There is no classroom that can enthrall and educate children like New York City. Where else can you expose your children to the cultures and cuisines of the world, all within a few city blocks? Or introduce them to opera, drama, ballet and art in a weekend? What's more, a trip to New York City offers families a peek at world history without having to travel the globe. And many New York City attractions are family friendly and numerous activities are free!
New York City is home to vibrant communities from Asia, Latin American, Europe and Africa, all with their own delicious food and unique customs. The many immigrant groups, which have built the city, offer a fascinating smorgasbord of cultural experiences. Each community has an annual parade or festival featuring that culture's traditional dress, dance, music and food. From Little Italy's San Genaro festival to the colorful Caribbean Day parade, most of these events are free and offer endless delights even for the youngest members of the family.
If you prefer an old world approach you will find New York City's museums, theaters and concert halls offer unparalleled riches. Most of these venues offer deep discounts for students and many are accessible to children. Don't miss the annual Kids' Night on Broadway when children as young as 6 are welcome to attend shows open only to adults and with the purchase of an adult ticket, their attendance is free.
From a recreation of a colonial-era farm town to the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, the story of New York City speaks of the birth of America itself. Both Ellis Island and the Tenement Museum take great pains to help the immigrant's stories come to life.
Though Manhattan can be an expensive place for a family vacation, nowhere else can you tour the world with nothing more than a subway pass.
New York City is served by 3 major airports - Laguardia, JFK and Newark in New Jersey. Though Laguardia airport is the best-known, JFK and Newark are safer (longer runways), less crowded and more convenient. Both are connected to the city via the AirTrain, which for roughly $13 per person whisks you past New York's infamous traffic jams. Alternatively, a taxi will get your from any of the 3 airports to Manhattan. Hire a cab at a taxi stand only. All trips from the airport to NYC are at a set rate, which is posted in the cab. Families intent on arriving in mid-town Manhattan should consider long-distance train travel. Amtrak connects NYC with various points up and down America's East Coast.
The subway is a quick and fun way to get around Manhattan. Metrocards, which have replaced tokens, can be purchased at subway station vending machines or the increasingly rare staffed booths. Up to four people can travel on one card. Buying a $10 card entitles you to six rides. Single fares are $2 each. If you will be in New York for several days and plan to take three or more bus or subway rides each day a weekly pass is a good deal. It costs $24 and entitles you to seven days of unlimited bus and subway travel. The 1-day 'fun pass' costs $7 and entitles you to less than a day of unlimited bus and subway travel: the clock starts ticking with your first ride and the card expires at 3am. Cabs are a valid alternative for short trips, the fare is about the same price as a bus or subway ride for four. Up to four people can ride in one cab, even the new mini-van cabs, which have seven seats. All cabbies must start their meters when you give them your destination. If they 'forget', remind them or exit the car. A 10% tip is sufficient for good service.
There is no wrong time of the year to visit New York City. And while the most convenient time to visit New York City is likely to be during a school holiday, thousands of others are likely to have had the same idea. Traveling to New York during the Thanksgiving break and at New Years requires that much more planning. New York City enjoys a coastal climate and weather is relatively mild year-round, through July can be hot and humid and the daily high is in the 30's (0° C) for most of January.
Per capita, New York City is the safest large city in the United States. Yet as in any big city, caution and common sense are warranted. Car seats are required for children weighing 40 pounds or less. Booster seats are required for children under the age of 8 or less than 4 feet 9 inches (144 cm) tall. The law does not apply to taxis and buses.
Blend in with the crowd; wear black and neutral colors of clothing. New Yorkers dislike rude pedestrians. If you need to stop on the sidewalk to look at a map or take a picture, adhere to the New York saying, 'If you're going to park pull over.'
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