The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G.K. Chesterton

Friday, 21 September 2012

New York City: A Child's Playground

It's a well-known and loved fact that there are lots to do and see in New York City, but what if you have little ones tagging along? In fact, there are so many things to do in NYC with children - be it playing at the parks, visiting museums or having fun in the playground. I didn't know that there are so many playgrounds in NYC; in fact, I had actually dismissed the thought of finding even one in the Financial District, where we always stay. One would think that most people in the Financial District are there for work and not play, yet I found three within easy distance from our hotel (discovered mostly during our daily walks).

Here is a photo summary of the places in NYC that my son enjoyed the most.


The best things in life are free, including playgrounds. There are so many playgrounds around in NYC that we were coming across a new one on every new route we took. If you want to find a playground in a specific area, the City of New York Parks and Recreation website is pretty handy.

A playground on Catherine Slip near Water Street, just east of the Financial District and south of Chinatown and very close to the East River Bikeway and South Street. Across the road is another playground, and one block north on Catherine Slip is another playground. Discovered these playgrounds during our walk on the first day:

Playground at West Thames Park. Accessible from the Financial District via an overhead pedestrian bridge on West Street near Rector Street. A fun playground for sand and water play:

At Central Park, home to 21 playgrounds! After posing for the camera at this bridge, my son played at the nearby Heckscher Playground, located in the southern section of Central Park. Apparently it's the oldest playground in Central Park. Large area with a huge water feature with slides, tunnels and ramps - perfect for the hot muggy summer weather:

A small neighbourhood playground on Riverside Boulevard near West 68th Street. We took a short break here after exiting the Hudson River Greenway for Central Park during our bike ride around the city:

The flagship Imagination Playground at Burling Slip (flanked by John Street, Front Street and South Street) was the closest playground to our hotel. Kids can play in the sand on one side, with the distinctive blue foam blocks in the middle...

... and splash in the water on the other end. You can see the South Street Seaport just over yonder. The Imagination Playground is the only playground I know with on-site trained staff (called 'playworkers') to facilitate activities and provide added safety. Free to public:


It's no secret that NYC is museums galore. There are a few children-oriented museums around, and many museums have children's programs - even the MoMA! I must admit that I am more an outdoorsy person and not so much a museum-goer, but we did check out two museums.

All hands on deck! Entrance tickets to the South Street Seaport Museum includes entry on the Lightship Ambrose. Kids under 9 years old go in free, and join the mailing list at the website to receive two free tickets:

The American Museum of Natural History is a must for kiddies over 3 years old! Then go share a stack of pancakes for lunch at Sarabeth's a block away (it is possible to leave and re-enter the museum - just be sure to keep the entrance tickets):

My son absolutely loved the dinosaur exhibits at the Museum of Natural History:

High Line Park

We had a couple of people recommend that we visit the High Line, and I was puzzled as to why I had never heard of it before. The puzzle was solved when I did a little research and discovered that the first section of the High Line was opened in June 2009, shortly after we'd left NYC in 2009. It was suggested that we start at the north end and work our way southwards, and then head to Chelsea Market which is conveniently located close to the W 16th Street exit. It was a nice stroll through, and I appreciated the innovative idea of making use of a historic but disused freight rail line while preserving its heritage. It's also a pretty cool concept walking along an elevated rail-trail.

The stairway access into the High Line at West 23rd Street, where we started. The northernmost access point is on West 30th Street:

Near the start of our walk southwards along the High Line. That building up ahead had an unusual design, and there were a few tourists taking photos of it. It looked like a residential building with tall windows, and most of its occupants were sensible enough to have their shutters drawn:

There were more foliage further south, and the rail tracks are visible here. Oh, and that's my boy with his teddy-blankie (that transforms him into a super-hero):

There is even a sundeck and water feature between the West 16th Street and West 14th Street access points. Nearby are some food stalls set up selling drinks and coffee, snacks, ice cream and sandwiches:

We then exited the High Line at the W 14th Street access point, and headed to Chelsea Market for lunch. I was in foodie heaven in Chelsea Market, and I will write about what I ate in due time. Stay tuned!

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