ages.
posted by lgandme0717 at 5:11 AM on January 8, 2012

The Central Park Zoo and the Children's Zoo are perfect for those ages - not too much to see and very walkable, but lots to do.

Stop at the Billy Johnson Playground (67th and 5th Ave) afterwards - very small but they have one of the best slides in the city (you may have to go down with your 1.5 year old if h/she isn't a daredevil).

And they're an easy walk to F.A.O. Schwartz and the Apple store, if you want to make a day of it.
posted by Mchelly at 6:19 AM on January 8, 2012

The newly renovated Jane's Carousel in DUMBO has spectacular city views, and there's a playground nearby, and the new Brooklyn Bridge Park, and ice cream...
posted by moonmilk at 7:31 AM on January 8, 2012

Since it's winter and your kids are so young, I'd also recommend the Children's Museum of Manhattan. More like an indoor playground than a real learning space (though everything is educational). It's an easy walk to the Natural History Museum as well.

There's also the Marionette Theater in Central Park.
posted by Mchelly at 8:39 AM on January 8, 2012

If you make it out to Queens for the Hall of Science as suggested by lgandme0717, don't miss the NY panorama. I imagine it would definitely be a hit with toddlers!
posted by queensb at 11:31 AM on January 8, 2012

The FDNY Museum is small, but your four-year-old is a good age for it.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:40 PM on January 8, 2012

I live in NYC with a 2.75 year old and here are a few additional remarks:

- I second the Museum of Natural History recommendation. There is stroller parking, ample space for even the 18 month-old to run around without causing trouble, and it's got an interesting vibe all its own. If you go, plan to check out the Discovery Room (stop in for timed tickets ahead of time), where there are lots of hands-on things to explore, including little drawers to open with fossils in them.

- I also second Jane's Carousel in DUMBO. Such a great area. The carousel is in a glass room right on the river, with the bridge above, trains rumbling over, and rocks for throwing in the river. There's a big playground too, if the weather is decent. It will be very windy! It is a bit of a walk from the nearest subways, with cobblestones too. You should definitely check your walking enthusiasm against your kids' enthusiasm for being buckled in. Oh, also remember that most subway stations don't have elevators to the street, so you'll have to get assistance carrying your stroller up the stairs.

- I second the Queens Hall of Science too. We had to go for four 4-hour visits before we saw and tried everything.

- Another favorite that works for both your kids' ages is Children's Museum of the Arts in Tribeca. It's a museum of art made by children, plus art workstations for the kids to free-play with art materials. It has a ball-pit room full of yoga balls for bouncing around in. It also has stroller parking.

- A good stop I like in midtown (while you're in Times Square?) is Bryant Park. There are skaters to watch at the rink and a tiny French carousel. It's a good place to get hot chocolate. The main public library is right there. The children's room there houses the original Winnie the Pooh and friends stuffed toys (in a glass case).

- The Central Park Children's Zoo is closed for renovation this winter. The main Central Park zoo is still open (polar bear, penguins, sea lions and a jungle habitat are the main features).

Memail me with any questions! I have been with my child to every place mentioned so far in this thread.
posted by xo at 3:56 PM on January 8, 2012

Response by poster: Jeepers I love askmefi! Thanks everyone, I can't wait. I need to digest all this and come up with a plan.

I really appreciate it!
posted by Ponderance at 9:31 PM on January 8, 2012

My daughter loves "The Cupcake Bookstore":

Books of Wonder is all kids books and a cupcake cafe attached. Needless to say, child-friendly.

Also, depending on how well behaved your kids are MOMA has a wonderful program called Tours for Fours that is specifically designed for 4 year olds. It's awesome, free and gets you and your fam into the museum for free. They also give you a family pass to come back. It involves walking around and talking about art, so not really for the most rambunctious of children. But I've been on it with 4 year olds and their younger sibs sometimes come along. Just be realistic about their attention span. With the money saved on admission, I normally chow down at the delicious restaurant in the MOMA.

Transit Museum is excellent and worth the trip. And for a longer trek: the NY Aquarium is really fun at Coney Island. But if it's very cold, not a good time to go as much of it is outside.
posted by moedym at 6:29 AM on January 9, 2012

I need to buy them the a bagel and half white, half mocha cookie at the deli near Canegie Hall (I don't think it was the Carnegie Deli, proper, I'll know it when I see it). Yum.

If not Carnegie then the Stage Deli. Yum

May be a bit too old for the little one, but there's a brand new children's museum at the New-York Historical Society that's quite fun.
posted by TravellingCari at 12:10 PM on January 9, 2012

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