4 DAYS IN NEW YORK CITY WITH KIDS
If the idea of taking the kids to NYC has you breaking out in hives I am here to convince you that for families it is an absolutely fantastic holiday. My twins were 7 when we went and they started asking to go back the first day we were there. A 3 square mile park, 90 museums, some of the world’s most iconic landmarks and that feeling of stepping out onto a movie set every day made it one of our favourite ever trips.
Everyone in the family choose the itinerary for one day. It may seem risky handing over the reins to kids when you are only there for a few days but it worked really well for us . The kids get to do all their ‘must dos’ day one and this avoids the nag-factor.
1) ACCOMMODATION: Novotel Times Square
Our family room at the Novotel Times Square looked out onto Broadway! The views from the restaurant and terrace were wow factor, how can you beat Times Square, the tickertapes, the billboards and the crystal drop that they do on New Years Eve. With kids in tow you wont be tripping the light fantastic but you can at least have a drink on the terrace in the evenings and an awesome viewpoint staying here. The restaurant has the same view and with a huge range of buffet favourites it was a winner with our kids. Kids breakfasts were free with an adult breakfast and we ended up eating here all mornings except one.
We had to try a diner breakfast Cosmic Diner on the corner of 52nd Street and 8th Avenue is open 24 hours, was a stones throw from the hotel and served up large portions of diner favourites.
DAY 1: ARRIVAL:
3) TIMES SQUARE
Straight out for the two minute stroll to Times Square to take in the sights, the sounds, the atmosphere -we were in NYC! Times Square is a whole lot of energy, light, colour, characters and noise and a great place to start our visit to the big apple. With the hotel so near and the fantastic terrace- it would be a great place to spend New Years Eve.
In Times Square are lots of people dressed up as characters hustling for photos and tips. My daughter ran over to hug Olaf, we took a picture and were photobombed by Elsa and Anna who also wanted paying! Welcome to NYC!
4) JOHNS PIZZERIA
Dinner was at Johns Pizzeria. Its a clattery, loud restaurant with impressive décor and huge pizzas that come on a double decker stand. Quick and tasty perfect for the first night.
DAY 2 – KIDS ARE IN CHARGE
Brace yourselves – the kids were in charge and were raring to go #jetlag.
5) DYLAN’S CANDY STORE
The candy store owned by Ralph Lauren’s daughter, Dylan, is a candy haven for small people with a penchant for the dentist. From lollipop trees to floors with gummy writing embedded, its a riot of colour, a confection heaven with candy lego, an M&M wall and just about every sugar based treat you can think of. Willie Wonka has nothing on Dylan. Just make sure you allow plenty of time for the choosing.
Lunch – well with the kids in charge it had to be the café upstairs at Dylan’s candy store. They tucked into dessert pizzas – sweet pizza bases topped with chocolate and other sugared up treats but the salads are also good!
6) CENTRAL PARK & LOEB BOATHOUSE
Central park being a key location in the movie ‘Home Alone 2’, it was next on the list. This park is vast. It was only when I saw it from the top of Rockefeller Centre later in the holiday that I realised just how gargantuan it is.
A horse drawn carriage ride provided a good opportunity to sit back and admire the park. With young kids pacing yourself can be a challenge so opportunities for a breather have to be grabbed with arms outstretched.
Next stop in Central Park was to watch some awesome street entertainers doing acrobatics and then for a refreshment at the Loeb Boathouse . Then began our mission to find the playground. We had a map, we had a guidebook but it still took an hour, a jetlagged, first day tiredness hour, to find the playground. The signage in the park wasn’t fantastic and we found it really difficult to navigate our way round. We did find it in the end and the kids revived for an hour of running around and we watched the NYC world go by and enjoyed a break but we really could have done without the hassle factor in finding it.
7) VIRGILS REAL BBQ RESTAURANT
Dinner was at Virgils Real BBQ Restaurant. We hadn’t booked a table and had to queue for 45 mins during which time dd fell asleep on the floor. She often falls asleep at the table on holiday but this time she didn’t even make it to a chair. Virgil’s is one of USA’s Top 10 BBQ restaurants, the bbq food was absolutely delish and it was handy for our hotel. Lesson learned we made dinner reservations in advance for the rest of the trip.We wandered back to the hotel via Times Square and had a drink on the terrace.
8) STATUE OF LIBERTY AND ELLIS ISLAND
Day 2 was my choice – the Statue of Liberty. If you buy tickets in advance for the statue then the queues for security are shorter. The ticket includes the ferry to the island, audio tour, ferry to Ellis Island and audio tour and the ferry back. I had booked tickets in advance and at Christmas I had surprised DH and DDs by giving them tickets that would enable us to go right to the crown. The tickets are not expensive as Statue of Liberty is a national park, but they have to be booked months in advance as they have limited numbers for going inside the statue. There is also a height restriction for the crown so we had been measuring our twins to check that they were tall enough.
On arrival at Lady Liberty we excitedly handed over our tickets only to find that I had massively messed up and that the tickets were for the day before #DISASTER. But thankfully the staff member on duty was incredibly helpful. He couldn’t give us crown tickets as they were all gone but he did change our tickets to be valid for that day and we could go up the pedestal which is partway up the statue.You only get to go into the museum inside the base of the statue if you have a ticket to go to the pedestal or the crown.
We grabbed some a snack lunch, bought some souvenirs in the gift shop and set off for Ellis Island. The museum here is so evocative telling the spellbinding tale of the first immigrants to the city. Again we did the kids audio tour which was a rat telling you how he stowed away on a ship and came to Ellis Island. The self guided tour gave lots of information without having to get 7 year olds to read all the notices which is a winner for me. The first immigrant to Ellis Island was a 17 year old girl from Ireland, just 10 years older than my own kids and bravely setting out to the other side of the Atlantic. The central arrivals hall and the stories that are told at Ellis Island are fascinating and kept us talking for much of the day.
Crown debacle aside, we loved our day at the Statue of Liberty and it was awesome to see this landmark up close and find out how she was built.
9) INTREPID SEA, AIR & SPACE MUSEUM
Day 4 was DH choice and his selected NY attraction was the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. We walked there from the hotel and it had really started to get hot, hot, hot in NYC now. The Intrepid is an air craft carrier from 1943 that has had various roles over the years. It was deployed in WW2, the Vietnam War, the cold war and was a NASA recovery ship. It is now a museum moored on the Hudson River. As well as visiting the ship itself, it has a space shuttle on board (YES AN ACTUAL SPACE SHUTTLE) – I know i’m shouting but c’mon- its a space shuttle! Concorde on the deck, a submarine and an impressive collection of aircraft. To accommodate both a space shuttle and concorde and have plenty of room left over – that tells you something of the size of the Intrepid.
The shuttle, concorde and submarine are an additional charge each. We chose to do the space shuttle. With 7 year olds we wouldn’t have got round the intrepid itself and all 3 add ons in a day #keepitrealistic.
On boarding the Intrepid we watched the short film about the history of the ship first – brilliant way to start as it puts its history and its role in all the major conflicts that the USA was involved in the twentieth century into context. Other key attractions we enjoyed were the model of the ship made of lego (how many bricks?), seeing the living quarters and the ‘hands on’science part which the kids loved.
10) ENTERPRISE SPACE SHUTTLE
The tour of the Enterprise space shuttle was one of the highlights of our trip. We booked a guided tour and our guide was excellent. She had an ipad with her and as she was talking and explaining things she would show you relevant pictures/video on the ipad. The tour was for children age 8 upwards and she really kept our attention. To see the Enterprise was a fantastic experience.
The intrepid isn’t somewhere you hear much about but it was a really informative, interesting and inspirational day.
12) THE BEAST SPEEDBOAT
Next stop was still on the River – the Beast speedboat tour. With the wind in our hair we set off down the Hudson for a view of the city from the water.
We stopped at a neighbourhood salon for a foot massage – bliss – your feet work hard in NYC!
13) RED EYE GRILL
Dinner was another concierge recommendation and was a memorable evening. The Red Eye Grill was a really classy place to go we absolutely loved it. Opposite Carnegie Hall and a short walk from our hotel we enjoyed the style and interior of this restaurant, the great service and the top notch steak and lobster dinner. DD loves lobster and she managed to stay awake for this dinner! What really made our evening was the pianist who also sang. She aplayed a Taylor Swift song for the girls – so sweet. The waiter brought candy floss for the girls at the end of the meal and DDS are still asking why restaurants here don’t do that! Perfect end to the day.
14) ROCKEFELLER CENTRE & TOP OF THE ROCK
It was our last day – and we still had a hundred things we wanted to do!
We had to choose between Top of the Rock at the Rockefeller Centre and Empire State Building and we opted for the Rock. The lift is an experience in itself, taking you to the observation deck at the floor and the views of NYC are breathtaking.
15) BEN & JERRY’S, AMERICAN GIRL, BLOOMINGDALES, MAGNOLIA BAKERY
A quick pitstop after for Ben and Jerry’s ice cream which we had sitting on the steps of St Patricks Cathedral on 5th Avenue. American Girl was our next destitnion luckily my dds are not huge fans but they appreciated a look around so we just had a browse and then same in Saks 5th Avenue. A taxi to Bloomingdales for some shopping (Kate Spade handbags alert) . We took some fantastic cream cheese topped cupcakes from the Magnolia Bakery to have outside the American Museum of Natural History Museum .
16) AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY
The American Museum of Natural History Museum , they say you can spend a week there and not see everything. We only had a couple of hours and DD wanted to prioritise some of the exhibits that are in the film ‘Night at the Museum’ and we also managed some of the famous dioramas. The entrance hall is hugely impressive
17) BLUE SMOKE RESTAURANT
Dinner was another concierge recommendation at Blue Smoke a BBQ restaurant celebrating the food of the south, a short taxi ride from the hotel. At the start of the meal they brought cookie dough for the girls in the shape of a pig which they decorated. They then baked it during the meal and brought them back their cookie at the end. What a great idea!
Final drinks on the terrace at the hotel before we called it a day, we were off to the Caribbean the next day for a rest!
IF you are going to NYC – wear comfy shoes, preferably take more than one pair so you can swap them around. I like fitflops, the kids wore trainers..
IF you are taking the kids, let them get an idea of the place before you go. Ours watched BIG, Home Alone 2, the New Annie movie and Night at the Museum #research
IF you are getting a guidebook I recommend Fodor’s Around New York City with Kids. For each recommended destination it has somewhere to eat and somewhere to stop and take a break – essential info when you are travel with small people.
IF you feel like trying a holiday where everyone gets to choose a day itinerary – leave me a comment and let me know how you get on!
IF you are going to NYC consider combining with another destination – we stopped off en route to Mexico. I’d love to know your suggestions for where to combine with NYC.
If you like city breaks see my post Greenwich, London with kids here.
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I love how you broke up your trip to NYC into day trips that everyone had a hand in planning. Sorry about the mix up with the Statue of Liberty. Not sure if you have TripIt (inputs your travel info based on emails into an itinerary that you can also add to or edit manually), but it may save you timing errors in the future? I know it’s already kept me from having two hotels booked for the same night! You listed a bunch of things in NYC that I’ve never done … like Dylan’s and the air museum. I guess I need to go back… Shame! 😉 #citytripping
Tripit sounds awesome I need that in my life! Thanks for the tip! 😀
I LOVE NYC and have been many times, but still haven’t even come close to scratching the surface… It’s always so fun to read about the things other families liked! I appreciate that you were able to get your kids to choose activities, mine often rely on my to do the legwork. #citytripping
I would love to go back its such a fun place and there is so much to do!
I would love to go back and take the kids ! Such a wonderful place – thanks for sharing #citytripping
Very brave of you to hand the reigns over! We’ve been to most of these as we live in NY, but have never done the Beast!! If it were up to my girls, Dylan’s would be very high on the list, of course. #citytripping
Great ideas – I’ve never been to New York since having children but this will be very helpful
I love reading this- I am dying to go back to New York again with my daughter. She’s not quite as old as your kids but there’s so much to explore at any age. I think the idea of letting kids have control of the itinerary for a day is great too… maybe in a year or so! Thanks for linking up with #citytripping
Thanks it’s the first time we’ve let the kids pick the plan for a day but I would definitely do it again.
Thanks for hosting #citytripping it’s a great idea I have enjoyed reading the others, lots of inspiration!
Lovely to re-read this for #farawayfiles as well
Lots of great ideas and inspiration from your post. Getting everyone to choose a day for activities is a brilliant idea. We do it to an extent but this will definitely come into its own when they are a bit older. I am also loving combining a NYC trip with a holiday to Mexico! #citytripping
I’ve not been to New York since my old buying days with Tesco, the idea of taking kids would scare me till they were older, but sounds like you made it work just fine. #MondayEscapes
It looks amazing and if we ever do make it it’ll be with kids in tow so I’ll definitely remember to come back to this guide!
Thank you so much for this. We are going in December, so these tips are very useful!
Have a wonderful time. We absolutely loved it and are very keen to return.
What a great list! I totally agree, we took our children four years ago now, and happened to be there for Halloween. Trick or treating New York style was something I don’t think they will ever forget! 😀
I love New York but not been with the baby – great itinerary for if we return #farawayfiles
I love New York but not been with the baby – great itinerary for if we return. I def want to try the BBQ joints #farawayfiles
What a fantastic trip. I’ve only ever been to NYC without kids but I dream of taking them one day and I know they’d love to go too, it’s just finding the finances to do it justice! I hadn’t heard of the Intrepid which sounds fascinating and I know my boys would love that. Such a fun itinerary. #farawayfiles
You rock mama! I find kids of all ages engage in a place if they feel vested – they get to pick. Good work! You guys packed in a TON! Stay central and spoke out from there is a great plan. Thanks for sharing with #FarawayFiles, Erin
New York, New York.. I love it, cant wait to take our twins. What a wonderful trip. So annoying about the ticket mix up – I did that with our twins birthday party last year… oops! Like your trip, it worked out ok though. I love the idea of giving the kids a day to choose the itinerary. I also see the space museum in my future – I didnt know about that actually and my husband would love it. Thanks for joining #FarawayFiles
I seem to spend a lot of time visiting ships and planes 😂!
I’ve pinned this, I totally will be copying you! Going there soon! #FarawayFiles
Have a great trip! We would love to go back!
Awe I love NYC and try to go up there as often as possible. My son loves it as well! It’s larger than life especially for children. My dream is to be up there during Christmas time! #farawayfiles
Christmas in New York would be amazing!
What a great guide, Jo! I love the idea of letting everyone choose the itinerary for a day each. I’m a big fan of getting the kids to read up (or watch films as yours did!) about the destination so that they can have some control in what they want to do. Mine would absolutely love the space museum and the sweet shop! Fabulous post for #FarawayFiles
I so want to visit NYC! But I’m really not sure I’m up for the flight from Singapore to USA. Even if I am, I’m pretty sure I would put Orlando before NYC. But that Space Museum… Man… I’m pinning this up so that I can keep dreaming. #FarawayFiles
What an awesome itinerary for New York! You’ve included so many of my favorites and also some that I’ve never heard of….. I’m such a bad New Yorker 😛
We took our kids to NYC for Spring Break many years ago and did most of what you recommend – with the exception of the Beast and Blue Smoke. In fact, my oldest daughter now lives there and I’ve been able to go back and do all the same things again. Especially Magnolia Bakery. There’s always time for a cupcake at Magnolia!
Oh wow I’d be pleased if one of my daughters ended up living there! 🙂
Your first paragraph says it all. There is so much to do in NYC that you can’t do it all. My four day trip there included some of your go-tos and a set of something completely different. I think hubby would have liked the Intrepid museum as it wasn’t there when he grew up in NYC. As for restaurants, we took in as many delis as we could find.
We never made it to any delis! I so need to return! Thanks for hosting #wkendtravelinspiration
Somewhere around Bloomingdales there is an ATM that dispenses fresh cupcakes. Not sure where, but it’s popular with kids. For your next trip! NYC is a city where you have to visit more than once. first you can and visit all the big tourist sites.Then you come back again and have some time to see the really NYC that local people live in. London, Paris, Rome and so on are like that, too. #wkendtravelinspiration
Absolutely we would love to go back!
I am taking notes since there are a lot of places in your list I have not visited. I think New York is a great place to visit with kids since you can tailor your trip according to what the kids like to do. I mean, New York has like 1,000 things to do. There is something for everybody. And those stops for ice cream, candies and pastries go a long way! #wkendtravelinspiration
I live right outside NYC (we recently went here with our kids: http://www.mommatogo.com/museum-of-mathematics/) and am planning to take the kids in more. My husband used to live across the street from Red Eye Grill when we were dating!
You did so much, hit alot of great things. I think our next day trip will be statue of liberty, they have been asking to go to that! pinning this for later. found you through the #wkendtravelinspiration blog hop!
Fabulous itinerary! We have only been as a couple so will definitely refer to this when eventually take the bambino
Thanks for linking to #fearlessfamtrav
Loved reading this. I can’t wait to go to NYC one day with our little boy. My husband and I went to the Intrepid Air and Space Museum during our last trip…without a child!!! And spent the whole time saying how great this would be with a kid. We also saw the Shuttle so great choice. It really is quite an amazing place. As is the whole of New York. Lovely to hear your guys had a great trip. Hopefully one day we will return #fearlessfamtrave
We never find anyone who has been to the Intrepid – so glad to find a fellow fan! We’d love to return to NYC, loved it so much!
What a brilliant post – the best I’ve read all week! I love that you weren’t daunted by taking the kids to such a big city and what a great idea to watch all the films where it is the star so they can relate to it more. We will hopefully be doing New York with our kids next summer so I am definitely book marking this. And, isn’t it so nice how America often goes that extra mile – like with the candy floss and cookie dough, the UK has a lot to learn. #fearlessfamtrav
Thanks Alex yes it was a pleasure dining out with kids in NYC. We would love to go back – have a wonderful trip I’d love to read it about it when you get back!