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Navigating New York City with Kids
 
 
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Kid-friendly Activities
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By Nicole Frank, Home Exchange Travels

There are 8 million stories in the naked city and nearly as many opinions on touring New York City with kids. As a native New Yorker and mom raising children in Manhattan, here are my two cents on navigating NYC with little ones in tow.

Planning
Plan your trip well in advance. Booking airfare and securing a room at your desired hotel are just the start. Thousands of tourists and millions of New Yorkers are scouring websites and magazines in search of kid-friendly activities. And they are planning their holiday or weekend in advance.

When to Visit
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. If your only opportunity to travel to New York is when school is out, try to pick times when others are less likely to visit. For example, the two days before and after Christmas are nowhere near as crowded as other times during the holidays.

Where to Stay
While a trip to Times Square is a must for families touring NYC, you may not want to fight your way though the crowds each and every night. Neighborhoods such as Chelsea and Greenwich Village are quieter and offer atmosphere. Short-term rental apartments and house swaps are valid alternatives when traveling with kids. They include kitchens and are larger than the vast majority of New York City hotel rooms.

Free events and attractions
There is always something going on in New York. And often times the entertainment is free. Imaginative street fairs and parades demonstrate the City's cultural diversity. One such example is the Egg Rolls and Egg Creams Festival held each June at the Eldridge Street Synagogue. It's free and it celebrates the melding of the Jewish Lower East Side and nearby Chinatown. Pick up a copy of Time Out New York or New York magazine, on sale at newsstands throughout Manhattan. Both list hundreds of free events. Time Out also publishes Time Out Kids quarterly. This version of the popular activity guide spotlights fun events for families and kids.

Advance Ticket Sales
If you can buy tickets to an event beforehand, do it. On-line reservations are available for everything from movies to museums. A small fee may be charged for the service. It's worth it to beat the crowds and avoid the disappointment of sold-out events.

Passes and Discounts
There are a variety of museum and event passes for attractions in Manhattan. Not only do passes offer a financial savings, they enable you to skip the long lines found at the most popular New York City tourist attractions. Half-price same-day tickets to Broadway and off-Broadway shows can be purchased at the TKTS booths. The main booth is located at West 46th Street, between Broadway and Eighth Avenue, but smart folks head to the downtown booth situated on the corner of Front and John Street. Not only are the lines shorter, this booth is conveniently located at South Street Seaport, a great place to introduce kids to New York's maritime history. Independent of the booth you choose, plan to arrive early unless you enjoy standing in a snaking queue.

Getting to Manhattan from the Airport
Get a cab at a taxi stand. People who approach you offering a ride into the City are unlicensed and potentially unsafe. All trips to Manhattan from the three major airports (Laguardia, JFK and Newark) are at a set rate, which is posted in the cab.

Getting Around both Above and Underground
The subway is a quick and fun way to get around Manhattan. Metrocards 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' 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. At $7 it's over-priced and that's no fun.

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 4 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. Report problem drivers to the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC). Their telephone number as well as the drivers ID should be prominently posted in each taxi.

Per capita, New York City is the safest large city in the United States. And New Yorkers are routinely voted the 'most polite'. Really! So relax, the big apple surprises and delights its visitors, even younger ones.

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