Five Family-Friendly Activities to Explore NYC

January 21, 2012 9:00 AM

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By Dani Frank

Is there anything more magical than laying eyes upon the Rockefeller Center Tree, reaching 70-feet tall and topped off with a Swarovski crystal star, for the first time? A trip to the legendary FAO Schwartz, replete with larger than life stuffed animals, can evoke equal amounts of ooh’s and aah’s for a first time visitor. Keep your trip eco-conscious and easy, and ride the Metro-North in for a wintertime train ride to the Big Apple. From sipping hot cocoa to sliding around the ice, these five activities will introduce the family to what makes New York City a capital of culture.
wollman skating rink Five Family Friendly Activities to Explore NYC

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Skate a Figure Eight

Wollman Rink
Central Park
W. 59th and 6th
Monday & Tuesday: 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Wednesday & Thursday: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Friday & Saturday: 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Sunday: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Prices: $10.50/weekdays $15/weekends: adults

Gliding around a rink atop two skates is a rite of passage to winter, and with multiple ice-covered options to choose from, you won’t have to contend with a long line. Skating at Rockefeller Center may be an indisputable indicator of winter in NYC. But, lines wrapping around 30 Rock will hold up your day. Central Park’s Wollman Rink or Bryant Park’s ice skating rink are equally awesome options, and they have great scenery to boot. Hit the ice at any of these worthy wintertime locales.

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Heat up with Hot Cocoa

City Bakery
3 West 18 Street
New York, NY

A spin on the ice will leave you rosy-cheeked and in need of some sustenance, and a cup of cocoa is just the right elixir. While stands throughout the city will offer some satisfying hot chocolate to sip on, go for the gusto and visit The Flatiron District’s City Bakery. The café’s utterly indulgent hot cocoa is crafted with melted hot chocolate bars, and is a city favorite since its initiation in 1990. As winter progresses, City Bakery gets even sweeter, with February’s Hot Chocolate Festival bringing banana peel, malted milk and more delicious, dessert-based flavors to keep you licking your upper lip.

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Afternoon at the Museum

American Museum of Natural History
Central Park West at 79th Street
New York, NY
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5:45 p.m.
Admission: Suggested donation

Art museums may be a bit “high brow” for the brood, so eschew the Met or MoMA for the Museum of Natural History. An up close look at a true to size tyrannosaurs rex will make any day unforgettable, eliciting thrills and chills. From an IMAX theater to the Hayden Planetarium to room after room of insects and animals, the AMNH will stimulate the senses and prove an educational and exciting trip through a city institution. Consider purchasing a CityPASS card, enabling you to visit 5 of the city’s attractions, from the Statue of Liberty to AMNH to the Empire State Building Observatory, for only $79 for an adult, $59 for kids up to age 17.

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Time for Toys

The Lego Store
620 5th Avenue
New York, NY
212- 245-5973
Monday to Saturday: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Sunday: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

After clocking a few laps around the ice and a number of blocks of walking, your family may be dragging and in need of some respite. A small treat at one of the city’s toy stores is in order, and NYC has toys to cheer up every girl and boy. The American Girl Doll Store near Rockefeller Center is a must-see for any doll-loving children, with a collection of iconic dolls, accessories, and dolls styled after your child’s image. The Lego Store may render the same effect for boys, stuffed to the brim with castles, cars and Star Wars, and is conveniently only one block away. Keep the kids’ spirits high with a trinket from their favorite store and continue on your way.

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Grab a Bite

Ellen’s Stardust Diner
1650 Broadway @ 51st Street
New York, NY
Monday to Thursday: 7 a.m. to 12 a.m.
Friday and Saturday: 7 a.m. to 1 a.m.
Sunday: 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Settle into a booth and dig into some dishes before trekking back home. Ethnic and local cuisine is readily available in the Big Apple, but for the notoriously picky palette of a child, head to a comfort food-centric eatery, like the themed Ellen’s Stardust Diner. Sandwiches, burgers and more will satiate, and with a crew of singing servers, Ellen’s will keep your meal light and interesting. Sticking with the theme of kid-friendly eats, Peanut Butter & Co. offers up a PB&J with a plethora of peanut and jelly choices. After dining on the Elvis or the Smooth Operator, relaxing with your feet up on the ride back will be the perfect end to your day.

Dani Frank is a fashion, travel and culture enthusiast and writer living in Easton, Connecticut. A recent graduate of Hofstra University, she is most happy when traversing the East Coast and beyond and documenting it all for curious readers. Read her further work at

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