Wednesday, June 29, 2011

How to be a Tourist in Your Own City

Don't forget your "I Heart NY" T-shirt to really convince folks you're from out of town

One of the best things about summer is not having to set the alarm clock. It was with this in mind that Charlie and I decided not to lock ourselves into a set time to see the Empire State Building by purchasing advance tickets online. Instead, we savored the extra minutes of sleep in the morning and just got there when we got there. Charlie prepared for the worst, stuffing his backpack with crucial items (M&Ms, The Adventures of Tintin, his binoculars) to survive in lines known to snake around the building.

Charlie’s advance preparations turned out to be for naught (although one can always put M&Ms, Tintin, and binoculars to good use) as the Empire State Building, although not completely deserted, was happily uncrowded. We whizzed through a short ticket line and allowed ourselves an upsell to a combination ticket to both the 86th Floor and the 102nd Floor Observatories. When you go, skip the latter. It’s not worth the $15 extra per ticket, it’s enclosed and crowded, and--take my word for it—the view isn’t any different or more spectacular sixteen additional floors up.

Wait until your kids are old enough to be stroller-free or leave the stroller at home, as negotiating either of the observatories with one would have been a huge headache.

Books And Movies For Your Visit


  • The Empire State Building by Lisa Bullard
  • Men at Work by Lewis W. Hine
  • Sky Boys: How They Built the Empire State Building by Deborah Hopkinson and James E. Ransome
  • The Top Job by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel
  • Empire State Building: When New York Reached for the Skies by Elizabeth Mann
  • Sector 7 by David Wiesner


  • An Affair to Remember (1957)
  • King Kong (1933, 1976/PG, and 2005/PG-13 versions)
  • Sleepless in Seattle (1993) (PG)

*I didn’t actually watch any of these movies with Charlie and haven’t seen any of them recently, so can’t speak to how age-appropriate they are for a six-year-old.

The Empire State Building, 350 Fifth Avenue (between 33rd and 34th Streets), New York, New York 10118, (212) 736-3100,; Hours: Open daily (8 AM to 2 AM); Admission: Adults: $22; Children 6-12: $16; Children 5 & younger: Free.

Where to Eat

Heartland Brewery, 350 Fifth Avenue (@ 34th Street), New York, New York 10118, (212) 563-3433,; American-style brewpub with beer-friendly fare and a children’s menu.


  1. Luca and I just did this for the first day a couple of weeks ago!! Wish I'd thought of the I heart NY shirt. The whole "exit thru the gift shop" is kind of annoying. I held my resolve and we escaped without the statue of liberty hat or the king kong doll!!

  2. I wonder if we were there the same day! We went on July 7th, when Charlie was out of school, while Vivi still had one last day left. The "I Heart NY" shirt had been given to Charlie from his school for an end-of-the-year class presentation and was all him. I completely agree about the exit-through-the-gift-shop ploy, but am happy to report that I, too, managed to escape completely unfettered by NYC tchotchke!

    Are you off to Fire Island this weekend? If so, enjoy!

  3. Great post. I always love that you include book tie ins. Do you read them with Charlie before you go?

  4. We love our branch library and usually put all related books on hold well in advance of our visit and then try to read them ahead of time. Sometimes, we take a few with us (we did this time in case the lines were unbearable) and sometimes we look at them afterwards so we can put our sightseeing in context. It definitely enriches the experience for us all, I think!