My four-year-old daughter and I found ourselves living it up in New York recently when we joined my husband on a business trip. We had a great time eating out, exploring the city on open-top bus tours, and doing museums and Broadway shows, but some of the best things we did really were free (or at least nearly free). Here are my top ten things to do with kids for next to nothing in NYC…
1. Lay out a blanket in Central Park (picnic optional) and soak up the atmosphere. The huge expanse of grass at the Great Lawn is a favourite spot and great for games too.
2. Visit Belvedere Castle in the middle of Central Park at 79th Street. It is the highest point of the park with great views, a visitor centre, walking tours and free educational programs.
3. Attend Saturday morning story time for children of all ages in Central Park at the Hans Christian Anderson Memorial (mid-park from East 73rd entrance. Check for times at www.centralparknyc.org).
4. Visit one of the spectacular toy shops: Toys-R-Us in Times Square or FAO Schwartz (the corner of Fifth Avenue and Central Park South) which has a giant electronic keyboard built into the floor upstairs that children can play with their feet. You can easily spend an hour or more exploring and trying out the display toys without buying a thing.
5. Take the Staten Island ferry. Day or night this is one of the best free (or paid for) boat rides in the world. It takes about half an hour each way. You can get straight off and back on again or spend time on the dockside at Staten Island looking at the distant Manhattan skyline. The ride gives spectacular views of the downtown skyline and the Statue of Liberty, all lit-up to magical effect at night.
6. If it’s a quiet stroll you’re after and you find yourself in Brooklyn, take a walk along the Brooklyn Seafront for a great view of Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge. (And if you do want to spend a few dollars there is a great ice-cream parlour there too.)
7. Stand in the middle of Times Square for ten minutes and don’t forget to look up.
8. Stand just about anywhere and play how many yellow cabs can you count in a minute?
And if it’s summer…
9. Summerstage (held at Rumsey Playfield near 72nd Street and Fifth Avenue) and Shakespeare in the Park (at the open-air Delacorte Theater near the W81st Street entrance to the park) are two of the most popular summertime programs and both are free. Top-shelf acts and great performances.
10. Fancy a dip? There are 14 miles of public beaches in four of NY’s boroughs: Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens, and Staten Island. Contact General Parks and Recreation Department Information at www.nycparks.completeinet.net for more info.
Last summer I went to the Atlantis Marine World Aquarium in Riverhead, Long Island, NY. It is about one hour in the car from Manhattan but there is also a train. I looked at a giant octopus and at a tank with a giant turtle with big sharks. There is a cage you can go in to be near the sharks but you have to be 12 years old or more to go in the cage. There are seals and penguins outside and the seals do tricks. But the most exciting bit was when me and my dad went swimming in a big outdoor pool with leopard sharks, rays and other fish. You wear a wetsuit and a mask and snorkel and you can touch the sharks if you want but they are quite fast. The rays are friendly and they are easier to touch. This aquarium is much better than the London aquarium, which I also like a lot.
From Finn Bennett (age 7).
431 East Main Street, Riverhead, NY 11901
Tel: 631 208 9200
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