New York City family holiday tips: Top 10 things to do

From the air, New York City looks like an all-night rave: the fairy lights in the trees through Central Park; the art deco display on the Chrysler Building; the colourful reflections from One World Trade Centre.

I can't wait to land, dump the luggage, and party.

Oh, wait. We have children. This is a different kind of holiday.

After seven nights on the ground (pounding the pavement, not lying on the floor of a bar) we learn to take kid-sized bites of the Big Apple.

Here are our top 10 tips:

1. BUY A CITYPASS

It almost halves the entry price to attractions, and cuts the queues. For the Empire State Building, the ticket entitles you to two visits on the same day: schedule dinner in between, to enjoy day and night.

2. ENJOY THE HIGH LIFE

Every July and August there's a kids' program on the High Line, a park built along an old railway. Art, animal and nature activities abound in this urban oasis overlooking the Hudson River.

3. BE AN EARLY BIRD

The crowds for the Statue of Liberty are overwhelming, so catch the first ferry in the morning. The kids' audio tour, which takes you around her base, is entertaining and informative. Book months in advance to climb the crown.

4. THAT'S THE TICKET

Buy bargain Broadway tickets for the Wednesday matinee. Before the show, request booster cushions for the littlies. Afterwards, grab a bite to eat at the barbecue joint opposite Madame Tussards, or go to 40th Street for a healthier feed of sushi.

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5. SOUL SEARCHING

It's safe to bring the kids to Harlem. Either take the subway to 125th Street, or walk north through Central Park. Check out the iconic Apollo Theatre, eat at a soul kitchen, and shop for cheap clothing.

6. GO YANKEES

Head to The Bronx for a game at Yankee Stadium. The team has done a deal with StubHub, an online scalping site. The alcohol is expensive but food is good value. The rules of baseball are complicated, so explain it to the kids before you go.

7. BONE UP ON HISTORY

Set aside a full day for the American Museum of Natural History. The dinosaur collection is extraordinary, but start with the space show at Hayden Planetarium.

8. RIDE THE SUBWAY

Buy a reloadable Metro card for the subway. Kids ride for free, but you must hold them close to squeeze through the turnstiles. Don't listen to the panic merchants: the subway is safe, cheap and clean.

9. LET THEM EAT CAKE

Promise them a cupcake at Alice's Tea Cup if they tolerate your shopping spree. I recommend the boutique stories around Elizabeth Street, Nolita. (There's a funky bar nearby called Mother's Ruin. Appropriate, I reckon…)

10. CHEERS

Yes, you can take children to cocktail lounges. "Hey, my mother raised me in gin joints. Didn't do me any harm!" our charming hotel manager, Thomas, says. We keep the kids out until all hours in an underground vodka bar.

One extra tip – stay in a self-contained hotel, like The Beacon on the Upper West Side. You'll live like a local in one of their stylish two-bedroom apartments, with full kitchen and laundry facilities.

And start spreading the news: NYC is not just for singletons.

Tracey Spicer and family stayed in New York City courtesy of NYC & Company.

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