By Jean Marie Strauss

Make Way Zagat — for an Insider's Guide to Visiting NY With Kids

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It’s called The Grownup’s Guide: Visiting New York City With Kids, but you don’t have to be a visitor (you don’t even have to be a grownup) to take advantage of this incredibly comprehensive resource guide to New York City. A visitor, however, will receive sage advice from the guide’s authors, Diane Chernoff-Rosen and Lisa Levinson. An enthusiastic, yet realistic account of the city, the book nearly takes a tourist by the hand, forewarns where need be, and encourages through the rough spots. Most travel guides are exhaustive listings of what’s where, packed with little color photos. The Grownup’s Guide builds excitement with descriptions that feel like recommendations from a trusted and knowledgeable friend. Indeed, the text is laid out like a novel rather than a directory. It may weigh a bit more in a carryall, but it just may make your trip a breeze. Visiting New York City With Kids is the authors’ third book in the Grownup’s Guide series. The first, The Grownup’s Guide to Living With Kids in Manhattan was a “labor of love,” according to Chernoff-Rosen. In the early 90s, she and Levinson met at the preschool their children were attending. Before motherhood, Chernoff-Rosen had practiced law for 10 years and Levinson was in marketing. As their friendship developed, they realized they were both looking for flexible work. The idea of a book was born. Chernoff-Rosen was known to be a “resource person” among friends, and a guide to Manhattan for parents seemed marketable and fun. Not only would they write it, Chernoff-Rosen would also publish it. With the book’s success, the two authors took the venture a step further and came out with The Grownup’s Guide to Shopping for Kid Stuff in Manhattan. September 11 brought the work on their latest book to a heart-broken halt. Yet, like the rest of New York, with time the two authors rallied. Long hours on the phone fact checking, and even longer hours pounding the pavement, lay ahead. At this point Lisa Levinson and her family decided to move away from the city. The two remain best of friends, but Chernoff-Rosen would finish the book alone. As this was the third book, the details of writing and publishing the book were in place. Experience was paying off. Interestingly, Chernoff-Rosen says the work of fact checking, knocking on doors, contracting with vendors such as editors, designers and printers was never the hardest part of the job. Converting from full-time mom to working was much more difficult, she says. Now after three books, she says she has a wonderful copy editor, a great designer and streamlined distribution. Balancing her personal life remains a complicated affair. With great humor Chernoff-Rosen says, "Just when you think it is safe to go back in the water, you have the recitals, the sports dinners, the class picnics, the moving up exercises, all the meetings and all in the space of three weeks!” Growing up in Fort Lee, N.J., Chernoff-Rosen was smitten with the city early on. At 13, she and a friend would come into Manhattan on weekends to wander the streets of Greenwich Village. After law school, she moved to the Village, then the Upper West Side, and now resides with her husband and two children on the Upper East Side. Her feelings for the city remain steadfast. “I love it, the energy, the pace. On any given day you can do so many things.” So what would her suggestion be for an ideal day in New York City? “The New York experience is all about the individual family — picking something cultural, something outdoors and something like the Statue of Liberty,” could add up to a perfect day, she says. But she is adamant about being flexible and realistic in order to have a memorable trip. “The biggest mistake people make is trying to do everything”. Visiting New York City With Kids starts out with the "Ten Principles", excellent advice on how to get the most enjoyment out of any trip with children, with specifics on preparing for the wonders and oddities that are New York City. A calendar of events is included, as well as pointers on how best to get around the city. There are no subway or bus maps, but there is information on how to obtain these. All five boroughs are represented in a neighborhood-by-neighborhood tour. Even native New Yorkers will find never-before-heard-of places to see. The entertainment section lists theaters, music halls, long running shows and advice on how to get tickets. The section on theater etiquette for kids should be required reading for all theatergoers. The chapter, “What’s a Child To Do?” is an amazingly comprehensive listing of museums, galleries, libraries, zoos, parks, and sports. Each activity or attraction includes a suggested appropriate age. There are plenty of tips on keeping it all fun and manageable. The A to Z shopping guide will thrill tweens and teens but of course there is something for everyone here — from the big department stores to the tiny boutiques to the esoteric, as only New York can offer. Each store’s description also includes price range. The chapter on restaurants is no less extensive, and comes with helpful tips on dining with children. An informative list of family-friendly hotels is followed by a sensible, not scary, guide to safety in the city. Packed with destinations, urban lore, comforting advice, essential information and little known facts, The Grownup’s Guide: Visiting New York City With Kids is probably the guide New York families wish they had all along. Visiting parents will be glad they picked this book, rather than the one with the pretty photos.