Tod­dle off for ap­peal­ing trip

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - Escape - - CHILD’S PLAY -

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

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