What To Do on a Lay Over in New York City with Kids
Itinerary for a Rainy Day in New York City with Kids
- Times Square
- Madison Square Park
- New York Transit Museum (Brooklyn)
How To Get into the City
If you are at JFK International Airport, you are in Queens, a Borough of the City of New York. In order to get to Manhattan (where the Empire State Building and other iconic sites are located), the fastest and most convenient way is to take the AirTrain through the airport to Jamaica Station. There, you will need $8.50 in either cash or credit card, in order to purchase a MetroCard ($1.00 charge for the card itself) and pay the AirTrain entry/exit fee plus the fare to Manhattan. Once you have purchased your MetroCard, go into Jamaica Station proper and take the E line train to Times Square. Note: I had read about a Metro/subway "Fun Pass" in the 2011 edition of Frommer's New York City with Kids (this was the only book immediately available at my local library on NYC travel with children in tow). Unfortunately, according to the subway employees I asked during our trip on May 25, 2013, this one day unlimited subway pass seems to have been discountinued.
Inside Toys R Us in Times Square
Toys R US Times Square
The Toys R Us Times Square is the chain's flagship location. It is built on 3 floors (counting the one that is below street level) and hosts LEGO replicas of New York City's iconic buildings (for example, the Empire State Building, complete with a LEGO King Kong climbing it; the Lipstick Building; the Statue of Liberty) as well as a Barbie house. (My advice: unless you are actually looking for Barbies to buy, do not bother to go into the Barbie house as it is only the outside walls and inside are shelf after shelf of Barbies to purchase; it was rather a let down.) There is a Babies R Us section as well. But the best thing about this location is the indoor Ferris Wheel (especially if you are visiting in winter or on a rainy day)!
The Toys R Us Ferris Wheel
The Ferris Wheel in Toys R Us at Times Square
Whether it is a rainy or sunny day, your kids will not want to miss this ride inside Toys R Us. For $5.00 per person, it is one of the cheapest entertainment activities in Manhattan. You cannot choose which car you ride in, but they are all fun and most kids will immediately recognize the characters and brands represented: Barbie, Cabbage Patch Kids, ET, Little Tikes, My Little Pony, Scooby Doo and the Gang. It is not only fun but it lasts through quite a few revolutions (my daughter counted six)! It does not turn very fast, so even little children should not be afraid once they are on it. Also, we only stopped at the very top once (in about six revolutions) and no one tried to be funny and swing their cars (which is strictly against the rules, anyway) while we were on the ride.
Macy's on 34th and Broadway
Walk Manhattan from Times Square to Madison Square Park
Walk to Herald Square and Shop at Macy's
After you are done riding on the Ferris Wheel, you can enjoy some shopping in Toys R Us or walk a few blocks down Broadway to Herald Square (Broadway and 34th Street). This is the flagship store of the dry goods business founded by R.H. Macy (and featured in both old and modern versions of the film Miracle on 34th Street). If it is still raining, you should definitely head inside for some more shopping. This Macy's also features quite a few New York-themed accessories. If, as it was on our recent Saturday excursion to Manhattan, it is not quite raining but just a bit cold and grey, keep on walking (to keep your blood circulating) and head downtown to Madison Square Park, on 23rd Street, for a quick lunch at the original Shake Shack.
Manhattan's Flatiron Building
Detail of the Base of the Eternal Light Flagpole (1923)
In 1867, Seward did something that members of Congress and the Press termed "Seward's Folly," but later proved to have been a very smart move.
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Madison Square Park
Madison Square Park (not the Garden - there's a difference!) is located in the Flatiron District of Manhattan. This park has been known as a garden made for displaying and installing public art since its inception.
As you approach the park from Broadway and 23rd, you are greeted by the bronze statue of William H. Seward, 12th Governor of New York, U.S. Secretary of State under Abraham Lincoln and native New Yorker; in fact, he was the first New Yorker to have a statue erected in his honor. Elsewhere in the park is a statue of Roscoe Conkling (a politician during Reconstruction), Chester Alan Arthur (the largely forgotten 21st president of the United States), a monument to war heroes in general and General Worth (a Mexican War hero buried nearby) in particular, and Auguste St. Gaudens' first major work, Admiral Farragut (a Civil War Naval officer). In 1867, the park's ornamental fountain was installed and in 1923, the Eternal Light Flagpole (or Flagstaff) was erected.
Today, Madison Square Conservancy sponsors temporary (spring- and summer-long) installations of work by contemporary artists. Mad. Sq. Art 2013 features the breath-taking work of artist Orly Genger, titled Red, Yellow and Blue.
This Park is an oasis in the middle of Midtown Manhattan, offering the harried urban-dwelling soul the dual balms of quiet nature and inspiring public art. Even if you've just finished visiting Central Park, Madison Square Park has to be a must see, do NOT miss item on any tourist's list.
A small section of Orly Genger's "Red"
Our Shake Shack Lunch
The Shack's "Dapper Dog"
The Shake Shack in Madison Square Park
The Shake Shack in Madison Square Park is the original Shack. According to their website, it all started when Danny Meyers and his Union Square Hospitality Group set up a cart selling hot dogs in the park, in support of that year's public art installation. This was repeated in the summers of 2002 and 2003 and then, in 2004, the Shake Shack became a permanent part of the Madison Square Park landscape.
The Shake Shack offers typical American diner fare of burgers, hot dogs, fries and shakes, with the modern additions of beer and wine...and dog treats for those humans visiting the park with their four-footed friends or roommates! We did not have any shaggy or furry friends with us, so we just ordered a quick lunch of a Double ShackBurger (a two-patty 100% all natural - no antibiotics, no hormones - Angus beef cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato and ShackSauce for $7.00 in May 2013) and a Dapper Dog (a split, griddled hot dog topped with Shack cheddar and American cheese sauce and crispy ale-marinated shallots which currently sells for $4.00). We ordered a root beer float to wash lunch down. We were also pretty curious about the Shack's reputation for a delight called "Frozen Custard" (the flavor of which depends on the day of the month, so be sure to check the Custard Calendar before getting in line) and were even more curious about something called a "concrete." So we ordered a half Concrete Jungle - and wished we had skipped the Root Beer Float and ordered a whole concrete instead!
The Shake Shack's Self-Described "Mothership"
Half a "Concrete Jungle"
What is a Shake Shack "Concrete?"
The Shake Shack's menu describes a concrete as: "Dense frozen custard blended at high speed with mix-ins." Coming from the Boston area, I assumed it had to be like our frappes or Rhode Island's Awful Awfuls (milk shakes made with syrup, milk, and ice cream all blended together into a very tall, very thick drink served topped with whipped cream and a cherry). So, wary of a potentially too-large-for-two-people-to-finish-especially-on-a-cold-rainy-day monster of a frozen drink, I erred on the side of caution and ordered a half concrete, which turned out to be dense, delicious and way too small for even just one person. We ordered the "Concrete Jungle" which was a blended Arctic ambrosia of vanilla custard, fudge sauce, bananas and peanut butter.
Head to Brooklyn and the New York Transit Museum
Having come from JFK International (or LaGuardia) in Queens and explored a little bit of Manhattan, why not pay a quick visit to one more Borough (and be able to say you've actually been to 3 out the 5 Boroughs that make up "The City")? Especially if the 18 to 19 block walk from Times Square still hasn't tuckered your kids out enough to make sure that they sleep on your 5 or 6 hour international flight and you still have a couple of hours to kill before absolutely, positively having to head back to the airport. Walk straight down 23rd Street to Union Square and take the subway's R Train across the bridge to Court Street in Brooklyn.
Once at Court Street-Borough Hall, walk up to the street. Head towards the corner of Court and Joralemon Streets. Walk towards Adams St. and then walk straight down (crossing Joralemon St.) Adams, which becomes Boerum Place. Walk three blocks or so and you will find yourself at the corner of Boerum Place and Schermerhorn Street. The New York Transit Museum is located at that corner. But, beware: It's easy to miss because the entrance to the Museum is actually the entrance to a former subway station; this Museum isn't in a building but under one!