Daytrip ideas for New York City with kids

A young tourist passes a hologram representing the A young tourist passes a hologram representing the diversity of the American people inside the reception center of Ellis Island in New York Harbor. Photo Credit: Getty Images

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For travelers to the city, Alison Lowenstein's "City Kid New York" (Rizzoli) offers everything from recommendations for activities and restaurants to advice on throwing birthday parties and shopping for kids.

Eileen Ogintz, author of "The Kids' Guide: New York City" (Globe Pequot) and the Web site TakingtheKids.com, offers tips for exploring the Big Apple with children, from walking tours and restaurants to museums and sightseeing.

"The key is to follow the kids," Ogintz says. "Let the kids guide the way. You might have a kid who's really interested in dinosaurs, or a kid really interested in armor who wants to go to the Met." As as long as the kids are invested in it, "everybody will be a lot happier," she says.

Here are some suggestions, compiled with their assistance, for city visits.

SEE A LANDMARK

The Statue of Liberty's crown (statueofliberty.org) reopened to the public last summer. If you have older children, also check out the Immigration Museum of Ellis Island (ellisisland.org). Tickets can be booked through Statue Cruises (statuecruises.com, 877-523- 9849). Another popular landmark is, of course, the Empire State Building (esbnyc.com), which has observatories on the 86th and 102nd floors. Plan to stay about two hours, what with lines. Children also might enjoy visiting some literary landmarks, including Eloise's haunt, the Plaza Hotel (theplaza.com), or the period rooms at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (metmuseum.org, 212-535-7710).

ENJOY A MUSEUM

One of the most popular museums for kids anywhere is the American Museum of Natural History (amnh.org, 212-769-5100), with its hanging blue whale and Tyrannosaurus skeleton. If you're game to spend two days in the city, why not try a night at the museum? Among other kid-friendly programs, the museum holds sleepovers on various dates that start at 5:45 p.m. and end at 9 a.m. and include a cot, IMAX film, fossil exploration by flashlight, a live animal presentation, an evening snack and breakfast for approximately $129 a person. Book early, as these are popular.

For a more offbeat experience, try the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens (movingimage.us, 718-784-4520) for an introduction to film (where kids can make flipbooks). Or for a bit of gritty city history, try the Lower East Side Tenement Museum (tenement.org, 212-981-8420), which may particularly appeal to children with the "All-of-a-Kind Family" books or Rebecca, the American Girl doll from the Lower East Side.

HANDS-ON FUN

New York offers wonderful opportunities for kids to learn while doing something hands-on. Some suggestions are Story Pirates Saturdays at 2 p.m. at the Drama Book Shop (storypirates.org, 866-811-4111), where players perform a play written by the kids. At the Paley Center for Media (paleycenter.org, 212-621-6600), groups of kids ages 9 and older can produce a radio drama using scripts, sound effects and music ($300 per group). For younger kids, try a Little Airplane Studio Tour (Tuesdays and Thursdays, littleairplane .com, 212-965-8999) from the creators of the animated series "Wonder Pets," where children can record a character's voice and hear it dubbed in a "Wonder Pets" episode. At the United Nations (un.org, 212-963-8687), older children can learn about international relations, but all kids will enjoy putting their faces on a UN stamp that can be used on postcards sent anywhere in the world from the UN post office.

TAKE A WALK

There are so many intriguing neighborhoods in New York City, and there's plenty for kids outside the tourist magnet of midtown. You can sign up for a free neighborhood tour led by local volunteers at BigAppleGreater.org.

Or create your own walking tour using books, such as Ogintz's and Lowenstein's, or "New York City: Spend Less See More" (Pauline Frommer Guides). For example, pick something that might interest your children, such as the Magic Brunch at Cercle Rouge Restaurant, 241 W. Broadway (cerclerougeresto.com, 212-226-6252), a magic show over eats, and use that as a focal point for a tour of TriBeCa. As a starting point for a tour of Harlem, take doll-crazy children to a tour of the fantastic Madame Alexander Doll Factory at 615 W. 131st St. (212-283-5900), which sells dolls based on children's books such as "Eloise" and "Fancy Nancy," and go on from there.

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CITY TRAVEL TIPS

Tips courtesy of Eileen Ogintz and Alison Lowenstein

1. Don't drive. Take the train.

2. Stick to one neighborhood; have a limited itinerary.

3. Go to the Web sites of locations you plan to visit to see what they offer for kids.

4. Let the kids help plan the itinerary and pick a restaurant ahead of time.

5. Bring a backpack with sandwiches, snacks, reusable water bottles and rain jackets.

6. Pack books and games to keep kids busy while traveling and in restaurants.

7. Wear comfortable shoes!

8. Have kids memorize your cell number or put it on a card in their pocket.

9. Don't be afraid to split up, i.e. Mom takes one child, Dad the others.

10. Offer kids a subway map and let them help navigate.

11. Use (cleaner) bathrooms in places such as Bloomingdale's and Lord & Taylor.

12. Don't try to do too much; you can always return.

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