New York City

Packing up to take a bite out of the Big Apple.

Packing up to take a bite out of the Big Apple.



New York’s cosmopolitan and chic reputation make it an attractive destination for martini clinking businesspeople, but the Big Apple can be equally enticing for a family vacation. By laying a pre-trip groundwork with my daughters, I was able to kindle their enthusiasm for exploring Manhattan.

In “Journey Around New York From A to Z” by Martha and Heather Zschock, a cartoon pigeon alphabetically introduces Radio City Music Hall’s Rocketts and the Zodiac above Grand Central Station among other famous sights. “Miffy Loves New York,” “Action Jackson” and “Eloise” are also exciting to read and helpful in deciding what to see and do in the city. Art Memo, a matching game of famous paintings inspired my family to put the Met and MoMA on our list, and a few tunes by John Lennon got us in the mood to “Imagine” “Strawberry Fields” in Central Park.

Upon arrival at John F. Kennedy airport, my daughters were thrilled to hail a taxi like those about which they had read. As we motored to our hotel in Times Square, the city’s neon lights reflected in their bedazzled eyes.

“It didn’t look this huge in the book!” my older daughter exclaimed.

A view of Manhattan from the Top of the Rock was a good way to start our visit. We were able to get a feeling for the vastness of the city and a mental image of how it is situated. From the top of Rockefeller Center, we found the neighborhood of a new friend from our flight. His apartment life with public transportation to neighborhood parks was an exciting antithesis to my daughters’ rambling Midwestern neighborhood where quick hops in the family car lead to miles of wilderness hiking trails.


Central Park stretches out below Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center in New York City.










Across from Radio City Music Hall, we bought lunch from affable vendors whose carts were snuggled up against busy street curbs. Mustard dribbled from my daughter’s steamy hot dog onto the toe of my shoe – much to her delight. We finished off our lunch at one of many coffee shops where child-sized cocoa and hand-made cannoli lured us in from an icy winter wind.

Our books had lauded the cultural significance of Broadway shows but did not prepare us for the Lion King’s awe-inspiring sunset over Africa. From handy booster cushions, my daughters were captivated by elaborate animal costumes, flying silk birds, ethnic music and a particularly funny and flatulence-filled warthog.

The magic continued through that night, and in the morning, the cold city had been blanketed with snow. We walked through the winter wonderland to Battery Park where a ferry embarked to Liberty Island. The snow had turned to fog, and it was easy imagine being one of millions of immigrants who had approached Ellis Island after watching the Stature of Liberty emerge from the mist.

Children delight in poking their heads into the nostrils of a lif-sized Lady Liberty.










The sun came out while we explored Lady Liberty’s museum and poked our heads in the giant nostrils of her replicated face. We scaled the 354 steps to her crown for a memory we will not soon forget; in addition to the beautiful view of Manhattan and the harbor, my younger daughter lost a front tooth there.

The rest of that day we spent touring Ellis Island with an audio program geared for children. The voices, easy descriptions and background sounds made the visit more interesting for me, too. It was sobering to stand where so many immigrants had entered America. Fortunately, my children were able to grasp the gravity of the place more completely after having read “The Orphan of Ellis Island,” in which Dominic Cantori travels through time to experience the island first-hand.

A volunteer guide took us through the infrequently visited Ferry Building Exhibit. Chilly, dark passageways led us toward the hospitals where sick immigrants had been treated before being allowed to enter their new country. In the original ferry building, photos of happy-looking children playing with kind-hearted nursing staff were not among the images we had expected to see at this “Island of Tears.”

Other historically noteworthy areas of the Big Apple are intriguing for kids. George Washington took his oath of office at Federal Hall across the street from what is now the New York Stock Exchange. A giant statue of the first president marks the spot of his inaugural address. It’s only a few blocks from there to the site of the World Trade Center where reconstruction is underway.

For more creatively significant activities, we walked through Central Park, past John Lennon’s “Imagine” memorial in Strawberry Fields, and into the Metropolitan Museum of Art where we found familiar pieces on every floor. We quietly honored Egyptian mummies, wondered at the colorful modern paintings and sought out the Druer drawings that my daughter had read about in “Masterpiece” by Elise Broach. I explained the beauty of the human form in the sculpture room, and we envisioned ourselves hosting guests in the carefully replicated period rooms.


Children explore more than just paintings at the Metropolitain Museum of Art in New York City.











New York City's art collections intrigue all ages.

My daughters scampered around the Museum of Modern Art with an activity sheet that guided them through rooms of recognizable paintings by Van Gough, Matisse and Picasso. They excitedly pulled me past friendly docents to point out works of art from our books and games. A trip to the Plaza Hotel, too, was an opportunity to find familiar points of interest from “Eloise” books. The hotel’s concierge kindly guided us to their pastry shop where we delighted in cocoa piled high with real whipped cream and pastries smothered in chocolate, fruit and powdered sugar.

Throughout our visit, dining remained a family adventure. In SoHo, we wandered aimlessly until we found Il Corallo Trattoria, a tiny Italian restaurant with the warm welcome of a private villa. The owner introduced me to Cannonau wine, and the staff taught my daughters to twirl pasta efficiently. What a surprise to emerge on a cold, dark New York street after dinner instead of onto a golden Sardinian countryside.

During rush hour in Grand Central Station, a businessman and his partner offered us their table overlooking the main terminal so that we could enjoy our Shirley Temples and appetizers with a Grand view. In this metropolis reputed for being impersonal and brusque, we learned that the people are what make the city – and we found both to be welcoming, exciting and easy for a visiting family to enjoy.


NYC BOOKS TO PREREAD-   “Miffy Loves New York City” by Dick Bruna, “Journey Around New York from A to Z” by Martha and Heather Zschock, “Eloise” by  Kay Thompson, “Action Jackson” by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan, “Masterpiece” by Elise Broach, “The Orphan of Ellis Island” by Elvira Woodruff

ART BOOKS/GAMES –  “Can You Find It? and Can You Find It, Too?” By Judith Cressy, Art Memo Game by Piatnik

YOU TUBE VISITS – Schoolhouse Rock’s “Great American Melting Pot” and “Walking on Wall St.”

WHERE TO STAY –  Times Square is centrally located and has several hotels, but to stay in the financial district of Manhattan, Andaz on Wall St. is the only option.  Its sleek appearance belies its capability to comfortably host children.

WHERE TO EAT-  Il Corallo Trattoria at  172-176 Prince Street offers cozy Italian. Try their Cannonau wine and ask about its history.  The lounge in The View at the top of the Marriott hotel in Times Square rotates once per hour and has an appetizer buffet that makes a nice après-theater meal.

WHERE TO SKATE-   Rockafeller center is the stuff of movies, but locals suggest skating at Wollman Rink where skates rent for $8-11 and lockers cost about $4. Battery Park has a new rink that costs $10 admission and rents skates for $3.

WHERE TO WARM-  In close proximity to everything in the Big Apple, you’ll find a Starbucks – where a familiar-tasting kid-sized cocoa can be counted on for a smile.

ART HUBS-  Adult admission is $20 at the Museum of Modern art ( and at the Metropolitan Museum of art (  Children are free.

VISIT THE CROWN-  Security is tight at the Statue of Liberty, and crowds are carefully regulated.  Make advance reservations at

GRAB A VIEW-  The unimpeded view from the top of Rockefeller Center, includes Central Park, the Empire State Building and all of the boroughs of New York City. Advance tickets and information about Top of The Rock can be found at


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