Kids <3 NY
Explore 13 neighborhoods by book and by foot with our handy kid-friendly tour guide.
New York City’s a playground for adults. No doubt. But it’s a world of undiscovered curiosities for its pint-size inhabitants. So grab your little ones and take them on a literary journey through America’s greatest city. We’ve put together a guide that highlights several kid-friendly must-reads, each of which is paired with an equally intriguing destination itinerary inspired by the book. Off you merry-go-round.
By Book: In The Mystery of the Merry Magician, Detective Ellery Queen’s assistant, Gully, gets a case he cannot resist. The client is Fisty Jones, a rough-and-tumble citizen of the New York docks who claims to have seen something impossible: a one-eyed, black-skinned monster from outer space.
By Foot: Explore the South Street Seaport where Gully would have come across a baffling tangle of tattooed bruisers, cheerful magicians, and questionable characters who called the waterfront their home. When you visit, be sure to check out The South Street Seaport Museum, Wall Street, and Titanic Memorial Park.
Greenwich Village/The East Village
By Book: In The Wizard of Washington Square, a lonely David, who has just moved to New York City from Connecticut, meets a girl named Leilah, who introduces him and his dog, D. Dog, to the Wizard living beneath Washington Square.
By Foot: Venture through Washington Square Park and its historic vicinity. Stop at Washington Square Fountain (where the wizard lives)—you will likely find a musician or two performing. Walk under the Washington Square Arch, which was constructed to celebrate the centennial of George Washington’s inauguration as president. Then stroll over to the chess plaza and watch a game or two of intense competition and concentration.
The Flatiron District/Gramercy Park
By Book: Secrets on 26th Street is set against a backdrop of 5,000 women coming to New York from every state in the Union for a suffrage rally. Eleven-year-old Susan O’Neal’s mother vanishes, and she begins a search that exposes some hard truths about her city—and their new boarder.
By Foot: In Madison Square Park, fuel up on burgers and concretes at Shake Shack. While you’re in the area be sure to check in at the Math Museum. Then, head down to Cooper Square for the sight of another suffragette protest in NYC.
The High Line
By Book: In The Case of the Etruscan Treasure, Verna Tillet’s new play is a hit, and that means young investigators Andrew Tillet and Sara Wiggins have traded London carriage rides for the rattling excitement of New York City’s elevated railway. Affectionately known as the El, it stretches from the Bronx to the tip of the Battery and offers a slice of vibrant city life.
By Foot: While the El no longer runs through New York City, you can take a lovely walk along the highline, a 1.45-mile-long park built on an elevated section of the New York Central Railroad spur called the West Side Line. Enjoy Insta-worthy wildflowers planted along the path and snap a selfie in front of one of the many pieces of public art.
By Book: In The Boxcar Children Special No. 13: The Mystery in New York, the Boxcar Children investigate the disappearance of their friend,Mr. Pound’s priceless Elizabeth Star Diamond.
By Foot: Take your young adventurers to Bryant Park and have lunch at one of the outdoor café tables. Cross the street to the New York Public Library and scour the stacks for more mysteries. There’s a permanent Winnie the Pooh exhibition, too.
By Book: In All That Glitters, Madison, Aimee, and Fiona are headed to NYC for Lindsay’s birthday. But it’s not all bright lights, fancy restaurants, and shopping — Lindsay’s parents’ are getting divorced and she’s looking to her friends for comfort.
By Foot: Channel Madison by window-shopping along Fifth Avenue’s eye candy shops. Then head over to Serendipity for a frozen hot chocolate or other dream-worthy dessert. Complete the pampering with a spa day and mani/pedi.
By Book: In Fantasy Summer, Robin scores one of four coveted summer internships, landing her in NYC. As she and the other interns dive into their newfound responsibilities — and amazing social lives — their friendships grow. But only one will get the cover. Will Robin’s dream of the perfect summer survive reality?
By Foot: Head over to the Fashion District, where designers and F.I.T. students mingle. Teach budding fashionistas about the apparel industry and the history of fashion in NYC. Definitely check out the Fashion Walk of Fame. Don’t miss Publisher’s Row and fashion bible Vogue‘s offices (you may even run into notorious editor Anna Wintour!). While downtown, visit Trinity Church, which was originally constructed in 1698—that building burned down and was rebuilt in 1788. The second church was torn down in 1790, and the current church was completed in 1846.
By Book: In The Explorers’ Gate, Nikki embarks on an incredible adventure that will uncover hidden enchantments in the park she loves — and reveal surprising things about herself as well.
By Foot: Begin your trek at Explorers’ Gate (Central Park West at 77th Street), one of 20 gates in Central Park. The park is 843 acres — big enough that some of it is rarely seen by the public. As you meander through the paths, you’ll come across a heroic-size bronze bust of German scientist, explorer, and naturalist Alexander von Humboldt. Don’t miss an opportunity to visit the Museum of Natural History — an exploration all its own.
By Book: In Game, by Walter Dean Myers, Harlem high school senior Drew Lawson aspires to play college and professional basketball. But his goals are threatened when his coach’s new offense put another (white) player smack-dab in the limelight.
By Foot: Harlem must-sees include the Abyssinian Baptist Church, which opened in 1923 under the ministry of Dr. Adam Clayton Powell Sr., and the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, the largest church in the united states and famously incomplete. Stop by the Apollo Theater. Wednesdays are Amateur Night.
By the Book: To open this book is to enter the perilous, thrilling world of Billy Bathgate, a peerless coming-of-age tale about a brazen boy who’s accepted into the inner circle of the notorious Dutch Schultz gang. Like an urban Tom Sawyer, Billy takes readers through becoming a good-luck charm, apprentice, and finally protégé to one of the great murdering gangsters of the Depression-era underworld in New York City. The luminous transformation of fact into fiction that is E. L. Doctorow’s trademark comes to triumphant fruition in Billy Bathgate and is one of Doctorow’s boldest and most beloved bestsellers.
By Foot: Tour Little Italy in the Bronx. Spring for authentic NY Italian pizza and then pop into a pastry shop for coffee and dessert. Plan a visit to the New York Botanical Gardens or the Bronx Zoo — both of which you could spend a full day exploring.
By Book: Patchwork of Dreams is an older compilation that celebrates Queens as the most ethnically diverse area in the country. It includes photos by Harvey Wang and Corky Lee, stories by Bharati Mukherjee and Thomas E. Kennedy, a poem by Julia Alvarez, a novel excerpt from Jaime Manrique, and much more. The variety of works and contributors definitely showcases the “patchwork” nature of this diverse borough.
By Foot: To truly celebrate the diversity that Queens (and NYC) represent, visit the Queens Museum of Art located on the grounds of two World’s Fairs and see The Panorama of the City of New York — a 9,335-square-foot scale model of the five boroughs. Stop in Flushing’s Chinatown for dim sum and wander around Flushing Meadows-Corona Park’s sprawling open fields, skate parks, and, of course, the Unisphere — erected for the 1964 Worlds Fair.
By Book: In Introducing Shirley Braverman, there is a war raging on the other side of the ocean, but here in Brooklyn, life goes on. For sixth-grader Shirley, that means overcoming her fears to achieve her goal of NYC spelling champion.
By Book: M. E. Kerr’s first novel, Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack!, was hailed by the New York Times as a “timely, compelling,” and “brilliantly funny” look at adolescence and friendship. It’s also about the terror — and exhilaration — of daring to be yourself.
By Foot: Stroll through the cobblestone streets of Brooklyn Heights, take in the spectacular views of the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan skyline from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. Drop by the Brooklyn Historical Society to delve into the history of the borough. Finally, join the crowds walking over the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan for spectacular views.
By Book: “Eight hundred and fifty-three horrifying things had happened to me by the time I was a teenager. That was when I met my Pigman, whose real name was Nonno Frankie.” In The Pigman and Me, the year Paul Zindel lived in Travis, Staten Island, was the most important time of his teenage life. It was the year he met Nonno Frankie Vivona, who became his Pigman.
By Foot: Climb Todt Hill, Staten Island’s 412-foot-tall mountain, in the center of the borough and is at once wild, wide-open, and untrammeled. Take a walk through the marked paths and celebrate Staten Island’s somewhat unheralded literary heritage.