Staycations for NYC families
You know the city's far-reaching treasures, but do your kids? We've put together five staycations to help show your crew some multiborough love.
Fri Jun 22 2012
Photograph: Wendy Connett
Photograph: Julie Larsen Maher (c) WCS
Museum of the Moving Image
Photograph: Andrew Hinderaker
"Super Models" at the South Street Seaport Museum
Photo credit: Michael Falco, Courtesy of the SI Borough President's Office
Staten Island Museum
Photograph: Beth Levendis
There's something about school breaks that invites in-depth staycations: explorations you might not undertake on a normal weekend. In particular, they're a great time to visit a borough you haven't been to in a while. That's why we've rounded up five staycations, one per borough—each doable in a half day but easily expandable to a full one—for the school break. These slightly off-the-beaten-path destinations will reward your kids' thirst for adventure, and your own desire to shake up your daily routine, rather perfectly.
BRONX: Bronx Zoo
A visit to the largest zoo in the Wildlife Conservation Society's stable is always win-win: Your kids come to appreciate the diversity of the natural world, learn about animal behavior, and get lots of fresh air and exercise in the process. The 265-acre preserve is filled with close to 600 species, grouped in manageable themed exhibits, such as the indoor Jungle World—where kids will find a tropical rain forest filled with monkeys and otters, panthers, small reptiles and exotic fauna like the binturong (a.k.a. bearcat)—and the Congo Gorilla Forest, a ground-level, glass-enclosed passage where families come face-to-face with gorillas of all sizes, including, more often than not, adorable babies cradled in their moms' arms. In the warmer months, don't miss a trip on the Asian monorail (May--Oct), which travels over the Bronx River and through the woods visiting Przewalski's horses, Siberian tigers, red pandas and elephants.
Lunch: Plan a visit to Zero Otto Nove (2357 Arthur Ave at 186th St; 718-220-1027, roberto089.com) in the Bronx's famed Little Italy for a proper meal—excellent wood-oven fired pizza, plus an extensive array of antipasti and all kinds of carefully prepared Italian entres, from grilled jumbo shrimp to chicken in a white wine sauce. Just be sure to pack lots of snacks for your trek through the zoo.
Extend the day: Engage the kids with a food-shopping adventure through the authentic Italian shops of Arthur Avenue, with stops at Borgatti's (632 E 187th St between Belmont and Hughes Ave; 718-367-3799, borgattis.com) for ravioli, Casa della Mozzarella (604 E 187th St between Arthur and Hughes Aves, 718-364-3867) for that famed white cheese, and De Lillo's Pastry Shop (606 E 187th St between Arthur and Hughes Ave; 718-367-8198, delillopastryshop.com) for cannollis and sfogliatelles.
BROOKLYN: Brooklyn Museum
The fountains in front of the stately beaux-arts institution alone make a visit to this museum a treat in warmer months, but the museum will rivet young art lovers year-round. Kids always relish the amazing Egyptian collection, one of the world's best known outside of Egypt, including the long-term installations "Egypt Reborn: Art for Eternity," which looks at themes of permanence and change, and "The Mummy Chamber." For other must-see exhibits in the city for kids, click here.
Lunch: New York has plenty of legendary eateries, but only at venerable Prospect Heights institution Tom's (782 Washington Ave at Sterling Pl, 718-636-9738) are coffee and cookies offered as you wait in line. It's that personal touch—in addition to the cherry lime rickeys and lemon ricotta pancakes—that has kept Tom's in business since 1945.—Alia Akkam
Extend the day: With the spring 2012 arrival of a new visitor center, the expansive Brookyn Botanic Garden is more beautiful than ever. Explore everything from the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden to the Steinhart Conservatory with our new Brooklyn Botanic Garden guide.
MANHATTAN: South Street Seaport Museum
After a rather mysterious hiatus, the South Street Seaport Museum is back in a big way. Click here for the lowdown on all the museum has to offer families. Don't forget to stop by one of the city's hidden treasures: Bowne & Co. Stationers (211 Water St at Fulton St, 212-748-8651). Walking inside is like stepping back a hundred years, as the shop has authentic letterpresses and cabinets and winsome, decidedly throwback wares for sale, such as handmade cards, prints and old-fashioned pencils.
Lunch: Keep the nautical theme going at the newly opened Luke's Lobster (26 South William St between Beaver and Broad Sts; 212-747-1700, lukeslobster.com), part of a new indie chain that exudes the charms of a seaside shack. Offerings like Maine-style shrimp and lobster rolls will induce in your crew dreams of summer.
Extended day option: Stop by the New York City Police Museum, a must-visit spot especially for the younger set for its interactive Junior Officers Discovery Zone.
QUEENS: Museum of the Moving Image
Hopping an M, N, Q or R train to Astoria will zip your crew to one of the hands-down coolest museums in the city—for kids and adults. Long industrial blocks and few pedestrians mark this nabe as distinctly different from most other parts of the city, but once you enter the spot's glossy white lobby, you're home free. If possible, schedule your trip to include a film screening either before or after your visit to the three-floor permanent "Behind the Screen" exhibit, whose top floor is particularly packed with interactive stations for filmmakers-in-training. Don't miss the dubbing station, where kids can add voiceovers to favorite films scenes, or the baseball studio, which gives mini game watchers a look at the nimble process by which editors cherry-pick shots that best convey gameplay to TV audiences.
Lunch: Right across the street is a huge Five Napkin Burger (35-01 36th St, 718-433-2727, 5napkinburger.com/astoria-queens). Its extensive list of maki rolls, entres like lobster sliders or fish and chips, and myriad juicy burgers make it appealing to all manner of picky eaters.
Extend the day: After lunch, hop on the train for a couple stops to another Astoria destination, the Noguchi Museum, the refurbished former studio of the minimalist, highly expressive Japanese-American sculptor Isamu Noguchi.
STATEN ISLAND: Staten Island Museum
Imagine a cross between the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History, scale it down many times and give it a local twist, and you'll have some idea of what awaits at the quixotic Staten Island Museum. Its size is ideal for a visit with the kids, as are its permanent shows, like "Lenape, the First Staten Islander" and "Wall of Insects." The museum also sponsors all kinds of nature-themed walks and hikes in the borough.
Lunch: Given the trip you've taken to get here, treat your family to lunch at Spanish tapas eatery Beso (11 Schuyler St between Richmond Terr and Stuyvesant Pl; 718-816-8162, besonyc.com). Lunch specials rotate weekly, and could include the likes of a vegetable or soft-shell-crab wrap or a steak sandwich.
Extend the day: Recharge at the St. George Library Center Children's Room, which we included in our list of the city's best libraries for NYC kids. Any book you borrow there can be returned at your local library.