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 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.