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New York City with kids in tow (and how to enjoy the diversity)

May 26, 2011

“Did you take your kids to New York City? Wasn’t that dangerous?”

Fear is contagious. Fear of traveling to far-away places and fear of taking your kids along. But fear is unnecessary. You can easily travel with your kids, even in a city like New York. By sharing our story I willl take away your fears for sure!

Eating hot-dogs in New York City

This is the second part of my series about New York City. It shows you how your kids can enjoy New York to the fullest! We talked to our kids about diversity where New York City is one big crossroad of our multicultural world. This story is about Ellis Island, Ground Zero, Brooklyn, giant toy stores and the lights of Times Square.

Ease your kids
When you arrive in the city you will get overwhelmed by the excitement. That first sense of excitement is one of the greatest things about traveling. Looking at your kids, how can you let them get used to a city like New York? 4 tips:

  • Let them study a map of the city

I am a map freak. Maybe a control freak, but I like to know where I am when I travel. And where we will be heading next. The great thing about letting your kids study the map, is that they get an idea of the size of the city, locations and distances. It helps them put it all in perspective.

Studying NYC map in Wall Street

  • Buy them a hotdog and let them watch the city pass by

New York life happens on the street! Let them get used to street life and use one of the street icons in New York: the street vendor.  It’s totally safe to order at a street vendor. Buy a simple hot dog and sit down. Have them look at people and comment. It’s a fun game!

  • Put them in charge of the subway map.

Our daughter called herself the “Metro-Master”. She was intruiged by the coloured lines on the map and always wanted to figure out the best way to get to our destination.

P1040826

Do you think the New York subway and the subway stations are a dangerous place for kids? Don’t worry, they might look old but there is nothing to be afraid of. Just look at this short video… Mind you, it will not win an Oscar for best Documentary!

  • Central Park!

A great way of winding down after a full day of sightseeing is Central Park. I was truly impressed by the size, the tidiness and the comfort of the park. We watched a baseball game, enjoyed the Turtle Pond and relaxed while lying on the grass. This surely gives them new energy for another day of sightseeing (or, sadly, the return trip in our case).

Watching baseball in Central Park

Part II – Excitement for the kids!

OK, you got them all relaxed and feeling in charge! Now it is time to go out and do fun things! New York is the city of diversity. Let’s show them what diversity is all about!

We started with a boat tour to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island (Tip: buy your tickets online and beforehand!). Ellis Island is not a real kids destination, but the story is fascinating. Millions of immigrants to the USA arrived at this very island, hoping to be allowed access to the land of hopes and dreams. From all over the world they arrived at Ellis Island. Many of them stayed in New York, making the city such a diverse place.

Our kids found Times Square one of the most exciting places in the city. Especially because of all the lights at night. New Yorkers call Times Square the “Crossroads of the World”.

P1040530

The second day in New York was a rainy one, but that didn’t mind because enough to do on and around Times Square. Our kids wanted to see the huge Toys’R’Us store and Dylan’s Candy Bar. Add the Disney store and the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. restaurant and a rainy day turns into a sunny one…

A fabulous place to show them is the Flatiron building. Famous for its shape where the apex of the building is just 2 meters (six feet) wide! I am a storyteller so I told them a bit of history about the building. They found it fascinating to know that back in the old days young men were waiting for the wind to blow around the strangely shaped building in such a way it lifted the skirts of women passing by. Barelegged spectacle!

Flat Iron building, New York City

Of course we went to see Ground Zero. Our kids know all about the planes that hit the World Trade Center in 2001. My daughter was not even one month old at 9/11, now almost 10 years ago. We sat there watching the sky, imaging those two towers… Sometimes diversity makes the world a better place, sometimes it turns into hatred. When returning we passed a small memorial.

Ground Zero

Memorial Ground Zero

One of the things that made the most impression was a bike tour through Manhattan and on to Brooklyn! We rented bikes at Battery Park and off we went.

Cycling in Manhattan

We crossed Manhattan from the West to the East before crossing the Brooklyn Bridge. The bridge is amazing but also a mile long. Having bikes to cross it is much easier for traveling families.

Brooklyn Bridge by bike

Brooklyn is a totally different world from Manhattan. Make sure to visit the park below the Bridge for great views on Manhattan.

Cycling in Brooklyn

You might think it is too dangerous to cycle with kids in New York. Don’t worry too much. There are dedicated bike lanes (even ones without other traffic) and you can also choose to just use the Hudson or East river boardwalk.

Brooklyn Bridge bike path

We cycled in Bangkok and now New York and we believe it is a great way to view the city. It’s like your own hop-on-hop-off vehicle..

A last tip that I mentioned earlier on this blog: give your kids their own small, digital camera. Our son took some interesting pictures with his own camera. It helps making them more aware of buildings, people and events.

Taking pictures of Statue of Liberty

Of course there is so much more to see with your kids: the Museum of Natural History and Coney Island to name just two. And don’t forget to elevate yourself to the top of at least one of those skyscrapers: Empire State Building or Rockefeller Plaza. But more about that in the third and last post in this series about New York City.

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From → Americas

20 Comments
  1. Aw. The kids look so happy! I love your photos of NYC. 🙂

  2. The videos are great! I think teaching the kids how to use the subway is a great step towards true feelings of independence. Also- the map and people watching is such a good idea. WIll use that next time! Beautiful family Emiel! I had never thought of the biking idea in NY- Only from a European would that idea come! Looking forward to the next installment!

    • Hi Emily! Great piece you wrote about Japanese culture (lesson #14). Japan and NYC: two very different worlds…and we Europeans are in between (at least that is how we see it).
      But we have some great ideas, like city biking. In Bangkok it’s a Dutchman running that biking business. And you know all about the Dutch history of NYC. No surprises there…:)

  3. Some great tips in there! I especially like the tips about involving the kids by getting them to read maps and figure out the subways. I think in really empowers kids to have their own responsibilities and be involved in decision making and it is something we strive to do as well.

    I also really like the idea of letting them have their own camera. I am sure you get some very neat perspectives when the camera is in the hands of a child!

    Looks like you had lots of fun!

    • We sure had a lot of fun Amy. If you have the time, let your kids decide where to go. It doesn’t matter if you take the wrong train, it’s all about the fun and kids being in charge. Thank you!

  4. Thanks for yet another inspiring post. Your photos are spot on – they make NY look kid friendly! Love all your tips, and will definitely put it into practice next time we travel to a city with our little ones. Any more travel plans ahead?

    Vibeke

    • Vibeke, great to see you here again! Maybe we should start a campaign: NYC is very kid friendly, look at these pictures! Do you think we can get some sponsoring from NYC itself??
      Travelplans? Summer 2011 we will stay at the Spanish island of Ibiza. For 2012 we have again big plans…..any tips?

  5. How wonderful!! I This post makes me want to go back yet again! I also think it’s amazing that your whole family toured NY on bicycles. 🙂 I’ve been away for a while, so I’m still catching up on your series, can’t wait to read more about New York!

    • Great to have you back Michelle (my most loyal fan) 🙂
      I know you traveled through Spain with your dad, that’s awesome. I trust you had a fabulous time.
      About the bicycles, I don’t think I will every visit another city WITHOUT cycling!

  6. jacquelincangro permalink

    You have some great tips! I really like your suggestion to have kids help in planning the day’s route on the subway. It helps to make them feel involved.

    I’m also glad that you mentioned that people shouldn’t be afraid to travel to New York with kids. As long as you stay aware of your surroundings (good advice for any destination) you’ll be fine.

    I’m very impressed that you rented bicycles and rode to so many places in the city. Very adventurous!

    Looking forward to your next installment.

    • Hello Jacquelin,
      Thanks for your comment. A lot of people are afraid to travel to a big city like New York with their children, especially when they come from another continent. But that fear is totally unnecessary, as you mentioned. And if you can even ride a bike, well, need I say more 🙂

  7. Fantastic. Great video and clear storytelling as always. I particularly love the picture of the small memorial, it really caught my eye.

    We usually explore cities on foot and by subway, but renting a bike might come in handy in a larger city with good infrastructure. You really experienced the Dutch way of visiting New York! 🙂

  8. Dank je Esther! That memorial picture indeed is great. There are so many huge things in New York, you sometimes forget to watch out for the details…

  9. Now I feel safe traveling pretty much anywhere with my kids!

    I have never felt uncomfortable in NYC for a second. And I find it so interesting that others would. It just goes to show that “safety” is so often just a matter of perspective and comfort. I will remember this when we feel a bit out of place in our travels.

    Looks like you guys are having a great time in NY. And thanks for highlighting Central Park, a place that I do not think can be over-hyped. A true escape in the big city.

    Enjoy the Subways!

    Justin

    • Justin,
      I guess you will have far bigger challenges ahead of you, planning this long family trip! I am glad we met like this and I will be following you all the way (from planning, deciding and actually traveling the world!).

  10. loving your series on NYC and I love the Flatiron building….seeing that has been on my ‘list’ for a long time so am looking forward to getting there all the more now 🙂

    • Thank you Beverly. I am writing the 3rd part now 🙂
      We really fall in love with Flatiron building! We came out of the subway station, looked around, couldn’t find it, walked a bit and suddenly, there it was…a true landmark building!

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  1. NYC in 3D: the multiple dimensions of New York « Act of Traveling
  2. NYC in 3D: the multiple dimensions of New York

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