New York City with a 7-year-old
The highline park in Chelsea offers a free and fun way to stroll through manhattan without all the hustle and bustle you are used to. The highline also offers great options to sit on one if the many benches or lie on the sunbeds, just relaxing and looking out. It also offers some great photo opportunities. At the south it ends right at the Whitney Museum, which offers a nice view onto the highline from its roof.
There is a very nice mini-golf course on pier 25, featuring a very affordable way to spend some time golfing with views of manhattan downtown and One WTC. The course itself is also very fun and offers enough challenge for grown-ups. Especially in the late afternoon, the views are magnificient. You can get drinks and snacks at the booth, and there is also an ATM. Right next to the course is also a nice playground.
The legostore in the Rockefeller center features the candy-shop-style option to buy single pieces of lego, paying by the weight of your selection, allowing kids to buy exactly the parts that are missing to their projects. Also it has a small section that allows kids to build their own lego figures from a large selectionof faces, bodies and accessories. You get 3 figures for 10 usd. The legostore at the Flatiron building features the fun option to make the lego packages coming to life by holding them up againsf the camera. As soon as the camera has identified the box, it shows how the content of the box will look if completed — and even animates the figures and vehicles, pretty high-tech! A store we didnt like was the M&M store which only featured plastic-crap and expensive M&M (in any thinkable color and flavor).
On fridays the MoMa offers free admission to the museum from 4 to 8pm. This gives parents the option to check out the museum just for an hour or so, and introduce kids to all the fun art. Since the free friday is pretty crowded, it makes sense to turn up earliest at 6pm, and if already know you dont need 2 hours, you obviously will have even less crowds coming even later. Keep in mind that backpacks might have to be checked in, and there long lines to do so. So ideally come without backpacks so you can enter right away. In the MoMa we did not have to wait any when we arrived at 6pm, on the free day at the Guggenheim on saturday however the line for the free entry on saturday evening (3.45 to 7.45) was stretching an entire block even 2 hours before it closed.
Although New York is not very green, it has quite a few elaborate concrete playgrounds. Our favorite ones were those in Central Park. It has the more natural playground xxx in the south, featuring a massive slide in the back. We also liked the playground at xxx street, which was nice and open, with swings, bridges, a lot of benches, which also provided a good view of New York family life when seeing all the parents and nannies visiting the playground after school. There is also a big lawn right next to this playground. Aanother nice playground is right next to the museum of xxx, which was the most architecturally advanced, featuring a tunneled pyramide at its heart and many consteuctiins like bridges and walls, which made this perfect for some hide and seek.
If your kids are into arcade games, the Dave and Busters outlet right on 42nd street will provide a lot of fun. The arcade features the newest games, with a mix of video games, some basketball, soccer or airshuffle games and a host of play-for-coupons games, which allows you to select a prize at the end of the night with all the coupons you made. The price for entering is 15 usd, where you pay 12 usd for 60 credits and 3 for the card, you pay the games with. Most games cost 6.7 credits, thereby allowing you to play 9 games for 12 usd. Out favorite games included Mario Cart and Luigis Haunted House and Kung Fu Panda. Inside the Arcade there is also a bar, so parents can get something to drink or snack while the kids run around. Its a very noisy, flashing, hectic but also fun place to spend an hour or so.
Especially the East Ferry Company running between Manhattan and Brooklyn provided a fun way to commute and get to see some of the city from the water. The ferriea run from 34st on Manhattan, to Queens, Brooklyn, then Brooklyn Bridge and then to Wall street on manhatten again. So its perfect if you want to visit brooklyn from manhattan or vice versa. It also runs at night, so you can also go for a short cruise with the night skyline later in the evening — but keep in mind, that this is not a cruise vessle, the ships are going very fast and are geared towards commuters than tourists. Prices are 4 usd during the week, and 6 on the weekends. Tickets can be bought at the machine right on the piers. The other ferry we rode was the big Staten Island Ferry, that runs from Battery Park to Staten Island. Its free and gives you a view of the Statue of Liberty, from quite far out, plus its interesting to see the big ferry terminal. But the ride itself does not really provide too many great views, since there are no bridges or skylines bur mostly a lot of water :) Id you go you should sit on the right side (from Manhattan to Staten Island) or left side (going back) so you can see the Statue of Liberty which is passed closest on the way out from Manhattan. If you dont want to spend any time in Staten Island, its usually possible to catch the ferry back to Manhattan right away, you should probably hurr though, since that ferry pretty much leaves when the other one arrives.