New York City Off the Beaten Path
The Empire State Building. The Statue of Liberty. Times Square. New York City's best-known attractions are so consistently mobbed that city parents tend to avoid them, trading the crankiness and exhaustion brought on by long lines for the pleasures of these less-trafficked, child-friendly destinations. And don't be intimidated by an outer-borough address. Not only are these locations easily reached by subway, your kid might list that brief jaunt on the F train as the highlight of the trip!
The Museum of the Moving Image
35th Avenue at 36th Street, Queens
Aspiring movie stars can read lines from "The Wizard of Oz," project their heads above iconic costumes, and escape green-screen disasters, while future artists can create Monty Python-style animations. Make sure to purchase a $3 printout of your video flip book for some animated memories.
The Lower East Side Tenement Museum
108 Orchard St.
Before Orchard Street tenements became red-hot real estate, they housed generations of New York City's immigrants. A costumed interpreter welcomes kids as young as five into a reconstruction of the Confino family's apartment, where they're sure to start appreciating the modern conveniences they take for granted.
The Donnell Library
20 W. 53rd St.
This comfortable, book-filled oasis (otherwise known as the permanent residence of Winnie the Pooh) offers a welcome break from the city's intensity. It could be just the ticket for a child whose parents have spent the better part of the day marching him or her around MOMA, which is just across the street.
Chinatown Ice Cream Factory
Eschew the tacky trinket shops lining Mulberry and Mott in favor of the stationery stores, fish markets, bakeries, and dim sum parlors below Canal. Fortify the troops with a coconut bun from Nice One Bakery, 47 Bayard St., or a green tea cone from the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory, one block to the west, before plunging down those interesting side streets.
Brooklyn Superhero Supply Company
372 Fifth Ave., Brooklyn
Junior crime fighters can stock up on capes, canned antimatter, and grappling hooks while adult sidekicks peruse a plethora of inventive signage. All proceeds benefit 826 NYC, a kids' writing center founded by Dave Eggers. Be forewarned that anyone making a purchase will be required to recite the posted Superhero Oath.
New York Transit Museum
Corner of Boerum Place and Schermerhorn Street, Brooklyn
What three-year-old doesn't dream of driving the bus? Three out-of-commission transit authority vehicles, aided by a station's worth of vintage subway cars, make those dreams a reality.
Empire-Fulton Ferry Park
Along the East River in Brooklyn
Entrances at Main Street and Water Street
Situated between the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges, this grassy reprieve offers incomparable views of lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty. A pirate ship anchors the northern entrance and elaborately dressed Chinese bridal parties colonize the southern Fulton Ferry Landing for weekend photo ops.
Grand Central's Whispering Wall
Grand Central Station, 42nd Street at Park Avenue
Position yourself in a corner diagonally across from your kid in the passageway just outside the lower-level Oyster Bar, then whisper a secret message that will come through loud and clear. Do a little scientific research before leaving home if you want to be able to answer curious onlookers' questions as to how this works. A simple "Beats me, but it's a blast!" will also suffice.
New York Cake and Baking Distributors
56 W. 22nd St.
Dedicated young bakers and those with birthdays coming up may find that holiday-themed sprinkles, fluorescent icings, sugared flowers, and novelty cake pans and candy molds make the best souvenirs.
About the Author:
Ayun Halliday is the Chief Primatologist of the award-winning zine The East Village Inky, and the author of four self-mocking autobiographies, including "The Big Rumpus" and "Dirty Sugar Cookies: Culinary Observations, Questionable Taste."