Timeout New York Kids

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Essential New York

Essential NYC for kids

50 things a kid's gotta do before he hits 5 feet Photograph: John Ly We asked adults who grew up in the city to recall their favorite family traditions. Then we tapped their kids for modern delights that didn't exist back when dinosaurs roamed the parks and the streets were lined with public sculptures called pay phones. The result: our essential checklist of things to do, see and taste in NYC during the wonder years. 1. Shake your booty at Baby Loves DiscoWhy should dance clubs be limited to the over-21 crowd? Thanks to Baby Loves Disco parties, the under-seven set can get the Studio 54 treatment at Manhattan's Le Poisson Rouge. Replacing the previous night's aroma of beer, the air is heavy with bubbles, the dangling strings of balloons and the scent of popcorn. As the disco ball spins, the dance floor comes alive with jumpers, slitherers and stompers, all waist high. Kids and parents alike adore the classic hits from the '70s and '80s. Noisemakers, juice boxes and snacks are also available. 2. Order a Bagel with the worksReal New Yorkers eat their boiled dough one way—and that happens to be the best way. Have your kid tell the deli man she'd like a bagel with cream cheese, Nova, tomato and sliced onions. Then see if she can avoid getting cream cheese all over her face. For the ultimate at-home taste sensation, head to smoked salmon mecca Russ & Daughters to pick up the schmear and other toppings, and to Ess-a-Bagel, purveyors of the most flavorful, moistest bagels in Manhattan, for the base of the meal. That's what we call being a well-rounded kid. Russ & Daughters, 179 E Houston St between Allen and Orchard Sts (212-475-4880, russanddaughters.com); Ess-a-Bagel, 359 First Ave at 21st St (212-260-2252, ess-a-bagel.com) or 831 Third Ave at 51st St (212-980-1010, ess-a-bagel.com) 3. Top of the Rock vs. Empire State BuildingSure, the 86th floor Observatory at the [node:23209 link=Empire State Building;] is the original place to go for an eagle's-eye look at New York, and it's located atop a global icon. But at 70 stories up, the observation deck at [node:23581 link=Top of the Rock Observation Deck at Rockefeller Center;] affords a spectacular vista of Central Park without the crazy lines. Plus, the sprawling subterranean mall at 30 Rock offers amenities like shopping and eating. Advantage: Top of the Rock. Enter on 50th St between Fifth and Sixth Aves (212-698-2000, topoftherocknyc.com). Photograph: Macy's, inc 4. Stay up to watch the balloons inflate before the Macy's Thanksgiving Day ParadeWe're not sure what's more exciting to little ones: traipsing down the street past bedtime, or seeing favorite characters grow from deflated parachutes to 3-D figures as tall as an apartment building near the [node:22991 link=American Museum of Natural History;] the night before the big procession. Kids who do this once will forever feel like insiders when they watch the parade—even if it's on TV. 5. Dress up and see a Broadway musical With good behavior come great rewards: That's the lesson children learn when they not only don itchy tights and starched shirts, but also manage to sit silently and still for two and a half hours. The experience will instill either a love affair with musical theater or a lifelong hatred of show tunes. For the former reaction, go with our pick: [node:24299 link=The Lion King;]. 6. Explore life undergroundMore than 150 works of art have been installed in more than 142 subway stations in the MTA's Arts for Transit program, but among New York's small set, Life Underground is surely the most popular. Constructed by Tom Otterness in his Gowanus studio, the installation consists of some 100 bronze sculptures placed throughout the multilevel station at 14th Street and Eighth Avenue. They represent lore associated with New York belowground (witness the alligator emerging from beneath a manhole cover, a man clamped in its chompers) as well as the construction of the subway system and straphangers' daily use of it. Yes, the figures are cute—their rounded proportions, money bag heads and clunky, outsize shoes evoke early cartoons—but they're also devious (the fare jumper), pushy (a fellow clutching a bag of loot claims a seat on a bench) and industrious (separate figures sweep pennies, hoist a beam and haul a giant token). That insistent busyness, as much as the sculptures' whimsy, accounts for their vast appeal. This is art kids want to touch, and for once, they can. Subway station at Eighth Ave and 14th St. For a list of all the artworks in Arts for Transit, visit mta.info/mta/aft/index.html or download a brochure at mta.info/mta/aft/about/publications.html. 7. Taste the immediate gratification of dim sumEat out without the wait. At Shun Lee Caf, a casual version of the famed Shun Lee West, elegant carts stocked with fragrant steamed and fried wontons, egg rolls and dumplings circle your table while you peruse the menu. Translation: No more listening to whines of "Where's our food?" 43 W 65th St between Central Park West and Columbus Ave (212-769-3888, shunleewest.com) 8. Learn the value of Patience and FortitudeEven the most ardent young bibliophiles might have difficulty picking Mo Willems out of a lineup, but they'll instantly recognize the New York Public Library's leonine guardians: Patience and Fortitude. Mayor Fiorello La Guardia named the marble cats for the character traits he felt would get city residents through the Great Depression, and we can certainly use those qualities today. In front of the NYPL's Humanities and Social Sciences Library, Fifth Ave at 42nd St (nypl.org) Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson 9. Eat a Slice, New York styleFor most kids, pizza is a fifth food group, and one of our inalienable rights as citizens of this city is our ability to get a slice on practically any corner. Younger diners have to suffer the indignity of eating bite-sized pieces with a fork, but a real rite of passage arrives when your kid is old enough to visit the local parlor and handle a slice like a true New Yorker: fold that cheesy triangle lengthwise, hold it with one hand, and let the rivers of orange grease run down the wrist. Heaven on a paper plate. [node:65643 link=Check out our roundup of great NYC pizza parlors.;] 10. Ice-skate at Wollman RinkThis is no ordinary piece of ice. Clutching a grown-up's hand, tots wobble and glide before a backdrop of trees and midtown towers. The crowds can be daunting, but encourage youngsters to be brave: This training ground will prepare them for navigating everything from alternate-side parking to sample sales. After taking a spin around, warm hands and bellies with a hot chocolate piled high with whipped cream. Open October to April. Enter park from Sixth Ave at 59th St (212-439-6900, wollmanskatingrink.com). [node:61148 link=Ice-skating rinks in NYC;] Photograph: Sara Cedar Miller/Central Park Conservancy 11. Climb Alice in WonderlandLeft hand here, right foot there—now hoist! Sit in Alice's lap, swing from her arm, stare down the Cheshire Cat, or pat the White Rabbit. In a city full of climbing walls rigged with fancy harnesses, this old-fashioned Children's Everest still appeals. Plus, it's one of our town's best photo ops. North end of Conservatory Water; enter park from Fifth Ave at 74th St (centralparknyc.org) Photograph: Sara Cedar Miller/Central Park Conservancy 12. Hang out at the Penguin HouseFor decades, the beloved attraction has reigned supreme at the Central Park Zoo. No wonder; the slippery little guys are awfully cute. But they also present an unexpected learning opportunity for young romantics: The exhibit is the home of Roy and Silo, two male chinstrap penguins that hooked up for six years as a gay couple, even raising their own chick from an adopted egg. The pair eventually broke up, and Silo mated with a female, but not before a kids' book, And Tango Makes Three, was written about the very New York family. 13. Dine at a non-child-friendly restaurantYoungsters may find the idea of going out to a nice restaurant with their parents about as enticing as getting dressed up to visit a great-aunt. But that first impression will quickly fade as they encounter the adventure that awaits beyond the table manners and cloth napkins. For one thing, they'll discover there are foods, like mussels and lamb chops, that you're actually supposed to eat with your hands. Consider it a date night for the entire family. You get to do more than consume your offspring's leftovers at the kitchen counter, and they get to feel part of the grown-up world for a night. 14. Frolic at Wave Hill in the BronxWithout any prompting, kids automatically respond to the natural beauty of this 28-acre former estate whose vista of the Palisades, across the Hudson River, is one of New York City's most stunning views. They frolic past the huge trees on its spacious lawns, inspect the miniature blossoms of alpine plants (these peak in late winter) and gambol along winding pathways through beds as colorful as the biggest box of crayons. Imaginative planting is a hallmark at [node:23716 link=Wave Hill;] (where else will tots see curly parsley used as an ornamental border?), and the unexpected combinations of colors and species keep the scene playful. In the dark water of the Aquatic Garden young visitors can get a fleeting glimpse of fish; a small conservatory bears flowering vines and artfully massed pots of greenery, hanging plants of unusual textures and a cactus collection. Trails through ten acres of woodland allow for private reverie and perhaps a sighting of a Baltimore oriole, just one of the bird species that stop here during their migration. Family art projects are on offer every weekend in the Ecology Building. Upstairs, in the Wave Hill House, built in 1843, is the caf, where soup, sandwiches and sweet treats await eager snackers. Carry your tray outdoors to one of the tables on the terrace, where your child can share brownie crumbs with alert sparrows. Humans aren't the only ones that flock to this place. 249th St and Independence Ave, Bronx (718-549-3200, wavehill.org Photograph: Sara Cedar Miller/Central Park Conservancy 15. Play at FAO Schwarz Many people visit New York City exclusively for [node:22901 link=FAO Schwarz;], the grand children's store that has been serving awed kids and generous parents for more than a century. New Yorkers often prefer their own neighborhood shops, but this is where dreams can come to life—like the toy soldier that stands guard shaking hands with young shoppers, and the enormous stuffed elephants and giraffes that children can fearlessly pet. Most people head straight to the 22-foot-long floor piano that Tom Hanks famously tinkled in Big. Continual demonstrations of the latest gadgets, electric and wooden trains, a Barbie runway and couture clothing, adult-size Lego figures, and the baby nursery contribute to the pleasant pandemonium. It's hard to escape without making a purchase, but that's a small price to pay for a lifetime memory. 767 Fifth Ave at 58th St (212-644-9400, fao.com) Photograph: Courtesy of The Cloisters 16. Time travel with the Unicorn TapestriesTo kids, they're apt to come across as a room-size graphic novel: a seven-panel episode in which men and dogs pursue a mythological beast. The symbolism they evoke—the animal's magical, purifying horn, the tamed bridegroom, Christ's ascension—is a bit abstruse for little ones; luckily, love of the 500-year-old tapestries does not hang on those details. Opulently woven of wool, silk, and gilded and silver threads, the works collectively known as "The Unicorn Tapestries" have graced a hushed gallery in the Cloisters ever since the museum opened its heavy wooden doors in 1938. The high-style costumes, spears and background castles conjure medieval times. Yet the facial expressions and gestures of the people depicted mirror those of our own era. The rabbits, dogs and stag resemble the animals we know, and 85 of the 101 species of plants (strawberries, iris, holly, oak) have been identified by modern scholars. In many ways, mythology aside, their world is ours. [node:23160 link=The Cloisters;], 99 Margaret Corbin Dr, Fort Tryon Park (212-923-3700, metmuseum.org) 17. The Manhattan Cupcake WarEvery borough has a fave bakery or two, but when it comes to cupcake craziness, Manhattan takes the cake. So, depending on your parental preference, drag Junior along to queue up with the masses at Magnolia (for locations see magnoliabakery.com) for a bite of Sex and the City--accredited goodness; pass off the bake-sale-esque sprinkled cuties from Billy's Bakery (for locations see billysbakerynyc.com) as your own; admire the floral icing artistry and stick-o-buttah richness at Cupcake Caf (for locations see cupcakecafe-nyc.com); or succumb to sugary catatonia of the candy-encrusted variety at Crumbs (for locations see crumbsbakeshop.com). The sweetest one of all? Oh, we couldn't possibly say, so subjective and hotly debated is this issue, even among our staff. 18. Chill to Gustafer Yellowgold in concertAs the Dead is to hippies, Gustafer Yellowgold is to tots, albeit without the acid. Little, yellow and different, Gustafer is an emigr from the sun who resides on Earth with three friends—a pterodactyl named Forrest Applecrumbie, a dragon named Asparagus and a pet eel, Slimothy. The appealing crew comes to life in the form of dreamy animation projected on a giant screen behind Morgan Taylor, the singer-songwriter who created them. For a schedule of live shows, visit www.gustaferyellowgold.com) 19. Lose yourself at Books of WonderRelive your knee-high days in the company of your own little ones at this repository of childhood memories past and present. You'll find old friends here—Carle, Sendak, Wise Brown—and make new discoveries. The cheery space also hosts a popular weekly storytime and A-list author appearances. Grab a buttercream-frosted treat at the in-store branch of Cupcake Caf (see "The Manhattan Cupcake War," above) to share with your tot, and get lost in Oz, Narnia or Hogwarts. 18 W 18th St between Fifth and Sixth Aves (212-989-3270, booksofwonder.com) 20. Amble through Prospect ParkRumor has it that Manhattan boasts a large swath of greenery somewhere or other—but frankly, we're too busy in Brooklyn's Prospect Park to check it out. Let's not mince words: Prospect Park might be the single best place in New York. The Long Meadow is perfect for running around and flying kites. Those in the mood to read or nap can head to the quieter Nethermead, a rolling meadow, while budding explorers can check out the Ravine's rugged paths and waterfalls. The park's nooks and crannies also conceal a small zoo, a carousel (which rotates at a good clip, so fasten your tykes' saddle belts), tours on an electric boat and seven different playgrounds, along with seasonal events like the Halloween Haunted Walk & Carnival and Hawk Weekend, where your kids can have a meaningful—and safe!—encounter with one of those fearsome but supercool predators. Finally, Prospect Park is bordered on the west by Park Slope, considered by many to be the most kid-friendly 'hood in the city. 21. See a movie alfrescoWhat better surroundings for a great movie than the twinkling city itself? The crush of humanity that is Bryant Park's Summer Film Festival is no place to bring a child, but thankfully, there are now other outdoor venues for summertime celluloid throughout the five boroughs and even Hoboken. Part of the allure for the stroller set is the stay-up-late factor—most reels don't start running till after dark, so pack a picnic dinner, cinema snacks and a blanket. Just don't be surprised if your gung-ho kids can't stay awake till the end credits. 22. Poke around ChinatownExposure to different cultures is the norm in the five boroughs, but for total immersion in another world, take a train to Canal Street. On the crowded main drags, street vendors hawk bubble blasters and other plastic toys, while fishmongers and grocers display mountains of exotic ingredients. Make sure to stray down the less-beaten paths as well—along Catherine or Henry Streets—where tourists aren't as likely to ruin the effect. During the Lunar New Year, in midwinter, the area explodes in color and drama. Photograph: Elizabeth H. Robinson 23. March in Brooklyn's Mermaid ParadeLaunched in 1983 in remembrance of Coney Island's onetime Mardi Gras festivities, the late-June procession kicks off summer in sweaty DIY fashion. Sign up to march in your marine-themed finest, or just gawk at the giant lobsters, marooned sailors, bathing beauties and slinky selkies strutting their waterlogged stuff along Surf Avenue and the boardwalk. With nearly every corner of the city colonized by a Starbucks, Gap or chain fro-yo store—and the fate of Coney Island perpetually in flux—this cheerfully debauched, homegrown tradition is just about mandatory. It may be the only event in town where the phrases family-friendly and partial nudity commingle. Begins at W 21st St and Surf Ave, Coney Island, Brooklyn (coneyisland.com/mermaid.shtml) Photograph: AMNH 24. Take a Journey to the Stars at the Hayden PlanetariumBuckle up for a virtual tour of outer space led by Oscar-winning actor Whoopi Goldberg. This immersive film whisks youngsters into the great beyond via images of star formations and simulations of celestial events. Tiny specks of light illuminate the screen with incredible colors, and the seats actually shake as supernovas explode, altering the universe forever. A trip to the sun's surface reveals solar winds that travel ominously toward Earth, creating auroras and other solar light displays at the North Pole. While older kids and adults might recognize astronomy lessons on their voyage, little ones will just be, well, star-struck. Screens every half hour: Mon, Tue, Thu, Fri 10:30am--4:30pm; Wed 11am--4pm; Sat, Sun 10:30am--5pm. Hayden Planetarium, the Rose Center for Earth and Space, [node:22991 link=American Museum of Natural History;], Central Park West at 79th St (212-769-5100, amnh.org) 25. Strike a pose at Karma Kids YogaThese days, children and yoga go together like peanut butter and jelly—we challenge you to find a city toddler who doesn't know the downward dog. One of the first yogis on the youth scene was Shari Vilchez-Blatt, founder of Karma Kids. Since 2002, the Manhattan mom has been leading classes that combine stories, games and music with classic poses and breathing exercises. In addition to getting a gentle workout, students absorb lessons in respect, body awareness, concentration and inner strength. Free classes are available. Various locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn. karmakidsyoga.com 26. Drop into the NYC Fire MuseumEven in this day and age, most kids want to be a fireman at some point. A trip to the Fire Museum will let 'em live the fantasy for an afternoon. The institution relates the storied history of firefighting in the Big Apple from the 1700s to 9/11 right up to the present day. Lots of old equipment is on display, like the gas-powered Van Blerck tractor from 1912, which is kinda cool even if blerck sounds like your babe burping up a smoothie. 278 Spring St between Varick and Hudson Sts (212-691-1303, nycfiremuseum.org) 27. Delve into small pleasures at M&J TrimmingWhen they tire of embroidery-floss friendship bracelets, young Gothamites in the know go to M&J. This is where they find sparkly sequin flowers by the yard (starting at $10 a yard) to jazz up their flip-flops, satiny jewel-tone rattail cord (starting ta $1 a yard) to string with chunky beads, and iron-on rhinestone appliqus ($3 to $40). The store stocks every conceivable ribbon: American-flag grosgrain (starting at $2 a yard) might be this month's topical hair accessory, and leopard print or black-and-yellow bumble-bee jacquard ($4 and $5 a yard, respectively) would make a fine guitar strap. M&J Trimming, 1008 Sixth Ave between 37th and 38th Sts (212-391-6200, mjtrim.com) 28. Tour Governors IslandAfter decades of mysterious isolation, the city's very own ghost town is now an easy (and free) escape off the southern tip of Manhattan. From the last weekend of May through mid-October, families can rent bikes or bring their own and ride around [node:65755 link=Governors Island guide;], circulate through two 1812-era forts, then play a round of mini-golf. Most summer weekends offer something special: a concert under the stars, kayaking clinics or fishing demonstrations. (govisland.com).  29. Bike to the Little Red LighthouseThe only official ships' beacon on the island of Manhattan was made famous by the classic children's book The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge. Getting there from the Fairway in Harlem (2328 Twelfth Ave at 130th St) is a 25-minute bike ride along the Hudson River to 178th St and the Hudson River. The pathway hugs the banks, where weekend fishermen cast lines; other passing attractions include tennis courts, swings and pick-up basketball games. Best time to go: a Saturday when the New York City Urban Park Rangers are giving a free tour of the lighthouse, once or twice a month between April and October (212-304-2365, historichousetrust.org). Photograph: Michelle Weberman 30. Bring Fluffy to the Blessing of the Animals at the Cathedral Church of St. John the DivinePets of all religious affiliations flock to Morningside Heights' Gothic cathedral the first Sunday each October for a benediction at the Feast of Saint Francis (their patron saint). Arrive early if you want to secure a spot from which to watch the indoor procession of puppies, monkeys, porcupines, camels and other beasts to the pulpit. Outside, the clergy bless an ark's worth of Gotham's domestic companions into the late afternoon. Cathedral of St. John the Divine, 1047 Amsterdam Ave at 112th St (212-316-7490, stjohndivine.org) Photograph: Courtesy of the Queens Museum of Art 31. View the Panorama of NYC at the Queens MuseumThe vastness of the city is what first strikes you—ironically, it's easier to wrap your brain around when viewed in miniature, laid out in a single room. Then the major landmarks catch your eye: parks, bridges, airports, lesser-known islands. The Empire State Building leads you to search out other skyscrapers, followed by less-imposing structures and architectural details. Watch your child's face closely for the inevitable moment when he realizes...your apartment must also be represented here! Now for the coup de grace: Blow his little mind by wondering out loud what's inside all these buildings: diminutive families making crumb-size meals? A tiny you and an even teenier him? Man, that's good stuff. Queens Museum of Art, New York City Building, 111th St at 49th St, Queens (718-592-9700, queensmuseum.org) 32. Marvel at department store holiday windows It's the perfect blend of art and commerce: The city's big retailers try to [node:59734 link=Holiday windows in NYC 2010;] with mechanized doll vignettes, offbeat political statements and opulent fashion fantasies. And, hey, if the displays lure window-lickers inside, all the better. The four Bs—Bergdorf, Barneys, Bendel and Bloomie's—are always standouts, as are Lord & Taylor, Macy's and Saks. 33. Shop at Pearl River MartThis Chinese department store is nirvana for children and adults alike. Wander the main floor and basement for cheap treasures like paper lanterns and umbrellas, kid-sized chopsticks and rice bowls, origami sets and tin windup toys, mini mandarin dresses and sequined slippers, and cult collectibles from Sanrio. Don't forget to look up: An awesome array of Chinese New Year dragon costumes hangs from the ceiling. 477 Broadway between Grand and Broome Sts (212-431-4770, pearlriver.com) Photograph: D. Finnin/AMNH 34. Whale vs. Dinosaur at the AMNHThis is a toughie. Which is more awesome: the big blue whale dangling above your family's heads in the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life, or the museum's unsurpassed collection of dinosaur skeletons? For visual beauty it's hard to top the whale, which is lit to appear as if it's in the deep ocean. But for sheer monstrosity, there's nothing quite like the dino specimens, which feature T. rex, Apatosaurus (formerly known as Brontosaurus) and Stegosaurus. Since little kids secretly relish being terrified, we'll have to give this one to the dinosaurs. [node:22991 link=American Museum of Natural History;], Central Park West at 79th St (212-769-5100, amnh.org) 35. Climb aboard the Staten Island FerryLike an oversize bath toy, the bright orange ferry cruises to SI and back in about an hour. Snag a spot outside on the deck to admire the downtown skyline, the Statue of Liberty and passengers' hairdos as they're whipped into fuzzy meringues by bracing winds. (Hot tip: Soft pretzels from the on-board snack bar make excellent hand warmers.) Before you hop on the boat, [node:66508 link=St. George;]. Whitehall Terminal, 1 Whitehall St at South St (Staten Island Ferry) 36. Stroll through the Feast of San GennaroThere are city street fairs, and then there's the annual salute to the patron saint of Naples known as the Feast of San Gennaro. The 11-day odyssey of food and fun descends upon Little Italy every September, much to the chagrin of neighborhood residents (most of whom evacuate) and the delight of wiseguys and wanna-bes from all five boroughs and beyond. While the Feast may test a parent's definition of a good time (heaving crowds, anyone?), most kids will be captivated by the utter spectacle of it all and the assault on the senses—the sight of red, green and white garlands flickering overhead, the sound of crooners and carney barkers, the scent of sizzling sausages and peppers, and the taste of zeppole and cannoli. Together you can peek into tenement windows from the top of the twinkling Ferris wheel while you try to explain what it all has to do with a religious statue strewn with dollar bills. Mulberry St between E Houston and Canal Sts (sangennaro.org) Photograph: Courtesy of Metropolitan Museum of Art 37--40. Spend a day at the MetIt may be true, as Einstein said, that imagination is more important than knowledge, but little New Yorkers get the two stirred together when they visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Among its permanent exhibitions beloved by children is the Arms and Armor Hall, where elegantly crafted weapons of death are displayed alongside diabolical jousting armor (check out the wing nuts and the lethal-looking spike protruding from the breastplates) and, on the mounted steeds, segmented steel skirts that protected vulnerable equine flanks. A junior-size suit of steel and gilt brass is thought to have been a gift from Louis XIV of France to his five-year-old great-grandson. In the extensive Japanese section, spooky Edo-period armor of lacquered wood, silk and gold accompanies iron helmets in the shapes of a sea conch and a rabbit. Photograph: Courtesy of Metropolitan Museum of Art Follow up those action-packed galleries with a tour of the Mummy Hall, with its intricately painted, human-shaped nesting coffins—and some linen-wrapped remains—guarded over by carved falcons. Nearby stands the Temple of Dendur. Tots step right into the compact structure to eye the inscriptions on its 15 B.C. sandstone columns and walls (and the graffiti left by 19th-century European explorers). Off to one side, they ogle the majestic, 11-foot-long granite sphinx of Hatshepsut, ancient Egypt's premier female pharaoh and possibly the world's first woman head of state. Cap off a visit at the Roof Garden Caf. The outdoor caf is open May through October, and during the summer it's accessorized with special exhibitions of contemporary sculptures. Your art lover can order a virgin pia colada and a snazzy sandwich (the casual menu changes daily) while taking in one of the grandest views New York has to offer: Seen from above, Central Park's vast canopy of trees looks like an enormous, rolling lawn. [node:23410 link=The Metropolitan Museum of Art;], 1000 Fifth Ave at 82nd St (212-535-7710, metmuseum.org) Photograph: Courtesy of the Queens Museum of Art 41. Smell the roses at the Everett Children's Adventure GardenSure, the giant topiary caterpillars are goofy fun, and the indoor Discovery Center, where kids can press plants and examine them with microscopes, makes science inviting. But the genius of the New York Botanical Garden's oasis for children is in the flora. As they romp through its 12 acres, little explorers encounter attention-grabbing natural phenomena: a golden birch's papery flaking bark; a pot of mimosa, the "sensitive plant," whose leaves and stems collapse dramatically when touched. Strategically placed markers beckon tots to employ their senses. look! reads a sign near a tree's elaborate exposed root system. The layout and landscaping of all the "rooms" in this year-round garden-within-a-garden (conveniently located near the main entrance, visitor center and caf) beguile budding botanists. Leaves both feathery and leathery, of all shapes and sizes, unobtrusively demonstrate nature's diversity. Youngsters gravitate to the Boulder Maze to climb a winding path or clamber up the rocks. The chairs in a story circle have been cut from logs, a bridge spans a tiny pond filled with water hyacinth, and a path leads visitors above a waterfall. Simple displays share life-cycle lessons. About pollen's "big job," a sign asks, "Why is something so small so important?" Judging from the shrieks and giggles floating through the air here, the Bronx institution knows all about the importance of its littlest guests and how to engage them. New York Botanical Garden, Kazimiroff Blvd at Fordham Rd, Bronx (718-817-8700, nybg.org) 42. Staten Island Yankees vs. the Brooklyn CyclonesThe fields, bats and balls are all regulation size, but everything else about these two waterfront stadiums is mini and manageable, including the ticket and food prices. There are no nosebleed seats, which means a foul ball is within everyone's reach. And your eyes will keep drifting from the action to the starkly beautiful bay view each venue affords. Still, when it comes time to take ourselves out to the ball game, we go Yankees. The Cyclones' Coney Island location (brooklyncyclones.com) may allow a pre-game plummet on the team's namesake roller coaster, but the unhurried voyage to see the Yanks (siyanks.com) on the Staten Island Ferry—which practically deposits you onto first base—is just the start of a languid, small-town experience we New Yorkers occasionally need to keep sane. 43. Gorge on hot dogs and juice at Papaya KingAdult food snobs may tsk-tsk, but small fries know fast food. At this long-standing establishment, Manhattan's first frank-and-tropical-drink dive, the "original special" comes with two well-done dogs with toppings and a 16-oz all-natural juice for $5. Papaya King, 179 E 86th St between Lexington and Third Aves (212-369-0648, papayaking.com). See website for other locations. 44. Pass out paper towels to New York City Marathon runnersAs exhausted runners in the New York City Marathon sprint their way through Central Park toward the finish line on a November Sunday, kids can become part of the action by standing on the sidelines with outstretched arms, offering sheets of paper towel. By the time the gleaming athletes have reached this part of the route, they'll be ready for a good wiping down. Find a spot along Park Drive, between 86th and 90th Sts. (nycmarathon.org) 45. Fly high in trapeze schoolLet suburban youth sign up for soccer and ballet lessons—daring New Yorkers as young as five can let off steam on the flying trapeze. It takes urban chutzpah to slip on a waist harness and climb a rickety ladder up to the platform on high, then lean out over the open space to grab the trapeze. If that sounds extreme, consider that city kids have their choice of trapeze schools: Espaa-Streb Trapeze Academy (51 North 1st St, Williamsburg; 718-384-6491, streb.org) and Trapeze School New York (outdoors in Hudson River Park at Pier 40, West St at Houston St, or indoors at 518 W 30th St between Tenth and Eleventh Aves; 212-242-8769, newyork.trapezeschool.com). The look on their faces? Pure exhilaration. 46. Liberty Science Center vs. the New York Hall of ScienceAdults who grew up in the city have a soft spot for the [node:23477 link=New York Hall of Science;], located in the 1964 New York World's Fair grounds in Queens. But the newer [node:23363 link=Liberty Science Center;], which was totally refurbished in 2007, succeeds beautifully in its stated aim to reinvent the science-museum-going experience. An interactive, heat-sensitive "cave painting" allows tykes to add their handprints to the mural like real Cro-Mags. (Talk about "It's so simple, a caveman can do it"!) Then there's the giant blue nose that sneezes spray at visitors. And let's not forget the I-beam jungle gym, which lets kids "walk the steel" just like a construction worker building a skyscraper. Winner by a nose: Liberty Science. 47. Get a sugar rush at Dylan's Candy BarA sweet retreat to rival Willy Wonka's, this three-floor confectionary paradise stocks every candy you've ever heard of—and plenty you haven't. Kids can have their photo snapped with Chocolate, a costumed bunny, while they munch on samples, plan how they're going to fill their pick-and-mix bags, and hatch a plot for getting locked in overnight. 1011 Third Ave at 60th St (646-735-0078, dylanscandybar.com) 48. Discover performance art at the New VicWhen this stunning theater reopened in 1995 (the first to be renovated as part of the redevelopment of Times Square), it was the only joint in town devoted exclusively to family entertainment. The city has acquired a few more since then, yet the New Victory still offers the best children's programming in the five boroughs. It consistently hosts top dance and theater companies from around the world at prices that clobber its Broadway counterparts. Past highlights have included break-dancers, Romanian gymnasts and a production of Macbeth featuring three-foot-high marionettes. The New Vic stocks booster seats for tiny theatergoers, and should your young one get antsy midshow, lobby televisions broadcast the performance, meaning neither of you has to miss a thing. 209 W 42nd St between Seventh and Eighth Aves (646-223-3010, newvictory.org) 49. Attend the U.S. OpenEvery August, tennis aficionados from around the world descend on the Billie Jean King Center in Queens, where 20 ground-level courts host games all day long throughout the tournament. Families can easily bop back and forth between matches, pop over to the food village for a snack, or stroll through the park and enjoy the exciting state-fair atmosphere. If your kid can't wait to see Federer go after the title again, head over for the tournament's early rounds for a great view of some big names as they play on the smaller courts. Check the website for a schedule of all the matches, as well as the date of the annual Arthur Ashe Kids' Day—a free all-day event featuring tennis clinics and games to kick off the tournament. USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Flushing Meadows--Corona Park, Queens (718-760-6200, usopen.org) Photograph: Inzia Reale-Castello 50. Ride the 59th Street TramAlthough the tram is currently closed for renovations, once it reopens, kids will again be able to get a kick out of taking a $2 trip on the red airborne trolley with its bird's-eye views of Manhattan. We recommend riding at midday, when the "special seat," located between the conductor's stand and the tram's bench, and specifically earmarked for little ones, is usually freed up. From Manhattan: N, R, W, 4, 5, 6 to Lexington Ave--59th St; board at Tram Plaza, Second Ave at 60th St. From Queens: F to Roosevelt Island (rioc.com) By Jennifer Cegielski, David Fear, Jennifer Kelly Geddes, Howard Halle, Rory Halperin, Dorothy Irwin, Julia Israel, Carolyn Juris, Christy Purington, Amy Richards, Katharine Rust, Maureen Shelly, Elisabeth Vincentelli, Marci Weisler 


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