What I learned about going to New York… with my kid

    Medium US
    New York mit Kindern.
    © Claudia Hellmann
    Von Claudia Hellmann

    New York City is on many people’s list of must-sees — including that of my seven-year-old daughter. This might have something to do with my own intense love of the city and my many visits to the Big AppleSpitzname für New York CityBig Apple without her. After all the years in which my daughter (let’s call her “Miss P”) has been begging me to take her with me, and just before her eighth birthday, she finally convinced me that she was old enough. The two of us went to New York for a week, and it was an adventure for us both. Showing around a first-time visitor, especially someone so young, made me see the city — please forgive the cliché — through the eyes of a child. Here are the 10 lessons I learned.

    Lesson 1

    Don’t start at Times Square.

    If you’ve never been to New York, there’s one thing you should know: The noise can really to get to sb.ifml. , jmdn. an die Nieren gehenget to you, and nowhere is it more intense than in Times Square. We arrived at the famous intersection and were suddenly surrounded by billboardPlakatwand, Reklametafelbillboards and neon lights. street performerStraßenkünstlerStreet performers were being photographed by a sea of tourists. Miss P stared at the spectacle, eyes wide, mouth open. We to duckabtauchen, in Deckung gehenducked into the M&M store, where we were hit by the overpoweringly sweet smell of choco­late. Her eyes opened even wider.

    Two days later, we returned to see a matinee musical performance, and it was a completely different experience. We sat at the top of the famous glowingleuchtend, glühendglowing red steps — part of an outdoor theater space — and looked down at the street performers below. The famous desnudas women were to strutstolzierenstrutting across the pedestrianFußgänger-pedestrian plaza, topless and covered in body paint. We were laughing at three performers in full-body Elmo costumes, while a Batman on crutchKrückecrutches was posing for pictures in exchange for tiphier: Trinkgeldtips. You have to see it to believe it.

    Lesson learned:

    Times Square is great, but go there once you’ve grown used to how crazy and colorful this city is — maybe on your third or fourth day.

    Lesson 2

    Make a plan, then ditch it.

    From the Top of the Rock, the observation platform on the 70th floor of the Rockefeller Center, we to admirebewundernadmired Central Park, a green carpet in the middle of the city. There is plenty to see and do in the park. Enjoy a picnic with a view of the skyscraperWolkenkratzerskyscrapers, walk along the Mall with its tall trees, remember John Lennon at the Imagine mosaic of the Strawberry Fields memorial — his birthday is on October 9 — and watch the model sailboats on Conservatory Pond. I had also written down the penguin and sea lion feeding times in Central Park Zoo, just in case.

    Believe it or not, we didn’t see much else in Central Park apart from its playgrounds. There are more than 20, including the enormous Heckscher Playground with its tunnels, bridges, and water-spray fountain(Spring-)Brunnenfountains. We liked the Billy Johnson Playground, too, with its fast granite slideRutscheslide.

    If we hadn’t seen the “must-sees” what would we have done? We had a great day just going with the flow. On our way home, we came across the old carousel, which I’d heard of but never seen. Miss P went for a ride and was as happy as can be.

    Lesson learned:

    Even if your plan is great, don’t think you have to stick to it and simply to check sth. off a listauf einer Liste abhakencheck things to check sth. off a listauf einer Liste abhakenoff a list. This is New York. You’ll never see it all.

    Central Park, New York


    Lesson 3

    Sometimes you have to commit

    Certain things, of course, require real planning. Miss P was looking forward to visiting the Statue of Liberty. She wanted to climb the 393 steps inside the statue to enjoy the view at the crown. I should have known: You can’t just show up there. “Crown tickets” have to be reserved months in advance.

    Luckily, we were better prepared for our next experience. I had booked tickets for a Broadway show to make sure we got the afternoon performance. You can also just stand in line at the TKTS boothSchalterbooth in Times Square and buy tickets on the same day.

    A Broadway musical is an unforget-table experience you won’t want to miss. Shows like The Lion King are perfect for families. Even kids who speak little or no English will be enthralledbegeistertenthralled by the music and visual experience. We saw a matinee performance of Matilda. Miss P was to be blown away by sth.ifml. , von etw. umgehauen werdenblown away, especially by the talented young performers.

    Lesson learned:

    Reserve your show tickets in advance — it’s worth it. Your child will never forget the experience.

    Lesson 4

    Get ready to walk

    New York is really big. Manhattan alone is 21.6 km long and 3.7 km wide at its broadest point, near 14th Street. But Manhattan’s gridhier: geometrischer Stadtplangrid makes it easy to orient yourself, at least north of Union Square. If you go further south, street numbers give way to street names, and you will need a map. Otherwise, it’s fairly simple: All avenues run from north (uptown) to south (downtown), while streets always run east to west (crosstown). As a rule of thumbFaustregelrule of thumb, an avenue block is about a quarter of a mile (some 400 meters) long, whereas a street block is a sixteenth of a mile (about 100 meters). Wear the right shoes, and you are good to go.

    Walking is by far the best way to explore the city. When we had to cover bigger distances, we tried getting around by bus. However, during the rush hour, we went underground. The New York subwayN. Am. , U-Bahnsubway is one of the most complex systems in the world, but it is fairly easy to use. If you understand the difference between uptown and downtown, all you need to know is that local trains stop at every station, while express trains stop only at certain stations.

    Weekends can be a challenge. Construction work can shut down whole lines, trains to skipauslassenskip stations, and even for New Yorkers it’s difficult to find an alternative route. One Sunday, we waited for an hour for a train that never came. We tried two alternative routes, then finally gave up and took a taxi to the Museum of Natural History. We arrived just before closing time.

    Lesson learned:

    Don’t fight it. Just walk. The chances are, it’ll be faster.

    Lesson 5

    Slow down, you move too fast.

    On day three of our visit, we had walked so much that I feared a revolt. It was time for a break. So we decided to go on a 90-minute Circle Line boat tour called the “Landmark Cruise.” It took us from the west side of Manhattan all the way down to the Statue of Liberty. We sailed round the southern end of Manhattan, up the east side of the island towards the United Nations headquarters at around East 45th Street, then all the way back to our starting point: Pier 83 at West 42nd Street. It is an excellent way to orient yourself while relaxing and enjoying the sceneryLandschaftscenery.

    Let’s face it: If you sit down in this city, it’s easy to feel as if you’re to miss out on sth.etw. verpassenmissing out on something. There is so much to see that you tend to rush, as New Yorkers do. Having to slow down for sb.´s sakejmdm. zuliebefor the sake of my little girl was one of the best discoveries I made. We then made a point of seeking out small pockets of peace, where we could enjoy taking short breaks. We stopped to watch people play chessSchachchess at Washington Square, visited the tiny parks between the tall buildings of Midtown, enjoyed the mosaics in the subway stations — all things that I had not seen on previous trips.

    As we walked to the Queensboro Bridge one morning, excited to take the aerial tramLuftseilbahnaerial tram across the East River to Roosevelt Island, Simon and Garfunkel’s “59th Street Bridge Song” was playing in my head: “Slow down, you move too fast. / You got to make the morning last.”

    caveatWarnungCaveat to this lesson:

    While it’s worth making the effort to slow down, keep in mind that New Yorkers walk at a brisk paceflottes Tempobrisk pace. So when you stop or slow down, make sure to step out of the way.



    Lesson 6

    You don't have to see it all

    New York is full of superlatives, starting with the new skyscrapers that have been shooting up in recent years as part of an intense building boom that is changing the skyline. Taller, bigger, faster — that’s New York. For a newcomer, this can be dauntingbeängstigend, entmutigenddaunting. The museums are a perfect example. You could spend a day at the Museum of Natural History or the Metropolitan Museum of Art and still have seen only part of the giant collections.

    The good thing about traveling with a child is that kids are not intimidatedeingeschüchtertintimidated by the classic “must-sees.” They have their own must-sees. Miss P knew exactly what she wanted to do when she got to the Museum of Natural History: Visit the life-size model of a whale and a new exhibit on the titanosaur, the biggest dinosaur ever found. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, at two million square feet (190,000 square meters), is the largest art museum in the world under one roof. We saw exactly two things there: the EgyptianägyptischEgyptian Temple of Dendur and the rooftop terrace.

    Lesson learned:

    Many of the must-sees are enormous, so don’t even try to do it all. Pick out a highlight or two. You will enjoy the experience much more.

    Lesson 7

    New Yorkers are friendly. (No, really!)    

    About 1.6 million people live in Manhattan, and on a weekday, because of commuterPendler(in)commuters and tourists, that number increases to almost four million. They are all rushing somewhere, and there is not enough space for everyone. So pedestrians to spillsich ergießenspill from the crowded sidewalkN. Am. , Bürgersteigsidewalks into the streets. They may even ignore the “Don’t Walk” signals at traffic lights. People in New York don’t mean to be rudeunhöflich, grobrude or recklessrücksichtslosreckless. They’re just impatient and in a hurry.

    Even so, there is often enough time for a quick chat in the subway or while standing in line at the deliifml. Feinkostladendeli. You may get a casualbeiläufigcasual remark in passing, like “Nice dollPuppedoll!,” as one woman kindly commented to Miss P, who was proudly to clutchumklammert haltenclutching her brand-new friend. I told my daughter that she might find New Yorkers a bit rude, but the opposite was true. During our visit, we met only friendly people. In a crammedvollgestopftcrammed subway car late one afternoon, two construction workers to squeeze togetherzusammenrückensqueezed together to make room for Miss P to sit down. At the ticket counter at the Top of the Rock, a sternernst, strengstern-looking employee asked her how old she was. When she shyly replied “Seven,” he said, “Nah, you’re five, right?” He to winkzwinkern, blinzelnwinked and waved her through — for free. Even though my daughter’s English is limited to counting to 10 and ordering ice cream, she met lots of New York kids and played with them while I sat chatting with their moms or nannies.

    Lesson learned:

    Americans are friendly and will start up a conversation with anyone. There’s no need to be reserved. Talk to people. It will to enrichbereichernenrich your experience.

    Lesson 8

    NYC is commercial. Go with it!

    What makes New York so special are the things that you can find there and only there ­— like American Girl Place. We spent two hours at this toy store for high-end dolls and doll accessories — complete with a doll hair salon, a doll clothing design studio, and a cafe where you can dine with your little friend in a special doll high chair. There are 40 different types of doll, the idea being that every girl will find one to resembleähnelnresembling herself.

    You will find it hard to escape the commercial side of New York, whether it’s a doll store, the giant Lego store, or the underground Apple store with its big, glass-cubeWürfel-cube entrance. On one block, we came across Sprinkles, an ATM (automated teller machine)BankautomatATM-style vending machineVerkaufsautomatvending machine that sells freshly baked cupcakes day and night. Needless to say, Miss P was to be thrilled to piecesganz aus dem Häuschen seinthrilled to pieces. She chose a chocolate marshmallow cupcake.

    Lesson learned:

    Give in to the fact that this city is pretty muchso ziemlichpretty much all about consumption. Enjoy it! You’ll be able to take time-out from it every once in a while. But don’t fight it. It’s fun.

    Lesson 9

    Midtown is not Manhattan, and Manhattan is not New York.

    We could easily have spent an entire week in Midtown Manhattan alone. The bustlinggeschäftigbustling area between Central Park and Union Square is quintessential, iconickultigiconic New York, but it is only a small portion of what constitutes the city. So when we went further south one day, walking from Washington Square through the quaintidyllischquaint, tree-linedhier: gesäumtlined streets of Greenwich Village, Miss P asked if we were still in New York. It certainly felt as if we were somewhere completely different.

    Lesson learned:

    On the next trip, I will make time to see more of the other boroughStadtviertel, Stadtbezirkboroughs. I’d like to take Miss P to Coney Island, a quirkyunkonventionellquirky amusement park on the southern end of Brooklyn. I’m sure she will love the beach, the old roller-coasterAchterbahnroller-coasters, lunch at Nathan’s hot-dog stand, and a visit to the New York Aquarium.

    Lesson 10

    Little things matter.

    We took in plenty of the highlights during our week in New York. But when I asked Miss P what had made the biggest impression, her answers surprised me: The Mexican woman sitting by the subway entrance selling beautifully cut mango “flowers” on a stick; the carousel ride; playing kubbGeschicklichkeitsspiel (Wikingerschach)kubb with other kids in Bryant Park until it was nearly dark; meeting a friendly firefighter and his little dog, the mascot of the fire department on 51st Street; and eating a giant sliceScheibe, Stückslice of pizza folded over New York-style.

    Lesson learned:

    Straßenszene in New York


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