We are a mixed bag at Big Apple Parent! We have kids in diapers; in elementary, middle and high school; and in college. We are aunts and uncles, adoptive parents, and even grandparents. As we mark our 18th Anniversary, we marvel (as we do every year) on how fast the years have flown by and how our kids have grown. Don’t wait till it’s too late! In celebration, we present (in no particular order) our “18 RESOLUTIONS” – the 18 great outings you should do with your kids, at least once! As we embark on another year of Big Apple Parent, let us hear from you. And from all of us here to all our readers and your families: a happy, healthy, secure, fun 2003!
Our 18th Anniversary List of THE TOP 18 THINGS YOU SHOULD DO WITH YOUR KIDS IN NEW YORK CITY
Compiled by: Sara Rivka Davidson, Helen Rosengren Freedman, Kirsten Matthew, Bonnie Rosenstock, and Cynthia Tavlin
SLEEP WITH THE FISHES • Winter is a good time to snooze, but there’s every reason to stay awake at the Central Park’s Snooze at the Zoo sleepover, where participants embark on an exciting expedition through the Zoo’s Rain Forest at night, meet tropical animals, play games, and enjoy tasty tropical treats. The Rain Forest is a lush two-story building chock full of exotic birds, reptiles, monkeys and other intriguing animals. Participants get a first-hand experience with two rain forest animals, navigate a jungle obstacle course (and habitat destruction game, if there’s time), and in the morning assist the keepers with preparing breakfast for some of the Rain Forest animals in the Animal Commissary and help with the daily tropical bird census. Games and activities highlight the importance of conserving wild habitats. Breakfast is also provided. Guests must bring their own sleeping bags and bed linen. Ages 7-10, with one adult; January 10-11, and January 31-February 2; 7pm–9am. Cost is $180. For further information, call (212) 439-6583 or visit www.centralparkzoo.com. • At the New York Aquarium, participants Sleep in the Deep, with a visit to the aquatic animals after hours to observe how they behave when no other people are around. There’s a behind-the-scenes tour of a coral fish tank, where children and parents feed the fish. Participants learn about animal adaptations by examining shark teeth and whalebones, and by observing live invertebrates in the touch tank. They make buttons, create sea animals from sculpey clay, “paint” sea star magnets with sand, and print pillowcases with seahorses, lobsters and other sea creatures. Participants bring their own sleeping gear and settle in for a video and (hopefully) sleep in the indoor Explore the Shore exhibit area. In the morning, after breakfast, they paint their sculpey animals, visit the marine mammal trainers to learn how the animals are trained, and take another short tour around the Aquarium. Ages 9-12 with one adult; February 8-9; 7pm–10am, $130 members, $145 nonmembers. “Bedtime with Belugas,” is an opportunity for younger children to have a similar experience with the animals and art activities scaled down to their age group. Ages 5-8 with one adult, January 11-12, and March 22-23, 7pm–10am. $130 members, $145 nonmembers. For more information, call (718) 265-3453 or visit www.nyaquarium.com. • On the upscale end, FAO Schwarz indulges kids with the “Ultimate Sleepover” sans parents. The fantasy trip — led by the company’s cast of costume characters — begins on a Saturday evening with dinner. The kids receive, among other welcoming gifts, a customized backpack that includes a Kodak disposable camera, bottled water and an empty FAO Schweetz bag to fill up with sweets in the super-sized FAO Schweetz shop. On a scavenger hunt, a competition among three teams of five kids each (names are pulled out of a hat to determine teams), they locate challenging and specific items for prizes. After that, children participate in an array of activities, such as playing video games or playing with remote control cars. Around 2am, snug in their gift sleeping bags, the children watch a movie on a giant screen in the largest Star Wars boutique in the country, while munching on more snacks. After breakfast, they go on a shopping spree with a $100 gift certificate. Ages 6-12, Saturday 9pm–Sunday 10:30am, January to October, $17,500 (for up to 15 children; a 50-percent deposit is required). Call (212) 644-9410, ext. 4182.
CULTURE VULTURES Museums are much more that art these days; they are windows into new experiences and cultural expression. • The Museum for African Art, which is now featuring an exhibit on masks, has January family workshops: crown making and African dance workshops on January 4, a jazz concert and tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. on January 11, and storytelling with a musical performance on January 25. For more information on these programs and what the museum has to offer, visit www.africanart.org, or call (718) 784-7700. Located at 36-01 43rd Avenue at 36th Street, Long Island City. Mon., Thurs., Fri.10-5, Sat. and Sun.11-6. Adults $5, $2.50 students, children, and seniors. • The Museum of Chinese in the Americas tells the story of Chinese immigrants and celebrates Chinese culture. Join them for their Lunar New Year Festival in February. 70 Mulberry Street, 2nd floor, on the corner of Mulberry and Bayard. www.moca-nyc.org. • El Museo Del Barrio on the Upper East Side has weekend family workshops, events in celebration of holidays, music, arts, and writing. The annual Three Kings Day Parade takes place on January 6, so come along! 1230 Fifth Avenue on 104th Street. (212) 831-7272; www.elmuseo.org. Wed.-Sun.11-5. Adults $5, $3 students and seniors, Children under 12 FREE. • The Yeshiva University Museum offers an interesting artistic and cultural expression of Judaism, with arts workshops for families and children. Join Artist Tobi Kahn in January for an arts workshop with plants celebrating the upcoming holiday of Tu B’Shvat, the birthday of trees. 15 West 16th Street. (212) 294-8330. www.yu.edu/museum. Tues., Wed., Thurs., Sun. 11-5. Adults $6, students and seniors $4, children 5-16 $4, Children under 5 FREE.
NIGHT OF THE LIVING! Halloween 2002 marked the 29th anniversary of the Village Halloween Parade — begun by a Greenwich Village puppeteer and mask maker, Ralph Lee. In 1973, Lee started a puppet parade as a walk in his neighborhood; the idea was to go house to house as a fun outing for his children and their friends. Today, the parade is the largest grassroots celebration of its kind in the country! It is New York City’s Carnival, the Big Apple’s Mardi Gras. Now, as if the roots of the Parade aren’t heart-warming enough, consider these facts: Each Halloween night, the Parade draws more than 30,000 costumed participants; an estimated 2 million spectators; 1,000 volunteers operating rod puppets large and small; and $60 million in tourism and related revenues floods the Village and New York City on that single night. But don’t be put off by the size of the event, and the certain reputation it has garnered over the years. It’s a great outing for families. Pick any spot along the Parade route (Sixth Avenue, from Spring to 22nd); stay for a short time to catch the flavor (the Parade starts at 7pm); explain to the little ones that part of any Carnival culture is the desire to dress up (sometimes as the opposite sex!); challenge your older kids to spot the political references of the day (in 2002, George Dubya and Iraq were the main targets); point out to all kids the happiness on the streets (never will you find New York’s Finest smiling so broadly on every street corner; security that night seems to be a lot less stressful than on Thanksgiving Day); and take heart that despite the crowds, there is an unwritten law on Halloween Night in the Village: orderly behavior rules. There is actually less crime the night of the Parade than on a typical night in Greenwich Village year-round. If you want to walk in the Parade, just show up in costume between 6-7:30pm, at Sixth Avenue between Spring and Broome. If you want to volunteer to help get the wondrous puppets aloft, go to www.halloween-nyc.com.
ONE-OF-A-KIND Remember the time first time you read Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol? What about Winnie-The-Pooh, and Alice and Wonderland? Remember the joy and laughter when you saw Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins with her magic umbrella? Now you and your child can share in the magic in person at two local libraries. • To bring out some holiday cheer, the Morgan Library has on public display now until January 5 the original manuscript of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. If you miss it this year, don’t worry, it’s brought out every year for the Christmas season. And, while you’re there, for a little whimsy, you and your child can see an original color proof of Alice at the Mad Hatter’s tea party. If your child is also into other classic books and art, the library has a big collection of art and rare books. 29 East 36th Street on Madison Avenue. (212) 685-0610. www.morganlibrary.org. Tues.-Thurs. 10:30-5, Fri. 10:30-8, Sat. 10:30-6, Sun. 12-6. Adults $8, students and seniors $6, kids 12 and under, Free. • If your child loves playing with Winnie-the-Pooh and his cuddly friends as much as Christopher Robin did, see the original animals that inspired the stories. They are all there on display year round in the Central Children’s Room at the New York Public Library’s Donnell Branch. And, if you fancy Mary Poppins, see her magical umbrella used in the film located in that wing as well. The library also features story hour, films, and visits form authors and illustrators. Located at 20 West 53rd Street. (212) 621-0618. www.nypl.org. Children’s Room open Mon., Wed., Fri. 12-6, Tues. 10-6, Thurs. 12-8, Sat. 12-5, Sun 1-5 FREE.
THE MAJOR MINOR LEAGUES Kid-friendly ballparks, accessible players, early evening game starts, reasonable ticket prices…you gotta love minor league baseball and the two NY-Penn League teams stationed here — the Brooklyn Cyclones and Staten Island Yankees. The 2003 season for the A ball clubs begins mid-June and the crosstown rivals are scheduled to play each other 12 times. • In baseball-starved Brooklyn, the Cyclones are a hot ticket. Season seats and mini-plans for new subscribers go on sale this month and individual game tickets will be available in April. Fans have a shot at getting tickets for sold-out games, in-person on game day only, when a block of bleacher seats are set aside. Season tickets and mini-plans for the Staten Island Yankees (the 2002 NY-Penn League champs) are already on sale. For ticket prices and further information, contact the Brooklyn Cyclones at (718) 449-8497 or visit www.brooklyncyclones.com; the Staten Island Yankees at (718) 720-9265 or www.statenislandyankees.com. • Families who’d like to take a short road trip to see a game may want to check out the Long Island Ducks at www.liducks.com, the Hudson Valley Renegades at www.hvrenegades, or the Newark Bears at www.newarkbears.com.
The Great Outdoors Get to know the Urban Park Rangers in 2003. Year-round, city dwellers can choose from an extensive array of programs that lets you explore New York City’s natural environment in a fun and informative manner. Look for hawks in Inwood Hill Park in fall, learn about the geology of Van Cortlandt Park in winter, hike and fish in spring and summer. Urban Park Ranger Explorer programs are FREE and take place mostly on weekends in selected parks throughout the five boroughs. Programs generally run an hour-and-a-half in length and are open to all ages. Certain events like canoeing and camping require advance registration. For a schedule and further information, call 1-866-NYC HAWK or visit www.nyc.gov/parks.
WALK ON WATER • Fifteen years in New York and it took chaperoning a class trip to finally take a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. If the expedition has been on your “to-do” list for a while, 2003 is the year to do it. The bridge celebrates its 120th birthday this May. Elizabeth Mann’s picture book, The Brooklyn Bridge-A Wonder of the World, which provides an in-depth look at how the bridge was built, and the people who did it, is a good primer for your walking trip. From the Manhattan side, get on the bridge near City Hall or at the entrance next to the Federal Court if walking from Brooklyn. By subway, take the #6 to Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall or the J to Chambers Street. • As for other city landmarks, here’s a novel thought: Next time you take out-of-town guests on the Staten Island Ferry, or just take the ride for the fun of it, try exiting the ferry at the Staten Island terminal and spend the day looking around. The Snug Harbor Cultural Center, an 83-acre National Historic Landmark, is a short bus ride away, houses the Staten Island Children’s Museum, Staten Island Botanical Garden and the Staten Island Institute of Arts and Sciences. Self-guided walking tours of the grounds, which feature Greek Revival and Beaux-Arts architecture, is also available. Take the S40 bus from the Ferry Terminal. The Staten Island Institute of Arts & Sciences is within short walking distance; the other sites will take you approximately 40 minutes on foot, though most of it is along the water. Snug Harbor Cultural Center is located at 1000 Richmond Terrace. For further information on performances, exhibitions and special events, call (718) 448-2500 or visit www.snug-harbor.org.
SAY IT IN SONG Only a theater town like New York could support a musical about a museum. Make that several musicals, since a few cultural institutions have commissioned original theater productions in order to educate the public about their particular origins and history. • The best known is New York Toy Stories, a musical developed by Theatre in Motion that’s based on the Museum of the City of New York’s (MCNY) famed toy collection, and is staged several times throughout the year. When New York Stories returns to MCNY on Sunday, February 2, it will include a new number, “Walk on By, Nellie Bly” about the famous New York City journalist and inspiration for a board game on display “Round the World with Nellie Bly.” • Other museum productions include the Mount Vernon Museum & Hotel Garden’s Fare for All, about the people who worked and visited at the museum when it was The Mount Vernon Hotel; and The Promise of the Park, which stars Frederick Law Olmstead (co-creator of Central Park) time traveling to the present. Also developed by Theatre in Motion, Promise of the Park is performed at MCNY following a walking tour of Central Park. For further information about these productions, contact the Mount Vernon Hotel and Museum Garden (Fare For All is usually staged during the fall) at (212) 838-6878, or MCNY at (212) 534-1672; www.mcny.org.
GIVING BACK With the stock market falling and the economy ailing, donations to charities (except to September 11-related ones) decreased by 2.3 percent nationwide, to $212 billion last year. This year, charity giving is expected to be even lower. However, New Yorkers can still give the gift of time, goods and services to local organizations and charities. • The newly merged Mayor’s Office of Adult Literacy and the Department of Youth and Community Development has reluctantly decided not to renew the contract of the 19-year-old Literacy Assistance Center, the only comprehensive, specialized literacy resource center in New York City. Each year LAC serves approximately 2,500 literacy practitioners, who help more than 55,000 adults and youth, both U.S. and foreign born, to improve their reading, writing, math and technology skills. However, as of November 30, 2002, the center stopped receiving city funds. To donate books for the LAC Clearinghouse (low-level reading for adults, children’s books for family literacy classes, photography and art books, etc.), contact Tony Pupello, (212) 803-3330 or [email protected] • According to the most recent National Adult Literacy Survey, over 1 million adults in NYC cannot read at the fifth-grade level, and citywide test scores reveal that 55 percent of public school children in grades three to eight are already below reading grade level. To volunteer, call the LAC Literacy Hotline at (212) 803-3333. LAC also suggests these programs: New York Public Library Literacy Program, (212) 340-0924; Brooklyn Public Library, (718) 832-3560; Queens Borough Public Library Literacy Program, (718) 480-4300; Literacy Partners, Inc., (212) 725-9200; and Bailey House, a social service agency that serves people with HIV/AIDS, (212) 633-2500. • New York Cares was founded in 1987 by a group of friends who were eager to volunteer their time and give something back to the community. Since then, the organization has become a model for volunteerism around the country. They mobilize more than 2,000 volunteers each month, who serve on flexibly scheduled, team-based projects in partnership with schools, social service agencies and environmental groups. Volunteers tutor children, feed the hungry, assist people living with HIV/AIDS, revitalize gardens, take homeless children on cultural and recreational outings, visit the elderly, etc. To find out how to participate, log on to www.NYCares.org. • In their nine-bedroom facility located in midtown Manhattan, Miracle House provides affordable housing and support services to the families and friends of people living with AIDS or cancer. They do not receive city, state or federal funding, so all monies are generated through special events and donor gifts. Their services are made possible through the assistance of hundreds of volunteers who are trained to be hosts and peer counselors to all their guests, maintain the facility, run the special events, and do myriad administrative tasks. They are in need of computer experts for research projects and skillful auction sellers and daily monitors for their ongoing Ebay auctions. (Sellable collectibles you can donate to the auction are also welcome). To volunteer, call Jesse Ramos, director of volunteers, at (212) 989-7790 ext. 11, or email: [email protected]
TAKE TO THE WATER New York offers its populace (and visitors) plenty of opportunities to get out on the water — in it or around it— no matter what the season. • Even though Brooklyn is not an island, Prospect Park is well watered. January is Duck Month there. Around the Lullwater, learn fascinating facts about ducks, create a duck craft and look for ducks such as mallards, ruddy, wood, American Black, ring-necked and Peking ducks. (Saturdays and Sundays, noon–4pm, Prospect Park Audubon Center at the Boathouse. Call (718) 287-3400. In May, Prospect Park’s pedal boating season reopens. Navigate Duck Island, Three Islands or West Islands on Prospect Lake’s 60 acres of freshwater, and take a gander at Canadian geese, catfish, bass, tiger-striped and white perch, frogs, swans and mallards. A pedal boat seats four adults and costs only $10 per hour with a $10 refundable deposit. Children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult. For more information, call Pedal Boat Rentals at (718) 282-7789. If you prefer to let them do the steering and talking, hop aboard the 14-seat S.S. Independence, an elegant 30-foot electric fantail boat with white hull, green-and-white-striped canopy (reminiscent of a similar boat that existed in the Park from the 1900s to the 1920s) for a 30-minute nature cruise on the lake. Rides are only $3; no reservations required. May through October. Call (718) 287-3400. • It’s never too early to start thinking about camp. In fact, registration for Chelsea Piers’ popular Urban Adventure Summer Sports Camp already began in mid-December. The Camp offers four two-week sessions of intensive instruction in kayaking and sailing, as well as rock climbing and more traditional sports. The sailing and kayaking programs make great use of the Hudson River and New York Harbor. Offshore Sailing School will teaches campers of all levels the various sailboat rigs through classroom and sailing instruction aboard Colgate 26 class sailboats and the Schooner Adirondack, a 78-foot replica of a twin-masted schooner. Would-be kayakers learn basic paddle strokes, wet exit and re-entry techniques, and how to read a tide book and plot a course in a variety of safety-certified sea kayaks. Ages 13-17. Camp runs June 30–August 8. First two-week session: $920; each additional two-week session: $880. To register or attend Open House Days (Saturday, March 1 and April 19), call (212) 336-6846 or visit www.chelseapiers.com. • What the 26-mile five-borough New York Marathon is to runners, the 250-, 500- and 1,000-meter dragon boat races on Meadow Lake in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, Queens, have become to boaters. With almost 100 teams and over 1,000 competitors from around the world, the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival is now the largest multi-cultural event in the metropolitan area, and the largest festival of its kind in the U.S. In a long narrow boat guided by a fearsome dragon head at the bow, 18 paddlers pour on the speed, as a 19th person pounds out a driving rhythm, while a 20th steers at the back. The heart-pounding competition is fierce; cash prizes go up to $10,000. Landlubbers will enjoy the two-day spectacle, colorful performances (including opening parade and dragon dance), demonstrations, music, crafts, international food and family fun atmosphere. The 13th Annual Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival will be held on the fifth day of the fifth moon of the lunar calendar, or Saturday, August 9 and Sunday, August 10. Entrance is free. Free shuttle buses leave from St. George’s Church, 39th Avenue at Main Street, Flushing, near the subway stop. For information, call (718) 353-3858 or (718) 539-8974, or visit www.hkdbf-ny.org.
BACK IN TIME Show your children how people lived before the Internet or video games, and have fun while you and your family get an offbeat history lesson visiting four historical homes in the city. • The Birthplace of Theodore Roosevelt, at 28 East 20 Street, contains five reconstructed period rooms where the famous outdoorsman and President was raised. The house is open 9-5 on weekdays; tours run every hour on the hour between 10-4pm. Admission is $3. (212) 260-1616. • The Merchant’s House Museum follows the Tredwells from 1835 to 1933. Your children can take delight in learning about the history of this unique family, neighborhood, and the city’s history while looking at personal belongings such as unfinished needlework, clothing and even a shaving mirror. Open Thursday through Monday, 1pm-5 pm. For more information, visit www.merchantshouse.com. • The Mount Vernon Hotel Museum and Garden is the site of the former home of Abigail Adams Smith and her husband. One can look at art, costumes, and quilts from this time period. You can also learn about Mrs. Adams, her original house plans, and watch a video capturing the history of the city in the 1820s and 1830s. The museum is located at 421 East 61st Street, between First Avenue and York. Accessible by the 4, 5, 6, N and R trains to 59th, and the B and Q to 63rd Street. Open Tuesday to Sunday, 11am-4pm. $4 adult, $3 seniors and students. For more information, call (212) 838-6878. • And, if you are up for traveling a bit, see the Alice Austen House, in Staten Island. Originally built in 1690, this lovely estate chronicles the life of the female Victorian photographer for which the museum is named. Perfect for any child interested in the Victorian period or photography. The estate is located at 2 Hylan Blvd., Staten Island. (718) 816-4506. Open Thursday through Sunday, noon-5pm; suggested donation of $2. www.aliceausten.8m.com.
THE MINI WHITE WAY In an ideal world, there would be adult and children’s ticket prices for all Broadway shows. • With a little foresight however, families can take advantage of Kid’s Night on Broadway, scheduled this year for February 4. The annual event offers kids a free ticket to a participating Broadway show with the purchase of a full-price adult ticket, early curtain times, and a pre-theater bash at Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum. Though tickets went on sale in November, there are still a few shows open, most geared to older kids and teens. For further information, call 1-888-BROADWAY or visit www.broadway.org. • With tourism on the wane in January and February, look for A Season of Savings promo that will be inserted in daily newspapers after the New Year, offering discounted tickets to family-friendly fare like Beauty and the Beast, Oklahoma, Def Poetry Jam and other shows. For further information, visit www.ilovenytheatre.com.
Sneak Peeks Finding out how a basketball court turns into an ice rink at Madison Square Garden, or seeing how the scoreboard works at Yankee Stadium, is a fascinating experience for kids as well as adults. Here’s where to find a Behind-the Scenes tour: • The Madison Square Garden one-hour All-Access Tour (212) 465-6741 lets you inside the Knicks, Rangers and Liberty locker rooms. • Radio City’s Stage Door Tour (212) 307-7171 takes visitors through the landmark theater with stops at the famous Wurlitzer organ, the costume shop and a quick meet-and-greet with a Rockette. • Depending on availability, an NBC page may lead visitors through the Nightly News, Late Night with Conan O’Brien or Saturday Night Live studios during the NBC Studio Tours (212) 664-3700 (children under 6 not admitted). • From October through June, opera lovers get a captivating look at the backstage workings of the Met during the Metropolitan Opera Guild Backstage Tour (212) 875-5350. Highlights include the wig and costume shops and an up-close look at the lavish sets. • Baseball fans can choose from three different insider packages during Yankee Stadium Tours, offered on daily basis through March 23. Tours, which include the dugout and press box, resume on April 17. Advance reservations are recommended for most Behind-the-Scenes tours.
BIRDS’ EYE VIEW If you want to share with your kids the beauty and splendor of the city with a birds’ eye view, here are two great places for just that: • For those who are more art oriented or who are interested in the Medieval Period, take your family to The Cloisters, part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. There, while standing amidst five French cloisters, you and your family can bask in the presence of tapestries, columns, art, and stained glass from hundreds of years ago; walk around the gardens, and get a spectacular view of the Hudson River, all right in northern Manhattan. The Cloisters in Fort Tyron Park, (212) 923-3700. www.metmuseum.org. Accessible by the A train to 190th Street, M4 bus to the Cloisters. Suggested donation of $10 adults, $5 children and seniors, included with admission to the Met. • The Empire State Building in midtown Manhattan is a great way to get a full view of the city that never sleeps — from above. It now offers more that just views: the lobby displays panels of the Seven Wonders of the World; there is an exhibit space on the Fifth Avenue side, and a second floor exhibition “highlights the flavor of New York.” However, the main attraction is still the deck on the 86th floor — it is enclosed in glass with temperature control, binoculars for public use at a low cost, and is handicapped accessible. The deck also has a souvenir shop and a snack bar. Open from 9:30am- midnight, the last elevator leaves at 11:15pm. Adults $10; kids ages 12-17, $9; children ages 6-11, $5. www.esbnyc.com.
$1.50 INVESTMENTS Bird watching, nature trails, solitude… you don’t have to leave the five boroughs to take a breather from midtown Manhattan. A swipe of your Metro Card and some advance planning and you’re transported from congested sidewalks to sandy dunes. • Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, a 9,000-acre refuge and prime birding spot, is accessible by subway. Part of the Gateway National Recreation Area, visitors can take the A train to Broad Channel Station and walk approximately a half-mile on Crossbay Boulevard to the entrance. • The A train will also take you to Fort Tryon Park, one of the city’s most beautiful parks, where you can take in the dramatic views of the Hudson River and enjoy the serenity of the grounds which is also home to The Cloisters museum. Take the A train to 190th Street, or the M4 bus which terminates at Fort Tryon Park/The Cloisters. • Spend the day exploring City Island, which has the feel of a small New England town. There are no public beaches, but plenty of great seafood restaurants and bait and tackle shops where you can rent fishing gear by the hour. Take the #6 train to Pelham Bay Park and transfer to the #29 City Island Bus.
LITERARY LANDMARKS Read it, then go see it. • Hildegard Swift’s The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Grey Bridge has been a children’s favorite for generations, and the landmark lighthouse which inspired the story (nearly auctioned in 1951 until a children’s letter-writing campaign saved it), is open for tours in the spring and fall. Families can also enjoy an annual Little Red Lighthouse Festival, hosted by the Historic House Trust, Parks Department and Urban Park Rangers each fall. The Lighthouse is located in Fort Washington Park, 178th Street and the Hudson River. For tour information, call (212) 304-2365. • Another literary must is the Plaza Hotel where the world’s most famous six-year-old, Eloise, lived, played and wreaked havoc on the staff and guests. Generations have enjoyed taking tea in the Palm Court and making the pilgrimage to her portrait, painted by the book’s illustrator Hilary Knight. The Young Plaza Ambassadors program also offers Eloise Tea & Social Skills on selected dates. For further information, call (212) 546-5377. • Though New York has changed dramatically since E.L. Konigsburg wrote From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler in 1967, certain things remain constant. Kids can still visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art (in 2003 you pay admission, in 1967 you didn’t) and roam the Egyptian and Medieval rooms where protagonists Claudia and Jamie Kincaid wandered during their literary escapade. Though computers have replaced card catalogs, the Donnell Library Center (20 West 53rd Street), another spot that Claudia and Jamie visited, also remains.
RIDE A RABBIT! There’s nothing quite like a carousel ride. And in New York, the options — dashing deer, fire-spitting dragons, racing rabbits — are aplenty! • Practically a hidden treasure smack in the midst of urbania’s pulse (although it’s been there for 101 years), the Central Park Carousel features some of the largest hand-carved jumping horses in the nation. Tucked in along the pathways at 64th Street and Central Park (just follow the sound of music), the antique ride is among the country’s oldest (third!) and perhaps most romantic. At still only $1 a ride, boarding this old New York stand-by not only means lots of bang for your buck but a perfect memory-making occasion with the kids. Catch a ride Monday-Sunday, 10.30am-6pm. • A restored and impressive piece of Brooklyn history, the Prospect Park Carousel is a remarkable achievement in craftsmanship and a must-see-and-do for New York families. With its 51 beautiful carved horses, one lion, a giraffe, a deer, and two chariots with dragons spewing forth their flames of fire, there’s something for everyone who boards this radiant wonder of yesteryear. Dating from 1912 and originally housed on Coney Island, it’s one of only 12 remaining designs of noted horse carver Charles Carmel. Located at the Willink entrance to the 526-acre Prospect Park, at the intersection of Empire Boulevard and Flatbush Avenue, the Carousel is open April through October and is wheelchair accessible. Admission is a real bargain: 50 cents. For hours of operation and party rental information, call (718) 965-7777. • Specially designed for the park around it, the Bryant Park Carousel has a purposeful French flavor that blends well with its environs. The open-air Carousel (a perfect pit-stop while in midtown with the kids) features 14 full-size animals — 10 horses, a rabbit, a cat, a deer and a frog — that rise and plunge seven days a week, 11am-7pm. Rides are $1.50 a piece.
THESE GARDENS GROW! Mistress Mary quite contrary, how does your garden grow? With your child’s help of course! If your child likes to make things grow, play outdoors, or has an interest in nature, there are two programs perfect for that! • New York Botanical Garden has three programs for children ages 3-12. Youngsters can manage their own garden plots with fruits and vegetables, herbs, and flowers. Each group has an instructor, and children work with a partner. In the 6- to 12-year-old program, children can build scarecrows, plant fruits and vegetables, cook, and harvest plants. Younger children can read stories in the garden, cook, and do fun activities like flower pressing. Programs available spring, summer, and fall. Prices range from $55-$100 for one season, $176-$221 for three (discounts for children of members). Scholarships available. Call (718) 817-8181 to register, or visit www.nybg.org for more information. • At the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, there are a number of programs for kids ranging in age from 3-12. Three winter programs begin January 11, where children can work and plant in a greenhouse; do arts and crafts; read stories; and learn about plants, preserving nature and culture. Older children can plan what to plant for spring, and do some light construction work outside in the garden. If you have a teenager in the age range of 13-17, they can study the environment, care for a large communal plot, and take part in a planting or science project. Scholarships available. Cost ranges from $49-$117. Programs begin in March, April, or May, and may last through June. Registration and information available online at www.bbg.org.