We live about 30 minutes from New York City and I like to take a Big Apple family outing about every six weeks. Our weekends are packed with sports and activities, so it doesn’t always happen , but it’s a goal.
Wilson’s always game but the boys (7, 9, and 13) are usually wary. It might be because our excursions usually entail a cultural activity, which they whine and complain about beforehand, but usually enjoy. I’ve learned the key is to make it short, limit the walking, and always, always, entice them with food.
We recently took a particularly successful city sojourn that’s blog-worthy for those seeking that sweet spot activity that’s engaging, educational, and fun.
We started out at the Shake Shack on the Upper West Side. We are burger connoisseurs so believe me when I say the Shack Burger with house sauce is terrific and you can’t find anything as delicious as the Shack-cago dog without hopping on a plane to the Second City. The fries are also quite good and the shakes always wow my boys. They even have a vegetarian option (but really, what’s the point?) and for those of you needing extra courage and/or patience for your day of culture with the kids, they sell wine and beer. The lines can be long so try to go just before 12p or after 2p if possible, but the reasonably priced, tasty eats are completely worth the wait.
Then we sauntered a block over to 77th and Central Park West to the New York Historical Society Museum. We all loved the short film about the history of New York that repeats in the lobby theater all day. It’s shown on a giant screen and follows the city from shipping destination to power center, highlighting its diversity of citizens and significant events. The museum has an eclectic group of exhibits– from art (paintings, photography and sculpture) to culture (Tiffany lamps to vintage trains and toys.) The building is easy to navigate and you can cover a lot in a short time.
But the must see for kids is the Children’s History Museum on the lower level of the building. The idea is to explore the history of New York through the eyes of children of the past. There are several interactive exhibits in the space, on topics that interest kids. 13-year-old Jacob liked the voting exhibit that was a guessing game teaching who was allowed to vote in elections through the years.
The kids museum offers great free programs so check the calendar before you go. The day we visited, an expert on Abraham Lincoln give the kids a quiz about his life. My uber-competitive boys love learning that way. There are also two scavenger hunt lists kids can fill out as you walk through the building, which keeps them involved.
While you could spend more time there, we did a clean sweep of the museum in about two hours. All that walking and learning made my guys hungry again so we headed to Sugar and Plumm–– a bistro with Parisian flair– on 79th and Amsterdam. You can sit down and eat from a menu featuring items all made with fresh ingredients like buckwheat savory crepes and chicken and waffles.
OR you can skip the real food and go for dessert– in almost any form. The choices are heaven, but the choosing was hell. How to commit, between sundaes, cookies, cakes, chocolate, and gelato? Still pining for Paris, Jacob and I split a banana Nutella crepe that was sublime, and I bought some cookies on the side.
There’s also a small but ample candy section that will make your kids’ eyes pop out of their heads. Aden and Eli shared gummy worms and a bar of white chocolate while Wilson had coffee and a macaroon. We sat at a communal table by the window, admiring every whipped cream, chocolatey delight that passed by.
In the car ride home, the kids confessed to enjoying the museum and still fondly remember the food. It’s always good to end on a high note and we had enough sugar and caffeine in us to soar.
Please tell me in the comments about any successful New York activities you’d recommend with kids.