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Advice Needed! Planning NYC trip with my 2 kids this summer

Advice Needed! Planning NYC trip with my 2 kids this summer

May 1st, 2012, 07:13 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 4
Advice Needed! Planning NYC trip with my 2 kids this summer

I will be taking my kids (girl 11 and boy 9) for a quick trip to New York City in July. We will be flying in from Europe and will spend 3 nights there before going on to my hometown for our summer vacation (we live in Europe). I'll be a single parent for this trip so won't be able to split up and do 'girl things' and 'boy things'.

They have never been and I haven't been in years. Since we really only have 2 full days and then a few hours the day we get there and the day we leave, I feel like I need to have a good plan to fit as much in as we can. But at the same time, I know we definitely can't 'do it all'. One thing I am waffling about is going to a play. My 9 year old son doesn't have a great attention span and isn't even a fan of going to the movies. So I feel like the time and money for a play may be better 'spent' elsewhere.

We arrive on a Friday and should be at our hotel near Times Square by 6:00 pm or so. We will need to try and stay up that first night to start getting over the jet lag (hopefully we'll sleep some on the plane!). My kids are pretty good dealing with jet lag and staying up, so I'm hoping it will be OK. We then fly out of LGA on Monday at 4pm.

Here is what I was thinking but welcome any comments/suggestions:

Friday night: We'll need to stay up to get over our jet lag, so hopefully we can have enough energy for Top of the Rock this night in addition to seeing a little of Times Square.

Saturday: Start the morning (we'll be up EARLY) at Empire State Building and maybe also do the 'New York Skyride' beforehand. Spend the rest of the day doing the 9/11 memorial, Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island/Immigration Museum, and go to the South Street Seaport

Sunday: Start the morning at the American Girl Store to get my daughter's long awaited doll (the one 'must' for this trip), may also have an early lunch at the store. DON'T KNOW WHAT IS BEST FOR THIS AFTERNOON. Possible things to do: A Broadway Play, Museums, Bronx Zoo, etc.

Monday: Spend the morning in Central Park, go to toy stores, etc. Leave for airport by 1pm.

Now a couple of questions:
Is my Saturday too much in one day (we could skip the Empire State Building and just focus the whole day on the other places)?
What would be best for Sunday afternoon?
Are there things we should do instead of what I've written above?
Would the Circle Line Tour or just taking the Statue Cruise be the best way to see the Statue of LIberty/Immigration Museum?

I'd really appreciate any advice you all have! I hate that we can't stay longer as I know we could have easily filled a week and more with stuff to do. But want to hit the highlights this trip.

Thanks in advance!
ktsamaha is offline  
May 1st, 2012, 09:40 AM
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Skip the ESB if you are doing the Top of the Rock.... Also for a first visit with so little time, know that you will need passes for the 911 memorial and you should get them soon. You could visit the Tribute Visitor's Center. Statue Ellis boat will kill all of your morning. Staten Island Ferry or those hour cruises would be simpler and they will just see the Statue...

If son must be dragged to American Girl Place, I think it only fair that daughter should be dragged to the Intrepid or Natural History in the afternoon.

SueNYC is offline  
May 1st, 2012, 09:42 AM
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How about the Terra Cotta Warriors?

Fidel is offline  
May 1st, 2012, 10:06 AM
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Sorry Statue of Liberty is closed until the end of the year. You can get a reasonable view from the free Staten Island ferry or a better view from the 2 hour Circle Line harbor tour - but ony the Natnal park service ferry goes to Liberty Island, then onto Ellis Island. that museum is brilliant - but the RT visit will take about 5 hours.

If you are doing Top of the Rock skip the ESB which often haas huge lines.

Do not the the Bronx zoo - it takes almost the whole day. See the smaller zoo in Central Park. You are missing a couple of key things:

Definitely do the Natural History Museum - every kid loves this
Take a boat trip - pick whichever one best fits your schedule
Intrepid should be interesting to both kids

Must admit I dont get the whole American Girl thing - but then I was never interested in dolls and by the time I got involved with my stepdaughters they were too old (11 and 14) for them.
nytraveler is offline  
May 1st, 2012, 01:19 PM
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American Girl is horrible..I have been four times with granddaughters and friends' daughters, but it is a must. The lunch is really bad but girls like it. The bookstore there is surprisingly good and usually empty. Your son will not be happy in American Girl. Do bribe him with FAO Schwartz which is not far away or the Apple Store. The Met museum is great for kids if you go to the Egyptian collection with the real full-size temple, the armor collection with full size horses and riders, a Japanese house and garden, etc. The cafeteria is good and great variety of food. Plus Central Park is right there and great for a fresh air experience. It will be hot so you might not have the energy to do everything on your list. NYC has excellent ice cream available almost everywhere.
Elainee is offline  
May 1st, 2012, 04:30 PM
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Ellis Island Immigration Museum is brilliant - but it is a commitment of about 5 hours - and I don;t know if you want to do that with kids these ages in only 2 days. (The ferry, for which you have to get tickets far in advance, goes first to Liberty Island, picks up people, then goes to Ellis Island, then you have to tour the museum and head back to Manhattan on the ferry,.

Seeing the Immigration Museum from a distance is useless - it;s the detail of the numerous exhibits which is fascinating - and can be heart-wrenchiing.
nytraveler is offline  
May 2nd, 2012, 09:46 AM
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Your son (and daughter) might like Blue Man Group and/or Stomp. Baseball game? Google the Metropolitan Museum of Art. There might be appealing exhibits -- knights?? Central Park is behind the museum. Guided tour of the park.?
Cringo is offline  
May 2nd, 2012, 11:19 AM
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You say your hotel is near Times Square. Where exactly?

If you're staying west of Times Square, the stretch of 9th Avenue through Hell's Kitchen from 42nd Street to 57th Street has a number of good, not too expensive places to eat. A few that come to mind are:
- Vynl Diner with it's pan-asian influenced diner menu, yummy milkshakes, and a kitchy, dolls-meet-disco inspired decor, right down to the bathrooms(!)
- Island Burgers & Shakes (IBnS) has a mind-boggling list of burgers/grilled chicken, more yummy shakes, and a no-nonsense interior
- Pam's Real Thai or any of the multiple Yum-yum Bankok or Wondee Siam restaurants in the area for good, no-nonsense Thai food

The website menupages.com is a great resource for sample menus, restaurant details, and user reviews.

// For your first evening, spending some time in Times Square could definitely help with the jet lag: it is bright from all the neon signs and bustling with visitors at all times of day or night! In the Toys R Us on the east side of TS, you can ride a ferris wheel right inside the store. My nephew loves being able to pick out Legos by color in bins along one wall.

// My two nieces and nephew have always liked the Museum of Natural History, most of which is accessible from a pay-what-you-wish ticket (amnh.org) - start by taking the elevator to the top to see the dinosaurs and work your way down. Like the Met Museum, it's located right on Central Park and has a decent cafeteria with lots of options. (Let us know if you'd prefer sit-down restaurant suggestions in the area.)

The all also love the Met, especially the Egyptian rooms for the girls, and the Japanese garden for my nephew. Wandering or running around in Central Park after either museum is usually a must. One niece is from Colorado, and loves that there are so many huge rocks to climb on and trees in the park; they all like climbing on the Alice in Wonderland statue and watching toy sailboats on Conservatory Water.

Sometimes a stop at one of the Dylan's Candy Bars (www.dylanscandybar.com) is in order too.

// For your day downtown, I'm not sure there's too much to interest kids at South Street Seaport. Maybe you could walk over the Brooklyn Bridge instead? On the Brooklyn side, the newly renovated Brooklyn Bridge Park has what the city bills as a "destination playground" but it's a bit of a walk from the bridge. Closer are some good places for ice cream and nice views of Manhattan from Empire State/Fulton Ferry State Park.

There's also a new playground just south and west of "ground zero", so you could stop there if you walk over to the World Financial Center then walk south towards pretty Wagner Park with its great view of the Statue of Liberty. This small park is adjacent and just west of Battery Park on the southern tip of the island. In fact, starting at the southern tip, the entire west side of Manhattan is one long park with views of the Hudson and the boat traffic there...
ggreen is offline  
May 2nd, 2012, 11:34 AM
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My son also had a short attention span and wasn't thrilled with movies at that age. He did though, enjoy Lion King and Wicked. There were others that he liked as well but they are no longer on Broadway. He also enjoyed climbing around the rocks in Central Park, as did my daughter who is 2 years older. They both also enjoyed the American Museum of Natural History and the mummies at the Met.
MFNYC is offline  
May 3rd, 2012, 01:13 AM
Original Poster
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Original poster here, thank you all SO MUCH for all the ideas and advice!

I am really torn about the Immigration Museum. It is a really big time committment and we only have 2 full days. My kids are very 'into' other cultures/nationalities. So I thought they may enjoy seeing the history of America's 'melting pot'. But they are still pretty young and it may be something better saved for a future trip. Seeing the Statue of Liberty is a must, but can do that from ferry or boat tour.

I do hate to drag my son to the American Girl store and will definitely do something more geared towards him in return (thinking the Nintendo Store near Rockefeller Center). The AG store will 'waste' a whole morning but it's what I promised her for her birthday. May skip that lunch though!

Had not really thought about the Metropolitan Museum, but it may be nice to plan on that for Sunday afternoon and do Central Park then as well.

I'm sure they would love the Natural History Museum, but at the same time I want to focus on specific 'New York' places. They've been to Natural History Museums before, though I'm sure nothing compared to the one in NY! So that will be a tough decision to make. It may come down to Immigration Museum or Natural History Museum??

They play is a tough call as well. With the jet lag, we'd almost need to do a matinee which would have to be Saturday or Sunday afternoon. I'll look into the Blue Man Group as well.

Thanks for the food recommendations as well! My kids are not picky eaters and love all kinds of ethnic food, so it's nice to know of good Asian/Thai places as well.
ktsamaha is offline  
May 3rd, 2012, 04:40 AM
Join Date: Mar 2003
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If your children are interested in cultures/nationalities, then perhaps you might find a tour at the Tenement Museum geared toward their ages. The tours last just an hour. You might take a stroll through Chinatown and Little Italy before or after the museum visit.

ellenem is offline  
May 3rd, 2012, 02:12 PM
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FYI, American Girl Place is basically right across the street from "Little Brazil" on 46th Street from 5th Avenue stretching west, so you might find a more palatable lunch there.

Also, just a few blocks north of AGP is the Sony Wonder Lab in the Sony building (Madison at 55th Street). From there, it's a very short walk to FAO Schwartz and the Apple cube, which are across from the Ritz (of Eloise fame) on the corner of Central Park not far from the Central Park Zoo...

Since you have only 2 days, my vote would be to save the Immigration Museum for a future trip!

The AMNH (natural history museum) is the grandaddy of them all, founded by Teddy Roosevelt, whose involvement is illustrated in the lobby of the museum. The Rose Center (planetarium) looks like none that I've ever seen elsewhere, a towering glass cube attached to the north side of the museum, with the sphere of the planetarium "floating" off the ground inside. And a little bonus, when you get off the subway at the museum's stop (B/C to 81st Street), the walls of both uptown and downtown platforms and the stairwells are covered in mosaics depicting elements related to natural history, and the floors include bronze recreations of skeletons and other stuff.
ggreen is offline  
May 4th, 2012, 03:53 AM
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I agree with much of what's been said and wrote this without reading any of the other responses (so I apologize for redundancy) but here it is.

If you do Top of the Rock, the ESB is really redundant, very time consuming and not as nice. IF you still feel you have to go to ESB either because they want to or you do, I'd do that the first night; buy tickets in advance online so you at least avoid the ticket buyers line. You'll still wait in line for the elevators. ESB is nice at night while TOTR is better in daylight so you get to see Central Park. Btw, the skyride at ESB is AWFUL and a total waste of money. Skip it.

The Statue of Liberty is closed inside for renovation and going to the SOL/Ellis Island is another really time consuming endeavor. IF you go, definitely order tickets online in advance at statuecruises.com But I'd skip that altogether for this short trip unless you have a personal family reason for going and instead do a cruise of some sort that gets you close to the Statue but you will save you time in avoiding long security. If you're good sailors, shearwatersailing.com can be a lot of fun. Goldstar.com sometimes has discounts for it. If you'd rather a regular boat, they have a yacht or do nywaterway or the nywatertaxi.com

The South St. Seaport is not all that but it is near the Brooklyn Bridge. One thing I think you should do is either just visit the Brooklyn Promenade for great views and/or walk the bridge from Brooklyn to Manhattan.

If you think you want to eat at American Girl (don't know your son will be into this though) you MUST book in advance. It's incredibly popular and will be more so on a Sun. Here's a link to the hours of their meals. You can do brunch at 9:30 or lunch starting at 11 on a Sun. I think. http://www.americangirl.com/stores/location_ny.php

Bottom line, here's what I would do:

Fri night
Walk over to Fifth ave. from your hotel. If you want to do TOTR first thing and it's still light, go there. Have a walk along Fifth ave heading north (so the street numbers get bigger) and see Rockefeller Center, St. Patrick's Cathedral, pass Saks Fifth ave., Tiffany's, Trump Tower and the Plaza Hotel. Go into the Plaza, have a walk around inside and go down to the Food Hall in the basement and get something to eat or some dessert. Walk back to your hotel down Broadway through Times Square so they get a taste of that. There's a Toys R' Us store in Times Square. Not sure how late it's open.

Go to Top of the Rock first thing if you don't go there on Fri. night. I think it opens at 8 am. Then go to American Girl which is across the street. Eat there or go elsewhere for lunch. Head to Central Park and spend some time in the park.

I think seeing some sort of live performance is a good idea when visiting NYC. Instead of a Broadway show, if you don't think your son would like it, what about one of the popular off Broadway shows like Blue Man Group or Stomp? They're less expensive and tend to be shorter. You can usually find discount tickets from the left column of broadwaybox.com If that doesn't appeal to you, maybe go to Cafewha.com or http://www.manhattancomedy.com/whatisnct.html, both family friendly on Sat. night.


Do a cruise of some sort today. When and where depends on which one you pick. Nywatertaxi.com does a twilight cruise as does nywaterway.com I think if you don't want to do Shearwater. Nywatertaxi.com has a hop on/off tour that can also be fun and a way to get over to Brooklyn. However you do it (by subway or watertaxi) go over to Brooklyn for the view of the skyline from the Brooklyn Promenade. Walk back to Manhattan over the Brooklyn bridge if you've got the energy (or take the watertaxi but be careful of their time schedule). The South St. Seaport is near the Brooklyn Bridge on the Manhattan side. There are some tall ships docked there and as long as you're in the area, fine to stop but otherwise not worth going out of your way.

The Tenement Museum is very popular and while not nearly as dramatic as visiting Ellis Island, a lot more accessible but must be booked in advance. http://www.tenement.org/ In fact, one idea for Sun. if you do an evening cruise is to do a walking tour of the lower east side on Sun. morning. There's a free one that leaves from Katz's deli at 11 am. Economy Candy on the lower east side might be fun for the kids.

Maybe head to Greenwich Village for a walk around and dinner.

Head to the High Line, a new park. Visit Chelsea Market and have some lunch.

I also agree if you're going to American Girl for your daughter, your son should get his choice of a place he'd like to visit which could change this plan.
mclaurie is offline  
May 4th, 2012, 06:22 AM
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Minor correction to ggreen's valuable post: Apple and FAO Schwartz are near The Plaza (across Central Park South from the SE corner of Central Park), not the Ritz (a bit further west on CPS).
bspielman is offline  
May 4th, 2012, 08:54 AM
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Thanks bspielman - a little hotel-dyslexia on my part! I meant to write Plaza... Eloise would be horrified!!

To add to mclaurie's very valuable post:

- For her Friday night itinerary, a more detailed view of the walk up Fifth Avenue: takes you past Rockefeller Center, American Girl Place, Saks Fifth Avenue, St. Patrick's Cathedral, Henri Bendels (gorgeous glass windows), Trump Tower, Tiffany's, fabulous window treatments at Bergdorf Goodman, FAO Schwartz, the Apple Store and the Plaza Hotel. Note that these aren't all on the same side of the street, so some zig-zagging might be necessary! From Rock Center to the corner of Central Park at the Plaza is about 1/2 mile.

- The Toys R Us in Times Square is open until 10pm every night and until 11pm on Fridays and Saturdays. (Opens at 10am every day.) From what I recall, the ferris wheel inside operates until close to closing time; unfortunately the website doesn't give those details. There's usually a bit of a wait to go on it, but the ride itself isn't too long so the whole thing doesn't take much time.

- On Saturday, from AGP you could: walk east 3 blocks to take the uptown 6 train from Lexington/51st Street (at the iconic Citicorp Center) three stops to 77th Street then walk west 3 blocks to the Met; or walk west back through Rock Center to the subway on 6th Avenue and take the uptown B four stops to 81st Street-Museum of Natural History. Time in the park could be either before or after the museum - or both! (And in fact, you could always plan for your lunch to be in the museum cafeteria at either location instead of at AGP. Maybe as consolation for not eating at AGP, your daughter could get one of the fun sweets they have.)

- On Sunday, the water taxi can be a fun way to get across the East River to Brooklyn.

- The Brooklyn Promenade runs between the Brooklyn Bridge and the "destination" playground I mentioned earlier (at the end of Atlantic Avenue on the river), though it doesn't actually connect the two. However IMO, the views of the Manhattan skyline are great from Empire State/Fulton Ferry State Park and from the beautiful brand-new Brooklyn Bridge Park, without having to schlepp over to Brooklyn Heights for the Promenade. (However, it's more worthwhile to walk the extra distance if you're interested in wandering that neighborhood a bit to see the historic Brooklyn brownstones and maybe a celebrity sighting or two.)

- If instead of Brooklyn you decide to go to the LES (Lower East Side) as mclaurie suggests, you could go to the Doughnut Plant beforehand (doughnutplant.com). For lunch, you could get pizza in Little Italy (e.g., Lombardi's) or dine at Katz's Deli. You could also get dim sum in Chinatown...

- The High Line is fun, but be aware that it's not a park in the running-around-doing-cartwheels sense! It's a repurposed elevated railway line, so by its nature quite narrow. However, from there it's only 1 block west to the Hudson River, to the parkway I mentioned in an earlier post.
ggreen is offline  
May 4th, 2012, 04:05 PM
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I am also taking kids to NYC this summer--they are a little older--16, 14 & 11. I have already been researching but when I read a thread like this I realize how much I still don't know.

Wondering about the ESB tickets mentioned--the 88th floor versus the 101st floor. Shouldn't we go all the way to the top? It also sounds from these posts like they are timed tickets. I had thought the ESB wasn't timed and that was the advantage of TOTR.

Finally, do you need reservations for the Sony Wonderlab and what do they do while there? Is it more just playing with the Sony products or do they create or program a game or other device?
5alive is offline  
May 4th, 2012, 04:12 PM
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ToTR has advance timed tickets without waiting. You buy the ticket and then a few minutes (if that) for the elevator. The ESB has 3 lines (ticket buying - yes, you can do this in advance), the ffirst elevator (can be more than and hour), then the second elevator (can also be lengthy). There is no point in going only part way up views are limited. ToTR is a much better choice - and will take about 13 the time.

Know nothing about SONY - except some people seem disappointed.
nytraveler is offline  
May 4th, 2012, 04:18 PM
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Sorry - with kids the age of yours I would ask them to do some research and decide what they want to see and do. Likely to be more interested all around if they have participated - and who knows what will pique their interest.

And definitely you should hve a couple of shows on your agenda. go to broadwaybox.com tp identify shows that are discounting and buy tickets in advance to get better choice of seats - all together (often difficult at TKTS booth) and avoid wasting time standing on line,
nytraveler is offline  
May 4th, 2012, 04:35 PM
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I've had good experiences at the American Girl stores as far as meals in both NY and Chicago. Your daughter will love it. Her doll will be given a seat too.
As far as the Tenement Museum, my young teen grandson was bored and he had loved Ellis Island with it's immigrant stories. It was the only thing he didn't like in a week long visit, and he is very interested in other cultures, so make sure you choose one that is age appropriate.
You can find a carousel in Central Park and another one near The Highline, on the river park around 22-23rd St. The second one is comprised of North American animals, fish and sea creatures.
All my grandkids love going to Chinatown and ordering soup dumplings.
HappyTrvlr is online now  
May 4th, 2012, 05:31 PM
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A cousin who was thrilled by the Sony Wonder Lab as a young teen went back recently and couldn't belive that the place was almost exactly the same 10 years later--and not in a good way. I think it would be a huge disappointment to any kid these days.
nyer is offline  

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