Mar 072013

If New York City is your destination for a family friendly spring break vacation with teens and tweens, make sure to bring your walking shoes and plan time to enjoy the many and varied free activities around New York City.  By the time you get done shopping, taking in a show, eating out and visiting the paid attractions you’ll be glad you added a few freebies to the mix.   Based on several visits by our teens, here’s their top five free things to do when visiting New York City:

1) Take a Walk in Central Park

On our visit we walked the east side of Central Park from the lower entrance of at 6th Avenue and Central Park Drive up to the Metropolitan Museum of Art on 5th Avenue at East 82nd Street.  On a sunny Spring Day the trees and flowers will be in bloom and the remote control sailboats will be out on Conservatory Lake.  The official Central Park site provides a wealth of information about things to see and do in the Park.

Central Park is lovely on a Spring Day

Central Park is lovely on a Spring Day

2)  Visit New York City Museums on the Cheap

Many of New York City’s museums offer specific times when admission is free or is on a pay what you want basis.  Check out those museums listed here by NYC-ARTS to find a deal.  The well known Metropolitan Museum of Art makes the list by offering a pay what you wish policy every day and children under age 12 are fee all the time.  Some New York City Museums have free admission at specific times.  For example, the Museum of Modern Art is free for everyone on Fridays from 4-8 pm and kids, tweens, and teens under age 16 get in free anytime.

The Temple of Dendur at the Met

The Temple of Dendur at the New York City Metropolitan Museum of Art

3) Take a Walk on the High Line

The High Line is a true urban oasis.  This linear park on the lower West Side is located on a former elevated rail spur that runs through the  Meatpacking District between 10th and 11th Avenues.  The first section opened in June 2009 and runs from from Gansevoort Street to West 20th Street. The second section, which runs between West 20th and West 30th Streets, opened June 8, 2011.  The High Line is maintained and operated by the Friends of the High Line non profit group.

Take a walk along New York City's High Line

Take a walk along New York City’s High Line

4) Visit Times Square and Broadway at Night

Nothing represents New York City more than the lights of Times Square and Broadway.  For better or worse, the neon and Times Square street scene should not be missed.  Although still a bit rough around the edges, Times Square becomes more family friendly every year hosting flagship stores for chains such as Toys R Us with an amazing lego zone and a 60-foot high  indoor ferris wheel (ticket required to ride).  In recent years traffic in Time Square has been diverted to create a pedestrian mall that includes tables and chairs and outdoor stages.  There is even a free mini-museum at the visitors center.

We're really in New York City!

The lights of Times Square in New York City!

 5) Take a Walk on The Brooklyn Bridge

Completed in 1883, the 1,595 foot main span of the Brooklyn Bridge  links lower Manhattan and Brooklyn.  It is the oldest suspension bridge in the country.  Today, the bridge carries 135,00 or more cars most days – as well as thousands of pedestrians.

The Brooklyn Bridge is a New York City icon

The Brooklyn Bridge is a New York City icon

Have more time?  Explore the wonderful art deco architecture of Rockerfeller Center and stop in at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral.  Also be sure to check out the frequently updated listing of free things to do in New York City hosted by the NYCGO visitors web site.

Finally, don’t forget to check out our list of budget family friendly hotels near Times Square.  Enjoy your visit to the Big Apple

Five Affordable New York City Family Spring Break Hotel Options

 Posted by on February 17, 2013  Comments Off
Feb 172013
Photo of New York City at Night

New York City at Night

New York City is always a great family spring break vacation option.  Families making college tours can visit NYU, Columbia, Pace, Fordham, Barnard and many others while taking in a show, checking out major attractions like the Empire State Building or the Metropolitan Museum of Art,  or simply enjoying the spring flowers and fresh air in Central Park.

New York City is a great family spring break destination for teens and tweens with so many things to do.  But, finding affordable family friendly hotels can definitely be a challenge for a family on a budget.  Add to that the fact that the words “affordable” and “New York City” are rarely found in the same sentence and the search for New York City accomodations that will work well for families and won’t break the bank can become overwhelming — as we found when we started researching family oriented hotel options for a visit to New York City in April.   A quick check online shows hundreds of hotels with an almost unlimited price range.

To narrow the search, we decided to focus on the Time Square/Theater District  with access to the subway and walking distance to Broadway shows, teen friendly shopping and Rockefeller Center.  If we are lucky we’ll hit town during the last few days of the Rockerfeller Center ice skating season!  Depending on your plans, other areas of the City might be more affordable but we aimed for clean, safe, comfortable lodging  in the range of $300 a night for a family of 4.  We prefer suites to doubling up in a standard hotel room with two queen beds.

Prometheus oversees Rockerfeller Center

Prometheus oversees Rockerfeller Center

We spent hours talking to friends, reading reviews, staring a pictures, surfing Groupon and other discount sites and finally found five hotels that we think fit the bill.  We are sharing our list in the hopes we can save our readers a little time and money in planning their family spring break vacation to New York City.

  • DoubleTree by Hilton in Times Square at 1568 Broadway has two room suites with sofa beds.  Some feature king beds and other have two queens with prices starting at just under $300 nightly.  This is a full service hotel with on site dining but no pool.  It has pet friendly options as well.
  • Skyline Hotel 49th and 10th Ave.  is older but clean with something unusual for New York City – rooms that can fit two queen beds and still have room for a rollaway for $250-$300 a night.  Family Suites that can sleep 5 are available in the $400+ range.   It also has a pool, something that is not always available at affordable New York City hotels.   It is walking distance to Time Square
  • Radio City Apartments on West 49th Street  is a modest hotel that rents out small suites and studios that include micro-kitchens.  This is the one place on this list that we have stayed previously.  The place is a little worn and has no services but the location and price are hard to beat.  A one bedroom apartment with two doubles and a sofa bed can be had in April for under $300 a night.
  • Best Western Plus President Hotel at Times Square on West 48th Street offers hard to find family size suites with two double beds and a sleeper sofa in the mid-$300s a night in April.  Reviews have been a little mixed but the location and price are hard to pass up.  This one was recently featured on Groupon so may be hard to book in the short term.
  • The AppleCore The Hotel@ Times Square on West 46th Street near 6th Avenue offers 2-room  suites (1 king and 1 queen) that can accommodate families.  The building is older and serves budget conscious travelers from around the world.  Rates include free WiFi and continental breakfast.  The Hotel @ Times Square gets decent marks from most online reviewers although a fair number think management could be a little more customer friendly.  We found April availability at just under $300 a night for a suite.

None of the hotels on the list compensated us in any way and we have not actually stayed at most of them yet so this list is based on online searching and word of mouth referrals.  Also remember, the rates found in most search engines are BEFORE the standard New York City lodging tax of 14.5% of the room charges AND an extra fee of $3.50 per room, per day.   In some cases, advance payment or AAA can help bring down the rates and always be on the lookout for promotions and deals.   Also be warned that most standard New York City hotel rooms are very small and it is unlikely you can squeeze in a roll-away cot or even fit an air mattress on the floor.

Enjoy your time in New York City and let us know if you find an affordable gem we should share with our readers!

May 132011

     The best way to experience New York City is to walk it.  One of more recent additions to the city’s walking scene is the lower West Side’s High Line park, located on a former elevated rail spur that runs through the  Meatpacking District.  

Take a walk along New York City's High Line

     Opened in 1934 to replace the West Side’s street level rail line, aka Death Alley, the High Line was unique in that it traveled down the center of the blocks, right through factories and warehouses where freight could be loaded and unloaded easily and securely.  Today the walking park runs right through the Chelsea Market building.

Hardy urban native plants keep the High Line green

     The line was dismantled and abandoned in pieces through the 1960s and 1970s with the last train carrying 3 cars of frozen turkeys in 1980.  The remaining 1.45 length of track was gradually taken over by tough urban grasses, plants and trees during the 1990s.  In the late 1990s a group of local advocates for open spaces raised awareness and built support for the city to turn it into a public park.  

A view of the Hudson River from the High Line

     The first third of the restored park opened for use in 2009.   The next section is scheduled to open in June 2011.   From the first day the park has been a hit with city dwellers and visitors alike.  

Enjoy the shade on the High Line

     The concrete path winds along the elevated walkway leaving lots of room for the plants as well as places to sit and enjoy the views down side streets.   There is even an urban outdoor theater carved out of what was a trestle over 10th Avenue.

Urban theater on the High Line

      #1 Son took these pictures while he and his classmates explored the  the High Line as part of their field trip to New York City.   We are pretty sure it looked and smelled a lot better than it did back in the industrial era they studied in school! Visit here if you want to see more of his New York City photos.

     Looking for other great places to walk in New York City?  Check out past posts on walks through Central Park, over the Brooklyn Bridge and down Broadway.

    And finally, we’d like you to know we shared these photos with the Delicious Baby Photo Friday page – stop over there to see lots more fun family travel images.

New York City Things To Do on raveable

May 102011

     As part of his American Studies trip to New York City, #1 Son and his classmates explored Manhattan’s Lower East Side to get a sense for what things might have been like before immigrants were displaced by trendy condos and art galleries.  The highlights of the day included a walk on the Brooklyn Bridge and a visit to the restored 1863 era ethnic apartments of the Tenement Museum, complete with sheet metal ceilings and turn of the century plumbing.   Along the way he took some awesome photos we just had to share. 

The Brooklyn Bridge is a New York City icon

     The Brooklyn Bridge is an iconic symbol of the industrial era in New York City.  Completed in 1883, the 1,595 foot main span links lower Manhattan and Brooklyn.  It is the oldest suspension bridge in the country.  It took 13 years to build and was an engineering marvel in its day.  More than two dozen construction workers lost their lives in the process.  Many passed away due to complications of  “the bends” which resulted from working in deep water caissons.

Car traffic seen from the pedestrian walkway above

     In the early days the bridge carried pedestrians and horse drawn traffic on the same deck, but today it supports six lanes of automobile traffic on the main deck with a heavily used pedestrian and bike path located on a raised center walkway. 

     The bridge recently passed its 125th birthday and thanks to almost constant maintenance it is in decent shape for such a heavily used structure.  It carries 135,00 or more cars most days. 

The Bridge requires constant maintenance

     One thing that has not changed in more than a century is the view of the Statue of Liberty which opened in 1886.  Even as the docks have kept up with the times, Lady Liberty holds her ground.

View of the Statue of Liberty from the Brooklyn Bridge

        Walking back you get a great view of the Manhattan skyline.   For a view of the Bridge at night check out A Teen’s View of New York City by Day and by Night.

View of Manhattan from the Brooklyn Bridge

     #1 Son’s school group walked across the bridge, which is the way many people got across the river in the 1880s.   If  you go, there are other options as well. 

Bike and Ferry Options Available Too

     If you want to spend a day exploring lower Manhattan and seeing the sights from land and water, check out a new offering from New York Water Taxi and Bike and Roll NYC.  They have teamed up to offer 1-day self-guided tour that takes you bike riding through the Hudson River Park, past City Hall and across the Brooklyn Bridge.  For the return trip, hop on the New York City Water Taxi at Brooklyn’s Fulton Ferry Landing for a cruise back to Manhattan, passing the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.  All rentals include an 8-hour bike rental, the water taxi ride, a 4-color route map detailing sights along the suggested route,  a helmet and a bike lock.  In celebration of National Bike Month,  Bike the Brooklyn Bridge/Water Taxi Back is offering a promotional package price of $49 for adults and teens and $29 for kids and tweens under 12 during the month of May2011.

New York City Things To Do on raveable

May 082011

    The teens have been busy traveling without the parents this spring from Washington DC to service trips.  Mom and Dad are getting used to them being on the road without us, although we are a little jealous.   The most recent expedition was #1 Son’s 4-day American Studies junket to New York City with 15 classmates and three teachers who have been spending this school year exploring the last 150 years of American history, literature and culture.  They figured there was no better way to make it real than to see it in person in the Big Apple.   

     #1 Son took hundreds of photos on his journey which included lots of opportunities to enjoy the City’s streets and parks and soak in that New York City vibe.  We’ll be sharing some of his favorite photos this week, starting with his take on classic New York cityscapes by day and by night.

By day New York City's streets are filled with cabs and pedestrians

       By day, the city streets are a lot busier and noisier than those of our suburban home town, and skyscrapers like the Empire State Building touch the sky.   Amid all the hustle and bustle, however, the City offers ample opportunities to take a break in Central Park or along the High Line. 

Taking a break in Central Park

     He also noticed how the architecture of another era stands stand side by side with today’s modern towers.   And at times, such as in front of the 1880’s era Dakota co-op apartment building, the past collides with the present day at the memorial site for John Lennon.

The Dakota on Central Park West

     As the sun set and the lights came on, the City took on a different look from the top of the Empire State Building.  

New York City at Night

      Even the bridges lit up and stood out.

New York City Bridges at night

     In between city walks, the teens visited a number of museums, took in a show, visited a jazz club, rode the subways and had great fun just hanging out together.  Not one got into trouble and the trip was judged a major success.  Check back later in the week for a teen’s view of the Brooklyn Bridge and the High Line park.

   Planning a trip to New York with your teens?  Be sure to plan for lots of time to just walk around and pick up that New York City vibe.  Also, check out our itinerary and recommendations for things to do from last April’s Teens Take New York adventure.

     And finally, we shared this post with the Delicious Baby Photo Friday carnival.  Stop by there for links to lots more fun travel photos.

New York City Things To Do on raveable

New York City Restaurant Ideas for Teens and Tweens Via BFTA

 Posted by on September 26, 2010  Comments Off
Sep 262010

     Mary T has been answering questions over at the Best Family Travel Advice site for a few weeks now.  It is really fun to share our experiences and help readers get started planning fabulous family vacations.  Look for our suggestions about things to do at Yellowstone and near Mount Rushmore.

     Of course, we’ve been reading the advice provided by other family travel experts on the site as well.   We were particularly excited to see the New York City restaurant recommendations provided by Debbie Dubrow of Delicious Baby and Carol Cain of NYCity Mama.  Together they provide a list of about a dozen spots that cater to families and look like good bets for ravenous teens and tweens visiting the Big Apple.

The view from the 86th floor of the Empire State Building

     Carol’s list included some rather unusual pizza options including chocolate pizza at Max Brenner in Union Square and Cajun pizza at Two Boots Pizza.  Debbie has some good ideas for a bit more  upscale restaurants that won’t disappoint  including world class french fries at  Balthazar in SOHO and a special gourmet experience at L’atelier De Joel Robuchon at the Four Seasons on East 57th Street.

     We had such a great time on our mom and teen girl’s getaway to New York City last spring that we are already thinking of a repeat visit.  Looks like we won’t go hungry thanks to the ladies of BFTA.  If you are planning a family vacation with kids of any age be sure to stop by to search the archives and to ask your own travel questions

May 092010

On the last morning of our mom and teen girls getaway in New York City, we only had a few hours to explore and shop so we opted to stay close to the Times Square\Radio City area.  We made a quick visit to Saint Patrick’s Cathedral  but much of the facade was  under renovation and there was a service going on inside so we did not explore there in much detail.  Instead, we headed across the street to visit Rockerfeller Center and some more shopping at the nearby H&M megastore on 5th Avenue.

Rockerfeller Center, perhaps best known for the Lower Plaza skating rink that is overseen by a towering statue of Prometheus, is actually a complex of 19 buildings.  Of those, 14 were built during the 1930s and stand as signature examples of the art deco movement.  Several more modern towers were added in the 1960s and 70s.  The area was declared a National Landmark in 1987 and today is a major tourist destination offering a number of tours and activities.

Art deco sculpture over an entrance at Rockerfeller Center

Art deco sculpture over an entrance at Rockerfeller Center

Due to limited time we were not able to take the NBC Studio Tour or visit the Top of the Rock and the girls were not motivated enough to get up early to check out the Today Show, so we we really only got a general sense of the grandeur of the area.  Radio City Music Hall was closed to the public due to the NFL draft taking place so we missed out on that tour as well.

Prometheus oversees Rockerfeller Center

Prometheus oversees Rockerfeller Center

We did find time to buy bobbleheads and tee shirts at the NBC Experience Store and walked down to the skating rink area to take in the view.  Next trip to New York we will try to get there while the skating rink is still operating since both our teens are skaters.  It would be a thrill to skate there at Christmas time and then go see the Rockettes at Radio City!

By mid-day it was time to grab a quick lunch and head back home.  We all agreed we have to do this again.  If you have teen girls, a mom and teen getaway to New York City is a great trip — just make sure you build in the time and budget for shopping!

This article is part of a series about our mom and teen girls getaway to New York City.  You can visit our Teens Take New York City summary page to discover our full itinerary and find links to other articles about our visit.