Publication Date

December 1, 2008

Perspectives Section

AHA Annual Meeting

The city is full of things to do with children, especially if you embrace the fact that the best outings in New York include frequent stops for snacks.


Near the Meeting Hotels

Just down the street from the Hilton, the Museum of Modern Art (11 W. 53rd St., 212-708-9400, offers special tours of current exhibits for families. Café 2 on the second-floor is a good place for a quick lunch of pasta, soup, or salad.

If you are staying at the Hilton, you are within walking distance of Wollman Skating Rink (Central Park S., 212-439-6900,, located in Central Park, near the entrance at 59th Street and 6th Avenue. The views from this outdoor rink are especially nice. When you’re done skating, you can explore more of the park ( You are close to the Central Park Children’s Zoo and several excellent playgrounds. My kids especially like the Adventure Playground near West 67th Street. The Express Café at the Loeb Boathouse (E. 72nd St. and Park Dr. N., 212-517-2233, veers toward fast food, but it is probably the best place in the park for a quick snack. You may prefer to grab a hot dog from one of the many vendors scattered around the park. You can return to the Hilton by walking along 5th Avenue, taking in the shop windows.

Midtown, the neighborhood where the meeting hotels are located, is not exactly a kids’ zone, but there are some good spots. Scandinavia House (58 Park Ave. at 38th St., 212-879-9779, has imaginative programming for children. Kinokuniya, a Japanese bookstore (1073 Ave. of the Americas between 40th and 41st St., 212-869-1700, carries children’s books, comics, movies, and art supplies. The café offers Japanese and western snacks and has a great view of Bryant Park. Across the park, your children may want to visit the New York Public Library (5th Ave. and 42nd St., 212-930-0800, or at least have their picture taken standing near the lions out front. Nearby, at Grand Central Terminal (42nd St. and Park Ave., 212-340-2347, you can gaze up at the soaring ceiling painted with stars and zodiac symbols.


Hop on the subway to visit the American Museum of Natural History (Central Park W. at 79th St., 212-769-5100,, or the Metropolitan Museum of Art (5th Ave. at 89th St., 212-535-7710, Both get crowded on the weekends, so arrive early. From the live butterflies to the dinosaur bones, the natural history museum delights children. The café in the basement has surprisingly decent food. At the Met, kids enjoy the African art, the Egyptian antiquities, and the Greek and Roman sculpture. Don’t miss the Temple of Dendur.

Further up 5th Avenue, at 103rd Street, the Museum of the City of New York (1220 5th Ave., 212-534-1672, will interest historians and their children. Be sure to see the historic toys. The Florine Stettheimer dollhouse includes miniature works of art by Marcel Duchamp. The shop has cool New York themed books and toys. Even in the dead of winter, the small botanic garden across the street is lovely. For more to do in upper Manhattan, check out Harlem One Stop (


Downtown near Union Square, Books of Wonder (18 W. 18th St., 212-989-3270, makes a great destination. The staff is incredibly knowledgeable and will help your kids find books they love no matter what their age or reading level. Across the street, City Bakery (3 W. 18th St., 212-366-1414, is a good bet for breakfast, lunch, or a snack. The hot chocolate is famous. If it is too thick and rich, they will cut it with steamed milk. Nearby, it is fun to walk through Union Square (between 14th and 17th St., near Broadway), and to look at the triangular Flatiron Building (23rd St. and 5th Ave.)

Brunch at Oriental Garden (14 Elizabeth St., 212-619-0085) makes a great start to a trip through Chinatown. They specialize in dim sum, which waiters carry on trays or wheel on carts. Even the pickiest eaters will have trouble resisting their dumplings. Aside from the shark fin soup, it is very reasonably priced. There is a good playground on Bayard Street (between Baxter and Mulberry), or you can easily spend an hour wandering the aisles of Pearl River (477 Broadway at Grand St., 212-431-4770,, a Chinese American department store. If the weather is temperate and your group is energetic, you can walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. The pedestrian entrance is at Park Row and Centre Street.

The Lower East Side east of the Bowery between Houston and Grand Street is fun to visit with children. Economy Candy (108 Rivington St., 800-352-4544, has an incredible selection of sweets from all over the world. According to my kids, Katz’s (205 E. Houston St., 212-254-2246, has the best hot dogs in New York. Both of these spots make a good stop on your way to or from the Lower East Side Tenement Museum (108 Orchard St., 212-431-0233,, where recreated apartments intrigue school-age children (advance tickets required).

The East Village east of Broadway between Houston and 14th Street offers two excellent toy stores and numerous options for casual, inexpensive meals. Veselka’s (144 2nd Ave., 212-228-9682, specializes in Polish and American food. Next door, Dinosaur Hill (306 E. 9th St., 212-473-5850, has wonderful toys, especially for younger kids. Older siblings may prefer Toy Tokyo (121 2nd Ave., 718-777-2212,, a mecca for collectibles. My kids love the chicken ramen at Momofuku Noodle Bar (171 1st Ave., 212-777-773, For a more traditional version, try Soba-Ya (229 E. 9th St., 212-533-6966,, which also has excellent tempura. For dessert, head to Sundaes and Cones (95 E. 10th St., 212-979-9398) where you can sample sesame, sweet corn, or wasabi ice cream, in addition to the standard flavors.

If it is freezing outside, the kids are bouncing off the walls, and they reject all of your suggestions for edifying activities; you can take them to Chelsea Piers (23rd St. and Hudson River Park, 212-336-6500,, a huge indoor sports complex with golf, bowling, ice-skating, and rock-climbing. Be warned: it’s pricey. Nearby, Billy’s Bakery (184 9th Ave., between 21st and 22nd St., 212-647-9956, has some of the best cupcakes in the city. You might even persuade your children to browse the nearby galleries, clustered on 22nd, 24th, and 25th streets between 10th and 11th Avenues (

General Advice on Getting Around

New York has great public transportation, but stairs and turnstiles make the bus and subway difficult to negotiate with small children. If you bring a stroller, be sure it is lightweight and folds easily. Cabs are easy to catch at the hotel and may be worth it for short trips. You can get bus and subway routes and estimate taxi fares at

Lara Vapnek teaches U.S. history at St. John’s University in Queens, New York and is a member of the Local Arrangements Committee. Her first book, Breadwinners: Working Women and Economic Independence, 1865–1920, is forthcoming with University of Illinois Press.