We visited New York in July and it was very hot. Nonetheless, everywhere is air-conditioned; the buildings are so unfeasibly tall that there is always somewhere shady to walk and there are plenty of squares where you can sit down under a tree to cool off. There are also some great walks through little parks along the banks of the Hudson river which provide great views and a welcome breeze.
New York has a number of attractions that are "must sees" for adults and children alike - the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. These are well worth doing once but be prepared to queue!
The obvious starting place for a family in New York is Central Park. First stop off at the cavernous Whole Foods store at Columbus Circle (to the south west of Central Park); pick up a picnic and then head in to the park. Nothing prepares you for the reality of its size. Central Park has a swimming pool; a zoo (with a charming musical clock alongside) and a boating lake which will be popular with younger children, in particular. We stopped off at the boating lake café for a glass of lemonade – the proper stuff – which was the best we’ve ever tasted. You can also take a ride in a horse drawn carriage or hire out bikes, if you are feeling more energetic. As well as the iconic Strawberry Fields, there is an enchanting statue of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland to find and, if your children are fans of the film Enchanted, they will love to see where parts of the film were shot. In summer there always seems to be an impromptu baseball game going on, so you have free live entertainment whilst you enjoy your picnic!
It is well worth purchasing a New York Pass if you are planning on doing the museums and main tourist attractions. You can buy these for a period of one, three or seven days and I ordered ours on the internet before leaving the UK and got a substantial discount. Once activated you get “free” entry to many of New York’s best museums, galleries and attractions with either no need to queue, or (in the case of the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty) a reduced queuing time.
The Guggenheim Museum is worth visiting for the building, even if you don’t look at the art! There is a lovely roof garden on the Metropolitan Museum with stunning views over Central Park and the Manhattan skyline, whilst MoMA has a tranquil courtyard with great sculptures which is perfect for resting weary feet and enjoying an iced drink after a trip round the galleries.
Another benefit of the New York Pass is that there is no limit on the number of times you can visit a single attraction, so you can dip into museums for a short period of time over a number of days to prevent boredom from setting in amongst fractious tots or moody teens who don’t want to spend half a day at a museum! In addition, you can use your New York Pass to obtain discounts at many of the city’s iconic stores and restaurants. We saved a fortune!
New York is a shoppers’ paradise. Children will love F A O Schwartz (NYC’s answer to Hamleys) and the M&M Store on Times Square – a whole store devoted to M&Ms of every conceivable colour! The huge Build-a-Bear-Workshop on 5th Avenue is well worth a visit too. Fortunately, we took an empty suitcase with us, which was bursting at the seams on the return journey!
If you have a child-free evening, or have older children, then I really recommend a trip to the Delacorte Theatre – a free (you have to queue to get tickets on the day, and they always “sell out” by lunchtime) open air theatre in the heart of Central Park. You get to see a quality production with the most amazing backdrop of Belvedere castle and the skyline beyond the treetops. It beats Broadway any day!