5 Hours in Manhattan
August 22, 2015 12:13 PM   Subscribe

On a Sunday in September, we have a six hour Amtrak layover (11 am to 5 pm) at Penn Station, with our nine year old son in tow (so, probably 4 and a half usable hours). I know we can get to the top of the Empire State and back pretty easily, is there something else quick and easy we should do during that time?
posted by anastasiav to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
There are a fair number of Korean restaurants and lunch places near 34th and Broadway, which is about 2 blocks from Penn Station.
posted by Lycaste at 12:39 PM on August 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

Amtrak is so often late into NYC, and even if it's not, you could spend over half your time waiting in line at the Empire State building on a September weekend. I wouldn't do that. If I had a kid with me who was sandwiching an afternoon between long train rides, I'd probably take the subway from Penn Station to Columbus Circle, walk into Central Park, maybe go to the zoo if you have time, and eat hot dogs while walking in the park.
posted by flourpot at 12:41 PM on August 22, 2015 [16 favorites]

Isn't there usually a long lineup to get up the Empire State Building on a weekend? I wouldn't bank on that being a quick trip.

The High Line could be fun. The southern section has a bunch of food carts (including good coffee and popsicles), or you can go get food in the meatpacking district afterwards. Even if it's busy, it's so much fun to be in green space with views of the city.
posted by barnone at 12:46 PM on August 22, 2015 [5 favorites]

The C train will get you from Penn Station to the American Museum of Natural History in about 15 minutes. That was my kids' absolute favorite museum at your kid's age. (In fact, it still is, now that they are young adults!)

The Museum is right across from Central Park, so you can get some outdoor nature time in as well, if it's a nice day.
posted by merejane at 1:35 PM on August 22, 2015 [13 favorites]

You might be able to do a statue of liberty trip. Subway or cab to battery park. Short ferry ride over. Especially if you buy tickets ahead of time. Base only is definitely doable. Crown might be a stretch.

If not bh photo is nearby and open Sundays. It's kind of a nerd mecca.....

As for towers you could always pay for the"top of the rock" viewing lounge which I find less busy usually and which has amazing views.
posted by chasles at 1:42 PM on August 22, 2015

I'd have a fallback plan in case Amtrak is seriously late (which it often is), and not promise your son anything until you see how much time you actually have.

A quick stroll through midtown Manhattan craning your necks to look at the skyscrapers might be fun for a 9-yo, especially if he's seen lots of movies set in New York. (Maybe watch a few in preparation for your trip? Superman, The Avengers, some of the Iron Man series, etc?) You can keep the dinosaurs at the AMNH in your back pocket, so to speak, for if you're lucky enough to have a few hours.
posted by Quietgal at 2:25 PM on August 22, 2015 [4 favorites]

Should you be in the mood for a slice of pizza, do not go with any of the pizza places inside Penn Station itself. There is an excellent pizza joint diagonally across from the station, just off the corner of 8th Ave. and 31st St: NY Pizza Suprema. You won't find much better for the "NY slice" style.* (And you'll find plenty of worse places. Heed my words!)

Their "plain slice" (local parlance for what's called a "cheese slice" everywhere else) is a good baseline for the genre, and I cannot argue with those who prefer it above all other options; that said, my personal favorite is the mozzarella and basil (AKA margherita) slice.

* If you're holding out for coal-oven style, go to the head of the class, but that will take you further afield. Your closest option is probably the Grimaldi's at the Limelight Marketplace, at 6th and 21st. I have not been to that location, but it has a good pedigree. Further north, and just south of Central Park—and I agree that Central Park is awesome, if the weather is nice—is Angelo's Coal Oven Pizzeria, at 57th St. off 6th Ave.
posted by Shmuel510 at 2:37 PM on August 22, 2015 [5 favorites]

I have to concur regarding the line at the Empire State Building (it will eat up all available time). The are so many great places to eat in the neighborhood of the Nat Hist museum-- I'd recommend it for almost anyone. My nieces and nephews loved it. There is an interactive Math museum in walking distance to Penn, though. And if you all are into art the Whitney is now much closer to Penn than it used to be. The Chelsea neighborhood is another one that's great for wandering around and noshing.
posted by cleroy at 3:46 PM on August 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

Why not try to see a show? At nine years old your son might really love it. You'll be only a couple of blocks from Times Square and the TKTS booth, where you can pick out tickets to any number of shows for half-price. They all start at 2:00, leaving you time for lunch and a bit of a walk. The folks at TKTS will easily be able to tell you how long the show runs, and most will be over by 4:30, so you can pick out a suitable show. Wow! What a great layover!
posted by citygirl at 7:53 PM on August 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

American Museum of Natural History. Spiders, dinosaurs, space, stuff like that. Or, what merejane said.
posted by Gotanda at 8:29 PM on August 22, 2015

I'd walk north from Penn Station and turn around early depending on time. Look at the Empire State Building from ground level, but don't go up - that would take the whole time. Stop for a good Korean lunch around 34th Street. If you feel compelled to see the mass of tourists that is Times Square, go up Broadway. Otherwise, head up 6th to Bryant Park. Hang out in the park and stop into the library. Get a timed ticket for the Top of the Rock tour between 2 and 3 pm. If you have more time, walk up 5th and explore the southeast corner of Central Park (pond, zoo). If you won't have the time/energy to walk back, take the subway down to Times Square and walk from there to Penn.
posted by earth by april at 8:57 PM on August 22, 2015

The Empire State Building might be tough on a weekend at midday, but their website has an estimated time to the top that you can monitor on your way in and help you make a game-time decision.

And if you're gonna hit one of the aforementioned Korean places nearby, I strongly recommend the buffet at Woorijip on 32nd. Good food at good prices.
posted by charlemangy at 1:03 PM on August 23, 2015

The Cloisters. (I cheated and looked at your profile to see what you might like.)
posted by fings at 5:57 PM on August 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Shop at Uniqlo if you don't live in CA or NY.
posted by oceanjesse at 6:56 PM on August 23, 2015

If you do go to the Cloisters, and plan to go by subway, do be aware that the ride is ~45 minutes each way. The trains run every 15 minutes, so figure 1 hour each way to be safe.
posted by fings at 8:09 PM on August 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Central Park is the ticket. If the weather is nice, take a stroll, then visit the zoo and the pond filled with model boats. Have lunch al fresco, from one of the food carts in front of the Metropolitan Museum.

Bad weather, you have either the Met, with mummies and suits of armor for the young one, and a few interesting pieces of art for the adults, or (as previously mentioned), the Natural History museum, with big dinosaurs and a planetarium.
posted by Steakfrites at 8:28 AM on August 24, 2015

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