While there are endless lists of fun things to do in NYC for the big kids, what happens when you have friends or family in town that have little ones? Victoria McEvoy is mum to 2-year-old Polly and 3-year-old Charlie and works part-time for fashion designer Tory Burch. Originally from Sydney, she’s lived in the Upper West Side in New York for nine years and here she gives Billabout her guide to keeping kids entertained (which mainly involves running them around Central Park until they pass out).
Is it difficult to entertain kids in New York City?
My gut response is that it can be hard to entertain kids in the city, but that’s because I’m coming at it with that Aussie idealistic vision of a big house and backyard to run wild in. We certainly don’t have that kind of life in a NYC apartment, but if I really think about it, entertaining kids in NY can be a breeze – you just have to be a little more organized and be prepared to make things more of an outing. There is so much to do in this city from awesome playgrounds, amazing museums, to great places to have a kid friendly meal. I will admit though that I am a creature of habit and like to keep things simple, especially on my days off, so we tend to stick around the neighbourhood – but within a five block radius from our apartment we have wonderful places to visit like Central Park and The Natural Museum of History, so we are very spoilt.
What are three kid friendly activities/places in both the summer or winter that you couldn’t live without?
Summer is all about the playground and being outside! They really come alive in the summer months with great water features – the kids go nuts even if it’s just a simple sprinkler and when its boiling hot outside you get to cool down too by dipping your toes in while you “supervise”. In the summer you can often find us at the Ross Terrace at the Natural Museum of History, again it’s all about the water feature here as the kids run around this secret terrace area dodging massive water fountains. It’s open space too so it’s easy to keep your eyes on the kids as you sit on the shady steps and watch the afternoon go by.
Another favourite is to take a picnic up to the Great Lawn in Central Park and sit under the huge trees, watch a softball game and maybe climb a tree or two.
Winter things get a little more complicated and expensive, as it’s not as easy to do things outside. We still hit the playground in the winter months and you will often find a handful of kids running around in their puffer jackets looking like mini-michelin people, but if it’s too cold then we hit the museums or a play gym. The Natural History Museum is a favourite. The kids particularly love the Ocean Room with the Big Whale as the lights are low and they are allowed to run around the big open floor. Most NY mums are organized and book their kids into classes for the Winter months – the “free-play” kind of spaces aren’t as easy to come by and spaces are always limited so we tend to book our kids in for a season. We have had great experiences at the New York Kids Club, Gymboree and Super Soccer Stars (all have several locations in the city). If you’re visiting, then I’m sure these kid spaces would let you do a class or two. I also like to hit Chelsea Markets with the kids in winter. It’s an easy subway ride (always a hit with my 3 year old) from the UWS and again its another public space in the city that they don’t mind kids running wild in. Plus there is great coffee to be had and any type of food you could desire which helps when mum feels like a plate of spicy noodles and the kids will only eat tomato pasta.
Any kid friendly restaurants you would suggest?
There are so many options to choose from in the city and most places are really kid friendly and will nearly always have a high chair. Again my tips are going to be more UWS focused because we tend to hang around our neighborhood when we eat (with the kids that is!).
– Fatty Crab is great – they have a kid friendly menu but it’s a little more interesting than the ubiquitous chicken fingers and they have crayons on hand as you sit down.
– Kefi is another great option, the food is always delicious, crayons galore and everything is really well priced so it’s an easy dinner for the family.
– We have also been travelling out to Williamsburg of late to hit Toby’s Estate Coffee – mostly for a bit of home, good coffee and really good simple food but they are happy to have the kids there and the Vegemite toast & chocolate milk is always a hit with my lot.
– My kids love dumplings and Asian food so when we’re feeling adventurous (energetic) we head down to Chinatown. Just wandering the streets is an experience so the kids think they’ve had a great day out. The Golden Unicorn is off the beaten track a little and they serve dim sum/yum cha in the carts which the kids love.
– Whole Foods is another easy place to take the kids. The food hall caters to all tastes and the seating is done family style so no one minds the odd kid running around or throwing a tantrum. Also, you can be in and out quickly, which let’s face it, can be key when you’re eating out with kids.
If I’m visiting town and need a last minute babysitter what do I do?
I have found NY to be a word of mouth town. Ask around, if you don’t know someone personally in the city you’re bound to know someone who does. You will be surprised how willing people will be to help out. We all know how hard it can be to find things in this city! I have never used a service and I wouldn’t even know where to start.
What’s been the biggest surprise for you being a parent in NY?
I think for me it’s how friendly everyone is towards kids and more importantly parents of kids. Restaurants don’t see it as a drag when you come in with two crazy toddlers, strangers come up to you in the street and ask about your children, pedestrians on the street smile and share a knowing giggle when your 3-year-old tears down the street on their scooter narrowly missing passerby’s ignoring your screams for them to stop. NY really is a kid friendly city and kids really thrive here!
Interview by Shannon O’Meara