Where's Waldo? In The Big Apple

Where’s Waldo?, Martin Handford’s titanically successful eye-strainer about the globe-trotting, crowd-loving little guy in a white-and-red-striped shirt, is coming to New York. Yo. Good luck finding him in this crowd. 

It’s okay if you don’t. NYC & Company, New York City’s tourism, marketing and partnership organization, has actually tapped Waldo to help visiting families find New York itself -- at least the parts of the Apple that appeal to kids and their parents. Officially, Waldo is NYC & Co.’s "Family Ambassador" for 2013. As such, the star of Where's Waldo? books, which have been translated into at least 28 languages (he’s Fodhouli in Arabic, according to Wikipedia), will be part of a year-long program. His job is to promote family travel to the city’s neighborhoods, cultural institutions, parks, attractions and hotels across the five boroughs, per the group. 

Waldo himself will appear in ads and digital programs. Online at nycgo.com/waldo, the character will guide visitors across New York's five boroughs to family-friendly summer spots like the Hudson River Skatepark on Pier 62, the city’s beaches, the Friedsam Memorial Carousel in Central Park, Pesso's Homemade Italian Ices in Queens, Best Pizza in Brooklyn, the Audubon Center in Prospect Park, and the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.

NYC & Company says it will also be promoting the Waldo program via ads in bus shelters across the five boroughs and on Taxi TV. Regionally, ads will run in Boston, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. The campaign extends to U.S. feeder markets, too, like Los Angeles, Chicago and Miami, and also to the United Kingdom and Canada. A crowdsourcing element aims to get city residents and visitors to post photos, “fun facts” and family-friendly NYC locales through the #WaldoNYC hashtag. 

The program includes incentives like a "Where's Waldo?" attraction pass developed with Smart Destinations -- available on limited basis at the Web site. The pass dangles a 45% discount on admissions to museums, tours and attractions across the city. 

New York hotels are also involved, according to a release. Affinia Manhattan, the InterContinental in Times Square, the Millennium Hilton, the Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge, the Times Square Sheraton and others are offering perks like picnics in the park, gift bags, free breakfast, and complimentary attraction passes. 

Last year, NYC & Co. used “The Muppets” as family ambassadors. In preceding years, it was “The Smurfs,” “Dora the Explorer” and “Sesame Street.” The organization says that since the program began in 2009, family visitation to New York City has grown by 15%, to 29% of total visitation. In 2012 New York City brought in around 15.2 million family visitors -- a 2.7% projected increase over 2011, per NYC & Co.

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