Many New Yorkers make like it’s their second job to escape the city on summer weekends. They flock to the beach, the mountains, the lakes — really any place accessible by train, rental car or even seaplane — leaving it relatively quiet for those who do stick around.
This past weekend we stayed local and did a little exploring in our own backyard. And, it was pretty perfect, proving that sometimes you don’t need to go very far to have an adventure. Here’s what was on the itinerary:
Morning at Central Park
Get up early and spend the morning at Central Park, Manhattan’s biggest and most famous swath of greenery. There are 21 playgrounds, free Summerstage concerts, a carousel, and a boating lake to keep you busy for quite a few hours. Our favorite things to do here include going to Victorian Gardens, a small seasonal amusement park occupying the Wollman Rink space in the summertime, and the Central Park Zoo (a tip: steer clear of the sweaty rainforest exhibit on especially hot days and don’t miss the 4D movie – currently an excellent edit of Rio featuring Jemaine from Flight of the Concords.)
Lunch at Kefi
Occasionally we build our uptown plans around eating at Kefi, Michael Psilakis’ beloved 200-seat Greek taverna on the west side near the park. Perhaps the best thing on the menu is the Sheep Milk Dumplings with tomato, pine nuts and spicy lamb sausage but on this particular visit, Yiayia’s Meatballs and Grilled Lavraki with olive oil and sea salt filled in nicely. The kid’s brunch menu has everything from silver dollar pancakes to pasta with butter to chicken souvlaki — great for picky eaters and easy on the wallet.
Afternoon at the American Museum of Natural History
If you haven’t been in awhile, get the SuperSaver tickets and load up your afternoon with all of AMNH’s current special exhibits, including the IMAX film (now playing: Great White Shark) and the new Hayden Planetarium Space Show Dark Universe, narrated by Neil Degrasse Tyson. Spiders Alive is an exhibit full of creepy crawlies, furry and otherwise, that you will be glad are behind protected glass. The Power of Poison is worth a walk through, though our son got slightly spooked by the lifelike witches huddled around a bubbling cauldron towards the end. The most fun of the bunch would have to be Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs, an interactive exhibit where visitors can flap their wings and watch their virtual counterparts fly on a giant screen, powered by Xbox technology. You’ll pass through about 5 gift shops in the course of your time here, so you might as well take home a souvenir. We chose a pair of mini binoculars for some Sunday sightseeing.
Dinner at Salmeria Rosi Parmacotto
Pancetta, porchetta and coppa, oh my! Salumeria Rosi Parmacotto is the spot for fantastic salumi, cheese and wine in a relaxed al fresco setting. Get the “Selezione del Salumiere” — it’s butcher’s choice, with 3 slices each of 8 different salumis — and pair it with a bottle of Rosso di Montalcino, which is always a good idea.
Brunch at Bubbys
If you’re downtown and you have kids, there’s really only one choice for brunch, and that’s Bubby’s. The original home of restaurant stroller parking, Bubby’s is known for its fun atmosphere, kid-friendly vibe, big fluffy pancakes and pies. Did I mention the pies?
Afternoon Sail on the Hudson
Set sail on the Hudson with Manhattan by Sail on one of two boats in their fleet — the 48 passenger Shearwater, an 80 year old classic schooner, or the 158 foot long Clipper City, which accommodates up to 134. We did the 90 minute Daytime Statue Sail on the smaller Shearwater, departing from North Cove Marina downtown. There’s no kitchen on board but guests are welcome to bring their own picnic, and each ticket comes with one free beverage — your choice of champagne, wine, water or juice. The sail is lovely, and a decidedly un-touristy way to get up close to Lady Liberty (here’s where those binoculars come in handy.) There were quite a few families on board, including infants in carriers. They do offer special Kids Sails aboard the Clipper City complete with story-telling, face painting and scavenger hunts from time to time, and the boat can be chartered for kid’s birthday parties. (Somebody do this and invite me please.)
Late Lunch/Early Dinner
For a late lunch/early dinner in the area, you have a lot of options. The boat drops you off right in front of Brookfield Place’s new upscale food court, Hudson Eats. Of the restaurants on offer, Tartinery is a solid bet. We also like Mighty Quinn’s slow smoked bbq and are still patiently awaiting the arrival of Blue Ribbon Sushi, set to open sometime this month. There’s also Shake Shack, North End Grill and El Vez within one block — all family friendly restaurants. We went with Blue Smoke, a perennial favorite, for the Wikki Stix, the burgers and the pig cookie that each kiddo gets to decorate with colored sprinkles.
Ice Cream from Blue Marble
Blink and you’ll miss it, but there is a snack bar selling Blue Marble ice cream at Pier 25 on the east side of the street across from the playground. One of the last remaining downtown spots to get your Blue Marble fix.
And there you have it, a perfect weekend in NYC with kids.
What are some of your favorite things to do in New York City with kids? Share your stories below.