New York is one of the top travel locations for tourists worldwide, and with good reason. With hundreds of museums, miles of parks, world class theater, concerts, farmers markets and more there is always something to do no matter how long the visit. While some of the entertainment is adults only, the majority of New York’s ever changing events are family friendly and fun for all.
A perfect New York day could easily start by wandering down to the Union Square area and finding a cafe in which to have breakfast. Le Pain Quotidian on 7th Avenue between 17th and 18th Street is a great option, with straight from the oven tarts, croissants and quiches as well as salads and egg dishes. The adults can share a pot of coffee while the teens in the group can choose from fresh squeezed lemonade or other healthy drink options – no soda here.
Once breakfast is done the farmer’s market at Union Square is only a short walk away. With local wine, cheese, baked goods and fresh flowers there is much to see and more to taste. Most stands offer free samples to lure buyers, so without spending a penny a family can wander through the market tasting authentic New York products. If there’s time to swing by the hotel to drop off purchases there are also artists selling paintings and sculptures of all kinds on the fringes of the market – and if you want a truly permanent souvenir there are even pets being adopted out from certain stands. The adults can take turns ducking over to the Heartland Brewery for a locally brewed beer while the teens explore the market and the park.
The well known Strand Bookstore, with 18 miles of used books for sale, is only a couple blocks south of the main square and with multiple floors of bargain basement priced books a family could easily spend hours finding books for the flight – or car ride – back home. Once Strand has been picked over, Takanawa Sushi one block down is the next stop. Then comes dessert at Chocolate by the Bald Man on the corner of Union Square. It takes a family to work their way through these desserts, most of them far too large and indulgent for any one person alone to finish. There are also chocolate drinks from all over the world offered, from thick Italian chocolate to a spicy Mexican option, and chocolate martinis for the adults will round out the meal perfectly.
To burn off some of the extra calories and fill up the shopping bags further, a stroll down Fifth Avenue will delight the fashion conscious in the group with the myriad clothing stores that are lined up there. Once shopped out a quick trip on the subway will bring the family to Central Park. With ponds, miniature waterfalls, wildlife and even a small castle, entering Central Park is like stepping into a different world than the rest of the city. Tons of kids and teens play there, bringing skateboards and stereos, so for the socially bold chances abound to make a new friend. New York teens are friendlier than rumor may suggest and many will happily show off new tips and tricks to visiting contemporaries. There are also bicycle trails and boats for rent, as well as vendors selling portraits and ice cream from portable carts. There are even horse and carriage rides a family can take together if they get tired of walking and want a more scenic trip back towards the subway.
As soon as any excess energy has been run or jumped off Museum Mile is right on the eastern edge of the park and offers multiple world class museums, from the Jewish Museum on 92nd Street to the Metropolitan Museum of Art on 82nd Street. Many of these museums offer entry based on a donation so if the budget is tight a few dollars will get everyone in. If your family is of a more scientific bent, the American Museum of Natural History is directly on the other side of the park at the Central Park West and 81st Street subway stop. Whether your family is interested in gemstones and dinosaur bones or fascinated by medieval statues and modern art, an afternoon can easily be lost in the halls of one of New York’s many museums.
Once ushered from the art at closing time a quick stroll to Delacorte Theatre in Central Park is worth the ten minute detour. There, if the standby line isn’t too long, a wait of an hour will yield free free tickets to Shakespeare in the Park. There are ardent fans who line up starting early in the morning for these tickets however, so a careful evaluation of the line should be done before settling in for what could be a pointless wait.
If Shakespeare in the Park turns out not to be a viable option, there are plenty of Broadway shows where tickets can be bought in advance. Grab a slice of famous New York pizza on the way and then settle the chosen show. Aside from perhaps London there is no other city in the world with the wide selection and quality of shows that NYC offers any day of the year. From the kid friendly ‘The Lion King’ to the classic ‘Phantom of the Opera’ – not to mention smaller, independent shows – there are literally hundreds of choices.
After floating out of the theater, hands sore from clapping, there is nothing left to do but wave down a New York yellow cab and take a ride back to the hotel. There, with bags full of the day’s acquisitions and memory cards full of pictures, everyone’s batteries can be recharged for another day exploring the food, history and events that New York City has to offer.