As a Staten Islander, I've decided it's time to take my kids on an old and new tour of the city we call home.
Having been born and raised in Brooklyn, my childhood is filled with memories of a New York City landscape that included waiting in line at TKTS for a half-priced tickets to the Broadway show “Annie” amid Times Square's adult XXX novelty stores and revues. The biggest thrill was flocking to FAO Schwartz to get up close and personal with the larger-than-life piano Tom Hanks played with his feet in the movie “Big.”
But as I grew, the city did, too. These days the sex shops have been banished from Times Square and have been replaced by family-entertainment opportunities to be found in almost every nook and cranny and many tourist traps have been redesigned to appeal to both first-time visitors and longtime New Yorkers.
In December, New York is at its shiniest and brightest as retail stores dress their windows and iconic destinations including the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building.
Dylan's Candy Bar
Ralph Lauren's daughter hit the jackpot here! Merchandising and repackaging “same old” candy in an exciting and imaginative way will light the eyes and moisten the palate of all who walk in. Located at 1011 Third Ave.; 646-735-0078; www.dylanscandybar.com.
Toys “R” Us
A ride on the 60-foot-tall indoor Ferris wheel exemplifies New York in a big way. Hop on, hop off. Attractions like a 34-foot, animatronic T-Rex from “Jurassic Park” and the R-Zone 5,500-square feet of games where kids can play their favorites on huge plasma screens are so much fun many kids forget about the toys! Located at 1514 Broadway at 44 Street; 646-366-8855; www.toysrus.com/TimesSquare/dsp_home.cfm
The M&M Store
This three-tiered megastore is the “exploitation of a brand.” Where else will you find M&M shirts, pencils, lights, stuffed animals, hands-on dispensers to “gang up” on the colors of your choice and much more? Located at 1600 Broadway; 212-295-3850; www.mymms.com/service/locations.asp
The Central Park Petting Zoo
This is hands-on fun at its best. Feed the lamas, pet the sheep and talk back to the goats. Central Park Zoo at 64th St.; 212-439-6500; www.centralpark.com.
The Empire State building
Soaring more than 1,400 feet above Manhattan, families will be dazzled by the breathtaking views of New York from the 86th-floor Observatory.. Riding inside high-speed automatic elevators which shoot them to the 86th floor Observatory, high-powered binoculars that give them an eagle-eye view of the city's skyline, and a surprise appearance by King Kong. The Observatory can also be a romantic destination (minus the kids). 350 Fifth Ave 212-736-3100; www.esbnyc.com.
The Statue of Liberty
Families can visit America's most beloved and recognized monument â€” and learn about how she was conceived, built, given to the United States as a gift from France and how her image has been used across the generations. Take the statue cruises ferry from Battery Park or go to Liberty State Park in New Jersey and take the ferry from there. Kids can download a junior ranger activities guide to use during their visit to the statute, too. www.nps.gov/stli/forkids/upload/libertyjrranger.pdf. There are also Free Ranger-guided tours of the island's grounds, a museum on second floor where kids can learn about the history and symbolism of the Statue of Liberty through photographs, videos and oral histories. A visit to Lady Liberty is one kids will remember for a lifetime â€” it really is a must for families. It's best to purchase tickets in advance and reserve a Monument Pass which allows you entry to the monument pedestal where you can walk out onto the Statue's observation deck to see panoramic views of New York City and the Harbor, and witness the Statue up close from her promenades on Ft. Wood. To reserve tickets and a monument pass, call 1-877-523-9849. www.statuecruises.com.
If there are any city landmarks you think parents should put on their list, this holiday season, leave your comments here!