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Take a bite out of the Big Apple

MEmpirestatebuildingaria is so lucky, traveling to New York City as a family for the first time!  We are sure that some urbanMamas can offer some great suggestions on family activities in the city.
My husband, one year old baby and myself are adventuring to the east coast f or the firt time as family.  We are in a very short budget and are staying with friends in " the village" and Brooklyn for the next couple of weeks.  We ... are ready to walk ourselves and our son all over town.   Any hot tips in cool things to do? They have to be cheap/free/cool.  No shopping please!


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As for walking - you can't beat crossing one of the bridges. The Brooklyn or the Williamsburg both have great pedestrian areas and amazing views. The Williamsburg neighborhood in Brooklyn (right as you get off the bridge) is an interesting people-watching spot. New, hip boutiques and cafes (and plenty of young hipsters) mixed with bodegas and a big Orthodox Jewish community. Fascinating.

The DUMBO neighborhood on the other side of the Brooklyn bridge is also changing and interesting. There's a little park on the water there with great views of Manhattan. Also a fabulous little chocolate shop that makes for a nice pit-stop -- Jacques Torres Chocolates (www.mrchocolate.com). They have amazing hot chocolate.

In Manhattan, the Lower East Side is great for wandering around. The Lonely Planet guide has a good self-guided walking tour. Try finding your way to Kossar's Bialy Bakery for the best bialys in the world! www.kossarsbialys.com
You'll also find Katz' Deli - home of the famous scene from When Harry Met Sally - and some great deli food.
Hope that helps. I love to visit NYC!

As cheeky as it sounds, we enjoyed taking the double-decker bus tour on the first day of our visit. It gave us a good overall vision of the city, and we made notes on which spots to revisit by foot.

Have a great time...we had a blast!

let me just say that I'm drooling -- I get to go to New York a lot for work but never with time to just get out and enjoy the city! here are a couple of places I'd go:

-- it seems obvious, but Central Park! you can hop on the subway easily from where you're staying in the village (go ahead and get a metrocard when you arrive; you can download the subway map from the MTA http://www.mta.info/nyct/maps/submap.htm but I'd suggest the 1/9 or A/C). I'd head for the middle of the park, so-called Great Lawn, and meander around the running/biking path that surrounds it. You'll see the back side of the Met, the reservoir (great fun to walk around), the Belvedere Castle, the merry-go-round, and lots more -- if you're a Law & Order fan like me, you'll have a great time remembering crime scenes, hehe. it's a great way to spend half a day or more. if you leave the park to the west, you can head over to Broadway and grab a hot dog at Nathan's, or stop in Fairway market for some produce and an only-in-New York experience (or Citarella next door for a pricier slice of life). Zabar's is a few blocks up and is another famous market.

-- Magnolia Bakery at 401 Bleecker (it'll be close to where you're staying) for yummy, fresh cupcakes. I suggest a box of six vanilla with chocolate frosting and eat some for breakfast the next morning ;)

-- head downtown to Battery Park and walk along the southwest tip of the island for spectacular views of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, plus lots of interesting financial district people watching. take the ferry to Staten Island and back (it's free! http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/html/masstran/ferries/statfery.html ) to see the statue of liberty up close without entrance fees.

-- in Brooklyn, you'll naturally want to spend lots of time in Prospect Park, it's really lovely! also check out the Brooklyn Botanic Garden nearby. I haven't been but I hear great things.

-- The Met entrance fee is a "suggested donation." You don't have to donate that much! Make an offer. (although you must pay the suggested amount for special exhibits -- but if you or your husband works for a large company with a sizable New York presence, there may be an arrangement wherein employees get free admittance; it can't hurt to ask. I know this is true for all the banks.)

-- my two favorite "secret" sort-of-cheap eats are near where I used to live on 9th Ave between 50th and 52nd streets -- Island Burgers & Shakes (chicken sandwiches to die for; watch out, the blackened chicken is SPICY) and Rice N Beans (brazilian food). I suggest going out for lunch and staying in for dinner. lunch is always cheaper!

i could go on forever...

It's touristy, but it has a great view and it beats the lines at the Empire State Building: Top of the Roc' (Rock?) at Rockefeller Center -


Hmmm, rereading this you're staying in the Village. You could always just walk across 8th St./St. Marks Place to Tompkins Square Park:


It's still weird to see it now for those of us who remember the place as Tent City, but it's become a really nice park, and 8th/St Marks is probably still quite the eyeful of humanity! Stop to get a vegie burger at Dojo's on the way.

We have taken three family vacations to NYC with our 3-year old son. We have been successful using Craig's List for short term rentals. Our best times have been in playgrounds. Plan to spend hours and days in Central Park. There is a delightful new playground (with water features) for toddlers near Chelsea Piers (West 23 at 11th Ave). It is the NICEST park I have seen! Our favorite in CP is located on CPW and 86th. It is for younger children.
We also upgraded our Portland CM membership to the $125 level so we can frequent the Manhattan CM on our trips to NY. Artie's on Broadway and 86th is a great place for inexpensive kid-friendly food (matzo balls, etc.). Also be sure to visit the Museum on Natural History on CPW. AN IMPORTANT NOTE... THIS MUSEUM IS PAY AS YOU WISH... That is right... you can pay $1!!! No one will tell you this and the signs at the admissions desk say $22 (or whatever). The small print reads "suggested contribution". Be sure to drop in and just pay a nominal fee. Honestly all the New Yorkers do it. The MET is also pay as you wish.
Have a great time! Feel free to contact me if you need additional suggestions.

Oh, I'm so jealous...NYC is so much fun! Cheap burgers and beer at a great little place called Corner Bistro--I dont know the address, but it's in the village, not far from Magnolia Bakery--and definitely do not miss Magnolia--YUM! All of the other recommendations are great--you could spend days exploring Central Park and The Met alone. Enjoy!

oh, I can't resist posting again. All due respect to west coast pastry makers, the best cannoli in the world can be found in NYC, here, in the East Village:


I have relatives who would crawl on their hands & knees in the snow to get some cannoli from Venieros...

Ah, New York. We lived two years there with Philly before we moved. Among our top favorite things have already been mentioned - walk the Brooklyn Bridge (have pizza that Garibaldi's - http://www.grimaldis.com/brooklyn.htm - while you're over on the other side or wander Brooklyn Heights), go to the Met or Museum of Natural History (yes, these are "suggested donation" institutions - those were the days!), maybe hit up MoMA on free fridays ( http://www.moma.org/visit_moma/admissions.html ) every Friday 4-8pm (our kids love the vivacity of modern art), and ride the Staten Island ferry for FREE (and they even serve beers on the cheap on board) and get a close-up of Lady Liberty. Central Park is indeed fun and one of our favorite spots is the castle area: http://www.centralparknyc.org/site/PageNavigator/virtualpark_thegreatlawn_belvederecastle

One favorite thing, which also turns out to be convenient since you will be staying in the village, is to go to the greenmarket at Union Square ( http://unionsquarejournal.com/greenmarket.htm ) on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturdays. You can find all sorts of fresh delicacies, have a picnic on the grass, and enjoy the playground.

We love NY pizza, and it's cheap too, so I would say eat pizza once a day. Oh, and bagels. Eat some good bagels. Go to H&H or any great local bagel joint. We used to live in Astoria, so we are very loyal to Astoria Bagels on 23rd Ave. Here are some suggestions via urbanspoon: http://www.urbanspoon.com/f/3/204/New-York/Bagels.html

Ah, Nueva York..my husband and 4 month old are going as well, similar situation: visiting family. I was born and raised on the Lower East Side and did my share of walking around, young and broke. My husband has never been and so I'm trying to think what cool things do we *have* to see? Grab a Time Out! NY for sure to see what will be happening specifically when you're there: you might find something awesome!

Museums are a definite must, the parks are great, but I think from the Village you can easily walk from the Vill through the Lower East Side, down Grand Street and then down Broadway and hit up four ethnic neighborhoods: Latino, Jewish, Italian and Chinese. On Grand Street you could go to Henry Street Settlement and see a local art exhibit (most of them put up by kids). Last time I was in NY there was a Donut Plant on Grand Street as well as the best Kosher Pizza in town. Walking in Chinatown is SUPER fun. It's a whole world unto itself and you could spend a whole day there. If you need a snack you could go to the China Town Ice Cream Factory (try the taro flavor-it's DIVINE), hit up any of the cheap soup shops for something more substantial or go to the market on Hester St. and Elizabeth for some snacks to go or take home. I used to take kids I baby sat there to look at all the fish they had in tanks; they all really dug it. You can even grab the 6 train on Canal Street to get back up to Astor Place or Union Square if you don't feel like walking home.

If you take the 7 train out to Jackson Heights, you can get some good Indian food on the cheap and windowshop all the beautiful saris. Riding the train is great, with it's abundance of AC on those sweltering days. Bring a jacket/sweater if you plan on riding the train for any extended period of time.

Brighton Beach, next door to Coney Island and way cleaner, is a nice place to hit up. They put up little play areas in the sand and you can fly kites there as well. Plus if you wanted to splurge you could go to the Aquarium. I would forgo eating hotdogs at Nathans because of the price and the crowd and instead go to Grey's papaya on 8th street and 6th Avenue.

I know alot of this advice seems like a "where to eat" guide, but eating is an important part of life. Few people put up facades when they're stuffing their faces and in NYC, it's one of the few times people slow down! Hope this helps and have a great time. Maybe we will see you there!

We lived there for 7 years, in Williamsburg Brooklyn at the Bedford L stop. You don't say where in Brooklyn you'll be?, but if you're at the Bedford L, check out Grand St Park on the waterfront, North 7th waterfront (now at N 9th I think?, b/c of condo bldg), McCarren Park, + a playground on Grand St between Berry/Wythe. Those are all free. Also look at Willy Bee's on Metropolitan btwn Driggs/Roebling, indoor/outdoor playspace (w/ wireless internet) for $5 worth of food. Bedford at S 4th (ne corner) for the best Dominican food ever, $4/huge plate of meat, rice, beans (2 meals for some), don't be intimidated and enjoy the experience. You say no shopping, but Flying Squirrel on 96 N 6th st has amazing kids clothes/toys/etc, either secondhand and cheap, or handmade new and still cheap, and it's absolutely worth a stop, even if you don't want to spend more than $5. Across the street is the grocery store Tops if you're hungry.

As for Manhattan, Tompkins Square Park (east village) has a couple playgrounds and a great dog park to watch. Skip the Children's Museum, it is really terrible (worst of the 15 we've been to). Natural History Museum rocks, it is really so much fun and worth a trip, and is free if you don't want to donate. I'd skip Central Park unless you miss Portland and green stuff. Boulders can be fun to climb there tho.

More time? Bronx Zoo is a terrific zoo, especially if you're missing the nature in Portland, and the subway to it will often be above the streets (rare in ny, and fun!)
Coney Island is free (unless you get on the amusement park rides there), is great for fun times, the beach and people-watching. Bring a picnic or walk away from the water to a market for cheaper/better food. Chinatown is fun and you can get amazingly good eats for $3/person or less - look for their write-ups on the window or for local crowds, those will be your best bets. Oftentimes the 2-table seating and stand-up bar will rock for excellent food that's cheap. Pearl Paint is your (6-story) shop for art supplies if you need any. Pearl River (also in Chinatown) will have amazing gifts for extremely cheap, my sisters still covet gifts from there (that I got for a mere $2). It's very busy/crowded/noisy in Chinatown so make sure you're ready for it.
The bridges are also great to walk over.

Last, grab a Time Out NY (a weekly magazine) to see what's up the week you're there. They will mark events "free" if they are.

We lived very very cheaply there while always having fun, so I'm a decent source for this. Have fun!

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