We’re going to be there for 2 days, and some of the time (since I’m going on business) he will be in the hotel room with a babysitter. But I have built in some extra time–about 4 hours one day, 5 hours the next, to do stuff with the kid. He wants to (1) ride a subway, (2) ride a boat, (3) go to a beach, and (4) go to the top of the Empire State Building. (He would like to go up in the Statue of Liberty also but I understand it’s closed. Too bad; when I was his age I got to go all the way up into her arm, it was that long ago.)
My idea is to (1)take a subway to (2) a place where there’s a boat–and it would be nice if it was (3) near a beach, and that’s where boats are, right? I am assuming the Empire State Building is not a problem.
Is this realistic? Is there some fun, not-to-be missed experience for an 8-year-old in NYC that cannot be duplicated or even approached in landlocked Denver? (I’m thinking ferries, but possibly I’m overlooking something else.)
He also wanted to go ride the swan boats in central park, a la Make Way for Ducklings, but I think that’s Boston. Well, as far as MWfD I know it is, and as far as I know there are no swan boats in Central Park. Correct me if I’m wrong.
ESPN Zone is different. A lot of the other stuff can be duplicated. For waterfront you might want to consider the South St. Seaport. Usually there are some really nice boats to look at. But there’s no beach there, or any other place in Manhattan.
If you have the time there’s a restaurant called Kennedy’s in Breezy Point in Queens. It’s right on the water and has a beach and a dock you can walk along after you eat.
The absolutely best restaurant in the world is Saul’s, in Brooklyn. It’s right on the F train, so it’s easy to get to from midtown. Expensive, but well worth it.
they’ve got great big sail boats at Southport (http://www.southstseaport.org/ )
The Toys R us in times Square has an indoor ferris wheel.
The staten island ferry is free, and goes fairly close to teh statue of liberty.
The empire state building is fairly chilly, and it’s best to buy your tickets online beforehand so you don’t stand in line (Or "on line’ as real New yorkers say).
In central Park they don’t have swan boats, but you can rent rowboats, or, if he’s a fan of stuart the mouse, you can rent radio-controlled sailboats! (But he’s not gonna fit in them very well…)
Take the 1/9 subway to South Ferry. From there you can get on the boat to the Statue of Liberty (and you can also go to Ellis Island (though that may not be too exciting for an eight year old.))
The Staten Island ferry is free, so you can take that back and forth just for the hell of it, if you want.
The Empire State Building is great, but make sure you set aside a couple hours for making your way through the line. (The line moves quickly, but it’s long.) Be sure to bring quarters for the telescopes.
As Barbarian stated, we got no swan boats, but I can attest that the **row boats ** are out of winter storage in Central Park.
The **Circle Line ** is a boffo boat tour, but it might get dull for a kid. I second the Staten Island ferry instead – it goes right past the Statue of Liberty. Real nice view of the Lady at night, too.
We got beaches too. There’s **Orchard Beach ** in the Bronx – which is not far from the seafaring community of City Island, a place for great seafood and a chance to see lots of docked boats. You’re gonna need a car to get to the beach and/or island though.
Then there’s **Coney Island ** (not really an island) which is reachable by subway. No real boats to see or ride, but there’s a big, old, gaudy amusement park along the boardwalk which will delight any kid. Be warned though, it ain’t no Disneyland; gitty urban culture abounds at Coney.
This might not ring your kid’s bell, but might I suggest the Panorama of New York City, located in the **Queens Museum of Art ** inside Flushing Meadows Park, site of NY’s '39 and '64 World’s Fairs? It’s a 3-D scale model of the five boroughs shrunk down to the size of 2 basketball courts. *Every building and structure in the city is represented in super-miniature! * Your kid will feel like an extra-gigantic Godzilla, except he can only walk harmlessly around the perimeter walkway. Every few minutes the room dims and the windows glow. Very cool for adults too. And everyone – I repeat, everyone – should see the Unisphere up close an in person once in their lives. It’s located right outside the museum. And if he’s still unimpressed, he can see those dormant “flying saucers” from Men in Black.
When I was 8, the Museum of Natural History was my favorite. I also second the recommendation of South Street Seaport. You can see a lot of boats there, and there is a nice, and free museum.
The Circle Line tour is good, but it might be a bit long for an 8 year old. Forget about beaches. We used to go to Jones Beach in Queens, but Coney Island might do also. They both would take a while to get to, and are nothing special. Better is the Staten Island Ferry. I think the Statue of Liberty is still closed, but 10 years ago you could still go into the head.
If you’re going to the Museum of Natural History, bring a Mingi-Maglight. The last time I was there, I used mine to see how translucent some of the huge chunks of quartz were (there are some that you get very close to), and found myself surrounded by small children – and adults – who were fascinated by the concept that the light would go through the stone. (And by the fact that a grown-up kept two miniature flashlights in her bag; then they discovered that, of the five of us in my group, we had seven flashlights between us.)
I remember my first trip to NYC at about that age being much more fun because I had read some neat books set there first. I haven’t got any great recommendations for you based on what you’re planning on, but I saw a neat book recently that probably does. Your local library might have it, or could get it through interlibrary loan if you have time to wait. Storied city: a children’s book walking-tour guide to New York City
Also, definitely the Museum of Natural History if you’ve got time, it’s excellent and loads of fun no matter what your age.
The ferries are great for getting a nice view of the city, too, and the commuter ones are cheap. NY Waterway has info about their sightseeing ferries as well as the commuter ones, but honestly I think the commuter ones give you a perfectly fine view. Take one of the ones from Pier 11 and you’ll see all of downtown and get a view of the Statue of Liberty (not a terribly close one, but you do see it.)
And if you have time for any shopping, at that age I was convinced The Strand was the happiest place on earth. Oodles of cheap books, and a great children’s section.
One last thing: there may be a line to get tickets for the observatory deck of the Empire State Building, so plan for that. And it’s better around noontime (your view’s not blocked by the shadows of buildings.)