The Urban Explorer: 72 hours in New York City

Each part of New York has its own unique feel, and my trip plan will take you on a tour through the city’s most interesting neighborhoods. I’ll show you the trendy boutiques and galleries of SoHo, cozy cupcake shops in the West Village, cultural vibrancy in Harlem, and funky parks and bars in Greenwich Village.

In these neighborhoods and throughout the entire city, I have suggestions for the best bakeries, mega candy stores, and the most exotic restaurants serving up international dishes. I’ve put together a list of bookstores with great science fiction sections, and I’ve included the only store in the city that is completely devoted to the genre. You’ll see classic New York sites, like the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, as well as places that attract the locals, like the impressive, elevated High Line park.

Classic New York with a Twist

Kick off your New York City adventure with a morning stroll through Central Park. For a unique experience, avoid the throngs of tourists that congregate at the south end of the park, and check out the attractions near Turtle Pond. At charming Belvedere Castle, kids can rent Discovery Kits and use them to explore the surrounding natural environs. Families with young children may want to catch a puppet show at the nearby Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre.

On the way to your next stop, grab a hot dog from one of the most popular local pushcarts. Take a taxi to the Hallo Berlin hot dog stand, which sets up shop on weekdays at the intersection of 54th Street and 5th Avenue. If you’re visiting on a weekend, or if it’s too cold for outdoor eating, a good alternative in this neighborhood is the Melt Shop, a gourmet grilled cheese sandwich joint. Ice-skating is a classic wintertime activity in New York City. The Winter Village at Bryant Park offers a more intimate and local experience than other Manhattan rinks. As the sun starts to go down, glide under the twinkling lights of some of the city’s most iconic buildings. Parents can watch their kids skate while enjoying the warmth and comfort of the rink-side patio, complete with heat lamps and spiked hot chocolates.

For dinner, avoid the temptation to grab a slice from just any corner pizza shop. Instead, go to Don Antonio by Starita in Midtown. This restaurant offers endless topping combinations, as well as a mindblowing, deep-fried pizza. When visiting New York, seeing a show is a must. Instead of sashaying down crowded Broadway, pirouette over to the New York City Ballet. During the first half of the month, the company will be performing Tchaikovsky’s classic Nutcracker. Later on in January you can catch Jewels, a three-part performance that musically and visually evokes the serenity of emeralds, the fiery glitz of rubies, and the opulence of diamonds.

A new take on old memories

Start your day with a little science exploration at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space museum, which is currently showcasing the famous Enterprise. Completed in 1976, this craft was the prototype NASA orbiter and is considered to be the first Space Shuttle.

Next, taxi down to the High Line, a dynamic park that runs along an old, elevated, freight rail line. Choose one of the northern entrance points, keeping in mind that you’ll be disembarking around 16th street at Chelsea Market. The market is a good spot for lunch. Both parents and kids will love the sandwiches at Amy’s Bread. Ronnybrook Milk Bar serves retro favorites like peanut butter and jelly, mac and cheese, and ice cream floats. No matter where you choose to dine, make sure to try the festive dessert cookies at Eleni’s.

Make your way via taxi or subway to the East Village for some unique boutique shopping. After browsing the neighborhood’s many antique and vintage shops, you’ll be ready for a snack at Economy Candy. This sweet emporium carries all the goodies from your childhood that you forgot existed and that your kids will enjoy getting to know. Don’t leave the neighborhood without stopping at Toy Tokyo, a rare collectibles shop where the vintage toys will mesmerize children and take parents through a time warp.

Finish up your shopping spree with a trip to The Shops at Columbus Circle. The C Wonder Flagship store, a retailer unique to the region, is a real crowd pleaser. Teens will especially love its monogram shop. Refuel at nearby Ippudo, a traditional Japanese ramen brasserie; these are not the noodles you remember from your college days. Tonight’s entertainment comes courtesy of the famous Carnegie Hall. Notable performances in January include Neil Young, the Crescendo International Competition, and the NYIMC Young Musicians Concert.

Make a break for the Other Boroughs

Opt for a change of scenery today, and hire a private driver to help you explore New York’s other boroughs. Start in the Bronx, home to two family oriented sights: The New York Botanical Garden and the Bronx Zoo.

The Botanical Garden has wonderful seasonal themed exhibits. During the first half of January, they are showcasing the Holiday Train Show. Later in the month, kids can enjoy the hands-on Tropical Discoveries and Wintertime Wonders workshop in the Garden’s Discovery Center.

For lunch, head to the nearby Arthur Avenue in the Belmont neighborhood, an area that New Yorkers call the “real” Little Italy. Try Roberto’s for a fresh take on classic Italian, and then pick up some dessert at Artuso Pastry Shop.

Weather permitting, spend your afternoon at the Bronx Zoo, an expansive park that strives to re-create the natural environments of its inhabitants. Head to Brooklyn, and enjoy a dinner of adventurous Spanish tapas at La Vara before checking out a Nets game at the brand new Barclays Center. Another option for your evening entertainment is back in Manhattan at the New Victory Theater. They consistently put on extremely impressive children’s shows, and in January, they’re doing Mother Africa and Still Awake Still!

Takeaways

When in Central Park, stop for a photo op with the Alice in Wonderland Statue at East 74th Street.

Stay at The Pierre… This centrally located, luxury hotel overlooks central park, providing easy access to exciting sights and activities.

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