Our New York City Family Favorites

This month, our Facebook Families on the Move group got nostalgic about home. We are all traveling around the world with children and keep asking each other for advice on our hometowns. This is our collaboration to bring you our favorite family spots from home.

For the New Yorkers reading this blog – I’d love to know your comments on our selection or your thoughts on what was missed. We could only choose five and know that our city has hundreds more.

Whole Foods Bowery

This Whole Foods has two floors spanning an entire city avenue. Roaming the wide isles (a rarity for New York City grocery stores), cheese vault, dry food bins and upstairs food court is like attending a food amusement park. The real education is to be had upstairs in the Whole Foods Culinary Center, a teaching kitchen that hosts recreational classes in an intimate settings for kids. The calendar rotates each season. Our kids have taken Spanish Tapas and Indian food classes here. Ava went to a week long summer camp last year, where each day was focused on food from one of the five New York City boroughs. She made pizza from Staten Island, pierogies from Queens, cheesecake from Brooklyn, empanadas from the Bronx and bagel and lox from Manhattan. Chefs Wei and Cricket are great with the little ones and provide everything from safe cookware to miniature bibs. The a la cart classes are well priced at about $20 per child per class.

Brooklyn Smorgasburg

Brooklyn Flea was started in 2008 as an outdoor market for local vendors. It’s only three years old, but has already gained a strong following for its quality and breadth of offerings. So much so, that it’s all-food offshoot, Brooklyn Smorgasburg, is packed every weekend during the summer. The market is wonderfully kid friendly, with stalls selling everything from stuffed animals to handmade furniture. And who knew clothing racks can be so fun when filled with sequins, yards of fabric and the occasional boa? The food choices meet all our needs. I usually go with a veggie quesadilla from the Red Hook Taco place, Sandeep gets bratwurst, and the kids get fruit salad, horchata and tacos. The other unique thing the venue offers is a plaza where the kids can actually feel their feet on grass – a rarity in New York City.

Tompkins Square Park

When we first moved to New York in 2003, a local friend advised that we could live anywhere in Manhattan except north of 96th Street and Alphabet City. How things have changed. In 2009 we moved to Alphabet City, now one of the few neighbourhoods in Manhattan that is still filled with mom and pop stores and a very strong cultural heritage. Tompkins Square Park in the 1980s used to be a drug dealing and using shanty town. Now it houses one of the nicest playgrounds in the city. Our favorite is the one along Avenue A between 7th and 9th streets. It has several distinct areas for different age groups, a large sand box and water sprinklers in the summer. Fun for the kids extends beyond the playground. An eclectic mix of musicians, artists and elderly playing chess claim the benches and make for eventful discussions. The north side of the park has some playing courts and a small, shallow public pool. You’ll find plenty of eating choices around, but our favorites are Australian pies at Tuck Shop on St. Marks between First Avenue and Avenue A, and stuffed Venezuelan arepas Caracas Arepa Bar on 7th Street between First Avenue and Avenue A.

The New York City Transit Museum

We’re generally not a museum family. The kids are too difficult to control and we can’t focus on the exhibits. There are several museums in the city that are catered to children and have children’s activities, but the one that our entire family enjoys the most is The New York Transit Museum. The museum is located in an old subway station in Brooklyn Heights and offers a history into the century old subway system. The best part lies underground, where a live subway line houses cars from most decade since the system’s inception. The kids have a blast running between the cars, and we enjoy the step back in history with period appropriate advertisements.

Sandy Hook Beaches

There are some great beaches within a couple of hours of the city. We are fans of Sandy Hook because half the fun is getting there. The Seastreak Ferry departs from 34th Street and the East River as well as Wall Street and arrives in Sandy Hook National Recreation Area within 30 minutes. The ride passes under the city’s bridges and the Statue of Liberty before docking at a Sandy Hook. Summertime weekends can get packed with the school crowd, but a weekday trip usually offers quiet beaches and unspoiled surroundings. It’s also possible to rent bikes and cycle the park, just go with all needed supplies. Apart from two cafes selling burgers, hot dogs, fries and beach umbrella rentals, there aren’t any conveniences.

The links below take you to the homes of other traveling families. Enjoy the trips.

Ambergris Caye, Belize – A King’s Life

Boston, USA – Great Family Escape

London, UK – Travels with a Nine Year Old

Central Australia – Wandering Photographer

South Australia – Livin On The Road

The Netherlands – Act of Traveling

Antigua, Guatemala -Raising Miro

Seattle, WA – Walkingon Travels

Sunset Coast, MI – WanderingEducators

Vancouver, B.C. – With 2 Kids In Tow

Kingston, Ontario – EdventureProject

Lake Chapala, Mexico – Living Outside of the Box

Washington, D.C. – Growing Grace Life

Costa Rica – Bohemian Travelers

Fethiye, Turkey – ramblecrunch

Brisbane, Australia – OurTravelLifestyle

Israel – The Nomadic Family

Chiang Mai, Thailand – The Dropout Diaries

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Filed under Travel With Kids, Traveling Family Writing Projects

43 Responses to Our New York City Family Favorites

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  5. Sounds wonderful! I’ve never visited NYC with our kids, but wish we could to check these all out! Thanks for sharing.

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  12. Amy

    The only thing I remember of visiting New York was climbing the Statue of Liberty. I was four years old at the time, and absolutely loved it.

    • Diya

      It’s funny that we never did that! We’ll add it to our list when we go back. Somehow you miss things that are just at your doorstep – I grew up in Egypt and never set foot inside the pyramids!

  13. The transit museum sounds great! Someday we’ll have to check it out!

  14. Larry

    Wow! Love the concept! There seems to be a whole community of world travellers with kids and time to spend. How wonderful. Certainly a great inspiration and resource pool for the rest of us. John Steinbeck made a book “Travels with Charlie” about his trip around the US with his dog.

    • Diya

      It is an amazing community of supportive and inspirational families. We’ve never met any of them, but consider them friends already – such are the wonders of the Internet. My favorite Travels with Charlie moment is when he pees on a feather 🙂

  15. I am a CT gal so visit NY often. I have never been to any of these spots and am always looking for more off the beaten track places. I am bookmarking this now for my next visit home…well in about 5 years probably:)

    • Diya

      I’m glad we could point out places you haven’t been! Beware that some of them are summer spots – we’ve kind of blocked out East Coast winters from memory, as I am sure you can appreciate 🙂

      • I can relate for sure! Haven’t been in the winter in over 5 years and don’t plan to try it out anytime soon:)

        • Jon Pliner

          I like the list, Diya.

          I will point out, that Smorgasburg is not only a summer thing. In the winter it moves a few blocks away into the Brooklyn Brewery. Not quite the same (no grass for the kids), but still delicious food (and now beer) make it still worth the 5 block walk.

          • Diya

            I didn’t realize that. Thanks for pointing it out. I blocked winters out of memory, but now that I know this, I’ve softened up a bit.

  16. I’ve never been to New York but reading this makes me want to go. All these activities sound really fun, but the “smorgasburg”and the transit museum REALLY jumped out at me.

    Great post. Thank you!

    • Diya

      Thanks Renee. We tried to point out things we do that don’t hit the tourist radar. Hopefully you’ll get to enjoy them in NYC.

  17. The transit museum sounds wonderful. I think my kids could spend all day there. Tompkins Park sounds great too … although we might skip the Australian pies having grown up on them. Hot dogs seem far more exotic for us!

  18. This is great…because we just went to New York City last May and not visited either one of the places on your list. This can only mean one thing: we have to go back once more! We loved the city and the Transit museum was on our list. In the end time was lacking so we had to skip that one. But next time….

    • Diya

      I’m glad the post may bring you back to New York! We do try and avoid the more touristy things – we find them too crowded. Let us know when you are next in the city.

  19. Aditi

    Hey Diya,
    I really enjoy reading your blog! This is a great list of places we can consider visiting with Aanya. Some additions to NYC Family Favourites- Central Park, Bronx zoo, Children’s museum.
    Hope all of you are well! Safe travels..

    • Diya

      Thanks for the additions! I think New York favorites are somewhat tied to the home neighborhood, so it’s good to have variety. Great to know that you are reading 🙂

  20. I have never before felt any desire to visit New York. (I’ve always felt that you can “visit” America anytime by just turning on the TV.) But you have made it sound quite intriguing. Maybe, just maybe, the US could make it onto my list.

    I can’t believe there’s a place called Tuck Shop in NYC that sells pies!! School canteens are called “tuck shops” in Australia. As a kid I yearned to buy a pie from the tuck shop, but we never had enough money so I always had sandwiches from home for lunch. Now I can afford pies, I don’t like them at all!

    Great list, Diya. I hope many many people find it useful. 🙂

    • Diya

      Thanks Barabara! Let’s make a deal – if you make it to New York, I will treat you to Tuck Shop 🙂 I didn’t know that school canteens were called tuck shops, that’s good background.

  21. I’m from the Big Apple and never thought of it as a place for kids, until I returned with my baby. And there is sooo much to do it’s amazing!

    we did a lot of the subway riding, ice skating, central park, fire fighters meeting, gymboree, chelsea piers.

    It’s truly a kids place.

    • Diya
        We can thank all of that to the resurgance of families in the city. We haven’t done fire fighters meetings for Chelsea Piers with the kids, so thanks for the ideas!
  22. oh, i am hungry just thinking of this!! 🙂 thanks for the GREAT list!

  23. Good to read about all the new positive growth of NYC ! I lived and worked there for 10 years before having 7 kids and know first hand of many of the locations you mentioned. But the Bowery and Alphabet City were places I did not frequent back in the 80’s due to their notoriety ( Mom said the drunks lived permanently in the Bowery and the ABC’s were a rough place to be ). So “Whole Foods” now instead of “The Bowery Brewery” and “kids safely singing their ABC’s in Alphabet City ” : )
    We have not been back to NYC in a while. Thanks for the update on Gotham City through your helpful article : )

    • Diya

      Susan – you should definitely make a visit back. You won’t recognize the place (in good ways and bad). Even in the 9 years we lived there things changed so much. All in all, the changes are better for families. Thanks for shedding color on life back in the 80s!

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