That first time you visit the Big Apple should be forever memorable, regardless of your age. It requires the exact combination of classic NYC, New York attractions mixed with unique and interesting sights, sounds, and tastes. You want to leave a little room for happening upon something unexpected, but come with a plan to explore and indulge.
That’s what you’ll find in our post here about the best things to do in NYC with kids. My husband grew up just over the river in New Jersey, and we’ve been together a hand full of times…but when you bring the kids, everything changes…and the magic truly begins!
By the way, coming from JFK?? I love this piece about the best (and cheapest) ways to get to or from JFK to Penn Station.
DON’T SKIP THESE TOURIST STOPS
1. EXPLORE CENTRAL PARK
If you can spend a day or two in Central Park, do it! Especially in the spring and summer.See our sample itinerary below for examples of how we did it. The best advice I can give you is to PLAN what you want to do. It’s horrible to walk from one side to the other only to realize you missed something you really wanted to see or do.
We’re working on a HUGE list of things we recommend to do, see and explore in Central Park but here are our Top 5.
FIND A PLAYGROUND
Heckscher Playground is by far our favorite. There is shade, water, climbing structures and tons of fun! It was designed in the 19th century by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux. You know Olmstead, right? He designed Atlanta’s very first planned community – Inman Park – as well as Druid Hills and SO SO SO much more in Atlanta, including the landscape of Augusta’s P. J. Berckman, which is now home to the famous Master’s Tournament.
It’s the oldest playground in Central Park. The playground includes a shaded area with swings and slides and a large, maze-like climber and water feature with tunnels, ramps and slides. There are also clean bathrooms here, too!
We also loved the Ancient Playground, but it was just too hot for us to play on the day we stopped by – there isn’t shade here. It is the newest playground in the park, and it’s just to the side of The Met.
In the main play area, pyramid-shaped climbers with slides and tunnels are linked by concrete bridges. You’ll also find additional wooden climbers, an obelisk-shaped structure set in a sandbox, and lots of different types of swings.
Those are just two of SO MANY playgrounds here. Find a full list with locations on their site.
TAKE A BIKE RIDE
You have to stay on the bike paths – avoid the pedestrian paths – which means you can’t take your bike to all the places you might want to visit. No worries – the appx rental price of $12 gets you a bike, helmet, basket and bike lock. Whew!
We didn’t see this offered when we were there, but a friend told us about it…and my kids would have been so happy. Click here for an electric scooter rental. (“So much more cool, mom.”) Your kids have to be 16+.
If you feel like having a local expert give you the 411 on Central Park, then consider a private bike tour. Your kids have to be confident on a bike, and over 3 yo. The tour is two hours long, and takes you through all the best places on the park, with insider info. Click here to get see more and buy tickets.
WATCH THE BOATS
Head over to Bow Bridge and see the paddle boats move back and forth under the bridge. Then, walk past the gorgeous Bethesda Fountain and over to the Conservatory Water where folks man motor boats just like Stuart Little.
Conservatory Water holds its boating season from April to October each year. Races are held on Saturdays, beginning around 10:00 am and they last for the better part of the morning. Boat rentals are available at the Kerbs Memorial Boathouse, as are lessons for the budding model boat enthusiast. Rentals are $11 for 30 minutes…not bad!
Right near here you can also see statues of Hans Christian Anderson and Alice in Wonderland. The boys loved Alice because you can climb on her statue (I loved it because she’s my next tattoo!)
After you take the boats for a sail, walk over to Loeb Boathouse. It’s only a few moments away. Here is where you can rent a row boat like you saw on the Bow Bridge. We opted to watch the row boats and just sit on the patio for a drink. The boys had mocktails and we enjoyed a bourbon in the shade of the building. There is also a great clean restroom here.
GO FOR A SWIM
If you’re visiting in summer then you want to take a dip in Lasker Pool (if you;re visiting in winter, then it’s an ice skating rink.) There are actually two pools here – a wading pool and an Olympic sized pool. If you’re not swimming, it’s still gorgeous, with view of Harlem Meer.
The pool is free (and so is sunscreen!) Just bring a lock with you for the free lockers because nothing is allowed poolside except your towel, shoes, book and water bottle.
HIT THE MALL
“The Mall” runs through the center of Central Park from 66th to 72nd. The paved area originally hosted carriages of wealthy visitors to the area. Now you’ll find skateboarders, street performers and the like. And it’s gorgeous any time of year. You definitely want to get your picture taken here. The best time is Fall, to be sure. Central Park Mall boasts one of the largest plantations of the American elm, which turn a bright yellow as the weather changes.
2. WALK BROOKLYN BRIDGE
To be honest, I never considered walking the Brooklyn Bridge before reading a post from my friends in preparation for our trip. After that, I did more research and learned some great history, tips and timing that we used on our walk; and I want to share them with you!
It’s one of the oldest roadway bridges in the US. The Brooklyn Bridge is a hybrid cable/suspension bridge – the first in the nation. It was started in 1869 and took 14 years to build, covering the East River and making a new road from Manhattan to Brooklyn. People were charged 1 cent to cross or 5 cents with a horse (10 cents for a horse and buggy.) It was the longest suspension bridge in the world until the early 1900s – 2x longer than ever before.
PT Barnum was instrumental in the success. Six days after the bridge opened, a woman fell down the stairs and yelled (falsely) that the bridge was collapsing into the water. That caused a stampede in which 12 people were killed. About a year later, after several requests, PT Barnum led a procession of 21 elephants, 7 camels and 10 dromedaries (that’s a furry camel, btw) across the bridge to prove it was safe.
Start your walk in Brooklyn. You can walk any way you want, but walking toward Manhattan offers the prettiest views, in my opinion. We took an Uber to Brooklyn, but once we got there we were wishing we had taken the NYC Ferry or Water Taxi – just for the experience and the views. It should run you under $3 pp.
Go at sunset. You can get some amazing pictures if you head over right before sunset. We started our walk about 45 minutes before the reported sunset time. The sun is going to fall behind the Manhattan skyline before it sets, and that offers pretty photos. Take your time walking, get a thousand photos, enjoy the people watching, and by the time you make it to the end of the mile-long bridge you will see the lights of the city come alive.
Eat in Brooklyn before you head out. Grab a bite around Front Street, near the Brooklyn Bridge Park before you head out on the walk. We at pie at Grimaldi’s and loved it (cash only..be sure to read the sign out front about the history of the building.) There is also a Shake Shack if you’re not adventurous…and Luke’s Lobster boasts an incredible lobster roll. If you’re looking for something a little more fancy, go with The River Cafe.
Idea 1: If you have time to explore Brooklyn, do it! If your kids are 14+ then consider doing it on bike with these guys who offer bikes and insider-info into the area. Idea 2: These guys don’t have an age restriction, but your kids have to be cool on a bike. We haven’t tried this company yet, but it’s a shorter ride and cheaper ticket than the first company I mentioned here.
3. ADVENTURE ALONG THE HIGH LINE
The High Line is 1.45-mile-long elevated linear park, greenway and rail trail. It was created on a former New York Central Railroad spur on the west side of Manhattan in New York City, and it is AWEOME.
If you have enough time, consider taking one of the free public tours or catching some tunes at the overhanging amphitheater. It will tell you so much more than I can share here.
Kids? They will love the chance to play on the Pershing Square Beams They are just west of 11th Avenue (the north end of the Line)…and yes, they are beams for kids to play on. But they are coated, so it’s not too hot. Kids love hiding and crawling around here, and it’s a good place for mom and dad to take a breather.
We loved the art and murals along the walk, which reminded us very much of the Beltline. About halfway down we stopped in a little greenspace to rest and munch on some popsicles they were selling in carts along the walkway.
At the end of the High Line closest to the Hudson River there are several artists and restaurants. Don’t forget to go PAST the shaded overhang so that you can experience the water play! The boys loved getting their feet wet and cooling off, with gorgeous views of the River.
The very Southern end of the Line is called the Tiffany Overlook. There are street vendors here selling their wares. Head down the steps and under the Overlook to Standard Biergarten. Find a place at the communal seating area, grab a stein of imported German and Austrian beer, and nosh on traditional Germain bites like bratwurst and pretzels.
If your dogs are barking from all the walking, then consider renting a bike…an ELECTRIC bike! This place is great, with baby seats on select bikes.
4. PERCH ATOP THE EMPIRE STATE BUILDING
This is THE place for 360-degree views of the city, but let me assure you that going only once is not enough. Splurge on the AM/PM tickets (kids under 6 are free.)
They open at 8am – go early! 8am – 11am means fewer crowds to navigate, happier kids, and easier-to-get photos – though you have until 2pm to get there with your AM ticket. See the city as it comes alive, with gorgeous photo ops!
This is also a fun time to download the building’s free app and share a little history with the kids. if you really want to “teach” the kids while touring, watch a documentary before you go and then head to the Dare to Dream exhibit for photos and more about the engineering and construction.
Don’t stop there, though!
Your AM/PM ticket will get you back to the 86th floor after 9pm for unbeatable views of Manhattan at night. Now, especially on Thurs – Sat nights when there is a saxophonist, this is a date nite haven. I wouldn’t recommend it for young kids who might cry or scream while they are up there – you might get the side eye. But for calm kiddos or older kids, it’s a must!
5. POSE FOR A SELFIE AT TIMES SQUARE
I will never forget my first visit to NYC where we stayed at the New York Marriott Marquis right on Times Square. I woke up in the morning, took a big stretch, looked out the window, and saw that GMA was hosting a segment right below us. We dressed and RAN down to the street to see it. THIS is where all the morning shows have their special segments – so fun!
On our last trip, we settled for a few family shots on the red stair case. That was enough for us – to take a few shots and take in the lights. Fun Facts: Each of those red stairs takes $20,000 to build; 5-8 are replaced each year; about 13,000 people walk by those steps every day, and of the 17,000 Instagram pix taken in Times Square every DAY, 5,000 of them feature the red steps!
If you’re looking for more then try a few “tourist spots” here, these are recommended by others (we’ve not done them):
- At M&M World they have every kind, and color you could want, including an M&M scale
- There’s a Hershey’s Store with all the flavors of candy
- Madame Tussauds Wax Museum
- Ripley’s Believe It or Not Odditorium
- Hard Rock Cafe
One thing of note that I personally hated. There are TONS of people hanging out here nowadays in costumes – Mickey, Spiderman, etc. They are trying to get you and the kids to take a picture with them, and they are expecting a tip. If you want to do it then that is cool – just be prepared with some cash. We talked to our kids beforehand about it and avoided the whole scene.
6. WATCH A BROADWAY SHOW
To be honest, the impetus for our trip to NYC was to see Hamilton. We love Fox Theatre, but nothing – NOTHING – compares to seeing a show in NYC. And the prices for a matinee show rivaled Atlanta prices – so we were off.
Determined to get good seats, we could not afford to bring the boys with us. We worked with Langham Hotel to get a sitter (and she was WONDERFUL – best we could have asked for!) I hated it because our youngest will sing along as we blare Hamilton on our speakers at home…but with the expensive seats and extraordinarily long show, it just wasn’t prudent.
Hamilton? Oh it was better than any words could ever describe, especially at Richard Rodgers Theatre. No words. Seriously! Yes, you should get tickets…the best you can afford. Whatever it takes.
OK – now let’s say you want to take the kids. What should it be? As of this writing I’d say Lion King, Spongebob or Aladdin…and if you’ve got tweens then you can add the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child to that list.
Finally – if you’re willing to take a gamble…you want to see a show but you’re not particular about which one or when, then use TKTS for the very best prices. Word on the street is that you can save up to 50% if you have flexibility…we did not. We had to get a sitter and did not want to miss Hamilton, so we didn’t opt for this – but you can!
7. DIVE INTO THE EXHIBITS AT THE MET
I love a museum. I mean, I really love a museum. But I am keen on the fact that visiting every museum in every city is not on everyone’s bucket list.
Even if you are not a museum go-er, you still have to stop at this one. It’s like…the Louvre of the USA!
There are 2 million works in its private collection alone! And as the most visited museum in the entire world, you won’t notice the 16 million annual visitors because they are all spread across the 2 million square feet of awesomeness.
When we visited? We saw the Heavenly Bodies exhibit – a dialogue between fashion and medieval art. Woot! it was so amazing. Oh! and History Refused To Die presents thirty paintings, sculptures, drawings, and quilts by self-taught contemporary African American artists from the Souls Grown Deep Foundation. It was so inspiring!
8. RIDE THE SUBWAY
It sounds so simple, and yet my kids had a BLAST riding the subway – especially because it is so different than our mass transit options here in Atlanta.
Even if you love to Uber everywhere like we do, take the time to give them an authentic subway experience.
Want to take it to the next level? Try these fun and unique stops:
CITY HALL STATION
Glass tiles, large chandeliers, vaulted ceilings…sorry. It isn’t a stop any longer. But you can still see it on a tour with the The New York City Transit Museum. Even if the tour isn’t running when you visit, the museum is still worth a trip!
This track is no longer in use. It sits under the famousWaldorf Astoria. Plus, I’m cheating a little hear because isn’t really part of the NYC Subway but rather part what the locals call Metro-North. Ignore that for now..it’s super cool.
Well, it isn’t much to look at…it’s dirty and grimy with only one train car to see…but it was reportedly used on so many “secret” missions during its day. From Roosevelt’s escape from public eye as his polio worsened to celebrities and modern presidents escaping the paparazzi.
Ask a staff member to show you the secret brass door within the hotel.
SUBWAY MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS
On the N/R platforms in the 34th Street – Herald Square subway station – is a musical oddity that most people miss. We didn’t make it to this phenomenon, but you can read more about it here.
STEP OFF THE BEATEN PATH WITH THESE UNIQUE WAYS TO EXPLORE
9. GRAB A PIE AT JOE’S PIZZA
Ok, first…just go to Joe’s because it’s darn good pizza. Period. But I know…there are a dozen amazing pizza places in the city. So why else do we call this one out?
Do you remember that scene in Spiderman where Peter Parker had to deliver a pile of pizzas? That joint? Joe’s!
The wall is lined with photos of Joe and his crew smiling with the likes of Steven Tyler, Matthew Mcconaughey, Bradley Cooper, Anne Hathaway and tons more. Obviously Spiderman is spilling secrets to his Hollywood friends.
10. TAKE A MILK BAR CLASS
Can I just be honest? This was the highlight of our trip (for me, anyway!) I know, I know…you can take a cake making class anywhere — but not like this!
All four of us sat together last year and watched the Christina Tosi story on Chef’s Table (Netflix) and immediately fell in love with her and her creations. She invented “cereal milk” with which she makes amazing soft service ice cream. There’s also her crack pie – so delicious you just can’t stop.
But her most awesome creation is the naked birthday cake. Three layers of confetti cake, drizzled with a little vanilla milk, and separated with layers of decadent icing and crunchy “cake crumbs.
Milk Bar started in new York (though you can also find them in DC, Toronto and soon in LA) so we looked up where to grab a bite and BAM – discovered that they offer classes on building the famous naked birthday cake! Sign us up!
We loved every minute of it. Our teachers were so sweet and helpful, and the boys did 99% of the work on their own. We also made “cake truffles” with the class (all adults, other than our boys.)
The number one rule of the class is “eat everything as you go!” which worked well in our family. Yum.
We left with two cakes. One became our nightly snack in the hotel each evening…the other they wrapped up for us to bring on the train. And the best news? The cakes are huge, but they also both fit in our mini bar at the hotel (after we took everything out.)
Oh yes – this class meant so much to our boys…they even begged us to “let them” meet her. We explained that she is rich and famous now…not teaching the classes on her own. It took a while for them to process that…but it didn’t deter them from “eating up” every moment of their Milk Bar experience.
If you can’t get into one of these classes…or you’re not a fan of cake (What?!?!?!) then we recommend two food tours that your kids will adore. First, the Hell’s Kitchen NYC Dessert Tour (Heads up, there will be cake here, too! ha!) Second, if you have kids are enjoy The Godfather or The Sopranos then you all might enjoy the NYC Mafia and Food Tour. It’s an hour longer (3 hours) and more intense (It’s the mob..the mob is always intense) but seriously entertaining.
11. FIND A BANKSY
If you don’t know Banksy, then close this post (come back later) and do yourself a Google search. We LOVE him. I mean real, pure love. How much? We have a Banksy reproduction in our sunroom, for starters.
So we recommend that you seek out one of his murals for your artistic edification! You have to search the current news to see a mural that might be available when you visit — they are often removed shortly after they are created.
12. STEP BACK IN TIME AT THE TENEMENT MUSEUM
There are no words to describe how AMAZING the Tenement Museum experience is! We loved every second and cannot recommend it highly enough.
A “tenement” was an old word for apartment building. The museum is centered around an old apartment building that housed a Melting Pot of immigrants, freshly come to America between in the late 1800s. In fact, between 1863 and 2014 there were an estimated 10,000 working class immigrants and their families living in these two buildings.
The museum celebrates the lives of these families and uncovers the hardships they encountered.
Learn through walks, tours, events…even tastings!
This is an experience that is constantly growing and evolving…it’s an impressive interactive experience…and the word is out! Reserve your tickets as soon as you know when you’ll be in The City.
The number of ticket offerings can be overwhelming, but I recommend one of the Meet The Residents tours. We spent time with Victoria Confino, learning about her life.
If you visit, try to go early in your NYC vacation because a second tour is 40% off and you WILL want to enjoy a second visit.
13. CHOW DOWN DAILY AT BEST BAGEL & COFFEE
We try to avoid carbs, but when in Rome…or rather, when in New York…you can’t skip pizza, pastrami on rye, or BAGELS. There are several great bagel places and you can’t really go wrong.
If you want the best ones in the whole freaking city, then get them at Best Bagel. We never eat at the same place twice…but here, we at a half-dozen times. They just don’t get better than this.
You’re going to be greeted by a line no matter when you go. We (accidentally) showed up 30 minutes before they opened and still had to stand in line for a while once they opened. It goes fast, though, and it’s worth every second.
Here’s a tip for my Southern friends…I learned about Taylor Ham (aka Pork Roll) from my Northern-born hubby. It’s now a staple in our house….so delicious. Best Bagel offers a breakfast sandwich with Taylor Ham and you MUST get it! It’s like a mix between fried spam and fried bologna…but better.
Healthy? Maybe not. But it will rock your world.
14. INDULGE YOUR SWEET TOOTH AT MAX BRENNER’S
Max Brenner’s isn’t unique to NYC, but I still encourage you to go for lunch (or just dessert.) Max Brenner’s is…wait for it…a bona fide chocolate bar!!
There are pastries, milkshakes, chocolate bars, hot chocolates, lava cake….and fondue. Glorious fondue.
Our family split the Sharing Fondue…chocolate cheesecake crepes, mini waffles, milk and white chocolate barks, chocolate sponge cake, strawberries, and marshmallows…all perfect for dunking in milk and white chocolates.
We also ate lunch here – the food was better than I imagined, since they’re known for the chocolate.
15. GRAB A PEAK OF POOH BEAR AND FRIENDS
Since 1987, Pooh and four of his best friends—Eeyore, Piglet, Kanga, and Tigger—have been living at The New York Public Library. The very Pooh owned by Christopher Robin Milne’s – son of A. A. Milne – is on display for everyone to view. It was a gift from Harrods of London, to Christopher on his first birthday.
The animals can be viewed from behind a glass conservation case in the children’s area of the library. And the good news? They are FREE to see.
We also were not prepared for how beautiful the library building is, and how many other exhibits are on display. Plan little more time for this stop, if you can, and enjoy the journey here.
16. TAKE IN A BIT OF HISTORY AT THE BERLIN WALL… IN NYC
Remember Regan’s call to tear down the wall separating East and West Berlin? It became reality in 1989, and when ti came down, various bits were sent around the world.
Manhattan is home to five large pieces of the wall, each with special artists murals adorning them:
- The 520 Madison Avenue Berlin Wall – Midtown (Update – since we visited, this one is no longer here and is reported to be moving to a new location. We;ll keep you updated, as it is one of the coolest pieces.)
- The Kowsky Plaza Berlin Wall – Battery Park
- The United Nations Berlin Wall – Murray Hill
- Ripley’s Believe it or Not Berlin Wall – Times Square
- The Intrepid Museum Berlin Wall – Hell’s Kitchen
17. EAT YOUR HEART OUT AT MOMOFUKU NOODLES
Michelin stars…James Beard Awards…merits and recognition galore…this East Village eatery is David Chang’s first restaurant. The name? It means Lucky Peach (perfect for us Southerners) but it is also the first name of the Taiwanese/Japanese man who invented instant noodles – Top Ramen and Cup of Noodles. My final fun fact? David Chang was instrumental in helping Christina Tosi launch Milk Bar (see above).
Momofuku Noodle Bar is very casual; an easy place to dine and indulge. Do plan to spend some time waiting in line if you come without a reservation – but know that it is well worth the wait.
Of course you’ll want a bowl of noodles, but we also recommend you pair it with the Pork Belly buns, Pea Shoot Salad, Roasted Caulilini, Kimchi and Pickles…and dessert. Seriously – eat it all up! I’m still dreaming about it.
Pro Tip: Our kiddos are not fans of Japanese food. There is a pizza joint next door – we fed them there before heading into Momofuku, and then bribed them with dessert while we ate. The kids can”t have all the fun – you NEED to make time for at least one of Chang’s restaurant while you’re in town.
18. MASTER THE MAGIC AT THE HOUDINI MUSEUM
You remember Houdini? In the 1890s he performed escapes from straight jackets under water, chains and handcuffs from the tops of skyscrapers, and even circumventing death after being buried alive. He was the President of the Society of American Magicians – and you can learn more about his magic and escape tricks at the museum named after him.
It’s not a grand museum – only a single room on the 4th floor of a NYC high rise, but it is packed with artifacts and magic tricks for anyone with a love of the art.
We saw several of his original handcuffs and chains, one of his suits used to hold him in an escape routine, his Escape Coffin from 1907 and several magic chests. There was also a costume from his wife who served as his assistant, a bust, and several of his writings.
Here’s the fun part…entrance is FREE 7 days a week.
19. TAKE YOUR MAGIC EXPERIENCE ONE STEP FURTHER AT TANNEN’S
It’s been around since 1925 and touts itself as the city’s oldest magic store. We visited right after the Houdini Museum, and of course picked up another magic trick or two here.
I would say that the Museum is more friendly to visitors and kids. Not that Tannen’s was rude to us in any way, but it seems like the visitors here are very serious about their craft…it’s less a novelty shop and more an industry staple. Still – it’s the oldest in New York, which makes it worth checking out.
20. MAKE TIMET O EXPLORE BRYANT PARK
We visited in Spring (though our friends at YTravelBlog visited in winter and swear by this location for ice skating over crowed Rockefeller Plaza.) In the warner months you still want to visit. Grab coffee here and people-watch in the mornings. It’s also a wifi hotspot, so you’ll see plenty of people soaking up some sun as they check email.
Try yoga in the park or ride the carousel. On Mondays in summer they offer free Monday night movies. The public restrooms here are very clean, also.
You’ll find live music, artists with spectacular drawings and paintings in the works, dancing, tai chi, ballet, poetry readings, birding tours, children’s art classes…and the list goes on. It’s like a micro-experiment of everything NYC offers, all in one little park. And it is delightful.
21. LEARN ON THE ROAD AT THE MUSEUM OF INTERESTING THINGS
Ever wonder what a photograph looks like? Have you always wanted to show your kids a typewriter? maybe an 8-track player? The traveling exhibit, Museum of Interesting Things, is the brainchild of Denny Daniel. He wanted to remind people that the technology they use today had an origin…and it should not be forgotten.
The exhibit started in his house, but has become so popular that he now travels around the city showing his wares. We love that most pieces can be touched and handled – perfect for kids to learn through all their senses. Check the Facebook page for his schedule while you are in town!
22. BRUNCH AT SARABETHS AT CENTRAL PARK
I know there are a few locations, and the locals consider it a chain restaurant…but you can’t visit the city without a stop at Sarabeth’s for brunch. The first restaurant opened in the 80s – and this location debuted in 2005.
Originally a bakery/kitchen, they are known for their award-winning “Legendary Spreadable Fruit” (which you can buy online if you are missing the love.)
Kids will love the French toast with whipped cream and strawberries – plus a berry bowl. For mom and dad – the short rib hash. To die for. With a five flowers mimosa. Heaven.
23. WASHINGTON SQUARE PARK
We didn’t plan on a stop at this park, but it turned out to be one of the best spontaneous stops we made. It is filled with avant-garde artists working on their craft…each one guaranteed to impress.
We also spent a great deal of time at the shaded playground, resting on the lawn while the boys made a million friends challenging each other on the unusual play structures.
While we waited, we listened to the musicians offering tunes on everything from glasses of water to accordions. We also saw locals challenging each other at chess, and kids playing in the large fountain.
BEST PLACES TO STAY WITH KIDDOS
24. LOVE YOUR STAY AT THE LANGHAM IN MANHATTAN
Trying to find a family friendly hotel in NYC can be daunting. We wanted the right location, and something intimate- not too big. That’s why we were so excited to get a room at The Langham New York Fifth Avenue.
Superior customer service will make you believe you were back in the South with genuine Southern hospitality, except for the missing “y’all” and “yes ma’am.” The rooms are exceptionally spacious, with luxurious walnut details.
The dining options include Ai Fiori, aa Michelin Guide restaurant. You’ll want to visit without the kiddos, but with them try the 24-hour room service. The spaghetti bolognese is divine.
Finally – location! The Langham sits on 5th Ave between 35th and 36th street, in the heart of all Manhattan has to offer.
NEXT TIME WE VISIT
We didn’t make it to all the places on our wish list (which is why we are already planning a trip next year, too.) Based on my research, I recommend the following places for a family visit. We either haven’t visited them yet (or we did, but it was long long ago) but we still wanted to share!
25. GLAMPING ON GOVERNOR’S ISLAND
This hadn’t yet opened when we visited over the summer, but it is up and running now and looks AMAZING. Governor’s Island is a 172-acre island in New York Harbor. It was once a military base, and now during the warmer months, it serves as a place filled with family adventure.
Visit Outlook Hill for unique views of Lady Liberty. The kids will love the in-ground slides. Slide Hill is home to a 3-story high, 57-ft long slide!!
You’ll find paths for biking and hiking, hammocks for lounging, public art, and so many programs for families.
OK – but that’s not all. You can sleep here!! Collective Retreats offers 2 (soon to be 3) types of glamping accommodations, with incredible dining options.
The Summit Tents are the most luxurious – and no two are alike. A plush king bed with overhead chandelier welcomes you with 1500 thread count sheets, an en suite bathroom, and Turkish robes for your lounging pleasure.
The Journey Tents are still luxurious, just a tad smaller – and they can’t accommodate a roll-away for the kids like the Summit Tents can. There is also np en suite, but a very nice shared bathroom is available.
Outlook Shelters are coming soon, also. These are enclosed structures with 4 walls and a glass-enclosed bedroom with 180-degree sky views. They will include an ensuite, heating and cooling, and a mini fridge.
26. EXPLORING CONEY ISLAND IN THE SUMMER
From roller-coasters to go-karts, to live entertainment and boardwalk games, beachfront Coney Island has it all!
The birthplace of the amusement park, Coney Island is home to an Aquarium, Action-Packed Rides, Restaurants, Shops and Sideshows, Coney Island has something for everyone.
27. CLIMB ONE WORLD OBSERVATORY
Positioned on top of the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, on levels 100, 101, and 102 of the 1,776 foot tall One World Trade Center building, One World Observatory provides unique, panoramic views of New York City, its most iconic sites, and surrounding waters. Is it a tourist magnet? Yes – but you have to do it once!
28. MEANDER THE MOMA
It’s not just for adults! The Museum of Modern Art offers tours, art workshops, and films plus interactive spaces, activity, and audio guides. There are so many ways for you to enjoy art together. I recommend signing up for the family newsletter so you can hear about the films, art labs, and activity stations that will occur during your stay.
29. SAIL TO THE STATUE OF LIBERTY
To get the best tickets available, plan ahead! The Crown Tickets are a favorite and include ferry access, access up to the Crown of the Statue of Liberty, priority entry into the Boarding Queue which saves you wait time at the departure point, and access to the grounds of Liberty Island and Ellis Island.
If you just want to see Lady Liberty from the water, we suggest this Package Deal, which combines the Big Bus hop-on/hop-off bus that takes you to all the best places PLUS a Statue of Liberty cruise out of Pier 36. Want to skip the bus? No problem. Click here for the 60-min Statue of Liberty Sightseeing Cruise. Just short enough to keep the kids’ attention!
30. SCOUT THE CHILDREN’S MUSEUM OF MANHATTAN
Five floors of kiddo-approved fun! These experiences include exhibitions, classes, more than 80 workshops, performances, and festivals free with admission to the Museum each week.
The “coolest” way to explore in the heat of summer is the 800 sq ft Dynamic H2O water exhibition!
31. GO BACK IN TIME AT THE MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY
My dream? A sleepover here! But while we save up for that one, we’ll just explore like everyone else. Something to keep in mind is that this is one of the largest museums in the entire world, so you probably will not get to see everything. Make note of what excites you most, and start there. On your first visit, it’s likely you can skip the special exhibitions, giant screen film and the space show (save those for another day) so you can really save on a ticket. 45 museum halls will keep you busy. For us, first picks will be the Rose Center for Earth and Space, and the hands-on interactive Discovery Center for kiddos.
USE OUR NYC WITH KIDS SAMPLE ITINERARY
In truth, you can’t do all of this on a weekend excursion. We went just recently and did a large part, though…one of our best kid friendly vacations ever (even though we’ve been to NYC many times in the past.) Even our oldest declared it a favorite!
Want some guidance? Here’s how we did it – and PS we like to Uber.
FLY ON FRIDAY
Arrive in NYC in the early afternoon.
Take an Uber to Langham for check in and a relaxing breather.
Grab an Uber to the North side of The High Line, and walk to the very end. Grad dinner at Standard Biergarten here if you’re calling it a day.
Whether you eat here or not, it’s fun to pick a park and head there next. We Uber’d to Washington Square Park. We watched the street tricks, saw people play in the fountain, and really enjoyed the shaded playground here.
Grab a water taxi to Brooklyn for dinner at Grimaldi’s, play in the park and get photos of Manhattan, and then walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, being sure to time it with sunset.
Time for relaxing bath at the hotel, one of their signature cookies, and bed!
SEE THE TOURIST SITES ON SATURDAY
Up by 7 and out the door by 7:40am – you’re heading a few blocks to Best Bagel and Coffee. They open at 8am on Saturday. The line gets long but goes fast. Still…don’t dally. You want to be out by 8:30ish.
Now you’re off to the Empire State Building – it’s only 2 blocks from your hotel!
Grab an Uber to Brooklyn for your 11am Milk Bar Class.
Afterward, head back to the Langham and store your cakes. We emptied our mini fridge and fit two full cakes in there nicely!
Grab lunch at a street vendor – a gyro or hot dog will do. You’re stuffed with cake anyway. If you want more, head over to Joe’s Pizza.
Now, get to the Tenement Museum. You’ll have to modify this timing for the tour you selected, but we LOVED our tour which is generally at 4pm on Saturdays. Get there a little early and use the restroom, check out the gift shop, etc.
For dinner, we picked Momofuku Noodles. If you do an early dinner then the wait is less than 30 minutes.
Head back to the hotel and take a breather. Then walk the two blocks to the Empire State Bldg at 9pm for the PM tour.
Bedtime – even with all that sugar!
CELEBRATE MOTHER NATURE AND A SHOW ON SUNDAY
I know – you want those bagels again. But they are closed. No fear…head toward Central Park and grab a leisurely Sunday breakfast at Sarabeth’s.
Walk across the street to Central Park. Play at Heckscher Playground and let the kids get a little wet…they’ll dry off soon anyway. Head north past the carousel. The walk northwest to Strawberry Fields, with a quick look at The Dakota.
Head over the Bow Bridge and see the boaters, then make your way to the Loeb Boathouse. Here to can grab a drink, get cooled off, watch the boats, and use the restroom.
We finished today’s tour at the Alice statue. Depending on your show time, you might still be able to run over to the Explorer’s Club from here. It’s only a few blocks away.
Time to head back toward the hotel. We ordered room service for lunch and it was delicious. I felt a little guilty not exploring more, but Langham’s food is divine and the kids needed some down-time.
We worked with the hotel to arrange a sitter so Dan and I could enjoy Hamilton. You can do the same, or everyone can get showered and dressed to hit the Sunday matinee show (a money saver) on Broadway.
After the show we enjoyed drinks and dinner at Ai Fiori (and the boys and sitter loved the room service pizza!) If you’re not doing this on a weekend, then grab a drink at Skylark – the frosé is awesome and the views are stellar. You just want to do it without kiddos.
After dinner, we just enjoyed family time in the hotel room, but this would also be a great time to head to Times Square if you want to see the night time vibrance.
INDULGE IN A MUSEUM AND CHOCOLATE ON MONDAY
Yay! You can get bagels again for breakfast!
Take an Uber to The Met. Before you go in explore the Alexander Hamilton statue in the park behind the building, and check out the Ancient Playground to the left. We tried, but it was too hot and the water feature wasn’t working…but it looks AWESOME if the weather cooperates.
Now – head into The Met and enjoy it until lunch!
Lunch at Max Brenner ‘s will be delightful! Don’t skip the fondue, and then head back to the hotel.
Now it’s time for some magic! Visit the Houdini Museum and then head down a few blocks to Tannen’s Magic Store. Then head back to the hotel.
Remember, Langham is basically in Koreantown so why not take advantage. Grab dinner at Yoon Haeundae Galbi for delicious eats
Watch a movie in the park at Bryant Park and meet some locals…then head off to bed!
ENJOY BAGELS AND POOH ON TUESDAY BEFORE YOUR FLIGHT BACK
Bagels (don’t shoot me – they were awesome!)
Walk over to Bryant Park and enjoy the carousel, the activities, the piano and more. There is even a fast breakfast place here if you want to skip the bagels.
At 10am you can head into the Library which is in front of the park. There are great exhibits here and you can see the REAL Winnie-the-Pooh.
From here, head over to Time Square to explore and grab some great photos and lunch. Los Tacos No.1 or Margon would be great.
Now you can head out to the 3pm flight back to Atlanta.
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO NYC
- MORE NYC WITH KIDS: VISITING NEW YORK CITY WITH KIDS [ITINERARY INCLUDED]
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