Visiting New York City with Kids

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Visiting New York City with kids is easier than ever due to some exceptionally handy Apps that help you navigate the city and find age appropriate food and activities. But on a recent trip during February break, I learned two important lessons:

  1. The world is not G-rated. It’s R.

  1. Kid-oriented tourist attractions don’t necessary let your kid be…a kid.

More on this in a bit.

But first, the sites and Apps…


Before you visit NYC, download and check out the following resources:

MommyPoppins

What? A web site dedicated to getting more out of NYC with kids? I love all the helpful advice and reviews by neighborhood, time of year, age range, and type of activity. Visit this site for ideas before you go or if weather or plans change while you’re there.

NYC Playgrounds

This web site details all playgrounds in the city by region. It’s a pain to navigate the long list but detailed descriptions and reviews make it a handy resource for finding a playground near where you plan to visit.

nyc-subway-app1

Download this one!

New York Subway App

Many subway apps are available. This free app lets you enter an address and route the subway to get there. The scrollable subway map is essential and usually all I ever needed to determine the best way to get to our destination.

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Urban Spoon

Need a kid friendly restaurant in a certain neighborhood? This app is essential for finding a family friendly restaurant by cuisine and neighborhood. The links to reviews and blogs provide helpful reading to make your decision.

explorer-app

Explorer: Museum of Natural History App

What’s a visit to NYC without checking out the dinosaurs, Dum-Dum, and the planetarium at the Museum of Natural History? This GPS app features several tours of the museum and walks you through the halls to find specific exhibits and items. What kids love most is the Night of the Museum tour that takes you to Dum-Dum, the monkey and all the fun characters who came alive in the movie. The GPS feature tracks where you are and provides visual directions (use the 3D map) to get there.

(One other piece of advice on visiting the Museum of Natural History is to purchase your tickets and show times online a day or two in advance. It is absolutely worth it to see the Planetarium show, the iMax, and the Butterfly exhibit (or other) but you must choose times in advance. The choices are limited on the day of and especially if you’ve waited in line to get to the museum. Young kids may not last until a show late in the day. See my earlier post on Field Trip Gone Awry.)

Lessons Learned

Now on to the painful moments of our fun family trip.

It’s an R-Rated World

With the proliferation of media everywhere (think TV in the back of a taxicab), young kids are exposed to material that’s not always appropriate. Keep your eyes out and be prepared to do some explaining. Hopefully, you won’t be crammed into a table at the museum café next to a woman making obscene mouth and hand gestures for her companion.

Touring Ain’t No Playground

My kids are eight and nearly six years old and neither remembers earlier trips to the city when they were younger. So, I thought this was a great time to seize the tourist moment and make the most out of our trip. Wrong! Cramming a museum a day and the traveling it takes to get to each one into a three day trip tried all of our patience and nerves.

Day One: USS Intrepid

Kids’ Take

Great Star Wars characters, cool submarine, we really just want to run around on the sidewalk.

Mom’s Take

Stop running!

Don’t go near the curb!

Shhhh! Stop roughhousing in the submarine!

Day Two: Museum of Natural History

Kids’ Take

It’s hot and stuffy with all these butterflies!

When is the show going to start?

We’ll never find a seat in this madhouse café.

…What is that lady doing?

I’m tired.

I don’t want to walk anymore.

Mom’s Take

All of the above.

Day Three: Statue of Liberty

Kids’ Take

When is the ferry going to get there?

What, we can’t go up to the torch?

What are we going to do here?

I want the Statue of Liberty Gund teddy bear for $20!

Mom’s Take

Gee, the government site didn’t mention that nothing is open inside the statue. Until October!

Want to study all the signs, complete this booklet and become a Jr. Park Ranger? You get a pin….

We are NOT paying $20 for a Gund bear dressed up like the Statue of Liberty!

Remember, we agreed that we would buy something in the store for under $5.

(Did I mention that I dragged them to Trinity Episcopal Church on Wall Street for Ash Wednesday ashes on the way to the ferry that morning?)

The Statue of Liberty trip kind of broke us then bonded us back together as tourist survivors. Daughter threw a tantrum over the $20 Gund bear wearing a satiny felt green crown and toga. I held my ground and used my last ounce of teeth gritting only to lose it in the line for chicken tenders.

Why are you crying, Mommy?

Because Mommies get frustrated, too.

The truth is, I was frustrated with myself for dragging them all over the city and expecting them to handle lines, lots of walking, waiting, and disappointments like adults. Checking out museums and national monuments is not playing. It’s visiting. It’s learning. And there’s only so much young kids can handle.

On the way home, we stopped by Pier 25, which I’d read had a great playground. It did. They ran, chased, climbed, played hide & seek, and didn’t want to leave.

I sat on a bench and took  long deep breaths of satisfaction that my children were joyfully satisfied to just be kids. We were no worse the wear from our little tourism trauma. And lesson learned, we skipped the subway and took a cab straight to dinner.

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