New York City is one of the few cities in the world that has reached truly iconic status and become part of world culture. Featuring in countless books, movies and television programmes, and most recently given a stylish image boost in Sex and the City, it is the ultimate in glitz, glamour and urban cool. Everyone think they know what New York looks like, from its yellow taxi cabs to the steam rising from its sidewalk vents and the hotdog stands on every street corner. New York is all that and then some: just what you expect and so much more. Visit it for the first time and you'll be thrilled. Return for a second bite of the Big Apple and you'll be surprised at how this city is constantly reinventing itself.
New York certainly features large in the popular imagination, but many families are often put off at the idea of visiting this huge metropolis. In fact, New York can be surprisingly family-friendly. For a start, most of its attractions are contained within a reasonably small geographic area known as Uptown in Manhattan, and an excellent public transport system makes it easy to get around. The city has also long ago left behind its crime-ridden past and has emerged in the last decade as one of America's safest places – in fact, it ranks 222nd on a list of the USA's most dangerous cities. As for New Yorkers, the stereotype that brands them as hard-boiled, cynical and brash just doesn't seem to be true. You'll find most New Yorkers friendly, humorous, and surprisingly sophisticated.
Your kids will love this place, and love you for taking them there: it's the ultimate cool destination, and will give kids enough bragging rights to last them into the next decade. Who wouldn't want to see all the sights that have been associated for so long with movies and television programmes? Who wouldn't want to finally see the Statue of Liberty and Empire State Building up close and personal? From Spiderman to King Kong, walking through New York is like walking through a giant movie set. Teenagers especially will also love the shopping, which is first-class and far surpasses anything on offer in Australia. The museums are superb and often have special programmes for kids; Central Park is an endless source of fun and relaxation; the hotdogs sizzle on every street corner; and there is enough entertainment, music, sporting activities, sights and sounds to keep any kid happy for weeks on end.
Where is it and how do I get there?
New York City is on the Atlantic Coast of New York State on the eastern seaboard of the USA.
By far the most delightful way for families to get to New York is on the excellent Air Tahiti Nui (www.airtahitinui.com.au), which offers five weekly flights from Sydney via Papeete in Tahiti, and another three via Auckland and Papeete. The stopover in Papeete is very brief (around one hour) and the tiny airport is ideally suited to managing a family. However you look at it, New York is a long way from Australia and flying via Tahiti avoids the worst of the hassles. Qantas (www.qantas.com.au) and Air New Zealand (www.airnewzealand.co.nz) also fly to New York, but you must connect through Los Angeles airport, which includes collecting your luggage, dragging it through customs and checking it in again; there are also very long walks through the terminal that aren't ideal with children in tow.
Sydney - 21 hours
Melbourne - 22 hours
Adelaide - 23 hours
Brisbane - 21 hours
Cairns - 20 hours
Perth - 25 hours
When to go/Weather
There really isn't any best time to be in New York, since the city that never sleeps just keeps on entertaining year-round. The best of the weather is in spring (May and June) and autumn (September and October) when the weather is mild and pleasant. In July and August many New Yorkers flee the city on weekends, making museums and restaurants a little less crowded, but the weather is hot and humid. January to April is when you are most likely to get discounts at hotels. In winter, be prepared for the weather and temperatures that often fall below zero, with a biting wind chill factor. Still, this is the best time to go for theatres and performing arts, and since the Broadway shows are generally slower, you have more chance of getting tickets. The Christmas period is magical, with terrific shopping and street lighting and all manner of Christmas events, but expect to pay top dollar for hotels.
Where to stay
New York City is undoubtedly the most expensive city for hotels in the USA, and you aren't likely to find a room under US$100 per night and probably not under US$150. The other problem for families is that standard rooms are very small, leaving little space for rollaway beds or family clutter. Always ask for special rates, and particularly whether kids stay free in the room, and also consider what time of year to visit (see When to Go). You'll find better value in residential districts such as Chelsea or Greenwich Village. Shopping online might also hook you a bargain, since there are innumerable US websites devoted to hotel packages. Make sure what you are quoted includes local service taxes and surcharges, which can add 15% to bills in New York.
Among budget options to consider are the chain hotels Best Western (www.bestwestern.com), Howard Johnson (www.hojo.com), and Comfort Inns, Quality Hotels, and Clarion Hotels (all at www.hotelchoice.com). You might also find renting an apartment is the way to go for longer stays. Look for them at Manhattan Getaways (www.manhattangetaways.com), Hospitality Company (www.hospitalityco.com), Abode Apartment Rentals (www.abodenyc.com) and Manhattan Lodgings (www.manhattanlodgings.com).
For more recommended options, click here.
Accommodation for Families on a Budget (under US$200):
Lowes New York (569 Lexington Avenue at 51st Street; tel +1 212 752 1000) is a very child-friendly option. You get high chairs, child-proofing kits, board games and Nintendo on request, as well as a kids' menu in the restaurant. The concierge is also knowledgeable about places to see and do for families.
Gershwin Hotel (7 E. 27th Street, Flatiron District; tel +1 212 545 8000; www.gershwinhotel.com) gets you more space for your money than usual in New York. The Family Rooms are in fact two-room suites. Kids will love the hotel's wild style and modern colours, although you may have to explain the nearby Sex Museum and S&M club! Babysitting is available.
Skyline Hotel and Travel Inn (725 Tenth Avenue, Midtown West; tel +1 212 586 3400; www.skylinehotelny.com) In a city where space is a premium, not many hotels come with swimming pools, but this one does. Children under 14 stay for free in parents' room, which comes with video games and DVDs. The large deluxe room, which has a king bed with sofa, is best for families. It's somewhat motel like, but pleasant, and excellent value for the Big Apple.
La Quinta Inn (17 West 32nd Street; tel +1 212 736 1600; www.applecorehotels.com) is a comfortable, boutique hotel with pleasant staff just a short walk from Times Square and very near a subway station. Rooms have wireless Internet, coffee makers, irons, cable TV and video games. Kids under 13yrs stay free in parents' rooms, which have two double beds. Several other Apple Core properties are just as pleasant, though not with the same central location.
Accommodation for families on a mid-range budget (US$200-400):
Belvedere Hotel (319 W. 48th Street; tel +1 212 245 7000; www.belvederehotelnyc.com). This freshly redecorated hotel is a pleasant choice in Midtown, with rooms large enough to squeeze in a couple of kids. The rooms here have a helpful fridge, microwave and kitchenette, though the bathroom is small. Children will be thrilled by the Nintendo and Internet access through the TV screen.
Doubletree Guest Suites (1568 Broadway at Times Square; tel +1 212 719 1600; www.doubletree.com) couldn't have a more central location and has an entire floor of two-room suites, specifically for families, that sleep up to six people. Fridge, microwave, iron, Internet access, two TVs with pay movies and Sony PlayStation, and even a children's menu on room service. The rooms are also child-proofed. Kids under 12yrs stay for free (they get chocolate chip cookies on arrival), and there is a Kids Club for those 3-12yrs, a playroom for toddlers, as well as babysitting.
Hotel Beacon (2130 Broadway, Upper West Side; tel +1 212 787 1100; www.beaconhotel.com) has spacious rooms in a residential neighbourhood near Central Park and surrounded by good value restaurants, many of which will deliver to the hotel. Children under 17yrs stay for free in parent's room, which features two double beds and has a kitchenette. There are also two-bedroom suites and a useful onsite Laundromat.
Accommodation for families looking to indulge (US$400+):
Peninsula New York Hotel (700 Fifth Ave., +1 212 247 2200, www.newyork.peninsula.com) is the most superlative hotel in a city of superlative hotels. If you want to remind yourself that life isn't just about being a parent, the Peninsula provides a delightful array of indulgences, from super-fine linens to a TV you can watch from your bubble bath. The lobby is marvellous, the service impeccable and the Pen Top Bar, perched dizzying at the top of the hotel with views clear down Fifth Avenue at night, is just the spot for a late-night drink. (Have no worries, the hotel will provide an in-room babysitter.) But children aren't overlooked either. Children under twelve stay free in parents' rooms. The Peninsula's Silver Spoon Service offers parents travelling with children of all ages a variety of in-room conveniences and amenities. It also organises a selection of iconic New York activities, either on a pre-arranged itinerary for various age groups, or an à la carte selection. For example, the Fifth Avenue Princess itinerary makes every little girl feel like a princess, with VIP treatment that includes a personal shopper at Bergdorf Goodman and backstage access of Beauty and the Beast on Broadway. Itineraries can be arranged prior to arriving through the concierge.
Trump International Hotel (1 Central Park West; +1 212 299 1000; www.trumpintl.com) In a city of standout accommodations it's hard to pick a winner, but nothing says New York quite like Donald Trump. Stay in the on Central Park West and you'll find the Trump name emblazoned on everything from bottles of water to leather writing pads. The apartment-style accommodation comes with black granite kitchenettes and marble bathrooms, but best of all are the dazzling views clear over Central Park. There is plenty of space for an entire family in both one- and two-bedroom suites. The hotel has special family packages, and will even supply a Baby Attaché to child-proof your room, supply nappies and infant formula and outfit the room with rocking chair, playpen crib, kids' books and a CD of lullabies.
Le Parker Meridien (118 W. 57th Street, Midtown West; tel +1 212 245 5000; www.parkermeridien.com) is a great location, within walking distance of many New York sights. Its amazing fitness centre has a gym, basketball courts, a rooftop pool and spa, and its Burger Joint serves what some say are the city's best hamburgers. The only minus might be that bathrooms come only with a shower, no bath. Kids will be amused by the TVs in the elevators, which show cartoons, and the fun packs that contain crayons and activities.
Food and Drink
The USA doesn't exactly have a reputation fine cuisine, but New York will surprise you: it has some of the world's best restaurants and specialties from all over the world, thanks to its huge immigrant population. Despite all the excellent ethnic variety, the old American staples and children's favourites – pizza, hotdogs and burgers – are to be found everywhere, and some of them very good. One thing is for sure: your family will never go hungry in New York.
Unfortunately, eating out isn't cheap, especially when your bill (or check as it's called here) arrives with a hefty additional state tax, on top of which you're expected to tip 20%. It's always best to reserve a table in advance if you want to go somewhere in particular, but the more popular restaurants won't even take reservations, and you might have to queue. Citysearch (www.citysearch.com) has a continually updated restaurant page, and you can read reviews at New York Today (www.nytoday.com), while for cheaper eats Village Voice (www.villagevoice.com) is a good place to browse.
On the Upper West Side, look no further than Big Nick's Burger and Pizza Joint (2175 Broadway; tel +1 212 362 9238; www.bignicksnyc.com). It has great value meals and a menu that runs to nearly thirty pages. Televisions around the place and photos of celebrities who have visited will also keep the kids occupied. Not too far away, Carmine's (2450 Broadway, Upper West Side; tel +1 212 362 2200; www.carminesnyc.com) is an Italian family restaurant with humungous portions and excellent pasta. Your kids can make as much noise as they like; in fact, they'll have quite some competition. Good Enough to Eat (483 Amsterdam Avenue, Upper West Side; tel +1 212 496 0163; www.goodenoughtoeat.com) has the kind of American home cooking that kids love, including macaroni cheese, turkey with mashed potato, pizza and yummy desserts. Incidentally, the place is well known for breakfast, when there will probably be queues down the street.
Dinosaur Bar-B-Que (646 W. 131st Street, Harlem; +1 212 694 1777; www.dinosaurbarbque.com/nyc/nyc.htm) is a casual Southern barbecue joint with great ribs and steak and live blues music. Kids can get (temporary) dinosaur tattoos. Virgil's Real BBQ (152 W. 44th Street; tel +1 212 921 9494; www.virgilsbbq.com) is on Times Square and is another barbecue joint. Spare ribs, brisket, nachos, and great desserts feature on the menu. Kids can eat with their hands – probably to the detriment of their shirts – and make as much noise as they like. Serendipity 3 (225 E. 60th Street; tel +1 212 838 3531; www.serendipity3.com) is a delightful restaurant (meat loaf, hotdogs the length of your arm, sandwiches) and ice cream parlour with truly gigantic ice cream desserts.
In Central Park, the famous Tavern on the Green (West 67th Street; tel +1 212 873 3200) is an upscale eatery with weekend brunches and quite a choice on the kids' menu.
There are plenty of themed restaurants in New York, including the Hard Rock Café (221 West 57th Street; tel +1 212 489 6565), the Harley-Davidson Café 1370 Sixth Avenue; tel +1 212 245 6000), which is full of autographed memorabilia, and Planet Hollywood (140 West 57th Street; tel +1 212 333 7827), which will suit movie buffs. Teenage girls might appreciate Fashion Cafe (51 Rockefeller Plaza; tel +1 212 765 3131), which is owned by some supermodels and is themed on the fashion industry, including runway clothes and video clips of model shoots. The menu includes steak and fish and chips. Jekyll & Hyde Club (1409 Sixth Avenue; tel +1 212 541 9505) has a Halloween theme every day of the year. The menu is standard American fare, but the waiter tell jokes, there's a ghoulish show, and enough surprises to have the kids leaping out of their seats.
MARS 2112 (1633 Broadway; tel +1 212 582 2112; www.Mars2112.com) must be one of the city's more unusual restaurants for kids. You are escorted inside in a flight simulator and Martians appear at regular intervals. The food is fairly standard, but there is a kids' menu (or rather, 'Food for Smaller Earthlings') and suitably green Martian drinks.
Shopping for families
Anyone who likes shopping has found paradise on earth in New York. Stores don't seem to have standard opening hours, but most come alive after 10 am and stay open until around 7 pm. They operate every day of the week, and generally Thursday is late night shopping. Sales tax adds 8.65% to your bill (it isn't included on the ticket price) but isn't applied to clothing or shoes values at under US$110. There are shopping listings online at www.newyork.citysearch.com and www.timeoutny.com, while www.nysale.com and www.dailycandy.com list spontaneous sales as they occur around the city.
In Lower Manhattan, Century 21 is a discount department store right opposite the World Trade Center site, while J & R sells electronics, software and cameras. Canal Street in Chinatown is the place to go for sunglasses, bags, watches, souvenirs and leather, but you should bargain hard and check for quality. Ting's Gift Shop on Doyer Street has good Chinese toys.
SoHo is a great shopping district that has become super trendy in recent years. Along Broadway you'll find the likes of Armani, Prada, Banana Republic, H&M (a European clothing store) and Pottery Barn. Pearl River is a great Chinese emporium with all manner of goods and clothing, games and hand puppets. NoLiTa is a similarly expensive and sophisticated neighbourhood, worth browsing if you have teenage kids interested in ethnic fashions by top designers from around the world.
Midtown is home to the Garment District, dominated by Macy's, which claims to be the world's largest department store, and Bloomingdale's, which amazingly enough is the third most popular destination for tourists in the city, beaten only by the Statue of Liberty and Empire State Building. At Times Square you'll find a Virgin Megastore and a truly amazing Toys R Us, which manages to squeeze in a full-size Ferris wheel. The area around here is full of electronics stores, but you need to know what you're looking for, and the price you're willing to pay, before negotiating with these 'discount' demons. Over on Fifth Avenue you'll find end-to-end luxury, from Tiffany's to Louis Vuitton and Elizabeth Arden. Bergdorf Goodman and Saks Fifth Avenue are famous department stores. Kids might appreciate Niketown, Warner Bros Store and the NBA Store and especially the incredible FAO Schwarz, a legendary toy store that takes up an entire city block.
Also on Fifth Avenue is Build-a-Bear (corner 46th Street) where kids can have their own custom-made teddy bear designed and created, and New York American Girl (corner 49th Street) which has more dolls than you ever thought existed and a café that even provides little seats for dolls.
In December shop windows are magical, with some extraordinary Christmas window dressings that include illuminations, mechanical puppets, and kids' landscapes. Shops particularly well know for their stunning displays are Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy's, Lord & Taylor, Bloomingdales, Barney's, Berdorf Goodman, Tiffany and FAO Schwarz, where assistants dress as elves and the Santaland isn't to be missed The windows sometimes have lines outside them; go after closing hours.
Flights from Australia arrive at John F. Kennedy International Airport (www.jfk-new-york.com), which has nine terminals and 30 million passengers a year. Qantas and United arrive at Terminal 7 while Air Tahiti Nui arrives at Terminal 4. Both terminals have a range of duty free and gifts shops, restaurants and fast food outlets and currency exchange facilities as well as ATMs. Medial assistance is available 24 hours and there is a pharmacy in Terminal 4, open from early morning to late evening. Information booths assist tourists.
Transfers from airport
Designated taxis are the easiest way to get from JFK into the city; you should on no account go along with the hustlers who hang outside the terminal. The flat fare to Manhattan is US$45 plus tolls and tips. There are also bus services from Super Shuttle (www.supershuttle.com) New York Airport Service (www.nyairportservice.com) and Olympia Airport Express (www.olympiabus.com) at very regular intervals, but with tickets running at around US$15 for adults it isn't really any cheaper than a taxi for families. The billion-dollar AirTrain (www.airtrainjfk.com) is a bit of a white elephant, with poor connections and a travel time to Manhattan of around ninety minutes; tickets are US$7 each. If you have lots of luggage and small kids, it isn't worth the hassle.
Getting around for families
The New York subway (www.nycsubway.org) is excellent and safe and a very quick and efficient way to get around the city for anyone with older kids, even if a little confusing initially. (Give your kids the challenge of working it out.) The fare is US$2 for everyone, except kids under 44 inches tall, who go for free. However, it's much easier with a stored value MetroCard, which provide a variety of options, including a seven-day pass. Unfortunately, the subway isn't really that great for those with toddlers or strollers, since there are long walks, steps and lots of crowds. It might be better getting a taxi for shorter distances.
What to wear
See our When to Go section for weather in New York. In summer, you can make do with little more than shorts and T-shirts, but in winter you'll need to bring a full range of winter paraphernalia, from good coats to scarfs, gloves and woollen hats. If you are going to the theatre or better restaurants, New Yorkers generally dress up much more than Australians, so bring some smart casual wear.
New York is the USA's most populous city and one of the largest in the world. The population (which includes boroughs such as Queens and Brooklyn) is over 8 million, while that of the metropolitan area is 22 million. Nearly a quarter of New Yorkers are African American, another quarter Hispanic, and a tenth Asian. Certain neighbourhoods of the city, such as Little Italy, Chinatown, Spanish Harlem, Koreatown and Little Manilla are defined by their immigrant communities. Irish immigrants have had a defining role in New York history but make up only about five percent of the population.
While the USA is a mainly Christian country, New York has the nation's largest community of Jews at around one million. Some 600,000 Muslims and 250,000 Hindus also live in the city.
A third of New Yorkers were born outside the USA, and the culture of the city therefore varies quite substantially between ethnic groups, social classes and neighbourhoods. Many people say that New York doesn't really have an American culture, but rather the culture of an international urban metropolis. If there is any shared culture, it is that of the immigrant experience that has defined life in New York since its founding. Others comment that, with most New Yorkers living in small apartments, using public transport rather than cars, and eating a vast range of ethnic cuisines, its culture is more European than American.
Most New Yorkers speak an English of sorts. The city authorities have translators on hand covering 180 languages for the rest.
New York is fourteen hours behind EST.
The United States dollar. For up-to-date currency conversions, click here.
You'll have no issues with money in New York. There are ATMs on just about every block, and you can withdraw money on your bankcard or visa card if it has the Cirrus or Plus logo. Just about everyone accepts credit cards.
Tipping in American is an Australian's nightmare; you'll be expected – in fact, obliged – to hand out tips to all and sundry. Bellhops get US$1-2 per bag, hotel maids $2 per day, doormen who get you a cab US$1-2. If your concierge helps you with any arrangements, a tip is also expected. Taxi drivers and waiters get 15-20% of the bill.
120 volts 60Hz. An adaptor is required to plug in Australian appliances in the US.
No vaccinations are required to enter the US.
Tap water is treated and safe to drink.
Passport and Visa Requirements
Australian’s don’t require a visa for stays of up to 90 days under the United States' Visa Waiver Program, but you must have a passport valid for at least six months from the date of arrival in the US. See visaguide.world/us-visa/how-to-apply-for-us-visa/australia for more details.
HWK Family Travel Tips
A Circle Line Harbor Cruise ( Pier 83, 42nd Street and 12th Avenue; www.circleline42.com) gives a nice perspective on the city, taking three hours to circumnavigate the entire island of Manhattan. If you're going to be doing all you can, consider investing in a New York CityPass, a coupon book that has entries to the American Museum of Natural History, Empire State Building, Intrepid Sea Air Space Museum, Guggenheim Museum, and Museum of Modern Art, and entitles you to a Circle Line Harbor Cruise and discounts in Bloomingdale’s department store. See www.citypass.com for more details and prices.
Things to See & Do in New York
The Statue of Liberty is New York's top tourist sight, and rightly so. Although the interior of the statue and ascent to the crown are now off limits, Liberty still deservedly pulls in the crowds. A new observation platform on the twelfth floor of the pedestal allows you a glimpse of the statue's interior through a glass ceiling; the framework has to withstand buffeting Atlantic winds and was designed by Gustave Eiffel, later famous for his Parisian tower. The free guided tours by rangers are very informative, as is the museum, which traces the history and symbolism of the statue, and has a full-size replica of Liberty's otherwise hard-to-see face. The kids will enjoy it, and there are plenty of toilet and places to eat on both islands. To get there, take a ferry from Battery Park at the tip of Manhattan Island.
The Empire State Building (350 Fifth Avenue at 34th Street; www.esbnyc.com) is second on the list of most-visited New York sights, made famous in countless movies. You can head up to the observation deck for brilliant open-air views of New York by day and night. There is also a SkyRide, a roller-coaster simulation that takes you rocketing around New York landmarks. Lines can sometimes be very long. The website www.esbnyc.com/kids/ has trivia questions, quizzes and colouring pages for the young.
The Rockefeller Center is actually a complex of buildings off Fifth and Sixth Avenues. The just-opened Top of the Rock observation platform (www.topoftherocknyc.com) is dazzling. The cutting edge architectural renovations are simply superb, the views even more so: Central Park, the Hudson River and downtown Manhattan sprawl around you, and in the distance the Statue of Liberty is tiny on the horizon. The Today Show is broadcast from the Rockefeller Center in the mornings (your kids can be among the people waving in the background) and you can visit NBC to see the Saturday Night Live studio, among others. Kids can take their turn at reading the weather in a mini-studio. Pick up Friends and The Apprentice memorabilia in the adjacent shop, which also has a vast amount of candy.
Other iconic New York buildings might have limited appeal to children, but include the recently revamped and quite monumental Grand Central Terminal, the Art Deco glory of the Chrysler Building just across the street, and New York Public Library not far away, which featured in the first Spiderman movie. The site of the World Trade Center now has little left and is mostly a construction zone, but information boards are quite moving.
Times Square, with its huge neon advertisements, horseback cops and yellow taxi cabs, is more classic New York. A huge Toys R Us, a candy store, a Hard Rock Café and plenty of fast food might keep your kids entertained. The theatre district is nearby, and if possible you should certainly try to catch a musical or other show, including such long-running classics such as The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast. Big hotels will book you tickets if you have plenty of money to spare, but otherwise you can queue at the TKTS booth in Times Square for same-day tickets (cash only).
Central Park is a vast green space in the middle of New York's bustle, and a great place for a picnic or stroll. You'll also find an ice rink in winter, great puppet shows at the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre, and the Wildlife Conservation Center, which is a small zoo with sea lions, penguins and monkeys, and fun at feeding time. There are also plenty of playgrounds scattered around the park, and lake with rowboats and a pond with remote-controlled boats for rent. Go to www.centralparknyc.org/kids for everything for children.
Bronx Zoo (Bronx River Parkway; www.bronxzoo.com) is a huge place (take to the tram, monorail or cable car if little feet get tired) and boasts everything from Siberian tigers and red pandas to giraffes. There is a nocturnal house and other state-of-the-art habitats such as an Asian rainforest and Congo Gorilla Forest, as well as a special Children's Zoo. Nearby, the New York Botanical Gardens (Bronx River Parkway; www.nybg.org) is quite magnificent and includes the Everett Children's Adventure Garden.
New York has some of the world's largest and best museums, and it would take a year to visit them all. The American Museum of Natural History (Central Park West at 79th Street; www.amnh.org) is brilliant. Kids will love with whale and dinosaur skeletons, the new spectacular planetarium, and the hands-on Discovery Room for kids aged 5-12yrs, where they can solve scientific challenges and do puzzles. There are story times and special kids programmes at regular intervals. Kids can prepare in advance by heading to www.ology.amnh.org, the museum website dedicated to children.
The Intrepid Museum (46th Street and 12th Avenue, www.intrepidmuseum.org) is a former WWII aircraft carrier anchored in the harbour. It focuses on naval air history and is a must for anyone interested in aircraft. Kids can test their coding skills, navigate New York harbour using a simulator and have an adventure on the flight deck. There are also regular interactive kids' programmes.
The vast Metropolitan Museum of Art (1000 5th Avenue at 82nd Street) is superlative. It isn’t really geared to younger kids, but they are bound to find something that takes their fancy, from medieval armour to a complete Egyptian temple.
The Brooklyn Children's Museum (145 Brooklyn Avenue, Brooklyn; www.bchildmus.org) has hands-on exhibits of a scientific and cultural nature and the Children's Museum of Manhattan (212 West 83rd Street; www.cmom.org) has educational and interactive programmes on art, the media, science and the environment. There is a playroom for kids under 4yrs and a puppet theatre.
TOP TEN things to do
1. Visit the Statue of Liberty in windswept New York harbour.
2. Take in splendid views of Manhattan from the top of the Rockefeller Center or Empire State Building.
3. Go for a walk and play in iconic Central Park.
4. Have a hotdog on a Fifth Avenue corner.
5. In winter, go for a spin on the ice rink at the Rockefeller Center under dazzling Christmas lights.
6. Shop: everyone else in New York does.
7. Visit the American Museum of Natural History, one of the world's best and with plenty of activities for kids.
8. Take a free ride on the Staten Island Ferry for a glimpse of New York and the Statue of Liberty from the harbour.
9. Visit FAO Schwarz on Fifth Avenue, one of the world's most amazing toy stores.
10. Take in one of New York's many annual street parades.
Chinese New Year in Chinatown runs over ten days in January or February and features parades, dragon and lion dancers, food stalls and more.
Parades always seem to be happening along Fifth Avenue for some reason or other. On 17 March, the St Patrick's Day parade celebrates the Irish community. The Easter Parade follows not long afterwards. In June, the Puerto Rican Day parade celebrates the city's huge Puerto Rican population. The route heads down Fifth Avenue and some three million spectators watch.
The Fourth of July is America's independence day and is celebrated with fireworks over the East River, tall ships in the harbour and various other ceremonies. July is also the month for the US Open Tennis at Flushing Meadows in the city's suburbs.
Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (www.macys.com) famously marks the opening of the Christmas season, and features famous cartoon characters, Broadway musical floats and bands.
December is a great time of year to be in New York for the sheer atmosphere of a cold and dark northern Christmas. Streets and venues are decorated with lights and Christmas trees. Kids will love the City Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall, the Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting and the Grand Central Terminal Holiday Laser Light Show. The Chorus Tree at South Street Seaport features regular performances of carols, while Little Italy resounds with parades, music, street markets and free entertainment. Older kids will appreciate the Nutcracker Suite ballet and Messiah singalong at the Lincoln Center and the musical version of A Christmas Carol at the Paramount Theatre at Madison Square Garden. Ice skating a the Wollman Rink in Central Park or at the Rockefeller Center is wonderful.
New Year in Times Square (www.timessquarealliance.org) is the world-famous event that ends the year (or begins it). There are fireworks over Central Park and Prospect Park.
Recommended hotels from Travel with Kidz for New York
In the mid range category - TWK likes Affinia Hotels (http://www.affinia.com/)
New York City
Affinia 50 | An Executive Club Suite Hotel
155 East 50th Street, New York, New York 10022
Tel: 212.751.5710 ¦ Fax: 212.753.1468
Affinia Dumont | A Fitness Suite Hotel
150 East 34th Street, New York, New York 10016
Tel: 212.481.7600 ¦ Fax: 212.889.8856
Affinia Gardens | A Tranquil Suite Hotel
215 East 64th Street, New York, New York 10021
Tel: 212.355.1230 ¦ Fax: 212.758.7858
Affinia Manhattan | A Suite Hotel at the Center of It All
371 Seventh Avenue, New York, New York 10001
Tel: 212.563.1800 ¦ Fax: 212.643.8028
New York City
Eastgate Tower Hotel | 39th between 2nd and 3rd
222 East 39th Street, New York, New York 10016
Tel: 212.687.8000 ¦ Fax: 212.490.2634
Shelburne Murray Hill | 37th and Lexington
303 Lexington Avenue, New York, New York 10016
Tel: 212.689.5200 ¦ Fax: 212.779.7068
Surrey Hotel | 76th between 5th and Madison
20 East 76th Street, New York, New York 10021
Tel: 212.288.3700 ¦ Fax: 212.628.1549
Love this property – It’s on the Upper East side and steps away from the Metropolitan museum – but it is due to close shortly for a major refurbishment
The Benjamin Hotel
125 East 50th Street Fax: 212-715-2525
New York, NY 10022
On the upper West side – Hotel Beacon is an excellent choice (It is close to Zabars and Fairway for fabulous food shopping!). One of New York's most desirable neighborhoods: the Upper West Side. Convenient to Lincoln Center, the American Museum of Natural History, Rose Center for Earth and Space, Central Park, the Theater District and Midtown shopping. Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues are known for their trendy restaurants and outdoor cafes.
Overlooking Broadway and the Hudson River to the west, with Central Park to the east, or the bright lights of midtown to the south, each Hotel Beacon room affords a different Manhattan view.