Day 3: The Waterfront
Go island-hopping with side trips to a Chinese ice-cream parlor and the city’s answer to Willy Wonka.
8:30 a.m.: Receive a sweet (and savory) wake-up call. On your way downtown, detour to the Lower East Side for brioche French toast ($14), pancakes ($14), and buttermilk biscuits ($3) at the Clinton Street Baking Company. It’s one of the best brunch spots in town.
10 a.m.: Pay a visit to Lady Liberty. Take the J train down to the tip of Broad Street, then queue up for the ferry ($17 adults; $9 children) to the Statue of Liberty. If the kids (and you) don’t feel dwarfed beneath the 305-foot-tall icon of freedom, then the expansive view of lower Manhattan from the tenth-floor observatory ought to do the trick. (Note: While the ferry normally stops at Ellis Island as well, it is still closed for repairs after Hurricane Sandy.)
1 p.m.: Walk along the water. Upon returning to Manhattan, scoot west of Battery Park, and stroll north on the lovely Hudson River Park esplanade on your way to lunch. One great place to set the kids loose is among the cartoonish Tom Otterness bronze sculptures in Nelson A. Rockefeller Park. Walk east on North Moore Street into the heart of Tribeca, where local family-favorite Bubby's adds grown-up flourishes to meatloaf ($18) and hush puppies ($7), including a kids' menu with burgers ($5) and chicken strips ($5).
3 p.m.: Salute New York’s bravest. Walk north for just ten minutes to enjoy the wow factor of the Jaws of Life at the New York City Fire Museum. Located in a renovated two-story firehouse, the museum is filled with historic fire engines and tributes to the city's fire-fighting heroes.
4 p.m.: Watch cocoa beans become chocolate bars. Another three blocks north is Jacques Torres, the closest thing New York has to the Willy Wonka factory.
4:45 p.m.: Scout for the next LeBron James or Bobby Fischer. Continuing north up Sixth Avenue, line up along the fence to watch the action at the 4th Street basketball courts. Carry on a block east to watch chess players flex their mental moves in the southwest corner of Greenwich Village's famed Washington Square Park.
5:30 p.m.: Play with exotic toys. Venture up a set of black-and-white-stairs to Toy Tokyo, an eccentric East Village shop where adults will appreciate vintage collectibles and the kids can ogle Lord of the Rings action figures interspersed with Japanese “candy” toys.
7 p.m.: Feast on some perfectly crisp crust. Walk east on Spring Street to indulge in a crackly coal-oven pizza at the legendary Lombardi's on the fringe of Little Italy. During the inevitable wait for a table, the kids can romp in the playground next door.
7:45 p.m.: Scream for ice cream. Since you probably won’t find green-tea or black-sesame ice cream back home, drop by Chinatown Ice Cream Factory, just five blocks south, for a cold, colorful dessert.