Plan B: Street Surfing in New York City?
October 4, 2013

Q: Why is this man carrying a body board in the streets of Manhattan?

  1. Because people in New York march to the beat of their own drummer.
  2. Because in recent years, the city’s waterways have gotten much cleaner and more accessible.
  3. Because he missed the boat to Jacob Riis Beach.
  4. All of the above.

To some degree, the answer is 4, All of the above, but truest of all is 3, he missed the 8 A.M. boat to Jacob Riis Beach.  (Response 2 is also true, but while you can bob around designated areas of the rivers on kayaks and canoes from late spring and into fall, swimming and body boarding are not permitted.)

Plan B: A Walk Wherever You Are

It was the umpteenth day of heat wave this summer, and we’d planned a refreshing ferry ride to Jacob Riis (which runs in the summer), only the subway didn’t cooperate. We arrived at the ferry point just in time to see our boat pull away. The next boat was several hours later and we couldn’t bear to get on the subway again, so we went with our all-season Plan B: a walk around wherever you are. On this particular day, Plan B translated into a hike around southern tip of Manhattan, an area that we hadn’t explored in ages. (Plan C, which always loses out, is to return home to catch up on domestic chores).

Exploring Southern Manhattan

The bottom of Manhattan has served for centuries as an entry point into the city. Its history has preserved it from becoming too congested, which means that monuments—such as Castle Clinton, where the region first received immigrants, long before Ellis Island—have created great green space to get outdoors with your kids. The view off the southern coast of Manhattan is also hard to beat, and the coming and going of ferries and smaller craft lends an air of activity and excitement to the area that you don’t get anywhere else.  Our children always love it.

The region right around Castle Clinton consists of gravel paths which easily accommodate strollers. Toddlers will also enjoy the rough surface beneath their feet as an opportunity to hold steady. Our children are well out of the toddler stage (ages ten and seven), but we still remember how they could spend an inordinate amount of time navigating between the various walking surfaces through this area. Even now, they still thrill to the area of tile chimes that you ring by stepping or hopping on them. 

Battery Park City Esplanade: An Emerald Necklace

If you head up clockwise along the Battery Park City Esplanade, you will soon arrive at Robert F. Wagner Junior Park. The park is a tiny oasis, centered around a small pool to throw pennies in and make wishes. There are also a few benches to sit down while younger kids run around the fountain. Older children will soon get restless and be eager to press on north.

The next park to explore is South Cove Park, just about two blocks away. The nicest feature of South Cove is what is basically a balcony staircase built into the soil. Once you have climbed to the top you can gaze out over the Hudson to see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island in the distance. The spot is also perfectly shaded making for a nice rest spot.

Continuing along, you may, weather permitting, encounter an area that features huge outdoor checker boards, foos ball tables, baskets of books, and arts and crafts.  It's an excellent place to hang out.  Even further along, our daughter Halina was delighted to discover the playground at Pier 25, just south of North Moore Street. She is a seven-year-old mermaid, so stuff like sprinklers and sandboxes—plus plenty of space to run around—drew her in on first sight. The playground also features a climbing wall, and is large enough that our ten-year-old son Riley could do some controlled (they start to get relatively strong at that age) kicking and throwing of a soccer ball without danger of injuring other children.

When we first we encountered this park, Halina’s interest far outlasted her brother’s. Fortunately we discovered that the path continues long on from there, all the way up to the far reaches of Manhattan. It features free kayaking at Pier 40 and numerous gardens and sculptures such as a gigantic bottle lying on its side the kids find fascinating. If you continue all the way up to the George Washington Bridge—which would probably be too far if you began in lower Manhattan—you will find the Little Red Lighthouse, which we highly recommended in the past.

What's your Plan B? 

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