Just for Thrills
Be they preschool or high school, kids want action. For them, a day at the Metropolitan Museum of Art can’t compare with flying above it. Zipping around New York Harbor in a speedboat is more fun than sitting in Fifth Avenue traffic. And when it comes to upward trajectory, rock and tree-climbing beat high-rise elevators every time. For family vacationers with daring, active kids, here is a sampling of destinations that should fill their need for adventure in the concrete jungle.
Few man-made views are more breathtaking than a city skyline from above. For even more drama, try the ride at night. Viator’s VIP Helicopter Flight and Statue of Liberty Cruise offer both day and evening trips, picking you up at Pier 6 in Lower Manhattan and flying you over a dozen or so sights that include the Brooklyn Bridge, the Empire State Building, the World Trade Center and Central Park. After the ride in the sky, you take to the sea with a one-hour cruise along the New York Harbor. The grown-ups can opt for a champagne or mimosa toast when the boat passes Lady Liberty.
Wings Air, which operates from nearby Westchester County Airport in White Plains, New York—roughly 45 minutes from Manhattan by car or cab—offers tours seven days a week over New York City (weather permitting), personally narrated by its pilots. (Cool side note: Wings Air provides services for filming movies over NYC as well.) Wyvern, a global aviation safety auditing firm, recognizes the company.
Who needs the cliffs of Hawaii to scale when there are The Cliffs of LIC right here in Long Island City, Queens (a Harlem branch will be opening sometime in 2018). Participants receive orientation, learning the different types of climbs before starting. Staff members also assist first-time climbers with a 90-minute beginner class (you must be 14 years old or older), after which your climber can get you started scaling a wall. The Cliffs feature 127 top-rope stations ranging from 30 to 45 feet tall and a bouldering section with 16-foot-high walls. Each wall varies in difficulty, and the “routes” set on the walls determine a specific level of difficulty. You can purchase a one-day pass, and rent climbing shoes, harness and chalk bag.
Another option is Chelsea Piers Sports Center at Manhattan’s Pier 60, which features one of the most challenging rock walls in the country. There are over 11,000 square feet of sculpted, three-dimensional climbing surfaces between the main wall, bouldering wall and bouldering cave. Lessons are available for both novices and experts, and all will be challenged by continually changing routes.
Also worth checking out is Brooklyn Boulders in Gowanus, Brooklyn. The facility features 22,000 square feet of state-of-the-art walls and offers a 45-minute intro climbing class to nonmembers. All first-time visitors must sign a waiver and take a facility orientation.
Head to Governors Island for a “pop-up” amusement park that features a Flywire Zipline, with soaring views of the city and the Statue of Liberty from a 35-foot peak, and where adventurers get to zip down a 300-foot long parallel cable. At the Climbing Challenge, scale one of three 25-foot walls with a self-guiding belay system. A maze challenge spans some 3,600 feet for tamer members of your party, who they can test their problem-solving skills.
You can also swing like a modern-day Tarzan at the Bronx Zoo’s Treetop Adventure, which features seven aerial climbing courses and a zip line over the Bronx River. Or if you are more of a tree-climber, try one of the zoo’s climbing-rope trails, with seven different courses ranging from beginner to advanced. Expert rangers are always around to ensure your safety.
What is New York’s wildest ride that doesn’t take place in a taxicab? The Cyclone, which first opened in 1927, remains one of the country’s most exhilarating journeys, covering 3,000 feet of track in under two minutes. Housed in Coney Island’s Luna Park, the mother of American roller coasters is an amusement park icon which visitors from around the world come to test their bravery. Only the most courageous will want the front seat, as the Cyclone has 12 drops and 27 elevation changes. The anticipation and suspense heighten as the cars tantalizingly elevate to panoramic heights. Suddenly … whoosh! A 60-degree plunge on an 85-foot drop accelerates up to speeds of 60 mph as the screams can be heard by sunbathers on the beach.
Welcome to tourism done fast. The Beast, a 70-foot speedboat, offers a 30-minute sightseeing tour of Manhattan, leaving from Pier 83. (A similar option is The Shark, which departs from Pier 16 at South Street Seaport.) The Beast flies down the Hudson River at up to 45 mph. With music rocking, and a captain and crew livening up the mood, the trip provides panoramic views of Midtown and Lower Manhattan while a guide points out features and landmarks. Your kids are sure to love the disclaimers on the website that will get them psyched for the experience: “You’ll get wet! It’s loud! It’s extreme!” Of course it is. It’s New York!