Toddle off for appealing trip
The Big Apple may appeal to adults but there’s also plenty on offer to keep young children happy, writes Nick Earls
NEW York is set to have 53 million visitors this year, and an increasing number of arrivals from Australia are aged under five.
So what does this great world city have for a demographic unlikely to gaze contemplatively at the awesome art at MOMA, unable to muster the concentration span for a Broadway show and years away from their first cosmopolitan?
As usual when dealing with under-fives or armies, it’s a significant logistical exercise that relies on sound planning and ensuring you don’t extend beyond your supply lines.
Getting the accommodation right is a good place to start.
A number of New York hotels have suite options and our travel agent, Lex Noller, got us a great suite at the Beacon, on Broadway between 74th and 75th streets.
Each suite there has a kitchenette and, while the emphasis with ours was on the “ette” – I had to stand sideways to butter toast – it worked well for simple pastas and meant that, every morning, breakfast was within easy reach whenever we needed it to be.
Compact kitchen aside, the suite was apartment-sized and the hotel has a fully equipped guest laundry.
It provided a stroller at no charge and could also provide beds for children. Language warning: cots (free) are called cribs, while child’s beds ($20/night) are called cots.
Both a subway station (on Broadway at 72nd St) and groceries (Fairway, Broadway between 74th and 75th streets) are nearby. The 7-day MetroCard ($31) is worth buying for convenience as well as cost, and passengers under 112cm travel free.
But while those details might be useful, the under-five only wants to know when the fun’s starting . . .
The American Museum of Natural History is the largest museum of its kind in the world. The abundance of kid-friendly content far exceeds any underfive’s capacity, so we headed for the big one first – the fossil halls.
There are more than 100 specimens on display, including every young dinophile’s favourite, Tyrannosaurus Rex. Don’t expect to leave without some dino merch and ongoing debates about the relative ferocities of various species.
Unlike most museums, the Children’s Museum of Manhattan is full of exhibits made to be touched and environments to charge around in. One playroom is specifically for under-fives. Other features include a puppet theatre, a TV studio and a tank for testing the floatability of different objects.
In New York, it seems there’s usually a siren sounding somewhere not far away so, for the young emergency-services spotter, hopes of a sighting are often high. The New York City Fire Museum is far quieter but gives a fascinating look at firefighting in the city over the past century and a half, including a selection of shiny red vintage fire engines.
We moved on to Central Park with our family playground tester, and several there met his exacting standards. Heckscher Playground is the biggest and much of it is recommended for over-sixes but, if there aren’t too many of them around, underfive climbers will find rocks well worth scrambling on, as well as water play areas, slides, tunnels and ramps.
The favourite feature at the East 72nd St Playground was a climbing pyramid with slides and tunnels.
The playground we went back to most, though, was Billy Johnson, near East 67th St. Its key features were a long curved granite slide set into the hill – to