KIDS AND THE CITY

Af­ter three fam­ily vis­its, Sarah Bryden-Brown shares her best travel tips for New York City

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Family Holidays -

NEW York may come across as all Sex and the City , but that’s just for show. I have taken my two chil­dren, now aged 15 and eight, to the Big Ap­ple three times and, with­out ex­cep­tion, we have come home with mem­o­ries that re­mind us it’s great to chew candy but even bet­ter when you can do it while learn­ing about Jack­son Pol­lock.

Any guide­book will di­rect you to the im­por­tant land­marks, but just like when you’re a guest in some­one else’s house, you never feel re­ally at home un­til you know where the tea is kept and how to work the television. So here are the op­er­at­ing in­struc­tions for turn­ing on New York, fam­ily style.

Up­per West Side sto­ries

I’M pre­pared to close the door on ev­ery neigh­bour­hood ex­cept the Up­per West Side when it comes to fam­ily liv­ing. Above 59th Street, north of Colum­bus Cir­cle, west of Cen­tral Park and next door to the theatre dis­trict, this is an up­scale res­i­den­tial neigh­bour­hood.

It’s not as ex­pen­sive as the Up­per East Side, and within walk­ing dis­tance of the Nat­u­ral His­tory Mu­seum, the Lin­coln Cen­tre for the Per­form­ing Arts and the Chil­dren’s Mu­seum of Man­hat­tan. The Metropoli­tan Mu­seum of Art is just a stroll away through Cen­tral Park.

Fair­way Mar­ket on Broad­way at the cor­ner of West 74th Street is con­sid­ered more a way of life than just a su­per­mar­ket. Here you can stock up on the kitchen ba­sics — fresh fruit and veg­eta­bles or home-style meals for a night in — and there’s a floor ded­i­cated to or­gan­ics. Up­stairs is an unas­sum­ing mum-and-dad-style restau­rant, Fair­way Cafe and Steak­house, which serves a se­ri­ously good prime porter­house steak and chips.

While there are ho­tels dot­ted among the brown­stones on the Up­per West Side’s pretty tree-lined streets, such as On the Ave at 222 West 77th St, the Ex­cel­sior at 45 West 81st St and the Lucerne at 201 West 79th St, a fur­nished apart­ment is bet­ter value for money and much roomier.

New York Habi­tat is an easy-tonav­i­gate web­site that pro­duces what it prom­ises: stylish and well-main­tained hol­i­day rentals. For ex­am­ple, a onebed­room apart­ment will cost from $US150 ($173) to $US325 a night; a twobed­der, $US250 to $US470. Most of­fer sofa beds, so if you are a fam­ily of four, go for a one-bed­room con­fig­u­ra­tion and put the chil­dren on the sofa bed.

Just be sure to hide the re­mote con­trol once it’s lights out be­cause no sel­f­re­spect­ing child can re­sist a TV with 500-plus chan­nels. www.fair­way­mar­ket.com www.ny­habi­tat.com www.ontheave.com www.ex­cel­siorhotelny.com www.thelucerne­ho­tel.com

Pic­nics and tea par­ties

BE­FORE we dis­cov­ered Fair­way and its aisles of gra­nola and Chee­rios, Le Pain Quo­tid­ian at 50 West 72nd St was our spot for a hot break­fast. Its rough-hewn wooden in­te­rior gives the bak­ery a cosy warmth, along with a com­mu­nal ta­ble strewn daily with TheNewYorkTimes ’ s mul­ti­ple sec­tions. Look­ing like a set piece from the south of France (even though its founder is from Brus­sels), Le Pain Quo­tid­ian prides it­self on its ar­ti­san breads (don’t make the mis­take, as we un­wit­tingly did, of in­sult­ing staff by ask­ing for toast), which go per­fectly with soft-boiled eggs and bowl-sized break­fast cups of hot choco­late.

Food cart fare, served from pop-up, car­ni­val-like carts on ev­ery block, is a Man­hat­tan sta­ple and it’s taken so se­ri­ously that New York Mag­a­zine rou­tinely fea­tures the best on of­fer.

No. 7 in its top 20 is Tony (the Dragon) Drag­o­nas on 62nd Street (near Madi­son Av­enue): ‘‘ There’s chicken breasts, shish ke­bab, burg­ers, sausage, steak and an ex­cel­lent pro­sciutto, moz­zarella and basil sand­wich. But the juicy char­grilled chicken is the thing, mar­i­nated overnight and avail­able wrapped in a thick grilled pita or as a plat­ter with yel­low rice for $6.’’

A pic­nic in Cen­tral Park, near the Ad­ven­ture Play­ground, is made even bet­ter by a quick stop at Whole Foods Mar­ket on Broad­way (be­tween 58th and 60th streets on the con­course level of the Time Warner Cen­tre) for sup­plies (open un­til 11pm).

Oth­er­wise, Shake Shack serves the best (and I am not kid­ding) ham­burger and milk­shake you will try; it’s tucked be­neath the trees of Madi­son Square Park (south­east cor­ner, en­ter at Madi­son Av­enue and 23rd Street), across from the fa­mous Flat Iron build­ing.

Still with chil­dren in tow, take tea at Alice’s Tea Cup at 102 West 73rd St (near Colum­bus Av­enue). It’s like step­ping into Won­der­land, with tributes to Lewis Car­roll’s Alice and friends on ev­ery wall, chair, door and more.

Or for an Eloise ex­pe­ri­ence, the renowned Wal­dorf-As­to­ria (now man­aged by Hil­ton) at 301 Park Ave, holds Tea for Tots sit­tings each Satur­day from 1pm to 3pm (a three-course spread and a gath­er­ing around Cole Porter’s baby grand for a sin­ga­long of tea-themed tunes such as I’m a Lit­tle Teapot ). Feather boas, faux jew­els and gloves are on hand for princessy dress-ups.

And for the ul­ti­mate lit­tle missy fix, your daugh­ters should take their dolls to high tea at the Amer­i­can Girl Place at 609 Fifth Ave (at 49th Street) from 4pm daily (brunch, lunch and early din­ner also avail­able). There are spe­cial chairs for dolls and con­ver­sa­tion starters tucked into rib­boned boxes. The store in­cludes a doll’s hair salon, photo stu­dio, theatre and floors of shop­ping.

Then raid Dylan’s Candy Bar at 1011 Third Ave: it’s owned by Ralph Lauren’s daugh­ter Dylan and its can­dyset-in-stone floor leads like a path­way to lol­lies ga­lore, choco­lates, fairy floss, jelly beans and sweet treats you never imag­ined ex­isted; some are sugar-free.

Pizza is ev­ery­where in New York but that doesn’t mean it’s all good. You can grab a slice on nearly ev­ery block, but for au­then­tic thin crusts and clas­sic top­pings Grimaldi’s Pizza Brook­lyn is the one you want. It’s at 19 Old Ful­ton St (un­der the Brook­lyn Bridge), one sub­way stop off Man­hat­tan is­land or an easy walk across the bridge. If you don’t get there by 5.45pm, be pre­pared to queue. www.painquo­ti­dien.com www.whole­foods­mar­ket.com www.shake­shack­nyc.com www.al­ices­teacup.com www.hilton­fam­i­lynewyork.com www.amer­i­cangirl.com www.dy­lan­scan­dy­bar.com www.grimaldis.com

Stay and play

IN­TRO­DUCE cul­ture and his­tory by ex­plor­ing the Metropoli­tan Mu­seum of Art and the Nat­u­ral His­tory Mu­seum (the scene for the re­cent movie Night at theMu­seum) . With a head­set and sto­ry­line keep­ing things mov­ing along, you’ll be sur­prised just how long chil­dren will be cap­ti­vated. If the New York City Bal­let is pre­sent­ing one of its per­for­mances for chil­dren, book it.

And of course you can’t leave with­out see­ing a Broad­way mu­si­cal: Mary Pop­pins , TheLionKing and Tarzan are show­ing. Grand Cen­tral Sta­tion tours and the Trans­port Mu­seum are a must for the boys, and ev­ery­one will love the re­mote-con­trolled sail­ing boats on the pond in Cen­tral Park.

www.ny­cvisit.com

A fam­ily shop­ping af­fair

SOHO is the place to spend an af­ter­noon shop­ping for all those things you never knew you wanted. Dad will like the Ap­ple Store at 103 Prince St (near Greene Street), al­though a fancier ver­sion re­cently opened on Fifth Av­enue. Mum will love An­thro­polo­gie at 375 West Broad­way for fash­ion, home­wares and gor­geous sta­tionery. Chil­dren will get a kick out of the cool shoes at the Camper Store at 125 Prince St. Chains such as Gap and Old Navy (myr­iad stores) are per­fect for stock­ing up on socks and undies for all.

FAO Schwartz at 767 Fifth Ave (at 58th Street) is New York’s grand­est toy store and more af­ford­able than you may think; don’t miss hav­ing a turn on the gi­ant floor pi­ano from Tom Hanks’s hit movie Big. www.ny.com/shop­ping www.fao.com

The big pic­ture

RISE above the me­trop­o­lis and spend a New York minute look­ing at the big pic­ture. For­get the Em­pire State Build­ing (who has time for those queues?); in­stead take in un­ob­structed 360-de­gree views of the Big Ap­ple at Top of the Rock (Rock­e­feller Cen­tre; en­ter on 50th Street be­tween Fifth and Sixth av­enues). It’s fur­ther up­town than the Em­pire State Build­ing and a good chunk of the bustling city will be laid be­fore you (in­clud­ing the Em­pire State Build­ing), plus here you get a bird’s-eye view of Cen­tral Park. For an­other take on the city sky­line, walk across the Brook­lyn Bridge on your way to Grimaldi’s for a pizza and pause a mo­ment to turn around and look back in won­der.

www.topofthe­rock­nyc.com

Pic­ture: Photolibrary

Sky scraper: There are many op­tions to help shoul­der the load on a fam­ily visit to Man­hat­tan

Tickle their fancy: Dress-ups are part of the ap­peal at the Wal­dorf-As­to­ria’s Tea for Tots par­ties

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