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The Best of New York City with Kids of All Ages

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I was so impressed after reading Fodor’s Family: New York City with Kids that I set up an interview with the book’s author, Meryl Pearlstein. This mom, food critic, traveler, and New York aficionado gave me her picks for the best of New York City with kids, from babies to teens.

The Brooklyn Bridge with a view of the Manhattan Skyline (Photo purchased from

The Brooklyn Bridge with a view of the Manhattan Skyline (Photo purchased from

Best New York City with Kids Museum

About the American Museum of Natural History, Meryl said, “What kid doesn’t love dinosaurs? The girls go crazy for the Hall of Gems and all of the diamonds. And there are the kitschy dioramas of animals from when the museum first opened. It’s a museum that every single kid loves!”

Most Child-Friendly Live Entertainment in New York

Looking for live entertainment? Meryl recommends The New Victory Theatre, which specializes in performances for families. Check out their plays, puppet shows, dance performances, musicals, and juggling acts.

The Conservatory Garden, located in Central Park (Photo purchased from

The Conservatory Garden, located in Central Park (Photo purchased from

Hidden Gem for Families in NYC

Central Park’s Conservatory Garden is a free botanical garden that provides an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. There are three formal gardens with flora, fauna, and fountains that Meryl promises all ages will find interesting.

New York’s Most Interesting Public Space

The Highline was an old rusted-out railroad track that has been transformed into what Meryl called, “an experience unto itself.” While it is not appropriate for the stroller set, teens and tweens love exploring this long, narrow elevated park from Gansevoort Street to 20th Street in the Meat Packing District. You can people watch, grab some tasty food, and watch boats on the river.

New York City's Central Park (Photo purchased from

New York City’s Central Park (Photo purchased from

Favorite Free Activities for Kids

A visit to Central Park costs nothing and gives visitors a real feel for the city. Plus, it’s a great place for kids to run off steam. There are street performers to watch, rocks to climb, and ball games to join. It’s also free to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge to take in double breathtaking views: one of the New York skyline and one of Brooklyn. Meryl said, “There’s nothing like the Brooklyn Bridge experience!”

Best Attraction for Babies and Toddlers

Children’s Museum of Manhattan has areas specifically created for little ones to explore. An area called Play Works is an educational play area designed as a mini-city especially for toddlers. Kids also enjoy the museum’s art projects, sing-alongs, storytelling sessions, and a do-it-yourself puppet theatre.

Preferred Places for Preschoolers in NYC

Meryl says Brooklyn’s Prospect Park Zoo is perfect for preschoolers because its exhibits and educational programs encourage hands-on learning about animals. Its smaller size makes it a manageable activity to tackle with young children. Coney Island’s New York Aquarium entertains children with fish and sea creatures galore as well as popular sea lion shows.

Coolest New York Site for Grade School Kids

Hayden Planetarium, located in the American Natural History Museum, is a favorite destination for grade school field trips, and for good reason. Kids love to come here to learn about planets, stars, and the moon. Plus, according to Fodor’s Family: New York City with Kids, “Movies projected on the IMAX screen offer a perfect way to rest tired feet.”

A tree-lined street in Greenwich Village (Photo credit: Meryl Pearlstein)

A tree-lined street in Greenwich Village (Photo credit: Meryl Pearlstein)

Best New York City Activity for Tweens & Teens

As the mom of two teenage boys, Meryl knows this age group is happiest when exploring New York’s neighborhoods. She suggests checking out St. Mark’s Place in the East Village or Bleecker Street in the West Village. Visiting a few hip stores is always a hit – like Hollister, the NBA Store, and H&M. An afternoon stop for a scrumptious dessert is a must. Meryl recommends Max Brenner’s world-renowned chocolate shop or Serendipity3, which is famous for its frozen hot chocolate.

Fantastic Family-Friendly Restaurants in New York

As a foodie, it was difficult for Meryl to narrow down all of New York’s restaurants to name her three favorites for families. She recommends Tony’s diNapoli for Italian food served family-style on big platters for everyone to share; Virgil’s Real Barbecue for succulent barbecued chicken wings, hot links, pulled pork, hot dogs and more; and Ruby Foo’s for Asian fusion cuisine served on Lazy Susans in the center of the tables.

Meryl, a Red Sox fan, is pictured above with her husband, Jim, a Yankees fan (Photo credit: Meryl Pearlstein)

Meryl, a Red Sox fan, is pictured above with her husband, Jim, a Yankees fan (Photo credit: Meryl Pearlstein)

For more tips on what to see, what to do, and where to eat in NYC, buy a Fodor’s Family: New York City with Kids or enter to win one below. From reading the book and talking with Meryl, it is clear that she is passionate about New York and that she loves helping others enjoy her adopted hometown. Meryl has been writing Fodor’s New York City guides since 2005. She writes restaurant reviews for and has written for New York Magazine and the Boston Herald. She is the mother of two boys, ages 15 and 19. Read her blog Meryl Pearlstein’s Travel and Food Notes for travel and food observations from around the world and everything New York City.

Enter to win one of nine copies of Fodor’s Family: New York City with Kids. Fodor’s provided the giveaway copies as well as one copy that was sent to me to review. Travel Mamas is picking up the tab for shipping the prizes. Winners will be selected at random using Five guides will be awarded this week and another four will be awarded next week. Check back on November 23 to find out who won, how to re-enter, and to learn about traveling during the holidays in New York City with kids. You may enter up to three times, using each method of entry listed below once, by November 21, 2009. THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED.

1) Add a comment about which New York attraction or restaurant recommended above you would most like to visit and why.

2) Sign up to Become a Travel Mama to receive the Travel Mamas bimonthly e-newsletter. Be sure to mention the Fodor’s Family:New York City with Kids giveaway in the questions or comments field on the electronic form. If you have already subscribed to our newsletter, instead post a second comment below about what you like best about

3) Tweet about this contest on Twitter by copying and pasting the entire phrase below. After tweeting, you must post another comment with a link to your tweet!
I love NY! Visit @TravelMamas to win 1 of 9 Fodor’s Family: New York City with Kids

About Colleen Lanin

Colleen Lanin is the founder/editor-in-chief of As the author of her book, "The Travel Mamas' Guide," she teaches parents not only how to survive a trip with children, but also how to love exploring the world with their offspring. Her stories have appeared online and in print for such outlets as the "Today" show,, Parenting Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, Expedia, San Diego Family Magazine, and more. Colleen gives tips on television, radio, and as a public speaker. She has a master’s degree in business administration with a background in marketing. She lives in Arizona with her husband and two kids.

  1. Cori Shifrin says

    I am excited to take Ethan, 8 months old, to ALL of the zoos in NYC and the Children’s Museum.

  2. American Museum of Natural History!

  3. Our favorite NYC Italian restaurant is Becco’s

  4. Virgils….My husband and I love Virgils it is located in the theatre district. Their BBQ and greens…yummo…it is worth the 5 hour flight just to eat there. So happy to hear it is still thriving as we have not been there in 6 years…Hmmmm, same age as our triplets….one day we will make it back with family in tow…Central Park is a great place especially around Christmas. We saw the Rockettes perform a few times. That only leaves the beautiful Botanical Gardens. Yes, we need to take the family!! Summer is a great time to visit as all of the New Yorkers leave to avoid the tourists. The weekends are very quiet!

  5. She forgot to mention Serendipity’s for dessert…hot chocolate milk shakes!

  6. Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

    Kelly – you must’ve skipped the “Best Activities for Tweens and Teens” because your kids are too young! Meryl recommends a scrumptious dessert from Serendipity3 or Max Brenner’s. Mmmm…I want a frozen hot chocolate!

  7. I would most like to go to Tony Di Napoli’s because the whole family just LOVES Italian!

  8. We have tried multiple times to get into Serendipity, but every time it’s been mobbed. I’ve tried their frozen drinks and they sure are good. I’d like to give it another whirl sometime in December. We are going to Radio City for the Christmas show. We might try to get in after the show. It would be a real treat for the kids.

  9. Signed up for the newsletter. We love to travel.

  10. Amy @ The Q Family says

    I want to visit them all.. But for myself, I would really like to check out the Highline.

  11. Mary Preston says

    Central Park: nothing says New York more to me than Central Park.

  12. Tari Lawson says

    I would like to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge with my family.

  13. I want to visit that Ruby foo place!!!!!!!

  14. We actually love “Virgil’s Real Barbecue”. There are a few places we like around “Times Square”; but, being that it is a tourist trap and looks like a circus”, we like going to the places overlooked by tourists. If one were to really look into those more obscure streets and avenues, they would be pleasantly surprised.

  15. I have lived just outside of NYC for two years and I still have not been to the Natural History Museum! (Shame on me.) I would add that taking kids to the ferris wheel inside of Toys r’ Us in Times Square is tons of fun and then to Crumbs Cupcakes (a ton of locations) for the best cupcakes in the city.

  16. very nice

  17. My husband went to NYC to take a class a few years ago, and he insists that we need to take a family trip there sometime. This book sounds like exactly what we’d need! I love how she has it broken down into preschoolers, kids, tweens, and teens. Very helpful! I think my boys would love to explore The Highline. (And so would I!) Sounds so cool, especially the fact that we could watch boats in the harbor from there. Thanks!!

  18. I just Tweeted about the book, but I’m such a dork; I don’t know how to copy and paste the link here! Sorry!

  19. Central Park’s Conservatory Garden (hadn’t heard of that one).

  20. I was born in NYC (my parents had just immigrated from Ukraine) and spent my childhood there, so I’d love to go see the Aquarium at Coney Island, since I have pics of myself at Coney Island and haven’t been back in years!

  21. I would love to visit the New York Aquarium. My daughter is a fish fanatic, and I have heard that its a unique place to go. Thanks!

  22. Heather McDonough says

    I gotta go to Yankee Stadium and watch the Red Sox beat the ‘ol pinstripers!

  23. Meryl Pearlstein says

    Heather, I’ll happily take you to Yankee Stadium to see the Sox trounce the Yankees — games next year are in May, August and September. Are you ready?

    And, to everyone else, I’d love to hear your comments to the posts on my blog and suggestions for other things you’d like to hear about. I love learning from everyone else. is the blog, Meryl Pearlstein’s Travel and Food Notes.

    Thank you all for your wonderful comments. Could you let me know how you enjoy your visit?

  24. I’d like to go to the American Museum of Natural History cause it looks interesting.

  25. I would love to bring my daughter to the new york zoo. Looks like a great zoo.

  26. I have always wanted to see Central Park. Thanks.

  27. Central Park!

  28. susan smoaks says

    we would really enjoy the NBA store, we are big bball fans!

  29. susan smoaks says


  30. susan smoaks says

    signed up for the newsletter!

  31. Daniel Bates says

    would like to see the twin tower site.

  32. We’d like to visit the Hayden Planetarium

  33. Karen Gonyea says

    I’d love to go to the theatre.

  34. I think we’d really enjoy Children’s Museum of Manhattan, specifically Play Works. Thanks!

  35. Tweeted – httpss://

  36. Veronica Garrett says

    I would like to visit the Brooklyn Bridge. I lived in Brooklyn for nine years. I would like to show my daughter Brooklyn and the Brooklyn Bridge.

  37. I would like the zoo:)

  38. I have wanted to go to Cental Park. It sounds nice.

  39. I subscribed.

  40. I tweeted:

  41. I would most like to visit the Statue of Liberty because it sounds very majestic.

  42. I signed up to become a Travel Mama.

  43. the highline, central park and it conservatory garden, and the zoos…in november? they’re certainly not going to look like the photos posted, and tell people to bundle up!

    to Lily, don’t visit lady liberty, it’s not what you think it’s going to be and the boat ride is expensive. Take your family on the free staten island ferry. you’ll ride past the statue on your way to and from SI, and you can get off the ferry on the SI food to try great italian, african or sri lankan food.

  44. Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

    epgunn – Thanks for your comment. The attractions listed here are for any time of the year, not just in November! For New York holiday travel suggestions during November and December, see:

  45. Central Park is the best!! That is where my husband proposed to me in November, and the stores already had their holiday decorations on display. It was a magical time to visit NY, and I can’t wait to experience that with my daughter!

  46. Toby Ghane says

    I like your writing style thanks for the info -cheers-

  47. Hayden planetarium nyc says

    The visit to Hayden planetarium was a fantastic experience for the entire family. I have a new found interest in the world we live in after visiting the planetarium. The Cosmic Collisions show is a must see. Some of the telescopes and scales in the ‘hands on’ section were broken, and we were a little disappointed. Overall, I would recommend the Hayden Planetarium as a great fun way to spend the afternoon with the small kids.


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