2 Moms and 2 Daughters in NYC
April 27, 2018 6:49 AM   Subscribe

My wife and her good friend are taking their daughters to NYC / Manhattan for their 10th birthdays. They would love to see some shows, eat some interesting food, but outside of that are open to any and all cool experiences. Where should they stay and what should they do?

Lodging - Regarding lodging, the first question is whether they should stay at a hotel or in a Airbnb. The second is where in Manhattan they should target. I'm thinking a hotel experience would be a lot more fun for the kids but also may be a pain chasing down breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day.

What to do - Outside of the standard touristy stuff, what are some suggestions on things they could do while in NYC. Any particular shops, museums, shows, streets / areas, oddities that you recommend for 10 year old girls?

Help 2 moms and 2 daughters have an amazing 4 days in NYC! We are from Austin so the girls won't be completely overwhelmed by the energy of the city but I want to be mindful that it could be a lot for them ( Maybe not ). Any tips regarding having a good time while keeping in mind logistics, stress, safety, etc. in would be much appreciated.
posted by jasondigitized to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (20 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Depends on what the kids are into, but heading over to Union Square could be fun for a casual few hours of window-shopping. There's a Kelloggs cereal bar for an indulgent breakfast or brunch, and a short walk down Broadway will take them to the Strand bookstore where all the books live, Forbidden Planet comics, a wild year-round Costume Shop, and, since you mention 'oddities,' The Evolution Shop, which is full of fossils and meteorites and skulls and skeletons and cool rocks and geodes and butterflies and all manner of curiosities. (These things are pretty much literally all in a line, so it's an easy stop). There are lots of little cafes and restaurants in the area for snacks or lunch, and even a chocolate restaurant if they still need more sugar (it is a vacation, after all). Easily accessible by most subway lines.

For a chill-out/outdoor day, Prospect Park is nicer than Central Park, imnsho, and you can go rollerskating on a rarely-crowded rink or rent a pedalboat or rent bikes or a surrey! There's also the Prospect Park Zoo in the park, and The Brooklyn Botanic Garden right next door (free for kids under 12 and they often have kids' events). Ample Hills has an ice cream parlour on Vanderbilt at the north end of the park if they work up an appetite. Not as crowded as Manhattan and it's an easy subway ride -- just take the B/Q to the Prospect Park stop.

The New York Hall Of Science is amazing for kids and worth the trek.
posted by halation at 7:15 AM on April 27, 2018 [6 favorites]

How many dinosaurs have they seen? The American Museum of Natural History has a bunch of dinosaur skeletons and lots of other prehistoric creatures, including lots of ice age stuff. It’s fantastic.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 7:46 AM on April 27, 2018 [4 favorites]

Oh also: list of things to give a pass/think about:

- skip the Empire State Building tour. I went as a kid and was hugely disappointed, and the lines have only gotten longer (and the tours more expensive) since then.

- the Statue of Liberty is sort of a commitment and requires reservations, and it's hard to get reservations that let you actually go into the statue. The ferry ride is neat, but you're not hugely missing out if you skip it.

- some people like the Hop-On/Hop-Off tours, but honestly they can be pretty boring for kids. With the traffic, you can often walk faster than the bus can drive, and they can get crowded, meaning a lot of waiting in line.

- Coney Island is easily accessible by subway, and can be fun for kids, but the rides are ~expensive~ and there are multiple parks/operators, none of which offer ticket reciprocity. So if you get the Luna Park pass, you can't use it to ride the famous Cyclone or Wonder Wheel. It's totally navigable, but it's frustrating if you're not aware in advance.
posted by halation at 7:47 AM on April 27, 2018

In terms of lodging - would recommend a hotel over Airbnb. NYC has cracked down on Airbnbs over the last few years, and while they are still advertised on the site, they are not technically legal, and I have heard more than one horror story of folks having their reservation cancelled right before the trip.

Definitely recommend Prospect Park - if you are there on Sunday, there is Smorgasburg which is always fun and a good eating adventure. On Saturdays, Smorgasburg is in Williamsburg on the water front which is also a great time. There are a lot of cute vintage and traditional brick and mortar stores all in between the Lorimer L subway line (the subway you would take to get to Williamsburg) and the water front (or you could take the ferry from Manhattan!). There is an Artists & Fleas location, Brooklyn Charm, Buffalo Exchange, and a whole host of other shops that 10 year-olds might find interesting and fun.

Not sure if they are too old for this, but Alice's Teacup is also a fun experience depending on where you all end up staying.
posted by something_witty at 7:57 AM on April 27, 2018 [2 favorites]

Central Park has the zoo. American Museum of Natural History is great. Museum Hack offers guided tours (I got to attend one at the Met) that can be pretty tailored to your group, so if the girls wanted to see lots of museum things about horses or goblins or baseball, there might be a guide that specializes in these interests.

Tkts is good for last minute ticket deals.

I would skip the statue of liberty unless they're really into it. Maybe do the Staten Island Ferry, which gives a great view and in good weather is quite pleasant. Bring lunch to eat on the ferry.

The good news with four people is that a loaf of bread goes pretty quickly, so a pack of turkey, a pack of cheese, some bread and tomatoes with mayo or whatever for condiments and folks should be pretty happy if you add a piece of fruit for everyone. There are several Trader Joes in the city (one near Union Square, another in Chelsea). Many hotel rooms will have a microwave or can put one in the room. Buying a microwave at Kmart (which is also near Union Square) or Target (there are a few mini ones in Manhattan now) and donating it to Housing Works is probably cheaper than eating restaurant dinner every night. The kids can eat frozen Mac n cheese and the adults can get a more interesting frozen meal to help spread the budget to things like tickets.

Alice's tea cup is popular and Alice in Wonderland themed. Check their hours and google's busy estimates. It's more fun when it's quiet.

I'll add more if I can think of it. Oh. The Rockettes summer spectacular is suspended, so it looks like they won't get to see that this year.
posted by bilabial at 7:59 AM on April 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

When my daughter was 10 she liked shopping at regular mall stores in their Iconic Big City version. I didn't quite get the appeal of shopping at Manhattan!Forever!21! when any local mall will have a Forever 21, but go figure. I also think that at that age they're starting to get an appreciation for Iconic Big City and really enjoy seeing the iconic places they've heard about, seen on movies or in TV, etc. So with that in mind, a visit to Times Square/Rockefeller center, Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island museum, Grand Central Station, Central Park and the 5th Avenue Apple Store. For example, Prospect Park may be a better park, but they're at an age where it's not just about going to the best park but to the park you can tell all your friends you were at. Your 10-year-old may vary, obviously. This was also the age when I started to let my kids help me plan their vacations, by presenting them with a list of options (like, maybe twice as many options as could be reasonably accommodated) and letting them pick their priorities.
posted by drlith at 8:12 AM on April 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

Governor's Island (park accessible by ferry from the south tip of Manhattan) is also nice for a low key outdoor day. All sorts of nice park amenities, rental bikes, good food trucks, I think there's a mini-golf course (that is, there was but it might have been a temporary art installation?), and a good view of the harbor.
posted by LizardBreath at 8:17 AM on April 27, 2018

I stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn on 8th Ave at 48th Street a few weeks ago, at a ridiculous rate ($94!). It's referred to as "Times Square" in the name, but it's a few blocks away from the huge masses of people. It was clean and comfortable and amazingly quiet, and the room had a mini-fridge and microwave.

When my kids were that age, we did the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island (the view of Manhattan from the ferry is a bonus), the Natural History Museum, and the Empire State Building (might recommend Top of the Rock instead). We also took them to MoMA and the Met, which I don't think they appreciated at the time but do now in retrospect. I think both museums have pamphlets that outline highlight tours for kids. We are history people, so I love the Lower East Side Tenement Museum - which is also near the very fun Economy Candy - but you need to book tours in advance.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 8:19 AM on April 27, 2018

I loved the Met and the Natural History Museum when I went to NY as a kid.

If they are reasonably adventurous eaters, Korea Town might be a great place for dinner. Also, Russ and Daughters is so good, they should go down there.

Strand Books, the Whitney, maybe the Frick or the Morgan Library, lots of walking and looking. The Greenmarket is neat. They should ride the subway everywhere, I can't think of anything more New York-y than just being part of the rush of people.

I have never been to the Statue of Liberty or the Empire State Building, and unless they are already excited about those sites, I would skip. Lines are terrible.

Last time I was there for work, I stayed in Midtown at a hotel called the Redbury. It was comfortable and rates were in line with other hotels in the neighborhood.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 8:59 AM on April 27, 2018

CW Pencil Enterprise
posted by audi alteram partem at 10:07 AM on April 27, 2018

I have come to frequently recommend that visitors target the area around Union Square for hotels.

It's a busy, lively city area without being crushingly crowded or totally overwhelmed by tourists. Excellent transit access and is surrounded by great neighborhoods to explore - East Village, Greenwich Village, Chelsea, Gramercy, Flatiron. A ton of fast casual food and good grocery shopping (including TJ's, Whole Foods, and a large farmer's market open four days a week) so you're not stuck in sit-down restaurants for every meal. The park itself always has a lot of city life going on and is a great place to sit on the steps/benches/grass with your lunch and people-watch.

A lot of good suggestions above. The kids in my life have also enjoyed:

1) A trip to the High Line by way of Chelsea Market.

2) the relatively new Gulliver's Gate, a very cool exhibition of miniature cities and regions with interactive stuff (pricey tho - family pass for the 4 of them is $108).

3) The Central Park Zoo, which is a real jewel, combined with stops at nearby locations like: a) the flagship Dylan's Candy Bar location on 60th Street. b) the Alice's Tea Cup location on 64th Street. c) Victoria Gardens, a small carnival in Central Park that opens in late May.

4) Brief visits to the Met to see the Egypt stuff and the general grandeur of the place and sit on the steps with a street cart hot dog. Checking out the online kid resources and/or doing one of the kid audio tours or just having a general plan is a good idea; the Met is very, very big.
posted by lalex at 10:56 AM on April 27, 2018 [4 favorites]

I think an advanced 10 would be the lower limit for Symphonie Fantastique but it's pretty awesome for the right kids+adults combo. It's a 1 hour long non-narrative underwater puppet light dance show set to a live piano performance. It is visually stunning and I imagine they would remember it for life.
On through August and truly spectacular.
posted by wowenthusiast at 11:34 AM on April 27, 2018

Are they in to Broadway shows and/or Disney? Lion King, Aladdin, and Frozen on Broadway would all be fantastic for 10 year olds.
posted by Mallenroh at 12:10 PM on April 27, 2018

When my daughter was 10 she liked shopping at regular mall stores in their Iconic Big City version. I didn't quite get the appeal of shopping at Manhattan!Forever!21! when any local mall will have a Forever 21, but go figure.

Along this line, Macy’s on 34th street is the Macy’s. With wooden escalators and such; it’s been there for over 100 years. Bloomingdale’s is over there too.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 12:27 PM on April 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

If they really want to go up high, Top of the Rock has timed admissions tickets, so you don't have to stand in the godawful ESB line.

Midtown Comics is the place to go for the more comics-centric experience than Forbidden Planet, which is very toy, etc.-heavy. Just depends on preference.

If you do happen to be in the vicinity of Union Square and want to have the diner experience, Good Stuff Diner is a couple avenues west on 14th St. It's not particularly fancy or ambitious, but the diner is a part of the city fabric that is starting to fade away.

It's fun to go to a hand-pulled noodle place and watch them being made (which you usually can in the smaller places). Tasty Hand-Pulled Noodles is my joint of choice. That will take you down to the Chinatown area, which is fairly seedy-looking (though safe) but still is an actual Chinatown. Stop at a bakery like Fay Da for dessert.

If you're that far downtown and the kids are feeling the energy, might as well walk across the Brooklyn Bridge (you can take the subway back). Try to go mid-morning or early afternoon to avoid the pre-work, lunch, and post-work/school crowds.
posted by praemunire at 1:05 PM on April 27, 2018

Also recommending Rockefeller Center aka Top Of The Rock, especially if you're already in midtown -- from up there, you can see your Empire State Building, easy.
posted by Rash at 1:29 PM on April 27, 2018 [2 favorites]

My mind was pretty well blown by the American Girl Place when I was there and I was 18.
posted by ChuraChura at 2:31 PM on April 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

I would have thought the stationery department in the basement of Kinokuniya across from Bryant Park was pretty awesome when I was 10. (Of course, you could park 10 year old me in the stationery aisle at the grocery store.) Of course, their website tells me they're opening a store in Austin in May, but maybe don't tell the kids that...

Depending on what days of the week they're coming, they could combine the Hall of Science with the Queens Night Market.

I was really excited by different modes of transport when I was a kid. There's the Staten Island Ferry as well as a new (last year) ferry network. Governor's Island is a decent suggestion if they want a day out in a park, but the ferry ride is underwhelming. (Seriously, it's like 300 yards. You spend longer on the ferry waiting for it to depart than you do moving.) It's hard to know what would be a good destination for a bus trip--they'll inevitably spend most of their time in the part of Manhattan where the subway makes way more sense. The Transit Museum in Brooklyn is pretty cool and easy to get to.

Frankly, I find the Strand crowded and and kind of underwhelming.* BookPeople is probably a good comparison, though the Stand is bigger and has used books too.

The Natural History Museum should come with a warning that many exhibits about people and cultures are in severe need of updating and are at best patronising and at worst outright racist. It's definitely an opportunity to talk to kids about racism and colonialism and so on, but your wife and her friend probably want to have thought about that conversation in advance. Of course, if they just want to look at dinosaurs, that exhibit is quite good.

We are from Austin so the girls won't be completely overwhelmed by the energy of the city but I want to be mindful that it could be a lot for them ( Maybe not )

I feel like I spend a lot of time on AskMe saying that Austin isn't a real city and complaining that people in NYC think it's way more special and different than it actually is, and I'm about to do the former while risking being the person guilty of the latter. However, Austin really isn't remotely comparable in terms of energy or sheer numbers of people. And one person can both feed on it and be overwhelmed by it. It's not too hard to find somewhere relatively quiet to sit for a bit, though.

I did once get a good rate here for a room that had an actual kitchen, so such things exist.

*Granted, this is partly because it seems to be the default answer to "Where can I find foreign language books" and their selection is not great.
posted by hoyland at 4:39 PM on April 27, 2018

Oh! Flying Tiger.
posted by lalex at 4:50 PM on April 27, 2018

My friends and I always stay it Off Soho Suites near Bowery and East Houston. It's not super fancy but you get a full sized fridge and stove with separate bedrooms. It's walkable to Washington Sq. Park and the subway. Rates are reasonable and the desk clerks are friendly. There was some construction starting behind it last time I was there, so maybe ask for a room facing the street if you're not early risers.
posted by bonobothegreat at 6:38 AM on April 28, 2018

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