NYC is the city of endless possibilities, entertainment and activities galore, to keep the young and the young at heart happy and occupied.
I thought this holiday season is the best time to blog on this, since tourism blossoms to such an extent that you have to wait in line or take the later show even in giant Multiplex theatres like AMC.
Walking down 42nd St. is a global experience, the subways are packed with families from countries near and far. If you listen carefully, you’ll be able to distinguish as many languages as there were to be found in the Ancient Tower of Babylon. Add to that American tourists who came into town for the winter vacation from all over our United States, and you have yourself an added excitement to stare at and enjoy: half the world in the most exciting city, mostly there to enjoy, discover and have fun. If you’re planning to visit the Empire State Building, The Museum of Natural History and Lady Liberty, a discounted ticket could save you a bundle and lots of time too – you’ll save 38% when you book the Big Apple in a Day Pass, which gives you access to four of the best attractions that the city has to offer. Visit Lady Liberty on the 75 minute Liberty Cruise around the infamous Status of Liberty. Actually, do them both, and more, with the Big Apple in a Day Pass!
When travelling with kids it’s important to keep in mind that their interests may be different from ours, so to satisfy all the members of your family here is my top list:
1. The Empire State Building
This world famous building was at one time the tallest building in the world. The assorted versions of movie King Kong, ends up invariably with the huge ape-like creature climbing to the top, his paws delicately holding the beauty, who won his heart with her compassion and ability to see beyond the scary ugliness.
Even if your kids are too young to have seen King Kong, riding the elevator to the viewing hall on the 86th floor. Prepare ahead by buying tickets online, otherwise you’d be in for a very long wait to purchase them. Even so, there will be a wait for the elevators but it’s so worth it! Unless you see New York from the top of the Empire State building, you haven’t really seen it. The breath taking panoramic view, from a height of 1,050 feet gives you and the family an unobstructed view of the most magnificent city, its buildings, Central Park, The shape of the whole island of Manhattan with the Hudson and East Rivers on either sides. The viewing hall is glass enclosed and protects visitors from exposure to weather and wind.
The elevators are high speed and will get you to the top in no time. Which reminds me that the most spectacular time to visit is dusk, when everything is bathed in golden orange by the setting sun.
Just a practical tip: Regular price of tickets is $32 but if you buy a VIP express pass for $64, you’ll be rushed to the head of the line, greeted and treated with deference.
2. The Museum of Natural History
Admittedly, I can never get enough of this place. You take the subway (either C or B) and get off at 81st St on the west side. You can walk underground up to the stairs of Museum, which is a giant, covering two city blocks.
As you enter, a huge dinosaur skeleton greets you and makes you look like a tiny speck in comparison. Every floor covers different topics, like the giant blue whale, the different stages of evolvement of humans (I believe the tiny female, Lucy my favourite, belongs to the oldest known species and is clearly visible behind the glass case. The Neanderthal man with his low forehead and hairy body, clearly resembled apes, yet the diagram shows how the Homo sapiens, or man has evolved from a creature resembling a gorilla, began walking on his hind legs, and used his hands for hunting, gathering, cooking and more. There are cave painting which were found in dry desert areas, thus remained preserved. The same is true for the findings of the giant African Elephant, the magical 56 carat sapphire found in India and other fabulous gems and treasures, priceless and perfect.
The kids can have great fun in the Discovery Room, hunting for strange plants and animals, skulls of extinct animals and more. The space centre and astronomy room, allows the little or big ones to take a photo pretending to wear an astronaut suit, look at stars at the adjoining Rose centre, with a planetarium where space exploration is the focus. The Amex theatre shows movies that make you feel part of the action. There is so much to see, a wonderful experience is to be had by all. Special exhibits often draw crowds and you had to drag me away from the last one I saw, Petra, the mystical remains of a city aka the red rock, a fascination of mine since I was child travelling to Eilat and seeing the carved rock and singing the songs depicting its history.
3. 4, and 5 – Ellis Island, Liberty Island Wall Street and the Hudson River cruise.
Just riding the ferry to Ellis Island and circling by Liberty Island will give you and your child an unforgettable memory.
The views are spectacular, the city views unforgettable and if either a guide, or even better you post research, tell your kids the stories of the immigrants who had to pass muster at Ellis Island and then given names, often different then their own. Not out of malice but because the officials couldn’t pronounce all the strange foreign names. There is the funny story of the Jew who was renamed Shawn Ferguson, because rehearsed what to say to the clerk, but by the time his turn came he said in Yiddish "Shoyn fergessen" (already forgot). The official lit up, finally a familiar name, so he wrote down: Shawn Ferguson. True story.
4. The Statue of Liberty
Again, a NY landmark, the first thing immigrants saw before their boats docked in the New York Harbour. If your kids are old enough to climb the stairs you’ll have an experience that will stay with you all for eternity.
The statue is the symbol of freedom and democracy, as beautiful as it is famous.
Seeing it from a relative distance of the HUDSON CRUISE is amazing enough, but actually climbing the stairs inside the huge statue and reaching the viewing areas is s mind blowing, it may just be your very favourite place to have visited.
Get acquainted with the history of the statue, the fact that she was a gift from France for the Centennial American Day of Independence and was shipped to the US in 350 pieces, which were then reassembled and named America’s National Monument, in 1924. It has towered over the New York Harbour since 1886, weighing 450,000 lbs and is 151 feet tall. The lady has recently undergone $30,000 in renovations to make her safe to climb, the climb is 382 stairs on the newly comfortable and far less steep stairs. Wheel chairs are accessible to the observation deck.The inscription on the statue is a sonnet by Emma Lazarus and it says: Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. From the topmost access of the statue you’ll see the NY sound, New Jersey, Manhattan and other borough sand the beauty is so majestic it will stay with you and your child for life.
5. Times Square
First thing for little ones would be a visit to the biggest Toys "R" Us. It’s not only the biggest accumulation of toys but has rides, a choice of carousel cars with different themes. Expect it to be a time for pleading to buy things they see and want but probably not use much again. But fun, it will surely be, if mainly for them. Afterwards you could visit the Madame Tousseau wax museum to stare at stunningly lifelike images of every famous person, and have pictures taken with them.
6. Central Park and its Zoo
When in NY a visit to Central park is a must. If you are with kids even more so because there are playgrounds galore, free spaces to run and climb rocks (Not scary or too tall) and finally visit the zoo inside the park, close to the entrance and a few hours spent there may save you have to go to the real big and serious zoo, The BRONX ZOO. Little and big kids alike might find it fun to explore the zoo inside the park and see the large number of species in there. By the time you’re done with the zoo you have two alternative, depending on your kids entirely:
Go to any one of the multitudes of the best Art Museum anywhere and sometime taking in famous paintings, beauty and culture.
Or you could head back to the hotel, rest a while and get ready for an evening at the ballet or a Broadway show, like Matilda or The Lion King. To save large amounts, buy tickets ahead to either and your kids will never forget the excitement and joy you gave them.